Rain and Preparations: Arles, Saturday September 21

Tomorrow we walk, 20 or so km from Arles to Saint Gilles. Our pilgrim life will truly begin.

Cloister, St, Trophime

There were many last-minute things to take care of today, foremost among them getting a French SIM card for my phone, so we can follow our location on map apps as we walk, call ahead for reservations, and get keys to gites.

The SFR phone store could not sell me a card. For that I had to go to a tabac. Yes, if we bought their brand of card, the fellow in the SFR shop would put it in for me. To get to a larger store where They could do everything, would be a long walk or a bus trip. Two visits to Tourist Information told us this.

We did find the card after queueing in a tabac, and had it put in at the phone store. We are now good to go, with 5 g of data (that I’ll need only when there is no wifi) for the next month.

Coffee and croissants for breakfast. delicious! Why do American croissants taste nothing like these?

Selfie from atop the Arena

We ran around in the big Saturday outdoor market as rain started to fall—buying bread — 4 slices cut for us— 4 apples, a small sausage, and a round of Camembert. On the way home we picked up a bottle of orange juice and a carrot, and with some ice and a borrowed knife from our AirBNB hostess Ariane, we had a fine lunch. The rainy afternoon was spent visiting some of the many sites of interest in Arles, including St.Trophime Basilica and Cloister, Les Allycamps Cemetery (Roman and Medieval), the arena, the theatre, the baths of Constantine, and other places.

We got our Pilgrim Credentials and first stamps.

At 5:15 we returned to St. Trophime to the Accueil Pèlerin (pilgrim welcome) office that we’d been checking all day. Mass was being said, but 3 people were waiting at the back of the church wearing rain gear and sturdy sandals. «Pilgrims! » I said. And they were: two French Canadian women, Marie and Ginette, and a French man, Jean, who have walked together before. They will also be heading to Saint Gilles tomorrow and finishing in Toulouse as we will. Younger than us, and probably better walkers, we will be with them for at least awhile.

Sign at Les Allycamps

More rain is predicted for tomorrow, although it cleared a bit at sunset. It is cooler, so we will not be walking in blazing sun and heat.

We finished the evening with couscous, chicken, meatballs and vin rouge at a Moroccan restaurant. Arles is a delightful place.

Ultreia! Bon Courage!

Sunset, Arles

Barcelona, September 18-20, 2019

Waiting for Flamenco

In my ten or so years as a college student, I always thought getting through registration was the hardest part, and if I could just get through all those lines, and put the right numbers and names into boxes, I could make it through the coursework. Flying to Europe to walk a Camino is a bit like that. Getting here may be the hardest, and certainly most boring part.

I’m looking forward to three days from now, when we will start walking, just putting one foot in front of another, when all we’ll have to worry about is finding a place to sleep and something to eat. And maybe whether we are lost, and whether our bodies will hold up.

Thé Hostal Central is friendly, clean, comfortable, and well- located, although the room and bathroom are very small, We have enjoyed exploring several neighborhoods, and attending a Flamenco performance in the fabulous Art Deco Palau de la Musica.

We survived the trans-Atlantic flight, getting searched and wanded at Heathrow, and Surviving long lines in several places, including the taxi queue in Barcelona, but now we are here.

Despite its being a bit crowded with tourists— we could hardly walk around the outside of the Sagrada Familia, let alone get tickets to get in — and despite walking nearly 10 miles today, partly due to a few wrong turns, we have enjoyed our short time in Barcelona.

We did get lots of great looks at the imagery on the outside of the Sagrada Familia. I thought Gaudi must have had a wonderful time dreaming all that stuff up. I was able to capture some with the zoom on my camera.

During a Happy Hour break (2 pints for 6 Euros) in the back of a bar, we watched music videos, which had me thinking that in my next life I’d like to be a music video creator. If only I could hear the words— maybe some come with closed captions? Most were from the US, I think—Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Justin Bieber (Canadian)— but one was Japanese.

Tomorrow afternoon we are off to Arles, from where we will start to walk.

Hostal Central Barcelona
Basilica Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Serpent detail
Red Shrimp, Boquete Mercado
Stained Glass Ceiling in Palau de la Musica
Chocolate and Sticky Fingers

San Francisco: First Stop on Our Camino From Arles to Toulouse

Tuesday, September 17th

Our packs seemed too heavy as we sped through the Albuquerque airport yesterday, and again as we exited the Oakland airport and rode the BART and MUNI to our stop at 7th and Irving near Golden Gate Park.

