Today I held history in my hands

Today I did something so unexpected and surreal – I held history in my hands… I should really say I held history between my fingers.


This is a true size replica of the world’s earliest known realistic representation of a human face sculpted in mammoth ivory more than 25,000 years ago. She is known as La Dame de Brassempouy (the Lady of Brassempouy) or La Dame à la Capuche (Lady with the hood). It was discovered in a cave at Brassempouy, France in 1892.

She is 3.65 cm high, 2.2 cm deep and 1.9 cm wide – 1.43 inches high, 0.87 inches deep and 0.56 inches high. A vertical crack on the right side of the face is linked to the internal structure of the ivory. On the head is a checkerboard-like pattern formed by two series of shallow incisions at right angles to each other; it has been interpreted as a wig, a hood, or simply a representation of hair.

Brassempouy is a small village in the département of Landes in southwest France. Two caves near the village, and only 100 metres from each other, were among the first Paleolithic sites to be explored in France. This sculpture along with eight other sculptures were discovered in the Pope’s Cave in 1894.

Although the style of representation is essentially realistic, the proportions of the head do not correspond exactly to any known human population of the present or past. Archeologists and researchers have determined that not only is this sculpture the earliest of a human face, it also is a conceptual depiction of a woman indicating that the cromagnon artist was capable of a higher level of imagination, thinking and creativity than was ever attributed before this discovery.

As I held this tiny intricate and detailed work of art my preconceived notions of cromagnon beings faded away. I found myself in awe knowing that the tools used to carve this sculpture were crude and less than precise, yet here was this amazing piece of history held between my fingers.

What other preconceived notions do I hold that are totally wrong? If an artist created this work of art more than 25,000 years ago with primitive tools, what are we capable of doing, thinking, inventing and creating today?

All I know is that I held in my hands an important representation of art from the dawn of man… And now, space and time have taken on a totally new meaning to me. I think I will need some time to put my arms around all that. Until then I stand in awe of an experience I will never forget.
Cheers from France




Visit to St Vincent de Paul’s home

How amazing is this; I visited the actual birth place and home of St Vincent de Paul. He was born in the village of Pouy near Dax in 1581 and was canonized in 1660.



I then visited the local albergue where Stephane is an hospitalero.
Tonight is a special local celebration of which I will post photos later on and a youtube video.

Tomorrow we head off to meet up with the rest of team Nestor, and we should be setting foot on the Camino by noon or so France time (6 am EST). My next blog will be from the Camino in Spain. Please keep in mind that the route we are following called the Bayonne route is much more secluded than the other routes, therefore my updates may be delayed.
Please don’t send for the Guardia Civil quite yet. And remember, the Camino will provide.

My last cheers from France for a while

Visit to the market

Today I spent most of the day at friends Stephane and Dolores’ house. Stephane took me to the local market. Can you say AMAZING cheeses, sausages and of course, foies gras.





YES, that does say donkey milk (NO for me thanks) and yes, they do make donkey sausage (NO NO and TRIPLE NO for me thanks…)


We had a great lunch (in case you are wondering what is on our plates, those are massive white asparagus). Stephane and his grandchild Zoe made a Tarta de Santiago for Team Nestor in honor of our departure tomorrow.



I am a French pilgrim !

After a tough night of coughing I woke up feeling much better. Patrick and I decided to follow the Camino trail to an old church. It was a good 10 kilometer walk with some decent climbs.




It rained when we started our walk therefore I did get to try out my new poncho which is so big as it typically covers the large backpack as well. It was interesting to see how little the Camino signs are in France – nothing like the large yellow arrows we find in Spain.

We visited the church Sorde de l’Abbaye and had a pilgrim lunch so now I feel I have not only officially started my Camino but had the opportunity to walk the Camino on the side of France.




The old building seen here is a very old hospital de pèlerins built hundreds of years ago. The trees are in full bloom here.



This location was used as a wash area – notice the scrub stones. The other picture is of a fixture for your horse, donkey or unicorn it seems!




So now I am ready for our first steps on the Camino in Spain. My feet are fine, my lungs are getting better each hour and life is grand!
Cheers from France

Foies Gras

Today Patrick took me to a local producer of foies gras. She showed us the entire production process.


She buys her chicks when they are one day old; and they roam around until they are between five and a half to six months old. Then for 20 days they are feed specially cooked cornmeal. I will skip the next few steps to get us to the canning stage, then the packing for shipping everywhere around the world.





Now that I know all the work that goes into foies gras I have a much better appreciation for this delicacy.

Nestor gets new shoes

We headed out to meet up with Jean and Nestor where Danièle would join them. Jean started off near Bordeaux with Nestor 10 days ago. Nestor had to be fitted with shoes as his hoofs were not all grown back from his last Camino that he made two years ago.

Jean and Nestor made it to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, very close to the spanish border. Nestor had some problems with his shoes so a specialist meet them to re-install Nestor*s front shoes. It was quite an experience to see how this was done.

