Day 3 – My Camino Indiginous Camp and Rain forest

Woke up to another beautiful sunny Costa Rican day. A great night sleep in an air conditioned single room can sort of have that effect on a camino. Last night not everyone did well in our jungle lodging on account of the newness of it all and the stifling heat.

Today at the end of this stage (3) it turned to be a most memorable experience. Picture this – I am now on a hammock on a raised rough cut timber building with corrugated metal roofing positioned just so at the edge of a huge hillside.

The rain just minutes ago is now rising back up to the sky via an evaporation cloud mist. This is a school in an indigenous lands.

Tomorrow muddy roads, lots of vertical elevation gain and a walk up and down a jungle.

Rainforests house around half the world’s plant and animal species and are home to indigenous people who live in ways quite unlike those in the western world.

Right now I am in an indigenous village. The school or cafeteria to be exact. Outside the rain now continues to fall. We finished section three just as the rain started. Our 19 year old guide by the name of Kenneth tomorrow guides us through their lands. Tomorrow is looking now to be a muddy trek so my boots will be the chosen footwear.

SECTION 3 – Today we covered CIMARRONES TO LAS BRISAS DE PACUARITO

DISTANCE 16.4 KILOMETERS OR 10.19 MILES

ELEVATION GAIN: 852 METERS

ELEVATION LOSS: 372 METERS

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Day 4 – Camino Costa Rica

Today promises to be a nine hour up and down walk on muddy trails. If it continued raining today the roads and river would be not passable. Great news it only turned out to be an 8.5 hour hike through indigenous jungle lands. No mosquitoes or rain.

We started the morning out from an indigenous school with fourteen full time students and a live aboard teacher. We cooked showered and even slept at the school. Sleep is almost not an accurate statement.

Yes, six single person tents pitched on a rough sawed floor. Each tent contained one sleeping bag. The ground outside would’ve been way softer but, then the tents would get wet and dirty.

Our 19 year old indigenous guide by the name of Kenneth was a mere 3-5 feet away from me when the trail edge suddenly gave way.

I found myself in free fall mode. Picture an elevator whose cable just snapped. Were it not for a protruding root or vine that my left hand instinctively grabbed while in free fall mode I may have easily fallen another four stories down. I was then able to self extract my self from my predicament before the rest of the group even noticed as they were a ways behind.

The guide following me is Jovanie Montenegro. Possibly the best guide we’ve seen so far. One of the girls found herself last night without socks for this mornings hike. She switched to a day pack for today’s hike like everyone else except for me and her socks left to our final destination and lodging for the night at Finca XXX. Jocanie just happened to have a spare pair of socks and loaned it to her.

Not an error that is what it is called like the Mexican beer.

Our lunch meal yesterday consisted of spaghetti and chicken. Even the vegan girls and the vegetarian Canadian gave up and declared they needed calories to continue on.

Our dinner meal was all vegan. Part of the reason I was spent all day. A jelly sandwich and coffee for breakfast and a granola type bar for lunch today just didn’t cut it. And to top it off this is the toughest part over the past several days.

DISTANCE 21.5 KILOMETERS OR 13.39 MILES

ELEVATION GAIN: 852 METERS

ELEVATION LOSS: 372 METERS

Just beyond the Escuela Tsini Kicha, the trail entered the jungle and did not let up until this river crossing.

This area includes elevation changes, many insects, high humidity and difficult trails. At 1.6 kilometers we walked across the Rio Mono, your first river crossing.

Occasionally, the jungle recedes, and you enter tribal communities at Guaybal (6.11 kilometers) and Valle Escondido (11.5 kilometers).

The trail exits the jungle after 17 kilometers and continues downhill through farmland and a gate.

Here is where I removed two large ticks. One from each leg. And it just coincided with our ride to Finca XXX.

Pura Vida Camino

Rafa

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Day 2 – Camino Costa Rica

Today is an absolutely beautiful day. Why? When was the last time you slept in the jungle? Off grid and no air conditioning. Plus I last slept under a mosquito netting. Now throw in two all night snorers and shut down any chance of air movement all night. You now begin to feel last nights pain.

