Saturday, December 15, 2012


On we travelled to Paris, the Eternal City, City of Lights.

Paris, the ancient and enormous metropolis with roadsigns in French --- which we mostly deciphered, but not always. With no city map except on John's trusty ipad, we made our way to our Airbnb, which was a houseboat on the Seine.


We were docked off the little Chemin de Halage, in the NW quadrant of this map, right near the D7.  Here is the view from our window, opps! porthole.

This riparian accommodation was not the world's --- or even Paris' -- most exclusive location, but remember, we are Peace Corps.  It was relaxing to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and who gets to Paris and can watch the scullers row by, a few feet from where we were having cafe au lait and croissants?
Just a few blocks' walk from our lodging to the train and into downtown Paris in twenty minutes. It was not a long drive south to Chartres. And what serendipity to be in Chartres on a day when bikers were  starting the last leg of the 2012 Tour de France.

After an incredibly jovial lunch with some British celebrants (their team came in first place!) we maneuvered around the Tour roadblocks and made our way into the Cathedral at Chartres. Seeing it for the first time was astonishing for Jody and Kevin.  And astonishing for Carol and John, who had been there in the early sixties, long before some amazing restoration had cleaned decades, if not centuries, of grime from the stone and from the stained glass:

Back then, the facade was dark and gray, the windows covered with soot.  Still, it was glorious then, just more glorious today. Jody took the picture on the left, of Kevin, John and Carol contemplating the main entrance; Kevin took the picture of the stained glass.  The incredible beauty of this sacred place speaks for itself.

Our good friend from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Gus Maffrey, and his lovely wife Liz live between Chartres and Paris, and we were able to spend an evening with them, not only remeniscing about the sixties but discussing current international politics, as well.  Dinner was delicious, and our only home-cooked meal in our three months since leaving Botswana!

We had a few more days in Paris, and we spent them walking the streets which we experienced as open, living museums. not even the Louvre.  Being in Paris was more exciting for us than looking at pieces of it displayed on a wall.  The parks are as magnificent as any museum as you can see below.

Jody and her friend Sally Ford waited tables together at Pho Van, a restaurant in Southeast Portland, several years ago.  Sally started a band, Sally Ford and the Outside, which has become very successful in Europe.  And, the band happened to be playing in Paris.  We went to hear her, of course.  They played outside to a big audience of people from their twenty-somethings to sixties-something.   Young and old dancing and jiving.  The world is full of connections and coincidences if we are open to finding them.  

The Eiffel tower is breathtaking from wherever you can see it, as is Montmartre.  The sight of it is always an unforgettable experience of Paris.

The neighborhood around Sacre Coeur is beautiful, fascinating, enticing.  The Cathedral Sacre Coeur was crowded with interesting people.  We walked and walked, inside, outside, and around it.  Alas, we wished, but could not, stay forever in Paris. Other places to go and things to do on this journey beckoned.....


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jody Kevin Belgium

Jody and Kevin's original plan to visit us in Botswana morphed into a European holiday with our change of circumstances.  What a gift to have them fly instead to Brussels on July 17!  It was incredible to see them after our year-plus away. And Brussels was a wonderful place to meet, in spite of the unseasonably cold and sometimes wet weather.

Although our Airbnb accomodation was not quite the quality we had previously enjoyed, we were in a wonderful central city location --- near the subway, the historic city square, and most everything.

Jody happy to be discovering the joys of Europe!
Such as amazing Belgium chocolate,
A little bit of Botswana:  chocolate hippo

and famous Brussels moules frites - mussels - served with the ubiquitous french fries!

We couldn't eat all of the mussels, not the ones we ordered in a restaurant, and not the ones in the park     

Kevin loving fries!

Jody loving mussels!

The exterior of this cathedral was
as incredible as the shrines within.

We spent much time just wandering the streets
which felt like living museums!
We discovered how people move into
fifth floor apartment buildings!

Incredibly, we found a cartoon museum with the treasure of Barbapapa books inside! Barbapapas are the most beautiful, creative and peace-loving creatures ever. Decades ago we read their stories to our children, and have since found it difficult to get for our grandchildren, especially in English.

