Via Tolosana Day 29: I like to move it.

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.

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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.

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We couldn’t miss it as there was a big yellow monument covered with old boots.

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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.

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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.”

 

Via Tolosana Day 20: His yoke is easy, his burthen is light: Choosing easy world.

Dourgne to Revel: 17.2kms

What a majestic and tranquil place this En Calcat is.  I was a little slower out of bed this morning, but was well into my pages by 7.24am. All the ennui of the past day makes sense: I’ve got my period.

I wrote about my night’s experiences. Sometimes it can’t go into my journal and I have to process it through my pages.  When I first went into the cathedral, tears streamed from my eyes. I was so moved by the Vesper bells at night, the beautiful sung psalms by male voices. It was quite simply, divine.  I had felt lost – emotionally and mentally drained yesterday. Even though it was an easy walk, I found it difficult -surprisingly so. I was certainly ripe for an epiphany. Maybe it is just that I’m in week 3 of my walk.  There is a quote that I found before I started walking: it goes something like this – the first week is for your body, the second is for your mind and the third is for your spirit.  I’m certainly getting that!

I wrote about how it would be nice to meet someone to talk to in the communal gite tonight. I considered the experiences that the way brings to you, the different hurdles, the rocky paths, the steep ascents and descents. As I found yesterday, the flat, hard paths provide their own issues, if you make it so.  I wrote about a new acceptance about anything that comes my way.

I also wrote about going along with things. I have always prided myself in my ability to ‘get along’, ‘go along with’ and ‘fit in’ with other people.  I don’t want to fit in any more.  I want to have a life which is my own. When I think about it, I have never ‘fit in’. I’ve always had whacky ideas about things, and interesting takes on things that others take for granted or never question. I have always had my opinions on things, and haven’t been backward in giving them, but as for walking the way I want to walk, that hasn’t happened.  I have always felt the pressure to make others feel more comfortable, or to do things their way. Fitting in and conforming is how society wants it. It is not necessarily a natural way. It makes it convenient for society, and maybe more comfortable for other people to relate to, but it doesn’t necessarily suit me.

After finishing my pages, I find I don’t want to exchange this stillness for the wet, overcast day. How could I take the stillness with me? I was physically OK: I was kitted out with Kathmandu, head to toe, well nearly, courtesy of my stylist and technical consultant, Bettina. I delayed putting my boots on.  My washing had dried overnight, no problem, thanks to the numerous heating pipes in the laundry.    I finished packing and said goodbye to my lovely room. It was true, it was overcast, but it seemed to be dry outside.  I went upstairs to fill my water bottle at a deep sink, and was ready to go.

The woman who had talked all through the ‘silent’ dinner was passing to go to chapel and struck up a conversation with me – as much as a conversation can be with me in French.  She lived near Nimes, and I told her that I had departed from Arles.  I think I understood that her retreat will finish today at midday, then she’ll drive the 5 hours home. Anyway she wished me bon route and I wished her a bon retreat.

Out I walked. I doubled back to go and take a photo of l’eglise – it is unusually well kept, but I suppose that comes from hosting numerous pilgrims and retreaters. It is just as Sonja said, absolutely beautiful and tranquil.  It was definitely a good choice.

I set off intent to walk with the same calm: gentle on myself and gently on the earth. With humility. I think it made my day better.  I was curious about Saint Scholastique, so I walked into their carpark and smelt the freshly cut grass around the fruit trees that were laden with summer fruits. Another place to stay next time. Mr Mister’s Take these broken wings playing in my head. Take these broken wings, And learn to fly again learn to live so free, When we hear the voices sing, The book of love will open up and let us in.  My mind is a bottomless pit of 80s pop.

There were so many ideas coming to me today after the pause in that tranquil place.

Writing is like performing. Discuss.

I need a muse. To amuse. To a muse.

I walked into Dourgne, visited the public WC again – it still had toilet paper. I tried my luck at the Artisan Boulangerie, but then remembered, Lundi – ferme (Monday closed). The Artisan Boulanger Day of rest – after all there is no art to being open every day! I clocked up another beagle sighting, the Dourgne beagle for Anita and with utmost faith in the weather, I put away my hat and jacket and left. On the way out of town, I spotted not one, not two, but 6 La Poste vans at the post office and buoyed, I walked on to find the GR markers again.

Easy like a Sunday morning.

We call diseases aggressive. The disease is not aggressive, we are.  Yield.  I concentrated on yielding to my left shoulder/neck injury. Yield it, yield it! Ease …

The way seemed easier with the different approach. I had decided not to fight the road or oppose it, or judge it for being hard, but yield to it, soften myself. It is not the road that is hard, but me that is hard. I could address the hardness in myself to find an easy way.  Reminds me of a book – Choosing Easy World.  And the sun came out!

Today there was a lot of chemin de terre (dirt road) and the way follows the mountain range, the Black Mountains.   My shoes quickly started to get wet again, so I hoped my blister was not growing inside my sock.

A man driving a La poste van passed by and said Bon Courage – it made me smile.

I decided that whatever made the way easier, was OK, so where I had previously resisted playing music, today I had Alison McGillvray playing Geminiani Cello Sonatas for several kilometres, then Angela Hewitt playing Bach. During my studies I had the privilege of playing Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu nostri. There is something particularly gorgeous about his music and you can see how he influenced J.S. Bach who walked 400 kilometres to spend time learning from him.  It made me think, now that would be an interesting walk – Arnstadt to Lübeck. Another walk idea – Bach to Buxtehude!

