2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Ten

June 6th, 10th Day of Will on the Way: 
I slept well and awakened with the first light and bird song at my usual 5:30 hour. Though a bit tired I felt rested. I packed up and then wrote until 6:30 when I awoke Barb. We were having breakfast at 7:00 hoping to be on our way by 7:30. Barb was in a deep sleep and was challenged in getting started. However, being the trooper she is she rallied and by 7:00 we were ready and headed downstairs for our petite dejouner. Hot black coffee, toasted baguette, and homemade jams. We ate our fill and made our snacks and said goodbye to Denise. She gave us directions on how to meet up with the chamin. Shortly before leaving it began to rain and we donned our ponchos, it was going to be a rainy walk today. 

Since our day in the rain on Sunday I have learned to be much more vigilant in spotting the markers. Though I will say since Yenne they seem to be more frequent. I can now spot one a hundred yards away even being that I am somewhat near sighted. I believe when I am on my own, after Barb leaves me in Le Puy, I will be able stay on the Way without getting lost. 

We picked up the chamin in Le Pin where we found a boulangerie that was open and bought two ham and butter sandwiches as well as two pain au chocolate. The proprietress wasn’t the most friendly, but it was early and we were soaking wet and dripping in her shop having just come out of the the rain. On our way out of town we stopped to put on our rain pants. It was now raining steadily and was getting colder. 

We had a long day ahead of us and needed to keep a steady pace to make our destination of Cote de St. Andre by 5:00. Our pace was brisk and my aches of the previous day were gone! It seemed a miracle. By 10:00 we were ready for a snack break. While sitting there we saw our friend Mikeala approaching. She stopped briefly for a hello and was soon on her way. We shortly followed behind her. The walk was pleasant and quite pretty in some parts. Only one very long ascent which led us to some spectacular views of misty mountains in the distance. The descent from the hill was rather trecherous and I was glad to be down on level ground again. 

The bottom of the hill led us to Grand Lemps where we stopped by a steam in a field on the outskirts of town to eat our ham and butter sandwiches. We laughed when we looked inside and saw the butter was layered on in quarter-inch thick slabs. And though we both like butter, this was more than we wanted, throwing most of it out. As we were finishing our repast Mikaela walked by and waved from the road. We guessed she had eaten lunch in town which explained why she was now behind us. 

Looking at the map we saw we are a little over half way to Cote de St. Andre. Rallying our energy we began the afternoon walk. Our feet were tired but nothing was seriously bothering us physically. Half an hour later we ran into Mikaela yet again, three times is a charm as my grandmother used to say, and she asked to walk with us. 

The rest of the afternoon we walked together. Sometimes talking sometimes not. Her being with us seemed to give Barb and I an extra boost of energy and by 4:45 we had made our way to our B&B called the Villa Janette. Mikaela happened to be staying at a nearby place too, so we parted with goodbyes of see you tomorrow on the chamin. 

The Villa Janette was a lovely old house with a spacious garden. Our hostess greeted us and showed us our suite, which included a bathroom with a big tub. We both took long hot baths, a rare and special treat on the Way. After a rest we went to the garden to do yoga stretching, something we were committed to doing no matter how tired we were for it made such a difference the next day. 

Our hostess called us into dinner as we finished our stretching. A lovely table was set for four and soon we met her husband and inn keeper, whose full time job was running the chambre d’hote as a B&B is called in France. We were served yet another gourmet dinner of fish, a meddly of vegetables and individual servings of cheese soufflees. This was followed by a beautifully presented strawberry tart made by our hostess with strawberries from her garden. She was in charge of the desserts. 

Conversion over dinner ranged far and wide. The gentleman was in commercial sales before starting this business and his wife a nurse at a local home for the aged. They told us of the history of the house, it having been a maternity home, a factory for making kid gloves, and other incarnations prior to their taking it over They had many visitors from the Way, but few American had been guests. The house did have a nice energy and I felt it was happy in its new role. 

At the end of the evening we got around to talking about how to make it to Le Puy within the eight days we had left. We all brainstormed for a a while before coming up with a plan to skip one of the days by driving the route rather walking it. Though this meant breaking the walk’s continuity we couldn’t see any other way, primarily due to lack of accomodations on the way if we were to do longer walks to make up for the time needed to get to Le Puy by the 15th. Then we talked about which day to skip and how to manage it. While it is common for people to hire taxis for this very reason we weren’t sure what town would have taxis to do so. Because we knew that our current location would have a taxi we decided on leaving from Cote de St. Andre. Then Barb had the brilliant idea of asking if our hosts knew of anyone who might wish to earn a little money and drive us instead. Our host agreed he could do it and offered us a reasonable fee for the trip. We then made reservations for the next evening’s stop at Chavanay and left a message for Mikaela at her host’s home that we would not meet in her on the chamin tomorrow. 

To bed we went happy to have resolved this dilemma. 

Day Ten Photos 

“Barb meets a friend and we see beauty in a field of grass. Buildings in Loire have a different structure. We view a chapel over Chavanay.” 

“Leaving Chavanay with the Rhone below and it’s a long way to Santiago. We have a lunch break. I’ve never seen such wild flowers. “ 

“Reminder of our Way. Here is our shelter for pilgrims. St Joseph greets us on the Way.” 

“Shades of green and we arrive at our chateau in the village of Bessey.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Nine

June 5th Day 9 of Will on the Way: Fresh Start and Half Way Day 

Woke up several times in the night. Second time had dream about an aborigine named Charles who said he would be a guide for me on this journey. I’ve never had a relationship or any connection with the aborigines so this was a happy and surprising connection. 

Finally got up about 6:15 and felt more rested than I had to date on the trip. I packed up and soon heard Barb moving around too, the earliest she had been up. It was cool outside and cloudy so we planned on being prepared for possible rain. We finished up and said goodbye to our chalet with appreciation for its shelter and rest. 

As we left and surveyed the campground we realize we had had the prime accomdations at the place, the only site with its own bathroom and shower. We laughed for we were the pilgrims, who are often accepting the simplest, least expensive places to stay, and we had been living like a king and queen while there! 

