A Traveling Companion in the Ardèche (Dennis Aubrey)

A year ago in June we saw a reblog of one of our posts by a new blogger named Nathan Mizrachi. It read: “Reblogged this on Life is a Camino and commented: I stumbled across this while ogling the beautiful photographs on this brilliant website, Via Lucis. The comparison between the athleticism of a footballer like Zidane and Romanesque/Gothic architecture is so true: power, grace, beauty. No coincidence I love them both.”

This started a series of blog conversations like we have had with so many of you in the past. These conversations have become one of the highlights of our blogging experience – and we have visited with several correspondents and have plans to visit more. Through these conversations we have had so many guest posts that enriched the site immeasurably. In the case of Nathan, we discovered that he was going to embark on the most monumental of adventures – a year-long walk on the Camino de Santiago and in Europe. After we made our plans for our spring trip to France, we decided to ask Nathan if he would be interested in pursuing his love of Romanesque and Gothic churches by visiting with us for a week in the Ardèche. He accepted – although I’m sure with some trepidation.

Lunch at Bourg Saint Andeol (Ardèche)
Lunch at Bourg Saint Andeol (Ardèche)

When we picked him up at rail station at Valence, we had no real idea of what he would be like in person. Certainly his blog persona was attractive – intelligent, educated, fiercely passionate about medieval art and architecture and certainly adventurous. We saw him immediately in the disembarking crowd and we began our sojourn in the beautiful Ardèche. We stopped for basic groceries at a number of stores and then settled to our gite near the town of Berrias-et-Casteljau. The next six days were spent visiting and photographing churches, picnicking and spending the evenings cooking and drinking the fine wines from Hermitage that PJ and I had picked up the day before we met Nathan.

Église Notre Dame de Thines, Thines (Ardèche)  Photo by Nathan Mizrachi
Église Notre Dame de Thines, Thines (Ardèche) Photo by Nathan Mizrachi

During our travels with Nathan, we were not surprised to find him curious and interested in just about everything. He was indefatigable in the churches and he would make a habit of disappearing for a walk in whatever town we visited. If we needed anything, he always knew where we could go to find a boulangerie, charcuterie, or anything else.

Street arch, Ruoms (Ardèche)  Photo by Nathan Mizrachi
Street arch, Ruoms (Ardèche) Photo by Nathan Mizrachi

There was time for adventure as well. We took a long drive to visit the natural arch at Vallon Pont d’Arc. I think that seeing the folks far below swimming and kayaking resonated with both PJ and Nathan, because a few days later they both went kayaking on the local Chassezac river. The tale of their perilous adventures on the rapids is one that they need to tell in person, if only to see Nathan blush!

PJ and Nathan at Vallon-Pont-d'Arc  (Photo by Dennis Aubrey)
PJ and Nathan at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc (Photo by Dennis Aubrey)

Nathan spent a great deal of time photographing with his small camera, but we also encouraged him to try his hand with our equipment, especially the tilt-shift lenses. He has talent, as you will see in the last picture of this post, the altar at Chassiers.

Countryside near Ailhon,  Photo by Nathan Mizrachi
Countryside near Ailhon, Photo by Nathan Mizrachi

What astonished the two of us most about Nathan, though, was his mode of travel – couch surfing, hitchhiking, walking, and using the internet to find incredibly cheap flights and train fares. The world has changed since we were young and Nathan was absolutely comfortable navigating this wired world. And he has the time and energy to regularly post on Life is a Camino.

Street view in Ailhon (Ardèche)   Photo by Nathan Mizrachi
Street view in Ailhon (Ardèche) Photo by Nathan Mizrachi

On our last evening together, we decided that instead of cooking we would go out to a local restaurant. We found a nice little place and settled in on the patio. Nathan, who is a good cook and very interested in food in general, surprised us by ordering steak tartare. His meal arrived, about a pound of raw ground meat with an egg on top, surrounded by small saucers with spices. When the dish was set before him, Nathan looked at it sceptically and said, “I thought it was going to be more like carpaccio.” We told him he could order something else, but he smiled gamely and said he would eat this. He then proceeded to mix the meat with the egg and all the spices into one giant melange and finished it all off. I was truly impressed, even though it probably was not his favorite meal in Europe. Afterwards, we all sat comfortably, sated, until Nathan saw the gentlemen at the table across from us served their dessert, a giant chocolate sundae called a liégeois. He ordered it and polished it off to the last dollop of whipped cream. Ah, youth!

Chapelle Saint Benoit, Chassiers (Ardèche)  Photo by Nathan Mizrachi
Chapelle Saint Benoit, Chassiers (Ardèche) Photo by Nathan Mizrachi

At the end of the six days, we left Nathan off at an intersection in Orange from which he was going to hitchhike to Carcassonne. PJ and I were both wistful at the parting; we would miss this kind, interesting, adventurous, and well-educated young man who shares our love of the Romanesque.

However … he still owes us a guest post on Via Lucis.

5 thoughts on “A Traveling Companion in the Ardèche (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. What a wonderful adventure. Some of my closest friendships have had their beginnings through a type of chance encounter.

  2. Saw this on Nathan’s and was captivated by the lovely plates of salad! I read a book recently where the woman ordered steak tartare (most expensive item on the menu and she was being difficult) and she struggled to eat it. I used to like it, but I liked my cooked steak blue anyway. (I’m vegetarian now :D)

    It’s funny how different the travelling world is now. I wouldn’t trade my travels, ringing ing long distance from India and Thailand through an operator for the world of the mobile ‘phone and internet. There was so much unknown and unpredictable back then.

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