Day 53 – Walking the Via Francigena – Vevey To Villeneuve, Switzerland, The Beautiful Resort Town Of Montreux, And Our Last Day Of Walking On This Leg Of The Pilgrimage

Day 53 – Walking the Via Francigena – Vevey To Villeneuve, Switzerland, The Beautiful Resort Town Of Montreux, And Our Last Day Of Walking On This Leg Of The Pilgrimage

The guesthouse we stayed in last night sits on the main square of Vevey, overlooking the lake.
But this morning it was anything but a scenic site.
The square was a major construction zone.

We asked the owner of the hotel what was going on in Vevey.
He told us that they had just had a major wine celebration in the square, that happens once every twenty years.
The city built a temporary wooden structure which could fit twenty thousand people, and now it must be taken down.

The workers were on a tight schedule and were rushing to finish, because in just three days the circus comes to town and will built its tents in the main square.

We walked around the construction zone and started to walk along the lakefront, towards Villeneuve.

The day was sunny and the walk was beautiful.
Both Jules and I were still feeling sick.
Jules was coughing often and feeling a bit weak.
Our backpacks felt heavier than usual, but it helped that the walk was so scenic.

By lunchtime, we arrived in Montreux.
Montreux is a very scenic traditional resort town on Lake Geneva.
It extends from the lakeside all the way up into the very steep hills.
Some castles and houses are built so high, they seem to be inaccessible, deep in the unreachable cliffs.

There are elevators, stairs and escalators to take people up to the train station and to the streets above.

Montreux is well known for its mild microclimate which allows palm trees and lush vegetation to grow all around.

The Montreux Jazz Festival, held here each year in July, is a major musical event known globally.
Recently the festival dedicated a sculpture of a big saxophone in honor of the 200 year celebration of the birth of Adolphe Sax, the man who invented the Saxophone in the early 1840’s.

The town’s promenade is lined with beautiful flowers, sculptures, trees and Belle Époque grand buildings.

We spent some time in Montreux, having a light lunch and admiring the biannual sculpture exhibition on the waterfront.
Feeling sick, we did not have much appetite, and had just fresh orange juice, a local milk chocolate (milk chocolate was invented in nearby Vevey, home of Nestlé) and a piece of pastry.

All around town, we saw groups of tourists.
This area is very popular with visitors from all over the world.

From Montreux, the walk took us by a medieval island castle called Château de Chillon.
The impressive Chateaux has ramparts, formal halls and a chapel from the 14th century.

We stopped to have ice cream at an outdoor cafe by the castle, mostly so we could rest awhile.
We arrived in Villeneuve pretty early, but went straight to our room and took a nap.

We cleaned up and I took a longer bath, trying to wash away the congestion.
Jules was blowing his runny nose all day long, and it made me sad seeing him like this, although he told me not to worry, that it is only a short bout of the flu.

We ate dinner at the hotel’s restaurant just across the street on the lake side.
We had the specialty of the day, fish served with a selection of vegetables and some dessert.

Today was our last day of this leg of the pilgrimage.
We will return again next year, to continue walking and finishing the Via Francigena.
The next time we come, we will walk the whole way to Rome from Villeneuve.

It was a wonderful journey for us.
We know that in just a few short days, we will recover our health.
We will have some time to enjoy some of the cities of Switzerland, before we return home.
Snow has already been falling in the mountains of Colorado, while the Swiss Alps still look green around us.

With gratitude to you for sharing in our journey,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 20,843 Steps
6 hours of walking
Active walking time – 4 hours
Daily Kilometers – 15 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 1126 km

Hotel Du Port in Villeneuve, Switzerland
A clean lakeside hotel with simple but decent rooms, a hot shower and a big restaurant.

Day 52 – Walking the Via Francigena – Lausanne To Vevey, Switzerland, A Beautiful Lakeside Walk, The Amazing Vineyard Terraces Of Lavaux And A Poem By Charlie Chaplain

Day 52 – Walking the Via Francigena – Lausanne To Vevey, Switzerland, A Beautiful Lakeside Walk, The Amazing Vineyard Terraces Of Lavaux And A Poem By Charlie Chaplain

Last night, both Jules and I got sick.
We are not sure exactly how it happened, but both of us experienced the same symptoms.
Congestion, sore throats, coughing mucus and weakness.
The only reason we could come up with, is that we breathed in the secondhand smoke of vaping, which goes on all around the city.

We ate breakfast, packed our backpacks, thanked the lovely hotel and started walking.
It was a beautiful sunny day as we walked to Ouchy, located on the shores of lake Geneva.

From there, we followed the lake going east.
Many people were enjoying the lake.
Some were swimming, others were waterskiing or SUP boarding.
Some were running, cycling or walking to enjoy the beauty of the lake.
Still others were simply sitting on the park benches and chatting.
There are lovely multimillion dollar homes all along the shore.
Some have magnificent gardens with old growth trees and private boat docks.

I saw a homeless man, who had come to bathe in the clean water.
After drying his hair with his shirt, he drooled over a very fit young woman who was running in her sports bra, as if she would have given him the time of day.

The sky was so blue and everywhere we could see the tall Alps, stretching high into the sky.
The light radiating from the sky blended with the colors of the Alps and the lake.
The sun’s rays shed bright light on this magnificent landscape.

There were plenty of benches to sit on, rest and take in the beauty.
There were also many places to dine or drink something along the water, and there were public toilets at every public access to the beach.

We chose to have lunch in a small village called Cully.
The very busy restaurant was spread across the street into a garden, and it specialized in Fondue.
We ordered the fondue and some hot green teas.
It would have made sense to try the local wine, since this area is full of vineyards, but we were too sick to even think of wine.

We needed the rest anyway, and the cheese fondue was delicious, as was the apple and rhubarb crumble we had for dessert.
The relaxed lunch took almost an hour and a half, and we still had time to walk over ten kilometers to Vevey.

From there, we entered another stunning region.
The terraced vineyards of Lavaux, are a UNESCO listed world heritage site.
These stone terraces date back to Roman times, and they look amazing against the background of majestic Lake Geneva and the tall Alps.

The golden yellow hues of the vineyards form a lovely contrast to the blue of the sky and the water that is as smooth as a mirror.

The grape harvest was in full swing, and men with plastic trays walked along the steep terraces, collecting the beautiful ripe grapes.

Some say that this is one of the most beautiful and scenic areas in Switzerland.
Locals and many tourists came by car or train to walk among the terraces, which criss-cross the hills with marked trails and stunning views.

The area is also dotted with restaurants and vineyards that open their doors to the public for wine tasting.
They have been carefully cultivating their vines for generation upon generation.
Whole families of vine-growers have shaped these beautiful vineyard terraces.

The unique beauty of this landscape and the picturesque villages, have fascinated many artists who have lived in the little picturesque villages.

By the end of the day, we were very tired.
Not because the walk was too long nor too demanding, but mostly because we were both feeling sick and we really needed to get off our feet.

We arrived in Vevey by six o’clock at night.
Our hotel for the night is a simple guesthouse with shared toilets and communal showers, a big contrast to our suite in the Lausanne Palace….

We showered together in the communal showers and slept for an hour.
Then we went downstairs and had a very good white pizza at the hotel’s restaurant.

Perhaps the most famous person to have lived in Vevey was Charlie Chaplin.

During his promotional tour in Europe, Charlie Chaplin (London 1889 – Vevey 1977) learnt that he would be refused re-entry to the United States because of the McCarthy era, which shamefully branded artists and actors as communists, and a danger to the country.

Chaplin decided to settle in Vevey with his wife and children, four of whom were to be born in Switzerland.
The family lived in a neoclassical mansion built in 1840 and surrounded by a vast 14 hectare park with centuries-old trees.
His children went to a Swiss local school and Chaplin passed away in Vevey.

It’s believed that he wrote the poem below at age 70.

“As I began to love myself, 
I found that anguish and emotional suffering 
are only warning signs that I was living 
against my own truth. 
Today, I know, this is Authenticity.

As I began to love myself,
I understood how much it can offend somebody 
if I try to force my desires on this person, 
even though I knew the time was not right 
and the person was not ready for it, 
and even though this person was me. 
Today I call this Respect.

