Thursday, June 30, 2011

Trek, Surf, Eat Local, Down the Jersey Shore

A favorite trek is walking to the beach, carrying nothing but a surfboard tucked under my arm.

The summer is in full bloom here along coastal New Jersey. The water is a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I have noticed if I am very quiet when I reach the water's edge, the ocean has a melody unique to each day. So I listen and wait until the music alights upon my ears. Two days ago, it was a jazz quintet. Today, a Bach chamber piece.

Another pleasure of the season is the farmer’s markets and their seasonal, local offerings. These are the folks and the practices that give New Jersey its Garden State rep. Asparagus season has passed but blueberries and corn are here for a few weeks. The chard, arugula, and beets are robust and vibrant. Peaches are just beginning to peak.

Another aspect of the farmers’ markets I enjoy is that they bring a lifestyle from France and Spain that I love: shopping locally and everyday for food without ever getting into a car.  There is such deep pleasure in walking to market and carrying food home. The car sits quietly in its parking spot and I see more of my neighborhood, my neighbors, and my market baskets overflow. I have sunflowers riding atop, ready to cheer my kitchen table and bring in another connection with France and Spain.

A favorite summer dinner with local fare:

Sautéed Swiss chard in olive oil, garlic, and chili pepper flakes and tossed it with angel hair pasta made with Jerusalem artichoke flour (it tastes fantastic, like artichokes and herbs).

Dessert: Simplicity rules. Rinsed blueberries in a pretty bowl, to pluck one by one or to pop greedily into your mouth by the handful.

Locating The Garden State’s Farmers’ Markets:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hike, Eat, Drink, and Contemplate the Pyrenees near Lourdes, France

There is no question that Lourdes in southern France, on the edge of the Pyrenees, is a powerful spot. Indeed, the entire stretch of mountains, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, possesses several mystical spots, many associated with Mary.

I have traversed several of them, and also a few in northern Spain. All are remote places in overwhelmingly beautiful natural vistas of mountain, ocean, or forested valleys.

Maybe because of this, on my pilgrimage to Lourdes, I felt overwhelmed by the number of other visitors. After paying my respects to Our Lady, I sought to return to the quieter contemplation of the pilgrim’s road.

The tourist office in Lourdes had just the answer. The voie verte, the green hiker’s and biker’s path, from Lourdes south, went right into the Pyrenees. I could take it from the town edge or I could catch a local bus and pick it up deeper into the mountains. I opted for the local bus so that I could start in the midst of the wild and then trek back into Lourdes on my own foot power.

I now realize that the two activities are the perfect balance for the sacred traveler who wants both to pay a visit to one of the world’s great shrines and to partake of the landscape that Saint Bernadette herself would have seen as more familiar than the Lourdes of today. It is a landscape that still inspires transcendent experience.

To take to the path, visit the tourist office for a good map and advice, asking for La Voie Verte des Gaves, the name of the walking and cycling route south of Lourdes.

Culinary Miracles: Hidden in those hills is a culinary miracle, the restaurant Le Viscos in the village of St-Savin ( I dare say, hiking will never be the same after resting my feet and ordering chef Jean-Pierre Saint-Martin’s shorter—five course instead of seven course—walker’s menu, Le Menu de Retour Balade.

Other Marian Routes: If you are interested in powerful but little known Marian sites along coastal northern Spain, fishermen’s shrines dedicated to Mary, please see Chapter 9—San Vicente de la Barquera to Navia in The Spiritual Traveler Spain (

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Spiritual Traveler Spain Route Map

I am a lover of maps, not too different from JRR Tolkien's Hobbits. All my life, I have poured over maps like a good storybook.

For reasons out of my control, my book, The Spiritual Traveler Spain--A Guide to Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes, does not have a route map in the book. So, here I'd like to offer a map of the routes I outline in the book.

To learn more about The Spiritual Traveler Spain, please visit either my website (
or Amazon (

Buen Camino!