I’m about to leave for a summer in France. You are on my special email list. If you don’t want to receive these, my Pilgrims Post Cards From France, please reply to Delete you from the List.






If you choose to stay in, you will have to follow me through my travels and experiences in Southern France all summer.  Your choice.





If you hit Reply for any reason, please Delete all pictures & text I already sent you, because well I already have them and don’t need dozens of them coming back....





If you stay in, you will first travel to the Cannes Film Festival with me and my colleague, Kathleen Coprario, as we introduce her first film, Mourning After,  to the world of international cinema. Two weeks at the greatest film festival in the world!!! Not to mention fabulous food, sunny beaches, hot starlets, pushy directors, the latest films, and some of the most interesting people. You will have to hear all about it!








Then, after an indeterminate time on the French Riviera, I will gravitate toward my favorite region, the Dordogne.

There is always Plum Village, the wonderful retreat of the Zen Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced without the H’s!) that I like to visit:








  : Some Bud’s from our last visit to PV












And near by, the city of Bergerac, the wonderfully painted  caves of Lascaux, and the cradle of humanity, the sweet vallee of the river Vezere, where people have been living for 1.5 million years!  My favorite town, Les Eyzies de Tayac with cave filled limestone cliffs hanging over the town:









Later, I shall travel to the Basque country around St Jean Pied de Port, where pilgrims have always begun the Camino de Santiago de Compostella, le Chemin de St Jacques, the 500 mile trek across Northern Spain to the Cathedral and the sea:






I will be looking for a fort, a base, a beach head for American travelers to venture this way, also. I will also be tracing Basque and Cro-Magnon ancestry to learn more of their connections?







: And the ancient Basque sea port, St Jean de Luz, on the Atlantique, near great surfing territory, the Spanish border, and dynamite Paella!



If successful, the summer will yield an address, a Gite, where you are invited to stop on your travels. A place to pause, to regroup and sallie forth. Pilgrims always.  Of course, you may opt out. But if you stay in, the fun begins May 10 in Cannes.




First Day At Cannes – May 11

You know me. I crashed the Paparazzi scene just to see what the Red Carpet thing looks like up close. Here is a photo sampler.

Equally impressive was the sea food paella with a half bottle of Saint Martin Bordeaux Red I had for dinner last night!


Julianne Moore, Berenice Beio, Directors Mile Leigh and Ken Loach are recognizable, I’m not sure about the rest.




 Thursday, May 15 – Cannes, France.  Weather is 70, wispy clouds, breezy.

Today was the first full day of the festival. Seems lightly attended so far. Saw two features in the non-competitive Certain Regard series, both women with relationship problems, directed by women!?


Party Girl is a 60 year old French/Alsacian bar girl still doing her thing. Struggles to accept her kind, blue collar customer’s proposal of marriage - which reunites her family but can’t the handle intimacy, love, loyalty - stuck in her shallow 20’s, can’t grow up. Factually, the lead and two of her actor children are played by the real persons on whom the story is based. Poignant, very good acting, definitely worth seeing.

The 2nd film, Loin de Mon Pere,  was the reverse: a young Israeli girl is stuck living incestuously with her father. She is unable to break free of his cruel, sexual and psychological abuse. Set in Tel Aviv, the portrayal is vivid, startling, powerful - not a peep was heard in the theater. Also, must see.


The Premier film was Mr Turner, a Brit period drama about the eccentric 19th Century painter, by Mike Leigh. Followed by Grace De Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman and Tim Roth. Neither blockbusters, think I’ll skip them for lesser promoted films. The Jury is headed by Jane Campion (The Piano) with Sofi Copola, Gael Garcia Bernal, Iranian actress Leila Hatami (A Separation, The Past) and Willem Dafoe.


Coming up on my list: Captives, by Atom Egoyan, La Chambre Bleue, by actor Mathieu Amalric, The Homesman, pioneer western by actor Tommy Lee Jones with Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, Maps To The Stars by David Cronenberg with Julianne Moore, Sils Maria, by Oliver Assayas with Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche, The Search by Michael Hazanavicius with Annette Bening, Berenice Bejo, Timbuktu by Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako, and Adieu Au Langage ,by Jean-Luc Godard. And those are just the first line features. There are dozens of other films, long & short, not in competition that are the most fresh, profound, creative – not to miss if you can sort them out of the hundred or so here.