As I began to love myself 
I stopped craving for a different life, 
and I could see that everything 
that surrounded me 
was inviting me to grow. 
Today I call this Maturity.

As I began to love myself 
I understood that at any circumstance, 
I am in the right place at the right time, 
and everything happens at the exactly right moment. 
So I could be calm. 
Today I call this Self-Confidence.

As I began to love myself 
I quit stealing my own time, 
and I stopped designing huge projects 
for the future. 
Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, 
things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, 
and I do them in my own way 
and in my own rhythm. 
Today I call this Simplicity.

As I began to love myself 
I freed myself of anything 
that is no good for my health – 
food, people, things, situations, 
and everything that drew me down 
and away from myself. 
At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. 
Today I know it is Love of Oneself.

As I began to love myself 
I quit trying to always be right, 
and ever since, 
I was wrong less of the time. 
Today I discovered that is Modesty.

As I began to love myself 
I refused to go on living in the past 
and worrying about the future. 
Now, I only live for the moment, 
where everything is happening. 
Today I live each day, 
day by day, 
and I call it Fulfillment.

As I began to love myself 
I recognized 
that my mind can disturb me 
and it can make me sick. 
But as I connected it to my heart, 
my mind became a valuable ally. 
Today I call this connection Wisdom of the Heart.

We no longer need to fear arguments, 
confrontations or any kind of problems 
with ourselves or others. 
Even stars collide, 
and out of their crashing, new worlds are born. 
Today I know: This is Life! “

With blessings and light,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 33,938 Steps
8 hours of walking
Active walking time – 6 hours
Daily Kilometers – 25 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 1111 km

Vevey House, Vevey, Switzerland
A simple guesthouse with shared toilets and showers, located at the center of town. Has a good restaurant that makes excellent pizzas.

Day 50 and Day 51 – Walking the Via Francigena – Sightseeing In Lausanne, Switzerland, My Previous Incarnations, And The Four Cardinal Virtues According to Classical Antiquity

Day 50 and Day 51 – Walking the Via Francigena – Sightseeing In Lausanne, Switzerland, My Previous Incarnations, And The Four Cardinal Virtues According to Classical Antiquity

I slept very well last night.
It was a restful sleep, with no dreams to engage my consciousness.

Breakfast was a feast of fresh produce that you are only served in really luxurious hotels.
It was included in our room rate, but normally it would have been very pricy, at about $40 per person.

Sitting in the elegant dining room and eating carefully selected cheeses and artisanal honeys was such a lovely start to the day.
We lingered over soy lattes sweetened with aromatic honey and talked about our pilgrimage, how it has unfolded and what we wanted to see today.

I wanted to understand why it is that we felt so miserable walking all day in the rain.
After all, beside having wet shoes and socks, we are dressed well, we are not cold, and it is just rain, water falling from the sky….. why does it make us feel miserable?

We decided to try out ‘Hiking Galoshes’ before our next pilgrimage.
These waterproof galoshes can be worn over our trekking shoes, and will provide protection on rainy days.
They can be folded when we do not need to wear them, but unfortunately not to a very small package, because they do have a fairly thick sole.

We will have to give up something else to make sure we can fit them, because we cannot avoid walking on rainy days in a pilgrimage.

Beside the practical solution of the galoshes, we most definitely need to improve our negative associations with walking in the cold rain.

As part of my awakening process, I have come to remember three of my past lifetimes.

I was a Buddhist nun in Japan, writing poetry, making ink drawings and working with ceramics.

I was also a Maiko, (a young Geisha in training) living on the Izumo Peninsula in Japan, in a town called Shimoda.
I had a bitter constitution, resulting from a hard life and not being allowed much freedom of choice.
I was fond of drinking, had a restaurant which failed and I wound up killing myself by drowning in the river.

Unrelated to these two lifetimes, I have past life memories of dying in a tsunami that flooded my village.
I also remember that as a child growing up in Israel, I sometimes thought about how i could escape my room in case it became flooded with water up to the ceiling.
Before falling asleep, I would think that I could dive down and open the window, and that the water would spill out and that I could escape.

These were very unlikely thoughts, because we did not live by the water, my bedroom was high up, on the second floor of our house, and a tsunami had not hit our area in recorded history.
Could any of this be related to why I feel miserable walking while being wet and cold?

In the old Lausanne Cathedral, constructed between 1170-1215 and dedicated to Mother Mary, we learned about Virtue, as defined by the Bible.
The walls of the cathedral were decorated with stone figures, each symbolizing qualities and virtues.

Aristotle wrote: “The forms of Virtue are: justice, courage, temperance, magnificence, magnanimity, liberality, gentleness, prudence and wisdom.”

The Roman philosopher Cicero (106–43 BC), like Plato, narrowed the list to only four virtues:

* Prudence, defined as inner wisdom and the ability to discern the appropriate course of action to be taken in a given situation at the appropriate time.

* Courage or fortitude, meaning forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront your fears, face uncertainty and intimidation.

* Temperance, also meaning restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, discretion, moderation and tempering one’s appetite and having sound-mindedness.

* Justice, also meaning fairness, considered to be the most important virtue. The Greek word means ‘righteousness.’

A Virtue is defined as a positive habit of mind (animi), which is in harmony with common sense and reason, and with the harmonious order of nature.

In spiritual teachings, these virtues are the code of the warrior.
A warrior is anyone who takes it as her or his mission in life to overcome the lower-self, and to fully embody our Higher-Godly-Self.

We walked to the water’s edge in Ouchy, to see beautiful lake Geneva.
For many decades people have come to vacation here in the summertime.
We saw the vast marina, the ducks and swans swimming in the lake, the outdoor sunny cafes and the luxury hotels by the water.
These hotels had beautiful gardens and are magnificent palaces and chateaus.

We also visited a photography museum, and saw an exhibition of an American Photographer named Jan Groover.
I really liked her large format still life compositions, and seeing how her work had evolved through the years and in particular after she left her urban New York life and moved to France.

On our return back to the center of the city, we walked by a street full of North African shops.
We stopped at one to buy me fresh cactus pears, and I even found a cactus pear facial cream, which I had never seen before.

In a small busy eatery full of Tunisians, Algerians and Moroccan people, we ate a late lunch of falafel and veg couscous.
It wasn’t great, despite being a very busy and popular place.

We have spent three very relaxing days in Lausanne.
Because we did not plan to cross the Great Saint Bernard Pass on this leg of the pilgrimage, we have time to walk through Switzerland in a leisurely way and spend extra time getting to know the places we walk through.

This is actually part of the way I would ultimately like to continue traveling and doing pilgrimages.
The cost of traveling, of flights and accommodations is so high, that we might as well take the time to see and enjoy the places we walk through, instead of planning to come back again in the future.

It is also not so easy to find the time required to travel, when there are so many great places around the world to see.
The likelihood of my revisiting Orbe, or Besançon or Pontarlier or many of the places we have walked through, is very slim.

The city is full of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Ethiopian and North African eateries, and there is lots of art and cafes to stroll around.

It is a very, very hilly city, with streets that climb up or down and curve around.
But after a few days of walking, it becomes easier to figure out how to walk around the neighborhoods.

In the center of the city, an old warehouse area has been converted to an art, retail shopping and restaurant district.
It is called the Flon district and after a lovely lunch in the upscale Chinese restaurant called Au Canard Pekinois, we spent a few hours walking around Flon.

Tomorrow we leave Lausanne and continue our walk along the lake.
We have rested well and soaked daily in the spa, and I feel ready to continue our walk.

With love and blessings,

The stats that I am adding at the bottom are the total kilometers we walked over the days we saw the sights of Lausanne.

Today’s Stats:
Seeing Lausanne, in Kilometers – 20 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 1086 km

Day 49 – Walking the Via Francigena – Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne To Lausanne, Switzerland – Arriving In Lausanne, A Fabulous City On Lake Geneva

Day 49 – Walking the Via Francigena – Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne To Lausanne, Switzerland – Arriving In Lausanne, A Fabulous City On Lake Geneva

It was a misty morning when we started walking towards Lausanne.
The weather forecast had called for a dry day, so we were not dressed up for the light morning rain.
The walk was short, only a few hours, and we planned to stop along the way, in order not to arrive at our hotel too soon.