Another yummy French breakfast of croissant, coffee, etc. and we were on our way, or so we thought! After going the right direction then being unsure of it, then going the wrong direction and getting confused, we finally came back to Le Coin Tranquil, the campground, and were put on the correct route to connect us to the chamin. 

We passed through Les Abrets, a mid sized town, where we visited the cash machine and of course the boulangerie for our lunch. This time we splurged and ordered a lemon tart too! Across the street was a church with many people lined up to get in and more arriving all the time. A funeral was in process and the person must have been important or well regarded for such a showing. 

Once out of town we passed by wheat and corn fields. The wheat was gorgeous, tall and straight with big full heads of grain. The corn also taller than that we had seen earlier. In the distance we could see the hills and mountains we had traversed after leaving Yenne. The sky had cleared and the air was fresh and brisk. The clouds a billowing white against a background of azure blue. It was about 65-70 degrees and was the nicest day we had for walking yet. 

We stopped for a break and watched two big hawks playing together. The terrain had changed and offered panoramic vistas. It was during this rest I realized I had lost my Celtic silver bracelet. I had been wearing it the first few days of the journey, but had put it away in a side pocket of my pack when my sweat began tarnishing it. I was a bit sad and angry at myself for not taking better care. I also realized that things are lost and shed on the pilgrims path; this was a symbol perhaps of an old part of me no that is longer needed. 

Though I felt rested and regenerated from the day’s break, my feet, my right knee and right hip were starting to hurt. I couldn’t quite believe it! I thought by now I would be in top form and the aches and pains would be behind me. By the time we stopped for lunch I was miserable. Barb massaged my feet and did some energy work on the left foot which was the worst, after which I broke down crying. I saw myself being unable to complete the journey and felt like a little boy who is trying so hard but can’t quite seem to make it. It brought up old childhood stuff. I realized again that I’m not going to be able to “power” through this adventure as I have been able to with other challenges in the past. This is going to be accomplished by Grace alone, and in truth that of course is why I’m on this journey. It is part of the beauty of the Way. Each day we are confronted and humbled in some form or manner, be it physical pain, emotional confronting, finding ourselves lost, uncomfortable weather, etc. Being a pilgrim is saying to the universe I want to grow and change and I am willing to surrender to the process. 

After lunch I felt better and the walking was easier. The route took us through lovely, shaded forest paths and the climbs were mild for the most part. We were headed for a B&B at Plage de Pin, right on little lake. The road to get there took a fork off from the marked chemin and we knew to be looking out for it. About 3:00 I noticed a shoe lace was needing tying so we stopped for a pack break. 

While resting we saw a couple of hikers approaching and as they neared I thought I recognized our friend the Swiss student, Mikeala, who’d we last seen when taking a break on the way to Chanaz. Sure enough it was she with another young man, a German, on his way to Santiago. We were delighted to see her and she us. She stopped and chatted while the fellow went on. It turned out that she too had stayed with M. Louis at St.Maurice, a day behind us (after being caught in the same rain storm as we). However, he was absent having needed a break and someone, a woman had taken over for him. We were curious if she had received the “royal treatment?” She had not. 

In the course of our coversation she mentioned where she was heading which prompted Barb to recheck our own directions. We said goodbye to Mikeala and after sharing the delicious tart got up to begin walking again only to discover that our turn off was right there where we had parked for a break. Had the shoe lace not been loose, had Mikeala not stopped by, had the sequence of events not transpired as they did, we would have gone past the fork and been lost yet again! Thank you Charles! 

The turn led us down a steep hill and soon we could see the lake beyond. Beautiful! It didn’t take us long to find our Gite and meet our hostess for the evening, another Denis, a lovely gracious white-haired lady in her 70’s. She showed us to our quarters in a very old structure, then invited us to have a cool drink outside overlooking the charming blue waters of the lake. We had a nice conversation and found out her husband had had back surgery today in Lyon. She seemed confident that he was well cared for and would visit him tomorrow. 

After our drink we repaired upstairs and took our showers. Our hostess, Denis, offerd to wash our clothes in a machine and we accepted being happy to have a break from this pleasant task and to have our travel towels washed too. While I read Barb looked at our upcoming route and discovered that if we were to make Le Puy in time for her to leave for Geneve we would have to do a 10 day waking tinerary in 9 days! Beginning with 27 K walk tomorrow just to catch up with the beginning of the 10 to become the 9 day walk! Quite the reversal of having no hurry and plenty of time! We laughed at this and while we thought we could do so fine, we also felt a bit sad the the end of our trip together was rushing towards us. However, on reflection, we realized today was our half way day and even with the new schedule we had a lot of time still to enjoy one another on the Way. 

Before dinner we went ouside and did yoga stretches together. These helped the soreness and stiffness immensely. While stretching, looking out on the beautiful lake, we were surprised by a dog herding along the path in front if us, first goats, then a little later a gaggle of geese and finally a white baying donkey came up the lane! We later asked our hostess about the managarie of animals (there were also llamas behind the house) and I didn’t quite understand the explaination. 

Dinner was served at 7:00, which was the hour at which we ate almost universally on our trip. A table was set up outside and we enjoyed a lovely green salad from Denis’s garden, served with cold chicken and a delicious mustard dressing. This course was then followed by a fabulous vegetable ratatouille accompanied by potatoes cooked to a perfect softness and flavored with a little butter and tarragon. Most of the vegies in the dish were from her garden as were the potatoes. A hearty local red wine was imbibed with the meal. Dessert came last with fresh strawberries, again from the garden, topped with “white cheese” fromage blanc, a cross between creme fresh and yogurt. Wow do we ever eat well! Denis joined us for dinner and we chatted about a number of things, she doing most of the talking. I think she enjoyed our company and as it grew dark we bid her good night and made our way to our room upstairs, with the agreement we would meet for breakfast at 7:00, our earliest yet. 