La poste back again. We again smiled at each other – you again!  A woman and her dog pass – Bon Chemin!  Merci beaucoup! His yoke is easy, burthen is light! comes to mind for some reason.

A bird above the road caught my eye, combining the aerodynamics of its being with the prevailing wind and managing to suspend itself, as if frozen. Poetry in motion. My view wandered back to the black mountains.  The mountains on this trip are not for the faint-hearted or is that feigned hearted?  Lucky for me, I would neatly skirt this range.

Then Bruce Cockburn helped me out for a while. Vagabondagetout jour en route!  That’s right, every day on the road. Lord of the Starfields (or the cornfields) were all relevant to me as I walked.  A jogger passed me – random.

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A woman can’t live by blackberries alone, but she’ll give it a good try.

Blackberries were all along the route again today, as was the presence of the post. The third time my lovely La Poste driver approached, he gave me warning, I saw him coming down the little road a minute before he arrived and I had time to take my phone out to snap him . We were so amused to see each other, it nearly felt like we should do coffee.

Later I saw another la poste van turn into a very long driveway, then out again the other way. It stopped to make another delivery but was gone before I got there – never a 4th time. A woman was driving so I had crossed into the postal region of a different town.

I traversed several little hamlets again to reach Soreze by midi (midday). Monday is obviously washing day – I saw a bit of it out today. I hadn’t set out until 9.15am, so I was running a little late.

Soreze is a beautiful town, I could tell when I saw it had a medieval part on a sign some kilometres away. I climbed the church steps, over the rose petals from yesterday’s weddings, entered, paused and rested in the l’eglise for a few minutes with my eyes shut.  A mother brought her daughter in to look around, and I decided to check the town map across the road outside.  I noticed a Protestant eglise and several notable ancient sites: an abbey l’ecole looking like an interesting one. I’ve not really been reading up on the Protestant history as I’ve been walking. I think that would be another walk again.

My phone konked out just as I wanted to take a photo of a cute letterbox with two turtles on it – perfect to sum up my preferred route pace. So I wandered a little more before finding that the Office of Tourisme is co-located with Public WC – in a very tasteful inside/outside arrangement … with an accessible powerpoint. So I charged my phone for a while.  After about 15 minutes of reading their literature – stored in the area in boxes, I decided I needed to eat lunch.  The office would open at 2pm, and I saw that the l’ecole musee housed a collection of tapestries … just say the word tapestries, and I’m there.  Add in that they were designed by a monk who lived at En Calcat where I’d just stayed the night, and you couldn’t keep me away.  So out I went to find a supermarche/epicerie that was open to get some lunch.  An Irish woman directed me to the exit end of town where I’d later walk towards Revel. The supermarket was fantastic.  I got german bread with my favourite canned tuna and mayo, 2 abricot and a decadent pain au chocolat. When in France …

I walked back the short distance to the office steps and ate my banquet there.  When you’re eating on the steps of the tourist office everyone wishes you bon appetit as they pass! It makes me smile. A man on a scooter comes back to ask what I’m doing and wishes me Bon Courage when I tell him.  After 2pm I went inside and asked about the communal gite in Revel.  They don’t accept reservations, but the kind assistant offered to phone for me.  I thought if I went to see the museum exhibit, I might not make it in time to get a bed. (Little did I know I would be the only one staying there that night!).  She also helped me with Les Casses – and booked me there.  The way is made much easier with the assistance of the Office of Tourisme. Fantastic service.  Next I went to see Dom Robert’s work.

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A wall at the Abbaye ecole de Soreze

The Musée Dom Robert is co-housed with the Abbaye-école de Sorèze, and I had a brief wander around the abbey-school, but wanted to cut straight to the interesting bit: the tapestries.  The Dom Robert museum is beautifully housed in a brand new renovation of an ancient building. You start out taking the old wooden staircase, then a metal flight has been added to bring you to the museum entrance .  The museum looks at tapestries throughout the ages – antique, medieval, renaissance, modern and contemporary and weaves together the great themes of nature, spirituality and metaphor through the exhibition of Dom Robert’s work and one renaissance tapestry.

Like the Lady and the Unicorn, and other superb mille fleur (thousand flowers) designs, Dom Robert’s works display a great awe of nature. Some designs also use a similar ovoid shape as a mat for the main action, so his works truly rest on those that were done so long ago.  I couldn’t take photos, so I have to go by memory and the notes I took.

One tapestry, The Garden Party, after a line from a la Fontaine fable, the man with a hundred eyes, contained an Irish wolfhound in it and peacocks with the hundred eyes. His inspiration, Persian miniatures and 16th Century Tapestries are plainly obvious. The colours were so vivid, and the vibrancy of his oeuvre reminded me very much of Kaffe Facet’s fabrics, and the stylised shapes of plants were reminiscent of Matisse’s cutouts. Oak leaves of the Oak Man, borage flowers in Les Oiseaux rares. Children of the Light and the Magnificat – the visitation.  Dom Robert spent time in Buckfast Abbey in England and there is a lovely drawing of monks playing cricket there.  He was friends with Jacques Maritain & Jean Cocteau, Maxime Jacob.

