Moonset on the Meseta

Moonset on the Meseta

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Via Tolosana/Voie d’Arles Day 15. 5 May Sarrance to Etsaut.

Day 15. Via Tolosana Voie d’Arles.
Sarrance to Etsaut

Day 15.  Sarrance to Etsaut. 5 Mai. Chickens greet us in the morning as we begin a very beautiful, very long, day of walking on sometimes treacherous paths.  We walked from 8:15 am until 5:30 pm.  Predicted rain never came, and we actually had a bit of sun.  

Gite La Garbure reportedly had over 50 places in several rooms, so we did not book ahead.  I sent an email about 3 pm and also tried to call.  No answer but a machine, so I left message and phone number saying we were not far away.

Never a reply.  As we walked into Etsaut, which was downhill and across the highway from Borce, a woman directed us to La Garbure.  We arrived through a pretty courtyard, but all was locked up tight.  No response to calls to two different numbers.  Where was Urs, I wondered, whom I thought had booked at this place?

No point in both of us running about the town carrying our packs, so I, as the one more proficient in French, went looking.  A lovely gite was just down the hill. A pair of hiking boots lay inside the door.  I knocked.  No answer.  I tried the door, opened it and hallooed.  Walked in and hallooed some more. Nothing.  Back out, shutting the door.  I came to another gite.  Full of family—“Le Weekend!” They explained.  Anywhere else?  No.  I saw 2 hotels, both shuttered.  Around the corner, there was the welcome sight of Urs at a bar with a glass of beer.  Yes, he was staying  at La Garbure.  Someone had been there when he arrived.

Temporarily leaving his beer, he accompanied me back and let us in through a door we hadn’t previously discovered.  Shedding our muddy boots we headed upstairs in search of a room.  Almost every door was locked.  I was not sure if I felt like more like Goldilocks or Bluebeard’s wife.  Finally two floors up, a door opened into an attic room with a double bed and an attached huge bathroom with shower and sink, but the toilet with no seat was across the hall. The bed was unmade, quilts in a heap beside it.  We claimed the room for ourselves, unrolled our sleeping bags, and used my silk liner sheet for a pillow case on the long pillow.

Then back to the bar, joining Urs drinking delicious Belgian beer, before returning to the gite to clean up before dinner. When we returned to the gite, the owner had arrived.  We showed her the room we’d staked out, paid the bill, got our pilgrim stamp, and all was well.  

We enjoyed a pleasant dinner with Urs at the bar.

We should reach Col du Somport tomorrow— our big climb.  Report is that part of the trail has washed out by avalanche and we need to take a bus a short distance to keep us off busy highway between Etsaut and Urdos.

Via Tolosana/Voie d’Arles Days 13-14 Lacommande to Oloron to Sarrance

Day 13.  Thursday May 3,
Lacommande to Oloron Ste. Marie.
Cold,rain, and Mud
14.7 miles, 33,174 steps abt 22 km, but we cut a few by road walking
Rain, Cold, Mud.  High temp about 47 F.

Kent and I were the first to set out this morning.  The skies were dark and threatening, but no rain at first in pretty Lacommande.  

After the pretty flowers by the door, the first item of attention was a dead hedgehog on the street.  “Maybe it’s just playing possum?” I said hopefully.  I  touched it gently with my pole.  It was definitely dead.  “I’ve never seen a live hedgehog before!”  
“You still haven’t,” said Kent.  Alas!  I took a memorial picture.
In the night I had wakened, thinking about the grave markers and bones of pilgrims who had died and been buried in this place over the past thousand years.  They may have been walking to or returning from Compostelle.  Why were they walking, and what had befallen them here?  They certainly weren’t carrying high tech backpacks or wearing quick-dry clothing, or sturdy hiking boots like modern pilgrims.  What was it really like, and why were they walking?  Why are we walking?

After a fairly pleasant beginning on roads, then wooded paths, we soon ran into serious mud, and trails that ran with water.

There were no view of the Pyrenees today, just clouds and cold wind.  as we crossed an open field it began to rain, hard.  Out came the ponchos.