Once or twice I recall getting using my petzl head light to avoid stepping on anything creepy or crawly in the floor or in the bath. And then I soaked a hikers towel and took it back with me to bed. That cool sensation lasted long enough so that when the loud generator shut down; all I heard was jungle noise and finally sleep came.

Not a drop of wind blowing anywhere yet hours earlier it blew right through the area keeping all mosquitoes at bay. The jungle nearby is alive and active but, it too does stop at some point and everything seems to also fall asleep.

Breakfast at 0600 a.m.was awesome. Rice and beans or beans and rice as expected plus eggs, delicious coconut water freshly baked bread.

Then after breakfast a flat boat ride back to the Muelle Goshen where we picked up the hot sweltering trail. And now it’s cool as it clouds up as I finish a dip in tonight’s hotel pool.

If you don’t mind getting a little wet, visit between May through November when prices are at their lowest. During June and July, rain showers pause briefly, and Costa Rica’s forests burst with green foliage. That’s what I read. The reality is it stopped raining a day or two earlier than the start of our road camino.

Day 3 is looking like a wet one. Stay tuned.

Our day two started out as scorcher and then it got hotter from there. So why do this. If you have to ask then adventure travel is probably not right for you.

Today’s first road included nasty rocks on an uneven dirt packed road surface. The road went on and on and on with no unnecessary curves thrown in.

We pass by an endless banana plantation. Locals on anything but walking travel in both directions. It’s too hot and humid to walk. But we walk on.

Finally at one point I can’t play follow the leader anymore on account of needing to stretch my steps and find my own damn rhythm. This worked for a while. Finally, it started to feel like a real Camino.

On account of no trail markings and sketchy areas that we walk by it is highly not recommended by our guide to veer too far off the beaten path. And now we walk on a paved road with no way to stepping off.

More locals on bicycles ride by, several give the traditional”Pura Vida” welcome greetings and continue by. The two expat women are walking side by side quizzing each other about a Spanish lesson they are doing while walking.

At one point I playmy walking music out loud and add to the roads commotion. The brain has a way of easily entertaining oneself while on a long enough walk.

And then two SUVs, a white and black one stop ahead on the road and a non shady looking guy steps out.

I easily recognize my friend “Marco” as he is now offering everyone iced down Gatorade or cold water. Conchita is the driver. What a wonderful welcome experience. Costa Rica Trail angels at just the right time. I was spent at that point as today is a 24 km day. Yet it’s not even 1000 a.m.

No one around seemed to care that we are all stopped on this two land hardtop road barely wide enough for a city bus. Stepping off into the overgrown jungly grass could be a close encounter with a snake or worse. Things that sting, bite or worse are all around.

A little wildlife picture spotted today and if you’re a fisherman the large fish above can still be caught today according to Julio Knight owner of the lodge we stayed at.

This local woman now warns us about traveling through a bad hombre section of the camino.

While planning a trip to Costa Rica keep in mind that the weather varies by region.

In the thick forests of the Caribbean Sea coast and Northern Plains, expect high humidity and temperatures ranging between the 70s and high 80s year-round.

Conversely, in the North Pacific, prepare for lower humidity levels, but temperatures that often soar into the 90s during Costa Rica’s dry months. Read that as well.

Did I yet tell you how hot it was today? Even the three expats on the camino whom I am hiking with say so.

And yes we walked on an active train track until we reached a man made foot path. I almost broke through a plank section. But not to worry, the heat is the only thing that might kill me.

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My Day 1 (uno) – Costa Rica Camino

Some people like their whole vacations planned well in advance – So, If you’re not like most people and the word “adventure ” is not well defined for you, then maybe the Camino Costa Rica is in your future.

Right now I lay on a hammock at Rancho Julio Knight, overlooking the River Pasquale. A mere crocodile striking distance from the rivers edge

Tonights lodging includes beds, with window screens as our only barrier against the jungle insects all around.

Large birds are nearby making a ruckus, howler monkeys earlier could be heard and seen across the river swinging. This river, a short distance away empties itself into the Caribbean ocean.

