Category Archives: Travelogs

Back to New York City – finally!

 Carnegie Hall, where my brother and his wife will perform this June – with some other people…

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May 5, 2022 – A month from now I’ll visit Carnegie Hall, in New York City. That led me to wonder how long it’s been since I last visited The Big Apple. As it turns out, that was 2016, during a family visit headquartered on Staten Island. Which means it’s been six years since that last visit.

I didn’t realize it had been that long, but it’s been a busy six years. One thing that happened was the COVID pandemic, which screwed up family plans to visit back in June 2020. My brother, sister-in-law and other singers from our church* were scheduled to perform at Carnegie, but it got cancelled. (Then rescheduled for this June, 2022, which is where the “finally” comes in.) And speaking of busy, those past six years included – aside from COVID – three hikes on the Camino de Santiago – in 2017, 2019 and 2021* – and a three-week pilgrimage to Jerusalem in May 2019.

I’ll write more on the upcoming NYC trip in the future, but meanwhile it’s time to remember that last 2016 visit. As noted, my family stayed on Staten Island, which meant each day – starting on September 17 – we took the Staten Island Ferry over to Manhattan. And as you recall, that September was just before the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Which election brought out a slew of grouchy old white people. (From where most had been hiding under a rock, or so it seemed.) That seemed especially true in Georgia, where I’ve lived since 2011.

Which made the trip to New York City in 2016 so refreshing – so “get away from it all” – that I did two posts about it: “No city for Grouchy Old White People,” and “No city for Grouchy Old White People” – Part II. For example, here’s what I wrote on Facebook on September 22, safely back on Staten Island: “New York City is a refreshing reminder that there’s more to this country than just the right-wing wackos so prevalent back home.” That Facebook entry also included this:

Ever since last Saturday, September 17, we’ve been taking the Staten Island ferry into and back from Manhattan Island. So that’s eight times – twice a day for four days now – that we’ve seen the Statute of Liberty, off in the distance…  And I don’t remember ONCE seeing a sign that said, “the heck with your tired, your poor,” those “wretched refuse … yearning to breathe free.”  WE’RE GONNA BUILD A FRIKKIN WALL!

(I also noted on Facebook that night that it had been a long day, but fun. “And I’ve had my usual one beer at the South Manhattan Terminal,* then another one on the Ferry itself, and I’m now finishing my third of the night, a ‘Corona Extra.’”) Ah, the memories…

And just for some excitement – I noted a Saturday ride on a double-decker tour bus, our first night in the city. The bus was delayed, but eventually made its way down Sixth Avenue toward downtown Manhattan, then over to Brooklyn. As we approached the Chelsea district, we heard a lot of sirens. Then we passed some streets blocked off, “and all kinds of murmuring crowds.” As we rode down Avenue of the Americas closer to Chelsea, we heard a whole lot of sirens. (Even more sirens and louder than usual in the City.) Texting a friend back home about all this, she texted back, “Explosion reported in New York..  be safe.” Which made me the first on the bus to find out about “New York City explosion rocks Chelsea neighborhood.”

The thing is, when the bombing happened – apparently – we were still back in that long line to get on the tour bus. And at the time we were kind of disgruntled about the long delay. But as it turned out, the delay meant that we DIDN’T drive by right as the explosion happened.

Which I figured was some kind of object lesson

I’ll do another post later on “Grouchy Old White People” – Part II, mostly because it’s so full of juicy memories. There’s lots of stuff on the Statue of Liberty, and some knucklehead saying the inscription is “just a poem,” with a citation about the Old Testament also be “just a bunch of poetry.” (Idiot.) And the American dream, and a visit to the One World Trade Center. And getting three “Stellas” at the Whitehall (Manhattan) Terminal, for the ride back to Staten Island. (One for me, one for my brother and one for my nephew.) And a hike on NYC’s “High Line,” followed by lunch at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, in Chelsea.  (The same neighborhood where the bomb(s) went off Saturday night.) A visit to the Museum of Natural History – uptown – and later lucking into some $30 tickets to see “The Fantasticks” at the Jerry Orbach Theater, at 210 West 50th Street.  

Meanwhile, in February 2020 I posted Looking back on “the summer of ’16.” It talked about my learning to unfollow on Facebook, mostly because way too many of my high-school classmates had turned into grumpy old Trump-humpers.* It also talked about how – once the family vacation was over – I kayaked across the Verrazano Narrows, from Staten Island to Brooklyn and back, before leaving for home. (Via the Cape May Ferry and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel.) And noting that I was lucky I kayaked across “the Narrows” at neap tide, so I wasn’t either “swept by the currents into New York Harbor, or swept out to sea past Sandy Hook Bay.”

Gee, I wonder what adventures await this upcoming June…

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brooklynsideVN
My view of the Brooklyn side of the “Narrows”from an 8-foot kayak…

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The upper image is courtesy of Carnegie Hall Image – Image Results. It goes with an article, How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? No, Seriously. | NCPR News, with lots of background information.

Re: “Brother, sister-in-law and others from our church.” They will be performing in one of several groups also performing “that night.”

Re: Three hikes on the Camino. Check the search engine above right for more details.

Re:  The “South Manhattan Terminal.” As Wikipedia noted, the formal name is “Whitehall:”

The ferry departs Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal at South Ferry, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan near Battery Park. On Staten Island, the ferry arrives and departs from the St. George Ferry Terminal on Richmond Terrace, near Richmond County’s Borough Hall and Supreme Court.

Re: “Grumpy old Trump-humpers.” I had toyed with the idea of going back to our 50th class reunion, after joining the reunion site on Facebook, but way too many negative political comments followed. As to the term Trump-humper, see “I used to be quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey,” from February 2021, and an earlier post, On “why it might be better…” (Gasp!). About why it might have been better if Trump had gotten re-elected. (Thus the “Gasp!”)

A note: I also reviewed the NYC visit in a December 2020 post, Now that the Trump Era is almost over. (For a while anyway.) And I took the photo of the “Brooklyn side” of the Verrazon bridge.

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Getting ready for Rome – and “the Way of St. Francis…”

This September “we” will hike the Via di Francesco – the “Way of St. Francis” – from Assisi to Rome…

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As briefly noted in the March 30 post, St. Patty 2022 – and the Way of St. Francis, my older brother Tom recently proposed a new adventure. (The brother I’ve had so many past adventures with.*) This September we two – along with Tom’s wife Carol – will hike, from Assisi, the 150 miles to Rome. Specifically, we three* will be hiking from Assisi to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, by way of the Via de Francesco. (In English, it’s The Way of St. Francis.) 

Which will no doubt be as much fun as last September’s “hike over the daunting Pyrenees.” (From Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain, via the Route de Napoleón, and from there – for me – on to Pamplona and Burgos.*)

One guidebook I found was The Way of St Francis … to Assisi and Rome, by “Sandy” Brown. It said the Apennine Mountain Range is “the thick spine of the Italian peninsula,” bordering the Way of St. Francis. And that because of its “challenging topography, the Way of St. Francis is a challenging walk.” The book noted that veterans of the Camino de Santiago (like us) may compare several days walking on the Way of St. Francis “to a walk over the Route [de] Napoleón that crosses the Pyrenees. A daily climb of 500 to 1000 meters is not unusual.”

Also, “sporadic rain is assured in any season of the year.” On that note, I still have plastic shoe covers from September 2021’s Pyrenees hike. And for Pyrenees hiking in the rain, I used a cheap plastic Walmart poncho. I covered that with a black windbreaker to keep the poncho from blowing all over in the wind. The combination was both lightweight and worked well.

Finally, the Sandy Brown guidebook said the region near the Francis trail remains green pretty much year-round. And that the trail offers breathtaking views from lofty mountain ridges, along with “long walks in ancient forests.” However, it’s also important for hikers “to plan and prepare well for the challenges ahead.” Which is good advice for any such adventure.

But first I have to get to Rome, and from there to Assisi. Which means finding an affordable flight, then booking a room, then getting from Rome airport to that room, and from there getting up to meet Tom and Carol in Assisi. (They’ll be flying in before me and doing some sightseeing up in northern Italy.) Which means this post will be devoted to some initial research.

So now for that first two days in Rome, after flying in. That is, before booking a flight, I booked a room at the “Biancagiulia Bed and Breakfast near Rome Termini Station.” Because Tom and Carol will be arriving early and doing some touristy stuff up in the northern part of Italy, I’ll meet up with them in Assisi near the end of August, 2022.

Which means I have to plan on either a bus or a train from Rome, which is why I picked Biancagiulia. It’s a four or five minute walk from there to both the central bus and train stations. “Termini is also the main hub for public transport inside Rome,” not to mention several museums nearby, and a place called LET IT BEER, Roma. (“Piazza delle Crociate, 26/28, 00162 Roma.”) One reviewer said of the latter, “Hard to find, but worth it. small live music joint. was there on a sunday, not many people, but a well playing local blues band. and of course: cpold beer.”

That “cpold beer” must have been really good. As far as finding the place, I’ll do some assiduous Google-mapping before I go, just like for my May 2019 pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And how I found the BEERBAZAAR JERUSALEM my first full day there. (On Jaffa Street. See This time last year – in Jerusalem!) Anyway, after checking both options, the bus from Rome to Assisi seems preferable to the train. The price is cheap – a mere $13 – and only takes three hours or so. The only downside? A departure time of 5:30 in the morning.

I saw from the link Rome → Assisi Bus: from $12 | FlixBus | Busbud, that the bus will leave Tiburtina bus station. (Rome Forum – Tripadvisor clarifies that it’s actually the “Largo Guido Mazzoni, next to the Roma Tiburtina train station.”) As for “Let It Beer Roma,” it’s said to be a two-minute walk from the station. I won’t be stopping there at 5:00 in the morning, but I would want to check the station the afternoon before, just to make sure I’m at the right place.

Google Maps also shows that the bus will arrive, at 8:30 a.m., at the Piazza San Pietro Assisi. The town of Assisi itself is much smaller than Rome, and it’s a mere three-minute walk from the station to the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the town’s main attraction. (For us pilgrims anyway.) Assisi spreads out more toward the southeast, and I didn’t see any McDonald’s, but there is a quaint-looking Ristorante Bar San Francesco on the way. (Francesco, not Francisco.)

So now what I have to do is find an affordable flight. The two best choices for me are Delta and Turkish Airlines. I’d prefer Delta, both to support local business and earn SkyMiles®. But the cheapest Delta “Basic” flight doesn’t give SkyMiles, and it’s also non-refundable and non-changeable. (Not without a hefty penalty anyway.) So the cheapest feasible Delta flight hovers around $1,200, but I remember seeing a Turkish Airline flight for roughly half that. (Some weeks ago, and with a seven-hour layover in Istanbul.) And by the way, I flew “Turkish” to Israel in May 2019 and was reasonably impressed with their service. In the meantime I’ll meditate on that goal of reaching the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, and from there walking the 150 miles to Rome…

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The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, starting point for a 150-mile pilgrim hike…

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The upper image is courtesy of Way Of St Francis Pilgrimage – Image Results.

Re: The brother I’ve had so many past adventures with. They include hiking the Camino de Santiago three times, once from Pamplona, once from Porto (the Portuguese Way), and once over the Pyrenees from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Burgos. Others include hiking the Chilkoot Trail (“meanest 33 miles in history”), canoeing 440 miles on the Yukon River, from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and canoeing eight days, 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi, primitive camping. (“Dig a hole and squat.”) To see more, type in the subject in the search engine above right.

