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After Lunch, Les Voutes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, FranceFriend and fellow writer Stan Hampton has agreed to share photos of his travels with us. This post is just the first of several. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more.

Stan is a wonderful photographer as well as writer, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy his journey as much as I did. Welcome, Stan. I’ll turn it over to you.

Imagine for a moment that you have spent years, if not decades, dreaming and wishing to travel and explore. Not as a typical tourist wanting to visit the big foreign cities and famous sites—though there is nothing wrong with either goal. But traveling and exploring for a specific purpose. And imagine that after decades, the dreams and wishes actually come true.

I am retired and am a full-time university student working on my Bachelors degree with the ultimate goal of attaining a doctorate. My long-held dreams and wishes began to happen after I applied to the Universities Study Abroad Consortium (USAC), Reno, Nevada. USAC was founded in the late 1980s and is one of several academic organizations that assist American students in studying overseas. I wanted to study in Ireland, but after talking with a senior director, I decided to apply for France instead.

In January 2017 I set out from Las Vegas, Nevada to Pau, France, where I would spend the Spring Semester studying French at the Université de Pau et des Pays de L’Adour. (Ah, Pau is pronounced “Po.”)

Imagine, a person my age (senior citizen, I think) being a full-time university student studying in a foreign country. And this is where, in a very real sense, my journey of the spirit begins. And the journey is not yet complete—there are a couple more sponsored outings before the semester ends in late April, after which I am signed up for an optional tour of the Normandy region. Then, on my own I go to northern England before boarding the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton to cross the Atlantic back to the States. At least, that’s the plan.

Day One Las Vegas

3 January, the journey begins when I fly out of Las Vegas, bound for Paris via Philadelphia, where I will catch a flight to Pau, a small town in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France.

Day Five, Pau, The Castle Wall

During the first week there were a pair of walking tours of Pau for the American students. This is my view of the Chateau de Pau, birthplace of King Henry IV. Did I mention I am a photographer? I always try to look for a different and interesting angle when photographing. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes…

Toulouse Rail Station, France

The Winter Break began on 25 February. That morning I traveled by train from Pau and changed trains at the rail station in Toulouse, and again at Marseilles, bound for Aubagne, France.

Foreign Legion Museum, Aubagne, France


The Foreign Legion Museum in Aubagne, 26 February. All of my life I have been fascinated by the French Foreign Legion, particularly their role in the French-Indochina War (1946-1954) and the French Algerian War (1954-1962). Indochina, especially the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (November 1953-May 1954), always reminded me of a Greek tragedy—no matter how much courage the ordinary Legionnaire and French Union soldiers displayed, a tragic end awaited all. And so, units like the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion, 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion, battalions of the 13th Foreign Demi-Brigade, and battalions of the 2nd and 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiments, with other French metropolitan, colonial and African units, fought until destroyed; the survivors were marched away into captivity.

Foreign Legion Museum, Aubagne, France

Stan has sent me so many wonderful photos that I’ve decided to post them once a week for the next few weeks instead of all at once. Come back to see more of One Man’s Journey of the Spirit in a week!