A cool breeze now blows with no mosquitoes to bother me. Earlier as we walked across the Pasquale Reserve that was not the case. I did my best to sandwich myself between the two pilgrim female mosquito magnets. A cloud of mosquitoes swarmed each one with me swatting endlessly with my ball cap as we walked the 6.5 kilometers of the preserve while our guide pointed out the three types of monkeys, two toed sloths, a rare type of heron that only breeds and this one area and let’s not forget the endless amounts of leather back turtle eggs we saw about to hatch.

A cold anything to drink right now could easily top off the evening. And that icy cold shower earlier took some of the mosquito stings away.

Right now I doused myself with another mosquito repellent dousing and moved to a new location. Guess I’ll be smelling like repellent all night.

Today we completed section one (1) of the camino. Three expats, two from Canada, and one from Ohio; and yours truly from California.

One could best describe section one of the Camino Costa Rica as more a warm up tour than the start of the way or if you prefer, the camino.

Once we were dropped off at Muelle Goshen by our guide we boarded a panga type boat that took us to Julio Knight lodge. Our first night stay. And I plan on returning here on a future fishing trip.

Unofficially, I am claiming the number 501 spot as the five hundred and first person that will complete the Camino Costa Rica.

The others can claim their numbers if they finish. I say if, because not everyone is doing all fourteen sections of the Camino Costa Rica.

If you are new to the camino way. Start by first doing a little research, watch a little YouTube, maybe read on Kindle a book or two about walking a Camino; plus if on Facebook join or follow a group or two about the Camino (?). Which Camino? Possibly the one I’m now on. Possibly the newest on of them all – El Camino de Costa Rica.

Walk across an entire country from coast to coast and in a two week period. Highly recommend a guide as the Camino markings are either intentionally or not yet posted throughout out the camino.

The Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain is over 1,000 years old. In 2017, more than 300,000 people walked some part of the 500-mile long “Camino Frances” and arrived in Santiago de Compostela.

On the other hand, the Camino de Costa Rica is slightly less than two years old and as of 2019, I claim the 501st spot to finish the camino since it was completed less than two years ago.

A guide is required for day one without a doubt. Today on day two is the first time I’ve seen any form of trail markings.

Today day two and our human app guide by the name of Vladimir keeps talking up a storm about everything Costa Rica. Plus Vida. More to follow.

Rafa on the Camino

Wishing for rain. A scorcher today.

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My Travel Day- Camino Costa Rica

Want to learn more. Visit https://www.caminodecostarica.org/

My greatly discounted Avianca flight left Los Angeles about an hour later than scheduled, sometime around one a.m.

And now we wait for about an hour in Guatemala before the flight takes off for my final destination, San Jose Costa Rica.

A little longer than normal on account of a wheelchair bound old geezer now refusing to leave his airline seat in Guatemala. Guess maybe he was hoping to reach Costa Rica, the land of Pura Vida.

It finally took nearly the force of two men, one woman attendant and his daughter to finally pry him from his seat.

On day one I saw San Jose from the perspective of a Tico. One whose life was set on a different trajectory many decades ago, on account of speaking English and becoming a foreign exchange student in Tacoma, Washington.

I am so fresh off the Camiño Francés that if I had (which) I don’t, bedbugs bites – they would be healed about now.

My 790 km walking legs from the Camino Francés were ready nearly two weeks later for a new Camino and the closest one I found is in Costa Rica.

What? You’ve never heard of it. Well neither did I till recently. This Camiño CR is so new that I am now literally on the ground floor with the original organizers.

So, stay tuned I/we are one day from the start of stage one of fourteen stages totaling less than 200 miles from the Caribbean to the Pacific oceans.

The very real differences between Caminos that are now apparent is the climate, the animal life, the trail, and albergues are not a common word for pilgrims here and neither is Buen Camino.

I am very much looking forward to seeing the jungle, volcanoes, monkeys, snakes and bird and reptiles in the wild real soon.

If you’ve been on a European Camiño before or seen monkeys in zoos before, let me just say that there should be little similarity between the two.