Re: “We three will be hiking.” The last time “we three” hiked together was on the Portuguese Camino, from Porto – where they make Port wine – up to Santiago de Compostela. See my posts, “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino,” and Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino. For the hike over the Pyrenees, We Three were joined by Carol’s brother Ray.

Re: My hike over the Pyrenees, in September 2021. In 2017 Tom hiked the entire “Camino Frances,” including over the Pyrenees, but I “wussed out” and met him in Pamplona. From there we hiked and biked 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela. My “wussing out” always bothered me, but I fixed that last September, and hiked as far as Burgos. Tom then guided Ray and Carol, who’d never done the Camino Frances, “back” to Santiago. For more detail see Hiking over the Pyrenees, in 2021 – finally!

Re: Sandy Brown guide. The full cite is The Way of St Francis: Via di Francesco: From Florence to Assisi and Rome. (From Cicerone Guides, Kindle Edition), by Reverend Sanford Brown. Updates available at Book Updates-2017a (2) … cicerone.co.uk, or Cicerone Press | Guides for walkers, hikers (etc.).

A note on the difference between the bus or train from Rome to Assisi. The train arrives at Assisi’s Santa Maria Degli Angeli station. And incidentally, there’s a “McDonald’s Assisi, Viale Patrono d’Italia,” about a two minute walk from the station. (According to Google Maps.) Another note of some importance: In Italy, be sure to “validate your ticket by stamping it in the station’s validation machine after your purchase,” or be ready to pay a 40 Euro fine. (Nice to know.) Finally, my initial research indicated I would have to change stations three or four times on the train, which affected my decision. Tom noted later there was an “Omio” direct train from Rome to Assisi, which meant a later departure time, of 8:30 a.m., and no train changes. But last year I really enjoyed the early morning bus ride from Burgos to Madrid, starting off in the dark and seeing the sun slowly rise in the east…

The lower image is courtesy of Basilica Of Saint Francis Of Assisi – Wikipedia – Image Results.

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Back to Camino 2021 – Pamplona to Logrono…

Encierro de San Fermín
One thing I’ve never done – and never plan on doing – is run with the bulls in Pamplona

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Last September I spent a month in France and Spain. Mostly to hike over the Pyrenees Mountain part of the Camino Frances. When I got back home I did posts on arriving in Paris, taking the train down to  Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and from there hiking some 177 miles in 17 days. I got the Faithful Reader as far as Pamplona, on September 4. (After arriving in Paris early on the morning of August 26.)

Incidentally, the image at right is from the BULLFIGHTING MUSEUM … Plaza de Toros in Pamplona. And speaking of which, in my last Camino-post I wrote that in the next post I’d discuss more about our day off in Pamplona, “including a touristy visit to the bullring that Hemingway made famous.”

Then I said I’d discuss the 14-day hike to Burgos – with a day off in Logrono – and eventually about making my way back home, via Madrid. (On September 24, 2021.) I added:

I’ll also talk more about the drudgery of hiking, mile after mile, hauling a 15-pound backpack. From my Facebook posts most people would think all I did was drink beer, have great meals and enjoy the sights. “Tra-la-tra-la-tra-la!” But there was real drudgery involved, which seems to be where the spiritual breakthroughs happen… In the meantime, Buen Camino!

But alas, I got side-tracked. By Donald Trump and Holden Caulfield.

And here’s another news flash. In this post I’m only able to get the Faithful Reader as far as Logrono. That’s still 75 miles worth of Camino-hiking to Burgos. And Burgos is where I left the party to head for home, via Madrid, while the other three kept on hiking to Santiago.*

But now I’m back home and “back on the Camino,” if only in spirit. And taking up where I left off, I’ll start back with our first day off, on September 5, after hiking over the Pyrenees. (Eventually I’ll get to the spiritual breakthrough part.) Not surprisingly, that Sunday in Pamplona we slept a bit late, after hiking ten-and-a-half, 13-and-a-half, and 13 miles the previous three days. (A mere five miles on the first day, but it was all uphill.)

Which meant we had a late lunch…

Which brings up how they make hamburgers in Spain. They call them hamburguesas, and they usually come with an egg on top. (A “huevo,” shown above left, along with lots of fatty bacon.) Back home I try to eat healthy, which normally means little or no beef. However, after four days on the Camino – hiking over steep mountains – I was ready for a change. As I wrote later:

I finally broke down and had an Hamburguesa. I told the waiter, “No huevo” – an egg, like they love in Spain on their burgers – but I got the (silly) huevo anyway. At the restaurant in the Plaza del Castillo, next door to the Cafe Iruna.

By the way, I also had two “grande cervezas,” Amstel draft beers. Aside from that we also checked out the route of the Running of the bulls. (Which happened in July. “Dang, we missed it!”) Starting with a pen on the outskirts where the bulls are first gathered and then let loose, to run up the sectioned-off streets to the Plaza del Toros. Two hiking companions and I – Tom’s wife Carol and her brother Ray – paid six euros each to do the tour of the famous bullring.

“Very comprehensive.” For one thing we learned that they pay great attention to the minutest detail, down to exactly the right kind, color and texture of the sand covering the inside of the bullring. (Along with having to have “good drainage.”) Like I said, very impressive.

But mostly we relaxed. In part because starting the next day – Monday, September 6 – we were set to hike six straight days. (59 miles.) But as long as we’re talking about Pamplona, I should say a word or two about the Café Iruña, of Hemingway fame. At least in September 2021, the place was “all crowded and touristy.” Partly because you weren’t allowed to sit inside, where all the “color” is. And our waiter was kind of rude. But the nap we all took later helped out a lot.

There was one other episode of note. We did laundry every night, since we carried only two sets of clothes in our “10 percent of body weight” backpacks. (One set for hiking in and one for relaxing in at night. With some variation, like my bathing suit that could serve as a second pair of shorts, or underwear if need be.) And on this Sunday in Pamplona we also did our wash, and hung our clothes on the lines just outside the windows looking out onto an “atrium” or central court. Then about 6:15 the doorbell rang, as we were relaxing. The guy from the apartment above explained that his wife dropped her bra while hanging it on the line outside their window. As it turned out, it landed on the line where our laundry was hanging.

Being ever the gentleman, I retrieved it. “Always glad to help out a lady in distress…

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Leaving Pamplona, we headed for the Hotel Jakue in Puente la Reina. (“Queen’s Bridge.”) On the way we hiked up to and over the Alto de Perdon (“Hill of Forgiveness”), some eight or nine miles out of Pamplona. (With its “remarkable steel sculpture of pilgrims on the road to Santiago” and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.)

Google Maps says it’s a 14-mile hike from Pamplona to Puente la Reina, but Brierly* says it’s more like 16 miles. (On the Camino.) Either way, we only made it as far as Uterga, some 11 miles from Pamplona. We started late, about 9:00 a.m., a practice we changed as the hike went on. (From that point on we started getting up at 5:30 a.m., mostly because of that first and only time we took a taxi. And felt guilty about it.)

It turned out there were only two places to stop for a drink or whatever the whole 11 miles. One was in Zariquiegui, seven miles out of Pamplona. The other was in Uterga, and by the time we got there it was 6:30 p.m. Which meant five miles left for us to hike in the fading twilight. Thus the feeling guilty, and later getting up at 5:30 and starting the day’s hike in the dark.

But that didn’t happen until the following Thursday and Friday, September 9 and 10.

Tom’s original plan was to hike to Muruzabal, the next town after Uterga, that Monday. But he found out via Wi-Fi – always spotty on the Camino – that the place in Muruzabal cancelled on him. (That happened a lot this trip, which kept Tom constantly checking the reservations he’d made.) Then there was the taxi ride from Uterga to Pamplona. (Where Tom made an alternate reservation.) But as it turned out, that re-assignment to Pamplona cut out miles from Tuesday’s hike. (Back home I tried to figure out exactly how many, but for now I’ll let the Reader do the math, if “they” so choose. It’s enough to say it made a big difference on Tuesday’s hike.)

And now a word about those mileage calculations. The Brierly guidebook sets out distances in kilometers, with one page generally representing a hike of 15 miles per day. But being in a small, 4.5 x 7.5-inch format, the maps are far from being accurate in scale. Then there were side trips. As an alternative, Carol kept count of “steps walked,” on her fancy-schmancy wrist watch. (Which also had GPS, which quite often helped us better find the lodging on a given night, usually a rental apartment with no “outward and visible sign” of its location.)

For myself, I kept count of “minutes spent actually hiking.” (Via my own wrist watch, a ten-dollar much-less-fancy-schmancy Walmart special.) So for the 10.9 miles we spent hiking on Monday, I listed 230 minutes of actual hiking. That system worked well for the 2017 and 2019 Camino hikes, but for some reason this year we took a whole lot more “standing stops,” especially when we were hiking up to and over the Pyrenees. But for that system to accurately reflect a medium intensity aerobic workout, you have to go at it for at least ten minutes straight. So, to make up for the frequent standing stops this trip, I’d walk a certain number of paces – after each stop – before starting up the stop-watch again.

Which is relevant to me but boring to you, so let’s get back to “Camino 2021…”

Tuesday we left the Hotel Jakue* in Puente la Reina and hiked about 8.5 miles to the Casa Nahia in Lorca. (I had it as 130 minutes of actual hiking, with “lots of breaks.”) And for the first time on this trip we finally found a place in the morning for a place to stop and get a cafe con leche, in Maneru. Wednesday was a short day, a little over five miles hiking to Estella. We were able to check in a 3:00, so I took a nap and did some yoga. We had dinner at 6:30 in the Estella town plaza, packed and busy. “Lots of people promenading, kids playing soccer, cute girls roller skating.” Definitely a pleasant dinner, but “tomorrow, a long day, up at 5:30 a.m.”

And by the way, I realize this post is way longer than I like to do normally, but I’m trying to get at least to Logrono, on Saturday, September 11. Besides, I figure on using these posts for a new book I’ll start writing in 2022. On all three Camino hikes, 2017, 2019 and 2021, so bear with me…

Getting back to the Camino, on Thursday, September 9, we got up at 5:30 and left Estella while it was still dark. (And took some wrong turns getting out of the city.) We hiked from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. That nine hours on the trail I calculated as 220 minutes actual hiking. (Three hours and 40 minutes, which gives you an idea of the discrepancy.) That day there was a long stretch of nothing. After seven hours hiking, with no place to stop and get a drink, we ran across what seemed to be a mirage; too good to be true. Complete strangers handing out free water…

The Brierly guidebook shows a “Cafe movil” some seven hours out of Estella and about 3.8 miles short of Los Arcos, our goal for the day. The one place to stop came right at the start of the day’s hike, at the Irache Wine Fountain – the “Fuente de Irache” – a mere half-mile or so out of Estella. (The “owners of Bodegas Irache have kindly put a wine fountain, so that pilgrims can serve themselves a free glass of red wine to help them on their way.”) I added a smidge – or more precisely, a dram – of wine to my water bottle: 1) I didn’t want to get too tipsy on the long day’s hike ahead, and 2) in compliance with 1st Timothy 5:23.

Other than that there was no place to stop for seven long hours of hiking. (We went through some villages that had cafes open in 2017, but this year they were closed for the COVID.) Then too, when we got to where Brierly listed a “mobile cafe,” it wasn’t there. What was there was a group of three people, as noted, handing out free cold water. (See “The Camino provides.”) And one of them was “Sweet Katie from Alabama,” pictured at the bottom of the main text. Katie and her co-workers were from the “Pilgrim’s Oasis” in Viana, Spain. See Pilgrims’ Oasis – Home | Facebook. And Viana was a mere six miles shy of Logrono, where this post ends.

