Conques – One of the most Beautiful Villages in France

The small town of beyond gorgeous Conques (pop: 300) is on the list of “Les Plus Beaux Villages” (the most beautiful villages) in France (you’ll get no argument from me), and an important stop along the Way of St. James pilgrimage route.

I burst into in tears when we finished the first portion from Le Puy in Conques seven years ago; both from its beauty and exhaustion. In two days Marine Steve and I would once again set forth on the Way of St. James from Conques to Cahors, following the red and white GR (Grand Radonnee) way-marked path on a self-guided trip with only topographic maps and hotel directions while a service totes luggage from place to place.

YouTube Preview Image

Read more »

What to See in Conques, France: Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy

The major sight in Conques is the former Abbey-Church of Saint-Foy (St. Faith). Conques became a pilgrimage destination in the Ninth Century when it acquired the relics of a Saint-Foy (St. Faith), a child martyred in 303 AD famous for her ability to cure eye disorders. Like any business, the town needed a draw to have pilgrims visit (along with their money). Ah ha! Enter (stage left) a monk in 866 who managed to obtain these relics by “furtive translation.” In other words, he stole them and staged a set of miracles! That did the trick, and it wasn’t long before Conques was an important staging post on the pilgrim route. (Bits of information that none of us ever learned in History classes.)

Medieval pilgrims passed through difficult, mountainous terrain on rue Haute (high road) before arriving in the hillside village of Conques; as did we in 2007 with “minor” exceptions: hotels, suitcases carried from town to town, and wonderful food.

YouTube Preview Image

Read more »

Charming Auberge St. Jacques in Conques, France

Incredible “it has to be seen to be believed” Conques, France is on the pilgrimage route leading from Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. The 736 kilometer/457 mile route is called Way of St. James, Camino de Santiago, St. Jacques, or just Camino.

Legend holds that St. James’s remains were carried to Spain where he was buried in what is now Santiago de Compostela. We last stayed at 2**Auberge St. Jacques 7 years ago when Marine Steve and I finished the first 14 days on the Way of St. James pilgrimage route. We’re b—a—c—k… to continue on. This “Auberge” or hotel is located facing the incredible Abbey of Sainte Foy. Auberge St. Jacques has 13 rooms with bathroom, telephone, television, free Wi-Fi and an excellent restaurant.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Read more »

A Nightmare Train From Paris Gare Austerlitz to Cahors

Be forewarned – there are seven train stations in Paris: Gare d’Austerlitz, Gare de Bercy, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare Montparnasse, Gare du Nord and Gare Saint-Lazare. Check and double check when making train reservations exactly which station your train will leave from, happily not the problem today. Off Les Cars Air France at Gare de Lyon on one of those gorgeous days that make Paris so incredible, and a four-block walk across the Seine to Gare Austerlitz for an Intercity (IC) 1:39p train expected to arrive in Cahors at 7:11p; reserved seats mandatory.

Click here for Rail Europe
Paris Austerlitz Train Station was named after a Napoleonic battle fought in the region that is now the Czech Republic and originally built in 1840. Today, the Paris Austerlitz station serves over 25 million rail passengers.

YouTube Preview Image

Read more »

Transportation into Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris

There are many transportation choices from Charles de Gaulle Airport into central Paris and we’ve pretty much done them all.

The least expensive is the easy to use RER B. Allow enough time for the return since trains don’t always run on time and may be so crowded that it is impossible to even push your way on. I don’t advise using the RER if heavily burdened with luggage.

TIP: Carefully watch all belongings on the train. The RER B is a favorite hangout for pickpockets who prey on jet lagged tourists.

Catch the RER in Terminal 2. Use the automatic dispensing machine or buy from personnel selling train tickets. Then look for “Paris par Train” signs and follow instructions. This video will help if you’ve never visited Paris and are a little nervous about using public transportation.