Barb went to bed and I stayed up writing the day’s blog. I realize that on average I spend between 2-3 hours a day on writing and editing the entries. By 11:00 I had to stop, though not complete, and promised to finish in the morning which I am now doing at 6:10 on day 10! 

Day Nine Photos 

“After the storm we had a fresh start. Another sign to keep us on track. And guess who?” 

“Thinking of lunch. Happy to see the sign! More beautiful French flowers. Our new friend Mikeala from Switzerland.” 

“A pastoral scene. A pilgrim looking back. The mark of the Way, on this our day 9.” 

“A tired pilgrim. Llamas and the laundry at the Gite and the hills in distance, from whence we came.” 

“Dinner at the lakeside Gite. The official Gite symbol. Lake at Le Pim.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Eight

We went to bed at 10:30 and I awoke at 1:00. I read for a while before falling asleep again at 2:00. By 5:30 I was up and feeling much refreshed, though my legs were achey. I wondered if there would be a time when they wouldn’t ache again? I arose and stretched and did my breathing exercises. I felt good and was so happy to have a day off. I read and wrote some more before awaking Barb at 8:00 in time for breakfast at the restaurant. 

We were the only ones there but a table was ready. Coffee, bread, fig jam (I thought of my brother Rob as it is a favorite of his) and butter were our fare. Barb being bold asked for a croissant, as it never hurts to ask, and we were rewarded with two amazingly delicious flakey croissants. What a treat! 

After breakfast we came back to our chalet and I did a shamanic healing for Barb. Her vision was still blurred and her sacrum hurt. We were able to improvise a healing table by putting the couch pad on the dining table and it worked like a charm. I had my rattle and little drum and an hour and a half later her vision was cleared and her back felt fine. Thank you helping Spirits! 

We washed some clothes, a practice I am enjoying on the Way. The basic needs of a few clothes that need to be cleaned every other day and the pleasure of doing them by hand is satisfying. We put them out to dry on a rack, provided with the chalet, in the emerging sun. By then it was time for lunch. 

This was the first day in a week I wasn’t ravenous for a meal! However, the pleasure of a fresh cheese omelette with a green salad and piping hot French fries was nothing to turn my nose up to. It was a wonderful meal, yummy! During lunch we brainstormed themes of each day and for the journey to date in general. It has been a very rich week! 

After our meal we came back and took long naps. What a sweet luxury! After awakening I caught up with blog entries and edited those days not yet sent to Kerry, days 3-8. Barb also slept and then did yoga exercises. By 7:00 we were ready for our meal at the restaurant. Tonight we had chicken with a wine sauce, potatoes, and salad. Desert was similar to the previous evening’s meal, a choc mouse with pears and a vanilla cream sauce. All oh so good. 

After dinner I had hoped to email the blogs and pics to Kerry but for some reason my trusty phone wouldn’t pick up the camp’s WiFi signal. Oh well, must wait until the next opportunity. We went to bed early, Barb wanting to finish the book she picked up in Bonmont, and I to polish up the entries. Tomorrow to Le Pin we go. 

Day Eight Photos 

“Rest day in our chalet in a four star campground.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Seven

After breakfast we packed, prepared for rain. The storm of the night before had abated and the skies cleared some. However, we could see rain in the valley below. The morning’s walk was pleasant and mild. We stopped at a couple of churches and had lunch by the cemetery of the second. It was full of fresh flowers as it was Mother’s Day in France and we witnessed several people stopping by to put flowers on graves. 

By the time we finished lunch it began to sprinkle so we put on our ponchos and rain pants and set off again. Soon it was raining but our equipment kept us dry. An hour later it began to pour and didn’t abate. I say pour because it was coming down in buckets. We couldn’t stop to rest without getting cold and even wetter so we had to keep going. We walked for the next four hours solidly without stoping. The rain itself was pleasant and if I’d not been uncomfortable from the heavy pack and sore feet I would have enjoyed it. Halfway through our walk in the downpour Barb started having trouble seeing. We thought it might have been the sun tan lotion running into her eyes, but this made little sense as the rain had been in her face for several hours already. We tried stopping and washing them with water from our camelbacks but it did little good. This lack of sight caused a fall on a muddy path and luckily there was no harm done. 

Fortunately the Way was well marked and we were able to stay on track. We had expected an 18 K walk but by the time we reached our destination of Lourey it was more like 22 K. We had a reservation at a campground and when we arrived we were so relieved to be out of the rain. Our accomdations were in a little cabin-like structure called a Chalet with two rooms, a shower, a kitchen and sitting area. It was new and clean and bright. We were overjoyed! So much so that we decided to take a day off the journey and have a rest day tomorrow. 

Dinner was included in our fare and was gourmet, the restaurant being a four star establishment. I had the best sleep since being at Kim and Pim’s home eight days before. How many lifetimes seemed to have passed since then! 

Day Seven Photos 

“Bee hives on leaving St. Maurice. Goat Cheese is a speciality of this region. The first day of rain and it poured!” 

“More wild flowers in wheat fields. Joan d’Arc. Will and St.Jacques” 

“Mother’s Day in France-flowers left at graves of mothers past. Will gets a pilgrim’s shell for his pack” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Six

Once again awoke with the sun. My body was achy and tired. I went outside and stretched in the monastery garden. The sun, just starting to illuminate the surroundings with a golden glow, promised another sunny warm day. I was amazed yet again that I could feel so much better than the previous evening. As I considerd the wisdom of staying and resting another day, a raven flew out of a nearby tree squaking loudly at me, repeating this several times. I wasn’t clear about it’s message. 

After breakfast Barb and I pulled Runes. I asked for guidance and direction. The three that I pulled, journey, separation reversed, and patience/courage, helped me decide to go on that day. I felt renewed and humbled. A layer of my ego self had been stripped away. I was deeply grateful for the shift in my perspective and promised I would be gentle on myself that day. 

Off we went leaving the monastery behind and finding no boulangerie with ready made sandwiches, stopped at a cafe/bar where the proprietress made us monster footlongs to take away. Soon we were out of town making an ascent to a chapel of Mary overlooking Yenne and the surrounding valley. She was beautiful and her smile and grace followed us through the day. 

