France

Open border

Cattleguard.jpg

This may be the border between France and Spain.

There were no signs. There were no guards. There were no lines. There was no passport control.

Actually the only thing that went through my head when I took this picture was “cool cattle guard.” It was only later, as I was trying to figure out when I passed the international boundary, that I reckoned it must have been here. It may have been somewhere even less noticeable.

The line between these two countries was established in 1659. As members of the EU, France and Spain are practicing the dream of the borderless Europe project (admittedly, not without wrinkles).

History teaches that walls and fences are ineffective in shutting down the flow of illegal immigration. What works? Cooperative engagement between prosperous and liberal societies who require and enforce clear rules.

Buen Camino!


P1190836.JPG

We have many travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are organized on behalf of educational institutions or church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

Gateway

P1170462.JPG

We posted some details about Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France in our most recent story-of-the-week (you really should check it out here). It is a beautiful mountain town located in the shadow of the Pyrénées, just a few miles from the Spanish border. The 17th century Mendiguren Citadel crowns one hillside overlooking the village.

The most celebrated gate of the citadel is the one pictured here. Porte St-Jacques, or the “Gate of Saint James,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a significant feature of the Santiago de Compostela and marks a first engagement with this historic trail for many pilgrims.


Capernaum.jpeg

The synagogue of Capernaum, Israel is a prominent feature of the Jesus Trail. We’ll be walking this historic trail in January of 2019. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. If you are interested in joining us click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com. But move quickly, the window for signing-up is closing soon.

Ornamental intersections

P1170411.JPG

Be sure to look up while exploring the nooks and crannies of the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne.

The cut stones around windows and other openings are exquisitely decorated. Gothic-style demands a pointed arch (that sits nicely against the rib vaults that define the ceiling), but beneath that arch are circles or foils. These foils are perfectly symmetrical and contain still more overlapping circles that imitate leaves or cusps.

The entire opening, often containing stained glass, is called a tracery. It is possible that this name comes from the work of “tracing” out the design on the floor.

I scratch my head. I can hardly imagine the effort of the tracing—much less the work of shaping and stacking stone—to create this kind of visual display.

Buen Camino!


selfie 2 copy.JPG

It is not too late to sign on for our hike across Galilee (but it will be soon). This coming January we will be walking portions of the “Jesus Trail.” You are cordially invited to come along. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

No claustrophobia in this cloister*

P1170421.JPG

The interior of the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne (in southern France) is fabulous. The exterior ain’t too shabby either.

As described yesterday (see here), the complex is Gothic in its original design. However, the effort to complete it extended well beyond the 16th century, when the irregularities of the Gothic style gave way to the symmetry of Renaissance architecture. Here in Bayonne the steeples were the last of the pieces to rise, finished only in the 19th century. It is truly a multigenerational accomplishment.

Note the row of flying buttresses between the cloister and the drip-edge of the nave.

I shot this view to the steeples from the cloister that adjoins the cathedral. From above, the cloister is a perfect square; a grassy yard is surrounded by covered walks. That was convenient on this day. The rain began to fall from grey skies as Bob and I admired this triumph of stone and glass.

Buen Camino!


*The old Latin term for cloister is claustrum, “enclosure.” The same root gives us our word claustrophobic, “a fear of being closed up.”


It is not too late to sign on for our hike across Galilee (but it will be soon). This coming January we will be walking portions of the “Jesus Trail.” You are cordially invited to come along. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

Gothic is not what you expect

P1170397.JPG

The phrase “Gothic” often conjures up images of a post-punk subculture. Whether it be music or fashion, the term lends itself to all things dark, morbid, pagan, and probably lacey.

All that goes out the stained-glass window when you stand in a Gothic cathedral.

While the play of light and dark are part of the ambience, the architecture is nothing short of brilliant. What we call “Gothic” was “modern style” in 12th and 13th century France. This “modern style” came about as creative solutions to the engineering problems of heavy earthbound structures were explored. Flying buttresses and rib vaulting made it possible for medieval stonemasons to stack stones to to new and dizzying heights. Thinner walls meant more windows to welcome sunlight through millions of colored panes.

A fun way to learn about the development of church architecture from the Romanesque to the Gothic style is to read Ken Follett’s 1989 novel, The Pillars of the Earth.