Dom Robert was a watchful observer of the everyday life around him.The representation of trees, flowers and animals spoke so strongly of a homage to nature: everything I had been seeing and experiencing on my journey.  It was so breathtaking, I nearly cried.  His work so idiomatic of the beautifully pastoral French countryside.  Maybe the love he showed through his creations was connecting with my love for this country.  He lived to 90 years old, a good innings by anyone’s assessment.    I was sad I couldn’t buy a book about him and his lovely designs, as my legs wouldn’t stand it, and Post Offices are never open in the afternoon for me to be able to post it the same day. I did find a DVD about him and there is a great website about Dom Robert also.

I swear I walked faster and more confidently to Revel because I saw this.  Beauty does something physical to me, makes my cylinders fire differently or something. I reflect on all the surprises I have been met with each day.  So many things I could not have anticipated, so many of them bringing joy and reassurance.   What started out as a dreary day, ended up with a multitude of colour.

It was sunny in the afternoon as I set out from Soreze, but not uncomfortable, and I didn’t build up the sweat I would usually.  The forebodingly named Chemin des Moulin du Purgatory made me think I was in for something. I so wanted to spend some time in purgatory,  but all I saw was an airbrushed naked woman and a pterodactyl on a cement-carrying semi at the cement works.  Hell-fire and brimstone indeed. I passed more corn, irrigated this time, and zig-zagged my way towards Revel. I saw roof-tilers out working, they don’t take Mondays off. A little further along, and after days of teasing fig aromas, I found my first edible figs near La Garrigole. Tre magnifique!  Oozing sap like pine sap from the little stem, they make your lips stick together if you eat them whole. I debated the fig eating technique. Do you eat the skin, or not? Yes!

On the outskirts, there were many rebels without a cause in Revel – I saw 5 different groups of young men with motorbikes or scooters somehow involved, burnouts, hanging near the school, walking a motorbike home (too bad), two trail bikes going off!  Then as I got closer to the centre, there were lots of kids in groups.  Anyone would think it was school holidays.  In fact I pointed out to the group at the school, that it was funny there was no school on, but they were still hanging close.  I think the humour was lost on them 1. because I’m the age of their mothers, 2. no-one laughs at a strangers jokes and 3.  I was speaking my brand of incomprehensible French.

I got to Revel at about 4.45, which is a late arrival time for me, but still absolutely within the bounds of acceptable. After the seemingly-long approach to the town along the lines of a well thought-out grid of streets, I found my second surprise for the day.  La Halle medievale.  The usual covered market place, however in this town, it is massive, and takes up the whole of the town-centre, and was built originally in the 1300s.  It was spectacular and quite a sight for this tired pilgrim.  I looked around the confined perimeter for the Office de Tourisme, only to realise when I walked underneath the giant wooden canopy, that there it was right in the centre.  The best location for the Office of Tourism. Ever.  The woman directed me back the way I came, premier rue dans la gauche, dixhuit (first street on the left, 18) to the communal gite.  I didn’t realise I had passed it, so I momentarily explored another street, before realising my error and returning the way I came.

I rang the doorbell and was greeted by Patrick.  He asked me to deposit my shoes downstairs, next to the mini washing machine and then took my pack upstairs and deposited it in a big plastic bucket which he put near my bed (one of six in the room – none of them looking occupied for the time being).  It was quite a large room with two windows facing out into a void, which at the bottom had gravel in it, and looked to be the place where I would hang my washing.

I unpacked a little, and went to the kitchen table for introductions to Bernadette (his wife).  We chatted and they made me a fresh coffee and served it with those delectable Breton butter cookies. Mmmm!  I explained my route, and they said they could help me with accommodation in Montferrand. I was most impressed by this fabulous welcome.  This is the characteristic of a couple of the gites along this route.  They are community run, and staffed by volunteers who choose to spend some of their holidays being hoteliers for pilgrims.  Often they have walked themselves, although not always.  Often they are also retired.  Bernadette and Patrick were staying for one week to mind the gite. What a wonderful thing to do.  It’s no luxury holiday though. They wash all of the linen, often provide a very personal welcome, and then sleep in bunks themselves, in a tiny room that they showed me later – only as long as the bed. Talk about matyrs.  It is one thing to put up with snoring and shared bedrooms when you think you might get some spiritual use from the experience, but to spend your holidays this way seems a big ask.  They do get to spend time looking around the area/town in the mornings, and talking to many pilgrims from all around the world when they arrive. Spreading kindness is its own kind of ‘worthwhile’.

After I’d showered, Bernadette helped me do the washing with the washing machine – (Wow! Again!). Luxury, my washing smells like soap. Even at home I use the eco-detergent, so it never smells ‘OMO-clean’.  I wouldn’t usually bother with a washing machine, but my t-shirts and undies are starting to get decidedly manky, so they can do with all the artificial perfume they can get.  This day has been so great!  Maybe I’ll even get my blog for Day 2 ready to upload!

Bernadette and Patrick continued their amazing hospitality by insisting I eat dinner with them. They made pasta, and I contributed a can of tuna.  We chatted for a long time, before I decided to go out and look around the town centre again and get some photos.  Jacques wrote to me again “Gite in Les Casses is very good 26E with good supper & breakfast. Wifi”.  I would be there in several days, as after reaching Toulouse, I would detour to Carcassonne for a couple of days.

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View from La Halle Medievale

Via Tolosana Day 13: One day I walk

Saint-Gervais-sur-Mare – Fagairolles 17 kms

My favourite singer/guitarist/poet, seems to have amazing insight into what it is to walk in this life.  I have many of his albums and several of his beautiful songs speak of travelling, walking and getting home.  It is a profound realisation, that we only ever walk alone in this world, no matter how many other beings surround us.  I realise on this day, that I was choosing to walk home, in a way, to myself.