We skipped breakfast at the hotel, preferring to stop along the way at a bakery cafe, instead of paying a full breakfast price for only bread and jam.
We did find a bakery cafe in a town north of Lausanne, and had a fresh and tasty breakfast.

Lausanne spread out before us as we entered the city from above.
It is a very pretty city with a vast lake at its southern edge.

It is also a very hilly city, with old streets that climb steeply or descend very deeply down towards the lake.
Everyone speaks French, although this being Switzerland, nearly everyone also speaks some English.

We walked the streets, taking notes of places we wanted to visit after we checked in and left our backpacks in the room.

We chose to stay at the Lausanne Palace, a fabulous luxury hotel with a spa.
The friendly woman at the front desk upgraded our room to a junior suite.
She took us to our room and showed us around.
She pointed to the full minibar and mentioned that it is all free and will be refilled for us every day.
The living room was set up with fruit and sparkling water on the table, and the bathroom was equipped with glistening marble walls and a stained glass ceiling in a flowery pattern.
The floor to ceiling view was a panorama of the city.

I did not want to leave the comfort of our luxurious room.
I wanted to bathe, put on the fluffy bathrobe and sink into the high quality sheets and watch TV.
I wanted to forget my aching teeth, my aching back and feet, to lose myself in reading a good book…. oh, how I miss laying around on the sofa with a good book for hours….

But we left to visit the old cathedral and walked the streets of the city both old and new.
There is stunning architecture in Lausanne, and architectural details to admire.
Big stone lions and angels decorate the top of buildings, and there are lots of interesting shops to stroll through.

There are even three Starbucks coffee shops in town, and we joined the crowd of people lounging in the many cafes and outdoor restaurants.
The weather, as promised, turned sunny and beautiful.

In a city full of fabulous food, we ended up having a very mediocre Moroccan meal.
Our attempt was to eat healthy vegetarian food, but it tasted like food made by a cook without a touch.
The restaurant looked promising with nice moroccan decor, but the food was not great, and as everywhere in Switzerland, it was pricy.

By early evening I had had enough walking, and we returned to the hotel.
We changed into our robes and went downstairs to enjoy the hotel spa.
The women’s hot bath, Hammam and sauna felt superb to a tired pilgrim like myself.
I breathed in the healing hot air and meditated for as long as I could.

The daily routine of a pilgrimage is rigorous.
Every morning you’ve got to be ready early and all packed, in order to start walking so that you can cover the allotted daily kilometers before sunset.
You have to walk, whether it is raining or windy or cold, hot or too sunny.
The path is often demanding, with steep hills to climb and slippery forest paths to descend.

You cannot take too many breaks, even if there are places to stop for a drink or to eat, because you simply cannot afford to stop for too long.

You have to control how much you drink because you simply cannot take with you an unlimited supply of water.
So we drink only when we really feel thirsty and even then, only a few mouthfuls.

This means that even though we do not think about it during the day, we are always fatigued and a little hungry and thirsty, unless we are walking through a city.

This is why I felt I needed the pampering of staying in a great hotel and resting in the hotel spa.
I feel so very blessed to be able to relax here in luxury for a few nights.

I often think about the idea of staying in luxury places while walking a pilgrimage.
Am I doing something wrong by staying in luxury when it is available, instead of staying in humble places?
Why do I feel so guilty for enjoying my own money?
Why do I feel so guilty for spending my money on myself instead of giving it to others and helping those in need?….

Why is it that we think we can fix the world by throwing money at each problem?
We really do make the “golden calf” (a biblical symbol for money) our God.
We believe money can solve most problems in the world, which of course it cannot.

I once talked to a friend, who like me, chose not to have children in this lifetime.
She told me that she thinks she wouldn’t have been a good mother anyway.
She said that as a career woman, she would have probably tried to throw money at most problems, in order to make them go away.

And it is true.
If there is a tsunami, a disaster or an earthquake, there is always a global call for money, to raise funds to help the victims.
And we all help even though money cannot bring back the lost loved ones, nor really advance spiritually any of us, from looking at the world through the physical eyes, which show us only dream worlds and no reality at all.

I remember talking with a wise friend once.
I told her about my guilt feelings and she told me:

“It all stems from your wrong way of thinking.
Just like you don’t think that you should not enjoy good health because other people are sick or in hospitals, so it is with people who are struggling financially.
It is the same thing, even if you cannot see it.
In other words,” she told me, “Who are you helping by being sick or struggling yourself?
Enjoy your good health, enjoy your life and enjoy your money!”

Wishing you a light filled mind,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 21,870 Steps
6 hours of walking
Active walking time – 4 hours
Daily Kilometers – 16 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 1066 km

Lausanne Palace, Switzerland
A fabulous luxury hotel with a divine spa, great breakfasts, and wonderful rooms.

Day 47 and Day 48 – Walking the Via Francigena – Yverdon-les-Bains To Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne, Switzerland – Walking In A Heavy Rain Storm With A Strong Southerly Wind

Day 47 and Day 48 – Walking the Via Francigena – Yverdon-les-Bains To Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne, Switzerland – Walking In A Heavy Rain Storm With A Strong Southerly Wind

We rested for another day in Yverdon-les-Bains.
We did our laundry, walked around town, Jules got a good haircut and a shave in a very manly barbershop, and we got a small bottle of Swiss CBD oil, to help me manage a toothache that has been bothering me the last few days.

The old town of Yverdon-les-Bains is home to a Castle that dates back to the 13th century.
Small shops and restaurants are spread around it, across the brick and cobblestone streets of the old town.

We visited the tourist information center and asked there about the best and shortest way to walk from Yverdon-les-Bains to Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne, our next destination.

We’d already booked an overnight in a hotel in Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne, because we knew that we would not be able to walk all the way to the center of Lausanne in one day.

It was a clear evening when we walked back from another delicious Vietnamese dinner, and it was hard to believe that tomorrow the weather would be stormy all day.

We woke up this morning to the sound of heavy rain on our windows.
The day was misty and dark grey, and it was raining heavily.
We decided to walk the shortest way to Lausanne, to minimize the hours of walking in the rain.

Out of Yverdon-les-Bains, we walked on sidewalks, but as soon as we left the outskirts of the city, we had to walk on the road, and cars splashed us with muddy rainwater.
Within an hour, our shoes and socks were totally wet.

Cars generally passed us with some care, but as we crossed an intersection, a tractor cut dangerously in front of me, making both Jules and I shocked at the driver’s lack of care.
We decided to get off the busy road as soon as we could, and walk along the designated pedestrian route that cuts through the interior.

It was a hilly road which was much longer than the direct route south, but it was worth it not to be walking by the cars.
We walked on single lane paved roads, farm tracks, through forests and small villages that smelled heavily of cow manure.

The rain came down heavily and the wind intensified.
It got so strong at times, we had to stop walking and almost push against the wind.

We walked without a break for hours, feeling cold, wet and disheartened.
I was having a hard time trying not to focus on the pain in my tooth.

We arrived at a small village, and as we passed by the bus stop, I jokingly asked Jules how he felt about taking the bus the rest of the way.
We checked the bus schedule and saw that a bus would come by in forty five minutes.
It was too cold and windy and we were too wet to stand around and wait that long.
The village had no restaurant or cafe for us to rest in, so we kept on walking.

An hour later when we reached the outskirts of another village, I was ready to take the bus.
We had walked for hours leaning into the Southerly wind and we were wet and very cold.

We made it to the bus stop one minute before the hourly bus pulled over.
We waved to it to stop like two wet refugees waving to their rescue boat.

We boarded the dry bus, and in less than thirty minutes the bus deposited us in front of our hotel in Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne.

The hotel’s restaurant stayed open in order for us to have a late lunch.
We dropped our backpacks in the room, and rushed downstairs, still in our very wet shoes.
We ordered hot green tea and Jules ordered a veggie burger with fries, and I ordered a warm goat cheese salad.

