I finally made it to Le Puy en Velay!

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They were having a “Fetes Renaissance” in Le Puy en Velay – but first I had to get there…

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Back in October 2023, I posted Dreams … and reality – hiking in France. It told of my planning last September’s 15-day hike on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. (In the Cévennes mountains of south-central France, as described in his 1879 book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.) Next – on November 29, 2023 – I posted “The last time I saw Paris?”

That post told of my first day – of two – in Paris. After that came posts on some adventures that followed; both in the “City of Lights” and later my two days in Lyon. I got as far as A full day in Lyon – and beyond? That told of getting to Lyon-Part-Dieu station on my last day in Lyon. (Friday afternoon, September 15, 2023.) I got there with time to spare, enough for a “leisurely brunch at one of the shaded outdoor tables” in nearby park. Then I just had to board the train:

All I had to do was get on the train for a 45-minute down to Saint-Étienne-Châteaucreux, find the bus station in 15 minutes, then ride [that bus] for an hour and 20 minutes. What could go wrong? I was on my way to Le Puy en Velay – and beyond!

But then came that canoe-trip reprise, about the adventure my brother Tom and I shared at the end of March 2024, from the 17th to the 23d. (According to plan, we’d paddle ten miles off the coast of Mississippi for five days.) I did a first post on planning that, then a second one about how that adventure really turned out. But now it’s time to get back to hiking in France.

We left off with me worrying about not having “one of those square things with the squiggly lines inside,” either on my tablet or a piece of paper. (What I later learned is called a “QR Square.”) But my concern worked out, mostly because a “tall attractive brunette in a red vest” ran into me – literally – inside the Part Dieu station. Her red vest signified that she worked for the train company, and she guided me to a little nook off the main drag where I got that piece of paper with the squiggly lines, meaning I could now board the train to St. Etienne.

It turned out to be a pleasant 45-minute ride. My assigned seat was by the window. Directly across from me sat two lovely young French lasses. Another sat beside me, and two more sat right across the aisle. (“A thorn among five roses.”) Then we got to the Saint-Étienne-Châteaucreux Gare-Routiere at 2:45, to find more of that “gang aft aglay.”

Way too many people started heading over to the one bus a-waiting, a five-minute walk from the train. To make a long story short, that bus could only take half the people going to Le Puy. (Which – on the way down – some locals pronounced “le pew,” like Pepé Le Pew, the oversexed cartoon skunk?) And I was among the second half, people who had to wait, mostly because I make it a point not to be seen rushing around like the usual pushy, touristy Americano.

But it worked out. In the fullness of time “they” got us all cabs, three passengers at a time, instead of another bus. I was one of the last, and on the long ride to Le Puy wondered about the protocol. Would the driver charge us? Should I tip him? When we got to the Gare du Puy-en-Velay I reached in my pocket to get some money, but the driver shook his head, “No, no!”

From there at the station my printed maps and comments worked out well.

Tom and Carol wouldn’t arrive until 7:00 or so, so I had time to kill. But before leaving home I’d checked L’Adélaïde Crêperie Café, and it turned out to be a six-minute walk from the station. Down Avenue Charles Dupuy, past a convergence of main drags – Boulevard de la Republique and Faubourg St. Jean – with an asphalt-and-concrete “island” between the two. The apartment Tom rented was on Faubourg St. Jean, but for some reason I didn’t know the street number. Theoretically I could have buzzed whichever entrance-door it might be, identified myself as Tom’s brother and asked if I could get in early, but at the time it seemed like a lot of trouble.

Aside from that, L’Adelaide was right across the street. (92 feet if you go up to the crosswalk and back down, like you’re supposed to.) It had some nice sidewalk tables with a view of passersby, young and old, and I was ready for a beer. And so there I sat, a la Hemingway, but instead of jotting in my small pocket notebook I posted this on Facebook:

Greetings from Le Puy en Velay… A challenging day [but] it worked out. Once I got here I found Le Adelaide cafe, five minutes from the station[, and got an early dinner.] First course, a wrap with some kind of sausage inside, plus the famous “lentils of Le Puy.” (You can Google them yourself.) A plat du jour which included a second Heineken. Second course, a dessert crepe, covered with chocolate. And a Cafe American. (Lest I get too sloshed.) As I write this it’s 6:20, and I meet my hiking partners at 7:10 at the station, five minutes from here.

That was certainly a highlight, and for the rest of the two-evenings-and-a-day, coming and going from the apartment, I’d wave over to the waiter. (We’d gotten to know each other during my Friday afternoon hours of enjoyment.) But I never could convince Tom and Carol to go there and sit at a sidewalk table for hours like I had done. Too many other places to see I guess…

And speaking of Tom and Carol, just before 7:00 I hiked the five minutes back to the station, still carrying that pack. But as John Steinbeck noted, “here I run into a literary difficulty.” As I said on Facebook that night, “I met my hiking companions at the Le Puy ‘Gare’ (train and bus station), and we are in our lodging for the next two nights. (Before the REAL adventure begins.)”

That family get-together was “good and pleasant,” as was the off day that followed, but all that breaks my narrative continuity. “This is permissible in life but not in writing.” But I’ll give you a few tidbits, mostly about why so many people took the train-and-bus to Le Puy. That weekend they had the equivalent of what we in the states call a big Renaissance fair. That’s why the town was so crowded. As I wrote on Facebook, “there’s some kind of Medieval festival (Renaissance?) going on this weekend, with lots of folk dressed up in REAL old time garb. It promises to be interesting.” And it was, including a sample of the world-famous Le Puy green lentils:

Among other treats we lunched on soup made from the famous local lentils. They’re unique flavor and goodness comes from the volcanic soil, I’m told. Plus a hunk of some “fromage,” kind of mix of Roquefort and “Bleu.” And bread and a jam grilled cake.

All of which (food) was delicious, as was the Cafe Creme, done up the special way they make it in Le Puy. (After “touring the local cathedral.”) That is, “not at all like they made it in Paris or Lyon. ‘Rich and creamy!'” Followed by a note: “Got to carb up for tomorrow’s hike… We start our 15 days of hiking with a 12-mile first jaunt tomorrow.” Which means that we are finally there. “We” are finally ready to start doing some posts on the actual hike itself.

So the next post – finally – should be about how we actually start hiking! Stay tuned…

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The upper image is courtesy of Fêtes renaissances du Roi de l’Oiseau 2023. (The full title.) See also Informations – Roi de l’oiseau. As indicated, in 2023 it ran from September 13th through the 17th. And see also Roi de l’oiseau – Du 13 au 17 septembre 2023.

In the first indent-quote I changed the “emphases added” part.

Re: The rose and thorns. According to Wiktionary, the free dictionary, the usual “humorous” reference is to “A woman situated between two men.” (As in, “A rose between two thorns.”) But often – as in my posing between my daughter and granddaughter – I say that I feel like “a thorn between two roses.” Then there’s Learn English: Idioms and phrases with roses – ABC Education, which said this: “The phrase ‘there is no rose without thorns’ means that in order to enjoy something that is beautiful and pleasurable, you must endure something that is difficult or painful.” The latter being one of those “rabbit trails” that make blogging so fun – and educational.

A fuller version of what Steinbeck wrote, at page 123 of the Penguin Books’ Travels with Charley:

Chicago was a break in my journey, a resumption of my name, identity and happy marital status… I was delighted at the change, back to my known and trusted life – but here I run into a literary difficulty. Chicago broke my continuity. This is permissible in life but not in writing. So I leave Chicago out, because it was off the line, out of drawing. In my travels it was pleasant and good; in writing it would contribute only to disunity.

But note that on pages 116 through 119 Steinbeck spent four pages describing his arrival early at Chicago’s Ambassador East hotel, “in wrinkled hunting clothes, unshaven and lightly crusted with the dirt of travel.” So much so that he was given a room that hadn’t been cleaned yet, which led him into a long account of “Lonesome Charlie,” his name for the previous occupant who left various clues of his stay. (Could that be deemed a “rabbit trail?”)

The lower image is courtesy of Start Of A Long Hike – Image Results.

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“Some kind of bust?” – That canoe trip after-action report…

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Unfortunately we did see some of this wind and wave on our recent offshore canoe trip…

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For starters, I could have called this post, “The canoe trip reprise – that wasn’t!

I’ll explain “some kind of bust” later, but as per the last post, my brother and I planned a five-day canoe trip from last March 17 through the 24th. (Reprising a 2014 trip from the other direction. East to west, not west-east.) The plan: Get to Gulfport (MS) on Sunday the 17th, use Monday preparing to launch in Pascagoula on Tuesday, then paddle back to Gulfport. We figured: First eight miles out to Horn island, and from there the two Ship Islands – East and West – then Cat Island.* From there we’d paddle back to Gulfport, arriving on Saturday, March 23.

That was the plan.

I noted that “as always that depends on the weather,” and the forecast called for two days of rain. (Our last two, Friday and Saturday.) But I didn’t mention wind, which brings up the fact that prevailing winds in that area of the Gulf are mostly east to west. And that in 2014 we paddled west to east; mostly  against the prevailing winds. But this time – we figured – because we’d paddle with the prevailing winds at our backs, we should have an easier time. “Should have.” Which brings up a factor I mentioned in those posts on France last September, hiking the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. As applied to my two days in Paris and another two in Lyon, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, gang aft agley!” More on that later.

Another difference: For 2014 Tom rigged up an outrigger – of PVC pipe – for my smaller canoe, but it seemed to slow me down. A lot. This time I went without the outrigger. One last difference: This time we planned a shorter trip, five days instead of eight, and from Pascagoula to Gulfport. But there was also this: Before leaving home I checked and saw that Biloxi is two-thirds of the way from Pascagoula to Gulfport, “so we may end our trip there.*”

I ended the reprise post saying I’d “do an after action report once we get back” – and here it is:

For starters we met up and drove down from Peachtree City in Georgia on Sunday, March 17. A cloudy and overcast drive, with rain, sometimes heavy. (On the plus side we “gained an extra hour,” crossing into Alabama and the Central Time Zone.) We stopped off in Pascagoula to check out the closest place to put in, then had dinner at Tay’s BBQ, at 2318 Ingalls Avenue. (Ingalls Shipbuilding is a big deal in Pascagoula; a “leading producer of ships for the U.S. Navy.” We passed one of its massive shipyards paddling out on Tuesday, March 19.)

At Tay’s I ate light. I had a “Pig Sundae,” a 16-ounce styrofoam cup layered with pulled pork (at the bottom), topped by their special cole slaw, along with barbecue sauce and pickles. My verdict? “Not bad actually.” From there we drove on to Gulfport.

Heading through downtown on the way to the marina I had a strange feeling of “deja vu all over again.” It all looked familiar, and in time I recalled that before the 2014 canoe trip I’d come down to Gulfport and taken the Ferry out to (West) Ship Island, to scope things out.