YouTube Preview Image

Read more »

United Airlines Boeing 777-200 Economy Class from Chicago (ORD) to Paris (CDG)

We had originally planned to fly Chicago-Washington Dulles-Paris because of its early morning landing, 6:55a which would allow plenty of time to catch a train to Cahors but the best laid plans; a family emergency changed that. After a change fee, and additional fare cost (arghh…), we  lucked out and got the last two seats in Economy Plus with toilets behind us on the Chicago-Paris nonstop. This may not sound like a big deal except to frequent flyers. The Emergency Exit with toilets in the center is located directly behind where we sat and passengers congregate in that area throughout the flight and I despise having people standing around me for hours on end.

 

YouTube Preview Image

Read more »

How to Plan a Cele Valley Variation on the Way of St. James

Air? United Airlines is our carrier of choice and we bought Economy roundtrip tickets from Chicago (ORD) to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). There are some great fares and many airlines fly to France; surf Kayak, One Travel, or your favorite sites.

Last-minute trips for less on Expedia.com!
Local Transportation? The next step was a round-trip train ticket from Paris Gare Austerlitz Station to Cahors. It is possible to buy tickets while in France but we’ve had bad experiences waiting until the last minute, e.g., sold out trains! I visited the SNCF French National Railways website which directed me to Rail Europe and ordered tickets with obligatory seat reservations. E-tickets were sent to my inbox and printed out.

There are several methods of transportation from Charles de Gaulle Airport into Paris. The most popular are: taxi, shared transportation, Air France bus and RER (video), each with a different cost; the least expensive is the RER B.

YouTube Preview Image Read more »

Walking The Way of St. James Through The Cele Valley

The important and famous pilgrimage route of St. Jacques de Compostela or Route de Compostela, or GR 65 or Route of St. James or Camino de Compostela are one and the same. It is an ancient pilgrimage route for thousands of pilgrims throughout the Middle Ages on their way to Santiago de Compostela where the tomb of apostle St James the Great, who brought Christianity to the Iberian peninsula, was found around 800 AD. James traveled west to preach the words of Christ but was beheaded when he returned to Jerusalem. His body was placed in a boat and, according to legend, guided by an angel came to rest on the shores of Galicia (Spain). Santiago de Compostela became a holy city by the time of the crusades and visitors are still following “the way” particularly since Martin Sheen acted in “The Way”; hiking the Spanish route.

To reach Santiago, modern day pilgrims or hikers take one of four main routes through France which begin in Paris, Vezeley, Le Puy or Arles or one of the many variations off the four main routes. Marine Steve and I walked the first 14 days of the route from Le Puy en Velay to Conques in 2007, vowing to return. Who knew that would take another seven years or that seven years would pass so quickly? But we are now ready to continue along the pilgrim path.

 

YouTube Preview Image.

 

Read more »

United Airlines Dream of a Dreamliner – Business Class Osaka-San Francisco

United Airlines Dreamliner 787-8 from Osaka to San Francisco would depart at 4:45p, arrive in San Francisco at 10:35a (still the same day) and then another flight would depart San Francisco at 2:30P, and arrive in Chicago at 5:45p (still the same day). It would be a grueling, long, back-breaking (or butt-breaking) trip back home.

There’s not much difference between flying on a Dreamliner from San Francisco to Osaka or the reverse except for food choices. Isn’t it mind-boggling how much better food is on certain routes? The crew told me on this flight that much of the taste is due to the ovens on board; uneven heating times, even on new equipment. Experts on aviation feel free to weigh in.

 

YouTube Preview Image

Read more »

Ultra-Modern Osaka Kansai International Airport (KIX)

Similar to other modern airports, Kansai International Airport (KIX) is easy to use with signage in Japanese and English, and touch screens for even more information. We arrived too early for United Airlines check-in and to an escalator down one level to see the restaurants and shopping there; truthfully, more interesting than the Duty Free section with high-end stores that can be found everywhere.

(For more information, visit the Kansai Airport website.)

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

Read more »