Via Tolosana Day 27: Planes, trains and automobiles

Toulouse to Leguevin – 16kms

Even though my alarm went off at 6am, I didn’t start until about 6:15am.  I wrote a little in my room, then went downstairs for breakfast. There was nice yoghurt, orange juice, coffee, bread/jam/butter from the little cafeteria – all you could eat.  I saw Sebastien at breakfast time and gave him my details in case he ever visited Australia. I completed my blog and even managed to post.  Day 4 done.  It is slow going, but I’m getting there. I wrote  that it was strange that I missed the regimented days while in Carcassonne. I was in a position to do my own thing, but it was harder somehow.  I was grateful for the patient conversations I’d had with young people the night before. I am slowly finding my French voice. The speaking took me outside of myself, past the restrictions of the walk. It left me feeling lighter. I suppose talking with others sometimes does that.  In the interests of self-care, I decided today I would stop every two hours and for lunch – I didn’t get anything to carry with me last night after all, but I’d see what I find walking today.

The guy (a different one had stayed overnight – seemingly in a recliner chair in a darkened pool/vending machine/general purpose room) said goodbye to me and asked me to leave the key with a woman who was cleaning.  I left feeling really ready to move and get on the road again. It was exciting even!  Philippe had warned me that the balisages are different now, and they hide on the walls with the street names so they don’t face you, you have to look out carefully for them. I did.  They are the blue plaques – quite effective looking.

I suppose there’s a difference between doing something habitually and doing something because you feel drawn to it.  Or does developing a habit enable you to feel drawn to something when you’re not doing it?  The chemin has become a habit, but also a way of living, and it wasn’t until I detoured that I realised the longing I had developed for the road and everything it held for me. I had missed it.  I’m glad I saw Carcassonne, but it feels like a journey of or for another time. There is so much more to see, and I really was limited to just the touristic parts – which disappointed me a little. Although I can’t work out whether my ambivalence is because the place gives me a funny feeling that I didn’t like.

I found many more buildings to snap this morning, the street were pretty deserted and the Pont Neuf was stunning in the morning light, reflecting on the river.  Lovely St Jacques hospital – many coquilles and St Jacques references.

A little further out of town I bought a baguette for lunch – camembert, walnut and lettuce.  Just after I’d found this sweet boulangerie, I found a packet of tissues on the pavement – saves me buying new ones.  A man walked past whistling.

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Rue des Fonataines is very long, some would say ‘boring’ even, but I liked it for found tissues, whistling gentlemen, because it was diagonal to where I started, and it had my first La Poste vehicle for the day.  I ended up seeing 5 in total today AND a motorbike.

After this one-way street, it was out onto quite a big route that ascended past a beautiful, modern, grassed tram line, and on towards Toulouse Airport.  I like the walk out of a big city. It lets the city vibe leave you slowly.  Jacques texted when he left Toulouse.  He left on the train for a town two nights away. I wouldn’t do that. I am even happier with my choice as I begin seeing planes landing.  The GR red and white balisages join me again, although I get a little worried that they don’t stay long, and instead I have the company only of the little blue and yellow coquilles.

Today is a day of much uncertainty, many retracings of steps and of getting lost and tripping over.  I am following the way suggested in the Dodo but when I get to the little town of St Martin, I couldn’t find markings. I passed many people waiting outside La Poste at 9:30am. I saw little bike signs marking the bike path to Airbus territory, and did notice what might have been a number of cyclists commuting to work at the aeronautical company. Airbus – a lot of their staff ride to work I’d guess judging by the bike track signs.  This was exciting for me, as you’ll read elsewhere, I’m quite a fan of the A380.

Through the back-block, acres of Airbus paddocks. I waved hello to some men working there – conferencing outside next to an airbus carcus. I then thought it advisable to thank them for their work – “Merci beaucoup pour le Airbus” I called out. OK, maybe I’m getting a little too cocky with my French.  Apparently you can take a different route out of Toulouse through an ancient forest, but who’d want to do that and miss all the Airbus fun?

10:10.

The familiar fragrance of another butterly bush on the busy road leading to Colomiers.

I paused for morning tea on the lawn in front of what looked like well-kept council flats, the buzz of a lawn-mower starting up around the back, threatening to unseat me if I stayed too long.  I wrote a postcard to my old colleagues and I mused about the opposite of growing pains – are they allowing pains?  I gobbled two peaches then half of the baguette, feeling a little like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I’m really impressed with these squashed peaches for the road. I climbed the small hill towards the centre of the town but more like a suburb, and dropped into Aldi as I needed more shampoo. Of course, being Aldi, a full-size bottle was the smallest I could find. Not ideal.

