Welcome to Paris!

With the Camino de Santiago completed, we fly from Santiago, Spain, back to Paris on Vueling Airlines a few days before our return flight from Paris to Minneapolis, MN. Might as well look around since we are already here!

When you think of Paris, you think of romance, indulgence, and the sweet smells of perfume.

Um… I hate to burst your bubble, but that isn’t necessarily the case, unless you are Princess Kate or George Clooney. (I’m 60% sure we saw him in the Paris airport)

As we sit with our backpacks on the RER train leaving Charles de Gaulle Airport, Liz warns/lectures us NOT to talk to anyone on the metro subway and don’t be so nice.  A little harsh, perhaps?

We soon find out why.

Scam:  Ticket purchase help

While attempting to purchase metro tickets at a machine, a man speaking broken English acts friendly, takes over the transaction, insisting on “helping.” Forcing his way into our machine, he puts his special credit card in,  pushes buttons with lightning speed and five tickets appear.  Already severely annoyed, Liz notices that the total was 8 Euro. After he thrust the tickets into Randy’s  hand (His culture (Gypsy?), apparently, assumes  the oldest male to be in charge), he says, 35 Euro  – follow me!” and goes towards the metro train we are to get on.  The tiger in Liz raises it’s ferocious head and after grabbing those metro tickets from Randy,  all 5′ 2″ of her chases after the thief (with the four of us following), shoves the tickets back in his hand, scolds him and stomps awayWe then go back to the machine, she and Joan purchase metro tickets for 8 euro total and we go on our merry way. From then on, we keep vigilant with awareness of surroundings and say, “NO,” to every person unnecessarily approaching us. Close call.

Here is a link to a page of security tips when using Paris (or probably any) metro system. The above scam was listed right at the top of the list.  http://parisbytrain.com/paris-security-safety-tips/

Lesson learned:  Be extra careful if you are Minnesota Nice on the Paris Metro.

sncf_blue_green_ticket_vending_machines

Photo from the Paris Public Transportation website.

Welcome to Paris!

 

 

 

On top of the world… and border patrol?

“ The mountain is eight miles up, and eight miles down the other side, and seems to touch the sky. Climb it and you’ll feel you could push the sky with your hand.”

-Codex Calixtinus, ca. 1139

Day two and we are still in France as we continue along the Camino de Santiago French Way through the Pyrenees.
2014CamHmmm… I wonder when we’ll reach the border of Spain?  We must have our passports handy so we can show them to the border patrol, right?

2014Cam-11dmvMeet our Norwegian Camino friend, Willie Nilsen.  Wonderful conversation including an insight into living within the Arctic Circle and Camino tips and bits.  (At first we thought he said “Willie Nelson” as in the country singer/songwriter which started a conversation of its own)

2014Cam-15dmvA concession stand in the middle of nowhere.

2014Cam-16dmvIt’s a living… Buen Camino!
2014Cam-19dmvYes, weather can change in a heartbeat as the fog envelops our path.

2014Cam-10dmvcrOur clear day has turned to pea soup fog.

2014Cam-12dmvThus, the view from the top isn’t necessarily the best for the Catholic pilgrims adding a stone and a prayer to this shrine of the Virgin Mary .

camno1-3shrineThe above image from sectionhiker.com shows the view on a clear day.  Tough luck for us, but life isn’t perfect and we are accustomed to that. We are just thankful for each injury free step that we take.

Now, where is that border?  I see a flag ahead…

2014Cam-28dmvRandy and Bryon seem to breeze through the border checkpoint without any problems!  Guess I can put my passport away.

2014Cam-26plclThank you, fellow pilgrim, for taking our group photo as we enter Spain!  As you can tell by the Sherpas, rain has settled in for the day.

Loving this and smiling…

 

We “sheepishly” begin Camino Day #2…

stage 1 camino ele_st.jeanWe leave Orisson , but not before observing a beautiful sunrise with clouds caressing the valley.

View from orrisontimeline1

2014Cam-7crpopWe have opted for the Napoleon route which is more challenging but especially scenic, if the fog doesn’t hinder our view.

2014Cam-2pldmvcr2Horses are free to graze along the road and hillside.

2014Cam-4pldmvcr…and sheep allow us to tread through their turf, as well.

2014Cam-6pldmvcrThe video below is a short insight into our time spent sharing the path with sheep.   ding, ding, ding…  Heard bells much of the morning.

2014Cam-17pldmvcrInteresting to note that the flock has a definite leader. I can understand the references to sheep more than 500 times in the Bible to help us understand concepts and human behavior.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27

2014Cam-21dmvWhen you share the path with sheep and horses, you have to expect to watch your step!  This is probably why boots are not allowed near the beds in the albergues!

We are enjoying the mild, but cool, temps as we trudge along.  However, we must continue to be aware that the Pyrenees are known for unpredictable weather.  We were previously told of helicopters having to rescue injured pilgrims on this stretch…  Yikes!

Planes, trains, buses… oh, my!

us-europe-mapflatIt took three days of traveling by planes, trains and bus to finally arrive in St. Jean Pied de Port, the traditional start of the Camino Frances or the French Way of St. James, to begin our hiking adventure along an ancient Roman road steeped with history along its challenging path.

Plane from Minneapolis to Iceland (8 hour layover), another plane from Iceland to Paris and train from Paris to Bordeaux, from Bordeaux to Bayonne, train/bus from Bayonne to St. Jean.  Whew!!

map

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (literally meaning “Saint John at the foot of the mountain pass” in French) is an ancient town in south-western France in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. The town is also the old capital of the traditional Basque province of lower Navarre.

2014Cam-1070128dmvBasque people have managed to preserve their own identifying characteristics such as their own culture and language throughout the centuries and today a large part of the population shares a desire to be self-governed, either with further political autonomy or full independence.  ~ wikipedia.org

2014Cam-1060799pophpLooks like we aren’t the only ones to discover this location.  Are all of these people really going to start walking early tomorrow morning?  Crowd and traffic control may be needed, if that is the case!

2014Cam-1060797popdmvIn St. Jean Pied de Port, flows the Nive River. For years, it has been an inspiration to artists such as in The Bridge at St. Jean Pied de Port by Louis Dewis.

2014Cam-1060789dmvWe find our cute little hostel, Gite Azkorria, leave our boots in the entry and settle in to our home for this night only.

7325973Hooray for railings on the top bunks!  Not always the case…

2014Cam-1060795pophpcrPilgrims attempting the walk may light a candle at the local cathedral before embarking on their journey.

2014Cam-1060800popcrWe found a local outdoor bar, instead, to calm our nerves for the upcoming start of our hike.  A restless night of sleep lies ahead as we wonder if we have bitten off more than we can chew.

2014Cam-1060803dmvhpThese jet lagged, travel weary pilgrims are just chewing at the bit to get started – can’t you tell?