Eventually, we came to a road where we were able to choose — More muddy paths or road walking.  We chose the road, which wasn’t all that pleasant, but got us to Oloron more quickly.

It was still raining hard as we entered Oloron, a city with many hills and rushing river crossings.  Where was the pilgrim gite?  Suddenly Emmanuel popped out of the door of a bar.  How had he and Olivier arrived so fast?  Someone had offered them a ride, and they had actually passed us as we walked on the road.

The gite was very nice, and a beehive of activity with 8 Pilgrims — the most we’d seen anywhere.  Kent and I were given a room of our own.  But, I was cold and couldn’t get warm until we went out walking to the grocery store.  It was raining too hard to enjoy exploring the town, a disappointment as there was much to see.

Later we enjoyed dinner with Emmanuel and his roommate Urs, a veteran Swiss pilgrim.  We had to rush back to the gite to avoid being locked out at 10 pm.

Day 14.  Oloron Sainte Marie to Sarrance.  The rain had stopped by morning, so we first hiked up to the Cathedral, where someone was just opening up.  Grabbing some yummy pain au chocolat, we then went back down that hill and climbed another hill with stairs to rival any in San Francisco, to the Eglise of Saint Croix, a very old, dark, atmospheric place, supposed to have Arab influences that I couldn’t really see.

Then down the hill and out of the city, along a few damp trails and several quiet country roads.  The afternoon was particularly beautiful, as we followed the valley of the Aspe  toward the Pyrenees.  About 3-4 km before Sarrance we entered the woods, Here the trail clung to wet wooded hillsides above the rushing river. Streams of water often crossed the path. One slip or misstep and you could slide down the slope and perhaps never be able to get back up.  It was probably the most difficult camino walking I have ever experienced. At long last Sarrance appeared, and at its far end was the church and Premontre (Norbertine) monastery.  I told them that there was a Norbertine Monastery in Albuquerque, but they did not know of it.

We rang a bell and were ushered in by a wild-haired monk. Kent and I were led to a two-bed room.  Kent got the top bunk. We were able to wash some clothes and dry them in a room warmed by the boilers that provided heat and hot water.

Chickens ran happily about in wet green grass.  We ate with the monks and others of whose identity we were not sure, although one stocky jovial fellow in a beret was a sheep-herder.

A very old man read prayers before the meal, which consisted of bread, two different soups, and a delicious baked potato casserole.  No wine was served.  Cheese was brought out for dessert.  And some crescent-shaped cookies and herbal teas for dessert.  By then the brothers had left for evening prayers, and we visitors collected and washed the remaining dishes.  It was an interesting experience.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Day 16, Voie d’Arles, Etsaut to Col du Somport

Day 16 
Etsaut to Col du Somport
30,479 steps, 14.1 miles. Actually more like 15 km

A high day in every sense of the word.  Although it started with 3 of us waiting at the Etsaut bus station for a scheduled 7:48 am Sundaybus that never came.  At 8 we decided to walk.  Urs soon passed us by.  We walked on the road because of a reported landslide that blocked the trail between Etsaut/Borce and Urdos—never verified.  Nearly 2 hours later we arrived in Urdos, having walked past the amazing Fort Portalet high on the cliffs above us.  We found a boulangerie/patisserie in Urdos,one of the liveliest, most prosperous-appearing villages we’d seen.  We took a road rather than the camino trail, as it looked considerably shorter, and the road had been OK so far.  We were told that the trucks would not be on the roads on Sunday.  

Eventually, we came to the spot where the camino and GR 653 joined the road, and this time when the trail met the road again, we took the trail. The road was just too dull and mind-numbing, and also rewuiredconstant awareness of vehicles, which roared past at high speeds with great noise.

The trail climbed steadily through beautiful mature beech forests.  There were many waterfalls, some of which tossed the trail, and made for rather precarious footing.

At times we could view the road winding far below.  At about halfway along this stretch of trail Urs appeared behind us, amazed that we were ahead of him.  He said we’d missed “the swamp” on the trail he’d taken, which had obviously been much longer than the road.

