Saturday, October 18, 2008


Only for Geologists

Okay, Amber says I'm crazy. Perhaps. What can I say except that we are sitting on a patio and looking at some of the most beautiful geologic structures I have ever seen. So I'm a bit absorbed by them. Later, I hope to post pictures to show you what I mean. Trento is in the heart of the Dolomites, about which I know almost nothing. But I can recognize compressional faults and folds when I see them --- as grand as any that you'll ever look at. You won't see anything like it elsewhere, except perhaps in the Canadian Rockies. I showed them to some of the kids; a bit of a novelty. Only crazy geologists are likely to look twice.


Teresa -- Just looking around

Teresa and Margerita

Teresa and Margerita took their first breaths early in the afternoon. Like all of us, they screamed upon feeling the new air inside them, and realized that they were hungry. Especially Margerita who ate her fill and fell asleep at Anita’s side. Teresa fussed a bit more, not quite sure what she was supposed to do. But her eyes were wide open, looking at her four uncles, and Marcello. Perhaps she wondered what the excitement was about. All our incomprehensible jabber. At any rate there seemed too much going on for her to want to feed or sleep. Anita didn’t stop smiling, though she was too tired to say very much. The long awaited day was here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008



After we left Briancon, we drove further up the mountainside into the charming alpine village of Nevache. We were starving and in search of a restaurant recommendation we’d been told about, Chez Nicole where we feasted on Fondue Savoyarde and another dish I’d never heard about, if that’s possible, but mimicked a raclette (potatoes and cheese and lardons, of course). Some Vin du Maison and off we went, fortified, in search of the chalet where Paul spent a summer (43 years ago) with a Dr. Bichet and his wife and four boys. Forty five minutes later, driving through the most incredible scenery I’ve ever had the good fortune to see, Aspen and Larch trees turning color as far at the eye could see, we found the chalet. Sadly, the Doctor wasn’t there, but happily still alive, we drove up the mountain until the road ended at series of foot paths leading deeper into the rocks where Paul said he remembered the most beautiful lakes.

Camping in Nevache has been the most beautiful site on the trip thus far and while it was sad to leave such beauty, today we’ve made our way to Lago di Garda (25 km outside of Verona) where it’s so hot Paul has deserted me for a swim.

Our plan is to wake up early, drive through Verona and then on to Venice where we stay the next two nights and then on to Trento, Slovenia, and Croatia. We’re trying to break new ground, visiting places neither of us has seen except how can I not take the love of my life to Venice? C’est ne pas possible.

Our destination in Croatia is the Island of Pag – they say there is good camping there – we’ll see.

Monday, October 13, 2008


We never planned to come this way. Forty two years ago I spent summer in the high Alps close to this town, walked the streets, climbed hills along with some kids. For a month I was forced to speak only French -- even quarrel in French. The town is built as a medieval fortress it clings to the rock face, surrounded by a moat, narrow streets each with steps so that you can't drive there, never could drive a horse and cart up the hill. A large gutter with flowing water marks the center of the road. Shops are all closed today, Monday. The streets only have an occasional pedestrian.

Surrounding mountains haven't changed in 42 years, vertical cliffs and crags, clear running streams. Today they speak more of their history, folding, uplift, stuff that geologists understand. Trees everywhere are changing colours, accenting the landscape with an automnal palette, bringing out also the reds, and gold of the mountains.

We're heading for Nevache to sample Alpine Fondue, and other local specialties. Then to our camp by the river. Tomorrow, via Turin toward Venice.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Here I am, on the steps of the sanctuary of Rocamadour!!! 266 steps straight up


Montsegur Pictures

We're catching our breath here at Les Moureous. It's a peaceful place, with a steep drop off on one side, cliffs that reach for the skies. A little like Rivendell, or how I imagined it.
Is it the warm sun, the armosphere in the valley, or perhaps the spirits of the good people --- les bonhommes that altogether allows you to think clearly and creatively. The mornings we sit quietly and write. A new novel is kicking about in my head, and the words of the first chapters are appearing on paper. Already the stone alignments of Carnac have found their place, names and features of people called into existence.
Yesterday we walked across the meadow, and up a steep woodland path to Montsegur. I had a deep feeling that I was walking along a very ancient path. Nigel confirmed my insight, that the path could have been used a thousand years earlier. Closing my eyes I could see the black robed figures who climbed that way to the citadel, the small encampments. Campfires, meetings under the trees. It all ended in 1243 when the French and Basque armies stormed the peak. 200 Cathars who would not renounce their faith were burned together on a large fire. We're staying a few more days, then on to Italy and the Dalmatian coast.


Dear Friends,

Normally I’d send a personalized letter to each of you, but our facilities, such as they are, have been challenging; camping in frigid conditions and covering distances we never anticipated but yesterday afternoon we arrived in paradise outside the town of Lavelanet, near the ruined castle of Montsegur in the Pyrenees. In fact, from my kitchen window, it’s the view I see when I have my morning coffee. We’re staying with Nigel, a friend of Paul’s, who bought the property about fifteen years and never looked back. I can see why. The majesty of these mountains is so enchanting and the environs thankfully still unspoiled that we’ve decided not to go the Greece. (If we had another month we could do it, but…even I find that a bit too greedy).

So we’re going to stay here at Nigel’s for another few days (besides, there’s a party on Thursday night that I couldn’t bear to miss) and then head down the Cote D’Azur, dividing the rest of our time between Northern Italy, Croatia (we both want to see the Dalmatian Coast again, especially Korchula and Hvar) and a quick trip into Munich to see Natalia, Tomek and Elzbieta.

The highlights so far have been the climb to the top of Mont St. Michel and the climb to the top of Rocamadour where we saw the Chapel of the Black Madonna. Exquisite. We’ll be off on a hike today and a stop in Mirepoix; tomorrow the steep climb up Montsegur.

I’m hoping Paul will be able to attach pictures to this letter; if not, then I’ll send them along when we get home.

We’re having the time of our lives; loving every minute together. Amazing things happen when you challenge yourself. (I think so, anyway).

I’d like to say I’ll be sending post cards, but we’re moving too fast for that and it’s hard to write in a tent.

Look us up on the map and you’ll get a general idea where we are, where I’m thinking about you, missing you and wishing you were here too.

As I close this letter, I’m wondering if maybe we shouldn’t instead head south through Spain into Morocco – I’ll have to speak to Paul about that…see what he thinks. I’m pulling out the maps again – I’ll let you know.



PS – We’ll have to save Morocco for another trip.
Last night, feasted on Cassoulet, crusty bread, red wine, whisky and watched the classic International Hotel (W.C. Fields, Gracie Allen, George Burns, Bela Lagosi, Cab Calloway) with Nigel in the Blues Bar and laughed so hard our sides split.

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