We showered, washed our muddy wet shoes and, feeling clean and warm again, we went straight to bed.

After our long rest and late lunch, we decided to skip dinner and just had some of the snacks we had with us.
Tomorrow, after only a few hours of walking, we will arrive in Lausanne.
Hopefully the weather will dry up as predicted.

With love and blessings,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 38,764 Steps
8 hours of walking
Active walking time – 7 hours
Daily Kilometers – 28.5 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 1050 km

Galion hotel in Cheseaux-sur-Lausanne, Switzerland
A simple and comfortable suburban hotel with a restaurant.

Day 46 – Walking the Via Francigena – Orbe to Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland – A Historic Hot Springs Town, and Thoughts About Urban Veggie Gardens

Day 46 – Walking the Via Francigena – Orbe to Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland – A Historic Hot Springs Town, and Thoughts About Urban Veggie Gardens

The town of Yverdon-les-Bains nestles in a valley below the Jura Mountains, on the edge of Lake Neuchâtel.
It is a spa resort town, that has remains of human occupation dating back to 5000 BCE.

We crossed the Jura Mountains on the westerly slopes, which meant that we had missed Yverdon-les-Bains, and instead walked straight to Orbe.

But I was not about to miss an opportunity to soak in a thermal hot springs.
Initially, we had planned to take a detour and to stay for two days in this spa town.
We planned to take the train or a bus from Orbe to Yverdon-les-Bains, soak our bodies in the hot springs, and then return to Orbe and continue walking.

By now, walking has become a beloved habit for us, so instead of taking a bus, we decided to walk to Yverdon-les-Bains and then continue walking from Yverdon-les-Bains towards Lausanne.

The walk from Orbe was mostly flat, and after leaving the outskirts of Orbe, we walked all the way along a small canal and through farmland.
The path was muddy from the weeklong rains we recently have had in this area.

We walked by fields of corn, leeks, carrots, celery and fragrant celeriac root.
On the edge of the canal grew very tall trees, many of them with herons nesting in their branches.

The only traffic we had all day were occasional tractors.
About halfway, the path ended abruptly with a permanent metal fence that closed the path all the way to the canal.

We had no option but to squeeze ourselves over the end of the fence, dangling over the canal, so that we could continue walking.

We arrived in Yverdon-les-Bains by lunchtime.
On the outskirts of town there were fields with big patches of urban veggie gardens.

This green project that takes place all over the world near big cities, is a wonderful concept.
It allows people living in small apartments with no land to grow vegetables or flowers.

Urban vegetable gardening began in the USA during the Second World War, and came to provide up to 40% of the food consumed in the cities. They became known as “Victory gardens” or War gardens”.

They started in Europe also to supply a need and were indispensable during the two world wars, when many European countries could not depend on imports and had to guarantee their own food supply.

Nowadays, these urban gardens provide other social and psychological needs in urban societies.
They help to “greenify” urban concrete jungles and help city dwellers to connect to the earth, grow a head of lettuce or carrots, and have a space to spend some time caring for plants.

Most of the time, the people do not own the land.
It is owned by the city or by a private owner who allows people to cultivate it.

Each of the gardens has a simple wooden structure, but people are not allowed to spend the night there, to prevent it from becoming a shanty town.

They use the wooden structures to rest or shade themselves while they work in the sun, grill their lunch, bake a pizza, pickle some of the vegetables they grow, etc.
Water is provided by collecting rain water in barrels.

The stretch of urban vegetable gardens outside Yverdon-les-Bains was along the canal, and it was very large.
Each plot seem to be about forty feet square, and some people had swing sets for their kids and sunning lounge chairs.
It was heartwarming to see these veggie patches.

It was too early to check into our hotel, so we walked to the center of town to buy a Swiss SIM card for our phone.

We had lunch in a buffet restaurant that served great vegetable choices.
While Jules rested in the restaurant with our backpacks, I walked over to the nearby Swiss Telecom and Salt Mobile providers to compare SIM card prices.

The city is bigger than I thought it would be, with many restaurants and services.
After buying the SIM card and our lovey lunch, we walked over to our hotel, by the old castle and the central square.

We chose to stay at the hotel of the hot springs.
Our room rate includes free access to the hot springs, but as we later found out, not to the newer Japanese bath and Hammams.

The thermal spa water of Yverdon-les-Bains, has sulphur and magnesium, although there is almost no sulphuric smell to the water.

Yverdon-les-Bains has a long tradition as a thermal health spa and a centre for healing, and ruins of an old Roman spa were found here.
It is very modern now, with completely renovated spa facilities and an attached 4-star hotel.

Thinking we would be enjoying a luxurious spa, we were a little surprised to find that our free entry only applied to the two big outdoor baths.
It wouldn’t have been a problem, except that the water in the big outdoor baths is only heated to 34 degrees Celsius, which is way too cold to sit in while outdoors.

After showering, we barely were able to sit outside for three minutes.
It was way too cold.

So we paid the extra ten dollars per person to go upstairs to the sauna, Hammam and hotter Japanese bath.
It was a small bath, that maybe could fit ten people, and it also was not very warm.
Of course everyone was wearing bathing suites and not naked.

The steam room (Hammam) was nice, dimly lit and quiet.
I nearly fell asleep inside the warm Hammam.

After our soak, we fell asleep while we lay on the lounges in the relaxation room, feeling warm in our robes.

Over all, we felt a little disappointed with the hot springs.
The big spacious outdoors pools were not hot enough to enjoy, and the upstairs bath was so tiny, it was almost a jacuzzi size and less hot than a jacuzzi.

It is such a shame, because the two outdoor pools were large, perfectly clean and nicely designed.
The only ingredient that was missing was to heat the water to at least forty degrees Celsius.

Later, we read that in the famous baths in Bath, England, they also cool the naturally very hot spring waters to 34 degrees Celsius, calling it a “comfortable temperature.”
In my opinion, without the heat, the hot springs’ therapeutic effects are compromised, and the soothing experience of soaking in the springs is lost.

The only cool gadgets are the plastic watch with a built in sensor each guest gets, which allows us to enter the spa, lock and unlock our locker by pressing the watch to the sensor.

I think we expected more from a famous Swiss thermal spa.
After visiting so many charming and always hot and soothing hot springs in Japan, this seems like many steps below what you get in Japan.

Our room is simple but comfortable, and after showering, we walked to the center of town to enjoy a Vietnamese dinner.
The restaurant is owned by a family, and they made everything from scratch, using a mortar and pestle to mix the spices.

The food was amazing.
Zesty and fragrant with basil, cilantro, mint, beansprouts, fresh vegetables, rice noodles and great spices.
We were the only customers in the restaurant that evening.

Another thing we noticed since we entered Switzerland, is that the price of food and clothing is much higher than it is in France.
It is also higher than in the USA.
As pilgrims, we will have no more great set menu lunches for a great price.
But it is OK.
We will have to adjust our minds with a smile.

With love and blessings,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 25,311 Steps
6 hours of walking
Active walking time – 4.5 hours
Daily Kilometers – 18.5 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 1021.5 km

Hotel et Centre Thermal d’Yverdon-les-Bains
Comfortable, clean, Art Deco-style rooms, most with a small outdoor balcony

Day 45 – Walking the Via Francigena – Orbe, Switzerland – Ancient Roman Mosaics, The Greek Mythology Of The Famous Labyrinth of Theseus and Minotaur

Day 45 – Walking the Via Francigena – Orbe, Switzerland – Ancient Roman Mosaics, The Greek Mythology Of The Famous Labyrinth of Theseus and Minotaur

There were two reasons I had planned to stay another day in Orbe.
The first one was to rest after crossing the Jura Mountains, and the second reason was to visit the Roman Mosaics dating back to the year 170 A.D.

The Mosaics are the remains of the floors of a Roman Villa that once had 100 rooms.
Unearthed only recently, between 1986 and 2004, they are said to be the best Roman Mosaic remains in Switzerland.