He was soon ahead of us again—the last we saw him.  We picnicked in a sunny spot with Mountain View’s, and continued climbing, the forest gradually giving way to almost alpine meadows.  Climbing up a long steep meadow with old stone corrals, we Cameron the road again.  It was getting chilly, and snow lay in patches around us.

We debated as we sat on a stone wall lining the road.  I wanted to take the trail, but Kent booted for the road.  We would have had to cross snow on the trail, which went down and then up.  We were both pretty tired, having climbed steadily for 5 hours already.

I followedKent on the road, and then, we turned onto the trail again, where we did have to walk through old snow -/ not easy as our feet sunk into the rusty stuff.

All along the way the views were incredible.  We were finally among and even above the mountains we’d been walking toward for days.

At last, we came to the top of the pass!  A restaurant and the Albergue Aysa were open!  

Lovely place.  We cleaned up and napped, and before dinner went out to watch the most amazing sunset over mountains in all directions.

It had been an incredible day of great beauty, and the high point of our trip.

We celebrated with dinner and a bottle of local white wine.  We had crossed from France into Spain just across the road from the albergue.  Suddenly the language was Spanish.  Au revoir to La Belle France and Bienvenidos a Espana! 


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Voie d’Arles Days 11 and 12 Morlaas to Pau to Lescar to Lacommande

Day 11.  Morlaas to Pau
May 1 (May Day)
(11.9 miles or 22,167 steps).
Had we gone all the way to Lescar, total was to have been 19 km.  We probably did 15 or 16.

We were not sure what to do today.  It was May 1– a holiday and all shops, bus service and just about everything was closed.  As we walked out of Morlaas, two young men were selling small bunches of lilies of the valley and other spring flowers “as gifts” for May Day.  So, of course I had to tell them about bringing flowers to the neighbors on May Day “quand j’etait une jeune fille.”  We decided to start walking to Lescar, the next stop on the Chemin, and about 19 km away.  The problem was that the municipal gite was run by the tourist office, which was closed on Sunday and Monday, and since today, Tuesday, was a holiday, we were unable to reach anyone.  So, we set out, saying that when we reached the hippodrome in Pau, we would decide what to do.  I’d discovered a Chambre d’Hote just a short distance farther toward Lescar, where the only options other than the gite were an Ibis Budget, where apparently one books oneself into a room upon arrival with a credit card, and there is no staff on hand. This, and one other budget hotel were a bit off the Chemin.  We weren’t sure we would have the technical know-how to manage the Ibis Budget.  No answer from the Chambre d’Hote, and a phone call resulted in a voice message, which could well have said we will be away for a few minutes and we’ll call back, or, we are closed until next week or month or forever.  In any case, I’d have to look up my phone number to provide for call back because I don’t know it.

Once around the hippodrome, we sat on a rock by the side of the road for 25 minutes, while I looked for “hotels near me” — all of which were within a mile, but in the opposite direction from the Chemin.  I looked at Uber — no cars available.  A man walking two little dogs tried to be helpful, but wasn’t very.  I think he wanted to talk about his dogs.  Kent conversed with him, while I kept searching for hotels, and Kent understood even less than I did of what he was saying.  

At last we hoisted the packs back on and headed away from the Chemin and toward the hotels.  In almost no time, we came to the first one, a very sleek modern 4-star Kyriad Zenith, and without investigating the 3 or 4 other options farther up the road, we walked in and booked a room.  There is a restaurant that will be open tonight.  The desk clerk said it was about 6-7 km from here to the historic center.  He could get us a taxi, but after showers and snuggling under the lovely sheets, I think we’ll wait until tomorrow, and after the expensive 14 Euro breakfast buffet for which we signed up because of its promises of fruit, eggs and bacon, etc.   After this, it will be back to the simple life of the gites and the sharing  of meals and accommodations with fellow pilgrims.

However, I am ahead of myself.  After discussing the day’s options with Emmanuel this morning, we washed the dishes and headed through town. I stopped to peruse and photograph the impressive tympanum of the cathedral, while Kent warmed himself by a sunny wall across the street.  We soon warmed up as we climbed upward out of town, traveling through a more rural landscape than I’d anticipated.  Just when we really needed a break — I find I can go about 2 hours in the morning without a stop, and less in the afternoon, -- there was a very nice wooden bus stop.

