Day 21 and 22: Castelneau and Condom 

Last night I stayed in a average Gite d’tape called the Bonte Divine (Divine goodness).  The names of some of these places are quite inventive, like Le Nid des anges (The Nest of Angels). However, yesterday I ran across a Gite called Les Canabels.  Now I don’t actually know what that means in French, but it sounds a lot like “the cannibals”. You’d think if a person was trying to lure complete strangers into their house for the night they’d use a name a little less threatening.   I don’t know about you, but I’m not overnighting in a place that sounds like they might eat their own kind.  Tonight I’m in “Relais de St Jacque” (relay of Saint Jacques) in the city of Condom. Yeah, yeah I know! How could you name a city that. Well as it so happens the name is a contraction of two words meaning confluence and market, describing both the place’s significance as a 10th century market town and its location at the convergence of two rivers. I hope you feel the weight of ignorance being lifted slightly!

Anyway, the place has one of the most amazing cathedrals with one of the most amazing paintings.


Pic: St Pierre Cathedral in Condom

Today was all but a rest day with only a 10km walk to get here after a marathon 40km day yesterday. Tomorrow I’ll do another 33km followed by a lighter 20km on Saturday. 

 Thankfully all of the long walks of this week allowed me to get one day ahead of schedule, which means I can have one day rest in Pamplona before meeting Tabby and the kids in Madrid.  I anticipate a day of burning my stinky pilgrim clothes and buying something a little more fitting a 6 week hiatus from my family. Boy, am I ever ready to see them!

Day 20: Boudou to Miradeaux

Today’s 30 kilometers went much better than yesterday’s 35, and that despite higher temperatures and more difficult walking conditions. All but a few hundred meters of today’s walk was on asphalt. And walking on a hard, black surface in 100 degree heat is not exactly fun.  Yesterday I had to invent some mental strategies to finish the last 5 km, but today I managed to keep my head up enjoying the countryside all day.

I’ve notice the sun has a kind of heaviness. When I walk from the shade out into the sunshine, I feel it on my back, on my shoulders, on my hat. I’ve notice also that it’s relatively easy to walk 20 km. If I start at 6am, I can finish it without breaks in 4 hours. However, something happens after 20, that makes 30 and above feel almost undoable. For one, any reserves that are stored from the food consumed between yesterday’s end and today’s beginning are probably spent in the first 4 hours. Also the aforementioned weight of the sun starts to become a factor after 10am. Muscle fatigue and foot pain also start to wear on your mind. So after 10am, walking requires frequent periods of rest, a liter of water every hour, and some occasional high calorie snacks. Tomorrow I’ll walk another 35 km to try and gain a day on my overall trip so I can get a day of rest. Otherwise, I’ll be looking at uninterrupted walking from now until July 5.


Pic 1: Canal Deux Mers (canal of two oceans) l’ve walked by this canal for several km the past two days.  It runs all the way from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.


Pic 2: amazing Frescoe at the church in Auvillar

Day 18: Montcuq and Lauzerte 


Pic 1: Montcuq with the medieval tower overlooking the village

Being by myself has forced me to try more Français. There are a few that speak English, like the old man from Holland that I passed on the way to Montcuq. The man must have been close to eighty and he must get started very early because I caught up with him one hour down the Chemin at 7:15 and he was a pretty slow walker which means he must have departed from his Gite no later than 6am. Anyway, it was obvious that he’s not too happy being alone. He started talking to me when I was still behind him and then sped up to keep the conversation going once I’d passed him. Feeling a bit guilty, I slowed my pace and walked alongside him to listen and to answer his questions. Soon he started telling a story that he’d heard, about a woman getting lost from the Appalachian trail while going to the bathroom. One year later when they found her body it turns out that she hadn’t wandered too far from the path. He then followed this by telling me that he never wanders very far from the Chemin and that his wife requires a daily phone call or text just to hear that he’s safe. Frankly, I doubt that a person could get lost in France, least of all in the wilderness. Nevertheless, there’s nothing like a good story to cheer the heart.  

Pic 2: charcuterie at the market


Pic 3: Fromagerie at the market


Pic 4: Olives and tapenade and sundried tomatoes and pesto etc…

  1. Sunday in Montcuq is market day, so after walking the two hours to town, I stopped to have a cup of coffee and pick up some lunch. I bought a baguette, a slice of cheese, a few slices of ham, and a flat of strawberries. Because I couldn’t get the berries in my backpack, i just held them until I could find a shaded area for lunch. At first it seemed like a great idea, but as I walked I kept catching the scent of fresh strawberries from the mouth of the bag. Needless to say, I didn’t get too far before I was eating and walking. The strawberries were delicious but soon my fingers were bright red with juice and I was without a place to wash or wipe them. To make matters worse, I soon came upon a table alongside the road holding fresh peaches and cherries and a piggy bank. Well, me being me, I couldn’t miss an opportunity like this, so I dropped a few euro in the bank and took two peaches and a bag of cherries. I knew right away from the feel of the peaches that they couldn’t take to being carried for long. So I wasted no time biting into one and was instantly covered in peach juice. Thankfully I’ve stopped shaving since beginning the pilgrimage, so the juice didn’t get too far past my hairy face. Now I have sticky red fingers and peach juice all over my face and no place to clean up. So like any smart man would do, I bit into the second peach and experienced more of the same until I was good and covered in fruit juices. So, now I have my poles in one hand, a bag of cherries in the other, my face and beard covered in peach stuff, and  strawberry-red hands when a group of French tourists show up on the trail wanting to talk. So I don’t know if it was my poor French or something else, but the group quickly lost interest in me, especially after I told them that I was from England.

