Aroue - Calvaire-de - Benta - Stele de Gibraltar - Chapelle de Soyarza - Harambels - Ostabat-Asme
A new day on Chemin du Puy. Et tout est bien - all is well. Thanks in large part to the kindness of family and old and new friends. Will explain a little later.
A wonderful farm gite last night with yet again a fabulous dinner, cooked by the young gite owner Simone and her mother. Her husband runs the farm. I know I haven't gone into the detail but the food on the Chemin du Puy has been outstanding. The French are proud of their produce and cooking, as they should be. My friend Rosanne said the other day, 'It's almost impossible to get a bad meal in the French countryside'. I think Lilly and Bill would agree. It's not fair really. I've been walking my butt off for the past four weeks. But thanks to the delicious food and wine, and to my inability to say no, I have not actually walked my butt off at all. Damn.
There were about 20 pilgrims in the gite last night - you may have noticed there have been more pilgrims on The Way in the last week or so. But continuing my good fortune, just Delphine and I sharing a 3 bed room. On Chemin du Puy the gites I've stayed in have mostly had rooms for between 2 and 6 people. That's a luxury on the Spanish Camino.
I set off this morning with Dominique, in light rain. Delphine had left about half an hour earlier. She walks at a little slower pace so we often end up together some time later - as we did today. Having made the long climb to Chapelle de Soyarza, we found Delphine having picnic lunch in the tiny chapel with Swiss couple Dominique and Blaise, who I'd met at Simone's gite last night. We all had the tastiest jambon, fromage, tomate and salade baguettes that Simone had prepared for our lunch, as there were no shops, cafes or bars along the way today. The views from Chapelle de Soyarza were worth the climb. What a great spot to stop for lunch and rest for a while.
It was strange setting out this morning, reminding myself that I was just 42 - 45 kms from St Jean Pied de Port - depending on which book you use. Two days solid walking, though not overly long days - yet little more than half an hour by car. As has been the case for the past week, we had rain and sunshine - and a few hard climbs thrown in this afternoon just to make sure we were still paying attention! And I had company all day which was a nice change. There were shortcuts on offer again today - naturally - but this time not everyone took them! Which brings me to a funny thing that happened yesterday but I wasn't in the right frame of mind to tell the story last night.
Yesterday morning when I was having breakfast at l'Alchimiste, there was much talk of the pate man. I thought it must be a shop in the town. I didn't take much notice as I wasn't too concerned about food for yesterday's 18 km walk. I had one muesli bar left in my pack, and that should be enough.
About two hours or so into the morning's walk, I climbed a small hill to an intersection and sure enough there was the pate man's factory and warehouse. Outside there is a small picnic area where pilgrims are welcome to stop and rest. And many varieties of duck liver and chicken liver pate are available for just 2 euros. I bought a chicken liver and Armagnac. Haven't tasted it yet, but I'm sure it will be great. I plan to buy 'le pain' in the morning before heading off, so bread and pate will be lunch.
While I was resting there I decided to check my emails. I saw there was one from Pierre (from SJPP) with the subject matter 'shortcuts'. Immediately I felt a pang of regret having the night before written about the French fondness for 'le shortcut', realising it was a big generalisation based on a small number of pilgrims and local gite owners. And more to the point, I'd forgotten that Pierre was reading my blog. Yikes. Well, no need for concern.
Pierre was very strong in his email. I must continue to follow The Way, the true Camino, as I have been doing. Tomorrow, he said (i.e. Today), many pilgrims will take a shortcut and, by doing so, will miss the Chapelle de Soyarza and, just before it, the Stele de Gibraltar (a small intersection where three Caminos converge - Chemin du Puy, Chemin du Tours (from Paris) and Chemin du Vezelay.
He continued, 'It is typical of the French (and the Dutch) to look for shortcuts. They are coming to walk but they are looking to take as many shortcuts as possible (frowning face symbol). Strange to do Camino like this ... No?' Yes.
Smiling to myself, and relieved that Pierre had not been offended, I gathered my gear together and walked over to the pate man to thank him and say au revoir. He asked where I would be staying that night. When I mentioned the farm gite he assured me it was a very good place and that Simone was a wonderful cook. And so it is, and she is. And then he added, 'There is a very good shortcut tomorrow, just a short time after you pass .... You must be sure to take it!' Voila.
Best start wrapping it up for the night. Big thank you to those I've heard from over the past few days and hadn't yet mentioned and for all the kind words and encouragement overnight regarding the loss of the l'Alchimiste photos. To Luise in Perth, Martin, Jill, Pierre, Helen (mum), Julie, Pam, Cathy, Audrey, Rosanne, Judy, Marian, Bill and Lilly, David A, Ange, and Cathryn and Ray - and to Clare and Richard for taking care of Zac and Zoe and sending more photos.
On the subject of the deleted photos from l'Alchimiste, some great news. When I told Domimique what I had done, he immediately announced, 'ah, but Jenny, all is not lost!' He asked me to bring the camera to him. He said he believed I may be able to retrieve the photos when I return home. They are still 'there' until such time as I take more photos on the camera. He said the most important thing after such an accident was not to take any more photos on that memory card. He removed it from my camera and locked it. He said he could not guarantee that I will get the photos back, but 'it is very possible - why not?'
I felt my spirits lift straight away. The only problem is that I don't have a spare, meaning no more photos until I can buy another card. 'I have the solution!', said Domimique. With that, he disappeared and returned a few minutes later with a spare memory card for me. Such kindness. That's why I have photos today.
Then this morning, an email from Cathryn and Ray in Sydney giving me the exact same advice. They have been down that road with special photos from Uluru - and with the help of Paxtons camera store in Sydney managed to retrieve many, though not all, of the deleted photos. I am thrilled to know of this possibility. And if I do get those photos back I will do a post Camino update to share them with you!
Finally, happy birthday wishes for the 28th, 29th and 30th to Maddie, Nick and Rebecca. Hope each of you have (had) a great day.
Day 28 tomorrow, walking in to St Jean Pied de Port, the end of Chemin du Puy - though I have a little more walking to do after that.
Merci et bon nuit. A demain.
PS have included photos of Zoe and Zac doing it tough while I'm away. Hard to imagine that there was a time we were concerned that Zac might not 'bond' as he can be a little fearful until he gets to know you. I heard that his bromance with Richard started within the first week. Still going strong I'd say!