Anyway, from the Gulfport marina we looked out on the Gulf itself; “calm, just a little chop.” Way off to the south we could just make out Cat Island, where we hoped to end our venture the following Saturday, “six days hence.” And speculated that maybe – with the prevailing winds behind us – we just might finish in four days, not five. “But we’ll see.” After stopping off to shop for breakfast things the next morning, we settled in at the cozy two bedroom Airbnb at 1610 30th Avenue. (And for that night and maybe the next, a four-pack of Rolling Rock beer.)

Tuesday, March 18 was busy. First off, pick up the 18-foot U-Haul truck, then drive it and the car-and-trailer-with-two-canoes to a separate U-Haul storage at 1132 Pass Rd. There, transfer canoes and everything you planned to take canoeing into the truck, leaving what remains in the car. (Including at least one set of clean clothes for when you get back to Mainland.) From there, we visited – again – nearby Ocean Springs and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.

The Anderson Museum gave me lots of inspiration for my own artwork back home. I also learned about Horn Island, and how in World War II it served as a dumping ground for the military. (A fact Anderson vehemently protested.) After that we had lunch – also in Ocean Springs – at Bacchus On The Bayou. They had a Monday special, a pork chop with collard greens and jalapeno cornbread that the locals love. “It’s why the place is so crowded today!” Since I wasn’t driving I had a local IPA (9% BAC), that looked thick like orange juice but had a very tangy taste. Later on – after some final pre-trip preparation – we checked in at the Best Western in Moss Pointe, just at the I-10 exit. (A little over eight miles to Dock Street in Pascagoula.) In the fullness of time, dinner at the Hacienda San Miguel: House of Tequila, within walking distance.

As always the night before such an adventure, last-minute thoughts came. Like, “Do I really want to do this? Leave the comforts of civilization?” The thing I remember most about that night was the nice big spread-em-out bed, with five or six soft warm pillows. Morning came too soon.

It took some time Tuesday morning to get started. Drive the U-Haul to the Dock Street put-in, unload the canoes and all the gear. Wait for Tom to return the truck and then get an Uber back. Another long laborious process loading the two canoes, then once we got into the water, a bit of small panic. Tom saw water gathering in his canoe. Was it leaking? If so, how bad? Would we have to cancel the whole trip? It turned out his half-gallon water container sprung a leak; the one he’s had for years. (Not one of three five-gallon water containers for the five days.)

We paddled out the channel past the big Ingalls shipyard, then took a shortcut through a shallow lagoon inside some breakwaters. (My paddle kept digging into mud with each stroke until I learned to “paddle shallow.”) Finally, we got out into the Gulf itself. Smooth paddling in the morning, and we could see Round Island off in the distance. The plan was to stop there for a break on the way out to Horn Island, but I learned again that in such offshore waters, distances are deceiving. The island that seems so near never seems to get closer.

I also discovered that just west of Round Island there’s another, uncharted island. (Of sorts.) A long narrow sandspit – did Tom say a dumping ground? – with some scrub bush and bramble. (So it seemed, from a distance.) There also seemed to be some question of what point on that sandspit should we head for. Through the narrow channel that seemed to be between Round Island and its “extension?” Or over toward the sandspit’s west end, and so closer to the mid-point of Horn Island’s 10-or-11-mile stretch? (And maybe cut some time off the planned five days? That plan called for canoeing the full length of Horn Island.)

Finally we landed on that sandy long stretch of beach west of Round Island, and had lunch. Tom had some of our usual canoe-trip mid-day fare; crackers, cheese and summer sausage. I had the leftover half of the Victoria Bowl I’d saved from last night’s dinner at Hacienda San Miguel. Then we hit the water again and paddled west along the long uncharted sandspit island.

Then came that Tuesday afternoon…

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I kept a 5×7-inch journal for the trip. The entry for Wednesday, March 20, was short and written at 11:20 p.m. It began, “It’s over. More details tomorrow.” Which is being interpreted: That Wednesday morning I woke wanting to get moving so maybe I could warm up a bit. Stepping outside my tent I saw a bit of blue off in the distant scrub. The wind had blown away the big blue umbrella-like thing that protected our cooking gear from that self-same wind. But the tide hadn’t risen and spirited the canoes away; they were safe, just where we’d anchored them.

Those were just some of the things I worried about during what turned out to be the longest, coldest night I’ve spent in a long time. I hadn’t been that cold even while canoeing the Yukon River in 2016. And I was cold even inside that Arctic-style mummy-shape sleeping bag I’d gotten for that way-far-north 12-day Yukon River canoe adventure.

So why was it all over? What happened? But the better question is, “What didn’t?”

Things went well right after lunch that fine early-afternoon Tuesday. That is, until we paddled around the tip of that long stretch of sand and scrub west of Round Island. The wind and waves started picking up, and “against the wind” the going was slow; the winds came from the southwest, right where we were trying to head. The waves started picking up too and the day kept getting later and later. We decided to land and consider the situation.

Landing ashore Tom got dunked by cresting waves. (Which led to my comment above, “Unfortunately we did see some of this wind and wave…”) Having seen his misfortune, I came in at a different angle and didn’t get quite so wet. Once on dry land Tom started reconnoitering the area, in large part to judge what we’d be up against trying to reach Horn Island that day, and also if the place was suitable for camping. Finally we decided to set up there, then get an early start next morning to make up for it. (And got back to thinking it might take a full five days.)

We set up camp and Tom made a dinner of hot dogs and baked beans, cooking behind that big blue umbrella-like thing he brought along just for such blustery days. Then came my “slooshing” and washing the dishes. First off you “sloosh” to get the really nasty stick-to-the-plates-and-pan stuff. (And that baked bean sauce is especially clingy.) Normally you’d do that by a nice calm river, as in past canoe trips, but here I had just had my Scrubzz Rinse Free sponge bath before dinner. I was nice and dry and wearing my good walk-around-camp shoes. (Not the Gulf-soaked water shoes I’d been wearing all day.) And the waves were building up even more on the Gulf side, so I opted to sloosh the dishes in a nearby semi-stagnant backwater.

Then it started getting windy and cold as the sun started setting. And that pot of water that was supposed to come to a boil? It didn’t, maybe because the wind blew over and around that big blue umbrella-like thing I huddled behind. Normally the water would come to a boil, I’d scrub the slooshed dishes with a soapy sponge, then sanitize them by rinsing with the just-boiled water. But there, as the sun set and my teeth started chattering, I fudged. I just rinsed the dishes with the not-quite-boiling water – no soap – then dried them. Then retired nice and quick into my tent and into the Arctic-style mummy sleeping bag I thought would finally get me warm.

But like I said, I ended up having the longest, coldest night in a long time. And part of it came from worrying. Would the tide rise like it did on the Columbia River trip and nearly swamp our camp site? Would the canoes get “washed away,” like on the 2020 Missouri River canoe trip. And to top it off, a new worry: Would my sloppy dish-washing “fudge” end up giving both of us severe gastritis a day or two later? So severe that we’d be immobilized? Stuck out there?

In the meantime… In the meantime, about 8:00 p.m. Tuesday evening, just as I started my long cold night of worry, Tom was listening to the marine weather reports. (On his special offshore device powered by a hand crank.) The weather report said high winds in the next day or two – up to 20 miles per hour one day – plus rain, much of it heavy, most of it Friday. That and his ongoing shoulder problems led him to think maybe it would be best to head back in the morning. Meaning a lot of my worries that night were unnecessary, but when he “checked with me” in the morning I gave a quick “okay!” And felt relieved – and a bit sorry. (We hate to give up.)

Still, we lingered a bit, wanting to make sure we really wanted to give up the effort, then started breaking camp. (Which happened pretty quick, all things considered.) The paddle back to Pascagoula also went smooth, except for some confusion finding the channel leading to where we’d put in. We ended up landing on a sandy beach, near the channel entrance, with a 20-yard hike to a nearby pavilion and no close place to park the U-Haul Tom would be getting.

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And yes, this post is getting way too long. Longer than I normally like. But I figure it will make a great opening chapter of my next book, on a “slew of canoe trips,” with some mention of how I’m still at it at age 72. (The one I’ll start after I finish the book on the Stevenson Trail hike. And BTW, I’ll be 73 this July.) Meanwhile, back in Pascagoula at the end of two days’ canoeing…

First the long process of getting the canoes and gear from the beach to the pavilion, then Tom calling an Uber, getting another U-Haul truck, getting back and loading up. Then, on the way back to Gulfport, we stopped for a late-lunch-early-dinner at The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint, 7501 Highway 57, just off I-10. (17 miles from Pascagoula and 28 miles to Gulfport.) I noted, “I highly recommend The Shed BBQ place… Very ‘eclectic‘ if that’s the right word.” It was, as meaning “including many different styles or methods.” As I also noted: We there had “an early celebration of a weather-shortened canoe trip… Instead of balmy sun and favorable prevailing breezes, the forecast looks like this: Winds 13 MPH [Thursday], 19 mph [Friday], 22 mph Saturday. And seven hours of rain [on Friday], 7 AM to 2 PM.”

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So that was it for the proposed canoe trip. Two days canoeing instead of five, which should count for something, but what now? After we loaded up the U-Haul, Tom booked a nice condo at 828 Oakleigh Avenue in Gulfport. A nice big kitchen, TV room with a comfy couch and two bedrooms, one a loft with a steep set of stairs to get up too. (That’s the one I got.) And Tom had booked it for the next three nights, to which – once again – I said, “Okay!” We’d still get home a day early, Saturday instead of Sunday, meaning I could make the Palm Sunday service. In the meantime one option was to get out to West Ship Island, but by way of that Ferry out from Gulfport. The same one I’d taken before the 2014 canoe trip.

Alas, that “aft aglay” thing hit again, but that’s a story for Friday morning.

Thursday morning we slept a bit later. Once again I luxuriated in nice “spread-em-out bed, with five or six soft warm pillows.” That morning we unloaded the canoes and equipment from the U-Haul and back onto the trailer and car. (Quite a chore.) Then we visited the Ohr-O’Keefe art museum, another place we’d seen during the 2014 adventure. Later that evening we sauntered through the Beau Rivage and Hard Rock casinos, which was not unlike Margaret Meade exploring strange and exotic “foreign” sub-cultures. (Like lots of older folk gambling away their limited Social Security, and even two nuns and what looked like a Monsignor.) At the Hard Rock we even saw Frank Zappa’s famous (or infamous) “Panty Quilt.” It’s made entirely of “underpants and bras” thrown on stage during some of his stage appearances.