We are still considering what we can leave out—sleeping bags, most likely. We fly to Barcelona this evening.

Meanwhile we managed a nap and enjoyed some family time as Kent practiced carrying a load of a different kind on his back.

Riding on Grampy’s Back

I am nervous about this Chemin, as there will be several days in isolated, rugged mountains with few services, but all that is yet many days away.

Meanwhile, I will live in this day, and start with this meditation from Paula:

Morning Meditation

I give thanks for the journey.

I give thanks for the arriving and leaving.

I wake to freshness and do reverence.

In a sacred manner I am walking.

A Pilgrimage to the Moab Music Festival: September 6-8, 2019

Moab Music Festival: Music in concert with the landscape

Imagine the lush sounds of a Brahms string sextet filling a red rock grotto, as a rapt audience sits around the perimeter, on rocks, on logs, and on the sand beside a small pool. This was a hike-in concert at the Moab Music Festival in Moab, Utah, now in its 27th year.  

To arrive at this spot involved a twenty-minute ride on a school bus, followed by a hike through an overgrown, brushy, sometimes sandy, sometimes rocky trail that led under and over some fallen branches through a narrow slot between red cliffs.  Finally, after about half-a-mile, the canyon widened into a glorious natural amphitheater aptly named “Middle Earth.”  

Playing Brahms in Middle Earth

People of all ages had come from from places near and far, including Salt Lake City, Grand Junction, Chicago, and New Zealand.  Kent and I drove scenic roads from Albuquerque.  A PBS feature on the festival last fall introduced us to the festival and inspired us to make the trip.  We were not disappointed.

https://www.pbs.org/video/moab-music-festival-draws-fans-to-utah-s-ethereal-desert-1540146431/

We attended “A Paris Revue” in historic Star Hall on Friday night, an eclectic program introduced with panache by Festival Music Director Michael Barrett, very much in the style of his mentor Leonard Bernstein. 

Mill Creek Overlook

Then early on Saturday morning, we took a bus through the red rocks east of town, to a one-mile hike down a mostly sandy wash to Mill Creek Overlook, where we heard classical and modern pieces performed by wind instruments, singly and together.  Claude Debussy’s “Syrinx” for unaccompanied flute was followed by a “Duo for Oboe and Bassoon” by Heitor Villa-Lobos.  Modern pieces by Toru Takemitsu, Adam Raph (for unaccompanied trombone!), and Bohuslav Martinü, were followed by several Italian baroque ensemble pieces that concluded the concert.

Wind players at Mill Creek Overlook

On Saturday evening, we traveled again by school bus, upstream along the Colorado River to the Sorrel River Ranch and Spa for a concert under a tent, in celebration of the Jazz-age genius of Bix Beiderbecke.  Food and drinks were available for purchase, and intermission came just in time to allow us to walk about the grounds along the river and view the red rock buttes in the distance turn even redder in the setting sun.

For Kent and me, whose musical tastes are eclectic, who enjoy nature and a bit of adventure, and who are willing to risk a bit of uncertainty, the Moab Music Festival was pure delight.  The uncertainty? The dreamy performance of Brahms in Middle Earth was abruptly interrupted by a flash rainstorm, resulting in an unplanned, hasty exodus along that narrow brushy trail, followed by a return to Star Hall for the concert’s conclusion, with performers and audience alike still dressed in their hiking gear.

Tickets for the more expensive concerts, which involve travel by raft are already on sale for the 2020 season.

http://www.moabmusicfest.org/calendar/september-2020

Walking through Flowers

We have completed our first two days of walking our pilgrimage to Rome with the Gruppo di Dei Dodici. The Gruppo is an all-volunteer group devoted to maintaining, developing and promoting the southern branch of the Via Francigena, of which the better-known part stretches from Canterbury to Rome. This section goes both ways from Rome to Brindisi, from where pilgrims could cross the Mediterranean to reach Jerusalem, or travel from the south of Italy to Rome, as we are doing now.