Today I see Timbuktu and La Chambre Bleue, if I can get in, maybe Mr Turner if there’s time. You can squeeze in three features or many more shorts daily if you try. Off to the movies!



Side yard at the Palais, where they park the Mercedes,

Sunday, May 18 – Cannes, France.  Weather is still 70, indecisive clouds, breezy.

Alright, there’s been food, films and friends! Three days of viewing five films and four dinners. On Saturday I lunched with my old friend Jacqueline and met my colleague, Kathleen, as she arrived from America. There are long lines for each film and if you don’t cue up an hour early you might not get in. Only once has that happen, I was 12 from the gate when it closed. But you get to meet all these interesting people around you.


First class theater, great seats, sound, view -

a pop-up on the roof: Salle du Soixantieme

Seafood Paella –
Boulevard de Croisette

One of the smaller boats around, actually looks like an Italian cruise ship. Oh! Oh!


The Palais Des Festivals, on the curving, palm lined, sea front Boulevard Croisette, is where most of the film festival takes place. Behind it is the Congres, a multi-story convention center where the huge international Marche du Film takes place. Within are four theaters and a pop-up on the roof that show most of the selected films, in rotation. There are five different series of selected films, only one of which are the features In Competition, premiering daily in the red-carpeted Grande Theatre Lumiere. The other series are features not in competition, special selections, shorts and historicals. There are two other, parallel festivals, the Directors Fortnight and the Critics Choice that run simultaneously in nearby Hotel theaters. With about 25 films in each, that would be about 175 films, impossible in 10 days, no?  That doesn’t count the thousands of others show in booths of the trade-fair like Marche and in numerous other theaters and screening galleries around town.


To resume the festival experience, Film 3:  Mr Turner a long Brit biopic about their beloved, eccentric painter beautifully shot in the style of Turner’s paintings: moody, brash, passionate in a British way, self infatuated, long, boring, corpuscular old man getting it on with his housekeepers.

I left to catch Film 4:  Timbuktu  by Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako and was I glad. A dynamite film weirdly echoing the Boko Haram. It is a story of Kidane, a tent-dwelling herder living outside the town after it is taken over by Islamic fundamentalists, and their harsh, hypocritical imposition of Sharia justice on the colorful, peaceful Muslim natives. It should, but probably never will, play in Eugene.


Film 5: Le Chambre Bleu, by former actor Mathieu Amalric was a wash. I was twelfth person from the gate when it closed:  hundreds of films, dozens of theaters, ten thousand viewers.


Saturday I caught only one, Film 6: Captive by Armenian/Canadian Atom Egoyan, and doesn’t that boy love a mystery! This one about child abduction could almost be a crime film for television, mystifying several Europeans here who aren’t used to the style. Structurally, emotionally and morally complex, there’s something a little pat about it that the critics don’t much like.


I noticed the number of films about endangered girls. Mon Pere, Captives, one called Girlhood, and Timbuktu feature young women in jeopardy and danger in a world where the supposed guardians of morality and/or order and/or safety are the most corrupt. In a press conference Egoyan himself stated “the world in which we live has plunged into darkness.” I believe these all reflect the crisis of morality and the threat to humans brought on by the unchallenged dominance of wealth and weaponry in almost every culture of the world. No one has suggested how to pull the plug on them.




Wednesday, May 21 – Cannes, Day 7   Sunny again after brief storm.

Seen only one film per day since Saturday - lines are getting longer, cueing up more than an hour early if you hope to get in.


Sunday’s Film 7 was RUN, from the Ivory Coast of Africa, about the revolt against foreign resource exploitation and appropriation of wealth. The film opens with Run assassinating The Prime Minister (who we don’t see) and then retells how his life how got to this point - drifting through failed shamanistic initiation as a rainmaker; a failed attempt in a touring sideshow with Greedy Gladys, an enormous eating freak; and then with the revolutionary Young Patriots who want to drive the foreigners out, which he fails at too, competing for wealth and power with the corrupt leader of the group. Through out we see the disintegration of the country, the culture, the young man as they are torn apart by greed and violence.


Then I met the interesting, lovely Liana at the reception of the Lithuanian Film pavilion where she is Head of the Film Promotion, Information and Heritage department of the Cultural Ministry and Assistant to the Cultural Minister. She is blond, deep blue eyed, intelligent, talented, beautiful, very gregarious and everyone wants her on their projects. We liked each other immediately and became fast friends.