The town of Orbe has nine remaining mosaics that used to adorn the most important rooms of the villa.
Made of naturally coloured small stones, they depict gods, geometric shapes, figurative scenes of Greek mythology and Trompe-l’œil.

Trompe-l’œil (French for “To deceive the eye”) is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions.

One of the Mosaics is the famous Labyrinth of Theseus and Minotaur.

Since I am pretty sure that few are educated in Greek mythology nowadays, I will narrate here a short version of this story:

The story takes place on the island of Crete, a major part of the Greek islands and a place I have vacationed in twice.

King Minos was the king of Crete.
He once asked for a sign from Poseidon, the god of the sea (Some versions say it was the god Zeus).
He asked for a snow white bull, as a sign of the god’s support of him.

Minos was supposed to sacrifice the bull when it appeared magically, but the bull was so beautiful and so pure, that he kept it instead.

Angered by Minos’ lack of trust and greed, Poseidon caused Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, to fall in love with the bull.

Pasiphae fell in love so deeply, that she mated with the animal and got pregnant. Her offspring was a male, partly a man but with the head and tail of a bull.
It was named Minotaur.

King Minos was so embarrassed, but determined not to kill Minotaur, that he hid the monster in an impossible to exit Labyrinth, constructed by Daedalus.

According to the myth, Minos imprisoned his enemies in that Labyrinth so that the savage, hungry, lonely and increasingly angry Minotaur would eat them.

The labyrinth was such a complicated construction that no one could ever find his way out of it alive.
Many people, including famous gladiators, who went to participate in the Panathenaic Games, attempted to kill Minotaur, but died trying.

Aegeus, the king of Athens, ordered seven men and women to be sent every year to feed Minotaur, in order to pacify the curse caused by this mystical creature Minotaur.

Theseus, was the son of Aegeus, the king of Thens.
Theseus decided to be one of the seven young men sent to Crete, in order to kill Minotaur and end the human sacrifices to the monster.

King Aegeus tried to convince him to change his mind, but Theseus was determined to slay Minotaur.

Theseus sailed to Crete and announced to King Minos that he intended to kill Minotaur.
King Minos knew that even if Theseus did manage to kill Minotaur, he would never be able to exit the Labyrinth.

During his stay at the palace in Crete, Theseus met Princess Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos.

Ariadne fell madly in love with the brave and handsome Theseus, and decided to help him.
She gave him a thread and told him to unravel it as he walked deeper and deeper into the Labyrinth, so that he would be able to retrace his steps and find his way out, once he had killed Minotaur.

Theseus followed her suggestion and entered the labyrinth with the thread.
Theseus faced the powerful Minotaur and in a brave battle, killed Minotaur.
By following Ariadne’s thread back, he retraced his steps and found his way out of the labyrinth.
Theseus took Princess Ariadne with him and left Crete, sailing victoriously back to Athens.

Now, after telling you the story, I will tell you about our day.
We slept late this morning, knowing it would be a rest day for us, with only a few Kilometers’ walk to visit the Mosaics and then go back into town.

Breakfast at the hotel was served downstairs, by the ceaselessly coughing lady who owns the hotel.
She is really a very lovely lady, but she runs the place alone except for the kitchen, where she has a cook who makes the food.
This means that the place is a bit dusty, and full of undusted memorabilia laying around everywhere.

In fact, after my shower yesterday night, I washed the floors of our room with a very wet towel and liquid soap, so now our room is shining and clean.
I slept better in the cleaner room.

Breakfast was a croissant, tea and not fresh squeezed orange juice.
Not great, but it was included in the price.
We were surprised to see that the dining room was full.
A large group of tourists and a few old locals who seemed to have been coming here every day for the last thirty years.

The tourist information center was closed, and the local kiosk did not sell SIM cards.
We walked around the town, and then to the Mosaics, about three kilometers out of town.

When we arrived at the Mosaics, we quickly saw that it had closed down for the balance of the year.
When we checked and checked again, it said that it would be open on weekends from April to October.
But they had closed early this year, at the end of September.

We turned around and walked back through the fields into town.
In town we found a lovely cafe, bakery and pastry shop, and sat to have lunch.
At least the town had a lovely cafe like this.

We checked their opening times, hoping we could skip the croissant tomorrow and eat here instead, but they are closed tomorrow altogether.

We returned to our room to rest the whole afternoon, catch up on my writing and download our photos.
I enjoy seeing the photos Jules really takes every day, which are different than the ones I take.
We can both photograph the same area, but catch glimpses of different moods.
Jules takes very artistic and mood filled photos which I like, while I tend to take more documentary photos.

We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in town.
The food we ordered was good and it is run by a sweet natured and soft spoken Chinese woman from Shanghai.
She was also selling small jewelry and cute wine bottle covers that look like embroidered Chinese robes.

We needed an easy day today.
My leg muscles are achy from yesterday’s climbing and I am happy to have rested today.

With love and many blessings,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 12,392 Steps
4 hours of walking
Active walking time – 2.5 hours
Daily Kilometers – 9 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 1003 km

Hotel Restaurant Au Chasseur in Orbe.
A simple hotel (the only one in Orbe) with a hot shower, good heating, and a friendly and helpful owner.

Day 44 – Walking the Via Francigena – Métabief To Orbe, Switzerland – A Challenging Day on The Roman Road, A Hike Through an Ancient Forest, Alien Crop Circles, A Traditional Cow Parade and Crossing The Jura Mountains

Day 44 – Walking the Via Francigena – Métabief To Orbe, Switzerland – A Challenging Day on The Roman Road, A Hike Through an Ancient Forest, Alien Crop Circles, A Traditional Cow Parade and Crossing The Jura Mountains

Today we crossed over into Switzerland.
It was a challenging day with much climbing and descending.

We had two options for our walk today.
One option was to climb to the top of the Jura Mountains in Métabief, and then to walk along the paved road to Orbe.

The second option was to walk about five kilometers to the nearby town of Jougne, and then to pick up the Via Francigena path that follows the old Roman road of Julius Caesar, locally known as the road of Jules César.

Then the Roman path splits from the Via Francigena.
The Roman road climbs up into the mountains, and the Via Francigena follows the Orbe river all the way through a vast canyon, until it reaches the Orbe Gorge and then, finally, the town of Orbe.

We chose the second option.
We walked to Jougne and then started walking down a very steep slope leading to the river, on the Via Francigena.

It was raining, and the steep path down was very slippery.
We had to hold hands and walk together in order to provide better support.

We passed by an old church called Chapelle Saint Maurice, which was mentioned in writings as early as the year 990 AD.
The descent to the river was on a very steep slippery forest path.
At times, there were wooden steps with log railings, which made the descent a bit easier.

From there, the path climbed and descended all day long.
It was cold and raining, and then it turned warmer, and finally in the late afternoon, it stopped raining.
It was challenging to climb up and down this forest hike in the rain.

The forest path was beautiful, often crossing over tree roots and hugging the edges of cliffs. It frequently descended to cross over the river on small wooden bridges, and then ascended again.

When we reached the Swiss border, there was a sign saying this was an old border crossing path, once used by local traders.
There were neither guards nor a border crossing booth to check our documents.
A few cows yawned at us, quite uninterested.
I asked the cows if they considered themselves French or Swiss, but they did not find my question amusing.

When we reached the village of Ballaigues, we heard a symphony of cowbells ringing in the street.
We saw a large parade of hundreds of cows, and people in traditional clothing walking the cows through the streets of the village.
Many of the cows wore flowers on their heads and large heavy ceremonial bells that dangled from their necks.

We hurried down the mountain to meet the parade on the road.
It was quite a sight.
The decorated cows looked awesome and their deep mooing voices mixed with the ringing of the big brass bells.

This cow parade happens all over Switzerland once per year, and we were very lucky to have seen it today.

It is called “Désalpes” or “Alpabzug,” meaning “Alpine descent.”
In Switzerland, the milking cows are walked down from their summer alpine pastures, to their winter barns before the snows come.

As the cows come down the mountain trails to the village streets, the people line the streets to greet the colorful line of marching people and cows.
The processions of cows crowned with flowers and with huge clanging bells, are led by cowherds dressed in embroidered traditional jackets and dresses.