Friday morning we drove out to catch the 9:30 boat to West Ship Island, only to find out the weather had intervened, again. As I wrote shortly after, “the bad weather, heavy rain and high winds were so bad that even that big-ass boat” – the one shown below – refused to go out today.” I added, sarcastically, “Geez, what kind of moron would want to be out there in a canoe!” So we opted for a Plan B that day, the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi:

…this place turned out to be well worth a visit. In fact it’s a different kind of overwhelming. Too much good stuff to see in one day.The verdict? Overall a wonderful mini-adventure. Two days canoeing in the Gulf, some good touristy stuff, and lots of good food. Even with all that “gang aft galaxy.” We’ll be heading home tomorrow.

Which I suppose is as good a way to end this already-too-long-post as any. Except to note that the post-title refers to a Leslie Nielsen bit from Police Squad, where an exotic dancer asks the detectives who’ve just come into her dressing room, “Is this some kind of a bust?” Nielsen answers, noting her chest, “very impressive, but we’d just like to ask you a few questions.”

As it turned out, this canoe adventure was’t a bust. It just didn’t turn out how we expected. Not unlike my visits to Paris and Lyon, which included getting on the train out of Lyon and down to Le Puy en Velay. That’s a subject I hope to take up in the next post, so stay tuned!

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Imagine canoeing out in weather so bad even this big boat “feared to tread…”

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As noted in the last post, the upper image is courtesy of Offshore Canoeing Image – Image Results. It came with a page, “Can Canoes Go in the Ocean?” The answer? “YES, If You’re Careful.” Another hint: “most canoes can be used in the ocean but only if the weather is calm and you stay close to the shoreline.” (Hmmm.) Also, “Outrigger canoes fair much better in ocean conditions than other types of canoe simply because they have extra buoyancy and stability.” As it turned out, the weather wasn’t calm – and threatened to get worse – and we were five miles away from the “shoreline.”

Re: Cat Island. The early French explorers called it that because they didn’t have a word for all the raccoons they saw there.

Re: “Best laid plans.” See, ‘The best laid schemes of mice and men’ – the meaning and origin, The best laid plans of mice and men – Wiktionary, and for the quote’s author, Robert Burns – Wikipedia.

Re: “We may end our trip there.” This and similar quoted passages are generally from my journal, unless otherwise noted herein.

Re: “Scrubzz sponge bath.” The second link is to the web article, How to Take a Sponge Bath * The Homesteading Hippy. It turned out to be an interesting read, with such notes as “Globally, only 1 in 3 people has access to clean, piped water.” And that in South Africa for example, “The majority of homes are situated in large townships where three to four homes (with many occupants) share access to 1 outhouse toilet.” And that accordingly water conservation has become a global hot topic. “With climate change, we are seeing more and more droughts than ever before. Areas that once were lush are slowly turning into arid deserts.” As to the first link:

SCRUBZZ NO RINSE BATHING SPONGE is a unique bathing product designed to give you that CLEAN and FRESH feeling whenever and wherever you may need it! Simply put a little water on the “FEATHER LITE” sponge, work into a lather, cleanse, and dry! NO NEED TO RINSE!

All of which is one big reason I love writing these blog posts. They’re a way to keep learning and keep your mind active. Plus, “I love exploring those rabbit trails!”

Re: The Walter Anderson Museum. We visited it the first time back before the 2014 canoe trip.

As to the “some kind of bust,” see for example, 11 Hilarious Moments from Police Squad | Mental Floss. Number 3: “Drebin and Hocken barge into the dressing room of an exotic dancer: Mimi Du Jour: ‘Is this some kind of bust?’ Frank Drebin: ‘Yes it’s very impressive,” etc. For a full video see Is this some kind of bust? CLASSIC COMEDY MOMENT … – YouTube.

The lower image is courtesy of Ferry To Ship Island MS Image – Image Results.

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A canoe-trip reprise – 2024

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Hopefully I won’t face this kind of wind and wave on our upcoming offshore canoe trip…

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The last five or six posts described my last-September (2023) hike on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail in France. They included a primer on preparation, and got me up to my last day in Lyon, before meeting up with my hiking companions in Le Puy-en-Velay. But it’s time to take a break, mostly because I have another canoe-trip adventure coming up next week.

It’s actually a reprise of a canoe-trip my brother Tom and I took in November 2014. I described that one in Canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015. It tells of our eight days of paddling out to some offshore islands in the Gulf of Mexico. Those islands – 10 or 12 miles offshore – included Half-moon Island, Cat Island and the Ship Islands. A side note: “Ship Islands” is plural because in 1969 Hurricane Camille split what had been one island into two separate islands, East and West. West Ship Island is in the foreground above left.

But this reprise will be different. For one thing, in 2014 we paddled from west to east, against the prevailing winds. This time we’ll be paddling east to west, which means the prevailing winds will be at our backs, helping us make faster progress. Another difference? Tom rigged up an outrigger – made of PVC pipe – for my smaller canoe, but it seemed to slow me down. This time I’ll try ocean-canoeing without an outrigger. One final difference: This time we’re planning a shorter trip, five days, from Pascagoula to Gulfport Mississippi. But as always that depends on the weather, and the forecast for the last day or two calls for rain.

The good news with that is that Biloxi is some two-thirds of the way from Pascagoula to Gulfport, so we may end our trip there. And that would be a bit of karmic closure, because that’s where we ended the 2014 trip. (Albeit under less that perfect conditions.)

I’ll do an after action report once we get back, but here are a few clues as to what to expect. For starters, in 2014 It took us eight day to get through the Rigolets (“pronounced “RIG-uh-leez”), out to the Gulf islands noted above, and back to Biloxi. (Formerly known as “Fort Maurepas.” See Rigolets and Fort Maurepas – Wikipedia.) And on the last day – from East Ship Island – we got up at 2:00 a.m. and hit the water at 3:00 a.m. That was to avoid a storm said to be coming in later that day. As for stumbling around in the dark, we had those “camper lights” that attach to the bill of a baseball cap. And this trip I made sure to pack a newer, brighter one.

Our goal that day was to reach the Beau Rivage Casino and Hotel.  We could see it shimmering brightly on the horizon to the north, nine miles away over the open water. (At 3:00 in the morning.) But alas, we never got there. At least not on our own. We did get to Biloxi, but only with the “help” of the Biloxi Marine Patrol. (Which miffed me a bit. “Hey, I know where I’m going!”)

It’s an exciting story, one you can read via links in the notes. But for now I’ll review some journal-notes from when I got back. Starting with putting in at Slidell (LA) and paddling through the Rigolets. That first day, with the drag of the outrigger, “I fell behind early and often.” And it took several hours to get the outrigger positioned so it wouldn’t interfere with my paddling.

And of making Lighthouse Point, and next morning heading south – in pre-dawn dark – down to Half-Moon Island. Which let me know how Columbus’ sailors felt about falling off the edge of the world. And problems with gnats but also but dolphins cavorting just off our campsite on one of many salt marshes between Half-Moon Island and Cat Island. And of routinely getting up at 3:00 in the morning to get our day’s paddling done before the afternoon heat roiled up the waters. And reaching Cat Island “after bypassing Isle Au Pitre in the pre-dawn darkness.” Which makes me wonder if this time we’ll renew the ritual of getting up at 3:00 in the morning.

And speaking of rituals, I have one just before heading out on an adventure like this. Or like heading over to Europe for a 15-day hike. I always watch The Longest Day movie. I just got into the habit, maybe because it tells of another expeditionary adventure that turned out well. I especially like the part at the end, where Robert Mitchum’s character looks at the carnage around him, but having overcome all the obstacles the day presented. As a fitting end he tells his driver, “Okay son, run me up the hill.” It just seems to bring a sense of good karma.

Tom and I have our own ritual for the end of a long canoe trip. After packing up and washing up at the hotel, we have a nice steak dinner and an icey-old beer. And that first beer tastes great after five days without. Here’s hoping for just such a successful celebration in a week or so…

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A good end of a hard day on Omaha Beach… “Run me up the hill, son.”

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The upper image is courtesy of Offshore Canoeing Image – Image Results. It comes with a page, “Can Canoes Go in the Ocean?” The answer? “YES, If You’re Careful.” Another hint: “most canoes can be used in the ocean but only if the weather is calm and you stay close to the shoreline.” (Hmmm.) Also, “Outrigger canoes fair much better in ocean conditions than other types of canoe simply because they have extra buoyancy and stability.”

For this post I borrowed from a companion blog, On achieving closure, and On achieving closure – Part II, both from February 2015. They included a link to Home from a pilgrimage, from November 2014. As for other canoe trip, see – in chronological order – My “new” Missouri River canoe trip, from July 2020; From March 15, 2023, I paddled across the Okefenokee – finally! And from March 26, 2023, The Okefenokee – “Haven of Serenity” or Deadly Swamp?

Re: “After-action report.” I first thought of using the term post-mortem, but as used herein that would generally refer to “an examination of something that has recently happenedespecially something that has failed or gone wrong.” And I didn’t want to jinx the trip.

Re: Isle au Pitre. See also For Pitre’s Sake! – Mississippi Sportsman, which has a map giving an idea of the many islands (and such) off the coast of Mississippi.

The lower image is courtesy of Longest Day – Image Results. See also Longest Day (film) – Wikipedia.

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On preparing for a Camino hike…

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Getting ready for a hike on the Camino de Santiago? Here are some useful tips…

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The last five posts talked about my trip to France last-September, to hike the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. Now I’m taking those posts and turning them into chapters of a new book about the adventure. So far I’ve gotten through the first two days in Paris, then another two days in Lyon. I finally got onto the train out of Lyon, and from there heading down “to Le Puy-en-Velay and beyond!” To meet my hiking partners, brother Tom and his wife Carol.

But I’ve hit a sticking point. Among other things, I’ve done five “Camino hikes*” so far – going back to 2017 – and the early chapter on “Getting ready” for such a hike is turning out to be a pain. Plus, with my experience I figure I can offer some good advice to people thinking about doing such a hike. Good advice on things like training and about what to pack before heading overseas. And more important, what not to pack. So, after the early chapters on Paris and Lyon, I’l have the book move to a chapter on gearing up and preparation. And this will be it.

The thing is, I figure the average reader today has the attention span of a gerbil, so I’ll have to ease them into the book. I’ll try to grab their attention with details about the good stuff first, all about my exciting adventures in Paris and Lyon. Then I’ll put in the Gearing Up chapter, but with it a warning: “Those of you not thinking about doing a Camino hike will probably find this chapter boring, so you may want to skip ahead to the next chapter.”

I did a post in May 2023, Gearing up for the Stevenson Trail, but it didn’t have much advice for a prospective hiker. It was more about Stevenson’s book and sluts and things I wanted to do and see in Paris. (And Lyon.) So here’s what will become that future chapter on getting ready for a Camino hike. And first of all, “packing” brings up the biggest question, “What type of pack?”

For the first three Camino hikes I had a cheap low-hanging pack from a local “Yuppie Goodwill.*” But Tom and Carol got tired of seeing the pack hanging so low – and it was uncomfortable – so when we got back to Rome in 2022, they sprung for a better one. A Forclaz Men’s MT100 Easyfit 50 L (50 Liter) backpack from one of many Decathlon sporting-goods store in Rome. 