The ascent continued and we spent most of the day climbing, eventuality gaining an elevation of 2300 meters. It was a steep forested climb, and though challenging was shady and cool most of the way. My pack fit well. The struggles of the previous day had enlightened me on carrying it differently. It now hugged my back snuggly and I used socks on my shoulder pads to give extra cushioning. I sailed up the mountain with a vim and vigor that surprised us both. 

We learned that the forest was known as the Celtic Forest. There were ancient rock out-croppings within it and the path paralleled the Rhone way below. It was magical. I was happy and full of spirit. I told Barb I felt like a teenager with youthful energy and playfulness. She concurred she experienced the same. 

We enjoyed our snack and lunch breaks as ever. At first I wondered if I would really eat the whole sandwich but without effort it was soon gone. The forest trail ended just short of our destination of St. Maurice de Rothenere. 

We had reservations made the night before at the monastery. It was not the Gite we had originally planned on as Barb was unable to connect with that host by phone. The receptionist at the monastery, who helped make the call, suggested this other place, saying the man was very nice. 

When we got there it was in a beautiful setting high on a hill overlooking a wide panorama of villages and valley below with the Chartreuse mountains in the distance. M. Louis Verney met us, a gentleman in his late sixties perhaps, speaking to us in German. We quickly explained French was easier for us to understand. He switched over easily but was to continue to forget and to speak to Barb in German throughout our stay. It was one of many perculiarities of M. Louis we were to discover. 

Cool drinks were offered and gladly received, this being a practice at most places and very welcomed by hot and weary pilgrims. After being shown to our quarters and showering, we took time to do some wash. When we hung the clothes on the line outside to dry we saw the weather was changing. A storm was coming our way. The elevation gave us a dramatic view of the front sweeping towards us. 

Louis soon called us to dinner. The house was large, very large, and quite old. It looked like it had been built on an even older structure and had a musty smell that permeated every room. Dinner was served in a big area full of round tables covered with maps and guide books. We were seated at a long table with one other guest, Robert, our fellow pilgrim from Bonmont. 

An apperitif of Mescal wine was followed by green salad, a delicious dish of pasta in cream sauce with pork and a vegetable called black root. Desert was a lovely Choc mousse with pears, not to mention the plate of local cheeses offered but passed on by us both. 

We enjoyed a nice conversation with Robert who spoke some English. He was retired from a career in industrial sales, had one daughter, and lived in Freiburg, Germany. Louis came and went during the meal. We saw no other person though strangely enough we did hear one short conversation between Louis and a woman’s voice but never saw nor heard her again. We later wondered about that voice. 

After dinner Barb and I retired to our room only to soon be called by Louis to come for the “exhibition.” We followed Robert down yet another set of stairs to a room filled with pictures, post cards and stuff showing different points of interest on the pilgrimage route. After a time here we were led again by Louis outside to a very old wooden door that opened into an ancient stone walled chapel beneath the house. It was dark inside except for a few lit candles. To the left of the door was an old wooden organ which Louis began to play while the three of us were bid to sit on wooden benches each holding a votive candle. It was creepy! When he finished playing he had us stand and and invited us to state our reason for doing the Pilgrimage. We did, in French, as he didn’t speak any English. He then asked us to place our candle at whichever respective Saint’s alter we wished to have a blessing from, having first explained our various options. I choose St. Jacques, Barb, Mary. Then we sang a song that Barb was familiar with, one of the pilgrims on the Way, and finally he asked me to close the ceremony with a blessing. While touching in a way I was glad to be out of there. 

However, the tour was not over. From the chapel we re-entered the house and were led to a very odd space that had stange French disco-like music playing and strobe lights flashing off the walls. It was a long narrow room with a bar and bar chairs to the left made of chrome like metal. Louis gave us a cup of very strong liquor made from plums. It was awkward, as by this point Barb and I didn’t know if we should laugh or run away. Louis was carrying on about the light of liberty and politics. Finally we were able to politely excuse ourselves and make our exit to bed. 

Once back in our room we both had a good but somewhat nervous laugh about what we had experienced and decided we would be glad to be on our way tomorrow. I slept fitfully feeling the presence of old spirits as a storm raged through the night. I was glad when morning came and we bid Louis and the house goodbye! 

Day Six Photos 

“Barb and M. Louis Verney our host on Day 6. Capuchin monastery where we stayed in Yenne. Mother Mary watches over us.” 

“Enchanted Celtic Forest. The gnome peeking out after forest walk. St. Jak in ancient cross.” 

“Pilgrim on the mount.View From St. Maurice where we spent night on day 6. View of Rhone as we climbed the mountain all day long.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Five

Woke up with the sun. Went out to the garden and caught up on the blog. Find I enjoy writing in the morning. The process itself brings me a joy that I haven’t really experienced so fully as I have on this walk. There is a discipline to getting started but once on my way I realty like it, even with this thumb typing. 

I let Barb sleep in as she was so tired the day before. By 8:30 we were having breakfast and by 10:00 had said goodbye to Denis and were in village getting our ham, cheese, and tomato sandwiches prepared at a little cafe. Once done we found our signage which pointed to Yenne, our next stop. This we followed for a while but saw no markers. We confired with the map but were confused about where to go. Over the next hour we asked five different people who seemed to give us similar yet unclear directions. At last we found our way to the Way and had to laugh because it turned out it continued right outside the door of where we spent the night – at the El Camino! 

The walk took us away from the river and back into the hills again. It was hot and muggy and as the day progressed became more so. However, the path was nice and took us by a very sweet little chapel where we stopped and read some missives and poetry offered by past journeyers. 