Eventually, we walked through the Bastard’s Forest, which was quite lovely, finally coming out at the immense hippodrome, a huge racetrack on the other side of a footbridge over a huge highway.

It was at the end of a circuit of what must have been close to half of the racetrack that we ended up at the Rock of Decision.  We had had sun and clouds, cool temperatures, probably nothing over 60, and some gusts of wind, but nothing to match yesterday’s. 

It was a short day, really, but the uncertainty of our resting place for the night made it seem longer.

Emmanuel wrotes that he had hitch-hiked to Pau this morning.  We hope to connect tomorrow at the gite in Lacommande, where, if we are lucky, a local winery will be open.

The television news was all of May Day riots in Paris.  Our peaceful walks in the green countryside seem remote from it all.

Day 12 Voie d’Arles May 2, 2018
Pau to Lacommande
Tourists and Pelerins
(11.8 miles, 26,016 steps)
About 18 km.

Using Google Maps, we took the bus into the center of Pau this morning, where through almost no planning on our part we exited at the foot of the funicular, which we rode up to the promenade along the Boulevard du Pyrenees.  The 14 euro breakfast, by the way, was not worth it.  We were still full from last night’s hamburgers in the hotel restaurant, and the food was not that fresh or wonderful.  Last night and this morning we also could not escape the television news of riots, burning, and arrests in Paris over the May Day holiday.  It all seemed far removed from the peaceful green world through which we have been walking.

People on the buswere helpful.  God must watch over the clueless pilgrims, as we managed two bus rides with no errors.  We looked at the amazing Chateau of Henri Quatre, who was a larger-than-life figure in these parts a few hundred years ago, then caught another bus to Lescar, getting off just where Kent figured we could catch the Chemin again.  It was good we were not walking that road lined with US-style businesses. Along here was where we would have stayed, had we not walked away from the Chemin last night. 

When we exited the bus, we immediately saw the red and white Grand Randonnee marks!  In short time we were in the woods, where we crossed the river Adour and then a highway.  

We had a bizarre meeting in a watery culvert, too low to walk through upright, with a pilgrim walking from Sevilla to Arles.  All of us had difficulty getting through.  I took my pack off, holding it in one hand and my poles in the other, and made it through without falling off the narrow ledge and into the water.  It seemed odd that we should meet our only pilgrim heading in the opposite direction in this almost impassable spot.

Shortly before noon we arrived Artiguelouve, where we found a little grocery and bought pasta, tomato sauce, an onion, cheese, and a baguette.  We ate our Brie with the baguette, and sipped citrus sodas while sitting at a table on the porch.  School was letting out, and we watched parents gathering the children.  A young woman wished us us, “Buen Camino.”  She had walked five days on Del Norte, and said it was “fantastique.”

Out of Artiguelouve we entered true country, climbing for s long time past an elegant winery then into the woods.  Around a corner and in the open, we once again were awed by magnificent Pyrenees views.

A long, very steep down, first on pavement, and then on dirt track was hard on the knees.  About 3 pm we arrived at the historic hamlet of Lacommande, where we are staying in a lovely gite on the grounds of the church, with a beautifully restored and repurposed pilgrim hospital dating from the 1135-45.

The Maison des Vins du Juracon across the street is open.  We enjoyed wine-tasting and purchased a bottle of white.

There is a fine shower, a washer and dryer, and a small kitchen.  Perfect!

No cell service, however, and I think no internet, either.  Ah — yes internet!  But I’ll have to go outside and it is getting cold!

Later:  we had a perfect pilgrim evening.  There were 4 of us and two bottles of wine — one white and one red.  I made a large quantity of bow tie pasta, with a tube of tomato paste, an onion badly cut with dull knives and sautéed in oil, and cheese diced (no grater), and all mixed together with a bit of what I think was marjoram from the garden outside.
Emmanuel showed up, a bit damp from rain, just before we were ready to eat.

