I’m still figuring out WordPress…just inadvertently erased this morning’s post about the rainy weather.
Here it is May 31st and the sky is a gloomy grey, the wind is blowing, and its been raining on and off for the last 24 hours. The newscasters are saying it’s the coldest Spring since 1816. They interviewed shepherds in the Pyrennes…and it’s snowing! Perhaps this is the first step of the pilgrimage for me: to let go of worrying about it. The weather predictions for St. Jean Pied-de-Port, where I begin walking next week, are for fair skies and rising temperatures. May it be so!
Today we hiked up to the Cite of Corcassonne, home of the Cathars, and an amazing medieval monument. There’s a whole medieval town within the castle, with winding streets, cute squares with cafes, and a cathedral.
Today we took a bus to Marseilles from Aix. Turns out that there’s a bus every 5 minutes between the two cities. I’m becoming reacquainted with the wonders of European public transport. It works. It’s inexpensive. It’s easy. Today the bus driver made change on the bus! The hardest thing about it was finding the Gare de Routiere in the rain.
Marseilles reminded us of a huge Oakland. It’s a port city, with many immigrants. They have an “Alcatraz” tourist site, too, on an island, where the Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned. Like in 1978, we walked and walked, so I got some good training for the Camino. Its been unseasonably chilly and rainy for late May, so we’ve been playing hide and seek with rain showers. We hung out for an hour at a funky little sidewalk bar waiting for the rain to stop. Turns out it was the inspiration for France’s number 1 hit TV show. So I had to take a photo.
I’m always aware of the largeness of Time here. In California, The oldest buildings are the Missions, from the 18th Century. Here, of course, it goes so much farther back. We went down below the street level in Arles and saw the superstructure built by the Romans to support the Forum. It was a basement the size of a parking garage. Today we visited the Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct outside of Avignon. Our hotel is new, in an office park, outside of Aix, and five minutes down the road is a one-way Roman bridge over a stream. I’m going to be crossing lots of those bridges on foot in Spain. One of my hopes for the Camino is to enjoy the time with the deeper appreciation of living in Time.
Detail from church yesterday in Arles, of the damned chained together and being licked by flames! Makes me wonder once again why the church focused so much on Judgment Day rather than on “loving as I have loved you.” The church faced directly onto the square, where musicians played, the fountain spladhed, and little boys zoomed around on scooters, much like my beloved Trinity on Sunday morning. Happy Trinity Sunday!
Totally enjoying my time as a tourist in Southern France! Today we drove to Arles and walked through the market, then wandered through the labyrinth of streets that open onto squares with buildings from so many different centuries. St. Trophime church on the Place Republique, is a Romanesque beauty. On the right side of the doorway is a panel that shows souls chained together, like a chain gang, on their way to hell, being licked with flames. Yes, I’m a tourist for the time being, but the pilgrim in me wonders why the Church focused so intently on the Day of Judgment? Was it a desire to control behavior through fear?
We’re at SFO. After much packing angst last night, the pilgrimage pack is between 6 and 7 kilos! Of course, I left behind the down pillow…oh well! Counted out Advils and decanted to ziplock bags. Decanted Liquid soap, too. Took scissors to my Rick Steve’s Spain and cut out Seville, etc. packing for the French excursion beforehand was easy!
Will it all fit? This pack is too small! With the help of my intrepid (and ruthless) daughter Andrea, I am getting serious about packing. We got it down to 14 lbs without the 2 liter camelbak filled with water.
I’m transfixed by the online Camino community! First I discovered the Camino Forum on Facebook. Everyday they post a question, (mostly about what to pack, how to train, how to get there, and how to take care of your feet) and people post suggestions and very detailed advice. People sincerely want to help and share their experience.
The American Pilgrims on the Camino site is also great. It’s a treasure trove of information about the Camino. I especially like this introduction to the History tab of the site:
“You are about to enter more than a thousand years of history and tradition associated with the Camino de Santiago. The Camino will become a multifaceted experience for you as you in turn become one with the daily flow of the life of the peregrino. ¡Buen Camino!”
The APOC Facebook page is another place where people are sharing their knowledge, and asking for the gathered wisdom of the pilgrim community.
I look forward to meeting my fellow pilgrims.