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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pigrims, Basques and Lost Dogs

We just got back about 6 hours ago from 10 amazing days in the van - living on the road, very disciplined about all activities when having to do all daily chores in a tiny space..............clothes, food, maps, shoes, wet towels, beer, etc..!

Sounds like a nightmare, but in the strangest sense it was very liberating. Like returning to basics and what's important at that very instant, nothing else.

It was a great rootsy trip with Arcadian landscapes, the power of nature in the mountains, huge raging rivers and tiny tinkling springs. The people almost always earthy and of cheerful disposition, even when they're limping to the baker at 8 in the morning!!

We travelled just over 2500 miles in 10 days, starting from the channel, across the Loire valley, down to Bordeaux and the Basque country and its 'capital' Bayonne. Then across to the Western Pyrenees, and 2 valleys each spanning about 30 miles and going from just over sea level to cut through the mountains which separate France from Spain which rise to about 7000 feet where we were.

All hallowed ground - crises crossed by ancient paths taken by pilgrims from the middle ages till today - heading south to pay homage at the legendary tomb of St James (Santiago) in Santiago de Compostella, Northern Spain. We went into some of the old churches on the way and were often overwhelmed emotionally by the vibes of the old surroundings. I'm talking lump in the throat, and damp eyes stuff! Just simple, hand made emotion with the beauty and solitude and a tangible feel for the spirits of the men women and children who have passed through with nothing but veneration in their minds and intentions.

We did a few walks in the midst of it - climbed towards the peaks through Conifers and Silver Birch and Oak, gave up out of breath and thighs aching...........sat and tried to take in while Chris pulled out her painting stuff and pained pieces for her enjoyment - a real I am near to a happy but exhausted death, and she paints!

We found lost dogs in the mountains twice!! and both times the poor shivering mut's owners came back within 20 mins as we fed them from our sandwiches and wondered what to do next!!

The food and wine and cider were amazing - we ate from food mostly bought in village squares on market days, and butchers who sold everything from lamb chops, pigs heads to the most amazing roast duck legs, Bayonne ham quiches, pate de foie gras, and enough to keep the most curious tongue fascinated for months! Boulangeries were the same story, but in the pastry, sweet, crème de patisserie, and glazed fruit dimension!!

Heading north for the ferry home again, we visited the house of Claude Monet where he did all his water lily paintings, and old Norman villages where William de Conq was a lad - but dats another story which I'll add to my next piece.