Thursday, February 15, 2007

old books

I own some old books printed in 1910, 1927, 1936, 1945, well before I was born; books written before and just after WWII. Travel books, no less, it's hard to imagine travel in those days but people did travel and wrote about it. Amy Oakley, an American went all over France with an illustrator. I guess it was hard hauling around trunks full of luggage and a chunky camera; it was easier to bring your illustrator with you; he can walk on his own. No matter, the descriptions of their trips were no less enchanting than modern travel. In fact, they were more delightful. She went to more places; more off the beaten path places; I guess in those days, most places are off the beaten path. In the introduction to her book, "Hill-towns of the Pyrenees", she wrote,"The impressions recorded in this book have been amassed by the author and the artist during three summers in these mountains, before, during and since the world war." Places like Amelie-Les-Bains, Castell'nou, Palalda, Andorra, Luchon, Val D'aran, Lourdes, Pau, Tarbes, St. Jean pied de port, Bayonne and Biarritz are not familiar names. Some of us have heard of Lourdes; Catholics certainly have. So really, till today, there are still places yet to be explored. I'm planning to retrace Amy Oakley's trips to the hill-towns of the Pyrenees. I have been to the Pyrenees on the Atlantic coast. The Pyrenees is the mountain range that divides Spain and France. The treaty of the Pyrenees stated that the tip of the mountain range is the boundary between the two countries. It is an interesting mountain range that stretched between the Atlantic Ocean at one end and the Mediteranean at the other. I was interested in the pilgrimage from St Jean pied de port to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in Spain and that was what brought me to the Pyrenees Occidentales, to Bayonne, Biarritz and St Jean pied de port. This is the Basques area of the Pyrenees and a very interesting and delightful area. While on the same trip I was in Toulouse and had the opportunity to take a day trip to Foix in the Arriege department of the Pyrenees. I do want to see the Pyrenees Orientales (the Mediteranean side). It is amazing what books can do. They can open up a whole new world, places that till today remains much a mystery. There's still a world out there that begs to be explored!

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