But then I’ve yet to get started so stay tuned for daily updates.

Below a working clock. I saw one similar in Spain in a museum.

The current exchange rate is around 500 colons to the dollar. I withdrew 200 million. Around $170 US dollars.

Pura Vida

Rafa on the Camino Costa Rica

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On Inspiration, the Camino Francés and now on to the Camino Costa Rica

Lately what inspired me and really lit my soul with an afterglow, that weeks later continues to burn brightly is having recently completed my first Camino Francés.

Inspire means to excite, to encourage, or to breathe life into. Inspire comes from a Latin word that also means to inflame or to blow in to; so when we inspire something, it is almost as if we are blowing air over an open flame making it grow.

Those words above on a fence written I know not when or by who, inspired me. They stopped me dead on my tracks while walking the Camino.

Once the picture was taken I contemplated for a long time the very words, and yet several miles away I still opened the picture to have another good look at the written words.

“We are all broken that’s how the light gets in.”

I have often thought of what inspires others is it pictures, scenery, a future or a past event.

I like being a quote user. Those words at that very moment in time struck me hard. Perhaps because I too felt somewhat broken that morning. Now on “my way” in search of some higher meaning.

I remember that Camino walking day well as I do almost every walking day on the Camino. I walked alone that day not knowing if I was ahead or behind any part of what I could refer to as my Camiño family.

And then I could sense another Peregrino fast approaching from behind. Not wanting to just turn around I pulled my iPhone out, using it as one does a rear view mirror in their car.

I snapped a picture of this lovely happily married French pelegrina who also fluently speaks Spanish. She is now two days behind her Camiño family.

Days earlier I complimented her on a beautiful hat she wore on the Camino that she bought in Paris twelve years ago. Now she tells me she was devastated as she thinks it was either lost or stolen.

Later on I refer her to others as the Mother Teresa of the Camino in a loving way. We both choose to not walk together as our Camino rhythm and pace are not compatible for long stretches.

At first I knew that this Camino would work on my body. Next I also knew when the Camino was working on my mind; periodic insights magically appeared to me, as in understanding the very inner nature of things or of being able to see intuitively.

Towards the very end of my Camino I knew that my very soul underwent a healing process. One not yet fully completed.

Inspiration is subjective, as different people will find different things to be inspiring. However, I dare most anyone to step into any cathedral along “the way” and see for yourself.

And now I leave you with three quotes one of which I hope will also inspire you.

“A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.”

– John C. Maxwell

 “If you can’t fly, then run, If you can’t run, then walk, If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” –

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Music is one of the most powerful things the world has to offer. No matter what race or religion or nationality or sexual orientation or gender that you are, it has the power to unite us.

– Lady Gaga

And yes in a week I leave for Costa Rica to begin a walk from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean. My mind, body and soul are now asking for a new challenge. The planning is ongoing. Other than adding a guide, some mosquito repellent, shorts and jungle garb, tougher rain gear and more water and a sleeping bag all my camino gear remains the same.

Once I arrive in Costa Rica I will share more details hopefully inspiring others to also look at following me on the Costa Rica camino. More to follow.

Rafa on the Camino Costa Rica

Pura Vida baby.

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A Mother’s Day Story

Yes, I know you are not my mother but, she passed away last year and I wanted to write someone a little story and you today are the chosen one.

I at times affectionately refer to you as “mama”, and you call me what the grandkids do, papa; you are my best friend, my lover, and most of the times even a great companion. I never met you in your youth, yet you honor me by telling me, I brought the youth out in you.

I agree, on many occasions we are totally complete opposites of each other, yet that’s possibly part of our charm together. We know when to give the other the space needed.

For us, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is your day so,

– Happy Mother’s Day Patti.

Heinlein says that “as humans we should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly”.

Recently while I was away on my pilgrimage in Spain, a country you always wanted to visit – you not only found the time to rescue an injured dog, but, to remodel our kitchen, program your garage door so you can open it with your iPhone, care for two grand babies = one day a week, help a friend in need, take your therapy trained dog to cheer up children and seniors, swap out a French door for a new window, upgrade the homes security system, totally remake the sun room, hire a new gardener, remake the yard, plant flowers, entertain your visiting mom, care for a friends home plants while she was in the hospital, accompany seniors on a morning walk, send birthday cards and presents, stay in touch with family, cook, bake, go to Pilates three times a week, and still continue running a household.

