L’Isle Jourdain to Le Grangé – 15kms
I slept in. From 6:00 to 6:48. Terrible. It took me a while to get to sleep last night, my legs were restless again. On my schedule, I’m late with my pages. However I seem to have got myself in step with a group that sleep in. Little matter. It all gets done, doesn’t it! Eventually it gets done.
I’m writing this, feet soaking in salt water. What can be a more suitable way of relaxing after a walk. La Grangé is like heaven. When I arrived, the children, Oscar and Josephine were playing with a bubble machine, and it felt like paradise. Last time I experienced beautiful bubbles was at my friend Cathy’s wedding. Decades ago now I suppose. It was very special then and it is special now.
Getting here was far less eventful than yesterday. The drama hasn’t seemed to dent my spirit and has actually given renewed confidence. Leaving at 8am, the sun was up higher, yet the mist was still rising from the beautiful lake I had merely glanced at the previous afternoon. I found the balisages, yes, they were there, and very frequent today. As I left out along a main road, I was keeping a lookout for a track to the left where I’d leave the road and walk through the dewy grass along next to a small creek. It was really moist and so it wasn’t long before my boots were wet on the front. The birds were busy peeping and cheeping this morning. It was about 15 minutes of walking in a big arc around a field before I see J-P walking towards me – he had forgotten his water bottle. I kept walking, had two toilet stops, met another middle-aged female pilgrim coming towards me on the route, and then a single carriage train. I waved to the train driver. I love these little regional trains. Once again I’m reminded of Love on a Branch Line.
The path was beautiful today. Hardly any road, mostly chemin de terre. Up ahead where the path took a turn away from the railway line onto a dirt road that crossed it, I saw a white van similar to the one I’d seen yesterday heading in the same direction I was planning on going. My hackles were rising. It is not all that common to see cars on thee little tracks and I was in favour of being a little more cautious now. I knew J-P wouldn’t be far behind me, as he seemed like a fast walker, so I waited several minutes for him and asked him to accompany me.
We walked up hill, past a lovely border of flowers along the track. In the end there were houses not far up ahead and then a larger paved road for a while so that reassured me a little, and I would probably have been fine. J-P is tall, and has long legs, so we were walking much faster than I was comfortable with. He is probably a lot fitter too. He didn’t seem to want to slow down for me either. So we continued along the way, him walking just that little (uncomfortable distance) ahead, keeping the pace fast. We chatted a little, but he didn’t speak a lot of English, in fact virtually none, so it was a little difficult. I don’t know how we got onto it, but I was talking about the animals I had seen on the chemin, and mentioned that I had seen deer. The word for deer is biche. It is obviously not just me that seems to convert every idea in my head to a song while I’m walking, because J-P started to sing this song and asked me if I knew it. I’ve looked it up now, and it is certainly exactly how he sang it. Biche, ô ma biche by Frank Alamo. You learn something new every day. For all those who like to practice their French:
Biche, ô ma biche, lorsque tu soulignes
Au crayon noir tes jolis yeux
Biche, ô ma biche, moi je m’imagine
Que ce sont deux papillons bleus…
Tenant d’une main ta petite glace ronde
Tu plisses ton front enfantin
Et de l’air le plus sérieux du monde
Tu dessines en un tournemain un oeil de (Refrain)
Tu vois, depuis le premier jour qu’on s’aime
Frappé par ton regard ailé
J’ai oublié ton nom de baptême
Tout de suite je t’ai appelée ma douce (Refrain)
Je me demande pourquoi tu te maquilles
Si tu veux mon avis à moi
Sans rien, tu sais, tu es très très jolie
Je ne vois vraiment pas pourquoi pourquoi tu
Triches, ô ma biche, je t’en prie, de grâce,
Laisse tes yeux sans rien autour
Pour moi, ma biche, quoi que tu leur fasses
Tes yeux sont les yeux de l’amour (ter)
And for those who know no French, and don’t mind Frenglish:
Biche, O my doe, when you marked
Black pencil your pretty eyes
Biche, O my doe, I imagine
These are two blue butterflies …
Taking a little round mirror your hand
You pleated your childish forehead
And the most serious air in the world
You draw a snap of an eye (Chorus)
You see, from day one we love
Struck by thy winged look
I forgot your first name
Immediately I called you my sweet (Chorus)
I wonder why you makeup
If you ask me to me
Nothing, you know, you’re very pretty
I really do not see why you why
Cheats, O my doe, I beg you, please,
Let your eyes with nothing around
For me, my doe, whatever you do them
Your eyes are the eyes of love (ter)
I had wondered what he did for a living, and when I asked him, I was surprised at the answer. He was a priest. He was on holidays from his parish, and he was doing a short trip along part of this route. Interesting.
