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France at 3 MPH

Imagine yourself on this bench. You are looking over the Cele River. You don’t know yet what there is below, but it is a pretty sight. I have a trail guide and the trail is well marked. It is an ancient trail taking pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela, one of many branches of the Camino. The French government owns and maintains the trail and calls it GR65.

I have walking companions from a previous trip. Although I walked GR65 last year, this year we are taking a Loop off the main trail, GR651. what surprises lay ahead?A forest of hanging moss. Walking miles between stone walls used for moving livestock. Miles of cornfields. Springs on a mountainside.

Stone herders hutsOld houses Spectacular villlagesDinner with trail friends A more intimate dinner with Christine and Jean-Phillipe at the Celezen Gite outside Espinac (fine dining it was! Tomato soup and beef ribs with shallots and potatoes, baked peaches and figs for dessert, almost entirely from their garden). Beautiful Churches Sandwiches for lunch- just great bread, butter, and ham. This one made by Fabian, the bartender. Troglodyte homes in a cliff. You have to work for these views. We went up and back down cliffs like that three times-and that was just today!

This is a Street in the village we are in tonight. What secrets does tomorrow hold?

Muxia: The Jewel at the End of the Trail

The last scene in the movie “The Way” is set at a small port town called Muxia. This is a fitting ending place to my European adventure. Tomorrow we head back to Texas. This is a popular place for Pilgrims to visit after walking the Camino de Santiago. We walked three days of this loop but the other four we are doing by bus. Muxia is small and charming. There is a beautiful beach beside the town. The church of the Virgin of A Barca is on this peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. The legend says that Mary visited the area to encourage James in his evangelizing. The first time I’ve had scallops. Quite tasty! This plate is €12. Pairs well with Albariño wine, the local favorite.

The Short Walk: Camino Inglés

What does a thousand year old trail look like?

Starting in A Coruna, a pilgrim will be in Santiago in 3 1/2 days of walking. If one starts in Ferrol, as most seem to, is 5 1/2 days. The short trip is counted at 75 km, not enough to get a Compostela from the Catholic Church (100 km is required). I have one already and no one seems to be interested in it. This is the starting point in the port city of A Coruña. The nursing mother Mary statue in the church at the start is unique. The trail is well marked but you are somehow guaranteed to get lost trying to get out of the city. I had two sit-down map and guidebook consults on the way out of the city. The way takes pilgrims through lovely and quiet suburbs. The first albergue was super modern and welcoming

Much of the trail is through forests. There are few cafe-bars on the way, but this one was super-friendly. This was just after the trail from Ferrol (the other starting point) joined us, along with many more pilgrims. I walked past the albergue on day 2 because it was only noon. The only other option was a hotel just off the route at Ordes. This was the view from my room. I used a routing from maps.me to head toward the Camino (I don’t have a map of this trail, just a description). I walked with these local women for a couple of kilometers. They showed me where to pick up the Camino. Wildflowers are abundant People pursue beauty in their yards. The way went up 1000 feet the first day and 1500 the second. Dinner in a bar with a card game onLunch today-beef stew. Hit the spot.

Venice: Elegant Decay

Venice is and has been falling apart. The food and wine in our price range was average at best, but decay makes more interesting photos! St Mark’s Square is amazing, made more so by the three ensembles playing music. They were great but seating nearby is reserved for restaurant patrons with higher budgets. The view from the tower was probably worth the price of admission. We were up top for a bit of very loud bell ringing. We spent a lot of time on these boats. Our guide, Tyler, has made many trips here. Michelle and I just followed.

We toured a church with an “art installation” which was hard to reconcile with the huge canvases by Tintoretto. (I don’t have any photos of his or other canvasses because lighting wasn’t good enough.) Tintoretto paintings are found in many of the churches in Venice. There is a restaurant/bar every few feet. This restaurant was fun partly because the manager is crazy. Scary crazy. W avoided eye contact. But that made it memorable. I’d rather say the food made it memorable. We had excellent Italian food in the villages back up the trail, though. This is a flat floor in a church. Clever!The view from our hostel rooftop. Venice keeps to just a few colors, and these are predominant. Murano, famous for its glass artistry, has a wider range of colors. Burano, not pictured, has lots of brightly colored houses. And hordes of tourists. This is not me, but we kayaked the canals one evening. Pretty cool way to experience Venice, good young tour guide. Did not take a gondola ride. I’m glad I spent time in Venice, and Tyler was a fantastic guide. It may be a once in a lifetime experience for me as there are so many other places I want to go. Our hostel was €100 each for the three nights, so it is affordable. If you don’t mind the bathroom down the hall and no air conditioning!

Italy from 6 feet up at 3 MPH.

I’ve spent two weeks walking in Italy. We have yet to meet an American, and most of the tourists seem to be Italian. So what did we find at 3 mph and six feet up?We found magnificent churches with tall slender bell towers. We can see these a long way off, and the trail invariably takes you to each, We found surprising art, like this old painting of Saint Margarita. She was born in 1247 and is (among other things) the patron saint of single mothers. The church caretaker told me her name, but Wikipedia told me the rest. We found mile after mile of trail and road atop dikes by rivers and canals, where we looked down on wheat and corn and vineyards and houses and back yards.We found the place where Ernest Hemingway was wounded in 1918 as a Red Cross worker in WW I. We found fruit and cheese and bread for trailside lunches at street markets. Sometimes we eat lunch in restaurants but only at the end of a day’s hike. We found that bicycles are everyday transportation. We found Cabernet Franc, which seems to be their favorite vino rosso (and is usually €7.50 a bottle). We found a winery with massive stainless steel fermenting tanks. It is was surprising; I’m used to the small hill country wineries.

We found the Adriatic Sea and an 11 mile long beach of yellow sand with tens of thousands of umbrellas. We found regular people.

We found mile after mile of flat reclaimed swamp land in agricultural production. As scenery goes, it’s boring. Next we explore Venice.

Peregrinating Italy

We spend our days walking the countryside- this was swampland drained by canals a hundred years ago. Much of the trail is atop dikes. At this spot there was a shrine to Mary at the intersection of three roads. Giuseppe Ciganna prayed the rosary there every day for 20 years. In 1510 Mary appeared to him there and told him to build a church there. This basilica is the result. This is clearly a tourist town. As we worked our way downtown one glass of vino rosso at a time we noticed it got progressively more expensive. But scenic We met this local couple and their son on the way. This was the last day of school. Today we will be walking through fields of wheat again. This is ready for harvest, most is still green. Grapes are forming on vines, corn is knee-high.Venice in three days.

Peregrinating Italy: The Food

We have been eating well in Italy. Breakfast in the lodging, lunch trailside, dinner in a restaurant. Pasta with shrimp, mussels, and clams. Watermelon at a vegetable market My favorite wine so far is Refosco, a red. Wine before dinner

Pasta primadoro is my favorite. Quite simple, a tomato sauce.

Pizza is really good here- scratch crust hand made baked in a wood fired oven. Cherries along the trail – out in the middle of nowhere and apparently not harvested. Very tasty. We pick up cheese, fruit, and bread for lunch at village markets. We have decided that “fresh” is one reason the food is so good. Lemon gelato. I don’t often eat desserts, but when I’m walking all day I need the calories.

Gelato is a daily treat. €1.3 each (about $1.50). Beer. That goes without saying. Then bed by sunset. Breakfast is at 6:30.