First the shoes were heated up and burnished onto Nestor’s hoof for a first fit – I can tell you this created a terrible smell and lots of smoke. The specialist then adjusted the shoe to fit perfectly. The shoe was put on with 3 nails each side. The nail goes into the hoof nail part and due to its form and position co,es out of the outside of the hoof. The nails are then bent along the hoof, hammered along side the hoof and trimmed.

Nestor now has better shoes but must take a day of rest as he now has a bit of tendinitis in his right front leg. A good day of rest will do him good. This will also allow Danièle and Jean to enjoy a day together after being apart for 10 days.




It was nice to see Nestor again. He looks rather shaggy as he is shedding his winter coat. He didn’t play strange with me.


Marie-Jo and I headed back on the coastal road which allowed us to see the ocean. Tomorrow I get the day to myself (with Hancock the dog) and I will take the time to catch up on my blog.

Flexibility is key to my travels

On our departure day I found myself coughing more and more. Danièle called her doctor who agreed to see me under very short noticed. The prognosis was an early case of bronchitis which my Sweetie at home had a few days before my departure from home.

Armed with 1175 grams of 5 various medications (that is 2.9 lbs) we headed out to our friends Marie-Jo and Patrick who live in a small village called Saint Lon Les Mines near the town of Dax. These are the friends who spent 2 weeks with me in Ottawa this past fall.

They live on a beautiful property surrounded by valleys of spectacular beauty. They rescued an old 1862 house that was in ruins and over the past 30 years they have turned it into an amazing abode.





We shared a great meal and caught up with our respective news. Given my increased coughing Marie-Jo suggested I stay back and recover at the house, and leave on Sunday with them. They are joining Team Nestor for 10 days. I agreed as I now know that flexibility is key when I travel. This does mean we will meet up with Nestor and friends on the Spain side which is fine.


I will no doubt be in a much better state to start my Camino.
Cheers from France

Arcachon and its Sand Dune

Arcachon is a popular bathing location on the Atlantic coast 55 kilometres (34 mi) southwest of Bordeaux in the Landes forest. It has a fine beach and a mild climate said to be favourable for invalids suffering from pulmonary complaints (good for my current bronchitis!).

We took a three hour boat ride to see the lagoon and the sand dune. The lagoon is surrounded by small fishing villages and spas.


These are oyster parks. Delimited by these sticks, oysters parks allow the regulated farming of these sought-after delicacies.

huitres park

At its southern entrance from the Atlantic ocean Arcachon Bay is crowned by Europe’s largest sand dune, the Dune du Pyla ‘or Pilat). It is nearly 3 kilometres long, 500 metres wide, reaching 107 metres in height, and moving inland at rate of 5 metres a year.

dunes 2
dunes 1

This beautiful area was a great choice for our visit.


Tomorrow we make our way to our friends Marie-Jo and Patrick for an overnight stay. Marie-Jo will drive us to Jean and Nestor to start our Camino.
Cheers from France

The beautiful city of Bordeaux

Danièle and I took a city tour of this beautiful old city. It was quite chilly, even for me but we managed to find bus seats shielded from the wind, therefore most of my pictures are taken through the front glass of the bus.

This enormous reflective pool was completed in 2006 and is located along the river banks of the Garonne. it is a giant rectangle of ½ thick water. Just enough water over a black granite plaza to create a surface large enough to reflect the entire 18th century Stock Exchange building (Now home to the Chamber of Commerce).


In the background you see the old bridge named Pont de Pierre. It numbers 17 arches to correspond to the number of letters in Napoleon Bonaparte’s name.

Here you see La Grosse Cloche (The big clock) the oldest door of Bordeaux. Pilgrims walking on the Camino road to Santiago pass through this old portal.

Grosse cloche

In the Place des Quinconces stands an enormous fountain La Fontaine des Girondins. In 1943 it was dismantled and hidden as the Germans wanted to melt it for its metal; It was later rebuilt but the famous Horses were only re-added in 1982.






The flowers are in full bloom in France. In a central garden I discovered beautiful poppies in various colours. Danièle poses in front of the blooms.



Lastly a few gourmet surprises. These are called macarons – colourful treats found in many chocolateries. I haven*t tried them but they sure look delicious.


Cotton candy is not new to us, but flavoured cotton candy is! Look at all these interesting flavours.


Tomorrow we visit Arcachon and the sand dunes.
Cheers from France

First Glance of France – Saint Médard D’eyrans

Greetings everyone
My first few days in France were wonderful. I am in Saint Médard D’eyrans, about 20 kms from the city of Bordeaux. My friend Danièle took me for a ride around the village.

My favorite new discovery happened in the local cemetary. It is quite different from those I have seen before. See for yourselves!



On the slates, family and friends place specially made plaques for their departed loved ones. The one on the left is for Danièle’s late husband Pascal.

Note the ceramic flowers, they are quite common in France.


As expected, there is an abundance of grape vines everywhere you look. It is quite beautiful to see lots of green grass, full trees and gorgeous flowers. My trip fro, Montreal went well and after 30 hours without sleep, I was happy to settle down for a few resting days before our departure for the Camino.
Cheers from, France