It made a world of difference on the GR-70. As a matter of fact, because of that extra comfort I could violate a fundamental rule for such hikes. The experts say your pack – including a full bottle of water (or two) – should weigh no more than ten percent of your body weight. In my case that meant 15 pounds, but for 2023 I opted for 20 pounds. That meant carrying extra weight both on the Trail and on those training hikes in August, before leaving home. But it was worth it. Among other things I could pack a full-cover “Gorton fisherman” rain jacket, mostly because the forecast was for heavy rain both when I got to Paris and later to Lyon

As for what to put in the pack, by 2023 I had a pretty good idea what to bring, and not to bring. First of all, quick dry clothes. For the hike in 2017 I wore blue jeans for the flight over to Madrid and back. The rest of the time I just hauled them all over northern Spain. They added weight and took up pack space. And don’t scrimp on socks. I take three pair of nylon socks and three pair of heavy wool socks. The nylon socks go on first, because I can easily wash them in a sink at night. The wool socks give a good cushion and you don’t have to wash them each night.

“Quick-dry” goes for other clothes too. I finally found some good quick-dry underwear, three pair of Adidas “Aeroready.” For outerwear, two pair of Columbia long pants and one pair of Magellan shorts. (The long pants for daytime long hours of sun, the shorts for the evening.) Up top, one tan long sleeve Magellan shirt with roll-up sleeves, along with two quick-dry long sleeve t-shirts and one short sleeve. (Long-sleeve for the day, short-sleeve for evenings.)

One of those long-sleeve tee-types is a black turtleneck. It says “Rocky” inside the back collar, but that’s all I can read; I can’t say what brand it is. But it’s been a favorite of mine for some time now; for those five Camino hikes and before that on multi-day canoe trips, probably starting with that eight-day, primitive-camping trip we made 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.*

On the other hand, Camino purists say to limit your clothes to two sets. That way you have one set of day-clothes for hiking, and at night – after your shower – you put on the second set. But that means that every night you have to wash the other set, or get it washed.

There were lots of places on the Camino hikes in 2017 and 2019 where you could get your wash done at your lodging. Usually ten dollars to wash and dry, which between three people is not too bad. But the COVID cut into that. After 2020 there were both fewer places to stop during the day, and fewer places that offered washing at night.

For that and other reasons I prefer three sets of clothes, “purists be darned.” I like the option of not having to wash a set every night, and with three sets you can vary the combinations for “spice,” a change of pace. And speaking of nightly clothes washing, I’m not crazy about washing anything larger than an “under garment” or socks in a sink. You’re usually done with your shower, but then washing pants and shirts in a sink you end up splashing water all over yourself and also the floor. I found a better way – of necessity – back in Jerusalem in 2019.

The tour group I was in took a bus up to Nazareth for two nights. The luggage had to be stowed in the compartment underneath. I had the Yuppie Goodwill backpack and a duffel bag – with handles and a shoulder strap. But I also had a Piggly-Wiggly bag full of my dirty clothes. When we got to Nazareth I found the duffel and pack, but my Piggly-Wiggly bag of dirty clothes was nowhere to be seen. So there and back in Jerusalem I took to washing what clothes I had left in the day’s-end shower. I’d stomp extra soap into the clothes and and then rinse them – and myself – off later. Fortunately all the showers I’ve seen so far had that long extension hose.

Back in Jerusalem I’d then take the newly-clean clothes up to the rooftop terrace of the St. George’s Pilgrim Guesthouse and hand them on the lines up there. The nice thing about Israel, Spain and most other Mediterranean countries is that clothes on a line dry fast.

Then there’s protection from the sun. This trip I wore a wide-brim wool-felt Dorfman Pacific hat. In earlier trips I had a neck gaiter – the kind that came out during COVID – that I pulled up over my Atlanta Braves ball cap. That combo covered well, but made me look like a terrorist. I still took the ball cap, but that was for evenings. I also brought a pair of light gloves, and with that and the long-sleeves and long pants I was well protected. Still, I needed some sunscreen and few weeks before leaving home, at a Kroger, I saw a small .47-ounce roll-up, Simple Truth Kids’ Sunscreen on sale, SPF 50. That was enough to shield the back of my neck, nose and cheeks, and wasn’t all that greasy to spread on. I still have it for the next Camino hike.

The same goes for mouthwash. At home I like generic Original Listerine, the kind that tastes so bad you know it has to be good. But they don’t sell that kind in Europe, or Israel either. Then, in the same Fayetteville Kroger travel section, just before the GR-70, I found a small bottle of concentrate. Mint-flavored, not original, but it’s better than nothing and weight-efficient. I used it at least twice a day for 30 days in France, and still have half left over for that next hike in 2024.

Then there’s good old duct tape. It’s good for preventing new blisters or protecting old ones.

And finally, training. Starting mid-July and into August 2023, I took practice hikes at The Ridge Nature Center in Fayetteville, GA. At first I wore a 20-pound weight vest, plus ten pounds of ankle weights. Later on I added the pack, adding a little extra weight each week. That and past experience paid off. On the GR-70 itself I only got one blister, that first day out of Lyon, and with a touch of duct tape the next day, that was it. Except for falling, twice, on the last day of the hike, despite all my mental precautions. But that’s a story for a later chapter.

Happy hiking!!!

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The upper image is courtesy of Preparing For A Camino Hike Image – Image Results.

Re: “Camino hike.” I define that as any hike where at the end of each day you can look forward to a warm bed, hot shower and a cold beer.

“Yuppie Goodwill.” It’s actually the “Clothes Less Traveled” store in Peachtree City GA. And by the way, I ditched that low-hanging pack on the sidewalk, by a series of recycle bins, just outside our last lodging in Rome, at Viale Angelico 38. (A half-hour mile-and-a-half walk up from Vatican City.) On a similar note, after the Stevenson hike I left the Gorton Fisherman rain jacket at a clothing recycle bin in St. Jean du Gard, just down from out lodging at “Aux Fumades – Los castanhs.” (It’s listed as a lodge, at 195 Chemin de Luc in St. Jean du Gard.) By that time the jacket had a large rip beneath the left armpit, plus it took up a lot of space in my pack.

On that canoe trip 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi, see On canoeing 12 miles offshore from 2015, and Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi. The second one had some stuff on the 2017 Camino hike and on the Stevenson Trail. (Mostly on “Why?”)

The book chapter on Gearing Up will include using a Kindle tablet for taking photos, then being able to post them on Facebook. (Pending good enough “free” WiFi.) Plus you don’t have to turn it on and off to take such pictures, as I thought in 2017.

Also, for future reference and possible use in new posts, On visiting Paris and Lyon in 2023, from July 24, 2023. Also a preview, The Stevenson Trail – from Le Puy to La Bastide-Puylaurent, from September 3, 2023, a week before I flew over. Also, a “reasons why” post on July 11, 2023, Still pushing the envelope, at “ripe old” 72.

The lower image is courtesy of Happy Hiking Images – Image Results.

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A full day in Lyon – and beyond?

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The Rhone River in Lyon – viewing the Ponte de l’Universite and Ponte de la Guillotière

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In the last post I finally managed to get out of Paris, onto the train at Gare de Lyon, then ride on down to Lyon. (Later than planned; my 9:30 a.m. train got switched to 2:30.) There was also a bit of a hubbub involving Lyon’s two train stations. That resulted in me wandering around in the rain awhile before finding my luxurious lodging at HO36 Hostel, at 36 Rue Montesquieu. 

First thing next morning – Thursday, September 14 – I checked Google Maps for a laundromat. (Ho36 had good WiFi.) I found one and hiked down Rue Bechevelin, then took a short left to 43 Rue Chevreul. I washed and dried the wet sweaty clothes from the day before, at Promoclean Laverie Chevreul. (Laverie is French for “laundromat.”) While waiting on that I crossed the street for a cafe creme and sweet treat at Cafe Suzette, and posted this on Facebook:

“For breakfast [I had] this flan, in the shape of a pie slice. Delish, and you [can] eat it with your hands. Along with a cafe creme, while your hot sweaty laundry from yesterday is at the lavendaria across the street.”

(My mistake. I later learned “lavendaria” means something totally different.*)

I also posted that “Tomorrow I head for Le Puy en Velay,” and that my tablet’s autocorrect had a fit with such names. “It’s going to be a long month.” Which it was, with me constantly correcting autocorrect. (Which can’t stand either “creative writing” or foreign names.) But back to Thursday morning. After dropping off my clean laundry at Ho36, I started my city tour.

I planned to head over to the twin rivers, cross the bridges and get to Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. It’s atop a high hill, like the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris. And like “Sacred Heart” it’s said to offer a splendid panorama of the city. But somehow, maybe still reeling from yesterday’s confused late-afternoon hike in the rain, I turned left on Rue Marseille. It was a nice walk, for a while, but by and by I got the feeling I’d made a wrong turn. “I should have gotten to the river by now!” As it turned out, Rue Marseille runs parallel to the Rhone River. (Three blocks away.) What I I should have done is stay on Rue Montesquieu and head west(ish) over to Quai Claude Bernard. From there I could head up to Pont de la Guillotière and cross over the Rhone. As it was, I ended up hiking parallel to the river and away from “Guillotière” bridge.

I ended up hikiing past Rue Raoul Servant, and thus past all those train multi-tracks that lead to a tunnel under the Rhone and on to Gare de Lyon-Perrache. (One of two train stations in the city.) And ended up hiking on to where Rue Marseille turns into Boulevard Yves Farge. By this time I’d hiked a half hour, and eventually reached “Vocational High School Louise Labé.”

Along the way I stopped at the first sidewalk wine store I saw. I’d heard so much about the Beaujolais nouveau the city is famous for, and wanted to try some. (A unique local wine and highly-prized regional specialty.) I went inside and asked if they had any. But the man just looked at me funny and said, with a deep French accent, “Noh-VAHM-brrr.” (Rolling his eyes, if only in his mind.) From the tone of his voice I gathered that was French for “dumbass!” I also gathered that Beaujolais nouveau doesn’t keep for long. Another “gang aft aglay!”

Back on the street – refreshed at least from a break in hiking – I tried a different tack. I turned right, and after a block of so saw what I’d been looking for. The heights of the city, topped by several buildings with steeples. Two blocks more and I found the Rhone River, then headed up to what looked like the highest steepled building. I kept walking toward Pont de la Guillotière, making sure to memory-mark where I’d turn to get back to Rue Montesquieu – and “home!” I crossed over to and through the Presqu’île heart of the city, which looked interesting, full of bustling young people, pilgrims and young romantics of all kinds. (“I wish I had more time.”)