Soon we were passing through vineyards and going up and down hills. They were impressive and grand in their scope. The Rhone was far below to our right. We stopped several times for a snack and then lunch. Passed a fountain where I soaked my head as it needed cooling within as well as without. Today was the first day of the walk that I was having a hard time emotionally and psychically. My mood was unsettled and my spirit mostly irritated. I was not enjoying the physical beauty as I had the prior days as I was distracted. The temperature rose to the low 90’s and the hills were getting steeper. I had a of judgements about myself and kept trying to find a quiet space within. At one point I did say to Barb that I was reminded of being like Lars, my friends’ Kim and Pim’s 8 month old baby, I was tired and in need of a nap and a diaper change. I did have a breakthrough where I felt my adult self, my big Will, take charge and little Will was able to fall asleep on my shoulder, like I’d seen Lars do the same on Pim’s. 

The walk to Yenne was to have been a relatively short one, 4+ hours, but the day dragged on and on. One highlight was the little chapel on our last big ascent of the day, the Chapel Romano, which had once been a temple to a Roman farm and fertility god. However, as we arrived big mowers and weed eaters were busily at work and the noise ruined the tranquil rest we had been led to expect on our arrival. 

The descent from the chapel mount was steep and grueling. The only saving grace was that we were in the shade yet it took us almost half an hour to reach the bottom. Once there we still had an hour and a half to Yenne. I checked the temp and it was 83 degrees at 4:30. 

It took asking for directions from several people before we found our destination, the monastery of the Cappuccins. We passed through Yenne, a quaint French town. The locals were at the cafes sitting outside drinking glasses of cold beer and how good that looked to me at that moment! The route took us to the edge of town where we saw the first sign for the monastery, and then the buildings themselves: an 18th century structure walled with small corner turrets. Once inside we could see it had lovely green lawns and trees in its center. When we checked in they were surprised that we had come from Chanaz, as it was ususal for the pilgrims to have arrived much earlier with the shorter distance to Yenne. We wondered the same thing for it was a day that dragged on and on. 

While Barb and the kind woman at the reception made reservations for the next day, at St. Maurice de Rotherent, I went to our room and showered and crashed hard till dinner at 7:30. I could barely move I was so tired and physically sore. During dinner Barb suggested, if I wanted, we could take a break day. She reminded me that there was no hurry and no schedule. She also said that we had been exerting ourselves consistently for five days and our bodies weren’t used to such hard exertion. Hearing her say all this along with a hearty meal of pasta and meatballs and three liters of water helped my disposition greatly. I think too, I was suffering from heat and sun exhaustion as my face was flushed and and my eyes bloodshot. We decided to see how I felt the next morning. Frankly, at that point, I didn’t see how I was going to go on without a rest day. I went to bed taking a couple of Tylonal and some Wellness Formula tablets and slept on and off fitfully. It was the first day on the Way that I didn’t feel a deep sense of gratitude and I was troubled and saddened by that. 

Day Five Photos 

“Barb at little chapel near Chanaz. We see Black Mary on the Way and Will’s water wheel as we leave Chanaz.” 

“Many flowers, and we get lost in Chanaz. Poppies in fields of wheat– a sight seen over and over and always beautiful.” 

“Not only were there flowers everywhere but Saint Jacques was with us everywhere too. Will is on the Way and it is vinyard day!” 

“The view of the Rhone from San Romano. And the San Romano Chapel after a Long uphill climb.” 

“Will at his worst! And getting ready for his breakdown.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Four

Woke up once again with the sun, about 5:30. Had slept the best night yet and saw that it had rained the night before. I liked this early hour to catch up on my writing and also with emails as the hotel had WiFi. I am so grateful for my smart phone and all that it allows me to do. From talking pictures, to reading books, to writing my blog (I’m.getting better at typing with my thumbs – it gives a whole new meaning to being all thumbs!), to staying connected to the world beyond the Way. Barb enjoys sleeping in longer and is still catching up on her jet lag. 

Breakfast was in the restaurant below, the river Rhone sweeping by as we enjoyed delicious couissants, the most buttery and flakey I’d tasted. Great black coffee, baguette, butter, fresh jam and oj completed the repast. How lovely it is to eat so well. And to know that I will be burning it up and more on the day’s walk while getting to look forward to more of the same later. Oh joy! 

As we packed up I made the decision to leave my pillow behind. I had brought it not knowing if one would be provided at the Gites. It was lightweight but took up needed space in my pack and when Barb assured me that there would be pillows on the way, I said goodbye hoping it might find a home with another traveler. It was the first article to be shed. I wonder what will be next? 

We left the hotel prepared for a rainy walk today as the weather was predicting rain and there were rain clouds in the heavens. Crossing the bridge to the other side of town, a beautiful bridge with a statue of Mary atop the middle, we found our way to the boulangerie to buy our lunch sandwiches. These bakeries are one of Barb’s favorite things in France and I can see why. They are all so cheery and clean and bright and full of wonderful smells with every imaginable pastry and treat displayed behind shiny glass cases. It certainly makes my child’s’s heart happy with the anticipation of what I could eat. 

We picked out our sandwiches, Barb tuna, me chicken and began the day’s walk to Chanaz, a 21 K walk. Today our route led us along the river the whole day and with the exception of one up climb it was flat terrain the whole way. The sky cleared and it was muggy and humid. We saw our first vineyards, some like large garden plots, others whole “fields.” There were no grapes on them that I could see as yet. Stopping for a pack break our friend, the Swiss student, passed us by with a hello and said she had gotten lost having missed a sign which explained her now being behind us. I gave Barb a shoulder rub for she said today was her most sore yet. She was impressed with my skill in finding the sore spots. 

The rest of our walk was leisurely with the clouds kindly giving us shade without raining or being gloomy. The path took us by corn fields and through poplar groves. The corn was only about 4″ high and I wondered if it would be “knee high” by the fourth of July?” as they say in Indiana. Lunch was delicious, a different variation on yesterdays chicken sandwich. 