We soon walked into a town, Monferran-Savès and we surprisingly found a small tabac to stop at for coffee. It was also a post office, so I posted a pile of brochures, that I had collected from various tourist offices, to myself in Australia. The woman kindly worked out how I could make it cheaper, and we ended up putting them in two envelopes. My pack was 345g lighter. It all helps. Trust me. We sat outside at a plastic table, drank our coffee and I shared my pear with him, and he shared some ginger bread cake and an apple. It was very civilised. Now I come to think of it, I don’t know whether we paid for our coffee – maybe he did.
The town was very sweet and Mary could be seen avec serpent next to an ancient town oven around the corner from a small church. I found the most amazing collection of blackberries. Did I say the walking was beautiful? Mostly because it was such a short walk, but also because the weather was gorgeous. More sunflowers nodded our way. We dodged a farmer spraying big chunks of silage on his paddocks. It was a bit of a fraught path, full of shit you might say. I had visions we might get covered in it, the machine was like a giant spinning catapult, heaving this stuff all around. The smell was rank. But it appeared that he was heading home, so I didn’t have to be worried about getting drowned in it and catching some horrible water-borne disease. Nitrogen-fixing legumes made their debut next. We sat for a bit on the St Jacques bench, surveying the beautiful rolling hills.
It was only a little walk from the town to my gite, along all kinds of mosaic paths, so it was not much longer before we got to the turn off for my gite.
We couldn’t miss it as there was a big yellow monument covered with old boots.
I bid farewell to J-P and wished him bon route. I headed along the paddock track next to a paddock of maize. I didn’t really know where I was going. It looked like I was heading to one place, but then the signs pointed in the opposite direction, so I would my way back around the hill up to a line of fruit trees – many plum trees, then a little bell to ring to signal my arrival. Lily was out in the yard and so were her kids, having great fun making bubbles. It was a gorgeous atmosphere – I loved it already.
Lily took me around the back to a big rustic undercover table where they receive their pilgrim guests. I had a menthe cordial with ‘fresh’ water and the kids squealed and laughed. Oscar was wanting attention so he continued to spray bubbles in my general direction. I had my lunch with me, and I said I’d be happy to have it before they showed me around and got me settled. I knew I was being a little cheeky by being quite early for check-in.
After I’d finished lunch and sat for a little while in the bubbly shade, I took off my boots, left them in the rack outside, and Andreas showed me inside the gite – a beautiful long room over a number of stepped levels. First the plastic bucket pack vestibule (they are also a member of the association La Passeur-Elle is and Christiane was actually the one who recommended this gite), then the kitchen, a long kitchen table, and down into a lounge area with a whole library of books to read. Outside I could see brightly coloured chaise lounges and another table and chairs under a verandah. This is the life I thought. It was perfect. You would not be bored here. They had collected a great table of information about the route, stages and accommodation. There was a pin-up board with a map of the world for pilgrims to stick their pin in. I forgot to do it in the end, so they didn’t get a Melbourne pin. Maybe they put it in after I left.
Andreas showed me the room upstairs that had many parts. It was right under the roof, so you had to be careful not to bump your head on the exposed beams as you navigated around the room and got into bed, but it was cosy. Downstairs again, and at the bottom of the stairs there was a bathroom area with multiple showers and toilets. Then he pointed out the pièce de résistance. Plastic buckets and salt for tired feet. Magnificent!
I had a shower, washed and hung my clothes outside in what was turning out to be a very warm afternoon sun, and bathed my feet for an hour. I checked my emails with the wifi, yes they also had wifi, although I had to be quite close to the house to get it. Before long the other pilgrims began to arrive. Virginie and Sophie joined me in lounging outside, and we amused ourselves by nearly flipping ourselves out of them, as they tilted unexpectedly. It felt akin to a resort, lounging and reading and giggling. Somehow, we got from those shenanigans to singing I Like to Move it! Move it! at every opportunity. Those girls were a lot of fun.
The other pilgrims were having demi-pension which meant they were eating dinner and breakfast in addition to paying for a bed, but I was just going to eat what I’d bought the day before. Andreas was starting to cook and it smelt great, so I asked whether there would be enough to join in. He said yes, and I’m so glad because dinner was divine. Confit de canard (roast duck) and jacket potatoes, tomato plate with at least six kinds of home-grown tomatoes and a chasing of panacotta.
It was such a perfect day. Lovely company and great hospitality.
I receive a thought for the day into my inbox from Gratefulness.org, and in my pages book, I’ve copied down these thoughts at the top of each day’s entry. For this day, I’d copied Cheryl Strayed’s (now there’s a pilgrim for you) words:
“It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.”