I originally planned to hike all the way up the hill to the Basilica, but the route wasn’t at all clear. (No “direct way.”) And by this time I was getting tired from more hiking than I expected. Plus there was a funiculaire, and it was reasonably priced, so I took it instead. And the view just from the top of the hill was spectacular, by itself, but that was as good as it got.

Just like in Paris I’d hoped to climb to the top of the Basilica tower in Lyon. Then came another surprise. (Another “aft aglay.”) It turns out that to climb the tower you have to join a tour group. But aside from the expense, to me that meant standing around in a group of strangers, trying to feign interest in a lot of touristy questions. In other words, wasting time and money, to which I said, “No thanks!” Still, the view – even just from the top of the hill – was spectacular:

The highlight of the day today, hiking around Lyon, France. Two views of the city from high atop the hill where stands the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvielle. “Mission Accomplished!” I planned to climb up, but I must confess – I do not deny, but confess – that I took the funicular up. I was worn out by then, by the walking today and trials and tribulations of yesterday.

I posted that on Facebook, with the pictures, then hiked back to my lodging at Ho36. I took a shower, did some yoga and in due course wandered down to the bar-slash-community-room for a bite of dinner and a beer or two. Before leaving home I’d downloaded the Manybooks.net version of Travels with a Donkey, as a file so I could read it anywhere. (Even without internet.) And there in that big Ho36 dining-room-slash-bar I started re-reading Travels in earnest. I wanted to know what to expect, and we’d be starting the long hike in three days.

But first I had to get to Le Puy.

Sitting among all the fellow hostelers, sipping on an ice cold beer and reading Stevenson’s account of the adventure again, I thought about tomorrow’s transportation. Back home I’d bought a ticket for a 1:30 train and bus to Le Puy, however

When I got to Part Dieu Wednesday afternoon, and before starting the hike to Ho36, I took some time to just stand and scope out the situation. (The vast station.) Mostly I wanted to familiarize myself with how to get out of Lyon and on to the train to Le Puy. I watched people boarding, and saw that they all had one of those square things with the squiggly lines inside, either on their phones or on a piece of paper. (What I later learned was a “QR Square.”) And I didn’t have either one. So I planned to get there early next morning and figure something out.

Before retiring for the night I set the alarm for 8:-00 – the train left at 1:30 – but woke up at 6:30. I went through my morning ablutions and packed up. Then, figuring I had a little time to relax, I lay down for a bit – but “danged if I didn’t fall asleep again.” (And had really weird dream to boot.) Still with some time to go I left Ho36, hiked up Rue Marseille to the McDonald’s where I’d stopped to get my bearings on Wednesday. I’d checked Google Maps for a simpler route, so from the McDonald’s I hiked straight up Rue Paul Bert and followed it all the way. I got to Part Dieu in 22 minutes, at least half the time it took on Wednesday to get to the hostel.

I got to the station and went inside. Crowded, noisy and vast, and amid all the chaos I got run into, literally, by a tall attractive brunette in a red vest. Which I really appreciated; she was one of the station’s staff. After some mumbled apologies I asked her for help. She may have thought I was one of those “angels unawares,” but at any rate she directed me to the nook off to the side of the station – out of the main drag – where I could get a paper pass. The line was short, I got my paper with the squiggly square and – with plenty of time to spare – took a hike.

Out through the exit and over the six tracks east of the station, through the Parc Jeanne Jugan and up Rue d’Avigny for a ways. Then back to the Parc where I stopped at the Hotel-Restaurant Campanile Lyon, for a leisurely brunch at one of the shaded outdoor tables. And that was that. All I had to do was get on the train for a 45-minute down to Saint-Étienne-Châteaucreux, find the bus station in 15 minutes, then ride for an hour and 20 minutes.

What could go wrong? I was on my way to Le Puy en Velay – and beyond!

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More like, “to Le Puy-en-Velay and beyond…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Lyon France Images – Image Results. It goes with a a page, “Lyon in pictures – the mysterious food capital of France.” And aside from the Ponte de l’Universite and Ponte de la Guillotière, you can see the Basilica “Fourviere” at the far upper left.

“The last post:” More “gang aft aglay” – and luxury in Lyon!

A note about clothes washing on an overseas hiking journey to Europe. Sometimes while taking my end-of-day shower – and as necessary – I can wash my sweat-damp clothes by stomping soap into them and then rinsing with the shower hose. (A quick trick I had to learn in Jerusalem, when my Piggly-Wiggly bag full of dirty clothes got lost on the bus-ride to Nazareth.) And incidentally, the French word for laundromat is “laverie,” as in the Promoclean title. “Lavanderia” is apparently something to eat. See for example French Lavanderia Recipe – Image Results.

Re: The Lyon Beaujolais. “The wine is marketed to be drunk in November, only a few months after the grapes were on the vines.”

“Angels unawares.” See Hebrews 13:2 – Bible Hub, in the KJV, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (The attractive young lady in the red vest certainly got my vote for a nice berth in heaven…)

The lower image is courtesy of Infinity And Beyond – Image Results, referring to sayings by Buzz Lightyear, the “fictional main character in DisneyPixar‘s Toy Story franchise.” See also To Infinity and Beyond: A Journey of Cosmic Discovery, on the 2023 book by Tyson and Walker.

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More “gang aft aglay” – and luxury in Lyon!

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Room 10 at the HO36 Hostel Lyon, sheer luxury after that “flat” in Paris, and hiking in the rain…

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The last post described my September trip to France, as far as the train from Paris down to Lyon. (Two days in each city. Then I’d join my GR 70 hiking partners in Le Puy en Velay.)

Back home, preparing for getting to Lyon, I’d planned and memorized the hike from Gare de Lyon-Perrache to the HO36 Hostel where I’d booked a room. I figured the train would get to Lyon-Perrache first, as the more direct route. But as we approached the city, the overhead speaker announced we’d get to Lyon-Part-Dieu first, much to my surprise. So, I went into a “quick-recalculating” mode, then for reasons set out in that last post, “decided to get off at Part Dieu, even though I’d paid the ticket for Lyon-Perrache.” (Mostly I didn’t want to make a special side-trip the next day, back to Part Dieu, as I’d have to if I stayed with the original plan.)

I came up with a beautiful plan to get from Lyon Part Dieu to the HO36 Hostel, at 36 Rue Montesquieu. Unfortunately, that’s when the ”gang aft aglay” thing kicked in again. (The thing that plagued me a good part of the trip so far.) “For one thing it was raining, again. For another I hadn’t memorized the pre-mapped route” back to Part Dieu “as well as I’d done the way from Lyon-Perrache.” So, as noted, the latest “aglay” started when my 9:30 train from Paris got cancelled. I’d had to change to the 2:30 train, and so got to Lyon much later than planned.

Then, once I left Part Dieu station, it started to rain. What followed was me learning yet again that under such circumstances Google Maps don’t always match reality. Put another way, those Maps can give you a route that’s hard to memorize and execute – in the rain.

Here’s what I mean. When I left the hostel Friday – in the act of leaving the city – it took a mere 22 minutes to hike back to Lyon Part Dieu. It was simple. Head out Rue Montesquieu to Rue Marseille, and take that street up to the McDonald’s where the street splits. (The McDonald’s I found on the way in Wednesday afternoon.) Then just follow Rue Paul Bert all the way to the station. You can’t miss it. But that’s not what happened that rainy Wednesday afternoon.

Aside from the rain, I re-learned that in “walking” mode, Google tends to send you through a lot of side streets and back alleys. That can seem more “direct,” but it’s hard to remember. And about that McDonald’s I found? Technically – I learned later – it’s at 6 Place Gabriel Péri, just off “Cr. Gambetta,” after it crosses Pont de la Guillotiere. That’s where I ended up  late Wednesday afternoon, after hiking around in the rain. I recalled that McDonald’s has free WiFi, so decided to stop for a bite and check my bearings. (In hindsight I could as easily stand outside and use their internet, under the eaves, without waiting in line as long as I did.)

I’d been angling west, heading generally toward the twin rivers and the Presqu’île center of the city. (Toting my 20-pound backpack, with rain gear.) I found I actually wasn’t that far from the hostel. But to get there – per Google Maps, courtesy of the Lyon McDonald’s – the best way was, again, through side streets and back alleys. (Google says walk down Rue Marseille, then take a right on Rue Bechevelin until it angles over and meets Rue Gilbert Dru, and so on.) I thought I could remember all that, and eventually did find the hostel, but the Wednesday hike from Part Dieu had totaled a lot more than a “mere 22 minutes.” I didn’t get there until 6:30.

At this point the reader may ask, “Why does he do such things? Everything seemed to go wrong! So many ‘gang aft agleys.’ This guy really had a lousy time!” But nothing could be further from the truth. About which I recall a quote about Ernest Hemingway traveling in Europe:

“One of the things about him is that he’s committed to travel. He likes, I think, more than anything to be a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land. Everything is heightened, and taste is heightened, vision is heightened, smells are heightened.”

So it is true that finding your way around a strange foreign city – “where they talk funny” in ways you can’t understand – can be a big challenge, but that’s what “heightens” the experience. And it especially heightens the taste of that first sip of icy cold beer at the end of a challenging day. Which is how things turned out that first day in Lyon.

It did take until 6:30 to find the hostel and get into my room – but, “Oh, what a room!”

Three times the size of the dump in Paris – I charitably called it a “flat” – in both the room itself and in the big luxurious bed. Plus I got a bathroom of my own. My own shower too! (No climbing half a flight of stairs to a landing between two floors, to get either.) I’d gotten hot and sweaty hiking from Part Dieu, but the Ho36 hostel made my day. And a big part of that was the bar and nice big common area I saw first thing on entering from Rue Montesquieu.

Once ensconced in my room I took a luxuriant hot shower, warming up nicely after my wet, sweaty hike. After more pure luxuriating in Room 10, I hiked – walked, sans pack – back to the McDonald’s for a late dinner. (I’d done a lot of hiking that day, mostly carrying a 20-pound pack. Remember? Five or so hours killing time, up to Notre Dame and back, between the train I expected and the one I finally took?) Last of all I got my tablet from the room, went down to the first-floor bar-slash–common-area, and enjoyed a cold draft beer – or two. All while settling in nicely among the other guests, some of them young, full of life, and/or fellow pilgrims.

And ready for more “gang aft aglay” on the morrow, should that again be necessary…

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The bar and common area at HO36 Lyon. “Sheer luxury” after Paris…

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The upper image is courtesy of HO36 Hostel Lyon – Official website – Best prices – ho36.

“Last post.” On Lyon, another Basilica and another “best laid plans…”

“I didn’t want to make a special side-trip.” When traveling, especially on foot in Europe, I like to make sure beforehand of my hiking route to a mass-transit connection, so I don’t miss the connection.

“Then take Rue Paul Bert…” All the while, hiking, thinking to myself, “Rue Paul, Rue Paul, I’ve heard that name before.”

