“Let’s do something significant for our Anniversary next year!” I said, after watching the movie called “The Way”. Then, with no hesitation and big smiles, we both turned to each other and said in unison, “Let’s do it!”
Inspired by its depiction of an ancient 500-mile pilgrimage, El Camino de Santiago that began in France, and traversed through the Spanish Basque countryside, we began to dream. (John and I had walked the John Muir trail, climbed Mt. Whitney a few times, and Mt. Shasta about 25 years earlier). So we had earned some valid walking credentials in our history.
But when Inspiration comes, you move out with a breath of something new and exciting, many unknowns waiting to be discovered, to create an Adventure par none to celebrate the miracle of our God-breathed Marriage, with its many ups and downs, twists and turns, lavished with moments of mercy and grace.
John began to organize our route in France: one LOVEWEEK in Paris (a schoolgirl dream of mine), of course, then Giverney (Monet’s garden, John’s favorite artist), Mont St. Michel (a Medieval fortress on an island), the Loire Valley, Rouen and Orleans (for my heroine, Joan of Arc). We planned to spend two and a half weeks in France, enough to resurrect my College French from the dust bins of history.
On Thursday, August 13th, we sat in our Paris apartment, maps in hand, ready to begin. Il pleut. It’s raining. How lovely. But there were learning curves to master: four different keys to the flat, the lift, the stores, the neighborhood, the train station, and the metro! John masterfully oriented us in one day, and soon we toured Paris via the Seine river on a “batobus” or water taxi.
From our home base we visited Notre Dame for a Gregorian Chant Mass, the Louvre, Montmartre’s Sacre Coeur Basilica, the Eiffel Tower, museums and gardens galore, tasting all the delights this Grand Dame called Paris had to offer.
Then it was time to scale down into pilgrim gear, so we mailed clothes back home, and left an empty suitcase outside the Post Office. While in the Loire Valley we walked 10 km in the rain in ponchos with backpacks as a “shakedown” exercise for our Camino, and decided to train a train from Orleans to Bayonne and a bus to St. Jean Pied au Port. It was time to begin our pilgrimage in Spain.