First studying math, she became an stage actress, studied in Sweden, caught by the Russian invasion of Lithuania in 1991, became a resistance TV reporter, met her Doctor husband, worked for the two Diplomatic Corps and finally for the Cultural Ministry. Now for recreation she works with others translating Swedish/Lithuanian poetry for publication. We had dinner together and attended some more Baltic receptions. Then she left to return to Lithuania.


Meanwhile, back at the movies, Film 8 was the big, American, iconic Homesman by Tommy Lee Jones, staring himself & Hilary Swank. I don’t quite know what to make of it. Compared to the smaller country’s films, this one is slick (like Mr. Turner) large and traditional Western with several contemporary twists. Hilary is a strong, independent, righteous plainswoman, Lee an indulgent, drunken deserter, given the task of transporting several insane Nebraska pioneer women who have cracked under the harsh prairie rigors, 400 miles back to civilization. But “their mission will extract a brutal toll – one that speaks to every backward tragedy and unsung act of heroism buried in the foundations of the American West.” I really get nervous when someone wants to hallow the American Experience, ennoble the passions, enshrine the loss and toil, gloss over the stupidity of it all. And then we go back for more. If anything, this movie ought to be asking, are WE insane?  But the critics like it. I think the Europeans like it. It’s considered Palm d’Or material.


Tuesday Film 9 was an exciting, vigorous Gypsy take on Romeo & Juliette by great director Tony Gatlif. Titled Geronimo, after the street wise young woman who tries to part and stop the warring gangs when a bride, destined to  arranged marriage with a man from her own Turkish band, bolts and runs away with her Gitan lover, Lucky Molina. Great music, acting, and capoaera exhibitionism - four stars.


Time to run off to more, hopefully Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night) by the Brussels brothers, Jean –Pierre & Luc Dardenne.
A bientot, Loren



Friday May 23  Cannes Festival Day 9  -  Wet & Windy, then Sunny

Kathleen viewing her film on SFC

Party pavilions line the Croisette

Cool electric cars & bikes abound

Days get busier and more hectic, running from appointment to film line. Yes, lines are the problem, usually waiting an hour ahead of show time just to find if you can get in – don’t always work. Far more people than seats.


Lots of receptions, people to meet from afar. Wednesday I failed in my feature choice, took a wrong train, wasted 2 hours and then made up for it all with Sophia Loren’s Master Class where we viewed clips of her many films as she discussed working with various stars and directors. In Italian & French. Later, as they closed the doors behind us at the Artist’s Entrance, I had to wait with this gorgeous actress/model while Sophia departed en limo. Too bad!  Maybe someone else will recognize her??

A foxy Ms Loren


                              Lost Angel searching purse


Thursday I caught a few shorts of the Cinefoundation series – special competition intended to bring new filmmakers up in the industry by pairing them with writing mentors, Paris residency, etc.


Dodging the rain, I was able to get a fourth row center seat for Asia Argento’s film Incompressa (Misunderstood) - about a precocious nine year old, disparaged and shunted between divorcing parents. I thought it was just a first time, amateur film until I realized it was supposed to be that way, as if made by the nine year old as she tells her story. It’s charming and sad as Aria never gets the understanding, love or respect she desires from her narcissistic, playboy parents - mother a performing pianist, and father a handsome, sleazy soap actor. Two older sisters are favored & venerated but Aria is blamed - then her friends turn against her too. Definitely worth a look if it ever plays near you.


What attracted me to the film was the first time director, and the two stars. My first Festival (2007) Argento was the hottie staring in three different films (one by Olvier Assayas, back this year.) Here she directs my favorite actress, Charlotte Gainsborg, as the irresponsible mother of the young girl, Aria, which is also the name of my daughter.

Usual view of the Red Carpet

Spectators Spectating

The big screen, Assayas & Girls

Stylish Loren on the Red

Casually arriving late at the Palais with no particular plan for the day, an official woman was passing out unused tickets for the afternoon performance in the Grande Lumiere Theater of Olivier Assayas’ The Clouds of Sils Maria. GLT tickets are usually reserved for the high priority attendees and the flashy red carpet crowd. First time in this theater for me, I scored a sixth row center seat! The film was remarkable staring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Somethingorother (if you’re under 30 you know who I mean.) Later we saw them climb the Red Stairs with Director Assayas, just after Quentin Tarrantino, Uma Thurman, John Travolta & Mrs JT clowned their way in.