Katie and I had a nice long chat. (For one thing it was nice to talk to someone outside the group who also spoke English.) She was 33, had been married but no kids, and was now divorced. She was in Spain for three weeks or so, volunteering to help out at Pilgrim’s Oasis. I noticed a tiger on her ball cap so I said, “You’re an Auburn fan?” She answered, “Only somebody from the South would know that.” All things considered that free cold water and nice chat with a lady from Back Home definitely lifted my spirits – after that long seven hours of hiking, with “nary a place to stop for a cold drink.” I took a couple pictures of her – she could have been a model – with the one below showing her charming someone else. (One of the local Guardia Civil, stopping by to check out the situation. “Wait. You’re giving out free cold water?”)

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So anyway, that Thursday the 9th, we hiked from Los Arcos to Viana. 11.4 miles or 220 minutes of actual hiking time. The day was mostly overcast, with some sprinkles of rain. Once again we got up at 5:30, in the dark, and reached the apartment in Viana at 1:52 p.m. I won the draw and so got a room to myself. (The others shared a room or slept on the living room couch.) Then too there was a mini-bar, with four cold beers that cost only a euro apiece. “I’m in heaven!”

Which is almost a pretty good place to stop. Except to say that Saturday’s hike from Viana to Logrono was a mere six miles, which gave us time to stop by the Pilgrim’s Oasis in Viana and say hello to Katie one more time. (Before she left for Back Home in a week or so.) And we got to stay in Logrono for a well-deserved day off from hiking, after six days straight. In the next – and hopefully final – post on this year’s Camino adventure, I plan to get the Faithful Reader from Logrono to Burgos, and from there down to Madrid. At which point I’d have to take another COVID test within 72 hours of my flight home. And if I failed that test I would find out what it means to be quarantined in Spain for 14 days. In the meantime:

Buen Camino!

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Sweet Katie from Alabama,” handing out free water on the Camino..

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The upper image is courtesy of Pamplona – Wikipedia. The caption: “Encierro de San Fermín.” In Spanish “encierro” can mean confinement or prison, but as usually translated refers to a bull-run where “bulls are driven through streets to a bullring.” The running of the bulls in Pamplona happens during the San Fermín festival, “held annually from July 6 to July 14. This festival was brought to literary renown with the 1926 publication of Ernest Hemingway‘s novel The Sun Also Rises.”

For more on the four days in Paris, see A post-trip post mortem for “Paris – 2021.” About visiting the Picasso Museum, and the outer part of the being-rebuilt Notre Dame cathedral, and getting the Covid test – required to get on a train – at a sidewalk clinic just off the Pont Neuf on the Left Bank.

Re: “170 miles in 17 days for me,” and leaving for home in Burgos. I had already hiked the Camino from Pamplona to Santiago in 2017, as noted in previous posts. Thus I finished my portion of the hike, in Burgos, on Sunday, September 19, while the other three finished up in Santiago de Compostela on October 26.

Re: 10 percent of body weight. The link is to 10 Essential Tips for Hiking the Camino de Santiago, including “the weight of your backpack should not exceed 10 percent of your body weight. Keep in mind that the magic “10 percent” number includes your water for the day, so factor in a bit of wiggle room.” In my case, my backpack should not have weighed over 14.5 pounds, including water.

Re: “Brierly.” That’s the Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago: Camino Francés, by John Brierley. This “comprehensive guidebook to the Camino de Santiago and its offshoots contains all the information needed by modern-day pilgrims wishing to walk the sacred Way of St. James.” 

Re “Dram.” Defined in part as small amount of an alcoholic drink.

See also 8 Words for Small Amounts | Merriam-Webster.

Re: 1st Timothy 5:23. “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” And of course as a prophylactic precaution against snake bite…

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Here are some other notes from earlier posts I did on the trip:

I flew into Paris last August 25, 2021. I spent four days there, meeting up with three other family members on the 28th. After that the four of us took a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, starting point for the Camino Frances. From there we started a long hike over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. (170 miles in 17 days for me.*) On the second day’s hike “we got up fairly early for the remaining 10.5-mile hike to Roncesvalles. (A ‘small village and municipality in Navarre, northern Spain.’) On the Route de Napoleón it’s about five miles past the border with France. From Roncesvalles we hiked 13.6 miles to Zubiri on Friday, September 3, and on Saturday the 13 miles to Pamplona.”

That pilgrimage-by-hiking usually ends at Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain. But I stopped in Burgos, thus finishing the unfinished business of not hiking over the daunting Pyrenees back in 2017. I detailed that accomplishment in Hiking over the Pyrenees … finally, but in that October 16 post only got as far as Pamplona.

Hiking over the Pyrenees, in 2021 – finally!

Well, not quite 500 miles. This time I hiked – over the daunting Pyrenees – as far as Burgos

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In my last post, I got as far leaving Paris and taking a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. (By way of Bayonne, last Monday, August 30.) Then, after a day off in St. Jean, “we four*” started our Camino hike from its beginning, then over the Pyrenees Mountains. (Shown at right, during our first day’s hike, to Orisson.)

For background see Post-trip post mortem for “Paris – 2021.” And per the last two posts, all this was part of a plan to cross “hiking over the Pyrenees” off my Bucket list.

To review, way back in 2016 my brother Tom and I hiked all 33 miles of the Chilkoot Trail, from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett, B.C.* They call it “the meanest 33 miles in history,” and I found out why. (Mostly it’s not a trail at all, but “one big pile of &^$# rocks after another!*”) What that meant for this trip is that by September 2017, I had my fill of mountain hiking.

That presented a problem, because in September 2017 Tom and I planned to hike the Camino Frances. (Which begins in St. Jean, then goes over the Pyrenees, to Pamplona and beyond.*) So I decided that instead of meeting Tom in Paris (and beginning the trip from down in St. Jean), I would fly into Madrid. From there I took a train up to Pamplona to meet him, after he had hiked over the Pyrenees. (And had a miserable time, mostly because of some near-constant rain, and also because some clown – in a dormitory-style auberge so popular with Camino pilgrims – kept getting up in the middle of the night to pee, and turning on all the lights,.)

The point is that although Madrid and the train up to Pamplona were extremely pleasant – the latter including an ice-cold Cruzcampo beer – it’s bothered me ever since that I wimped out of the hike over the Pyrenees. But this past September I finally rectified that shortcoming.

Incidentally, there are two ways to hike over the Pyrenees, from France into Spain. One is the Route de Napoleón – “more strenuous for obvious reasons” – or the Route Valcarlos, where “your ascent will be more gradual.” Another note: “The first walking day on the Camino de Santiago, from Saint Jean Pied de Port … is probably the most challenging of the whole route.” For us the choice was obvious, mainly because one-wimp-out per Pyrenees-project is enough.*

On the other hand, rather than hiking all 15.6 miles from St. Jean to Roncesvalles in a day – like so many try – we (or rather Tom, who made all lodging reservations) chose to break it up.

So the first day’s hike, starting in  Saint-Jean, was a mere five miles, but it was all uphill. It ended in Orisson, where we four stayed in a dormitory-style auberge. (The Refuge Orisson, with my picture at left.)

But first, about the rain…

Tuesday, August 31 – the day before the hike started – the weather forecast said heavy rain. (Just like Tom endured during his 2017 hike over the Pyrenees…)

And as usual, the night before starting such an epic adventure, I didn’t sleep well. (A mixture of anticipation and self-doubt I suppose.) Plus there was that heavy-rain forecast, and I had more than my usual two beers per night. (I’d gotten a six-pack of small beers, and Tom only had one, so I had to “dispose of” the other five, in St. Jean, since I didn’t want to carry any leftover beer in my pack.)

As it turned out, the rain started about 10:30 in the morning, 15 minutes after we left St. Jean. At first it was just a drizzle, then it got to be soaking, and it stayed raining until noon. (The rain that first morning “wasn’t really heavy, just constant and eventually soaking.”)

For protection I wore a cheap, 97-cent Walmart-special plastic rain poncho, but over that I had a bad-ass black windbreaker. (To keep the poncho from getting blown all over by the wind.) The jury-rigged combination worked pretty well, so much so that I was able to write later on that it was “kind of enchanting, walking in the rain like that.” (The rain and mist did seem kind of other-worldly.) And Tom made lots of stops, since the going was mostly uphill.

Still, we got to the Refuge Orisson by 2:00 – despite taking many short breaks, as shown at right – and the Refuge seemed very nice. “Located in the heart of the Basque Country,” this place is an “ideal stopover … the last accommodation before crossing the Pyrénées.” Of interest to us four, this auberge “allows walkers to undertake this mythical part of the trek in two stages.” It turned out to be one of those classic dormitory-style auberges, but it looked like heaven after our rain-soaked morning’s hike.

Unfortunately, when we got there we experienced a moment of pure panic. “No room at the inn!”

It turned out that Tom had reserved a room for October 1, not September 1, and the host said the place was booked full up. But after a few minutes – of pure panic – the guy had good news. He found four beds available in a 10-bed dorm-room. So not only did I get to experience soaking rain, like Tom in 2017, I also got to stay in one of those dormitory-style auberges. Another note: No Wi-Fi. “We want our guests to talk to each other.” So as I wrote later (on Facebook):

It’s a classic dorm style auberge, where everyone eats at 7:30 sharp, and at the end you stand up, give your name and why you’re hiking the Camino. (All that pointy-headed liberal touchy-feely crap.) But no WiFi… Which turned out to be a blessing. No getting pissed off at Facebook dumbasses, and so I got a good night’s sleep.

Incidentally, that “Facebook dumbasses” comment got me in trouble with a pissed-off Momma Bear back home, but that little dustup isn’t relevant to this narrative. And as for clowns getting up in the middle of the night, our “dorm room” did have ten beds (five bunk beds), but only two other pilgrims joined us in that room. (They seemed mostly quiet, but then again, I put in ear plugs.) All in all, I slept much better than I did the night before.

The next morning we got up fairly early for the remaining 10.5-mile hike to Roncesvalles. (A “small village and municipality in Navarre, northern Spain.”) On the Route de Napoleón it’s about five miles past the border with France. From Roncesvalles we hiked 13.6 miles to Zubiri on Friday, September 3, and on Saturday the 13 miles to Pamplona.

We started off the “Roncesvalles” hike with breakfast at the Refuge Orisson. The meal-room wasn’t quite as crowded as the night before; no set time for breakfast, and lots of pilgrims had hit the trail before us. But it was still pretty crowded – say 20 or 25 people – and the thing I remember most was drinking coffee out of a bowl. (“Something new under the sun.”)

Unlike the day before there was little rain, but “a lot of up in today’s hike.” Also, lots of merde. As I wrote later, “Rocks, sheep, clouds, fog, cows, horses and sheep.” Quite often your hike was serenaded by bells; cow bells, sheep bells and even horse bells, as the various herds followed their leaders. On a more positive note, “No blisters yet, though the ball of my right foot was rubbing a bit.” Which brings up duct tape. I brought a whole roll of it, “just in case,” and it comes in handy. I put some on the ball of that right foot, and aside from a blister on my right little toe, I had no problems the whole trip. (Compared to the 2017 hike, when my feet ached constantly.)

And now a word about places to stop for hot coffee, cold beer or food. There were fewer such places on the trail in 2021, compared with 2017, because of Covid. Our shorthand for them was “coffee cups;” the Brierly Guide to the Camino Francés shows their location with a little coffee cup on the map. (Pink for open, white with a pink outline if it’s closed for business.)