Another bon courage floated my way, just a few minutes after I embarrassed myself tripping over. The woman who saw me said nothing, so I had to just get up and go on as if nothing had happened.

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At a beautiful underpass next to a stepped water feature resembling Fingal’s Cave, but more like Fingal’s French Mountain, I met an older couple, he in a wheelchair and she pushing him. I called on my basic, but improving French comprehension to understand that she was saying they had walked the route themselves in years past. Well, it makes a good story.  They were very cute, but also both quite frail, and so I helped push him up the steep pathway back to the level of the road.  I left them and they too wished me bon courage.  Then an English guy rode up to me and asked if I was on the chemin St Jacques. We had a brief discussion about it, but he was riding a long way further today. It was very exciting having an English voice start talking to you in deep France. I should have followed him, because at this point began a paucity of GR markers, and I ended up getting myself totally lost and disorientated. Maybe the ancient forest route might have been easier.

I had walked out of town, through suburbs, across large roads and past railway stations along a road that looked like it could have been the way except that there were no markers. Funny that! It wasn’t too hot thankfully, but it’s amazing how hot and bothered you get when you’re lost. Still no signs. Tell-tale sign that you’re lost.

I eventually got to something like a Kentucky Fried Chicken and asked a guy who showed me a map on Google maps on his phone.  I was still on the page of my map, and actually only 500 metres off course to the south.  On my way back to the track, I grabbed a toilet stop and a can of fizzy drink at a big garden shop akin to a French version of Bunnings, and felt a whole lot better when I started seeing the blue balisages again. I felt tired, not from the walking so much as in spirit. Losing one’s way is so effortful.

Despite the fact that I hadn’t actually walked that much extra, it was a very long trudge for the last kilometre up the hill to Pibrac. Once in the little town however, it was great.  The architecture in this area is very attractive, the red brick continued.  The small Eglise is beautiful and then there’s also a large basilica. The place was quite decorated, but the town had a bit of a beige feel.

I paused pretty briefly to eat the remainder of my brie, walnut and lettuce baguette on a park bench in the square between the two churches, the gentle breeze rustling the leaves and cooling my damp t-shirt.   I spied another pilgrim, but wondered whether he was going in a different direction as I didn’t see him leave.  I continued on a ‘boring’ route to Leguevin. I noticed later that I could’ve taken a more circuitous route through another forest, and I found out later that is the way the other pilgrim went.  I walked out of the town past the large basilica where lots of people seemed to be lying around on the grass at lunch time. The pharmacy informed me it was 26C at 1.40pm.

2:22.

Did I say that Pibrac to Leguevin was boring?  Well not only that, but my feet hurt as I had walked on roadway or footpath all day.  The route followed the main road between the two towns.  It was quite dry, and the gardens were a little dull.  Once again I was reduced to shuffling the last kilometre again up into the town to the Mairie.  The woman there directed me to the gite for accueil, just around the corner. I could go there, get settled, wash etc and then people would come to take the money later.  Perfect arrangement.

At the address I was met with a sign that pointed me in the direction of Santiago and a lovely little tile of a pilgrim installed at the back door. I opened the metal gate and walked in.  I explored the kitchen, took off my boots and left them in the corridor shelf and put on my thongs. It should bring relief, but walking doesn’t get easier with my boots off. I wasn’t there long, perhaps 15 minutes, had found myself a bed (one of 6) and was just getting prepared to have a shower, when the Pibrac pilgrim came in.  Jean-Paul was a Belgian living in Marseilles.  A little later Jacqueline, from Granville then Yves from Nantes arrived. It might be a full house. Later still a couple were brought from the Toulouse airport, Francois et Cloudine from Strasbourg.

Much later I did my washing (in a washing-machine no less), but by mistake didn’t put the soap inside, but outside – stupid!  So when it got to the end, my clothes were still wet and soapy! Bugger!  In they went for another wash, and I hoped that this delay didn’t mean that they wouldn’t dry over night. J-P went out to look around and I sat outside in the warm shady afternoon at the picnic table and wrote. I had a bit of catching up to do. I wrote for a while, but was surprised by a POP, almost a cracking sound, and looked into the garden to see what it was.  I realised it was the bursting hollyhock seed pods sowing their wild ‘oats’ – the sex life of plants hey!

The hoteliers came with the couple from Toulouse and we paid our money and had our credentials stamped along with much French conversation.  We all ended up going for pizza together – just down the road heading out of the town. It was the only thing open.  We shared stories (well, mostly they did, and I listened) and wine (I drank). It was a lovely night. I went to bed at 10pm after staying up a little longer than the rest to write a little more.

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