Americans in Paris

Our Paris adventures began Friday night with a Rick Steves guided walk through Montmarte and a picnic dinner. Highlights included the austere Sacre Coeur Cathedral, which is the highest natural point in Paris.

The birthplace of modern art which is where as many as 10 artists including a young Picasso lived and worked enjoying the low rent and seedy culture.

The Moulin Rouge reminding us that though the rent in this neighborhood has skyrocketed, the seediness remains.

The next morning I our Paris plans were slightly modified when we realized that Bastille Day would close down many of the museums we had planned to visit to make room for the parade on Saturday morning. Very heavily armed French military personal made it clear that we needed to flip flop our Saturday and Sunday itineraries.

Hence Caleb and I headed toward Gare Montparnesse to figure out the train system to take us an hour southwest of Paris to Chartres to take in what many believe is the most impressive and well-preserved cathedrals, hands down. Both of us really enjoyed our time there and had an amazing and educational tour that included exploring the crypt, parts of which date back to the first cathedral erected on that site from the 4th century.

One of my favorite parts of Chatres Cathedral – the depiction of Jesus’ feet in the beautifully sculpted choir screen, depicting the ascension.

French military showing their muscle.

Saturday night we hoped to get to the Eiffel Tower for some night photography. Forget it. The whole city had come out to take in fireworks and Bastille Day festivities. So we enjoyed the carnival-like atmosphere, took a few pics, and called it an early night before things got out of hand (actually 11:45 which is pretty early by French standards). Today Musee de l’Orangerie and Orsay for some Impressionist culture!

Julia’s Shell

[A blog from Caleb]

I had the honor of taking a scallop shell on the Camino for my former neighbor, Alan. His wife, Julia, died of cancer as had always wanted to hike the Camino, but passed away before she could. So, he asked me to bring the shell with me on the Camino and leave it somewhere in Spain. I brought the shell and at the very end, left it in Santiago. I had been praying about where to leave it, and decided that I should leave it in the park. I found a wall in the park with many holes where I could leave the shell and no one would disturb it. So, it was there where I left the shell. It was a great honor to carry Julia’s shell along the Camino, and to leave it in Santiago.


All of the way my Savior leads me

And He cheers each winding path I tread

Gives me strength for every trial

And He feeds me with the living bread

And though my weary steps may falter

And my soul a-thirst may be

Gushing from a rock before me

Though a spirit joy I see

As we approached the distant cathedral, I found myself singing these words penned by Fanny Crosby and later adapted by Rich Mullins. After 41 days and 510 1/2 miles of walking, we had reached our goal, and about 1:00 this afternoon we stepped into the cathedral square at Santiago de Compostela. All of us felt a strange mixture of feelings: grateful to God for our wonderful journey, delighted that relief would soon be coming to our sore feet, shoulders and tired muscles, but also a sense of sadness that it was over.

What a blessing it was to run into several of our pilgrim friends that we hadn’t seen for a few days as we arrived at the cathedral. Dinner with them will come later today. Right now, we are resting in our last albergue and getting ready to go stand in line with the other 1,000 pilgrims who have arrived today to get our credentials certified that we did indeed do this.

A Spanish piper welcoming pilgrims. (A very different sound from the Scottish highlands pipes that I heard during my last sabbatical.)

Some photos highlighting the Galician beauty from our past few days.

One more animal to add to our list of sightings.

The monastery at Sobrado. The community dates back to 952, and the cathedral itself, which has become overgrown with flora from disuse, dates to the 17th century. Lots of fun to explore its beauty!

Our journey mapped

100 km to Go!

We are down to the last 100 km (about 60 miles) to Santiago! Tonight we are in an albergue with 94 beds, and we are definitely starting to see more pilgrims on the road, as many come to just do the last 100 or 200 km. It doesn’t seem fair, but completing the final 100 km awards you the credential of completing the Camino. Oh well.

Two days ago was a long uphill walk that was mostly in the rain. While it could have been a miserable day, we had fun doing it with some pilgrim friends we’ve been with for the past ten days or so – Daniel from Germany and Claudia and Isabel, two cousins from Madrid, Spain. On that same day though we toured the cathedral in Mondonedo. Highlights included seeing some of the oldest frescos in Galicia and getting stamped in our pilgrim’s passport with a two hundred year old stamp. The WiFi is very slow in today’s albergue so I will have to wait to upload those pics.

Today’s walk was very beautiful through forests and rolling hills. Much of it was done with Camino friends, Dean and Sarah from Dallas, but soon to be Denver residents! That’s them on the medieval stone bridge, Ponte de Saa, which we crossed today.

Our plan at this point is to continue at a 20 km per day pace, which will put us in Santiago on July 11. We fly back to Paris on July 13 and will spend four nights there at an Airbnb.

Adios Mar

Today’s walk brought a lot of thoughts about wrapping up the Camino. Part of it is due to the fact that we turned inland at Ribadeo, and will have no more ocean views on this last leg of the Camino.

Second, today we entered our fourth and final region on the Camino del Norte – Galicia, who’s capital is Santiago de Compostela.

Third, the Galician waymarkers are each counting down the distance (down to the meter!) to the cathedral and the end of our pilgrimage.

The funny thing is we feel very strong and not at all road-weary. Conservatively, we have 9 or 10 days left. I am showing we have walked 641 km or 398 miles. I am thankful that all three of us are postured to enjoy the new terrain and the Galician hospitality.

Last night we stayed in the beautiful town of Tapia de Casariego. Our albergue overlooked the sea, so I had lots of opportunity to capture the beauty with my camera.

Caleb moving to lower forms of life as he continues to attempt befriending animals he meets 🙂

And sunset at Tapia.