I guess we haven’t learned the name of the 4th pilgrim who is walking from Arles and will leave after tomorrow for St Jean Pied de Port and then the Del Norte to Compostelle.  (It is Olivier.)

Everyone contributed to the meal, and the new pilgrim and I shared photos on our phones, laughing as we found we had taken many of the exact same shots.

We warmed up in the kitchen area, and now it doesn’t seem so cold back here in the dorm room.  I don’t think I’ll go outside to connect to internet tonight.

Tomorrow to Oloron Sainte Marie, and then  the route will turn from heading mainly west to heading south toward the Pyrenees.  It will be steeper and more challenging walking tomorrow.

I have awakened at 3 am, and unbelievably am too warm under my light sleeping bag and heavy gite blanket.  I’ve taken off my socks.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Days 8 and 9 Voie d’Arles

Day 8 Marciac to Mauberguet. Very interesting day, with frustration followed by success  (15.2 miles, 33,655) steps).  Saturday, April 28.

We left our hotel room on the fine main place in Marciac in search of coffee and breakfast pastries.  Nine Euros 50 each was a bit much to pay for a French breakfast.  We found two bakeries open, but no coffee, so returned to the hotel with our pastries where we were able to get coffee in the breakfast area.  We did not see another person at the hotel, just the same desk clerk in both afternoon and morning.

Climbing the steep hill out of town, we could see ahead of us three walkers:  Emmanuel, Querina, and Franck.  We kept them in sight off and on over the next hour.

We met two women walking dogs, and to our surprise two other French pilgrims, an older couple Michel and Daniele, experienced pilgrims carrying what looked to be heavy packs.  They were taking shortcuts via road.  We did not see them again.

The route on this Sunday angled mostly between fields on flat land, heading always toward a hill with a very tall church steeple.  Eventually we climbed that hill, to the lovely hamlet of Auriebat, which had public toilets and drinking water and a bench on which to sit, but no shops.  Nor was the church open.  We descended the hill, then walked a couple more more hours, turning back now and then to look at the Church always visible behind us.

It seemed a long walk into Maubourguet, from the outskirts where we walked on a busy road.  We perhaps took a wrong turn, and should have  followed a path along the river Adour, fast-flowing and beautiful.  As we entered the old part of town, we met Franck and Querina heading back without their packs to an open grocery store, as the one in town was closed. 

We were hoping to stay at the municipal gite accessed through the tourist office, but the tourist office, when we finally found it, was closed. And no one was answering the phone, either. 

We encountered Emmanuel on a bench with the others’ packs. We had also been directed by an excited woman in a tabac shop — the only place open on Saturday afternoon besides a handful of bars— to some other gite— we were not sure which. Her directions were so detailed, the place sounded like it must be kilometers away.

Kent was getting even more tired than I, so we sat on the porch of one of the bars with a couple of beers, and studied our options. I got hold of one place by phone, but couldn’t understand their answers to my questions, so said we would come there—but where?

The bartender didn’t seem to know.
Google maps repeatedly said no place found when I tried typing in the address given.  It was one of those crazy situations I’ve been in before in France, trying to find a place we know exists but seems invisible.

Emmanuel and the others went on their way, another 5 Km to the campground. They offered to share their food with us, but Kent really did not want to walk 5 more km that afternoon, and I wasn’t enthusiastic about heading to the country, either.

We found one gite, closed for the weekend.  Call Clotilde, the sign said.  It was Clotilde we were trying to find! We headed back to a main street, hoping to find the place to which the tabac shop woman had directed us.  And suddenly, just 4 doors down from the coiffure shop, which the detailed directions had sounded like might have been kilometers away, we found the Gite of Clotilde et Henri.

(One problem had been that the Street was known by an abbreviated name “Mal Joffre” and I had been painstakingly typing in over and over The full name Marechal Joffre.)

We rang the bell, and were warmly welcome by Clotilde, who had been expecting us after receiving our phone call.  Conversing in person was much easier.