The Brierly map showed no such coffee cups between Orisson and Roncevalles, but fortunately we found this “cafe movil,” or “mobile cafe.” It was run by a traveling entrepreneur, still inside France, as I indicated in my notes: “The first ‘Cafe Movil’ we hit so far… A place to stop, take off your pack and enjoy a hot café con leche. Or the French equivalent, being still in France.*”

Another note: This place did have a restroom, of sorts. It was behind that big pile of rocks on the left, and from where you “did your business” you could see the operator doing his own business, serving up food and drink and getting his euros in return.

And the pile of rocks didn’t go all the way up, meaning that sometimes you had to duck and dodge. But to get back to the trail…

Those Friday and Saturday hikes – 13.6 and 13 miles, respectively – were a bit tougher than the first day. We ended up making it to the hotel in Roncesvalles by 5:00, and I had the first of many “ensalata mixtas,” or mixed salads. “Tuna, hardboiled eggs, asparagus, tomatoes, o!ives, et cetera. Very tasty, and filling, after a ten-mile hike over the Pyrenees. With the obligatory beer, Estrella.” Which made a big difference, along with the hot shower.

And there was a break in the action vis-a-vis Facebook posting and general note-taking. At one point I wrote, “I can’t believe I haven’t written here since Wednesday.” And once we got to Pamplona I posted: “Yesterday we dragged ass into Zubiri, Spain, after a long ten hour 13.6 mile hike, at 7:00 PM.” Thus the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough stop writing.”

in other words, we left Roncesvalles at 9:15, for 10 hours hiking “real time.” I wrote later, “Pretty tough going, but my feet held out ok. I put duct tape on the balls of both feet this morning… Rocky going there at the last few miles before Zubiri.” But after a hot shower things started looking up. “Four course dinner, a bottle of wine and Tiramisu for dessert. I slept great!” Still, I looked forward to getting to Pamplona, “and a day off. And a chance to do laundry.” That’s what you look forward to when you have two sets of clothes: one to wear in the evening after a hot shower, and one to wash every night – hopefully – for the next day’s sweaty hike.

And on Saturday, September 4, we finally made it after “some rugged going.” I posted:

Buen Camino. We made it to Pamplona… More details tomorrow, a day off from hiking. And finally, a drink at the Cafe Iruna, of Hemingway fame. Except now it’s all filled up, crowded up and touristy. Especially on a Saturday night, in Pamplona… And tomorrow, a day off.

Note the double “tomorrow, a day off.” Which I really looked forward to…

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In the next post I’ll discuss further our day off in Pamplona, including a touristy visit to the bullring that Hemingway made famous. (And as memorialized by the statue of him just outside the bullring, shown below.) From there I’ll discuss the 14-day hike to Burgos – with a day off in Logrono – and eventually making my way back home, via Madrid.

I’ll also talk more about the drudgery of hiking, mile after mile, hauling a 15-pound backpack. From my Facebook posts most people would think all I did was drink beer, have great meals and enjoy the sights. “Tra-la-tra-la-tra-la!” But there was real drudgery involved, which seems to be where the spiritual breakthroughs happen… In the meantime, Buen Camino!

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The upper image is courtesy of Camino De Santiago Over The Pyrenees – Image Results, and/or courtesy of Mark Kelley. Accompanied by a short blurb, including: “Here, Jan [Mark’s wife] walks through a past[o]ral scene of sheep grazing along the trail in the Pyrenees. We started our trek in the foothills of the French Pyrenees and then walked over the mountains into and across Spain for about 500 miles until we reached Santiago.” But there were some rugged places as well.

“We four.” Me, my brother Tom, his wife Carol, and Carol’s brother Ray.

Re: “St. Jean.” For images thereof see St. Jean Pied De Port France – Image Results.

Re: “Tom and I” hiking the Chilkoot Trail. We were joined by his son Matthew, my nephew, fresh from an Army tour. And re: “One big pile of &^$# rocks after another! See 2019’s Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail, and links therein.

Re: “To Pamplona and beyond.” Specifically, from Pamplona the rest of the 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela.

A note: The Route de Napoleón is the more popular of the two choices, despite being more strenuous for obvious reasons, “as pilgrims feel the stunning mountain views are certainly worth the effort.” 

The French equivalent of a café con leche is a café crème. Which I enjoyed back in Paris…

The lower image is courtesy of Hemingway Statue Pamplona – Image Results.

A post-trip post mortem for “Paris – 2021”

The Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris, as I saw it being rebuilt, back on August 28, 2021… 

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September 20, 2021 – I last posted seven weeks ago, on August 8, 2021. (Countdown to Paris – 2021.) I’ve been through a lot since then, preparing for a month-long trip to France and Spain.

I flew into Paris on August 25-26, and spent four days there. Then I – and the three others I was joining – took a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, starting point for the Camino Frances. That pilgrimage-by-hiking usually ends at Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain. (Thus the “Camino de Santiago.”) But while the other three in my group went on toward Santiago, I cut my hike short, at Burgos. (For reasons explained in that long-ago, August 8th post.*)

That post – Countdown to Paris – talked about what I wanted to do when I got to Paris. This post will talk about what actually got done. For starters, I had three main objectives for the month-long overseas adventure: To see Paris again, for the first time since 1979; to see Pamplona again (and have another beer at Café Iruña, of Hemingway fame); and last but hardly least, to hike over the daunting Pyrenees mountains. But first, more about that Paris visit…

From De Gaulle airport, around 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning, August 26, I took the RER Train B to Gare du Nord. (Once I found the train to Gare du Nord, after getting off the plane and wandering around the airport.) Then once I got into Paris itself, I had a hell of a time getting out of the “Gare,” being both very tired and not seeing any discernible “signage.” Once outside I did manage to find the McDonald’s Stalingrad. (So-called because it’s adjacent to the “Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad.”) I was hoping to start off the day in a strange new place with an iced coffee, like back home. But I found out they don’t sell iced coffee at the McDonald’s in Europe. They sell beer at those McDonald’s, but not iced coffee.

Another thing I found: A lot of homeless people, camped out and sleeping in the square, under the Metro line, across from the McDonald’s. (Above left.)

And speaking of the Paris Metro, I never did get a chance to ride it. I’d planned to take the Metro – famous for any number of “les pickpockets” – down to Choisy-le-Roi. (Where in 1972 Henry Kissinger conducted secret negotiations to end the Vietnam war. And where in 1979 I enjoyed a romantic interlude with a young lady named Janine, camping in a little tent on the grounds of the youth hostel that used to be there.) But I never got the chance to do that.

Mostly because I was too busy trying to find my way down to the swanky apartment across the Seine from Notre-Dame de Paris. (Where I was to meet up on Saturday with the other three family members of the Camino-hiking adventure.) The apartment was at 15 Rue Maitre Albert, almost directly south of the Cathedral, on the Left Bank across the Seine. I’d memorized the route, and had a map that turned out to have not-so-readable type. So somehow I got confused about whether to take the Rue St. Martin down, as opposed to the Rue St. Denis.

I got my “Rues” mixed up…

As a result, I somehow ended up angling too far to my left, trying to head toward Ile de la Cite from my “Ibis Budget Paris La Villete,” on Avenue Jean Jaures. Checking Google Maps – as I was writing this post – I saw that I had angled way too far over and ended up in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, and possibly got as far off as the 20th arrondissement of Paris. Which brings up a word about Avenue Jean Jaures. Turning left out of Gare du Nord, you end up on Rue la Fayette. But once you cross Boulevard de la Villette, Rue la Fayette magically transforms into Avenue Jean Jaures. (Kind of like what they do in Georgia. Change the road names at pretty much every intersection, mostly to fool the Yankees during “the late War of Northern Aggression.”)

But we digress. It took me the rest of that Thursday afternoon – and much of the evening – to find my way back home. I remember wandering around, sometimes stopping at a cafe-bar, having a beer and asking directions to Rue la Fayette. I also remember knocking over one glass of draft beer, later in the day, which makes me think I may have had one beer too many. (I figured all that walking would burn off the alcohol.) Be that as it may, much later still I somehow ended up on Rue Crimee. I had the good sense to head northwest, and eventually Rue Crimee crossed Avenue Jean Jaures. I thought to myself, “Eureka!” Then found my way back home, even though I had to get there “from the other end.” That is, from the Jean Jaures end, not la Fayette.

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Eventually on Saturday I did meet up with the rest of the group at 15 Rue Maitre Albert. Which brought up one thing we had to do. We all had to get tested for Covid; we had to do that so we could take the train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

As it turned out, Paris featured all kind of places to get tested. We found ours along the Seine, a little tent set-up – shown at right – by the Pont Neuf. And the guy in Paris was a real pro.

I’d heard horror stories back home of nurses sticking the swab far enough up your nose to tickle your brain. (Enough to bring tears to their eyes, according to two ladies I talked to.) But this guy had the swab in for maybe two seconds; I barely knew it was there. And in a few minutes the test came back “Negatif,” in PDF, downloaded onto my tablet.

In the process, one or two of the others in my group were kind of a pain, asking all kinds of questions and taking too much time. So I ended up tipping the guy 20 euros, for all his help dealing with crazy Americans. It cost 30 euros apiece, cash, for the quicky test. (Plus tip.)

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So, Thursday the 26th I got lost trying to find the way down to 15 Rue Maitre Albert. On Friday the 27th I finally found the quickest way down there, and also did a little sightseeing. Among other things I found and photographed a statue of Michel de Montaigne.

You can see the photo in the notes below, but the statue caught my eye because Montaigne was a great essayist. And what is a blogger – like me – but someone who writes “analytic or interpretative” compositions, usually dealing with a subject “from a limited or personal point of view?” (On a regular basis and sometimes accompanied by photos and other images?”)

In a word, Montaigne is my mentor (as an essay writer), if not my hero…

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Which brings up the last day the four of us spent in Paris, Sunday, August 29.

We started off by visiting the Musée Picasso Paris, “5 rue de Thorigny,” within walking distance of the apartment. Later we went in search of a famed place to buy great baguettes – the place turned out to be closed – and in doing so walked through the grounds of the Louvre and by the Arc de Triomphe. (Also undergoing renovation.) We had a great dinner at La Placette, 13 rue de Montenotte, then did some practice hiking up and down the Champs-Élysées.

The following day – Monday, August 30 – we took the train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, by way of Bayonne. After a day off in St. Jean we started our Camino hike, but that’s a subject for future posts. In the meantime, here’s a hearty – if metaphoric – “Good night from Paris!”

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I took the photos in this post. I took the upper-image photo on August 28. I took the lower-image photo on August 29, our last evening in Paris. From the Pont Louis Philippe, at the north end of the Ile Saint-Louis. In daylight the Eiffel Tower would be visible just off the upper left, about two-thirds up.

Re: Reasons for me stopping at Burgos. I’d hiked to Santiago de Compostela twice already, via the Camino Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese Camino in 2019; I’d gotten two Compostela pilgrim certificates already. Also, the rest of the party planned on taking two months to get to Santiago, and I get nervous being away from home more than a month.

Re: Montaigne, my photo at left. He was primarily “known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with intellectual insight:

Montaigne had a direct influence on Western writers including Francis BaconRené Descartes,[9]Blaise PascalMontesquieuEdmund BurkeVoltaireJean-Jacques RousseauDavid HumeEdward GibbonVirginia WoolfAlbert HirschmanWilliam Hazlitt, Ralph Waldo EmersonJohn Henry NewmanKarl MarxSigmund FreudAlexander PushkinCharles DarwinFriedrich NietzscheStefan ZweigEric Hoffer, Isaac AsimovFulton Sheen, and possibly, on the later works of William Shakespeare.