Our first day from Teano involved a very long climb during the first half of the day, then at least one very steep descent and ascent at the end of the day. I was overjoyed when we reached the lovely town of Sessa, only to grow weary as we passed through the town, climbing higher still and then winding down for another kilometer to the Convent of Caterina Volpicelli on the outskirts. That was truly the longest mile.

During the day we stopped briefly to rest and eat sandwiches on park benches in lovely old villages.

Last night we returned to Sessa where we witnessed a moving Good Friday procession.

The Pilgrimage Begins: April 17, Teano

After spending Monday exploring Pompeii along with thousands of other visitors, including energetic busloads of students, Tuesday exploring numerous churches and nooks and crannies of the Centro Storico and attending a fabulous opening night performance of Madama Butterfly at the Teatro San Carlo, and Wednesday morning walking along the rather unremarkable waterfront to Mergellina, we were met at the train station Formia-Gaeta on Wednesday afternoon.

There we were greeted by Giuseppe, Maurzio, Paolo, and several other members of our group, including Ned and Donna from Albuquerque, Silva and Terje from Norway, and Herta from Germany.

View of Teano from our window this morning

After a bit of a drive to Teano, a stop at an ATM machine and a phone store, we ended up in the country at Agritorismo Farm Mattera di Valle., with a view to Teano on its hill in the distance.

Kent and I were given a very chilly large room with a large bed. Later we all gathered for a huge Italian dinner, beginning with antipasto, then pasta, then meat and potato, followed by cake and grappa. We begin walking on the Morning of April 18. “On the 18th of April in ‘75/ hardly a man is now alive/ who remembers that fateful day and year/ of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.”

Oldest amphitheater in Italy in Teano
Kent in Teano
Flowers along the way
Waymarks
Overgrown bridge

April 18, Sessa

It looks like nights 2 and 3 with no wifi, unless we make a long trek uphill into town. So I will just keep writing, hoping that one of these days we will have wifi, and I can publish.

We have finished our first day of walking, through some beautiful countryside and lovely old towns. However, we were promised this would be a short, easy day. It was not. Fourteen easy kilometers—should not be hard. Right? Wrong. We made some steep, long climbs up in the first two hours before lunch, and several more ups and downs and then a Long walk through this lovely hill town, without much chance to see anything.

We are now returned from a lovely dinner in the town, and it is too late to keep writing. We will be back here again tomorrow. Good news is finally having a wifi connection. Bad news is it works only in a chilly front lobby. Good news is we’ve had the best shower here we’ve had since leaving home.

I’ll try to write more tomorrow, after our Good Friday walk.

On the way to Sessa
Dog at water fountain

Loving Naples

Saturday and Sunday, April 13-14

Panorama from Naples

Our Air BnB on Via Monte di Dio is small, but nicely appointed, has a fabulous view from its one window, and is perched on the edge of a cliff in a fascinating old neighborhood of narrow alleys between five-story buildings hung with laundry and layered with tiny shops and restaurants. The entry to our flat is through an over-grown garden, populated by friendly cats, and tonight as we entered at twilight, a singing bird. Could it have been a nightingale singing at twilight?

Last night we explored in the rain and got terribly lost, but discovered just below us a posh pedestrian shopping street and the magnificent Piazza Plebescito with a semicircular colonnade centering on the Pantheon-inspired circular church of San Francesco di Paola. Across from the church is the Palazzo Reale, which adjoins the Teatro San Carlo where we will see Madama Butterfly on Tuesday evening.

Finally back in our own neighborhood, we bought bread, cheese, butter, olives, and wine at a small grocery, and after taking them home returned to a small trattoria where we had a simple, satisfying dinner of pasta.

After a late start this morning, fortified by toast, jam, and cheese, we set out for the Archeological Museum, joining strolling families, many carrying palm fronds from Palm Sunday services. The museum, with a special exhibit on Canova and his inspiration by classical art and sculpture, as well mosaics and many other items unearthed from Pompeii and Herculaneum, occupied us for the rest of the afternoon. We finished with a look at the waterfront and a dinner of pizza at a small restaurant in our neighborhood.

Tomorrow we hope to get to both Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Basílica di San Francesco di Paola
I am enjoying the glorious Galleria Umberto I
Psyche and Cupid—Canova
Alexander the Great detail from Mosaic
Evening at the waterfront
Sunset from our window on Monte di Dio