On my 2019 trip to Jerusalem. See This time last year – in Jerusalem! (And links therein.)

On the “fun” of traveling in a strange country, see also for example 27 Surprising Benefits of Traveling Abroad, and 10 Benefits of Foreign Travel – WanderWisdom. As for the quote about Hemingway in a strange country, I copied that down from Episode 1 of the Ken Burns documentary on Hemingway, “A Writer (1899-1929),” as noted by a Professor Cushman.

The lower image is courtesy of Ho36 Hostel Lyon – Image Results.

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On Lyon, another Basilica and another “best laid plans…”

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Way up on that distant hill is the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvièrewith a “splendid view…”

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I last posted on December 13, 2023. It’s now January 13, 2024.

Since that month-ago post I’ve gone through two family Christmases. One meant driving a thousand miles up to Massachusetts and back. The second came a week after the real Christmas, and both involved lots of pre-celebration preparation. (To get just the right gifts.) Then too, that first one meant catching some kind of nasty bug at the hotel bar in Wilkes-Barre PA, on the drive home. Which got me a “sore throat of Biblical proportions,” and had a dramatic impact on the second celebration as well. Which also means I’ve been going through lots of recuperation time, a recuperation helped in large part by generic NyQuilDayQuil, and lots of new-discovered Vicks VapoCOOL Severe cough drops. (And by the way, “Those things work great!“)

My last post described the second of two days in Paris, and the adventures therein. (Before heading down to Le Puy En Velay to link up with my companions for a 150-mile hike on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail in the Cevennes Mountains.) That noon I got rain-drenched, visiting the Basilique du Sacré Cœur, in Montmartre, “home of the famed Moulin Rouge.” And found the line outside way too long to get a chance to climb the tower for it’s “spectacular view.”

I also arrived at the world famous Père Lachaise Cemetery, a mere ten minutes late, later that afternoon. (It closed at 6:00 p.m. “on a summer’s eve,” much to my surprise.) But settled for the next best thing, La Pere Lachaise Bistro, just across Boulevard de Ménilmontant. (Where I had two Goudales – which stands for “good ales” – to ease my disappointment.)

In other words, of the two things I really wanted to see in Paris this visit, both got screwed up. Which led me to quote the world famous Robbie Burns saying, “The best laid plans o’ mice and men, gang aft aglay!” And dang if it didn’t happen again the following day as well, when I had to get up early to catch a 9:30 train. (From Gare de Lyon down to Lyon, where I’d never been.)

After my two Goudales I went back to my tiny flat and set the alarm for 6:30.

So, it was Wednesday, September 13, and I set the alarm for 6:30 because I wanted plenty of time to hike down to Gare de Lyon. I did get there in plenty of time all right, but then learned my 9:30 train had been cancelled. The next train was at 2:30, so now I had five and a half hours to kill. I started with a leisurely breakfast at a cafe across the street, Brasserie l’Arrosoir, and that was nice by itself. (Watching the frantic tourists coming and going from the station.)

I had two leisurely cafe cremes, and later a lentil and walnut salad. The first healthy meal I’d had since getting to France. It tasted great, but looked like it came out of a small can of dogfood. (No sharing “food porn” on Facebook.) As for that cancelled ticket, I had to pay an extra 16 Euros for a new one, subject to a refund. (Which I just remembered, typing this out. But by now it’s too late for any refund.) On the plus side, the Trenitalia desk – where I got the new ticket – was “manned” by a lovely, dark-haired young lady from Sicily. I told her that just the year before I and my companions had hiked in Italy. (From Assisi to Rome on the Way of St. Francis.) We had a nice conversation, especially when I mentioned we’d been told there were some good hiking paths in Sicily as well. I closed that pleasant conversation noting that even though I had to pay extra for a cancelled train, “At least I got to meet you!” (Ever the romantic.)

After that, walking with a lighter heart, I hiked across Pont Charles de Gaulle for some unexpected sightseeing. Across the Seine and up various quais to Ile de la Cite and the Notre Dame cathedral. We visited there in 2021 getting ready for our hike over the Pyrenees, and the Cathedral was still in the long process of being rebuilt. Along the way I came across LA CREME DE PARIS NOTRE-DAME. That quaint little cafe is at the corner of Quai de Montebello and Rue de la Cite, right across from Ile de la Cite itself, and it was there, back in 2021, that I ran across Tom, Carol and Ray, quite by accident. (My 2021 hiking companions.) I had just hiked down from my hotel near Place de Stalingrad, hoping to meet them at their lodging. But as it turned out they were just crossing the intersection, on their way to get Covid-tested. (In 2021 you had to get that test clearance before you could take any train in France, something I don’t miss.)

After the extra “bonus” sightseeing, I caught my train at 2:30. It took three leisurely hours to get to Lyon, during which I enjoyed a cold beer in the club car. But then came a hiccup.

Back home, on Google Maps, I’d carefully pre-mapped and memorized my way. I planned to hike from Gare de Lyon-Perrache station, located on the mid-city Presqu’île peninsula. From there to the HO36 Hostel on Rue Montesquieu was said to be a leisurely half-hour hike. (Much of it along the Rhone River.) And under the original plan (with the train leaving Paris at 9:30), I figured to get there long before check-in time, so I planned a stop in at the Damn Fine Bookstore. At 20 Rue Bechevelin, it was on the way and only two minutes to the hostel.

The “Damn Fine Bookstore” had good reviews, as the finest of all such bookstores in France, plus it had a cafe. “The coffee is affordable, and the kitsch sofas are reminiscent of an English tea room. Even the bathroom is a delight.” Unfortunately, because the 9:30 train got cancelled I no longer had so much time to kill. Plus some other complicating factors came into play.

For one thing, I based the pre-mapping and memorizing on a theory the Paris train would reach Lyon-Perrache station first. I’d memorized that route. Cross the bridge over the Rhone River to Av. Bethelot, up the Quai Claude Bernard to Rue Montesquieu and turn right. Piece o’ cake. (Or so I thought.) But as it turned out – as it came announced overhead – the train got to Lyon Part Dieu first. (“Why the heck would a train get to Part Dieu before the implied Parte Uno?”)

On the other hand, I knew I’d be leaving for Le Puy en Velay on Friday, from Part Dieu. So under the original plan, I’d have to make a special trip on Thursday, hiking from my hostel to Part Dieu. (I always want to make sure of such a route beforehand, just to be sure I can “get there on time.”) It’s one of my quirks, and this one got me into a “quick-recalculating” mode.

The result? After due consideration I decided to get off at Part Dieu, even though I’d paid the ticket for Lyon-Perrache. For one thing I’d get off the train quicker, and another personal quirk I have is the fear of missing a stop and having to double back at the next station. (And maybe pay an extra fee.) Plus, by getting off at Part Dieu, I wouldn’t have to make that special side-trip on Thursday. I’d have more time for fun and sightseeing. I’d “kill two birds with one stone.”

It was a beautiful plan, but danged if that ” gang aft aglay” didn’t kick in again. For one thing it was raining, again. For another I hadn’t memorized the pre-mapped route from Part Dieu as well as I’d done the way from Lyon-Perrache. But that’s a story for next time…

In the meantime here’s a view of the inside of the station I got very familiar with on Friday…

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Inside Lyon-Part-Dieu station – where I spent lots of time last Friday, September 15…

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The upper image is courtesy of Lyon France Image – Image Results. It goes with a page “8 best things to do in Lyon for an amazing holiday experience.” Number One on the list: “Admire the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.” (I put “splendid view” in quote marks because to get that best view – from the Basilica tower – you have to spend time in a tour group.)

Re: Last post: My second day in Paris – and “Best Laid Plans…”

See the “Damn Fine” review at Best Bookstore Cafes in France – Fodors Travel Guide.

The lower image is courtesy of Lyon-Part-Dieu station – Wikipedia. Caption: “Interior of the station.”

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My second day in Paris – and “Best Laid Plans…”

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A view of (or from) the Sacred Heart Basilica – when Paris weather isn’t drenching you with rain….

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December 13, 2023 – The last post covered my first day in Paris, last September 11. Though it was more like my first two days, or one long day. Technically that included one last Sunday in the U.S. for a month. Or you could define it as between my shower Sunday morning before church and the chance to take one Tuesday afternoon. (“Circumstances beyond my control.”)

Either way, that long “day” – or two – included last-minute packing on Sunday (“oh darn, I forgot!”), getting to Hartsfield airport in Atlanta three hours ahead of time, then flying out at 6:30 p.m. and getting to Paris at 9:15 Monday morning. That middle part of a long day Included six time changes (flying east over the Atlantic), plus a red-eye flight where I got maybe 30 or 40 minutes of real sleep. (If that.) So I got to Paris Monday morning nice and jet-lagged.

That post also covered my first morning in Paris, where – hiking to my hotel – I somehow got shunted off Boulevard Voltaire and onto Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. (I finally had to ask directions.) And – after all that – trying to take a nap, once I found my tiny garret (of sorts), a nap interrupted by incessant hammering across the alley. Then in the afternoon hiking down to Gare de Lyon, from where I’d be leaving early Wednesday morning. (And stopping on the hike back “at a cute little bistro at the corner of Av. Daumesnil … and AC Ledru Rollin. A block or two above Gare de Lyon, which I just checked out.”) Which brings up my second day in Paris.

One thing I wanted to do this Paris-visit was hike up to Basilique du Sacré Cœur, in Montmartre, home of the famed Moulin Rouge. The Basilica sits high atop a hill, with a tower said to offer spectacular views of the city. (For a small fee.) I’d also read that to do that you had to get there before noon. So, Tuesday September 12, I got up early and headed up. (After first stopping at a cafe around the corner – on Boulevard Voltaire – for a good French breakfast.)

I note in a later post that to see such spectacular views you generally have to pay a price. (Often quite a high price.) Which brings up some things about that “spectacular view of Paris.” The Basilica (of Sacred Heart) stands “proudly atop” Montmartre hill, which itself stands 426 feet high. So just getting to the top of the hill meant walking up four separate sets of of long steep step-stairs. But I figured it was both good exercise and good training for the upcoming 150-mile hike in the Cevennes. Then came another problem. Here’s what I wrote later:

Ah, the romance of Paris! Like, hike an hour to Montmartre and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart – highest point in the city, with a great view – and have it start pouring [down rain] the minute you get there… Then hike back to your tiny flat, sopping wet, but stopping along the way for two steaming cafe cremes. And a hard-bread ham and cheese sandwich…. And figure at least you don’t have to wash your clothes in the sink tonight. (Except for your “delicate.”) The clothes you’ve worn since leaving Atlanta.