But if you really want to experience Gothic for yourself, forget the music, the fashion, and the books. Visit a place like Bayonne, France. In the center of town you’ll find the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne. Stand in the crossing where the transept meets the nave and let your eyes soar!

Buen Camino!


We are getting close to finalizing our Jesus Walk planned for January 2019. If you are interested, have a look at the link here. We’ll be trekking through parts of Galilee, experiencing hills and valleys, churches and ruins. At the end of the walk we’ll also spend time in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Send any questions you might have to me at markziese@gmail.com.

Peaceful Bayonet-ville

20180628_093647.jpg

This town in southern France may have received its modern name from the Basques. They were the first to use the bayonet, a thrusting blade attached to the end of a firearm. It is possible that this musket modification was sharpened in this peaceful place, hence its name, Bayonne.

Archaeologists have poked the ground here a few times retrieving coins, potsherds, and the remains of what was likely a small Roman fort built along the riverbank (for a POTD on the river and its folk in the time of Julius Caesar see here).

Before it was Bayonne, the place was likely known as Lapurdum. Lapurdum is mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum, a document that describes the Western Roman Empire in the early 5th c AD. At that point in history the region was writhing in the throes of crisis, overrun by Germanic tribes. In case you’re curious, the name of the region at that time was Novempopulania. Take a stab at pronouncing that one.

Buen Camino!


Running from dog.jpg

We have a busy end-of-year scheduled for 2018 and an ambitious travel season planned for 2019. For a sample of what we are cooking, have a look here on our Explorer website. Know that it is often possible to join one of our groups even if your journey originates in a different place. Shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com if you have questions.

The river of a galling folk

P1170389 copy.JPG

The River Adour is born in the snow of the Pyrénées and flows down to the Bay of Biscay. Here in Bayonne, France, it is broad and powerful. It surges under the bridge where I am standing and in just a few miles will mix with the salty Atlantic.

In the Roman period this was the homeland of a salty people-group known as the Tarbelli. They called the river Aturis. Their land was desired for its gold. Strabo tantalizes us with the observation: you can pick up nuggets here "as big as a fist." They are easily found and require very little refining (check out this link to Strabo's Geography 4.2.1).

According to Julius Caesar, the Tarbelli are one of several groups in Gaul that surrendered to Crassus in 56 BC and sent hostages to Rome (De Bello Gallico 3.27.1). All of these Gallic folk appear fussy and hostile, but much more human than the crazy Germans in the north. Eventually the Tarbelli were "Romanized" as a part of the province of Aquitaine.

Buen caminó!


I posted another picture of Bayonne a while back. See here.


1024px-Celebrity_Reflection_cruise_ship_in_Santorini,_Greece_001.jpg

This is your last call to join us for this year's cruise on the Mediterranean. We will be traveling by sea from Rome to Athens and back again. See the link here for details. Ports of call along the way include Sicily, Malta, and Santorini. If you are interested, you'll need to hustle. The Celebrity Reflection is about to sail!

Gare de Bayonne

20180628_102732 copy.jpg

For explorers in the Basque region of France, the town of Bayonne figures into the plan. It is a local capital seated on the banks of the Nive and Ardour Rivers. Bridges lace the place together and give it a "little Paris" feel.

The train station, pictured here, is often the first spot where the foot hits the ground. The Gare de Bayonne is a part of the late 19th century rail system that provides connectivity to the Bordeaux region (just to the north) and beyond. The facade and clock tower have more character than the interior of the station, but it gets the job done.

Just in case you're interested Bayonne's sister city, Biarritz, is the surfing capital of Europe.

Dude. I didn't see any boards on the train.

Buen caminó!


10-reasons-celebrity-reflection-food.jpg

If you are looking for an adventure-in-style, you should join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean cruise this October. See the link here for details. Naturally, we'll be visiting some sensational sites (like Athens and Rome) but we'll also do some fine dining. Did you know that cruisecritic.com calls our ship, the Celebrity Reflection, "a food-lovers fantasy"? That got my attention!

The Cathedral awakens

P1180083 copy.JPG

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos (La Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María) awakens at sunrise. Its spires curl skyward, sprouting one upon another. It stretches horizontally as well as vertically, expanding in all directions over the centuries.

Work on the Cathedral began in the year 1221. Its lines were determined by gothic trends already established in Paris and Reims. Later styles were introduced as the structure developed over the course of the next five hundred years.

