Perpignan and Collioure (France)

It is October. We are lucky to have good weather for this trip in Southern France. We first have a short visit in Perpignan.

“Perpignan is a southern French city near the Mediterranean coast and the border with Spain. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca during the 13th century, and a significant Catalan influence is evident in its medieval core.”

In the hall of the City hall, we see a sculpture of Aristide  Maillot called The Méditerranée.

I enjoy walking in the city, looking at the buildings.

We visit the church – église Saint-Jean.

Porte Notre-Dame. (below)

Soon it is time for lunch and then more km ( by car)  to get to Collioure where we are going to spend the night.

“Collioure is a town on the Mediterranean coast of southern France. On the sea, the medieval Château Royal de Collioure offers dramatic coastal views. The bell tower of 17th-century Notre-Dame-des-Anges Church was once a lighthouse. The Modern Art Museum includes paintings by Henri Matisse.”

Collioure is a very charming seaside village who offers 31 flavors of pastel houses and 6 petite pebbled beaches.

It is good to take our time and capture all this. We also take a ride with “le petit train” to see the view from the hill top.

We can see the windmill built in 1344 originally used for grain but today it grinds out olive oil.

Charming village. We  have  sangria made with local wine.

Collioure is only 24km/15 miles from the Spanish border and shares a common history and independent attitude with its Catalan siblings across the border.

The story will continue  next week. Thanks for reading and comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the GR-65. Day 9 ( last day)

Saturday September 30. Lauzerte to Moissac. This day will be over 30km.

A difficult day as it starts with rain as soon as we leave the gite in Lauzerte. We are wearing our raincoat. We have a cover on our backpack but we really hope the clouds are going to get tired to spray on us.

I don’t want to take photos with  my camera. It is in a plastic bag in my pocket. I try to take pictures with my cellular but really I will take very few that day. But when I see this building I want a photo. This must  be a dovecote ( where pigeons or dove can stay).

We walk, we walk and we do not find a place to shelter for our lunch. We do not want to waist time  as we think it would be better to arrive  and rest. But it is our last day on the trail and we keep thinking about the arrival.

We see a few pilgrims  who, like us, have to deal with the muddy and slippery  trail. Without walking sticks it is not easy to climb the step trail.

We have booked a hotel room for this last night. I am quite happy to get in  Moissac.

We have been there a few days before this adventure. It is where I bought my créantiale and now I have many stamps on it. In France we do not have to show our créantiale when we sleep in a gite  but in Spain the pilgrims need to have one.

All day the rain doesn’t stop. It would be our most difficult day. Our feet are wet and I feel cold. The warm shower is the best thing to do when we get to the room shortly after 3 pm.   We rest and later we choose a restaurant close by our hotel. We indulge in pizza and red wine.

Celebration. We have done more than 250 km in 9  days.

The next morning, we have time to wander in the city. It is not raining anymore!

The  abbaye Saint-Pierre . Since 1998,  the church and cloisters have had international protection as part of a World Heritage Site “Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France “.

I really like the sculptures of the French artist Toutain.

Now that this adventure is finished , we will return to Toulouse for two nights and  continue our traveling  in   Southern France  and Spain ( Catalonia) . More to come next week! Thanks for reading.

 

 

On the Gr-65, Day 4

Day 4. Grealou to St-Jean de Laur

We got up well rested. We took our breakfast upstairs in the kitchen of the house. I could see the sky and the great colors. I quickly took a picture.

When we were ready to leave the rain has started. We put our raincoat and covered our bags. We found the trail and followed it for a while but then we were not sure at all which direction to go.

We followed a trail but it was wrong. We backtracked our steps to only take another direction (walking along a road) and it was wrong also. We only  needed to see the markers:  two horizontal lines, one white, on red but there were nowhere. How frustrating! Finally a nice man driving saw us and stopped to tell us where to go and told us also that this section of the GR-65 was not very well marked.

I was so happy when we got back on track .The rain had stopped. We walked until we reached the town of Cajarc. We found a little park with a picnic table and we had something to eat. On the other side of the park , there were some public washrooms.

We walked through the town stopping quickly to see the inside of the church ( it was open).