Inside the Grande Lumiere

Techie view of the lighting & speakers

Awards inside theater Debussy

Winner, Australian Davey & Jury

Truly amazing is the world wide scope of attendees here at Cannes, and make new friends from every country of the planet.

Gypsy Gatlif & cast of Geronimo

 Sophia Loren

Her Again

Lovely Indian Lady           

Continuing my sea food frenzy (fruits de mer) I’ve twice lunched on soup de poisson (fish, not poison), seafood pizza, langostino, sea bass and today, smoked & baked saumon pasta. When you’re on the Mediterranean, eat from the sea.


Friday was our last night here. Today Kath flys back to the US and I hop a train for Cahors, where I plan to shop used RV’s  and begin the true mission of my trip. Must run for that train! More Later.





Day 15, Cannes to Cahors, train ride past Marseille, Arles, Nimes, Montpellier, Sete, Narbonne, Carcassonne & Toulouse.

From this:

To this:

Cahors (cah–or) is on a route that leads to St. Iago de Compostelle - Grande Rondennee (GR) 65, one of the many pilgrim trails crossing France, from Le Puy to St Jean Pied-de-Port. I am staying at Residence Les Cordeliers, a huge hostel, former cloister traditionally serving the wandering pilgrim. This morning I had breakfast with 3 British women and a Swiss man hiking together. Deiter started in Geneva, joined the women in le Puy, thence to Cahors, destination St Jean Pied-de-Port. They had all previously done the Spanish part of the Chemin. It’s been this way since 870 ce.

The Cathedral dates from 12th C

 Long day ahead for pilgrims

 Boat in the lock on the Lot

 Henry IV’s pad

Cahors is an historical center smaller than Eugene but heart of the Malbec grape region. Tomorrow I’ll try the local wine tasting room to see if I my Steve Baker educated taste buds appreciate the product more than two years ago. The river Lot has carved a deep limestone gorge looping around three sides of the city.  Many rivers hereabout are navigable with locks to level the course, feeding canals that run all over the flatter lands. One set of canal/locks connects the Atlantic-flowing Garonne with the Mediterranean-flowing Herault, making the Canal du Midi across southern France. Houseboat living can be had from Bordeaux to Montpellier.



Friday, May 30 – Monday, June 2 -  still Cahors

Bon jour, dear people -

This week has been rainy and the pilgrims are grim. Drying out soaked camping gear, they filled the hostel quickly. Cahors is an old, medieval town important to kings, church & pilgrims. And the Malbec wine from here is legendary, first planted by the Romans, sought after by the British, Dutch and Russians. Eleanor & Louis had it for their wedding feast in the 12th century. King Henry IV liked it enough to build a chateau here on the banks of the Lot. In the French navy, it is said, the sailors drank Bordeaux while the admiralty drank Malbec. For about 30 miles West of Cahors, along the different terraces of the snaking river Lot, and on the limestone plateau above, grow the several grades and characters of the grape in 240-some vineyards. Some of the soils (Jurassic) were laid down when the dinosaurs were around. They describe the wines in 3 different styles: tender & fruity; feisty & powerful; intense & complex, growing on the different terraces. I’m more a fruity & tender kind of guy, unless with some great food.

This week in town are a paralympic sport event, filling all the hotels & restaurants, and the Jardins de Cahors art sojourne. I had some time out so I took a drive out to Luzech and stopped for a tasting at a cooperative winery for a dozen or so local Malbec labels. Came away with a very quaffable 100% Malbec of the round and flavorful type for 4.5e ($6,15!)


The sports tournament took all of the bookings for the hostel I was staying, so I got referred to Mme. Josie Bonhomme. Wow! Mme. Josie is a retired beautician living alone in the house she, her grandfather and great grandfathers grew up in – in the family for 300 years, heart of old town Cahors, just behind the Maison Henry IV.  Her father & mother were butchers.




Built in 14th century, beautifully modern inside, original architecture outside, her sense of design is excellent. There are three rental suites. I pay 30e/night, breakfast included - not to mention the company of the lovely Mme Josey. Speaking no better English than I do French, we stumble along in a combination of French, English and Spanish (as was her husband.)