Growing my Passion to an Obsession
Whenever I’m asked about Cathedrals to the Glory Of God and how I became focused on taking photographs of #cathedrals when I travel, I reflect back to my cycling trip in northern France in 1999 and my visit to Amiens. Back then, I traveled with 3 Pentax camera bodies and more lenses than was wise, plus several dozen rolls of film. After sharing pictures of Notre Dame de Amiens with a work colleague at Chevron, he raved about Saint-Pierre de Beauvais, with the highest vault of European cathedrals. Returning to France in 2010, my bicycle tour focused on visiting cathedrals outside Paris started in Beauvais.
The collecting of my pictures into a book happened several years later. As I dug into my archives, I found more and more photos of cathedrals in the cities and towns I had visited. I began searching for cathedral locations amidst the places I visited. It had become a passion.
My best friend, a voracious reader, prompted me to seek out and read #KenFollett’s 1989 novel #PillarsoftheEarth. Getting a copy of Pillars of the Earth at the local library book sale, I began reading and soon discovered I couldn’t put it down. While there are many excellent synopses of the book, it basically is about the building of a cathedral in the fictious twelfth century town of #Kingsbridge, England, and the builders, religious and civil leaders involved. I found it an extremely enjoyable read.
Early 2016, I determined I could retire, but I couldn’t remain living in the California Bay Area. I had explored the potential of San Antonio and the Florida Suncoast the summer before, and determined the latter would be better for me fiscally and socially – my youngest brother, his wife and her family were all closer and welcomed my joining them. Now, when I’d driven from New York City to Palo Alto in 1988, I’d done it over 4 days. I resolved to explore and see the United States and committed to driving lesser routes and fewer than 300 miles a day. Besides the Grand Canyon and Sedona in Arizona, I wanted to see and capture cathedrals along the way. Thus, a 6500-mile trip over 38 days took me to 62 cathedrals in 16 states. (And brought my bucket list of states not visited down to 5.)
At this point, I believe that the passion had morphed into an obsession. After buying and moving into my new home, I headed to New York City for a week, with the dual objective of seeing the 23 cathedrals within the city boundaries and a return visit to my native city where I’d lived for 12 years before heading west. I was able to photograph 21 of these churches, plus another 5 in Connecticut. The following year, I made short trips to Ontario to see its 9 in Toronto plus 3 more; to Washington (DC) for 6 and one in Arlington.
However, I still had a bucket list, and riding a bicycle along the Danube River had bubbled to the top. I found a Czech provider who could accommodate my solo ride and after booking, began planning how to get there and what else to see. [For an understanding of my planning process, see my blog.] I flew into Brussels, traveled with a Eurail Pass by train across central and southern Germany to Passau to begin the bike ride. After a week I was in Vienna, where I stayed a few nights before heading to Salzburg and then on to Ljubljana. Then driving a rental car, I went west and then east in Slovenia before returning to eastern Austria and eventually getting back to Vienna to continue bicycling the Donau to Budapest. There, renting another car, I drove around Hungary and Slovakia. [There will be a blog about missed opportunities soon.] Back to Budapest, I took the train first to Brno and then Prague, making a day trip in southeast Czechia. Back to Germany, Dresden and Leipzig were stops before finally getting to #Berlin. I’d been promising myself a trip to Berlin since sophomore year high school, and my cathedral count for the trip topped 100 with my time there.
For 2018, little grass grew under my feet. Valentine’s Day found me in #MexicoCity where I found 10 cathedrals. Just before my Central Europe trip, I’d signed up to take a guided 2-week bicycle ride in Andalusia. All winter I’d been planning my discovery of Spain and Portugal, so late spring found me starting in Barcelona. Down the Mediterranean coast to start riding in Malaga, we rode to Sevilla, Grenada, Guadix and Cordoba. I dropped out for a day and drove to Jaen and back. After the ride, I continued to Gibraltar, and then did the day ferry ride to Tangier in Morocco. Into Portugal, after leaving Lisbon, I visited #Fatima and Coimbra before Porto. Leaving Portugal after Braga, Santiago was my first northern Spanish cathedral. Continuing heading east, after a Rioja wine adventure, I headed to the capital city of #Madrid before flying home. My cathedral count expanded by another 60.
My neighbors told me about a cruise they’d booked once I got back to Florida – a 5-day trip out of Tampa which included an overnight in Havana. Excited, I’d booked, and then my former editor Anne asked to come along. We went together, seeing the 4 cathedrals in Havana and making a trip to Matanzas. Then in the fall I saw a 12-day cruise that would enter the Panama Canal, with ports of call in Aruba, Curacao and Costa Rica. Five more cathedrals from the cruise, but by sailing from Ft Lauderdale, I was able to drive to and photograph the 9 cathedrals in Miami and southeast Florida.
So, yes, I admit that this passion is an obsession. My travel plans all now include trying to add more visits to my list. This most recent trip to Great Britain was focused on seeing many of the cathedrals in England, Wales and Scotland. There’s already a planned itinerary for Ireland, I just need the time. Travel still is the overriding motivator, however, so I do think my next big trip will be the AlaskanCoast and a rail trip across Canada. A domestic road trip or two could happen, so I’m hopeful that in another three years or so, I might have seen another 350 cathedrals and can issue a Volume II of Cathedrals to the Glory of God.