One Day I Walk – Bruce Cockburn

Oh I have been a beggar
And shall be one again
And few the ones with help to lend
Within the world of men
One day I walk in flowers
one day I walk on stones
Today I walk in hours
One day I shall be home
I have sat on the street corner
And watched the boot heels shine
And cried out glad and cried out sad
With every voice but mine
One day I walk in flowers
one day I walk on stones
Today I walk in hours
One day I shall be home
One day I shall be home

I awoke early, but wasn’t in any hurry to get up quickly because I needed to go to the La Poste to post my extras back to Paris before I could walk anywhere. I said goodbye to Florian, closed the door after him and once again felt like the keeper of the house. I wrote morning pages, my journal and had breakfast, all before 8am.

I was all packed, and I didn’t feel like waiting around, so I left, depositing the key in the post box next to the door. I felt so free walking from the gite my plastic bag of postage swinging by my side. As it was still way before La Poste opening time, I checked my emails at the Office de Tourisme (the nifty thing is I could still use the wi-fi even though it was closed).  I wasn’t the only one.  Another woman came with her black laptop to check hers too. My money had still not cleared so I had to hope that sending a package to Paris wasn’t going to be too expensive.

La Poste wasn’t open when I walked there. I waited for a couple of minutes, but it was obviously going to open late, and so instead I left to use the public toilet under the town square down next to the river. By the time I returned to the office, there was a line, so I ended up waiting for about 15 minutes to get served. I didn’t leave until 9.45am having sent my sleeping bag and my heavy sandals, umbrella and assorted power cords back to Jerome in Paris. It all fit perfectly in a ready-made box for 13 euros. Even though my money hadn’t cleared I didn’t feel worried. It will all be OK. I’m sure in Murat I will be able to sort it all out. I’ll take my time and write.

There was a cute baby in the post office who was more than a little frustrated that my enquiry was taking so long, so I assisted his mother to amuse him with peek-a-boos and my baby French. Actually talking to young children is the best. They repeat things over and over, and don’t get frustrated when you don’t understand.  But he was just a baby and wasn’t going to help teach me French.

St Gervais beagle for Anita

St Gervais beagle for Anita

My pack felt so much lighter as I walked toward the Boulangerie to get lunch, a quiche, and morning tea, an escargot.  I felt lighter too. It all feels right. At the little epicerie next door I found a perfect 1 litre bottle that fits into my pack pocket easily.  Crossing back over the river, I passed my new baby friend and his mother. That was sweet.

Narrow lanes exiting St Gervais

St Gervais maze

St Jacques shells in shape of arrow with message from St Gervais residents

I think I go … this way! Via tolosane … Les amis du vieux St Gervais vous souhaitent bon chemin.

Small mini car reminder of a googomobil

Goggomobil

The way out of St Gervais was a maze of small walled laneways which eventually turned into a forest track, not before I discovered the resting place of the Goggomobil (it wasn’t actually a Goggomobil, but it was a micro car. It needed to be, a normal car wouldn’t have made it up the tiny lane). I’d seen it the day before zipping around the town, crossing paths with the town band. I was telling Florian about the Yellow Pages advertisement all those years ago on Australian television after I saw the little 3-wheeler again when we were eating dinner. Tommy Dysart’s adorable Scottish accent G-O-G-G-O has proven to be unforgettable to me and probably millions of Australians – no wonder the ad won awards.

I kept walking up the steep track which didn’t look like the right way but it was. It became a wider fire track before long. I had received a text from Sonia the day before to remind me to pay attention to the markers. She had gone so far out-of-the-way, that she had lost several hours. Jacques I had also texted, “I was lost twice, Jacques once … Viola is here.” So that’s where Viola is! It was so nice to get news of her. The signs were a little confusing and I nearly went the wrong way once, but managed to stay on course. Once off the fire track again it was a really shady tramp through chestnut groves until Castanet-le-Haut. Thank goodness for small mercies as it was already warm. Today felt like an 80s Michael Praed, Robin Hood set. The landscape seems more lush somehow, maybe catching up with the rain we got some days ago.

Forest trees

Robin Hood country

Distant views of mountains

Distant views

Giant chestnut tree?

Giant chestnut?

Large trunk with huge hollow knots

A beech tree perhaps

As I continued I could hear the not too distant sound of a tree being chainsawed. I hoped I wasn’t walking into a falling tree. I had views of the mountains on the other side of the river valley between huge chestnut trees and many dry stone walls. Different pine trees with elongated cones joined the path and then I came upon the most massive chestnut tree I’d seen, covered with moss. I had to touch it, and talk to it, it was so magnificent.

The little town of Andabre appeared out of nowhere, at the end of a fast and short descent and I got up close and personal with someone’s back door as the way traced two edges of the house down to the road. Passing through the town quickly, past the local gnomes and sighting the flamingo I didn’t see in the Camargue, the path followed the creek for a little time. I was still getting used to the idea that it was just me. I was now fully responsible for my direction and speed.