The place was spacious and clean, upstairs from their living space.  We chose the dormitory, as there was no one there but us.  The shower was better than the one we’d had in the hotel, and there was a place to wash clothes and a drying rack on a covered balcony.

Later, as we were waiting for the hotel to open for dinner, and after we had explored the town and historic church, we heard voices, and to our surprise, after 7 pm, a new pilgrim appeared:  Alfredo from Brazil, who had just arrived from Auch by train. 

We had dinner at the Hotel de France.  We should probably not have chosen the pilgrim menu (dry duck leg with pommes frites), and paid a bit more for the regular one.  Alfredo soon came along.  There had been just 3 other diners.  I could see the chef playing with a rabbit in the grassy courtyard in back.  Saturday night is not too busy in Maubourguet.

Rain has started.
We stocked up on a few items from the Casino supermarket that opened late in the afternoon, so we are ready to head for the wilds tomorrow.

Day 9 Sunday April 29
Maubourguet to Anoye 22 km
( 16.4 or 36,118 steps) long day: 8:30 to 4:30.  Good time on roads, but slow in steep mud.

Rain, wind , cold in 59s and low 60s. Much mud and up and down.  I slipped in mud and got very dirty. 
Some gentle rain, sometimes none, and sometimes driving cold onslaught.  Great Pyrenees dogs in yards.  Beautiful!  We took some road shortcuts.  Momy lovely town with restored church and old cars..  No shops.  Found shelter twice on side of a barn, and at a beautiful gite/ chambre where we asked permission to picnic at table on porch.  We also rested briefly on porch in town before Momy.  

As we neared the gite in Anoye we saw another pilgrim ahead.  When we opened the door, there were Franck and a Emmanuel, very muddy and tired, and just taking off their boots.

We had a pleasant evening sharing our food to make the evening meal.  After the local folks had come to collect our money, open the small store of supplies, and stamp out passports, and we starting putting dinner together over wine, who should show up but Alfredo!

Fortunately Kent and I were in a room with just two bunks, so Alfredo chose a lower bunk in the other room, and Kent and I had a room to our selves.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Voie d’Arles Day 7 “Easy” not so Easy

Voie D’Arles day 7, Friday, April 27, 2018:  La Barraque at Saint-Christaud to Marciac.  Our 7th wedding anniversary. (11 miles, 24,306 steps on phone), 14-16 km

“Easy Day” not so Easy

We didn’t try to get off early because we knew we had such a short day, just 14-16 km to go.  We had coffee, bread and jam, and visited with Joanna and a farmer neighbor who was transporting her over-one year-old calf for slaughter.

As we walked up the hill back to the Chemin, we had our first view of the snowy Pyrenees.  I took pictures,but they were too hazy to show clearly.  The sun was shining and there was a brisk wind.  A hawk fluttered in place.  ÎIt was cool and perfect for walking.  We rounded the Fortress-like Eglise St. Christoffe,and descended on steep wet paths to fields below, which we wound along forever—often turning to see St. Christoffe still looming fortress-like behind us.  The grass was often tall and wet.  An abundance of Timothy hay made my eyes itch. In the distance a gothic spire loomed ahead, and something that looked like a very tall thin chimney.  On a high hill we threw down my rain poncho and drank water, shared an apple and finished the potato chips.  Tractors plowed the fields.  We crossed the straight, busy highway that ran directly into Marciac, but our path climbed steeply upwards perpendicular to the road.  The church we’d seen from afar was not open.  I walked all the way around it before we started the long descent toward the church steeples of Marciac, which never seemed to get closer. We were soon walking in tall grass again, struggling with uneven footing.  When the path turned to go uphill once more, we decided to walk the short distance to the busy highway straight into town instead.  That was probably not the wisest choice, as the highway edge was narrow, and it still seemed to take forever.

We stopped briefly at a SuperU at the edge of town, where I sat on a curb in the parking lot feeling like a homeless bag lady, while Kent went into the store that advertised no midday closing.  From there we walked on footpaths, and on the edge of the old town, we came to a restaurant with dinners eating beautiful-looking salads and drinking carafes of wine.  

