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West Highland Way

Milngavie, Scotland

I started walking this trail on September 1st in a quaint village on the north side of Glasgow. My sister Adele is along, although she didn’t walk yesterday. Her luggage didn’t arrive until late in the day, so she came to the hotel at the end point by taxi.

Buchanan Arms Hotel, Drymen
Alain on the trail

Yesterday I had a chat with this gentleman on the trail, which he knows well and walks often. I walked for a while with Bill, from this area and James from the Czech Republic. So far the trail is well marked and well made.

Beautiful weather

The trail today totals 15 miles and includes a mountain, Conic Hill, so we are taking a bus to Balmaha and skipping the mountain. The total would be too much for Adele on her first day. We walked along the banks of Loch Lohman for 9 miles today.

We have a forecast for rain over the weekend but are prepared for it. There seem to be many trailside rest stops with food, as well as “honesty boxes” with snacks, water, and even ice cream. I picked up a bottle of water at one for £1.50.

Happy people

I’ve seen many people walking dogs, mostly black and white border collies. News from home is that Daisy is doing well. My friend Sarah is staying in my house and looking after her.

James with camping gear and a ukulele.
Steak and ale pie. Comfort food, yum!

We are staying at the Rowardennan Youth Hostel, which is pretty much a hostel, but about five times more expensive than I’m used to. But they have a nice dinner, and we are signed up for 7 PM, and the grounds are quite beautiful. Tomorrow we are not going to walk the 20 miles to Inversnaid, but there is the option to take a ferry boat to a bus to another ferry boat to Inversnaid.We are staying at the Rowardennan Youth Hostel, which is pretty much a hostel, but about five times more expensive than I’m used to. But they have a nice dinner, and we are signed up for 7 PM, and the grounds are quite beautiful.

Rowardennan Youth Hostel
A group of young guys from London having a great time and carrying too much gear.
Loch Lohman
Pub after walking, Rowardennan

The Triskelion Way:. Traa dy Liooar

The Triskelion on the Flag of Isle of Man

I completed the four day Triskelion Pilgrimage on the Isle of Man. We walked 40 miles on green hills surrounded by flowering gorse and heather and sheep. The composition of this wonderful group of pilgrims changed each day, but most live on the island.

Holy Well and Keeill
On the slopes of Snaefell
Fuscia.
Ancient stone walls
Ice cream on the Prom
Seaside views
Manx Electric Railway
Indian food in Ramsey, which was heaving
Rough country
Phil and Henry developed the pilgrimage
Henry in a modern day Keeill he built
The “cathedral”
Time enough

The Isle of the Manx

Manx couple looking at the sea

I am walking the guided Triskelion Pilgrimage on the Isle of Man. The isle is between Ireland, Scotland, and England. They are connected to the United Kingdom but a separate country. It’s 34 miles long and they speak English, but also Manx.

Phil

Phil put this together with help from other walkers. It is 4 days, about 40 miles total.

Friday pilgrims

Most of the walkers live on the island, although most are not native to it.

Monks Bridge 1134 AD
A high point
Footbridge
Lunch stop
Looking west toward Northern Ireland.
More tired than I look
Heather
Hay Falls
Thie dy Vea Retreat House

Some of us are staying in this wonderful place, and we are being well fed by Karen and David. Today was 13 miles, tomorrow 8.

It’s a Fiasco

Fiasco of Chianti

I’m back home in Texas, where it is hot, dry, and dull. Wandering loose in Europe is never boring.

Laura and Giuseppe

According to Giuseppe, the origin of the word fiasco is this: patrons at a plays or performances drank wine. If they were dissatisfied with the performance, they would throw their empty wine bottles at the cast. And these type of wine bottles were called fiascoes.

Cross Mountain

Daisy and I went to Cross Mountain this morning. It was windy and not yet hot. Daisy is intrigued by the smells on walks and complains loudly if I don’t take her. I came back with a bit of a sore throat. It’s going away, perhaps caused by the dusty wind, but many of my friends have had Covid in the last few weeks. I am very, very thankful that I didn’t get Covid on the trail, that would really mess up the plan.

Enchanted Rock

I’ve been back home for a week, and it’s hard adjusting. My sleep cycle adjusted very quickly. But there is also kind of a culture shock. After six weeks of calmness, I’m thrust back into the chaos that is American life. It started at the Atlanta airport and has not let up. I went to the enchanted rock for some relief, and was overwhelmed by the heat and dryness.

September 2022

My friend Tyler from previous trails says the solution is to plan your next walk before you finish the one you’re on. So here it is: I’m walking the West Highland Way in Scotland with my sister Adele in September. This may be double-dipping, coming after a six-week trip, but my motto these days is DO IT NOW!

