peregrina2014


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Prague

This is part of the decoration around the door of the Basilica of St James in Prague. You can recognize James by the shells on his cape and water gourd at his waist. This is where I’ll begin my Camino, or as the Czech say, Savtojakubská Cesto in a few days. There has been a church in Prague dedicated to St James since the 1200s. That church burnt down in 1689. (The recent fire in Paris was far from an anomaly. What was modern about it was that Norte Dame is repairable after the fire.) The “new” church here in Prague was built in the early 1700s, very Baroque.

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Prague

This is part of the decoration around the door of the Basilica of St James in Prague. You can recognize St James by the shells on his cape and water gourd at his waist. This is where I ‘ll begin my Camino, or as the Czech say, Savtojakubská Cesto, in a few days. There has been a church in Prague dedicated to St James since the 1200s, it burnt down in 1689 (the recent fire in Paris was not an anomaly, many cathedrals were burnt and rebuilt in the Middle Ages, that much of Notre Dame was saved is the modern part of the story). This is the new church from the early 1700s, very Baroque.


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Last Day in Paris

I fly to Prague tomorrow morning. The area where I’ve stayed in Paris is called Trocadéro. It’s full of museums within easy walking distance. Today I went to the Museum of Architecture, fascinating, and the Museum of Man (anthropology), even more fascinating. I had planned to go to the Modern Art Museum as well. But after a lunch that culminated in a fabulous creation of fresh apricots and clotted cream I decided to go to Trocadéro Gardens instead, to watch the fountains and little kids on the playground and lovers making out on the grass and doze.


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Chartres

Today I took a train, round trip, and spent the day in Chartres, about 100k (60 miles) from Paris. Chartres Cathedral is a gothic cathedral “built” in the 12th century. Actually it was constructed over hundreds of years, different styles from different ages blending together. Renovation and repairs still ongoing.

The picture above is a modern stained glass window titled Mary as the Door to Heaven.

My personal favorites are some 12th century works, mostly frescos badly faded at present. They don’t photograph well. I love the feeling I get realizing that people from 900 years ago are talking to me through their art.

I took the tour of the crypt but not of the roof and high areas. I did that once in a much smaller church and nearly fainted from vertigo. I read the description and it sound marvelous. I’m sure it was a great tour but not for me.

Walked around town as well. There was a large sign in a shop proclaiming “instant zen”. It was a beauty parlor. I needed a haircut and went in. “Instant zen” apparently refers to a state of relaxation brought on by neck and shoulder massage. I declined the instant zen and just had a haircut. She did a very nice job.


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May 20, Quiet Time

Just strolled around the neighbored today, walked along the Seine, had a nice lunch. A little art gallery had a banner outside saying they had an exhibition of Zen Art. I paid my €11 and went in. My image of Zen Art is epitomized by the garden in Kyoto with raked sand and a few rocks. This was nothing like that. This seemed more Indian/Hindu to me, mostly large stone sculptures, Buddha with many arms, elephants, cows, men and women in sinuous poses. Most startling to me was what looked like a ginormous parrot with Buddha on his back riding piggyback. Downstairs by the toilets was an unrelated exhibit of photographs by Jean-Baptiste Huynh. I had never heard of him but I love his work, primarily portraits. For me that exhibit was worth the price of admission.


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Quite a Day

Sunday I flew to Paris. This is a picture out the window on the English side. It was raining/drizzling all day in France. I took the Metro to the airport in Manchester, worked wonderfully, the short (1 1/2 hr) flight was great. It’s always tedious going through Border Control, getting your bags (I have to check because I take a pocket knife), but no hitches. Then I was on the train to Paris. CDG airport is a fair way outside the city. Train should have taken 1 1/2 hr max. Five hours later I got to my room. Ten minutes into the trip there was a sudden stop, the lights went out (we were in a tunnel), engine sound ceased. Announcement on the intercom said there had been an accident, a man had jumped in front of the train and was killed. I have been praying for him. I have the great good fortune to have never been so depressed I can even understand suicide, it’s a mystery to me. We sat there at least an hour. They did get the lights on and I had purchased a sudoku book in the Manchester airport. Finally about 20 railroad police came on the train and handed us each 2 bottles of water. They said we had to get off the train. I followed the stream of people getting off and walking through the station, supposing the police were leading us to another train or possibly a bus. Not so. We were each left to our own devices. Total confusion. One man called an Uber and said I could go with him, but he was going in a different direction to where I wanted to go. A young, beautiful, Afro-French woman who spoke no English and was just passing by (and my high school French is barely existent, buried under time, years of Spanish with an icing of Czech) took me by the hand and put me on a bus, she apparently told the bus driver to tell me when to get off, because he did a while later, and pointed to another train I should get on. A young man there who did speak English assured me this was the train I wanted to go where I wanted to go, with a transfer later on, but he explained it all. When I got to the transfer place my ticket didn’t work! The man behind me said “of course it works” but he tried it and it didn’t, then he said ” stand close to me, closer, closer, we’ll go through the turnstile together”. And we did. It was long delayed but finally I was “home” at my room. So, with the suicide it was a dark day, but with all the help I was given by all these people (and others) it was also a wonderful experience of the kindness of strangers.


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Next Generation

Saturday, May 18, Angela hosted a party. All the relatives who could come did. As my mother was one of 13 there are lots of relations. Some have moved to Canada, others to Australia. My mother was a War Bride and moved with my dad, who had been a GI, to the States right after the war. There’s still a cohort in Manchester. All my aunts and uncles died some years ago, but I have cousins and their children and their grandchildren. The babies above are the latest, they are Orla, Arthur and Teddy. We gray hairs reminisced about a world these little ones will never imagine. We all said that none of our parents talked much about their childhood. We tried to piece together what their world was like from stray hints they occasionally dropped.