Monthly Archives: July 2015

Breakfast in France, lunch in Spain, dinner undecided!

We arrived in Hendaye late in the evening as the sun had just set (sunset in the south of France is around 9 PM). Fortunately, our bed and breakfast host had agreed to pick us up at the train station.  They live in a beautiful 3 bedroom apartment overlooking the bay. Dany and Michel are very gentle souls.  Michel is a retired college principal. Dany is a retired French teacher who grew up in Hendaye. 

  
View from the apartment when we arrived at night. 

  
The view in the morning was even better. 

  
After breakfast at our B&B (in France), Michel drove us in the morning to the “Santiago Bridge” that runs over the river Bedosa that is the border between France and Spain and from where we will begin our walk in the morning. 

   
    

We decided to check out the path and the markings to familiarize ourselves with what to expect. 

   
 
Camino del Norte is truly a path less traveled as we ran into only 4 pilgrims in the whole day and found 1 albergue  which was not open (a sign said they would open at 4). We did see quite a few pensions in town, so we will have backup options if needed.  We enjoyed our first Spanish lunch of the trip while watching kids play in the plaza. 

  
The walk back to our bed and breakfast was nice along the coast. 

   
   
Our option for dinner is to just walk around nearby and have dinner in France or take the ferry on a 5-minute ride from a block away to Spain to eat there. Tough choices, but probably the last time we will have this much flexibility. 

Tomorrow we start early as we may have to walk 25 km before we find an albergue!

Goodbye to Paris

   
 Tuesday night we had the opportunity to listen to Vivaldi’s Four Season’s at the beautiful  Sainte Chappell  across from Notre Dame. The chapel was surrounded by stained glass windows and the violin concerto was elegant and peaceful. 
On Wednesday, our last day in Paris, we visited the Montemartre district and took a walking tour of Moulin Rouge, Toulouse-Lautrec’s base, Pablo Picaso’s studio, Dalida’s House,  and Van Gogh’s breakfast haunt.  We also visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  
In the afternoon we took a river cruise on the Seine witnessing many beautiful sites of Paris for one last time. 

            

Early morning today we left Paris for Lille (northern France) to visit with Clarisse, one of our foreigh students who visited us 5 years ago. She has just finished her bachelor degree and is about to start her masters. It was a pleasure to spend a few hours with her, walking the town and getting to enjoy her company. 

        
We are now on our way to Hendaye through Bordeaux to the south of France at the Spanish Border. Today marks the end of our tourist portion of the vacation! 

We plan to begin our Pilgrimage part of our journey after a day’s rest on Saturday. We are excited about the simple and meditative days ahead where life will become the simple task of living in the moment. Each day will be a new adventure that weaves itself into a tapestry of memories.

Hello from Paris

We left Berlin Sunday night by train after spending the last two days walking, river cruising on the Spree and visiting Potsdam (30 km from Berlin) 

   
    
    
 
At Potsdam we walked through the Park Sanssouci and through the old town. 

   
    
    
    
    
 
After 10 days we said goodbye to Germany and arrived yesterday morning in Paris (long train ride!). We spent yesterday and today walking around the historic city.  Our first stop was Notre Dame. We walked over to Shakespeare and Company (Sitara’s recommendation).  We made our way to the Louvre (eating Macaroons and Crepes along the way – one of the benefits of walking 20,000 plus steps a day in Gai Paris). 

   
    
   
We found this beautiful saying on Shakespeare and Company’s steps to upstairs, “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your being” – Hafiz. 

Last night as we sat near the Louvre, we met Alex, a chef from NY, and we had a wonderful time chatting and getting to know each other.  

   
We ended our day by having a wonderful meal at a French/Algerian restaurant that sold these sweets:

   
 
Today we started our day at L’Arc de Triomphe and slowly made our way down the Champs-Élysées to Notre Dame. 

   
    
    
    
    
 
In the afternoon we went on a walking tour of the Latin Quarter.  I am writing this as we finish our dinner across from the Pantheon, at a nice French restaurant, where I am using their wifi (since I have not had access to good wifi for last day and a half). 

   

Berlin sights through chocolate 

This is for the chocolate lovers – you know who you are!

We discovered yesterday that Berlin is famous for its chocolate.  

 
The choices are mind blowing. Here is just a sampling to tease you with pictures since we can’t bring it with us while we walk 500 miles. 

   
    
 
What is even more amazing is how they have captured the Berlin landmarks with chocolate. I have included the video of the lava chocolate for your kicks. 

    
 
  

Berlin – fascinating exhibition of contrasts

Last Night we left Munich by night train for Berlin. Thanks to the bunk bed, we had a restful journey!

I was not prepared for the Berlin I witnessed today. A hundred years of economic, and ideological contrasts has created an interesting city which has figured out a way to thrive despite complete destruction only 60 years ago. They show the contrasts of Facism, communism, and capitalism well. 

We arrived in Berlin at 8 am and after dropping our backpacks, we immediately headed out to explore the city.  We walked through the Grober Tiergarden (second largest after Munich’s English Garten). 

   
   
The garden led us to the Brandenberg  Gate, the iconic Berlin landmark from the15th century. 

    

  

     
The holocaust museum near the gate is simple yet powerful in its imagery and size. 

       

     

   
Berlin won’t be Berlin without the Berlin Wall plastered all our the city pointing out the contrast in its stark reality of how time and prosperity changes with freedom. 

   
   

More of Berlin tomorrow!

Never Again

  
Today we went to the somber and bleak site of Dachu concentration camp. It is hard to fathom and witness “men’s inhumanity to men”. The sign by the Germans of “Never Again”, gives one hope. Yet, since 1945 we have seen so many more atrocities committed in this world, I wonder if it is a tendency we as human beings can overcome. 

I must share the following memorial statue created by a German artist in 1950 called “Anonymous Prisoner”. 

  
Roughly translated it means. 

“Honor the dead but warn the living.”

Below is a memorial designed by one of the prisoners of the concentration camp.    

View from outside looking in. 

 

Bavarian Alps and schloss Neushwanstein

    
Before there was Disney and its fantasy castle, there was schloss Neushwanstein. Nestled in the Bavarian Alps, 1 1/2 hour from Munich, is the genesis for Disney Castle.  Built in mid-1800 by king Ludwig II, this castle was built to fuel the King’s fantasy-filled reclusive life. 

The first view from the town is beautiful. There are about 10,000 tourists who visit this castle everyday.  It is about a 20 min climb to the castle and another 15 minutes to Mary’s bridge. 

   
    
   
Climb up to the bridge and the view from the bridge. 

   
    
 
   
   
Up close.  

    
    
 
View of the castle where king Ludwig grew up (rebuilt by his grandfather on the site of an earlier 12th century castle).