August 2022

As luck would have it (if luck had anything at all to do with it), last week I read a newsletter from the Confraternity of Saint James in London, in which they mentioned this pilgrimage. It comes directly before our plan in Scotland. To me that was a sign, so I signed up. It’s four days of guided walks.

Monika and Gabi

I’m also planning a few days in Vienna, visiting friends from the trail in Italy.

The Garden of Eden

Then I’ll spend a few days with Josette, before we come back to Texas for adventure, phase 2.

The End
(of The Way of Saint Francis)

I have been privileged to walk trails with a fabulous group of people.

Confessions of an Expat

My first confession: I am not an expat, but I think about it. My goal recently has been to spend 3 months a year in Europe.

Trevi, Italy
Switzerland

My hometown friends tell me that Texas is terribly hot and getting worse. When I tell people here it is 40 degrees (C) at home, they are shocked. They believe they will burst into flames at 35 degrees. It’s 20 here now.

View from a Swiss chateau
Rural southern Belgium
15th Century Business Casual?

They have old stuff here. Old in Fredericksburg is 175 years. Old here is 1500’s. It’s charming, and they’ve capitalized on it.

Switzerland is gorgeous, and clean. No trash! In the popular city parks there is a trash can every 50 feet but no trash on the ground. If you look hard you can find graffiti in the cities (along the railway), but not in the villages.

Belgium is also clean, with wonderful weather in June. Rural Italy, except for the touristic places, looks poor. Rome is very crowded, trashed and graffitied -and fabulous, all at the same time.

Shock TV

America is very popular here. This is a typical show about fires, floods, tornadoes. American disasters are featured often. One interesting thing: the show has both voice over and original dialogue, and when the Americans said “Oh my God!” the subtitles say “ce n’est pas possible” which means “it’s not possible.” I saw this quite a few times. I am living in French these days. I’m not fluent but I generally know what is going on.

Jean Claude (Josette’s brother) harvesting honey

Pine plantations everywhere
Daily walk outside the village
Quiet life
Dog training today
Axel and Sasha came over to visit and eat honey

Josette has an enviable life here. Grandkids show up unannounced for snacks. I am speaking English with 13 year old Axel, who has an oral exam in English next week. I’ve been to family gatherings at daughter Virginia’s pool. There is very little traffic in the village. She lives in a comfortable, modern – but at the same time old – house.

It’s tempting, but I’ll be home Friday.

Church

Le vrais pellerin! (A true (Pilgrim)

We met a German pilgrim today after church. We attended the Eglise Evangelique Reformee du Canton de Vaude https://www.eerv.ch/region/joux-orbe/vaulion-romainmotier/pratique/labbatiale/leglise-abbatiale-de-romainmotier

Protestant Church!

Today is Pentecost Sunday and there were baptisms of two young children, an uplifting experience! The two pastors were both women and the Pentecost story and liturgy were both familiar, even in French. And we participated in communion.

Pipe Organ

There were many hymns, although not familiar to me and there was not enough light for me to read the small print of the lyrics. The acoustics was fantastic!

Origins in the 4th century

The village is also quite beautiful, and looks like everywhere else we have been, clean as a whistle.

Josette and Irache

After church we saw a pilgrim and spoke with him. He walking from his home in Germany to Santiago de Compostella without money, finding hospitality along the way.

Breakfast with Old & New friends

We started the day with breakfast just outside Romainmotier (the village with the church).Irache is Anne-Marie’s friend from singing, staying for 6 months in a campground before she returns to Brazil. Irache has friends in the campground, where she just bought a camper, and we had breakfast together. A typical Swiss group-happy people who laugh a lot.

Lea

Lea, a friend of us all from the Camino in France last summer, came on a train today. She is a delightful person and it is good to see her. We are all going for a walk soon, around the lake by Yverdon Les Bains.

Stretching to reach the ATM

The money here is Swiss Franks, not Euro. Swiss people tend towards being tall, and slender,and athletic, but like the positive and happy people we have been meeting, I’ve been told that not all are that way. If you hang around with Anne Marie, you are likely to be both.

The week in Switzerland is going by quickly.

Moi, Anne Marie, Josette on a walk after dinner.

Perfectly Swiss

Trail through dairy farm land

I wasn’t sure what to call this post: “The Hills Are Alive…”or “Rocky Mountain High…” or The Perfect Swiss Day. After a traditional breakfast of fruit salad, bread with homemade jam, and coffee, we got in the electric car and drove down to the town and the other side of the lake.