Bob and I visited the Cathedral in the afternoon when it was busy with tourists. I captured this photograph on the following morning when Burgos was still asleep and the plaza was deserted.

The path of the Camino Francés crosses the shadow of this World Heritage Site.

Buen caminó!


Valletta_Malta-capital_harbour_shutterstock_200284016-686x457.jpg

If you are interested in other fantastic medieval structures, you should join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean cruise in October, 2018. See the link here for details. Naturally, we'll be visiting sensational sites near the water like Messina, Taormina, Valletta, and Rhodes. I plan on bringing my camera. There are more views than my mind will remember.

At the foot of the Pyrénées

20180628_134654 copy.jpg

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a village that rests at the base of a mountain chain known as Les Pyrénées. This range forms a challenging barrier between France and Spain. 

On the French side the slopes are steep and wet. On the Spanish side they are more gentle and dry. 

Our path takes us over this range by foot via the Camino francés.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is sorta like Tennessee's Gatlinburg. Only with a deeper history and way-better coffee.

Buen caminó!


celebrity-reflection_i1476674.jpg

Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

Basque country

20180628_093235 copy.jpg

The twin spires of the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne or the "Cathedral of our Lady of Bayonne" towers above the buildings of this Basque village in Southern France. The structure is Gothic in style and was built over the course of nearly 500 years.

It is an important site along the Way of Saint James. We stopped in Bayonne for a visit. Keep an eye on our future stories. I'll be developing these soon. In the meantime, Enjoy some up to date photographs via our POTD venue.

Buen Camino!

Riding the Métro

Mark on the paris train copy.jpg

Bob and I traveled across Paris by Métro. It is the second busiest mass transit system in Europe, surpassed only by Moscow. On the day that Bob shot this picture we were heading toward our meeting with a bullet train that would take us to Bayonne in south France. That train moves a little faster than the Métro, reaching speeds over 300 kilometers per hour.

Buen caminó!


Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

Spewing sphinx

P1170367 copy.JPG

A sphinx spewing water is not the sort of thing that you see everyday. At the fontaine du Châtelet (or the "Fountain of the Palm") in downtown Paris, you can see four in one place. These jetting sphinxes are part of the base of a fountain designed not just for memory or beauty, but to provide drinking water to the public. Above them is a column topped by a golden Victory offering laurels. 

The structure was built between 1806 and 1808 on the right bank of the Seine. It is a commemorative display honoring Napoléon Bonaparte for his victories here and there, including his not-so-victorious Eastern Campaign (hence the sphinxes). 

Standing before the fountain, I am reminded of the famous statement of Napoléon issued on an Egyptian battlefield on July 21, 1798: "From the heights of these pyramids, forty centuries look down on us."

That's quite the pep talk.

For more on the Battle of the Pyramids, see here.

Buen caminó!


Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

He cheated and still lost

judgement scene.JPG

One could stand for a long time and stare at the myriad of details carved into the western façade of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Here, saints and kings, and priests, and prophets and popes and a great cloud of witnesses look down upon a great cloud of tourists with cameras and selfie-sticks.

Judgement Day is presented over the central portal. The dead rise from below. Christ is supreme on high. But between them is the scene pictured above. A pious soul is weighed on a scale by the Archangel Michael. Pitted against the righteousness of God is human sin. A demon from below pulls at it. Even the Satan himself, with grotesque face, has his thumb on the scale! But such cheating does no good. The scale tips in the favor of righteousness. 

Unfortunately other souls (to the right) did not fare so well. They are led away in chains to face the torturers.

It is a sobering presentation of Matthew 25:31-46 (see here).

This scene was likely carved in the decade between AD 1220-1230.

Buen caminó!


Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

 

Deep roots

20180625_183835 copy.jpg

Got off the plane in Paris and met up with Bob, my son-in-law. The two of us went for a walk and came across this lovely old stone church in Roissy-en-France. The door was open so we helped ourselves to a self-guided tour. It was a stout and stately old place with the all the smells of grandma's attic.

Literature inside identified the building as a parish catholic church called Saint-Éloi. Much of what we saw today was relatively modern (17th or 18th century). However, this is the region of Roman Gaul (1st c BC - 5 c AD) and so we were not surprised to discover that probes have revealed older stonework beneath the present level. Some remains suggests construction that goes back to the 9th century while others may be as early as the 4th century AD.

Those are deep roots!

Bien camino!


Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.