See also Essay – Wikipedia: “Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author… The concept of an ‘essay’ has been extended to other media beyond writing. A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary filmmaking styles and focuses more on the evolution of a theme or idea. A photographic essay covers a topic with a linked series of photographs that may have accompanying text or captions.” Then there are “blog-post essays.”

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Some other notes I took during the trip: For one: “I seem to be blending in here [Paris] too. Several people have stopped and asked me directions. Boy were they surprised!” A second, longer note:

A couple hours ago I went to get a beer and a salad. I was sitting alone, at the sidewalk cafe, when in the fullness of time a rowdy birthday group of five young ladies sat down to my right. Then two affectionate young ladies sat to my right, so I was “a thorn between seven roses,” so to speak. They interacted well with one another, and with those who came by to chat. Including one old guy with wild hair and beard, who in America would be called a bum.I had no idea what they were talking about, but the body language bespoke mutual respect and “joy of life.” It was so enlightening and pleasant that I had a second beer.

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Countdown to Paris – 2021!

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If all goes according to plan, I’ll be arriving in Paris – at De Gaulle airport – early on the morning of Thursday, next August 26. From there I’ll take the RER Train B to the Gare du Nord. (18 Rue de Dunkerque.) Then out the exit past the Starbucks, and take a left and onto Rue la Fayette. (Small world. I live in Fayetteville, in Fayette County, Georgia.)

From there I’ll hike a mile or so to my two-night’s lodging. (Before joining the trio I’m meeting on the 28th, at a swanky hotel near Notre Dame, before heading south to hike over the Pyrenees.) On that mile hike I hope to stop for my first iced coffee of the day, at “McDonald’s Stalingrad.” (So-called because it’s adjacent to the “Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad.”)

And by the way, all this is part of a plan to hike the Camino de Santiago yet again.

For the third time, actually. In 2017 my brother Tom and I hiked the Camino Francés, or French Way. Or Tom did, in the purest sense. That’s because the Camino Francés starts at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees. (To Roncesvalles, in Spain.) The problem for me was that I’d had enough mountain hiking the year before, when we hiked the Chilkoot Trail, as detailed in the notes. And that trail – from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett, British Columbia – is called “the meanest 33 miles in history.” And I found out why, the hard way.

And so in 2017 Tom flew into Paris, while I flew into Madrid, then took a train up to Pamplona to meet him. (After he had hiked over the Pyrenees.) And had a miserable time, partly because of some nasty weather but also because he opted – for the first and last time in his adult life – to stay in one of those dormitory-style lodgings the Camino is famous for…

But we digress. I was talking about flying into Paris, to join up with the trio I’m meeting on the 28th – “before heading south to hike to over the Pyrenees.” That trio includes Tom and his wife Carol. (With both of whom I hiked the Camino Portugués, or the Portuguese Way, in 2019, as also detailed in the notes.) But this time I’ll be part of a group of four, including Tom, Carol, and Carol’s brother Ray. (Who will be hiking the Camino for the first time.)

Which brings us back to the Pyrenees, as shown at the bottom of the page.

It’s bothered me, ever since 2017, that I didn’t have the nerve to hike up and over those daunting Pyrenees mountains. And so I now feel the need to finish that “unfinished business.” And that’s in spite of the 2010 film, The Way, starring Martin Sheen. The central premise of the film is that an old, out of shape Beverly Hills eye doctor “goes to France following the death of his adult son, Daniel, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a Christian pilgrimage route.”

And this old, out of shape Beverly Hills eye doctor didn’t just go to France. On the spur of the moment and without a minute’s training or preparation, this Old Geezer decides to hike the entire 500 miles to Santiago. (I think they call that artistic license.) Which is another way of saying that interesting fictional characters do things no one in “their” right mind would do. (Like Sheen’s character in the film sitting on a bridge and taking off his pack, only to see it fall into the river below and float away. Or leave his pack unattended, to be stolen by a young gypsy.)

But then again, some would say hiking over the Pyrenees is something no one in his right mind would ever do. Which brings up the recent story, Human remains found in Pyrenees confirmed as those of missing hiker Esther Dingley. “Ms Dingley, 37, had been walking solo in the mountains near the Spanish and French border and was last seen on Nov 22 last year.” The story added that there was “no sign of equipment or clothing in the immediate area … and the details of what happened and where still remain unknown.”

Which in turn brings up the old saying, “Never hike alone.” And I won’t be hiking alone…

Then again, I probably wouldn’t be flying over to Paris this year if not for Tom’s suggestion. Or Carol’s actually, since she hasn’t hiked the Camino Francés (French Way), but did get a kick out of hiking the Portuguese Way. (Starting in Porto, Portugal – home of Port wine – back up to Santiago from the south.) Which brings up another point.

Since I’ve hiked to Santiago twice now, and get nervous away from home more than a month, I won’t be going the whole way. I’ll hike over the Pyrenees, and get that off my List of Things to Finish. Then through Pamplona, over to Burgos, where I’ll part ways. As the rest of the group goes on for another 29 days of hiking – with days off at intervals – I’ll take the train back to Madrid. And spend some more quality time there, possibly visiting the Prado again.

But first comes Paris.

As I write this, I’m making a list of things to do in my four days in Paris. Two of those days I’ll be on my own; the other two I’ll join the group at a Swanky Hotel across the Seine from the Cathedral of Notre Dame. (Or what’s left of it.) But there is one place on the outskirts that I definitely want to visit. (Via Metro.) As I recently learned, Choisy-le-Roi is where Henry Kissinger conducted secret negotiations with Le Duc Tho to end the Vietnam war, in 1972.

But back in 1979 it was also home to a youth hostel, and on the grounds of that hostel I and a young lady named Janine camped in a little tent, between the Seine and Marne Rivers. With the moonlight shining through the tent flap… (Can you say, “romantic interlude?”)

Google Maps says that hostel isn’t there any more, and I’d like to find out what happened…

Some things ARE sacred, you know!

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Central pyrenees.jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of Paris City Of Love Image – Image Results. It came with an article, from “travelfeatured.com,” which for some reason I couldn’t latch onto. But you could search “paris city of love and lights.”

For more on the 2017 “French Way” hike, see Training for the Camino, “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.

For more on the 2016 mountain hike, see Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!” With links to two earlier posts.

For more on the 2019 Camino hike, see “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino,” Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino, and “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!”

Re: “Never hike alone.” The link is to 11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone Is Actually A Bad Idea, as opposed to “Never Hike Alone,” the Friday The 13th film created by Womp Stomp Films. (Never Hike Alone | Friday the 13th Wiki | Fandom.)

For more on the secret negotiations in Choisy-le-Roi, see KISSINGER MEETS THO FOR 4 HOURS – The New York Times, December 5, 1972. Or search “choisy-le roi secret negotiations kissinger duc tho.”

Re: My visiting Choisy-le-Roi. Google Maps indicate that I have a choice of Metro stations. I could get off at the Ivry-sur-Seine station, then walk due east across the Pont-d’Ivry bridge, toward the Gendarmerie Nationale. Then from that area – where the youth hostel used to be – head back west over the Port à l’Anglais Bridge. Unfortunately the whole area now looks extremely built up, with what appears to be an interstate-like cloverleaf where highways A86 and D19 intersect.

The lower image is courtesy of Pyrenees Mountains Image – Image Results.

On “Re-living the Florida life-style…”

 

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For some reason this April 2021 post is now a main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” The notes give more detail, but there is a newer post,Recalling Week 8 of the COVID shut-down, above right. I’ve tried working on the problem, but without success. In the meantime, this glitch* seems to be something I and the reader will have to live with…

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(Another note: In the original post I had a photo that I took, along with a caption describing a big part of my recent visit to Florida: “Can you say cheek by jowl? Except for the undeveloped lot…”

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Two weeks ago I drove “back” down to Florida…

Specifically, “back” down to the Kissimmee-Poinciana area. My “brother from Utah” – who now lives in Massachusetts* – went down to check out some investment property. So, he and his lovely wife rented a condo for a week, and they invited me to come down and join them for a visit. (Along with my brother from Peachtree City and his lovely wife.)

The thing is, I lived in Florida for 54 of my soon-to-be 70 years.* And didn’t realize how much I would not miss living there until I finally left. (With “strong urging” from my ex-wife.) Which means I got a chance to “re-live the Florida lifestyle.” And for me, four days was enough.

Which brings up cheek by jowl… That refers to the property my brother and sister-in-law inspected on Wednesday morning, April 14. They’d made a tentative offer* on the place and wanted to check it out. (I was scheduled to leave for home that very day, after lunch, having arrived the previous Sunday evening, as described below.)

The four days’ experience gave me a strong sense of “deja vu all over again.” To ee what I mean, go to Google Maps and put in “poinciana fl Secure Connections.” That’s a security business in the area, and if you focus a bit you can see what I mean by “cheek by jowl.”

That is, you’ll notice the streets in that area of Poinciana all have “themes.” In this case, lots of bird names like Hawk, Pelican and Parrot. You’ll also notice there are very few undeveloped lots in the area. The one shown above left is an anomaly. For the time being anyway…

Then you can go to “RJ Automotive Repair Shop,” at 12201 Seminole Boulevard, in Largo, Florida. That’s the area I grew up in – and lived in – those 51 of almost-70 years.* You’ll see the same “cheek by jowl” set of ticky-tacky houses all jammed together. (On the other hand, when we first moved down there in 1956, the area was mostly orange and grapefruit groves. That is, the area north of 12210 106th Street, and from what is now 105th Street down to that big lake; Lake Seminole.) For that matter, each house lot in the block – back in 1956 – had three grapefruit trees in the front yard and another three in the back…

But we’re digressing here. The point is that by the time I left Pinellas County, in late 2009, the area was a nightmare of traffic, not to mention the crowded living and “hot muggy weather.”

But I’m not alone in feeling that way. See for example, What is Living In Florida Really Like – Moving To Florida. The article describes three phases, or sets of feelings of people who move there. First comes the initial “honeymoon period,” which can last from three months to two years. Then comes an in-between period, from four months up to five years. Then finally comes the third phase, realizing “what living in Florida is really like.” (From people who’ve lived there “for many years.”) There are some unanticipated negatives “never mentioned in the glossy promo brochures.” They include: 1) learning to live mostly indoors “to avoid sunburn and the hot muggy weather,” and 2) having to maintain your pool, because otherwise “the Florida sun will turn a pool into a thick pea-green soup in days if maintenance is not kept up:”

At this point you are either in the group that has avoided or stopped doing things you loved outdoors altogether because of the hot muggy weather and will eventually leave the state … or you’re stuck because there’s no way you can afford to move out.

Or unless you are “forced” to leave the state as part of a nasty divorce proceeding. (Which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “Thank you Jesus!” And I really mean it.)

laketohoBut to be honest, in April – at least – some parts of Florida aren’t too bad. I ended up doing three kayaking trips on Lake Tohopekaliga. (At right.) I set out for my  first kayaking – 90 minutes or so – from Big Toho Marina, on the north end of the lake. I wrote later, “It’s a big-ass lake, some 22,000 acres, about the size of Lake Oconee in GA, and four times the size of Lake MacIntosh” in Peachtree City. “Fortunately the locals refer to it as ‘Lake Toho.’ As in ‘Big Toho Marina,’ where I finally found a boat ramp.” (It took awhile to find a put-in that first early-Monday-morning.)