Maybe you are not doing too bad on the “Heinlein” scale.

Or, maybe I should leave more often……

And if recently I dropped off that edge of the medieval known world while in Finisterre, Spain, while on “the camino way” I will know that there is but, one person back home that will take notice and even mount an expedition.

My children will not have done like Martin Sheen on “The Way ” scattering my ashes yet I know that you would have; Yes you alone are my contact with my world as I know it.

“Dream, struggle, create, prevail.

Be daring.

Be brave.

Be loving.

Be compassionate.

Be strong.

Be brilliant.

Be beautiful.”

– – Caterina Fake

Happy Mother’s Day

Papa

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On Finishing My First Camino – Emptiness Camiño Feeling

There is one thing John Muir, the American Naturalist said that has stuck with me always since finishing my first Camino de Santiago.

Muir is quoted as saying that if you take a walk in the woods for something like a few days or even a week or so you are but, enjoying what can only be described as the dessert part of the meal.

To be truly immersed not only in nature but, in your self being, as a human being you need to get out and be gone for at least twenty one (21) days.

Now why is the number twenty-one (21) the magic number?

I looked it up and among a few answers found that twenty one also represents selflessness; concern for others more than for oneself.

To come back whole again from a Camino, a certain number of days need to pass just as the correct number of days passed that healed our mind, bodies and soul on the Camino.

This is obviously not a one size fits all answer but, it’s my best answer after my first day home again after forty-four days gone. Time simply has to pass.

In our busy daily lives we often neglect walking, an evolved function of the human race. When we jump start our training for the Camino we start walking again. This process begins to make us whole again.

Next we add the planning and the buying and testing for what will one day in the future work for us.

This backpack that we wear on the Camino is a way for us to begin to uncomplicate our lives. Everything we believe we can live with is in that pack we carry. For many unfortunately their lives are much too complicated and so they start the Camino with a heavy pack load. Time teaches many and those that learn the valuable lessons are rewarded with lighter packs.

Finally add the unknowns like the great wholesome food, and social aspects of possibly sharing the experience with a Camino family of pelegrinos. Top off your pack with a Camino flag, patch, shell or anything else on our backpack that truly distinguishes us from a mere backpacker – you are now a pelegrino!

I now ask myself – safe and secure in my lovely home with no one else around. What do I now feel? Is it emptiness? Feeling lost, overwhelmed, or joy, a sense of great accomplishment or what?

I know there is something but, I don’t quite have a firm handle on it yet.

Recalling the exact moment I stopped being a pilgrim (a pelegrino) was a real shocker. Right after receiving my Compostela in Santiago.

But, then something magical happened the following day.

Rather than remain in Santiago for a second day I downloaded the route extension to Fisterra (Finisterre) on my Buen Camino app and then I cancelled my booking.com hotel room and just like that I was totally back – and as a pilgrim, this time on my way to Finisterre.

Being retired sort of has the same effect. I do however, feel for those that don’t have the ability to go beyond that magical number of twenty one (21) days for their Camiño. My magic number. For you it may be different.

Just know that if that emptiness feeling post Camino finds its way to you- restart that planning process sooner rather than later for that new adventure and that emptiness should soon start to fade away.

And that my friends is my day one home reflections.

Ralph

The ability of a photo to communicate with the viewer I am told represents a great photograph

And now a few random pictures to share.

Prior to taking this picture a great downpour.

Yes, the Camino road was just as rough as it looks in both pictures.

The guy in the first photo is Stewart from the UK. He always wore a light blue Panama hat, every day adorned with a fresh flower he picked fresh from the camino.

And why not. Rarely does one back home slow down enough these days with the crowds all around to really enjoy a good cup of cafe con leche.

The fact that carrying a camino sized pack for the past 15 miles possibly tended to make the drink and the memories that much more memorable.

