Vaylats - Mas de Vers - Cahors
Another stunning day on Chemin du Puy. How long can this Summer weather last in the first days of Spring? It's wonderful. The full moon was still visible low in the sky when I set off around 7.45am - this time in company for the first time since I said a bientot to Sive at Conques. It was a welcome change to walk with others for part of the day.
Last night I shared a room with (Spanish) Anna from Barcelona (love that city). Anna is fluent in French and speaks a little English. The other pelerins (pilgrims) at the convent included (French) Natalie and Valerie, two mums taking a week to walk from Figeac where they left off last year. And (French) John and Sylvie who, like the girls, are walking their second stage of the Camino. I am finding this to be 'typicale' - most of the people I've met are French and most walk the Chemin du Puy a week to 10 days at a time on annual vacation. It's the same for the Spanish en Camino in Spain.
So I left the convent this morning with Anna, Natalie, and Valerie, stopping first at the boulangerie for pain, jambon et fromage and a banana. Once again, there would be no place along the way to buy food or drinks - I'm getting used to missing out on that second coffee! Although after a while we spread out, we arranged that we would stay at the same gite in Cahors tonight. At least I was pretty confident that I understood the arrangement. Thankfully, I came to the right place and we are sharing a very comfortable four bed room here. At one stage during the morning I walked with Jean and Sylvie as well and we had quite the chat. I find I can follow and contribute to a French conversation much better with one or two people, if they have a little English to help me out. In a larger group, once they're off and running I am completely lost.
But I promised to tell you about the wonderful evening with Evelyne, Roland, Nadine and Michel two nights ago. All at the table with such casual elegance and style - and then there was me. Sitting between Evelyne and Nadine I must have presented quite a contrast, to put it kindly. Crumpled t-shirt (at least it was clean thanks to Evelyne), hiking skirt, hiking sandals, with socks, of course, and wild hair - don't know what's going on there. I did don a bandana to 'dress up' and take attention away from the crazy hair, but I think perhaps it had the opposite affect. To top it off, no make up - other than my Cancer Council pink tinged SPF 50 lip gloss. And eyeliner - it's my one vanity item I never travel without. Perhaps I am 'a little French' after all! If anyone noticed my 'own special style' - how could they not? - they were far too gracious to let on.
The food is a real highlight of the Chemin du Puy, as you might expect - and that's just the pilgrims menus. At Evelyne's table we had an entree selection of foie gras (which she makes in November each year), a goose terrine, and famous Le Puy lentils with smoked salmon and eschallots. Everyone kept insisting I have a little more - un petit peu - of everything as 'you have many kilometres to walk'.
Main course was delicious lamb with a lightly dressed salad and potatoes. I noticed that Evelyne and Nadine were taking only salad with their lamb - the potatos went straight to Roland and Michel. A book title suddenly jumped into my head (Why French women don't get fat) and I also declined the potatoes, naturallement! It wasn't as though I would go hungry without them.
Then followed the cheese platter. Nadine explained the origins of each of the five cheeses on offer - 'of course you must try them all - un petit peu', said Eveylne. Of course! You would think this was enough but having been in France almost two weeks one thing I know is that 'le diner' is not complete without dessert. Evelyne had whipped up a creme brûlée some time in the afternoon between settling me in, doing my washing, driving into Figeac to the market and preparing the other courses. 'Of course, you must try Evelyne's creme brûlée, said Roland. 'Un petit peu'. Of course.
Somehow amid all this eating we managed to have wonderful conversation, some of which I understood - and I somehow felt that I had known these people for some time, rather than just a few hours. Almost forgot - Michel had chosen a 2005 vin rouge from Cahors, which he explained is very famous for its wine.
Which brings me to dinner tonight in Cahors, also 'French style' but in a different way. The gite has a pilgrims 'summer kitchen' opening to the garden. Such a beautiful evening, we decided to shop for food and wine and make our own dinner. I wisely left the shopping and the cooking to Natalie and Valerie and played to my strengths setting the table and doing the washing up! We had almonds and olives to start, then grilled checked and salad, followed by a cheese platter and a petit tub of chocolafe mousse, with bread, of course, and a bottle or rose. All of this bought at the supermarket - split 4 ways, 5 euros each. Superbe.
It's after 10 now, so best get some sleep. I'm not sure where I will walk to tomorrow - the options seem to be 24 or 33 kms, so depends how I'm feeling.
Before I sign off, great to hear from you Sive, Clare and Richard, Audrey, Rosanne and Bill and Lilly. A BIG THANK YOU.