The next day – Tuesday, April 13 – I did two trips. The first was out of the Big Toho Marina, again. Then after a snack and bladder break, I went out for a second kayaking, this time out of the Granada Public boat ramp. (South of Kissimmee and about at mid-lake of “Lake Toho.”)

Then on the way home – Thursday, April 15, after a traffic-choked drive heading north by west over to Chiefland – I kayaked an hour or so on the Suwannee River. I had planned to put in Friday morning at the free park right by the water in Fanning Springs, but here’s a traveler’s alert.* That “free park” is now closed; to put in there I’d have to go next door into Fanning Springs State Park, which charges six dollars “per vehicle.” So I said the heck with that, and – with the Google app on my phone – I found the Log Landing public boat ramp. It’s 14 miles and some 20 minutes north of Fanning Springs, via County Road 341. And had a pleasant paddle… 

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So all in all it was a pleasant four days. it was nice being with family again, exchanging memories from long ago, and occasionally hearing a family secret I didn’t know before. And the kayaking itself was a great change of pace from the three kayakable lakes around Peachtree City. Still – and as Thomas Wolfe once wrote – “You Can’t Go Home Again.” The question is, what happens when you don’t want to “go home?” When you don’t want to go back and revisit all the trials and tribulations you had to go through to get where you are today? When right now you’re “turning 70 in 2021* – and still think the best is yet to come?”

Besides, who’d want to exchange the cheek by jowl living-in-Florida for your own private God’s Little Acre, amid the piney woodlands 20 minutes east of Peachtree City? And where you have your own private mini-herd of deer, coming through your yard in the mornings?

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The “fuller story” on the glitch is below, at the bottom of these notes. 

I took the photos for this post, of which one survived. In the original post I added, “Hopefully they’ll stay in this post,” but it was not to be. The platform photo gallery somehow lost or deleted my uploaded photos. (The photo at the bottom of the main text showed “my” herd of deer recently grazing in the front lawn, captioned, “It was so good to get back to my God’s Little Acre in the Georgia woods.”) Which means I’ll have to do some tweaking…

Re: Brother “who now lives in Massachusetts.” He’s the one I have travel adventures with, like on 2019’s “Camino” trip. (Click on the Travelogs link at right.) He recently moved to Massachusetts – at the strong urging of his lovely wife – to be nearer to their new grandson, “Little Ben.”

Re: “54 of my soon-to-be-70 years.” The family left our chicken farm in rural Bucks County PA in 1959, when I was five. I lived in Pinellas County for all but three of the next 59 years; I spent three years going to law school (1981-1984) in Tallahassee.

Re: Tentative offer. The seller accepted the offer. Which meant that after driving back to Massachusetts at the end of the week, my brother and sister-in-law packed up their fixer-upper tools, then drove back down to Florida to get the property ready to rent out. 

Re: You Can’t Go Home AgainWikipedia noted the title is reinforced in the novel’s denouement:

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” (Ellipses in original.)

Re: “Turning 70 in 2021 – and still thinking the best is yet to come.” That’s the title of my next e-book. (Which I have to finish soon, since turning 70 is like losing your virginity. “You can only do it once!”)

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Re: The “foul-up” or glitch resulting in this old (March 2021) post being made so prominent right now. Maybe it’s a sign from God? See for example Sign From God Meme – Image Results, including the one featuring various church billboards, including the one billboard saying, “Well, you did ask for a sign.”

Then too, the problem seems to be more of a “bug” than a glitch. See Wikipedia:

A glitch, which is slight and often temporary, differs from a more serious bug which is a genuine functionality-breaking problem. Alex Pieschel, writing for Arcade Review, said: “‘bug’ is often cast as the weightier and more blameworthy pejorative, while ‘glitch’ suggests something more mysterious and unknowable…

Also on the not-up-to-date main page: Here’s the original note, when the April | 2020 | The Georgia Wasp started coming up as the main page. Here’s the note I wrote for that SNAFU:

I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021…

For other more-recent posts, click on the highest-up link under “RECENT POSTS,” above right. 

On “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age…”

To see more images of the “meanest 33 miles in history,” go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite. That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden. Back in the 1950s, people called him a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.” (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well. To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age: Or, “How NICE it was to travel, before COVID” by [James B. Ford]I just published a new E-book(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age. (“OrHow NICE it was to travel, before COVID.'”) It’s published under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.” The cover photo – at right – shows me in Jerusalem in May 2019, wearing a “shemagh.” Also called a keffiyeh, I got it at Ranger Joe’s in Ft. Benning before leaving for Israel. (To “blend in.”) I’m wearing it over my black Atlanta United ball cap, thus “blending in” the best of the old and new.

In the blurb I wrote for Amazon Kindle eBooks, I said this book should be timely – “in the middle of our Covid-19 pandemic” – because right now “lots of Americans can only dream about visiting such exotic locales in the future, when the crisis passes.”

I compared it to the 1920s and ‘30s, when so many Americans were fascinated by Hemingway’s books on France and Spain. (Like “The Sun Also Rises ” and “A Moveable Feast.”)

I’m guessing part of it was that back then most Americans could only DREAM of travel to such exotic places. (Like today with Covid…) Then too it may be because Hemingway gave all those exotic street names and local pubs and restaurants. Like my finding the “BEERBAZAAR,” in Jerusalem, in May 2019. Which makes me think I should have written down way more information when I was “over there.” Then I could do more what Hemingway did, vivid description. But I have something Hemingway didn’t have. GOOGLE MAPS!

Then too – aside from my May 2019 pilgrimage to Israel – the book includes chapters on hiking the Chilkoot Trail in 2016. (“Meanest 33 miles in history,” exemplified by the top photo.) Or hiking the Camino de Santiago, twice. The first time was in 2017. I met my brother in Pamplona – home of Hemingway’s Café Iruna – and together we hiked (and biked) the 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela. (He flew into Paris and hiked over the Pyrenees, but the Chilkoot Trail had cured me of any such wishes to go hiking over mountains again so soon.)

Incidentally, the last two chapters of the book are based on my last two posts, Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino, and “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!”

That last post was really long – “Word count 3450” – or three thousand four hundred fifty words. Mostly because I had a lot to fit in, but to balance things out I’ll make this post shorter. The upshot is that I wrote about a lot of great adventures, but still had more to write about. Plus those I did cover I didn’t do full justice to. (Which reminds me of the joke about the Southern lady talking to a Northern lady and ending a sentence with a preposition.*)

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There’s more on that later, but first a couple production notes on the E-book. First off, you’ll notice that on page 6 of the Introduction – right after the paragraph beginning “May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv” – the line spacing goes all kerflooey. From justified it goes to non-justified text, and the line spacing gets wider. It goes back to normal for the next one-line paragraph – “Then the COVID hit” – but the text stays non-justified through near the  middle of the next page. (It says page 6 again; there are apparently two “page 6’s.”) Then it goes back to justified text.

I tried correcting it, uploading a second and ostensibly-corrected Word document, but it stayed the same, kerflooey for a page or two. Another note: I had the “Observations” at the end of many chapters in italics and non-justified, as well as the notes at the end of the book. The program made all those justified type. And for the paperback version the publishing program required a minimum of 100 pages, so I had to add four pages to the original 96.

So I’ll try to upload a corrected version, with the additional four pages and with a proper note at the very end as to where to buy a paperback version. I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Meanwhile, back to the subject of the book not doing justice to all my adventures…

For one example, as to the Portuguese Camino hike: I only got “us” as far as the Casa Límia in Ponte de Lima. That’s only about a third of the way up to Santiago de Compostela. Then too I could only provide limited coverage of my pilgrimage to Israel, which I last covered in This time last year – in Jerusalem, in May 2020. And by the way, that post has a lot of those “image may contain” boxes, that used to be pictures I posted, to make the posts more interesting. And which in turn is a problem I address in the book. And that’s why I now use lead captions like “To see more images of the ‘meanest 33 miles in history,’ go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results.” That makes it much easier to transmogrify these blog-posts into future picture-less book chapters.

And about that Jerusalem trip. I described the Leonardo Moria Hotel, a short walk from St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House, with a lounge sometimes functioning as a piano bar. (Once even having a yarmulke-topped pianist playing the Chicken Dance.) That turned out to be a favorite watering hole, not just for me but eventually many of my fellow pilgrims at St. George’s. (One night, for a birthday, “we” had 17 pilgrims there. I should have gotten a commission…)

So one point of this “limited coverage” business is that in the future I’ll have to do at least one Sequel. (Tentatively titled “(More of) My Adventures in Old Age.”) In it I hope to add more oversea-travel adventures, including a return to St. George’s. (Once we kick COVID’s ass.)

Stay tuned!!!

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results. See also Explore the Chilkoot Trail – Klondike Gold RushThe lower image is courtesy of St George’s College Jerusalem – Image Results

Re: “Joke about the Southern lady.” Or it could be a “snobbish English teacher.” See Ending a sentence with a preposition. : Jokes: “A snobbish English teacher was sitting in an Atlanta airport coffee shop waiting for her flight back to Connecticut, when a friendly Southern Belle sat down next to her. ‘Where y’all goin’ to?’ asked the Southern Belle. Turning her nose in the air, the snob replied ‘I don’t answer people who end their sentences with prepositions.’ The Southern Belle thought a moment, and tried again. ‘Where y’all goin’ to, BITCH?'” The way I heard was, “So where y’all from?” And the Southern lady eventually thinking a bit, then sayin, “Okay, so where y’all from, bitch?”

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 69-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

“They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!”

For more images of the Portuguese Way – my last (2019) hiking adventure –  see Wikipedia

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I’m putting together a new book, and this will be the last chapter. (Chapter 14.) The book – “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age” – will end with an episode from my last overseas adventure. The last chapter will be, “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!”

Which I thought pretty noteworthy.

That was back in September 2019.That’s when my brother, his wife and I hiked the Portuguese Camino. So this post (chapter) continues my last post on the hike: Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino. (Chapter 13 in the book.) And incidentally, the photo atop the page shows the “Douro river and Dom Luís Bridge,” near sunset. (Courtesy of Wikipedia.) The morning we left Porto we hiked west, right under that same Dom Luis Bridge.

We were headed off on a 150-mile (or so) hike to Santiago, partly by way of the Coastal Camino Route. That’s the “stunning and very scenic alternative route to the classic Portuguese Camino. Starting in colorful UNESCO-listed Porto this Camino trail will take you to charming seaside towns and villages in Northern Portugal, along the superb Atlantic Coast.”

But of course – being generally “contrary” – we only went part way up the Coastal Route. We left Porto Monday, September 2. We hiked the Coastal Route for two days and got to Vila do Conde the afternoon of Tuesday, September 3. From there we “shunted over to the main Portuguese Route and headed north from there,” that is, north from Barcelos.  

My last post – “Second Portuguese” – gave an overview of the trip, noting how we got up as far as Ponte de Lima. And again, that’s about a third of the way up to Santiago. For this “chapter” – blog post – I’ll quote some Facebook posts I did on the way. (At or near the event in question.)

And again, I’ll end this book with the dramatic discovery, “they sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!” Which is something I didn’t learn until we got to the “McDonald’s – Ponte de Lima.” So as in “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino,” I’ll end this chapter at Ponte de Lima.