And then walk, walk, walk. Mostly we were in the countryside. Fields of corn and sunflowers.

We only saw 2 pilgrims that day. There we going further than us.  I was really happy when we reached our gite, le Mas de Jantille. Roger and Colette have renovated this old farm to make this gite for the pilgrims. They have been doing the camino and they know exactly what we are our need.

Colette  welcomed us with a cold drink. We chatted a bit with her. I had  reserved our beds on line a few weeks before we left for our trip. That gite had 10 beds but that night we were the only one to stay there. We had time to do some wash, had a shower and rest a bit. We bought some food in the little “grocery store” of the gite. We chose what we wanted and put the money in a box. We cooked our dinner ( pasta  with sauce and cheese) and enjoyed some red wine.   We  prepared some boiled eggs to bring with us and eat the next day.

We were not going all the way to Santiago but those reminders were interesting to see.

Thanks for  reading my story on the Camino.

 

 

 

On the GR-65. Day 1

Day 1. Conques to Livinhac-le-Haut.

That day started early with great anticipation of our walk on the trail. After a quick breakfast, we left the “gite” , passing on the Roman bridge. It  was a moment  I wanted to capture as best as I could.  I did not want to spend too much time taking pictures  but  I needed to do it. John , from South Korea was also taking pictures. We can see him here  ahead of my husband.

So, quickly after a few photos, we were going up on the trail and up it went until we reached the Chapelle Sainte-Foy.  We were not the only one  as  most “pilgrims” are eager to start the day as soon as possible.

I remember not being sure if we were going in the right direction as there was 2 options. A German man ( Thomas)  talked with us and told us the right way. We were walking  fairly fast even with our backpack. Mine was around 8 kg and my husband a little more , 10 kg or more. We needed to get use to it. We  were mostly in the countryside   which was nice. Fall can be such a great time to walk.

When the hunger started to bother me. We found a picnic table to eat some of the food  we had  bought in Conques. I was hungry  but not too much. And we did not want to waist too much time. I wanted to arrive as early as possible  in our next gite.

Weather was good. Spirit was good also. 23 km is not too long  but we were  quite happy when we reached the village of Livinhac-le-Haut.  We found our CH (meaning chambre d’hôtes); the lady was not there  but she kindly left for us 2 beers and a delicious piece of pie. We  had a shower and a little rest and then ventured to see  the small village.

We  saw our 3 new French friends  that had dinner with us in  Conques.  I did not know  they were going to spend the night in the same village. We had a beer  and a chat  with them . We reserved a table at the only restaurant of the village after they told us  they were also going to eat there. We met our lovely lady at our CH and then returned to have  our dinner. Finally my Fit-bit was showing 26 km. I was happy with this first day and was looking forward for the continuation. All we needed  was a good sleep and we would be ready for another day on the trail .

France (part 2): Conques.

We were in France with a special  plan . Our friends drove us to Conques. Ah! What a lovely village.  On a sunny day it was  so pleasant to walk around .  The Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy  in the middle of the village has been  a popular stop for pilgrims traveling the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela.

There is little exterior ornamentation on Conques’ abbaye  except necessary buttresses and cornices. The exception to this is the Last Judgment tympanum located above the western entrance.

This was the reason for us to go there. We were going to start a 9 days “pilgrimage” on the GR-65 that is also called Via Podiensis. This route starts in Puy-en-Velay.  200 km east of Conques.  For us it was just  easier to start our adventure in Conques. But we have plans to go back and walk the part we missed in 2017.

We had time to enjoy the  village before and after we left our bags at the Centre d’acceuil Abbaye Sainte-Foy. A team of volunteers help us to check-in. We bought our lunch for the next day and someone  showed us our room. We could feel this place was perfect for us to start our adventure.  There was much to explore in Conques. We decided not to visit the cloister. Maybe we will go back and have more time.

In the Abbaye , in the afternoon, a lady was playing the organ.  It was fantastic to visit the Abbaye at our leisure.  We had a busy schedule ( vêpres, dinner, pilgrim’s benediction , explanation of the tympanum of the Abbaye, organ concert). “Vêpres”  is s a sunset evening prayer service. We did not have to attend  but I felt this was part of our experience on the Camino.