Which brings up a need for some explanation. For one thing, just before noon the line to get into the Basilica doubled back and around the entrance. Meaning at least an hour’s wait, but since I didn’t want to stand in the rain that long – I’d found some shelter under some trees close by – I opted out of that adventure. (“Maybe some other time.”) For another thing, that “pouring down rain” was the first kind-of shower I’d had since leaving home Sunday. (Monday was busy, and the shower-plus-WC was a half-flight up, between the fourth and fifth floors.)

Another note: I had packed a heavy-duty bright yellow galvanized rubber rain jacket, mostly because the forecast for Paris on Monday was for heavy rain. (Also for Lyon the day I got there.) But I didn’t take it with me when I hiked up to the Basilica. Mostly because the weather didn’t look too bad when I left my little garret. (“A lesson for all you young kids out there!”)

Anyway, heading home from the Basilica I hiked through more rain, but not quite as bad. Besides, I was already soaked. So halfway back I stopped at another sidewalk cafe – for which Paris is famous – with a covered patio and a view outside. I wanted to sit out some of the rain, and enjoy two steaming cafe cremes (“to ward off evil spirits”). Plus I’d worked up an appetite so I also had another hard-bread ham sandwich. (Mostly because I could understand that limited part of the French-only menu.) And again spent time watching the passers-by. Which brings up the essence of Paris: To me it’s sitting at a sidewalk cafe, watching people and jotting in a notebook. Like Hemingway. Which I did at least seven times this trip to Paris. (Though if he were alive today, “Hem” would probably be posting notes on Facebook to the folks back home.)

Once back at my tiny apartment I took a hot shower – in the one bathroom between two floors – then hiked back up Boulevard Voltaire. I’d seen a Laundry Self Service at Number 48, and there dried my wet clothes and ball cap. Then took another nap, this one more successful.

Refreshed from my nap, I headed west on Rue Sedaine, over to Bd. Richard-Lenoir, which I now knew fairly well. Without too much trouble I found Gare de Lyon and checked the surrounding area. (Lots of cafes nearby in case I got there early Wednesday morning.) On the way back I stopped at another cafe, for a beer. (“Hey, I’d done a lot of hiking.”)

And speaking of hiking: Counting Monday I had hiked some 15 miles in two days, including that two-mile hike down from Gare du Nord carrying a 20-pound backpack…

Later still, on the hike back from Gare de Lyon, I found the French equivalent of a mini-mart. I wanted something to tide me over in case I got hungry or thirsty during the night. (In case the jet lag interrupted my sleep patterns.) I got a 16-ounce bottle of water, but the only reasonably-priced “food” I could interpret from the French was a good-sized bag of croutons. (Which tasted amazingly good when I did wake up in the middle of the night.)

Anyway, back at my garret I checked Google Maps. (The place had decent internet.) Another place I wanted to see was Pere Lachaise, a famous cemetery where Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and many French notables are buried. By this time it was near 5:30, so I headed east, knowing what road to take. (A block south on Bd. Voltaire, then east on Rue de la Roquette. “Piece o’ cake!”) But as shown that morning, “The best laid plans o’ mice and men, gang aft aglay!”

Which is being interpreted: I got to the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery pretty quick, just a little after 6:00 p.m. Only to find out that it closed at 6:00. “Who the heck closes a famous cemetery at 6:00 on a summer’s eve?” So I did the next best thing. I saw a Pere Lachaise Bistro across the street, so I stopped in there for a bit of a nightcap. There I sampled two La Goudales, an amusing French beer-brew that eased my disappointment.

But I couldn’t stay for a third. I had to get up early next morning to catch that 9:30 train from Gare de Lyon down to Le Puy en Velay. (To meet up with my Cevennes hiking companions.) So I got home and set the alarm for 6:30. Then got up that early, to arrive at Gare de Lyon, also nice and early, only to find that that “gang aft agley” thing had struck again.

Which is a story for next time…

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Get to “La Pere” too late? There’s always “La Pere Lachaise” across Bd. de Ménilmontant

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The upper image is courtesy of View From Basilica Of The Sacred Heart Paris – Image Results. I originally posted my photo of the ‘spectacular’ of Paris, high atop Montmartre Hill.” But the platform kept screwing it up and taking it off. (Technical terms used by bloggers.) My photo showed the view on a rainy day – the day I got rained on – and I noted, “You can barely see the Eiffel Tower, on the horizon, about a fourth of the way in from the left.The full caption read, My ‘spectacular’ view of Paris, high atop Montmartre Hill, by the ‘Sacred Heart‘ Basilica…

Re: “Last post.” “The last time I saw Paris?” – Just this past September!

For some interesting reading Google “due to circumstances beyond control.” I remember the phrase from some old Bug Bunny cartoons.

Re: Garret – Wikipedia. Technically that’s a “room or unfinished part of a house just under the roof.” My room on Rue Sedaine had a couple of floors above it.

I borrowed from Sacré-Coeur de Paris, the must-see basilica at the top of Montmartre Hill.

Re: “Best laid plans.” See Best Laid Plans – Origin & Meaning – GRAMMARIST, noting the Robert Burns poem with the line, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” The rest of the thought, “An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, / For promised joy.” The expression “conveys that one should not expect things to always turn out as planned.” Indeed.

Re: “La Goudale.” According to Wikipedia, “La Goudale is a bière de garde which was originally brewed in Douai (northern France) by Les Brasseurs de Gayant. The brewery has since moved to Arques. Its name derives from “good ale”, the name given to local ales in the 14th century.”

The lower image is courtesy of Pere Lachaise Bistro Paris – Image Results. And speaking of “Pere Lachaise,” Garry Wills mentioned it in his book “Lincoln at Gettysburg – The Words that Remade America,” G.K. Hall and Co., 1992, Chapter 2, “Gettysburg and the Culture of Death.” (I just happened to be reading that part while working on this post.) Wills wrote of Edward Everett, the orator who spoke for two hours before Lincoln, and of the “rural cemetery” movement. That movement reflected “changing attitudes toward death” in 19th century America. “Images of hope and immortality were popular in rural cemeteries in contrast to the puritanical pessimism depicted in earlier cemeteries.” (One such was the cemetery at Gettysuburg.) Another orator noted “the surroundings of nature combined with art as exhibited in the cemeteries of Pere Lachaise and Mt. Auburn … and other celebrated burial places of the dead.” But of course all this is a “rabbit trail,” contrary to “that UCC – unity and coherence crap,” which is why I put this in the notes.

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“The last time I saw Paris?” – Just this past September!

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I didn’t see Liz Taylor, but there was lots of other lovely “passing scenery” in the city…

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My last post – on hiking the GR 70 in France – talked about my planning for and dreaming about the trip. (Hiking 150 miles on what’s also called the “Robert Louis Stevenson Trail.”)

It also talked of the difference between such dreams and how an adventure really turns out. (“Matching dreams and plans with reality, once you get over there.”) And finally it addressed the question: “Why would anyone in his right mind – especially at age 72 – want to go through such an ordeal?” Taking the last question first: One big reason is “I just love long walks.” I always have, and as a writer do some great thinking whenever I’m “out on the Trail.” And I’m not alone: Everyone “from Beethoven, Goethe, Dickens, Darwin to Steve Jobs took long walks:”

[W]alking holds just some of our attention, leaving a large segment to meander and observe. It’s this doing-something-but-not-really-thinking-about-it aspect of walking that might be most directly behind the ability of a good walk to stir up creative, new ideas.

Other reasons – with more detail in the Notes: Long walks help you become more creative, healthier and productive. (Not to mention “following in the footsteps of giants.”) Also in my case, long walks are a great way to get to know some intimate nooks and crannies of cities like Paris and Lyon. I’ll get to Lyon in the next post, but this one’s about hiking adventures in Paris.

In Paris I did a lot of meandering and observing, but first had to get over there. Which meant another red-eye flight from Atlanta, leaving at 6:30 Sunday evening and getting to Paris the next morning at 9:15. I guessed later that I got maybe 30 or 40 minutes real sleep the whole night. Mostly I watched a lot of old movies. The one I remember most was “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” mostly because I like the music. But on arrival I knew what to do. I’d made the same trip in 2021: From De Gaulle airport take the RER Train B to the Gare du Nord.

Which brings up navigating in a strange city. In my overseas trips so far I’ve relied on local “free” WiFi. There are portable hotspots you can use for European internet service, but they were something like $300 for 30 days the last time I checked. Instead, before leaving home I printed out Google maps of the route I was to take, from the train station to my hotel. I also wrote out and printed out written instructions, which were pretty clear. Up to a point.

I’d booked a place on Rue Sedaine, two miles southwest of the station. To get there (I wrote) “get on the Bd. de Magenta, which leads to the Place de la Republique.” On the other side of “Republique” the streets split, but I would get on the Bd. Voltaire. A little bit further down, once I saw the “Maze le Garage Electrique,” I’d know Rue Sedaine was coming up. And at the corner of Rue Sedaine I’d see a bar, “Le coup d’oeil,’ and turn right. So far so good.

The walk was pleasant, even carrying a 20-pound pack. I stopped just the other side of the Place de la Republique, at a Starbucks of all places. To rest, regroup, admire the passing scenery and ease into this strange new place with a little touch of home. Then, hiking further on, I discovered a quirk in my plans. After hiking what I reckoned to be about a mile and a half, right by the Stellar Restaurant Ephemera, the streets split. I stayed on the sidewalk I’d been hiking on.

And from there, on and on some more. “What was taking so long?” I kept thinking, “I should be seeing the Maze le Garage Electrique and Le coup d’oeil any time now.” Finally I tried asking directions from some locals. First a young couple, but they shied away like I was a strange man still grubby from a red-eye flight, or just wanting a hand-out. Then I asked a young Frenchman, sitting on a bench at what turned out to be the “Marche Bastille.” It’s another long, park-like area, like the Place de la Republique, between two busy streets, but skinnier and with more trees.

He was polite, and set me straight. So much for the city’s reputation for being so rude.

I found out later that the long narrow park I’d arrived at is also the site of “one of the biggest markets in Paris, stretching along the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir and across the Place de la Bastille.” As it also turned out, I had just hiked past Rue Sedaine, but on the wrong side. So as it also turns out, back where the streets split I should not have stayed on the same sidewalk I’d been walking on. Instead I should have crossed over, twice, past the “public toilettes” in a center traffic island. That way I’d get back to Boulevard Voltaire. Instead I’d been inadvertently shunted over to Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. And that’s how I discovered the Marche Bastille. What was interesting (to me anyway) was my handwritten route-notes. I later saw that they gave another way of finding the hotel. (And not get too lost.) I wrote that it’s on Rue Sedaine, “between the Marche Bastille Market and the Cemetary ‘Pere Lachaise’ where Jim and Oscar are buried.”

That’s Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde by the way. In planning my two days in Paris I noted two places I wanted to visit. One was the Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre, with it’s splendid hilltop view of the whole city. The other was “Pere Lechaise,” resting-ground of a great number of notables, French, American and others. I eventually did make it to that world-famous cemetery, but that’s a story for another time. Meanwhile I had to get to my hotel.