Gnome holding a nautical telescope

Andabre nautical gnome

Flamingo statue

Andabre flamingo

Just before I came to the D22E12, I saw a sign pointing to Ancien Chapelle Notre Dame de St Eutrope up on the mountain and I remember Florian told me it had a dolmen. I’ll see it next time – when I have the energy to go up 700 metres in altitude and back down.  Just across the main road, next to the La Mare (the same river that runs through St Gervais) I stopped at the site of an ancient mill,  Ancien Moulin du Nougayrol. I put my pack down at a nearby picnic bench and checked it out, and could see the giant holding pond (like a good-sized circular swimming pool) that the water channelled into. On the outside of it, large flat stones were set into the stone wall as steps up to the top.  Back at the bench, I took my time. I wrote again (!!!) despite being bothered by wasps as I was eating my snail.  I filled up on water, as I’d already built up the usual sweat. A motorcycle touring couple pull up. They were completely kitted out with panniers, full leathers. He speaks German quietly, she speaks really loudly, they decide on a direction and leave again then double back.  A child is playing near the river, I can hear their voice.  A dog barks, and the sound gets closer, and it barks more, probably as it realises I’m sitting close by on the park bench. It’s owner is trying to pacify it.  I can’t see anything though as the trees mask the river – they must be on the other bank.  It might be time to move on.

Dry stone wall and trees with Visigoth sign

Visigoth site

Across the road again from this picnic spot I walk past an embankment and a sign that indicates a Visigoth (Vestiges wisighotiques) site which I couldn’t see an entrance to. Mostly these sites seem to be huge sites of mossy rocks, and there is not a great deal of explanation unless they are in the midst of another cared-for property.  I continued on the road for a while until I got to Castenet-le-Haut. La Poste drives past and sweeps up the peppermint smell for me from the shoulder strip.  My shoe starts to squeak. It also comes to mind that when you’re walking through a town, you need to find a ‘proper’ place to go to the toilet.  It is easier in the forest. I keep walking.

Roof tops and tiles in Castanet-le-Haut

Castanet-le-Haut skyline

Walls, balisage, cross and slate roof

GR653 sign and cross

Slate wall fixed with metal pins

Ingenious slate wall

Paved path out of Castanet-le-Haut

Exit to the mountains

I cross the bridge and walk into the town past the most interesting type of shingles on the outside of houses that I’ve never seen before.  Large rectangles of slate held in place by metal pins.  Other medieval architecture, and a new kind of paved path took me out of this dear little place. Crossing back over the river, which is more like a creek now, I join a wider track under pine trees.

Pine forest trail

Pine forest trail

Rocky track up hill

Rocky road

I come across the couple from the Office of Tourisme again having a break.  I find out they are from Valence near Grenoble.  They had walked from there and were very much in agreement in the ‘go your own way, at your own speed’ philosophy. I walked on ahead of them with their advice ‘take it easy’ ringing in my ears. From here it was a constant, sometimes steep ascent (especially the part where Sonia was warning me of a turn) up around the edge of the mountain, along a narrow and rocky path, which became really exposed. Climb every mountain wasn’t even enough to make this an easier climb. I got really hot, and for the first time my heart beat really fast with the exertion. I realise that sometimes if you knew how hard things were going to be, you would never start. This climb was one of them. The views however, got better and better.  I rested half-way up in the shade – under pines and chestnuts and noticed I’d done so under a little red and white sign.  I’ve noticed this, just from a couple of hours walking alone.  I tend to look up just at the right moment to see a sign confirming my way. I walked through beautiful avenues of tall trees.

Track disappearing into trees with fence posts and distant structure

Beautiful farm land

Track disappearing into trees with fence posts and farm land in foreground

Elysian Fields?

At Sayret, reaching the crest of a hill, more open farmland greeted me.  The view from the top was amazing, and I’d got there quicker than I expected.  The characteristic hay bales started to dot the landscape.  I chose a beautiful lunch spot on a track overlooking open paddocks.  The French couple passed me after I’d finished my quiche. At some point an eagle circled overhead, and for some reason the tune of Borodin’s Polotzvian Dances came to mind. I googled the words … here are some of them …

Fly on the wings of the wind
To our native land, dear song of ours,
There, where we have sung you at liberty,
Where we felt so free in singing you.
There, under the hot sky,
The air is full of bliss,
There to the sound of the sea
The mountains doze in the clouds;
There the sun shines so brightly,
Bathing the native mountains in light,
Splendid roses blossom in the valleys,
And nightingales sing in the green forests.
And sweet grapes grow.
You are free there, song,
Fly home …

Mountain views, flowers in foreground

Mountain views

Cottage herbs/flowers next to track

Just like a country garden

Shaded forest track

Shaded forest track

When I got going again, it was not long before I joined an even more used vehicle track and came quite quickly to a 4 way corner just outside Ginestet. Here I had to make a choice.  There was a sign indicating the GR71, and it descended gradually down a hill via a grassy track.  It was on my Dodo mud map so knew that this would link with another road that would take me to Fagairolles, but I didn’t know whether it was a good route to take. Alternatively, I could stay on the bitumen and follow the D53 which would take me straight to my end goal in full sun.  I didn’t fancy walking by road for two kilometres, as my feet were already tired. The GR offered shade. I put off my decision.

“Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can’t see what’s round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend” Jimmy Buffet (and Bruce Cockburn)

I had used up all my water before lunch, so I walked the short few hundred metres into the little settlement and a kind resident obliged me by filling my large bottle.  I made my way back out to the 5 way corner.  I chose grass and shade.

Grassy track, GR71

Chemin de terre GR71

A metal filigree cross

Filigree cross

It was a track fenced off from farmland. It was clear from the droppings, that people also rode horses along it.  I descended, then turned a wide-angled corner only to find my way obstructed by a massive tree.  I thought, how am I going to get around this?  As I got closer, my question was answered. There was a clear track up over the huge root ball. So I climbed over it as others had done before me.  It must have fallen a few weeks before.

