BLOG POST #5 Aug 10, 2016 – Leaving Montana
Automobiles – A Love Language
I had just drifted off this morning when the alarm rudely cut through the penitrating sleep fog swirling through my brain. It was 3:00 AM and darkness had finally over taken the Montana skies. Anticipation jitters of our pending journey made it hard to sleep. We were leaving Montana not to return until November 1st.
It didn’t take long to dress, brush our teeth, comb our hair and wash the sleep from our eyes. We had packed and re-packed the day before. We were ready when my oldest son Phil knocked on the door of the RV and handed me hot, steamy coffee in a to-go cup with just the right amount of cream to cut the bitter taste I have grown to love.
We were willing to drive ourselves to the airport and leave the truck where our son could pick it up later, but he wouldn’t have it. He wanted to see his parents off……I am reminded that love is expressed in many languages.
Planes – Farmers, Cell Phones & Roots
While we waited for our plane, we met a couple seventy years young. They were heading to Kodiak Island to visit their son and a few bears at his favorite fishing spot. The wife was not thrilled to meet any bears (except from her car window) so she and I immediately felt a commeradity. She was however, very excited to see her son and would risk a mauling so he could share his passion of seeing Kodiak bears catching salmon at his secret fishing spot……….she and I discussed the benefits of carrying bear spray.
During our conversation we learned they were retired wheat farmers from Great Falls Montana. Like many farmers, he had leased and planted the land (over 3,200 acres) before the price of wheat dropped 75%. He also did construction and roofed to make ends meet. His wife put the kibosh on roofing when he turned seventy…….smart wife.
Their nearest neighbor was 2.5 miles away from them and they had to drive 30 miles to get cell service. As I pondered what life would be like with limited technology, I glanced around those sitting near us at the gate and 99% were on their phones…….guiltily I put mine away.
On the plane I sat next to a women who was headed to Sweden to trace her family roots. She was meeting her siblings and some cousins. Together they were going to seek out their heritage……they have an inner desire to know from where and from whom they come from.
AUG 11-13 – Paris
The Boat and Captain Charles
The converted cargo barge on the Seine River served as our home for the three nights. It was built in 1931 to carry cargo down the river. We slept in the original and lovingly, restored captains quarters. Our 10 x 12 room had floor to ceiling teak wood and built in cabinets. The small toilet and shower were concealed behind the cabinets so it took us a while to find them. We had to step over and duck at the same time to enter. The shower (also all teak wood) was built much like a sauna with a 5’6″ ceiling. We sat on a wood seat and sprayed ourselves with a nozzel to shower while peering up to a bridge through an open 6″ portal. I would close it if someone was standing on the bridge gazing at the boats. A yellow light hung from the paneling in the corner near the ceiling.
We could look out through the frosted glass design of the secret toilet room in the cabinet while stting. Eighteen inches in front of the toilet at eye level was a 3′ x 3′ mirror. Below that was a small 8 inch by 12 inch oval stainless steal sink. Above on the wall (at standing height) was a small open portal looking out on the boat’s deck. Although charming and unique, it was made for humans of a smaller stature, from the 1930’s. If you love and appreciate boats and solitude, this is the place to stay when in Paris. If you like space, luxury and people and don’t mind a high price tag, I would suggest staying at ‘The Westin’.
Our handsome 28 year host, Captain Charles and movie maker, lived in the beautifully remodelled cargo hull, aka man cave, aka bachelor pad. Simple, wide and spacious design, with wood paneling and port hole windows every three feet down both sides for ventilation and light. Flat plexiglass skylights strategically replaced some of the decking above for added light.
We sat and chatted with Captain Charles the last night and learned of his heritage of “pirate like” parents (his words, not mine) who lived on a barge a few boats down the river. Apparently unlike today, they didn’t have to pay for docking their boat in the space but they also had no utilities. Today the rare and coveted spaces can only be aquired with the purchase of the boat and come with water and electricity. We also learned of his death defying, and tramatizing adventure, sailing across the Atlantic during bad weather and high seas. When he returned, he decided to settle down in a boat DOCKED at shore.
Old Paris- New Paris
“Paris is an immense workshop of putrefaction, where misery, pestilence and sickness work in concert, where sunlight and air rarely penetrate….”
After seeing London, Emperor Louis Napoleon III had a grand vision to remake Paris into a modern city worthy of the French Empire. Napolean found a wealthy man named Haussmann to partner with to transform the dark, dangerous, dirty, medieval style Paris of 1850 into one of air and light, that helped shape the life of Paris into what it is today.
AUG 14, 2016 Heading to Saint Jean Pied De Port
Trains – A Crowd With Many Faces
The train station from Paris to Saint Jean Pied de Port was busy but calm…..until a train arrived on one of the tracks. Then everyone changed and became a bit frantic as they crowded onto the platform and hurriedly boarded the arriving train. Once boarded, the trains silently (they are very quiet) sped off and the station returned to normal.
I met 66 year old Nancy a recently retired nurse from Three Rivers in California, on the train to Saint Jean Pied de Port. A convert to Catholicism at 57, she is feeling far away from God and hopes the pilgrimage will help her find her way back to a closer relationship with Him.
Laura was a cute oceanographer from California. She took a sabbatical to hike the Camino to contemplate a work life change. After the Camino she is headed to Morocco to finish up her trip.
Landscapes Can Change You
My view of the passing countryside through the train window reminds me of the California foothills, flat grassland, farmland, shrubs, and speckled with trees, graineries, small towns and an occasional, meandering river and old stone towns.
Soon the landscape out our window begun to change to green, lush vegetation and deep in the French Basque Country Saint Jean Pied de Port emerged, unspoiled and the starting place for our hike “On the Camino de Santiago.”
One of our goals during our travels is to put down our cell phones and converse with those we meet on our journey. A novel thought…talking to people face to face.