I did get to it, but from the wrong end of Rue Sedaine. And later that day I discovered that the Maze le Garage Electrique and Le coup d’oeil were right where they were supposed to be, on my printed out map. But first I checked in and got Room 14, four floors up from the street. And it was tiny. The twin bed took up half the first part in, and a quarter of the whole apartment. But it was home, and it was in Paris, even though the “WC” was outside, on a stair-landing between my floor and the next one up. With its window right next to my window.

Which made for some interesting listening later on.

I tried to take a nap, but soon heard a lot of hammering and other building sounds from across the alley. Later that night I woke up and looked out the window, to drink in Paris at night. Quiet and peaceful. I looked down to the left, across the alley to a one-floor-down apartment with an unshaded window open to the breeze. The guy who’d been doing all the hammering that morning was on a cot, sound asleep, half-covered with a light blanket, with a bright light off to his right, out of my sight. The whole place had the air of extensive remodeling. Or just being made move-in livable. I felt bad about some things I’d been thinking, earlier, trying to take that nap.

Back to that first-day Monday afternoon in Paris. (After hiking down “the scenic route” from Gare du Nord to my hotel, by way of Marche Bastille, a long narrow park on Boulevard Richard-Lenoir.) The following Wednesday I was scheduled to take an early train down to Lyon, from the Gare de Lyon train station. So that Monday afternoon – after trying to take a cure-jet-lag nap – I took a hike down to Gare de Lyon. I wanted to check mostly on how long it would take to get there. The train was to leave at 9:30 a.m., and I didn’t want any slip-ups.

The hotel had tolerable WiFi, so I could see I should take Avenue Ledru Rollin down the mile to the station. I did, and found the Lyon station. (It’s expansive and hard to miss, plus there were signs on the street.) The route crossed Avenue Daumesnil, so on the way back I stopped at a cute little bistro at the corner of “Daumesnil” and Ledru Rollin, a block up from the station. I had two beers and enjoyed the passing scenery, then on the way back to the hotel stopped at a French mini-mart. I wanted something to get me through the night, in case I woke up early from the jet lag. But the only food I knew what It was was a bag of croutons and some bottled water.

Then I tried taking another nap, starting about 3:30 p.m., and this one worked. Later, despite all the hiking I’d done already that day, I decided to take yet another walk. In part to make sure the Maze le Garage Electrique and Le coup d’oeil were still where they were supposed to be. They were, but then I hiked a bit more up Boulevard Voltaire, to where it split off from Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. (To see what I should have done.) On the way back I stopped off at Le coup d’oeil on the corner of Rue Sedaine, and had one more beer. (After getting to know some unknown-to-most-other-tourist intimate nooks and crannies of Paris.)

And there was (Sunday) evening, and there was (Monday) morning—the first day. My first day in Paris, in September 2023, that is. I’ll cover my second day in Paris in the next post…

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Place de la Bastille
The Place de la République, part-way to my last-September lodging on Rue Sedaine…

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The upper image is courtesy of “The Last Time I Saw Paris” – Image Results. See also The Last Time I Saw Paris – Wikipedia, on the 1954 “Technicolor romantic drama,” set in the city just as World War II was ending, and loosely based on F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s short story ‘Babylon Revisited:'”

The film starred Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson in his last role for MGM, with Walter PidgeonDonna ReedEva GaborKurt KasznarGeorge DolenzSandy DescherOdette, and (a then-unknown) Roger Moore in his Hollywood debut. The film’s title song, by composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, was already a classic when the movie was made and inspired the movie’s title.

Re: Doing some good thinking while walking. See The Science of Why You Do Your Best Thinking While WalkingHow Walking Enhances Cognitive Performance | Psychology Today, and Why The Greatest Minds Take Long Walks – Canva, source of the quote, “Why everyone from Beethoven, Goethe, Dickens, Darwin to Steve Jobs took long walks and why you should too.” The Psychology Today writer said that “listening to audiobooks and walking is my primary method of learning about the world, specifically business, history, and society.” For myself, when at home I watch educational videos – Wondrium and Crash Courses – while stair-stepping 30 minutes at a time. (With a 30-pound weight vest and 10 pounds of ankle weights.)

Re: Hotspots. The article 6 best portable Wi-Fi hotspots for travelers in 2023 | CNN lists some alternatives, but they’re still pretty expensive, considering the probably add-ons.

Re: Rude Parisians. See Why are people in Paris so rude? – Paris Forum – Tripadvisor. On this trip I found the opposite to be true, as will be detailed in a future post.

The lower image is courtesy of parisinfo.com.

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On lessons from 2022, applied to 2023…

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The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the starting point for last year’s 150-mile pilgrim hike…

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November 16, 2023 – My last post talked about matching up Dreams, maps and reality, as applied to my recent hike on the Stevenson Trail in France. I also talked about “why such a fool” – especially an old fool, at 72 – would “put himself through such an ordeal.” I had some answers, but ended with a promise “next time” to talk about walking Paris and Lyon. Specifically:

…on exploring Paris and Lyon, on my own, “before even starting the hike.” Where I [will] describe things like getting drenched on arrival at the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris, and finding out that trying to memorize a Google Map route, from Lyon Part Dieu train station to the HO36 Hostel in Lyon, can make you feel lost and in despair.

That second problem concerned me trying to use a memorized Google Map to get from the “Part Dieu” train station to the HO36 Hostel on 36 rue Montesquieu. But that post is turning out to be more complicated than I thought. Both cities were eventful for me, but since I last posted almost three weeks ago, it’s time to fill in with this post, on some lessons from the past.

Like last year (2022) we hiked 150 miles on the St Francis Way A pilgrimage route. But instead of hiking as most do – from Rome to Assisi – we went the other way, from Assisi back to Rome. And I can mention one mistake I didn’t make in this most recent trip: I didn’t get a &^%#$ ticket – costing 30 Euros – for not validating my bus pass, in Assisi, down by the train station.

It happened on the ride back from visiting the Basilica of San Francis … but it wasn’t my fault. Two knuckleheads in front of me had trouble making change (or whatever). A long line started forming behind me, so the driver told us – starting with me – to “go to the back of the bus.” That’s where, supposedly, there was another machine to validate your bus ticket.

I didn’t validate the pass, mostly because I didn’t see any such machine. But when we got back to the train station in Assisi – a short walk from our lodging – an officious-looking guy magically appeared and announced the aforementioned fine for failure to validate. I protested long, hard and loud – “the driver told me to go to the back of the bus!” – but to no avail. It was all, “No comprendo,” or however they say it in Italy. As I mentioned, that was “Not a good start to what was supposed to be a pilgrimage to enlightenment.” On the other hand, part of being enlightened could be not repeating mistakes of the past. So, “One lesson learned!”

One guidebook on the Way of St. Francis said the Apennine Mountain Range is “the thick spine of the Italian peninsula.” 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.”

So I found one big difference between last year’s hike and the latest one. The Stevenson Trail wasn’t as full of “zig-zags, switchbacks and cut-backs.” I mentioned that my 8th grade math teacher had taught us the shortest distance between two points was a straight line.

However, that rule doesn’t apply to the Way of St. Francis. And that led me to wonder, “Why did St. Francis follow this ‘path?‘” Back and forth, up and down, full of zig-zags, switchbacks and cut-backs. And why wouldn’t he take the smoother route along the valley that beckoned down below? (The smooth path that the train takes from Rome up to Assisi and back.)

So one difference: The Stevenson Trail mostly goes “straight” north to south; not as many zig-zags. Though there were plenty of slippery boulders and rock-strewn paths to negotiate, at least we didn’t have to backtrack so much – or so it seemed – and pay for the same real estate twice.

One similarity between the two hikes? Many days on both trails there were few if any places to stop for refreshment during the day. It wasn’t that unusual to go a whole day’s hike, of 10 or 12 miles or more, without any of those stops so prevalent on the Camino Frances (French Way). On the other hand, in Italy you could still always look forward to a warm bed, hot shower and a cold beer at the end of the day. And the same was true of the Stevenson Trail.

But that leaves the question: Why would an old fool “put himself through such an ordeal.” That’s a question I asked myself quite often on the Stevenson Trail, especially during the early days of the hike. One answer I came up with? The idea that on such a trek the goal is to “push beyond your limits. To ask yourself at least once a day, ‘What the heck am I doing here?'”

And then keep going…

But once we got home my brother and hiking companion found another answer. “Rucking.” I just did learn that Rucking can help you burn fat, build muscle, and stay strong as you age. And here I’ve been rucking since 2016, back on the Chilkoot Trail, and didn’t even know it.

It seems that hauling big, heavy dead animals you’ve killed – “game after hunting trips” – or just carrying heavy things in general has been around a long time. That’s a trait unique to humans, a “foundational behavior throughout [human] history.” As in traveling long distances, moving whole families and their belongings, in search of a better life, more food or just to get away from hostile tribes looking to kill you. And as it turns out, in modern times such carrying a heavy weight over distances “is a great exercise for fitness and longevity.”

Which is a thought that came to me late on the Stevenson hike.

When exercising I track aerobic minutes, minutes of aerobic exercise. But to get credit for such exercise you need to go ten minutes straight, and that presents a problem on the Trail. Carrying such a heavy weight, and especially hiking uphill (and/or climbing over and around all those stupid rocks) means you need a standing-stop break several times in ten minutes. That meant theoretically you don’t get any “aerobic credit.” But I finally figured out – on the GR-70 – that hiking hours a day with a heavy pack combines two different exercises: aerobics and weight-lifting. Which is pretty much what “rucking” is all about. Problem solved!

I’ll be writing more about rucking as a good reason for my overseas hikes in a future post. And also get to the part about exploring Paris and Lyon, this year, on my own, “before even starting the hike.” And describe things like getting drenched on arrival at the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris, and finding out that trying to memorize a Google Map route, from Lyon Part Dieu train station to the HO36 Hostel in Lyon, “can make you feel lost and in despair.” Until next time…

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“…here I’ve been rucking since 2016 … and didn’t even know it.”

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

I borrowed much of the main text here from Getting ready for Rome – and “the Way of St. Francis, from April 2022, and Some highlights – Way of St. Francis 2022, from October 2022. Other past posts include On St. Patty 2022 – and the Way of St. Francis, from March 2022, One week away from a “Roman Holiday” from August 2022, and St. Francis, his birds and my Bucket List, from October 2022.

“One guidebook.” The Way of St Francis … to Assisi and Rome, by “Sandy” Brown.

“Pay for the real estate twice.” A quote from George Patton. See Not me. I don’t like to pay for the same real estate twice.

10-minute aerobic minimum. See Physical activity – World Health Organization (WHO), and The Aerobics Way, the 1978 book by Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper.

The lower image is courtesy of Rucking For Fitness Image – Image Results.

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