This end-of-summer tradition has been taking place in Switzerland since about 3000 BCE.

It’s a festive time now, but wasn’t always.
Turf wars over alpine grazing rights took place here as early as 1315 AD.
There were disputes over access to pastures, and citizens from the canton of Schwyz raided the Habsburg-protected Einsiedeln Abbey. The Austrian Habsburgs invaded, having already had their eye on the nearby Gotthard Pass, the shortest route to Italy.
The Swiss soldiers defeated the Austrians, earning the gratitude of generations of Swiss dairy cow herders.

Today, festivities included more than pretty cows on parade.
In some villages, visitors will hear Alpine horns and yodeling, and see traditional dancing, flag-throwing competitions and men marching in unison to the tune of the cowbells around their necks.

Regional crafts and foods are also offered, including of course cheeses made from those beautiful cows passing by that day.

I noticed that the Sim card that I had bought in France and was promised to work all over Europe, has stopped working.
It was time for lunch and to figure out what was going on with my phone.

The Hôtel-Restaurant Croix d’Or in Ballaigues, has a very cool cafe and restaurant.
We stopped in and enjoyed a great lunch.
I had the grilled vegetable salad and a dessert of chocolate fondant, a small warm chocolate pastry that oozed hot chocolate as I cut it open.

I was not able to resolve my SIM card problem.
It turned out that Switzerland is not part of our SIM network plan, and so we will need to get a Swiss SIM card.

For now, we will have to follow the Via Francigena signs through the forest, until we get to Orbe.
I also downloaded the map of today’s route, to use if I lose cell reception.
It should work well enough to get us to Orbe.

The forest path was beautiful, with ancient trees and stone walls dating back to the Roman era.
But the most beautiful part of this walk above the Orbe river, were the caves and stone tunnels carved into the rocks.
They were short and obviously just big enough for people walking, but they were beautiful as we circulated around the high cliffs of the canyon.

We got out of the forest into a small village before entering another forest.
At the edge of the forest, I saw two interesting things.
One was a small group of Ibexes.
An Ibex is a species of wild goat that looks a bit like a deer.
They live in the wild in the Jura and in the Alps.
They skipped out of sight when I arrived, before I had a chance to take their photo.

The second sight I saw was a wild grassy patch of ground with “Crop Circles” in them.
It was not farm land, and the appearance of the the circular indentations in the wild grass, was most definitely man made.

It looked as if someone had landed an alien craft or built a round yurt on the grass, except it was a very unlikely location, at the edge of a cliff and a forest.
Made me wonder in amazement…..

I remembered reading the books of Billy Meier, a Swiss man who is the founder of a UFO religion called the “Freie Interessengemeinschaft für Grenz- und Geisteswissenschaften und Ufologiestudien.”

Billy claimed that he was contacted by the Pleiades, who taught him and gave him many light filled messages, and even allowed him to photograph their alien spacecraft.

The photograph, taken in the 1960’s, was disputed as a hoax.
Regardless,the messages and words written by Billy are enlightening.

Among other things, the Pleiades told Billy that Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador is actually higher than Mt Everest.

If measured from sea level, Mt Everest is higher than Mt Chimborazo.
But if measured from the centre of the Earth, Mt Chimborazo is higher than Mt. Everest.

One must wonder how a poor uneducated Swiss farmer who had never traveled until then, got such a rich body of star wisdom and how he knew these things, decades before scientists recognized this fact.

From there, the path was mostly flat with gentle hills, and only when we climbed up out of the canyon did it get really steep and tiring.
We stopped to take off our rain gear and continued to climb up and up.

We had to encourage ourselves to walk safely, not to get disheartened by the hardship and to stay strong and not fall, despite the late hour and the fact that we were very tired from walking all day.

At the Orbe Gorge, we met a few people out on a scenic stroll.
They looked so relaxed as they wished us a good afternoon.
On a flat forest path, Jules slipped on a tree root and fell.
The people looked at him worried, as he picked himself up, dusted himself off and continued walking.
He was completely unhurt, only a bit embarrassed by his fall.

We finally reached Orbe before sunset.
The town looked picturesque, but everything was closed.
Our hotel looked a little Shabby, but I did not care.
I only wanted a hot shower and to lay down.

We had hiked a total time of nine hours, and as I explained to Jules, who seemed very disappointed that we would be paying $150 for a shabby hotel per night, there are NO other options in the town of Orbe.

Our room was decorated with plastic red poppy flowers attached arbitrarily to the walls with pins.
But despite the weird design, the room was well lit, the matters was good, the shower was hot and we had a heated towel rack, which allowed me to wash all our muddy clothes, socks, rain pants and shoes, and to get them all dried overnight.

The town has a Thai restaurant, and we slowly walked there after our shower, wearing our slippers.
The food was superb for an out of place Thai restaurant.
We enjoyed every dish we ordered and our only regret was that it would not be open tomorrow, because we planned to stay in Orbe for another night and visit the ancient Roman mosaics on the outskirts of town.

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 42,895 Steps
9 hours of walking
Active walking time – 8 hours
Daily Kilometers – 31.5 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 994 km

Hotel Restaurant Au Chasseur in Orbe.
A simple hotel (the only one in Orbe) with a hot shower, good heating, and a friendly and helpful owner.


To hear and see the cow’s parade, click here:

Part 2:

Day 43 – Walking the Via Francigena – Pontarlier To Métabief, France – Crossing The Jura Sub-Alps Mountains In The Rain

Day 43 – Walking the Via Francigena – Pontarlier To Métabief, France – Crossing The Jura Sub-Alps Mountains In The Rain

Today we crossed the Jura Mountain range.
The weather forecast called for only drizzling rain, but it rained consistently all day long.

Luckily, we dressed for the cold rain in warm clothing.
We wore our fleeces under our rain coats and rain pants.
As always, we put everything inside our backpacks in big ziplock plastic bags and the clothing inside a dry sack.

The only things exposed to the rain were our mesh shoes.
I really should have brought my waterproof light trekking shoes instead of the mesh ones.

After breakfast, we left Pontarlier and entered into a thick forest.
It was wet but very scenic, still dark from the morning mist and mysterious in the fog.
We climbed up and up and when we got out of the forest, still climbing steadily, we got a glimpse of The Château de Joux, a fortress dating back to the 13th century.

It was covered in mist and not very photogenic in the rain.
In fact, I left my camera inside a plastic bag all day, and used only my phone for today’s photos.

For about an hour, we walked by the road, but in a designated bike lane.
I found by the side of the road a white balloon that escaped a “Just Married” wedding vehicle and I attached it to the back of Jules’s backpack.
Jules said that the floating balloon would help the passing cars identify us in the misty weather.

By lunchtime, we entered the village of Chaon, which came right after the village called Oye-et-Pallet, or as we nicknamed it in Yiddish, “the village called Oye Vey.”

It was hard to walk in the rain with the wind blowing our umbrellas.
I was thinking of the comforts of home, of a world in which people drive to the neighborhood Starbucks and order pumpkin spiced lattes, not walking in the cold rain….

In Chaon, we stopped for lunch at a local Auberge that serves lunch from noon to 1:30 in the afternoon.
You might wonder how these restaurants can make any money being open for only an hour and a half, but the place was packed with workers and locals, dining in big groups or in teams.

We love that about rural France.
Workers come covered in mud, wearing gum boots, and sit for a gourmet three or four course meal at lunchtime, always accompanied by a glass of wine.

We thought about workers in the USA who barely have enough time or money or the inclination to eat more than a fast food lunch.
They wind up with a cheap and indigestible lunch break, compared to the calm tasty feast workers enjoy in France.

We were not very hungry, but the owner looked like he was expecting us to eat, since he had allowed us to take a table at one o’clock, pretty late for a restaurant that closes at one thirty.

We ordered the fresh trout, which came with a lemon butter sauce, fries and a baked pumpkin cassoulet.
Then we ordered crème Brûlée and a tart of Blackcurrants for dessert.