The route was pleasant and I felt the presence of long ago pilgrims taking the same path to Spain on the chemin. When we were not walking in our our meditative state, Barb and I were able to have longer conversations as the path was wide and could walk side by side. Barb is a gifted life and business coach and her insights were thought-provoking and supportive of my own personal journey. I thought how lucky am I to have such a companion, who is not only playful, adventurous and fun, but also wise and knowledgeable. We talked much of co-dependencey and how that in and of itself is a “disease”, often on the other side of addictive relationships, and having compassion and awareness for ourselves is key to healing from it. Once again hearing that I’m not responsible for another’s feelings, that there is nothing that I need to fix in them, but am only responsible for being aware of and managing my own anxiety is so key to changing the patterns I so often fall into. 

By 5:15 we found our way to our destination – the quaintest, cutest little village of Chanaz looking over the Rhone, separated from the “mainland” by a canal and reached by crossing a little unusual bridge. The houses looked like they were out of a story book with bright flowers growing from hanging pots and window boxes everywhere. Our Gite was the El Camino appropriate for two weary pilgrims. 

We met our hostess, Denis, who spoke French so clearly that I was surprised I could understand much of what she said. We were in a 3 bed room and she asked us if we were ok if a third party came later. As this was a “dorm” we of course said yes, however, hoped that we would have it to ourselves, which we did. 

We showered, washed clothes, and waited for dinner. Barb read a good book she picked up at Bonmont, as her Kindle had died in Geneve, and I wrote my blog. Dinner was ready at 7:00. The weather was lovely and we ate outside. As we sat there I was flooded with a feeling of joy and appreciation for my life, for what I had created with this journey, for all the beauty I was seeing of France, for the lovely people I was meeting and how I was growing into myself as a wiser, more confident, and happier being. 

Dinner was incredible! Again! We began with a quinoa salad accompanied by homemade brown bread, followed by the best pasta I’d ever tasted with roasted zucchini and ham, in a light cream sauce. The pasta itself was total melt in your mouth. I was thinking of my dear sister-in-law, Pammy, and how she would have loved it, being a pasta connoisseur herself. We had a red wine from the region that had a beautiful light ruby color that was as good to look at as it was to drink! Denis joined us for dinner and I was able to follow the whole conversation. In fact I had a breakthrough as they say in coaching lingo. I decided to participate by speaking in my broken French, regardless of how incorrect it might be. I had no problem being understood and it was so freeing. Barb was an inspiration as she also plows forward fearlessly though her French, while better than mine for sure, is not yet fluent. Later in the meal Denis’ daughter Sarah joined us. She was 12 going on 15. Very poised and self-confident, in her fist year of English at school and spoke very well for such a short amount of time learning the language. She also liked singing and said most songs she liked were in English. She said her Dad was a nomad and didn’t have permanent home (her parents were divorced). He had taken her to Morraco, Spain, Greece,Switzerland, and she hoped to go to the US. She was quite impressive and I wouldn’t be surprised if she became a person of note and notice some day. 

After the wonderful meal and company we repaired to our room and I gave Barb leg and back rub while telling her about Seth’s ideas of the nature of reality. She then fell asleep right away and I stayed up and finished the day’s blog entry. 

Day Four Photos 

“We arrive in Chanaz and our Gite for the night and are greeted by our host, Denise.” 

“Many mothers and babies have greeted us on the Way in this quaint town on the canal. A typical village home in the Savoie. Views of the river always.” 

“Entering the Savoire region of France we see the first of many vineyards. Mother Mary watches over on on our pilgrimage. Bridge over Rhone in Seysell” 

“Barb at hotel in Seysell on the Rhone.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Three

Woke up to a beautiful but warmer morning in Chaumont. It’s been my habit this journey to waken with the sun about 5:30. I wasn’t feeling so good, a bit hung over and a headache from dehydration and the wine I enjoyed with dinner the night before. I knew better about the wine as I hadn’t had enough water the previous day, yet who could say no to a bottle of delicious French red wine. Oh well…I wrote in the blog while Barb slept until 7:00. 

Our hosts made us a lovey breakfast of homemade yogurt, jams, apple tart, and fresh bread. Barb had coffee, me hot chocolate. That was my only disappointment as the hot chocolate was an instant mix with hot milk, not homemade as expected, though still yummy. Barb joked that it was good for my child’s heart which made us laugh hard. We had been talking about having the heart of a child, one of my aspirations for many years. 

We bid goodbye to our sweet hosts and made our way to Frangy, a town about an hour away. There we bought staples for the walk, raisins, apricots, sardines, and of course dark chocolate! We also found an ATM and I was so happy that I could retrieve Euros with ease. It took several stores to locate a SIM card for our phone and we got lucky at the stationary store. The last stop was at the boulangerie where we obtained delicious tomato, chicken and mayo sandwiches. On the way out of town we ran into our friends the German pilgrims who had lost one of their party to a bad knee. Now they were nine. 

The road out of Frangy led us through farm fields that were ripe with farm smells. It was getting warm and for the first time on our trip humid. The trail went on for some time by farms before coming out to a black top road. This led us through a charming village that had a sign for a wc and potable water, a first. However, when we went to look it was ferme, closed. On we went and stopped at a crossroads in the shade and had what I now call a “pack break,” a chance to drop the pack, rest our feet and enjoy the view. Not only was the scenery gorgeous, there was a lot of farm traffic with tractors pulling big loads of hay. What was interesting to me was that the drivers were mostly young men probably in their early twenties. This surprised me for I was used to thinking of farmers being older men and that young people would shy away from farming. It somehow gave me a feeling of optimism. We saw the Germans pass by again for the last time. Two things that stuck us was that one of them was carrying a guitar, the one we sang to the first night in Bonmont and that he was wearing Birkenstocks (a sandal like shoe). We marveled that he could walk with a guitar and wear such shoes on the chemin. 

Later we stopped for lunch and how good did our chicken and tomato and mayo sandwich taste! We also broke out the 72 percent Choc which was fabulous. It was during this break I happened to look at my backpack again, wondering if I couldn’t make it more comfortable. As I checked out the shoulder straps I discovered there was another way to adjust the whole mechanism and added another two inches to their length. It made a huge difference to my comfort! Thank you St Jacques! So glad to find this out on day 3 rather than week 3! 