Brown cows

Just like Brown’s cows

I was passing cows in the paddocks to both sides, but at one point it looked like the cows were on my side of the fence. I paused briefly to plot how I’d negotiate around 5 cows on a path only 3 metres wide, but realised when I came upon them, that it was just an interesting optical illusion. My path was clear and fenced.  I said hello to the brown cows on the other side, as I usually do to the animals I pass, and went on my way.  I’m a taurean, so I feel a special affinity for these animals.

I kept walking, noticing black and white feathers and small apples on the path. Gorgeous bushes of holly formed the hedgerow.  More cows, this time Friesians – bos taurus.  I did choose well, the shade continued.  More round hay bales.  I saw a man and his son splitting wood in his yard, and I confirmed with him that I was on the right track to Fagairolles.

Prickly holly leaves

The holly … and the ivy?

Hedgerow tunnel

Hedgerow tunnel

The track met the D922 and I crossed to join a small one lane road into the town.  It was a tiny place, a hameau or hamlet nestled in a hill. It might have to take the award for tiniest town I stayed in on the trip.  There were many cars parked, but deserted of people, and it seems to be the site for Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, which I didn’t realise was Hunting and Wildlife.  Tiny town, and a little creepy also, now I think about it.  Fagairolles is not on the chemin, but I didn’t think that the first day after my rest I could do another big walk.  This was a compromise. I recognised the Gites of France sign and proceeded to ring the numbers on the front door. The sign said something about ‘relais de ouveture a 17:00’, so I wasn’t too fussed if I had to wait. There was a nice picnic table there.  After about 45 minutes my hostess arrived and let me in.  She signed my credentiale, drew me a little picture of the St Eutrope Chapel that I missed and took my 12 euros.  I had the place to myself.

I had arrived at 3.45pm and walked about 17 kms.  Taking off 45 minutes for lunch and breaks, that makes 5 hours of walking, pretty good. Just over 3 kms per hour.  The gite was really comfy if a little cavernous with just me in it. The bathroom was really clean and the kitchen well-appointed, with a lovely long table for big groups. There were two rooms each with several beds downstairs, then there were more upstairs on a mezzanine. So it felt a little cathedral-like. I rattled around in it by myself. There was a big window facing west that the sun shone in as it descended. I chose a room with two bunk beds.  I think there was more accommodation next door which was closed off from my part.

I showered, washed my clothes and put them outside on the washing rack.  Claudine gave me a packet of risotto yesterday, so I’m thinking of her as I watch it heat up. There will be enough for breakfast too – lucky, there’s certainly no boulangerie or epicerie in this little place.

After dinner, and still walking gingerly, I went to have a look at the ancient bread-making site le four à pain de Fagairolles – the apparent highlight of this place. I wasn’t long out of bed on my return and as I was trying to get to sleep, lightning penetrated even my closed eyelids. I rushed out to save my clothes from the rain.

Via Tolosana Day 6: Poubelle Planet

Montpellier to Montarnaud 14kms

Jacques and I met in the small park near our tram stop. Not only had I caved on the getting to Montpellier, I also caved on getting out. The only good thing about this plan was me getting to use the tram system. My love of trams was one of my many reasons for moving to Melbourne. I also love the light rails Europe. They are so modern, quiet and efficient. This one, Line 1 with oiseaus (birds) painted on the outside would take us all the way to the edge of the city, once again skipping the ‘boring’ bits.

Beautiful Montpellier

Montpellier Trompe-l’œil

So after eating our pain au chocolat, off we went. It was pretty cool at 7.30 and my pack again felt heavy. There was trackwork (it even happens in my beloved France). They call it an interruption and it seemed that it had been going on some months already, so there was a section which we had to walk for 5 minutes from Pasteur to Place Albert. After this we went all the way to Euromedicine, whatever that is, and commenced our walk. Uphill along a bike track for the start, past what I called the Pines of the Appian Way (there are two musical references there for those who know Respighi and the multitudes of composers who wrote drinking songs).  We soon left the larger road for a smaller one with our familiar GR653 waymarks.  Today when we weren’t crossing the back streets of small towns, the way was rocky on dirt tracks. Many beautiful vistas, more colourful letter boxes, horses real and sculptured, St Jacques pilgrim things, coquille shells and tampons. And that was just before lunch.

I’d say we’re on the GR653

Pines of the Appian Way

At Grabels, which kind of reminds me a little too much of the word gerbils to be comfortable, there was even a ‘self-service’ tampon for our credentials. The stamp was beautiful, and we availed ourselves of it by entering the partly ajar gate at the church.  Up a couple of stairs, and we found an ink pad with a tampon attached to a chain, so it couldn’t walk off on the chemin itself. I shared with Jacques the meaning of tampon in English – maybe that was too much information, but he laughed anyway. Just outside of Grabels, we took a strange little route past the source of a river, de l’Auy. A new pilgrim sticker appeared, unfamiliar to me and then we started a slow climb through pine trees with the accompanying singers and the most beautiful cloud formations. The marche at first reminded me of My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle for the content and environment.

Ou est le tampon?