In front of me on the wall there was a poster from an old french movie with an actor I remember loving as a kid, but I could not remember his name.
As a young kid in Israel, I loved French movies and French TV comedy shows.
I told Jules that I thought the comedian’s name was Louis de Funès, but I was not sure.

The owner of the Auberge had warmed up to us, and he came over to us confirming it was Louis de Funès.
He told us that we have about three more hours of walking in the rain to get to Métabief, and after that we can sleep well, for we were surely going to be exhausted from climbing the Jura Mountains in the rain.

From there, we entered the forest again and then climbed onto a high plateau with pasture and farmland.
There were a lot of steady climbs, as well as ups and downs, all the way to Métabief.

The farm tracks turned into mud mixed with cow manure, and I knew that the first thing I would do when we got to our room, would be to wash off our shoes and socks, which anyway were soaking wet.

The way was very scenic, even in the rain, but I am sure that the views of the lake and picturesque alpine villages would have been much more beautiful if the day were not so misty and rainy.

We arrived at our hotel and had to wait ‪until 5:30pm‬ to check in.
Nobody was at the front desk, but the hotel was open and we made ourselves comfortable in the warm lobby until the designated check in time at five thirty.

Dinner was served at seven o’clock sharp, so we had to wash up, clean all of our clothes and hang them on the heated towel racks and go down for dinner.

The dining room had a large group of twenty weekend hikers who dominated the hotel.
They dominated the jacuzzi and the sauna, and now many of them were tipsy and a little drunk.

We were served our meal before theirs, and our food arrived very fast.
It was a good meal, not exceptional, but good.

We are at the halfway point in crossing the Jura Mountains.
Tomorrow we will climb to the peak and make our way down to Switzerland.

To be honest, the walk today did not feel so challenging to me.
The misty, windy weather and the rain was my biggest challenge, not the climbs.

Or maybe it is my frame of mind that is getting better….
All day long I was thinking about these affirmations:
“Love created me like Itself.
Holiness created me holy.
Kindness created me kind.
Helpfulness created me helpful.
Perfection created me perfect.
I am NOT weak but strong!
God created me like Herself.
Love created me like Itself….”

Good night Holy sons and daughters of God,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 31,483 Steps
6.5 hours of walking
Active walking time – 5.5 hours
Daily Kilometers – 23 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 962.5 km

Étoile Des Neiges, in Métabief
A simple and comfortable ski hotel and restaurant in a small ski town in the Jura Mountains

Day 42 – Walking the Via Francigena – Walking Around Pontarlier, France

Day 42 – Walking the Via Francigena – Walking Around Pontarlier, France

We have entered the Jura Mountains.
The region is beautiful and very green, with tall mountains towering around us.
The Jura Mountains are a sub-alpine mountain range, located north of the Western Alps, on the France–Switzerland border.
The Jura separates the Rhine river and Rhône river basins.

We have chosen to cross the Jura Mountains on the westerly side, instead of on the easterly side.
The westerly side is part of a protected national park in the Jura range, with a small ski town and better hotels.

We will cross the Jura Mountain range in two days, stopping for an overnight in the ski town of Métabief.
Even though it is not a very high ski resort, with only a few green and blue ski slopes (not too challenging), I am a bit nervous about our walk.

I have been looking intently at the weather in the region we are walking through.
It is predicted to rain every day for the next fourteen days.
I do not want to walk in the cold rain all day every day, but my preferences go against hundreds of thousands of souls who have been praying for rain to water their vineyards and gardens, and to fill their rivers.

We tell ourselves that walking in the rain and the cold or hot weather, is part of a pilgrimage, but a part of us knows that we much prefer partly sunny days with pleasant temperatures.

Today we slept late, ate a late breakfast in our hotel, collected all our clothes and muddy rain gear and went to the nearby laundromat in Pontarlier.

A bit later we had clean and dry clothes that smelled so nice.
Then we took our laundry back to our room and walked around the old part of Pontarlier.

We saw the old city gate which has been rebuilt through the years, and the remains of the old stone walls that once encircled the town.

We bought chocolate at a chocolate boutique.
The chocolate maker giggled nervously as we entered his shop.
We must have looked to him like two scruffy western cowboys looking for trouble.

But appearances are misleading…
We are never looking for trouble, just for some good chocolate to have on our long walking days, when we need to uplift our spirits and we have no access to food or water.

We found a fabulous Moroccan restaurant called “La Medina” in town, and decided to have lunch.
We had a salad of grated carrot with orange blossoms and fresh orange juice as an appetizer.
It was wonderful, and the taste and smell of the orange blossom essence transported me back to Morocco.

For a main course we had the La Medina Vegetarian couscous.
We got a plate each full of fluffy couscous with fried onions, fried almonds and raisins soaked in honey and cinnamon.
In a big communal bowl, we got a chunky vegetable soup with pumpkin, carrots, cabbage, turnip, chickpeas and zucchini, all cooked in a wonderful vegetable broth with aromatic spices.

We ladled the soup on top of our couscous and savored the taste.
We also got some fresh leaf teas, jasmine for jules and Vervain for me.
In fact, we loved the food so much and found it to be so wholesome, that we decided to have dinner there also.

At the restaurant, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirrored wall.
I look wasted and tired.
I did feel tired and wasted and grateful to have a rest day to see Pontarlier today.
Luckily the weather was perfect to allow us to walk around town.

I decided to buy a bottle of orange blossom essential oil.
Sometimes when I feel wasted, I rub a little fragrant essential oil on my temples or neck and inhale them.
Or I add a few drops to my facial cream to make me feel better.

I was looking for a health food store, but in France, essential oils and many other holistic tinctures and herbal medicine are available in many pharmacies.
I found a great homeopathic pharmacy with shelves full of essential oils and among them I found the orange blossom I was looking for.

On display in the middle of the store, they had a natural perfume, made of wonderfully fragrant orange blossoms.
Despite the fact that it will add to the weight of my backpack, I bought a bottle of it.

While traveling, I have found that if I pass up an opportunity to buy something that I love with the hope that I would be able to buy it at the end of our journey and not carry it along, it never worked out.
The item might not be available in another country or it might be something made by a local maker and only available locally.

Of course when you are traveling with a small backpack that you are trying to keep light, this can only apply for a small item or two, and I have learned not to want to own everything that I love at the shops that I pass.
It is OK to admire something, love it and not take it home with me.

We visited the old church of Pontarlier and sat in a lovely tea house in town. Jules tried at three separate shops to get a haircut, only to be told that all of the barbers were fully booked for days or weeks ahead. We returned to our hotel, and I had a luxurious sleep in the afternoon.
I felt so rejuvenated after the afternoon sleep, a hot shower and some essential oil cream on my face.

At night when we left to have dinner, we dressed up for the first time in our warm winter coats, gloves and warm hats.
The weather in this region is dropping into the single digits, and everyone in town seem to be wearing warm coats.

With love and light,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 9,977 Steps
4 hours of walking
Active walking time – 2 hours
Daily Kilometers – 7.5 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 939.5 km

Hotel Saint Pierre in Pontarlier, France
A centrally located hotel with comfortable rooms and a good shower.

Day 41 – Walking the Via Francigena – Lods To Pontarlier, France – An Exciting Forest Hike To The Source Of The River Loue, In The Pouring Rain

Day 41 – Walking the Via Francigena – Lods To Pontarlier, France – An Exciting Forest Hike, To The Source Of The River Loue, In The Pouring Rain

Today was a very challenging day.
We knew that it would rain all day, but we still chose the longer forest hike instead of walking on the side of the National road, getting splashed with muddy water by the cars that pass us by.

We had breakfast and chatted with the owner of our Bed and Breakfast.
She is such a lovely women.
She and her husband live in Lods during the summertime, and return back to Bern, Switzerland in wintertime.
She said she loves living in a small remote village, but she also loves concerts and museums and cultural events, so she plans to keep her house in the city of Bern.

We talked about how we are multidimensional beings, who need a diverse life.
I feel the same.
I love the quiet of the Colorado mountains, but I also love traveling to big cities, sitting in busy cafes, visiting museums, concerts, art shows, movies and film festivals.