The path crossed back and forth between black tops and stoney dirt ways. The river was now to our right and we anticipated two more hours to Seysall. We had bought a map at the stationary store showing the route from Geneve to Le Puy. We consulted it as we came to an alternate route turning off to the right. To the right it showed a Gite, Edelweiss, and we assumed (Haha!) that it was not our route but we were to continue on forward. An hour later after going down a monster hill and thinking how glad I was that I wouldn’t have to ascend it again, we discovered that we chose incorrectly! Our third day of “getting” lost! And all three at day’s end when we were most exhausted! Back up that long hill and to the turn off to Seysell we went. Another opportunity to surrender and be in the moment. And another lesson in double checking. 

It was a long descent to Seysell and we dragged into town about 6:15. We found the hotel and to our happy surprise there was Robert, one of the pilgrims of the first night in Bonmont.The hotel was closed and he was waiting to get in. We had thought we had to be there by 7:00 to save our reservation, but it turned out that it didnt open until 7:00. Eventually the hotelier showed up and we got our room. 

Meanwhile while we were waiting, a neighbor from across the street who befriended us, introduced us to a handsome man who came riding by on his bike, a fellow American. He was an expat from LA who was spending a few months in Seysall. He talked about the great energy of Seysell and encouraged us to stay a few days to explore it. He seemed very interesred in me especially when he heard I was a shaman. He asked if I might help him with a hurt knee. As I had brought a drum and rattle with me for that very purpose I was interested in the possibility and suggested he come by after we had eaten dinner. 

Our room was lovely with a window right over the river. After a shower we headed out to eat. We were recommended to try the couscous joint but it was closed on Weds. We ended up at a little fish restaurant on the river and had a delicious meal of fresh trout, green beans, salad and potatoes. It was gourmet! The couple who ran it were great and as we had a limited budget they accomdated us. Desert was a lovely apple cake with icecream and fresh strawberries, the surprise of the house. We left happy and full. We did like the energy of the town and felt bouyed by it. 

As we approached the hotel we met the American again who asked us to join him for a drink. I was tempted to say yes though I was tired. Barb,however, declined and after chatting with him a while I decided to also say no. He may have been gay. He said when he first met us that he’d seen us before but couldn’t place where. The second time he said that he remembered that he had had a dream about me the night before and then turned to Barb saying “how could you forget a face like that?” Perhaps a pick up line? Anyway after telling us what he did…everything from currency trading to treasure hunting using technology from satellites in space…we bid him good night and goodbye, thinking about the interesting people one met on the Way! 

Returning to the hotel we both slept our best night yet.

May 30- Day Three Photos

will   break   village 
“Starting day three of the journey and then taking a welcomed break and enjoying the view of a mountain village.” 

route   river   valley 
“Road to Compostella. On this leg we saw the Rhone River and the Rhone River Valley.” 

rest   village   flowers 
“A weary pilgrim at rest. Mountain villages typically have beautiful flowers growing everywhere.” 

seysell   dinner   trout 
“This is Seysell, our destination on day three where we had a fabulous trout dinner.” 

view   barb 
“View of the Rhone River from the restaurant and Barb waiting for her dinner.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Geneva into France, First Two Days: May 28-29, 2012

Met with Barb last night at the youth hostel in Geneve. We left this morning around 8:30 and walked our way through Geneve using a very sketchy map and didnt get far before we needed help. A doorman at a hotel gave us a better map. We wandered through and again after a few more detours found our way to the end if the second map. Just when we were unsure where to go an old gentleman asked if we were pelerin or pilgrims? Then he told us where to pick up the Chemin. It was the first of many magic moments to come.

Finally we found our first of the little blue signs with the gold sea shell that would become very dear to us as we went along, sometimes like a puzzle pieces needing to be found. The weather was warm and it was a lovely morning. We found our first scallop shell in a little metal box with a notice of information for pilgrims. Inside was a stamp with ink and little colored paper slips so the pilgrims could have a stamp from the town on their Camino Passport. We ate lunch on a bench next to the box. I got my first stamp.

We crossed the Swiss border into France which was cool as it was only a little path crossing a stream which separated the two. There was an official sign announcing the border and also a string of very old Tibetan prayer flags that went across the stream. A perfect juxtaposition. 

Shortly after that we had our first time getting really lost, as we missed one of the scallop markers and ended up in an enchanted forest and passed through a tunnel guarded by a troll who asked for our first child in order to pass. Because we knew that we wouldn’t have one together it was an easy promise. Interestingly our intuition said we were on the wrong path but didn’t know it until we said, “hasn’t it been more than the half hour the sign said to the next town?” By now it was hotter and we were getting tired. Back we went and sure enough there were our markers with extra arrows to make sure the pilgrim didn’t miss the path. 

An hour later we were in the town only to find we had another hour to get to Bonmont, our destination. This was the challenging part because now we were tired, hot and thirsty and I had run out of water. Not only that, but the path was starting to go uphill to add to the physical aspect. We asked St. Jacque for help and just when we most needed it there was a sign for potable water and to please help ourselves. Wonderful, it tasted!

On up we went and the views became more and more spectacular. We could see Geneve way down below, both the city and the lake like a gem held in the setting of the surrounding mountains. We felt like Heidi and Hans of the Alps. We lost track of our shell markers a couple of times but we knew we were on the right path and they showed again, something that was so appreciated by this point as we were dragging. We joked about getting to Bonmont and the beds would be taken and all the food eaten. One last treck and we dragged our weary butts into town and easily found our Gite, the name of the little places for pilgrims to stay in France. 

We met some other travelers there who told us it would be a full house as there was a group of ten expected, and were we part of it? No, but it seemed that all were welcomed and all would be accommodated. It was heaven to take off the pack and shoes, and then we were offered a shower and soon were clean and refreshed. I was glad I brought the clothes pins as they were needed to hang up towels and sweaty clothes. We met with Anna our host who seemed to take everything in stride and said we would all camp out together as one happy family with the group of ten upstairs and the rest in the room below with mattresses on the floor. Because we both were so tired we knew we could sleep anywhere and be fine. Barb helped Anna get the table set up saying people seem to always recognize her for her managerial skills. After helping move tables around for the meal I settled down to write the blog. 