Traffic Circle

These traffic circles are here instead of stop signs when roads cross. On this drive there are decorative themes in the circles. The light isn’t great in this photo, but the scene is a winepress and includes a cat and dog posturing.

Driving up the mountain

We drove up the mountain to a trail head parking lot. The car is electric, and running on batteries charged by the solar panel on their roof yesterday.

68 degrees, sunny, 4800 feet MSL
Walking with the cows
Marked hiking trail
Cowbells chiming all around
Swiss Grand Canyon

We ran across hundreds of people running a 110 km race through the area. Swiss people seem to be tall and in great shape and about half were women.

Swiss Grand Canyon
Dry stone wall to keep the animals away from the cliff
Moi, Bernard, Josette, Anne Marie
Stay back from the edge!
Fondue for lunch

Of course there is a restaurant! My first fondue. Dip bread on a long fork into the melted cheese, et voila!

Bighorn sheep photographer showed us what he found
Trail down

The perfect day includes a nap, so we all took one is the shade in that luxurious grassy flower covered meadow.

In petite siesta
Panorama from the high point. Mt Eiger is barely visible in the distance
Perfectly Swiss

Real life in Switzerland

Lausanne, Switzerland

I’m staying for a week with friends in a rural section of Yverdon Les Bains, Switzerland. Josette and I are here to visit our friend Ann Marie, who we’ve walked with three times before in France. Her husband Bernard is a retired university professor.

Getting ready for a dinner party

Their home is modest but modern. They rely on solar power six months of the year. There is a (backup) wood stove in the kitchen, which can also be used for cooking. At this time of year there is no need for heat or cooling. There is ample evidence of the regular visits of grandchildren.

Tea in the garden

Preparing for an evening dinner party, we take a break for tea in the garden. Dining outdoors is much preferred.

EV VW

They charge the car during the day when solar power is available. It’s a great car, with impressive acceleration and quiet ride. Traffic is not bad at all!

The house is surrounded by gardens

Bernard has a large garden with vegetables, herbs, and flowers. It is a lot of work but he is passionate about gardening.

Migros

I went grocery shopping this morning in Migros with them. We parked in a parking garage (free) with an elevator down to a shopping mall. We got a grocery cart and hand held scanner. As you select items, you weigh and tag them and then scan the tag. At checkout you leave groceries in the cart and point the scanner at a screen. It produces a receipt, which then takes your credit card payment. There is a cart drop off in the garage. Prices are somewhat higher than HEB, but the store is clean and well stocked and organized. About half the size of our H-E-B.

Walking only street grocery
Centre-ville grocery

Yesterday we bought food for lunch and dinner in a part of the “centre-ville” which is walking access only. Lots of interesting shops, restaurants, and bars there too. It looks touristy but is also where local people shop for eyeglasses, etc. The optometrist also sells binoculars!

Bicycles are a part of every day life for many

When Bernard goes to the train station in town, he walks (1/2 hour). Trains will get you most places quickly, and they are clean, comfortable, quiet, and fast. walking is facilitated by a paved trail separate from the road.

Train station in Geneva
Rain is to be expected
Downtown is alive
Homemade Apricot torte for dessert
Entertainment is walking in the park
Blind justice

I don’t know the whole story, but life appears more expensive than Italy or France. Houses appear to be 2-3 times more expensive than even Fredericksburg. However, the landscape of rolling hills, lakes, and mountains is quite beautiful, and the life calmer and less hurried. Compared to Rome, which is crowded, trashed, graffiti-ed, with fierce auto traffic, this is a much simpler lifestyle.

Wandering Loose in Italy: Reconsidering Food

Sea Bass

Darned good! Since I gave up raw shrimp I’ve enjoyed the food much better. This was a great meal. Add roasted potatoes €5 and a full pour of a decent red wine for €8. I can’t afford this at home, and couldn’t afford it here much longer.

Plat du Jour

Chicken with tomato and potatoes. €12 plus water. Just what I needed for lunch yesterday before the coliseum tour.

Hydration time
Sea bass under potato slices with olives and tomatoes. €18
Pizza by the slice. Excellent!
Great company!

Leaving tomorrow morning early for Switzerland and our friend (Swiss) Anne-Marie Next year? Via Francigena?

Wandering Loose in Italy: One Day in Rome

Trevi Fountain

Monday late afternoon! Very poplar place, Rome. It’s like this in all the cool places.

Pantheon

Built as a pagan temple, became a Christian church. Amazing structure! Also very crowded.

Forum Romana. Seen it in history books, never expected to see it in person.
Coliseum. Saw it in 1966. Wasn’t quite this crowded.
Churches like this abound. St Mark’s?
Having too much fun
“I like being in Italy with you” Josette (at Trevi Fountain)