Which means I’ll have to write at least one sequel…

So, to “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start,” here’s a list of the days and dates in question, beginning with the day we left Porto:

Monday, September 2: First day, from Porto to Cabo do Mundo, we hiked nine miles, to Casa Velha. (10.8 miles according to Tom’s calculations.) Early in the morning I wrote, “Today we left Porto behind, kinda. Our first stop came 90 minutes and three and a half miles from our start at the Cathedral. [I had] OJ and a very rich, chocolatey [dessert-like] thing. I figured I earned it.”

We hiked west along the Douro, on the Porto side, then hit the Atlantic and swung north. It’s a less traveled scenic alternative to the main Camino Portuguese. “Lots of beachside resorts, bathing beauties, and of course some old pot-bellied guys in speedos.”

I took a picture of the boardwalk section, winding along the shore, then posted:

First days hike is history. West through Porto – with shady spots and sidewalk cafes – and out to the coast. Then north. Made Cabo do Mundo, 10.8 miles. Nothing too sore. Good first hike.

Tuesday, September 3: The second day we hiked 10.2 miles to Vila do Conde, and the Hotel Brazao. I took pictures of the morning and early afternoon beachside, much of it along a boardwalk. Once we reached Vila do Conde, we left the Coastal Route and started heading east and north, over towards the main Camino Portuguese. I wrote, “Near the end of the day we negotiated a closed-in foresty place, with a narrow two-lane cobblestone road with LOTS of cars whizzing by, on the way to Vila do Conde.”

The following morning, September 4, I posted:

Good morning from Vila do Conde, Portugal. Yesterday we hiked 10.2 miles, from Cabo do Mundo to Vila do Conde. The pictures show the last stretch before we got to the bridge into town. No more beachside vistas, we’re on the main Camino now, not the scenic side route. Today a mere six miles, so we’re pillaging a bit.

That “pillaging” came from the auto-correct on my tablet. The same feature that changed each “do” or “de” – common in Portuguese – to “Dr.” Every stinkin’ time! So it had me “pillaging” instead of “lollygagging,” like I wrote. I added that tomorrow we had “a 13 mile hike, then a day off Friday. My feet aren’t TOO sore, and the 15 pound pack is pretty much adjusted, strap-wise. And that’s ‘lollygagging’ a bit. No pillaging so far…”

The Hotel Brazao in Vila do Conde was the last place on the Coastal Route for us. Google Maps said it was 6.6 miles to Villa d’Arcos, but “we” figured 6.3.

Wednesday, September 4: This morning, as we got ready to head out again, I saw a van taking luggage for some other “pilgrims” ahead to their next stop. Which meant all they had to carry – hiking – was a day pack. Not the pack we carried, 10 percent of body weight. (In my case 15 pounds.) That “10%” pack held all our worldly goods, for the duration of the hike. Tom calls the light day-packs “pansy packs.” (He actually used another, more earthy epithet, but I figure this book is family oriented.) And I wrote on Facebooke about “wussie – boys who don’t want to ‘pack their own gear.’ WIMPS! What the hell kind of pilgrimage is that?”

You know, without the sore feet, the aching back and such?

Anyway, because we had some time – a mere 6.3 mile hike to Villa d’Arcos – we did some touristy stuff in the morning. We visited the Museu de Construção Naval (Shipbuilding Museum), and also parts of the Convent of Santa Clara

The Convent of Santa Clara was closed but the Cathedral next door was open. It was there Tom made a “new bestest buddy Fernando – from the cathedral,” who “bent his ear for a good long time, much of it in indecipherable Portuguese.” I took a great picture of them as they chatted, with a view from the hilltop, with the river and ocean in the background.

We ended the day at Villa d’Arcos. It’s not a city. It’s a four-star hotel at Rua da Alegria 38. “From there we hike to Barcelos tomorrow. Tom booked the Hotel Bagoeira for two nights.” Villa d’Arcos is a shade over six miles from Vila do Conde, but as noted we got a late start. I took pictures of the aqueduct in Vila do Conde, “and some narrow streets like we had to hike through today.” And the Villa d’ Arcos itself was a “nice swanky place with a mini-bar in my room, and a local-color cafe down the road to eat. (A light snack. We had a heavy meal on the road.) So tomorrow we’ll be joining up with the main Camino hereabouts.”

Not much of a hike, mile-wise, but a “dearth of Camino signs. Plus lots of narrow walled-in streets, roads, lanes, alleys, whatever to negotiate. But we ended up in a Happy Place, with a beautiful sun setting in the west… And the morning and the evening were the third day,” of hiking that is. (See Genesis 1:13.) “Tomorrow 13 miles…”

Thursday, September 5: We stopped for lunch in Pedra Furada, “after a LOOONG stretch of nary a place to stop, in between here and Villa d’Arcos where we started.” We’d hiked about eight of the day’s total 13 miles before finding a place to stop for lunch. (We’d gotten up and started early.) During lunch I posted this on Facebook, with a picture I took of a fellow pilgrim:

Good 12:30 noonish from Pedra Furada, Portugal. We’re headed to Barcelos and a day off tomorrow, after a 13-mile hike today. Only one Super Bock for lunch, plus a cheese and tomato sandwich. I followed up the cerveza with a Lipton Pessego iced tea. [Thirsty.] Outside the front door a fellow Caminista spritzes his bald head with sunscreen, fixin’ to head north.

Friday, September 6: To clarify, we checked in for our first day off on Thursday, September 5. Friday, September 6 was that day off, and we enjoyed the sites of Barcelos and nearby Braga. Braga is home of the “Bom Jesus do Monte” church. (“Good Jesus of the Mount.”) It was quite a sight from the top of that mountain. Then we hit the road again Saturday, September 7.

That pretty much became the pattern. Four days hiking, increasing the number of miles hiked per day, with the fourth day ending after a long day’s hike. So we hiked 13 miles on September 5 and reached Hotel Bagoeira in Barcelos for our first day off. On September 6 we did some sightseeing, including a bus trip to Braga. A beautiful city, especially in the center square. Lots of marigolds and churches. But in the middle of that bus trip I had some business to attend to.

I originally booked a train back from Santiago – once the hike was over – to spend two nights in Lisbon before leaving for home. Then I changed my mind and figured it’d be better to spend one of those nights in Porto. So after the 45-minute bus trip to Braga, we split up and went our separate ways. I went to change my Comboios (train) ticket, back from Porto to Lisbon, and in the process had a 1:00 lunch of Portuguese lasagna. “Very cheesy, filled with hunks of ham, and VERY good.” Once I’d changed the tickets I posted this on Facebook:

Quite the “Mission Accomplished!” this morning. For various reasons I wanted to change my return trip plans to spend one more night in Porto and not two nights in Lisbon. But the 9/23 ticket was already paid for. Long story short, I had my was of Euros read to pay the 56.50, but the nice clerk said, “No no, same price, you already paid!”

That wasn’t supposed to be “was of Euros.” It was another example of my tablet’s “stupid autocorrect.” What I meant to say was “wad of Euros.”

Which brings up a good point. Both here and in Israel (back in May) I was often in the situation of not knowing the right rate of exchange, and so could have been easily cheated. But in general both store clerks and public officials were very attentive, and honest. Like the guy who exchanged my ticket and saw my “wad of Euros.” He could have said to himself, “I’ve got a dumb American sucker on my hands!” And charged me the 56.50 Euros, then pocketed it. Much like the guy I bought that “Tapazino” from on my first morning in Jerusalem. I was pleasantly surprised by all this, but of course wouldn’t want to make a habit of it…

After changing train tickets I had had some time before meeting up with the others, so I figured the “Mission Accomplished” warranted a celebratory cerveza. I stopped at a cafe around the corner from the Comboios station. I posted two pictures, one a selfie of me in a state of happy bliss, and one of the passing scene I was looking at.

Later we met up and took another bus ride, up to the top of a nearby mountain to see that “Bom Jesus do Monte.” Quite a site. I took quite a few pictures. After that we stopped at a sidewalk café in the Braga’s city center, with lots of beautiful fountains. Then took the 45 minute bus ride back to Barcelos. It felt good to be sitting instead of hiking. I ended the day posting, “Tomorrow we get back to hiking, a ‘mere’ ten miles, not the 13 that did a job on my feet.”

Saturday, September 7: This day we ended up at Casas da Quinta da Cancela. (Expedia says it’s in Barcelos, but it’s actually Balugaes.) If you check on Google Maps, you’ll see a large complex surrounded by a high stone wall. With no sign – on the N308 part of the Camino – to indicate how to get in. Carol wrote this later, once we got back, to accompany some photos:

After you walked ten plus miles for the day, then comes the fun (and most times agonizing) job of searching for the hotel. I am uncertain of how much land the villa had but it was surrounded by this rock wall in its entirety. On the opposite end of this wall (guessing three or four acres) was the Camino we came in on. There is a gate in the rock wall that went to the villa, but no sign to indicating such. We walked up and down the Camino [N308] numerous times looking for it. Finally [she and I] parked ourselves on a corner while Tom went down a couple of blocks. He ran into group of men and one offered to give him (backpack and all) a ride on his motorcycle to it. Tom declined and another man walked us to it. Many times, you rely on the kindness of strangers during your journey.

Which is true. The entrance is on the other side of the complex, away from the N308.

And as to finding the entrance to what turned out to be a lovely Quinta da Cancela, with separate small villas for rent, here’s what I wrote: “That’s where we had a hell of a time finding the entrance. It’s a big walled-in space with the entrance on the other side of the N308 that runs through – actually is – the Camino in that stretch.” I too noted “Tom had to walk down to the intersection with the N204 and ask directions. There was only one restaurant in that one intersection town (Balugaes), the Cantinho dos Sabores.”

That’s where we ate once we got checked in and “refreshed.” I added, “The food was pretty good, but as I remember the service was pretty slow. But there was beer…”

In fact the service was so slow that by the time we got back it was way after dark, and the gate by the N308 was locked. We had to climb over a chest-high stone wall. Tom climbed over first and tried to unlock the gate from the inside. No luck. So I had to “assist” Carol over the wall, then climb over myself. (“And no one to take a video!”)

Sunday, September 8: Today we reached Casa Límia in Ponte de Lima, a third of the way on our hike, but where this book will end. (I’ll be writing a sequel.) One thing I noted on Facebook:

Greetings from Ponte de Lima, Portugal. Sorry about the lapse, but the Wi-Fi yesterday evening sucked. This morning at 10:10 I was hiking along listening to my iPod Shuffle, and a very old sermon by Father Paul came on.

“Father Paul” used to be the priest at our Episcopal church. I’m not sure how his sermon got on my iPod Shuffle, but likely it was from the time I volunteered three mornings a week. I did quite a bit of work on the church Office Mac, and had an account to download music. Father Paul also persuaded me to update the parish newsletter and website, after I mentioned I had a Master’s Degree in Journalism. And working the parish website is what gave me the experience and impetus to get into blogging. Which is how I came to write this book…

So anyway, in his sermon he talked about the lousy winter weather on that long-ago Sunday, and about dreaming of days at the beach, and about one time having a casting net. From there he went to some fisherman-Apostles “dropping their nets,” then getting on with REAL life. It made sense listening to the sermon, but it’s hard to translate all that into a short blurb in this chapter. But I did note that “I got a few chuckles hiking along the dry dusty Camino.” And I thought it appropriate to hear this reprise sermon on a Sunday; I’d been routinely listening to my music on the hike and hadn’t heard it before. (“A message from God?”)