She made us a full breakfast, with eggs, cheese, baguettes and jam .
She confessed that she had never fried an egg on both sides, as Jules likes his done.
She said she tried it three times before she presented him with an egg she thought looked good.
It was so charming that she cared so much.

She also gave us two bananas and two apples to have for lunch, since the village does not have a shop or a bakery.
Many of the little villages no longer have a local bakery in France.
Instead, every two days a bakery truck comes by and the locals buy their bread.

The walk from Lods was along the river Loue.
It was very scenic, and the small villages looked very picturesque.
Then we entered a beautiful forest, full of old trees and mossy rocks.
The river was flowing fast, and on both sides of the river, grey slate cliffs towered high into the sky.

The walk was challenging, since it was raining all night and all day today.
We had to climb over fallen trees, natural rock steps, slippery stones and over tree roots.

It was truly a beautiful forest.
The beautiful river created many waterfalls, and the path was very hilly, with lots of ups and downs.

If it were not a rainy day, we would have just enjoyed the hike, but being so wet and slippery and carrying our heavy backpacks, we needed to be more aware and to walk slowly and carefully.

But I was not afraid.
In the corner of my eye between the trees, I saw a group of eight trail runners running on the path ahead of us.
They seemed so agile and capable.
This is exactly what I want to become.

Some people hike slippery slopes and forests with hiking poles, to keep their balance and avoid sliding and slipping, especially when the trail is very challenging and wet.
I want to develop my instincts and muscles to a degree that I am well balanced without support, just like those trail runners who jump on the slippery rocks like gazelles and mountain goats.

It is not that I wish to become a trail runner.
I do not even like running.
But I DO want to become as well balanced and agile as they are on challenging terrain.

And we did very well.
At times the path was washed away, in other parts it was just a narrow one foot wide lane, and always it was full of water, or rivulets from the rain, or fallen leaves or slippery tree roots and rocks.

After about two hours in the forest, the rain eased, so we sat on a rock, took off our backpacks and had some cookies.
We were happy to rest our feet, knowing that we would still have a full day of walking ahead of us.

The rain started again after we collected our things and started walking.
We were walking uphill, to the source of the river Loue.
The mighty river is dammed close to its source, in order to control its flow and prevent it from flooding the nearby villages.

At its source, it comes out of those gray cliff rocks we saw towering above us.
It is amazing that such a river flows out of a cave in the rocks.
No wonder it is a beloved tourist destination.
Tourists do not need to hike the forest.
At the source there is a carpark and a park with picnic tables with easy access.

I had no cell reception for hours when we walked in the forest, but when I had studied the map before our walk, I saw that there was a restaurant at the river source.
I was wondering if it would be open.
I was dreaming of a hot cup of tea and a dry place to sit indoors.

When we neared the restaurant, I saw the lights inside and hurried in.
We came in dripping with water.
The place was nearly full of customers, most of them road workers and businessmen working nearby.

It felt like heaven to drink hot green tea, eat a crepe with honey and rhubarb and use the clean toilets.

From there, it was a very long walk to Pontarlier.
The rain intensified and we got soaked and very cold.
I considered stopping to put on another layer under my raincoat, but the rain was coming down so hard that my warm layer would have been soaked before I had a chance to put it on.

We had 22 Kilometers to go, after we exited the forest, and most of it we walked in the pouring rain.
Instead of focusing on my wet and cold feet, I imagined that I was soaking my tired feet in a cool creek.
It worked, and I managed not to feel miserable.

But it was really cold and also getting late.
Sunrise at this time of the year is at 7:30 AM and sunset is at 7PM, and we needed to get into town by sunset.

We walked without stopping.
Only once we stopped at a bench when the sun shone through the clouds.
As soon as we put on our backpacks and started walking over the last mountain, the rain started pouring heavily again.

We arrived in Pontarlier at six thirty in the evening.
We were so wet, that I knew that we would not put on our wet shoes after a shower, so we entered a bakery cafe and ordered hot tea and baguette sandwiches.

My fingers were so cold and frozen, that I barely was able to operate and open the clips of my backpack or my wallet.
I had no dexterity in my frozen fingers.

The short break did not dry us nor warm us up.
Only after a hot shower did our feet and fingers felt warm again.

I know that the region needs the rain water, but I really hope it rains at night, instead of raining all day long as it rained today…

When we were clean and warm in the clean sheets, we reflected on the day.
We felt that we had had an exciting and adventurous day, despite being completely wet, cold, and very tired after our long walk.

Luckily we have tomorrow to see Pontarlier and do our laundry.

Warm blessings to you,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 45,116 Steps
9 hours of walking
Active walking time – 8 hours
Daily Kilometers – 33 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 932 km

Hotel Saint Pierre in Pontarlier, France
A centrally located hotel with comfortable rooms and a good shower.

Day 40 – Walking the Via Francigena – Ornans To Lods, France – A Leisurely Walk Along The Clear River Loue

Day 40 – Walking the Via Francigena – Ornans To Lods, France – A Leisurely Walk Along The Clear River Loue

Over breakfast, we chatted with the owner of our hotel in Ornans.
He told us that not many pilgrims walk the Via Francigena at this time of the year.
Most people come in the summertime, even though the summers are very hot, and it is much more difficult to walk all day in the heat.

He told us that he lived in the USA for years, and also in the Caribbean islands.
As an avid fly fisherman, he has fished in Montana, Utah and Colorado.
Now he has returned home, to run a hotel that caters mostly to fishermen who come to fly fish for the golden yellow trout, perch and pike that live in the river.

We do not have a long day of walking today.
The reason for this is that we will be staying overnight at a bed and breakfast in the nearby village of Lods, in order to break up the distance to the city of Pontarlier, our next stop after Lods.

We started the day relatively late, and tried to walk very leisurely, in order not to arrive at our B&B hosts before ‪3pm‬.
The path was mostly a forest path, overlooking the river.
We took several short breaks along the path to Lods, stopping to sit at every bench we found that was not wet from the previous night’s rain.

We were not tired, we simply needed to slow down our pace.
We looked at the fish in the river, listened to the birds and to the sound of the rapids.

In a small village along the way, we stopped for some tea.
The old villages along the river were very picturesque.
We even tried to stop in a busy restaurant to have a light lunch, not because we were hungry, but just to spend the time.
Unfortunately the place was not very clean and the menu of the day was all meat, so we kept on walking, and instead had some cookies sitting on a bench in the forest.

Finally, we stopped for coffee and ice cream in Lods, at the only restaurant in town.
We made reservations for dinner at seven in the evening, and then climbed up a steep hill to visit the local church and to check into our guesthouse.

Our host in the Chez Nous B&B was a woman from Switzerland.
She showed us to our room and we made arrangements for breakfast the next day.

We showered, cleaned up and rested until dinner.
The nice sunny day had turned into a very rainy evening.
We dressed in our rain gear and walked down the steep hill for dinner.
We were the only guests in the hotel restaurant that evening.

The food was superb.
We ordered the menu of the day, which included an appetizer, main course and dessert for €25 per person.

The appetizer was “Finds From the Forest,” a collection of mushrooms in cream sauce served over a toasted baguette.
It included morel mushrooms, champignons and oyster mushrooms.

The main course was a seared fish with couscous, vegetables and potatoes.
The Loue river is a fishermen’s Paradise.
Many inns and houses are available for rental to fishermen who come to fish in the clear river.
We could see the fish swimming in the river, just by standing on the shore.
The dessert was a white cheese that tasted similar to a thick yoghurt, served with raspberries and raspberry sauce.

The whole family that runs the hotel and restaurant was having dinner when we got ready to leave and paid our bill.

Walking up the very steep hill back to our room was actually easier than walking down, since the rain made the road very slippery.

Tomorrow is predicted to be a very rainy day.
We plan to dress up in our rain gear right from the start, and hopefully get to Pontarlier at a reasonable time.

With love and blessings,

Today’s Stats:
Daily Steps – 22,108 Steps
5 hours of walking
Active walking time – 3.75 hours
Daily Kilometers – 16.5 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 899 km

Chez Nous Bed and Breakfast in Lods, France
A small B&B located in the picturesque village of Lods with charming hosts.