At dinner, we met some friendly French people at our table. There were about 70 other pilgrims. Most of them would be walking the next day but some were ending their journey.  They  were from France,  Germany, Switzerland, South Korea, Quebec.

On my next post, I will  start tell what happen during our 9 days on the Camino. Thank you so much for reading my story. And if you have time and feel like leaving me a short comment, I will be happy to read it and reply if you have questions.

 

 

France (part 1)

We  flew from Amsterdam to Toulouse where our friends were waiting for us.              Over the next few days we did many outings in the area with them.

Château de Mazères. This large residence was  the country residence of the Archbishops of Auch, “resolutely limited to two floors, sitting in the center of a large winery and folded into five bodies of irregular buildings around a courtyard longer than wide, accentuated its cold and residential character, if it were not illuminated by the use of bricks and stones harmoniously mixed, playing with their differences of color and materials. It is flanked by a medieval square tower. ” The couple who bought the building is renovating. A big job  but I think they do it with passion!

Toulouse.     A city with unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks, which earned it the nickname la Ville Rose (“the Pink City”).

The violet of Toulouse is the emblem of the city of Toulouse. You can get pretty much everything you want with that flavor.

It was blue that made Toulouse wealthy. Varying shades of the color are everywhere on shutters, on lamp-posts, doors, windows and ornamental ironwork. It’s a subtle blue-grey that perfectly complements the ancient red brickwork. Trade in pastel (woad, the yellow-flowered plant whose leaves yield a blue dye) allowed Toulouse merchants to amass vast fortunes.

St-Jacques  or St-James  seen in Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques.  We were going to see “him”  or at least his image  many times during this trip !

At the market, we bought some typical sausages of Toulouse. Delicious !

We also went  to Moissac. Known worldwide for its prestigious Abbey of Saint-Pierre, the capitals of the cloister of the abbey and tympanum are listed by UNESCO under the roads to  Santiago de Compostela.

Another day. Another direction. A quick visit in St-Felix Lauragais. Taking time to admire the view on the area. Isn’t it  beautiful ?

Back in Toulouse . Enjoying a walk along the Canal du Midi on a sunny afternoon. Many people were cycling. The perfect terrain as it is quite flat. I will say thank you to my friend Claude for taking this picture of me and my husband.

Good time for sure.  It was soon time to get ready other adventures that  will be the topic on my next post.

Thanks for reading. And for leaving a comment if you have time and wish to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam (part 3)

On our last morning in Amsterdam…

More to see . We did not want to leave without walking  in the Red Light District. I had read in a book that  is  was better not to take photos. But there was a few places  I felt is was OK. It was early in the morning and almost nobody were on the streets.

According to my travel guide,  nearly  a thousand prostitutes work in the Red Light District, sharing  about 200 windows and a very long history. Prostitution was officially legalized in 2000 and is now considered just another profession with rules, regulations and taxes.

Here is the statue  dedicated to the Unknown Prostitute. She’s nicknamed Belle.

Little Venice. “The Venice of the North”.  Little Venice is a term used  Europe-wide  for any charming  neighborhood with canal side houses. Like Venice , the city was built in a  marshy  delta area, on millions of  pilings  and like Venice it grewed rich on sea trade.

In the Red Light District, the oldest neighborhood of Amsterdam,  I visited an hidden church.  Amstelkring Museum. From the outside, the building look like any other houses but inside, it holds a secret, a small , lavishly decorated place of worship hidden in the attic. Back in  the 16th century there was one group they kept in the closet. The Catholics. For two centuries ( 1578-1795), Catholicism in Amsterdam was illegal but tolerated. In 1663, a wealthy merchant built Our lord in the Attic.

You can often see the year  when  the houses were built. Like this one  . 1686.

Our B & B- Hotel Brouwer, was also in an older building ( had been renovated a bit) . 1652.

We enjoyed our  days in Amsterdam. Such a friendly city.  I was hoping we would have time to go to Haarlem by train but finally there was so much to see in Amsterdam and not enough time to venture in this city. Maybe it would be just nice to visit another time.

This is the end of my posts on Amsterdam. We are going to fly to France and have other adventures.

Thanks for reading. See you in France !