The renaissance of the prune

Because it feels kinda inappropriate, I failed to record in pictures my supper last night. Nevertheless, it was very worthy of describing, so please bear with me. From the kitchen of madame Cecelia, we started off with a tasty green salad accompanied with toast and Rocamadour chèvre. However the main dish was chicken with vinegar and the sauce bathing the chicken was amazing. It was mostly onions that had been cooking all day, much like we see in Ethiopia with Doro wot, but they were floating in a crazy delicious mixture of oil and vinegar. It was quite yummy!However the home run came at the bottom of the ninth with dessert.

I don’t know what image comes to your mind when you hear the word “prunes”, but early on in my life I got introduced to prunes by my grandmother who’d pull out a plastic bag of cold prunes from the fridge and pop a few in her mouth and tell me they were supposed to keep her “regular”. So naturally from childhood I’ve had a less than mouthwatering image of prunes equating them more with medicine than food, an image that was reinforced by the taste of grandma’s cold prunes. Voila! After last night however, the prune, for

me, has been reconceived as a legitimate food item. What caused this amazing event was a dessert served in an old fashion soda glass, which contained a warm thick

brown liquid with a handful of plump prunes with one small dip of vanilla ice cream floating on top. These prunes were not the old wrinkly, cold, and sticky things that I remembered from my past, instead they were plump, sweet and delicious tasting more like cherries in a cinnamon and brown sugar sauce. Cecelia informed us that the area around Lascabanes and Montcuq is famous for prunes. Gosh! I wrote the prune off ages ago. Who’d a thought that it would reach such new heights of glory.

Viva la France!

Day 17: Lascabanes

The French people have been extremely welcoming to Billy and me. Most are quite interested when they find out we’re from Texas. Without exception the most common question is about our feelings regarding President Donald Trump. The French have an amazing appetite for political news. Few have ever met a Texan, which explains the positive reception.We are doing all we can to keep the image untainted. I guess the next Texan through here will find out how well we did.

After leaving Billy, I took the following pictures of the Pont du Valendre, a 12 century bridge across the Lot river.


It was definitely a different day sans Billy, but after I dried my eyes, I remembered that I have three more weeks of walking, eating, drinking all alone in France. I think everything is going to be okay.  I’ll try to remember pictures of supper tonight 


Pic: Lot river in Cahors

Day 16: Cahors 

Pic 1: Le Lot in Vers
After breakfast we got a later than usual start out of Vers at 8:15am. Nevertheless, it was a splendid day of walking. The bulk of the trail ran alongside the Lot river. 


Pic2: walking along the Le Lot river

 The river was beautiful even if the trail was a bit over grown at times. The riverside is a great place for wildlife as well, which we happened upon occasionally. 


Pic 3: big green and black snake sun bathing on the Chemin de Compostelle

 Unfortunately my phone battery died early on so I didn’t get as many pictures as I wanted to, but after recharging I’ll at least get some pictures of Cahors before leaving tomorrow.
Regrettably, this is the last walking day for Billy and I.  We say “goodbye” tomorrow as he takes a train from Cahors back to Antequera at 9am while I push onto Lascabanes.  

After looking at my schedule, I’ll be arriving in Pamplona on July 5, where I’ll take the train to Madrid to meet Tabby and the kids the next morning. As luck would have it, the annual running of the bulls starts the next day on July 7, so I’ll be missing an opportunity there. Nevertheless, I’d gladly miss that event plus a dozen or so other special events just to see my wife and kiddos as soon as possible.

Supper 

I promised that I’d let you know about supper. So, we started with a homemade aperitif made from a local vin rouge mixed with currants, walnuts and carmel. It actually tasted better than it sounds! Believe it or not, we drank it with cheetos as an hors d’ oeuvres.Next we were served an omelette with truffles and greens. And For the main we had confit de canard (roasted duck) with green beans that tasted like they were fried in Olive oil and garlic (just a guess, though). Next we had fromage du terroir (local cheese): one large piece of cantal and a small wheel of Rocamadour chèvre (goat cheese). Of course all of this was served with the typical tough- crusted French bread that could easily be a meal on its own. To end we had a ridiculously yummy chocolate mousse (and way too little of it). The meal was served as always with cold water and local wine, which was red this time. The host ended the meal with an offer of tea or coffee and a special sugar cube soaked in one of a hand full of homemade liqueurs. The meal started at 7:30 and Billy and I were the first to excuse ourselves at 10pm. Nothing is wasted on the French when it comes to food!  

Joining us for supper were 2 retired couples from Freiburg Germany (one couple only spoke German), another retired couple from Le Mans (home of the famous car race), and one other English-speaking retired woman from Brittany, in the north of France. It took a lot of time to interpret all the various questions and answers and stories and such, but the pauses gave good opportunity to feast.  

Sorry for the lack of pictures of the meal. I guess we were just too busy eating.