Coquille St Jacques

Presbytery Garden

New waymark

Piscine (swimming pool)

My Mother’s Castle

My Father’s Glory

Lunch with The North Face and Kathmandu

Magnificent horses

The last four kilometres, no matter how far one walks, always seem the hardest. We could see Montarnaud in the distance for ages before we even got close to it. It was so hot when we arrived, that we sat on the church steps gathering our energy to find our gite. Despite piscine teasers (swimming pool) during the day they weren’t going to become a reality any time soon. A neighbour heard us asking someone where we might find water, and she offered to get us some, and asked us about our trip after filling our two bottles. Local people seem really interested in pilgrims.

I have done many things for money in my life, and one of them has been working as an extra. I got a phone call from my Canberra friend Fiona one day just as I was getting off a plane in Adelaide. She had just seen me in a scene of Laid. This was a scene where all of the ex-boyfriends of the protagonist had assembled in a pub to discuss the concerning reality that each one in turn was dying. I’ll never forget one of the jokes for the scene because we shot it several times. One of the boyfriends said, “I know we’re all hungry, and angry … we’re hangry“. This became another joke that Jacques and I shared, although I also added another variation for the end of a pilgrim day, ‘thangry‘. We agreed we often arrived thirsty as well.

We walked to our gite, the second story of our host’s house, and fully equipped with kitchen, bathroom and lots of camp beds able to be rolled out should numbers swell for a night. This was another ‘backpacks in garbage bags situation’, and we dutifully complied. I love listening to Camille, a French chanteuse. She has a great song called Aujourd’hui in which she chants about our Poubelle Planet. Poubelle is the most beautiful word for rubbish bin I can imagine. So every time I come across garbage in any form, it sets me off singing it.

We did the usual, bathed and washed our clothes, hanging them on the line out the back of the house. The supermarket was a bit of a walk, but we took it slowly as it was still really hot. This was the chance to buy things for breakfast and lunch the next day. I also bought some gnocchi, aubergine, onion and courgette and with the pesto in the communal fridge, made us pesto pasta for dinner. It was nice to cook again after nearly a week.

My little toe is a little better, but my foot muscles are spent. I walk around in my yellow thongs like an old woman. Steps are a challenge and the situation only improves marginally with seven hours of sleep. Sigh.

Via Tolosana Day 2: Les Trois Ponts

Bouchaud to St Gilles 18kms

My juggling friend and I left Bouchaud together setting out for St Gilles in the cool hours around 8am. There was even a light breeze. I navigated as I had the map, back to Gimeaux and the GR653. Viola prefers to ask directions rather than have a map – I like that but it scares me somewhat having to speak in French to strangers. I explained how to read the little balisages (red and white arrows and crosses). It was only the first day, but from what I could see, there were plenty of way-markers. On the way we passed hacienda-style compounds guarded by plaster dogs and porcelain cigales. There was not much traffic all day as the roads were minor farming roads. There was more traffic in the sky – invisible, speed of sound jets, then the French version of the Roulettes did a fly past for us. The French have considerable military muscle to flex – I wondered where the air show was.

Guard animals

Viola had a very big pack, and she was worried about her broken buckle not coping with the strain. She chose to stop for a rest after about an hour near Mas des Bernacles. I really wanted wifi and food so kept going. We said our goodbyes, and said we’d meet in St Gilles. In the distance behind us were a couple I later met, a French woman and her German partner. I found out when they caught me in a little town on the outskirts of St Gilles that their way was from Grenoble to Montpellier and they’d already walked for three weeks.

Viola

Me and my backpack

Way markers – mine are the white and red GR

I was alone in terms of human contact, but as I made my way along the Camargue canals and small roads, I was joined by dragonflies of all shapes and sizes – big blue, small red and blue then some beautiful swans. I was hoping for some flamingoes because believe it or not, they are native. Sadly, they didn’t join me. Instead I just kept singing the song Pretty Flamingo.

Not far from where I’d left Viola, I came across a guy fishing next to a bridge. Blackberries, bullrushes, canals petite and grand, rice paddies and vineyards. Every so often the road took a bend. The uncertainty of not seeing the road a long way ahead was kind of nice in that it broke up the journey and gave some novelty to the road. Funny that the same road can look different when it turns a corner.

Camargue fields

Blackberries

Triple security Camargue style

As I would find many times in the coming weeks, the way is not always direct. The GR653 people not only have the route following old Roman roads, Compostelle ways, but also along paths to take you away from busy roads, past water, and chapels. All of the things a pilgrim needs. I couldn’t work out which one the route into and then out of Saliers was for, but it was an interesting diversion. I saw two beautifully thatched buildings that looked like churches, found water, and eventually sat down for a break under a shady tree. Two boys killing time in front of the town church were kind enough to allow me to interrupt their bon vacance to direct me to the little village’s water supply. France’s future is in safe hands with such polite young people.
In a book I started reading recently, David Downie’s, Paris to the Pyrenees, he included a photo of a fire hydrant. For anyone who has not walked (including myself at the time) the rationale for using a non-descript fire hydrant in one’s collection of pertinent photos of a trip kind of escapes. Now I understand perfectly. On long days, where there are few towns, all you want is a source of eau portable – drinking water. You eye off every fire hydrant enviously, realising they have everything you need, but with no way of making it available to you.

Bridge over the Rhone

Another compostelle way marker

Regional symbol of the Camargue

I crossed the impressive bridge over the Canal du Rhone, but then there was another diversion to bring me into the eastern end of St Gilles and to take me off the busy, semi-trailer filled N572. It involved a lot of faffing around and nearly killed me, but I was quite concerned to ‘go the right way’, so I followed, feet barely leaving the ground as I sauntered along white metal roads, over disused train tracks, next to farms with three exuberant and friendly dogs, two of whom jumped up on me, in what seemed like ridiculous heat.