Dinner was served for 17! There were Germans, Swiss, French, and Americans- Barb and I. The main course was spaghetti with a veggie and meat sauce. We were all hungry and it was all eaten up with vigor. Salad came next followed by delicious local cheeses. Then the Germans brought out the guitar and we all sang English songs. It was an international family gathering. 

day1   will   geneve   shell 

“Barb on the morning of the first day in front of youth hostel in Geneva. Will ready to go! Leaving Geneva and finding our first scallop shell showing us the way. These would become very dear and important friends keeping us on track.” 

border   will   flags   country 

“At the Swiss-French Border there are old prayer flags. The surrounding countryside was beautiful.” 

bonmont   gite   dinner 

“We arrived in Bonmont, our destination for the night and had a wonderful spaghetti dinner at the Gite with 17 other travelers.” 

2012 Walking the Way

May 29- Day Two of Wills Trek

Last night was like an old fashioned sleep over. The ten Germans were upstairs in the sleeping area and the other seven of us were on mattresses that Anna brought in, after moving furniture to the side. Not knowing any differently I assumed that this would be the type of sleeping arrangements for the next two months. She did bring in pillows and blankets as well as a sheet for the mattress so I didnt need my own sleep sheet or bag. Despite being so tired I didn’t fall asleep right away. When I did it wasn’t for long as I was awakened by the sawing winds of snoring. This happened three times in the night and I despaired of getting a good sleep. However, when morning came I was rested and happy to get up. 

By then three of our party had already departed so there were four of us to make the morning coffee and enjoy the bread, butter, jam and delicious muesli that Anna brought us. By the time we were finished the Germans upstairs were coming down for the breakfast. Given that there was only one toilet, which was upstairs, it all worked out amazingly well. I think this is part of the Spirit of the Way of St James. 

By 8:15 we were packed and loaded up and on our way to our next destination Chaumont, 23 kilometers away. It was a beautiful cool morning, clear and bright. Soon however my pack, which had seemed comfortable the day before, was becoming very uncomfortable. My shoulders were in a lot of pain and I couldn’t adjust it to feel better. I wondered if this would be my fate for the rest of the journey. I tried different things make it feel better, but nothing helped much. So I prayed for help, from the earth that I was walking on, from St James and from my Spirit Guides for I knew this was an issue that I couldn’t solve in my own. 

The walk was beautiful: hills, valleys and mountains in the distance, including Mont Blanc. Everything was so verdant and green with new life. Barb commented that they must have had a lot if rain this spring for it to be so lush. It was truly pastoral with cows and sheep, fields of wheat the heads of grain still green, accented by red poppies sprouting up among the grain. The road was most often dirt and stone leading us by pastures and farms. Sometimes we would be on a blacktop road but usually not for long and as always looking for our marker of the red and white lines and the scallop shell, always happy to find them and worried when we didn’t. 

Along the way we met up with two of the travelers from the night before. We passed them and later they passed us when we stopped for a break. Our breaks were delicious. Not only did we have food, our mid morning snack, and then lunch, but the feeling of being unburdened by the weight of our packs also was delicious. Food never tasted so good. 

Another treat for the day were the raptors we saw soaring on the currents. Most looked like brown eagles, smaller than those in America, though there were also some hawks that were grey and white. I took it as a sign that my call for help was heard, and sure enough by the time we started after lunch my pack seemed much more comfortable. Of course I kept thinking about what I should have not brought and kept coming up with same answer, I really needed it all, at least until I knew more of what lay ahead. 

We passed through very few villages and so we were sparing with our water. We both were happy with our camelback water holder as it gave us easy access to drinking when we needed it. While the morning was cool, with a lovely breeze, the afternoon was hotter and we were anticipating our earlier arrival at Chaumont to get out of the heat. In the afternoon we passed a young woman who was also walking and by her accent we thought she might be American. Later we met her again and found out she was a Swiss student who was in a two-month pilgrimage. We left her a at village church only to meet up with her again a little later on the road. 

We got to talking and she said we were only 40 minutes from our destination. Barb asked her if she ever got lost on her first month of walking, she said no though it was harder to find the markers in France as they were difficult to find. This was an omen of what was to come. Barb was ahead of me and I was following her when Mikaela, the Swiss student, caught up with us and we got to talking. Then we met up with Barb and the three of us walked and talked together. All this time on a blacktop road, not thinking to look for markers as we assumed Mikaela knew where she was going. 

We approached a little village and to our surprise it wasn’t Chaumont. Mikaela asked an old villager where the town we wanted was and to her and our horror the man said it was 2 hours away over the mountain. Mikaela consulted her map and decided it wasn’t worth the hike back and went into the next bigger town, Frangy. Barb, bless her heart, was undaunted and said we would backtrack and find our way. So we did, having found ourselves lost a second day adding another hour and a half to our walk just when we didn’t think we could go any farther. The day before: the enchanted forest, today: the beautiful siren. Our lesson was not to ever get complacent in our vigilance for the markers even if we thought someone else knew the way! 

Trudging back up a long hill we found the missed sign and for the next hour climbed up and down a rocky mountain path to get where we thought our village was only to find we had another 20 minutes of an uphill climb to the village. We made it at last getting there at 6:45, almost three hours behind schedule. However, Barb had reserved us a room, a B&B, luckily as the Gite was full, the Germans again. It was so good to stop. Our hosts showed us to a lovely room with an amazing view, fed us a delicious dinner, and we had a shower and a good nights rest.

marker   village   bridge 
“Day two markers designating the Way of St. James and the direction, a picture of a typical village and Barb on a bridge-see the scallop shell on the wall letting us know we are on the right path.” 

castle   kitchen   view 
“Chaumont, our destination is an old castle town. Our host made us a gourmet meal in this kitchen. We thought we would be too tired to eat but finished it off with a lovely bottle of red wine! This is a view from our room at the B&B.”