Special thanks to the photographer for this great picture of me.

Buen Camino always,

Ralph

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Paris and my Camino

Yes my darling sorry for not continuing to keep you abreast of my activities since completing the Camino Francés.

Since I now have just two more recuperating days left before my journey back to Los Angeles here is a down and quick tour of what I can share in the interim of what interests me – war and adventure. First the adventure part.There are four main camino routes in France. Here they call it the Chemin St. Jacques Way.Back when most of the pelegrinos were French – which possibly explains why the camino I walked on is called the French way.

The Paris Camino route I found today.

It is also a designated monument for the liberation of Paris. How appropriate. As best as I could make out this is also the start point for this Camino.

Quite impressive and to also think that Hitler had ordered Paris defended to the last man, and demanded that the city not fall into Allied hands except as “a field of ruins.”

German General Choltitz dutifully began laying explosives under Paris’ bridges and many of its landmarks, but disobeyed an order to commence the destruction.

He did not want to go down in history as the man who had destroyed the “City of Light”–Europe’s most celebrated city.

On August 22, Eisenhower agreed to proceed with the liberation of Paris. The next day, the 2nd Armored Division advanced on the city from the north and the 4th Infantry Division from the south.

Meanwhile, in Paris, the forces of German General Dietrich von Choltitz were fighting the Resistance and completing their defenses around the city.

The French 2nd Armored Division was formed in London in late 1943 with the express purpose of leading the liberation of Paris during the Allied invasion of France.

In August 1944, the division arrived at Normandy under the command of General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc and was attached to General George S. Patton’s 3rd U.S. Army.

By August 18, Allied forces were near Paris, and workers in the city went on strike as Resistance fighters emerged from hiding and began attacking German forces.

The 2nd Armored Division ran into heavy German artillery, taking heavy casualties, but on August 24 managed to cross the Seine and reach the Paris suburbs. There, they were greeted by enthusiastic civilians who besieged them with flowers, kisses, and wine.

The Eiffel Tower was built in 1899 as part of a worlds fair. exhibition and later scheduled for demolition. If Hitler had not relented it would’ve been destroyed during WWII.

But, since the tower served as a useful German communications antenna relaying point it was spared destruction – a second time.

Still as popular as ever.

And the rest as they say is Paris history.

Buen Paris

Rafa

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Such is Life

A French pilot I assume is now safely flying the Air Francés plane delivering me in less than two hours, from Madrid to Paris.

I remember many years ago lying on a bed, on a hot August night; a miserably muggy Miami, Florida night. Not a bit of air stirred. No, we did not own air conditioning then. Perhaps it wasn’t even invented.

Sleep would not come and tomorrow another school week day. Suddenly I soon found myself tossing a ball from one side to the other – if only in my head.

Sometimes I would even miss catching the ball. No problem, it only bounced freely around the insides of my now empty head. This little game entertained a young boy back then. Sleep finally arrived or perhaps the morning breeze stirred for just a little.

Sweat at times provided the necessary coolness for sleep to finally arrive. On a bed with not even a white sheet to cover me. Wearing white boys underwear, probably washed by my dear mother in clorox bleach and dried on a clothesline.

The definition for boredom is …..

I guess I’ve never really known the word.

Could having too much time on your hands be such a bad thing.

– Why try to fill every waking hour?

On the Camino de Santiago guys and gals like me tend to do extremely well. Perhaps it’s an early bird catching the worm sort of thing.

And yet this morning in a Madrid hotel I woke up thinking; yesterday I took a walking tour of Madrid and ate some great tapas.

And then I walked right past a sign offering a Thai massage on the way to my hotel room. The massage helped some to stretched my tired arms, legs, feet and shoulders but, how could I entertain myself for four more days in Madrid, Spain, and by myself.

This morning the decision to stay in Madrid for another five nights waiting for a flight home was made for me by the hotel. You see, they tend to double the room rates for Friday through Sunday.

And so friends and family this is how I now find myself flying to Paris to entertain that same brain that years ago needed a little diversion before being able to finally fall asleep.

The journey continues.

Rafa in Paris

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