As if one large bridge wasn’t enough, I came to the petite bridge over the Petite Rhone. Then following signs that looked like they led to nowhere, I found yes, after two lovely horses, another cute little bridge. I crossed a field by chemin de terre, and lo and behold, yes, another little bridge. This one had steps to climb. I was doubting whether after 16 kilometres I’d be able to lift my feet to climb steps, but I surprised myself. Les Trois Ponts, (the three bridges) things always come in threes.

Non-descript path

GR marker

I know where I’ve been

I might be crazy, but I’m not stupid. I find the heat exhausting and it often gives me a migraine. So, to salve this possibility, I brought my own supply of Salvital with me, the thing that always helps me in Australia. I stopped and sat down to drink it in and take a break before sauntering off, only to be dealt a cruel blow. In the near distance, the road rose steeply. I could see for miles before St Gilles that it was on a hill, so I don’t know why I was surprised. Halfway up the hill, and wait, there’s more … steps! At the top, what a vista – the large bridge I’d crossed first, and the surrounding hills. Self-discipline, just keep walking, just keep walking. I followed the little markers, now on street sign posts and house walls, all the way to the Mairie (city hall), with enough French and European Union flags flying to make Tony Abbott jealous. The little red and white signs led me down steep narrow streets towards the centre ville and voila, the Abbey. Magnificent.

Abbaye St Gilles

The two options for accommodation were en face the abbey, the Maison des Pelerin and the Gite La Pause du Pelerin. I sat relieved on the steps of the first, taking a breath while deciding what to do. I decided first to go into the abbey and was met there by a a lovely woman who was happy to fill up my water bottle, tell me about where a cash machine was, and about the very impressive crypt that existed below our feet. You can also have your Credential stamped at churches, and she offered to do this. It reminds me of collecting autographs when I was younger. I have Peter Garrett’s when he was just the cool frontman of Midnight Oil, if that counts for anything now? The crypt closed at 5.00pm, so I decided to make an effort to get to see it.

After this I also gave the Office de Tourisme a try. Philippe recommended the municipal gite as it was cheaper, and I would find free wifi in the bars in the town. I went to get a Diablo Menthe (mint syrup and lemonade) at a bar before making my way back to the gite. It was funny because Paul, the host at the gite, offered the same as cordial when I arrived. I could have saved my money. Jacques, a retired Belgian was booking in also. So if Viola made it, it would mean there would be three pelerins – company on the road!

The way it usually works when you ‘get in’ to a town, if you don’t have a reservation, is to visit the Office de Tourisme. Not only can they help with information and bookings for current and upcoming towns, but they can be mined for megabytes with their free wifi. When you get to your chosen accommodation, you spend the first few minutes booking in and getting your credential stamped, yes with a tampon, (yes I smile to myself everytime I have to say it) and paying your money. If there is a host/ess, you spend time talking to them about what’s on offer. Here it was a donation towards petit dejeuner (breakfast) and a cost of 12 euros for the bed. After this, you choose your bed, shower, then wash your walking clothes, so that you give them the maximum time to dry before leaving the next morning. Nine out of ten times, my socks don’t dry fully overnight – that’s why you see them pinned to the back of my backpack. After this, you survey the available food outlets and choose your food for dinner and breakfast, if none is supplied. What is included in the price varies on the type of accommodation you choose. It is great to stay in these little municipal establishments because they provide all cooking utensils, microwave/stove and often tea/coffee and jams for breakfast. If you don’t mind sharing with other people, and the night soundtrack this sometimes entails, then it is perfect.

Maison des Pelerins

I was on my way to the supermarche when who walked up the narrow car-width street? Voila, Viola! She’d made it. I showed her where the Gite was and went to sit in the bar reading emails under the guise of drinking a coffee. I found out I had a phone interview for a cello teaching job at 12.45am Monday morning. That will be interesting and may require a separate room. I made a quick trip to the Crypt of the church and it’s guardians were right, it is cool, damp and magnificent. Apparently it is also one of the largest in France. On my way out I again bumped into the couple I saw during the day. They were headed on a big 30km walk tomorrow.

Back at the Gite, Paul, the host, had rung ahead, and found that the two cheapest places in Vauvert had both closed. He found another, Coleurs du Sud, and Jacques was seeking takers to stay there with him. They had one room for four people. I was happy to agree, as I had no other plans. Though the 30 euro was a bit expensive, there was nothing cheaper. My bed for tomorrow night was settled. Viola thought she would make her own way, possibly camping. I Ioved the walk today. It wasn’t lonely, just solitary, but it seems tomorrow there will be company. The pain in my hip has transferred down my legs to my calves and my feet are aching. I could feel a dull ache in my coccyx by the end of the walk today. Nothing a night’s sleep won’t fix, I hope.

Viola had found out the locations where the locals gathered thanks again to the Office of Tourism and wanted to go busking. I wanted to check out the old town trail to soak up the old building atmosphere – one of my favourite things to do. So after a dinner eaten together with Paul and Jacques, Viola got dressed up and took her balloons to perform. At the end of my trailing, I met Viola down by the river and wrote my journal for a while as the light faded.
Well if this is the life of a pelerin, then I’m for it. There is not much more to worry about than getting up in the morning, walking, eating and sleeping. Back to basics really.

Viola ready for performing