Who could resist?
Oh yes, and ice cream sundaes too,
pure heaven!

From Brussels we took an (all too short) train ride to Brugge. We were destined to visit Brugge as one of our Camino friends suggested it and Jody and Kevin on their own research, made the same recommendation!.  Brugge is a designated UNICEF Heritage Site and also known as the Venice of the North because of the canals that criss-cross the city. Both accolades are true and then some --- as you can see here.

We stayed at an amazing Airbnb accommodation at the edge of the old city across from the canal that encircles it.  Here is a picture from our window into the backyard and garden.

Marjan, the owner, has a great and eclectic imagination, which freaked us out just a bit!

We spent a couple of days in Brugge, wandering the narrow streets, took a canal trip, wanted to ride bikes but got rained out, and kept running into this team of waste recyclers, who got to know us.

There were several windmills not far from our lodging, which are now simply for tourists to appreciate, which was easy to do.

In Brugge, travel by water, or.... by stone road!

The great thing about a UNICEF Heritage Site is that everything has to stay as it was, with few exceptions.  No advertising and no chain stores of any kind.  Who knows, it might be challening to live within a historical site (or maybe not, no Walmart, Walgreens or Safeway, hmmm...) It was for sure most awesome to visit!  But Paris was beckoning, so after nearly a year of no driving, we rented a car in Brugge and off we went!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Traveling From the Taize Community

We took the local bus from Taize to Macon Ville, through the incomparable Burgundy countryside, past Cluny, site of the oldest monastery in Europe, dating back to 910 CE.

 We spent  time wandering down a few streets, eating lunch and taking a few pictures with our soon-to-be-lost camera and some with our Ipad.  Macon's latest claim to fame was as a starting point for a leg of the 2012 Tour de France.  The bike theme was ubiquitous.

John enjoying bikes!

Carol enjoying window shopping!

We boarded the train in Macon Ville to take us through Paris and on to Brussels to meet Jody and Kevin.  During our stop over in Paris we had to schlep our bags through the subway from one station to the next. It was incredibly disconcering to see the station teeming with security police and big dogs as well as armed soldiers! Unnerving to be enjoying a cafe au lait and croissants while the soldiers with guns pointed walked by every few minutes.  We never learned whether this was prompted by a security concern or simply standard operating procedure. And it gave us some gratitude for our time in Botswana where we rarely saw an armed soldier or police officer.

Once in Brussels we had an evening to rest, in anticipation of picking Jody and Kevin up at the airport the next day for yet another travel adventure and the last chapter of our incredible time in Europe.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sojourning at the Taize Community

 July 9 --- on to the Taize Community located in the Burgundy region in southeastern France.  We have long been attracted to this community; Carol often participates a Taize-inspired service Sunday evenings in Portland. So to have the opportunity to spend time at where it all began was over-the-top incredible.
The concept of Taize came as an inspiration to a young Swiss, now known affectionately as Brother Roger, who in 1940 founded Taize as a reconciliation effort between Protestants and Catholics. The community of one hundred brothers comes from thirty different countries  to worship and work based on shared principles of peace, justice, reconciliation and hospitality.

Meal time, patient gathering in line for simple meals

And most amazingly, the brothers welcome thousands of pilgrims every year to join them in community life. More amazingly, the huge majority of these visitors --- especially in the summer when we were there ---- are young people from all around the world!
What vitality and energy we experienced --- that was over-the-top as well! (And thankfully we
discovered the quieter area for residence, meditation and study groups early on.)

We spent a week in community, which is the typical length of stay. Some pilgrims do remain for extended lengths of time. This is the path from the common areas of worship, gathering and dining to our lodging. John stayed with men from Germany, France, Austria, the UK and California; Carol slumbered in a lower bunk in her room joined by three very exuberant friends from Germany. Other than the challenge of sleeping through snoring sounds (not our own, of course!) it was a delightful experience.

A short walk down a wooded path led to this
beautiful lake, perfect for contemplation ---
and naps!

Our daily schedule included gathering
three times a day for worship
in meditation and song.

Our week at Taize came to an end, for it was time to meet Jody and Kevin. And though we left Taize, our memories of connection, worship and reflection in this amazing community will be with us forever.