And they’re off! As I wrote in the previous post, we began our walk in Le-Puy-en-Velay, a lovely historic city about two hours southwest of Lyon. It’s one of the ancient starting points in France for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Saint-Jacques de Compostelle in French) in northwestern Spain, 1,522 kilometers away (946 miles).
This route is often called the Via Podiensis, although its more utilitarian name is the GR 65, where “GR” stands for Grande Randonnée (great trek). All of the GR routes are marked with a white-and-red blaze, which you’ll see in the photos below. This section of the GR 65, between Le Puy and Conques, is considered by many French people to be the prettiest in all of France. Our plan was to walk half of it now, and half later. When we started out, I tried to say “Conques or bust!” to Claude. As often happens, it fell flat, but we finally figured out that “Conques ou rien!” would be the translation (Conques or nothing).
Too many photos! Too many stories! So I’ve divided our adventure into two blog posts. Part One is the background of our journey on the Chemin de Compostelle and the big kick-off in the historic and beautiful city of Le-Puy-en-Velay. Part Two covers our eight days of walking, through lovely, ever-changing country (with a lot of cows) … (and flies).
How did I get here?
As often happens, I was chatting with my friends Maryse and Claude about interesting places to visit in France. Somehow, we landed on the Chemin de Compostelle (Camino de Santiago, or The Way), and in particular, the portion that starts in Le-Puy-en-Velay and ends in Conques, a walk of about 220 kilometers. They agreed that this is widely considered to be the prettiest section of the Chemin in France.
Claude gave me a wistful look and said that he’d wanted to do this for 40 years. So I said, “Let’s do it!”
That was then… Twenty-seven years ago, I set off from my home in California and paid a visit to my friends Mindy and John, who were living near Paris at the time. Part of the vacation involved Mindy and me taking a road trip, with our first stop landing us in Saint-Émilion. Wine and hilarity ensued, but that’s a story for another day. We continued south, passing through Auch long enough for each of us to air-kiss a giant statue of D’Artagnan, and then we continued toward the towering Pyrenees, where we explored towns and hiked and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Pink dinner party A few months ago I participated in a wine tasting at Château Capitoul in nearby Gruissan. Of the many wines they produce, there was one that stood out: Rive, their signature rosé. This is notable for two reasons: one is that I don’t generally drink rosé, and the other is that this is definitely a unique wine. I tasted roses, which seems apt if a little unusual.
I enjoyed talking with the fellow who did the tasting for our group, and we spoke a lot about the foods that might accompany the wines. When we tasted the Rive rosé, he said something that stuck in my head: it would be fun to feature this wine at an entirely pink dinner party.
The merry month of May For this post, I have a real mix of things to share with you: some travels within France, the French election, the wonders of nature… and a national championship. First up are a few things I saw on a spring visit to Paris.
None of us knows where this will end. Or how. Or when. So we do what we can to make each moment matter, every day. That’s our job anyway, even without this illegal, immoral invasion of a sovereign nation.
There have been plenty of hints, and the build-up was no secret. Once Russia invaded, though, a remarkable thing happened: NATO countries quickly formed a unified block, with other nations joining in, to condemn Putin’s aggression and take non-military steps to try to counter it. This is the most unified that NATO has been since its beginnings in the aftermath of World War II. It’s a glimmer of hope that democracy might just pull itself together to fight off the authoritarian trend the world has been experiencing.
You’ve seen the news and the photographs, and I’m not here to write about the war. I’m here to share with you a couple of stories that touched my heart, and a sampling of photographs that show how the world feels about this act of Russian aggression. It’s interesting to see Putin being compared to both Hitler and Maduro.