“It’s very good!” A woman gestured to us and called out in Engllsh.  So we enjoyed a delicious anniversary dejeuner.  We found our hotel on the main “place” just minutes after leaving the restaurant and thus arrived refreshed rather than in our usual exhausted state.  It was just before the 3 pm check-in time.  We showered and enjoyed having real towels with which to dry off, and took an hour’s nap.

At 19 hours we met Emanuel and two other pilgrims, Frank from Toulouse and Querina (who had already been traveling 60 days from Holland and who slept in a tent) for a pizza dinner, a real camino gathering of fellow pilgrims, although we were probably three times the age of the others.

It was a good day after all, but we learned it is better to anticipate “hard” than to expect “easy” and then be disappointed.  Our first week of walking had been completed, as had seven years of our official life together.  What adventures we have had, and joy after the sorrow of loss.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Voie d’Arles Day 6: L’Isle de Noe to Saint Christaud

Voie d’Arles Day 6

L’Isle De Noe to La Barraque Saint-Christaud

15.4 miles. 21 km
34, 063 steps

We had an absolutely beautiful day of walking, beginning with an English breakfast (!) from our hostess Edna Moody, an English transplant to the beautiful little village of L’Isle-de-Noe, who took very good care of us indeed, and bid us farewell from the door.

We crossed a bridge, encountered some white horses grazing in a field, and soon turned off onto a woodland path that climbed steadily upward.

In a little over 2 hours we reached the lovely village of Montesquiou, where I snapped pictures of the buildings and flowers as we descended to the town center.  We had two petit cafes at the bar, then headed down to an epicerie, where we had a cheese and butter sandwich made, picked up a bottle of water, two apples, a large bar of dark chocolate, some potato chips and one pain au chocolate.  We stowed away everything but the juice and croissant, which we took to a picnic table in a pretty park. 

We also figured out that my phone miles were adding about 20% to the actual distance, at least based on the distance to Montisquiou this morning.

We had to detour leaving town because a stone arch was being repaired—so after climbing up to the church, very large with an impressive baroque interior, we backtracked to the little park, briefly meeting Alain, who was just arriving.  As we climbed the hills out of town the church bells rang.  It was noon.

More wooded paths led us to Poulybon, which offered lodging at a campground just before town.  We had quite a long open flat area to cross.  Kent figured out how to attach my poles to the back of my pack when I didn’t need them, and I put on my bluetooth neck loop which streamed music from my phone to my hearing aids.  I then walked along to Handel’s Watermusic, Beethoven’s Appassionata, Blue Moon of Kentucky and more.  No more bird songs for awhile.  We continued to the village center, which boasted some office buildings and a large church with an impressive arch.  We saw no one other than the young mailwoman who we’d encountered twice before as we had been in her way as she was reversing her yellow van at the ends of cul de sacs that us into woods paths.

We ate our sandwich, potato chips, and some chocolate at a picnic table near the Mairie, enjoying the weight off our feet for awhile.  

Upon leaving Poulybon we had a very steep descent through woods.  I was glad to use my poles again.  A few signs were a bit confusing, so after yesterday’s mishap, we kept checked the map carefully.

For once, we came upon the sign for tonight’s lodging in a 14th century farmhouse, owned by Joanna, originally Swiss, who has a garden and small farm, and has lived here for 30 years.  

Joanna gave us a warm welcome, and we learned much about her very much back-to-to-the-earth way of life.  We ate a delicious flower- filled salad from her garden and a delicious omelet filled with green asparagus and green onions and garden herbs.  We drank delicious water from her spring.  She had electricity from solar panels, and a composting toilet, yet we had plenty of hot water for showers.  We were the only pilgrims there in spacious rooms with old beams in the ceilings and cool tile floors underfoot.  We ate in a sun-warmed little glass veranda off her kitchen.

She had to go away that evening, and her WiFi was turned off, and I could get no cell service through the stone walls, so I sat in the sun porch long after the sun went down to access email and book a room for the next night in Marciac.  We thought we’d treat ourselves to a hotel to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary tomorrow.  Only 11 km to Marciac.  We won’t leave ad early. It should be an easy day!