I posted on Facebook that we’d made 11 [plus] miles, “complete with an iPod Shuffle sermon from Father Paul, from a few winters ago. And had a helluva time finding this rental place. (Which seemed to happen quite a lot.)” For the second day in a row we had a tough time finding the night’s lodging; in this case, the one in Ponte de Lima. But there was a reward to come…

I added that “we busted ass today. And my sore feet can prove it!”

So about 8:00 p.m. we were on our way out to dinner at the nearby McDonald’s, “sore feet and all – and got invited to a ‘porch’ party.” There were two other couples in the three-story Casa, as I recall. They all spoke limited English, but were nice enough to share some of their libations. We accepted, then went off to the McDonald’s. It was there – at the fancy-schmancy kiosk – that I saw that they did indeed sell beer, along with Big Macs, etc. Later I posted:

We had dinner at McDonald’s, with a couple cervezas for me. Then a nightcap – or so we thought – at a bar up the street. Then ran into the party-goers from earlier, staying at the same complex. They FORCED us to have some dessert and “grava” on the way in. I suppose there’s a lesson there: Bust your ass and get rewarded – in some indirect way. BUEN CAMINO! Or, “the Camino provides!” I suppose there’s a lesson there somewhere …

In other words the party-goers we’d met on the way out were still there partying on the porch when we got back. “AND A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY All!”

So Ponte de Lima is now known – to me anyway – as where I found out that “they sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal.” And where we got invited to a “porch party.” And for those who may be interested, that McDonald’s is at “Rua Salvato Feijo 17,” in Ponte de Lima.

Monday, September 9: That’s the day we headed off to Rubiães, but that and the rest of the hike’s adventures will be the subject for my upcoming Sequel…

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The upper image is courtesy of the Portuguese Way article in Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Rubiaes Camino – Image Results. It’s accompanied by an article, The Journey from Within, which included an interesting experiment that pilgrim noted, on being oblivious in everyday life. The experiment involved a “fiddler” at a major-city metro station, who played the violin while reporters observed and recorded by-passer response:

In the 45 minutes that the fiddler played, more than 1,100 people walked by, but only seven (!) stopped for at least a minute to enjoy the performance. When asked upon exiting the station, many people didn’t even recall their path crossed a musician, only a few feet away.

It turned out the man, “in jeans and t-shirt, was Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world.” His normal rate of pay? “$1,000 a minute. That day at the metro, playing an incredibly difficult piece on one of the most valuable violins ever made bought Bell a total of $32.17 in donations.”

Again, a lesson there. “Stop and smell the frikkin’ roses!” And the link in the main text is to 4. From Ponte de Lima to Rubiães – Camino de Santiago.

Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino…

To see images of the Portuguese Way – my last (2019) hiking adventure – Google Wikipedia

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I’m putting together a new book, “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.”

I’ll describe some of my adventures, from back when it was possible to travel and have such adventures. I’ll end the book with my last overseas adventure, from September 2019. That’s when I hiked the Portuguese Camino from Porto “back up” to Santiago de Compostela. (I hiked and biked the French Way – from Pamplona to Santiago – with my brother in 2017.)

Which led me to the last post I actually did on the trip. Back in October, 2019, I posted   “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino.” But that post only got as far as Ponte de Lima: “We started out on the Coastal Route after Porto, then shunted over to the Inland Route. There – among other rivers – we crossed the Lima River at Ponte de Lima.” Since Google Maps has the distance from Porto to Ponte de Lima as 51 miles or so, and since they had the distance from Porto to Santiago de Compostela as 153 miles, that meant I only covered a third of the hike.

Which is why I ended the Greetings post with this: “I’ll be writing more about our Portuguese Camino adventure, but in the meantime: The good memories weren’t just limited to CruzcampoSagresMahou and Super Bock…” (Four Portuguese beers.) But I also wrote about the trip in my companion blog. I called it  Just got back – Portuguese Camino, and started off with the same “boy are my arms tired” schtick as the  “Greetings” post:

I just flew back from Lisbon in Portugal. “And, boy, are my arms tired!” But seriously, I did just finish a 160-mile hike* on the Portuguese Camino. I flew to Lisbon on August 28 and flew back [home] on September 25, and so technically was gone a full month.

I had some notes on flying into Lisbon and getting to my hotel room. “Another red-eye flight, just like the one I made to Tel Aviv and Israel last May.” I also learned early on that – as far as Lisbon goes – the internet lied about cheap Portuguese taxis. (Bonjour!)  Instead of a four-Euro ride to my hotel – as I’d been led to believe – it was more like 15 Euros. Which wasn’t that bad, for one ride anyway. But luckily I hooked up with the Lisbon Metro.

I took the Red Line Metro train from “Aeroporto” station and got off at Saldanha station. My “Hotel Alif” was right across from Campo Pequeno. It’s a famous bull ring togged out like one of our football stadiums, but with lots of restaurants open on weekdays. It’s circular, with the bull-ring in the middle, and all around the perimeter they have restaurants, along with stairs, restrooms and the like. Much like our football or baseball stadiums. (That first day I got yelled at for cutting through one of the restaurants, getting acquainted with the area. Next night I went back to that restaurant for dinner and got served by the same waiter. He seemed a lot nicer then.)

Also next day – Friday, August 30 – I did some touristy stuff, including a visit to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (“Monument to the Discoveries”). That’s been a lifelong dream, or at least it has been since 1979, when I made my first trip to Europe and couldn’t make it to Lisbon.

For a small fee I took the elevator up to the observation tower.

There I heard three young ladies talking, and I could actually understand what they were saying, mostly. (A welcome change.) It turned out they were from Australia. I also visited the Museu de Marinha (Navy Museum), a few blocks up from the Monument. I crossed through the Praça do Império, the city square and park between the two museums. There was a “Loja” at the Pavilhão das Galeotas, displaying “royal vessels.” This was across a square from the main entrance. They served beer at the Loja, so before going over to the entrance I stopped and enjoyed a “Sagres.” (Which became one of my four favorite Portuguese beers.)

On Saturday, the 31st, I took a train up to Porto, coming in at Campanhã station. I met up with Tom and Carol, who were waiting at the station. (Thankfully.) I’d booked a room at the Oporto Brothers Hostel, Rua da Alegria 919. They’d gotten a place at Rua Antero Quental 374, a 12-minute walk from my hostel. It’s a 16-minute walk via the Rua da Constituição, but that’s one of the main drags in Porto. I’ve found that the name of a major street can come in handy if you get lost in a city where they don’t speak your language. But in case you can’t pronounce it right (“Rua da Constituição”), it helps to have it written down.

So, I unloaded my pack at Oporto Brothers, then we spent the next day and a half sightseeing. For one thing we visited the Casa do Infante. It featured an historical collection in the house where Prince Henry the Navigator was born.

We also went to a wine – or rather “port” – tasting, but I was a bit disappointed. One small glass, and here I was ready to forego beer for the day. (They say, “Never mix the grape and the grain.”) And we took a cruise on one of the Rabelo boats that Porto is famous for. From the boat ramp beside the Ponte do Freixo out to the Atlantic Ocean, pretty much the same way – beside the river – that we’d be hiking the next day. As for some flavor of that first day’s hike:

We hiked west along the Douro River, on the Porto side, then hit the Atlantic Ocean and swung north. It’s the lesser traveled scenic alternative for the Camino Portuguese. Lots of beachside resorts, bathing beauties, and of course some old pot-bellied guys in speedos.

On the plus side – aside from fat guys in speedos – I got a picture that first morning of two lovely young fellow peregrinos. One was adjusting the other’s pack. (I’m always interested in the gear my fellow hikers are packing. I might learn something.) Later I posted on Facebook: “First day’s hike is history. West through Porto – with shady spots and sidewalk cafes – and out to the coast. Then north. Made Cabo do Mundo, 10.8 miles. Nothing too sore. Good first hike.”

That last referred to the first day’s hike. It was a nice thought (“nothing too sore”), but turned out misleading. I learned – yet again – that it’s not the first day of hiking, or even three, that wears on the feet. It’s the pounding of day after day of hiking with a 15-pound pack. (They recommend no more than ten percent of your body weight.) And it’s my opinion that there’s no way to train in advance for that – except to do the same constant hiking at home, day after day. A long hike once or twice a week won’t do it. It’ll help, but you still have to go through the agony of getting your feet accustomed to constant pounding, day after day.

Incidentally, for this trip my brother had  a copy of A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Portugués, by John Brierley. (I still have my copy of Brierly’s Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago (French Way). I’m saving it for our return trip, hopefully next year, 2021, at which time I’ll finally be able to say that I hiked “over the *&^%$ Pyrenees!” See Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”,” and links therein.) The Brierly book had “all the information needed by modern pilgrims wishing to walk the unique route to Santiago that was used by Queen Isabel of Portugal.” 

“Brierly” also had – as Carol wrote later – “maps, routes, directions, historical information, places for a break (coffee cups on the map), Albergues (which we never used), restaurants and highlighted points of interest.” Those “coffee cups” in the map-book meant places we could stop and have a cool drink on a hot day, and usually something to eat as well. And on occasion those “coffee cups” were spaced way far apart, which meant a long session of hiking with no place to stop except the side of the path and some lukewarm water. 

As for albergues (or auberges), they’re a “shared dormitory-style accommodation.” Some people swear by them, saying that’s where the magic of hiking the Camino comes from. But Tom stayed in one back in 2017, when he started in France and hiked over the Pyrenees. That was enough. From then on – “even to this day” – he’ll book ahead for private rooms.

Anyway, in the Greetings post I talked about taking pictures with my cheap tablet, then posting them on Facebook to the folks back home. Posting pictures on Facebook with a tablet wasn’t that hard, but writing commentary was a pain. “For one thing I seem to have fat thumbs.” For another, the tablet’s “autocorrect” had a serious problem with foreign (Portuguese) names.

For example it kept changing the “de” or “do” in so many Portuguese city names to “Dr.” Every time. Here’s an example in an early Facebook post from Portugal:

Good morning from Cabo Dr Mundo. (BTW, autocorrect is having a hissy with these Portuguese names, plus my colloquialisms.) Ready for another 10 mile hike. Slept through the night. “Cozy quarters.”

That “cozy quarters” was shorthand for the apartment having one bedroom, which Carol got. Tom and I slept in the living room, me on the couch. But there was a nice restaurant nearby.

Which brings us way past the preferred number of words in a blog post. So I’ll be doing at least one more post in the near future on this adventure. I’m hoping to finish my “Old Age Adventure” book in time for Christmas. I’ll hand out the paperbacks for family gifts…

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“The Douro river and Dom Luís Bridge.” (That’s the one we passed heading out of town.)

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Notes:

First a note on images, or the lack thereof. I’ve discovered that with past e-books, and especially the paperback alternative versions, trying to keep the same photos as in the blog – even in miniature – wreaked havoc with page breaks. So for this and future books, and probably for blog-posts as well, I’ll forego actual images, at least for the original post. Instead I’ll provide a link like the one at the top of the page, by which faithful readers can view the image “on their own dime.”

Which leads to the caption of the photo at the top of the page: “A marking in a boardwalk of the Portuguese coastal way..”

Re: 160-mile hike. I’m not sure how many exact miles we hiked. Estimates varied. 153? 160?

Re: “Bonjour” See Bonjour State Farm – Image Results.

Re: Best length for a blog-post. Answer: “It depends.” See How Long Should Your Blog Post Be – The Write Practice. “Want more shares on social media? Aim for medium length blog posts between 600 to 1,250 words.” In other words, “longer is usually better for social shares and SEO whereas shorter is usually better for getting more comments.”