Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Le Puy Route 2012 25.6.- 28.6.

For pics click on this link


Lectoure to La Romieux 20 km

Marie Ange made us breakfast before 6 am, so we could leave early as the temperature was going to be in the 30's. We had a very enjoyable quiet walk to La Romieux, an ancient cloister and convent, up on a hill, amongst plum orchards. We stayed in the convent, now in private ownership and very clean and well run. Sophia's birthday today and we had a rather festive feel as we entered the little town at 12 midday to the sound of the church bells.
La Romieux is also famous for it's cat story. Statues of cats and a woman with a cat face are to be found all over the town and over dinner the chef of the little restaurant we went to with other pilgrims told us the story. In the middle ages a young girl by the name of Angelique a cat lover, lived in a little house with her parents and lots of cats. One day the mayor decided there were too many cats and ordered for them to be killed. Unbeknown to him Angelique saved a pair of cats and they bred in a hidden place in the forest. Soon after there were fires and the grain harvest was almost entirely destroyed. Then the rains came and with the rain the rats, who ate the little bit of grain that was left. The village was threatened with the plague, poverty and extinction. Of course you guessed it, in came Angelique with her new family of cats and they had a feast on the rat population and the village was saved!

La Romieux to Laressingle 20 km

Early start again due to the heat and a beautiful trail except for swarms of Mozzetta in the forest. I got eaten alive! They left John alone though.
We passed by Larresingle, a fortified village, nice, but full of tourist buses and gift shops, not our scene.
We stayed at Ferme du Tollet, just 1 km further from Larresingle, a functioning farm with 220 cattle and an impressive Armagnac production. Alain the owner invited us (we were 4, including 2 young men from Paris) to aperitifs in the cave where dozens of Armagnac barrels were stored, dating back to the 70's, when he and his wife Martine took over the farm.
Dinner followed, a traditional onion soup, home made pork terrine, roast duck, fresh apple cake, still warm. Volumes of their own red wine and lots of eau de vie (distilled from the Armagnac) poured over the cake from a 3 litre bottle, glasses over and over. Alain talked lots, in the local accent and at great speed, unfortunately my French could not keep up at all.
It was a superb evening, which came to an abrupt end when Alain said he needed to go to bed, as he had to get up at 5 am to get to work on the farm.
We had a hilarious walk back to our Gite across the paddock as the 2 donkeys and the horse decided to try and get at the breakfast supply of bread I was carrying. They ran after me, encircled me, pushed and shoved, not sure how I managed to save it!
We got up at 5.30, no hangover as Alain had guaranteed, and knocked off the first 12 km in 2.5 hours, not bad going. (John's calf muscle is getting back to normal.)
Did not see anyone on the trail today, how nice. By lunchtime we reached our destination at Gite Le Repos du Pelerin, run by Fritz, a German man, where I had stayed in 2009. He still cooks the same dish every night, of which he has the leftovers for lunch! So much for a varied diet.
It is extremely hot, 38 degrees, but from tomorrow the forecast is for slightly cooler temps, thankfully.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Le Puy Route 2012 22.6. - 24.6.

For pics click on this link

22.6 Moissac to Auvillar 21.5 km
Idyllic walking, flat and shady along the canal most of the way, a few locks, canal boats, the last hour or so along the road. We stumbled across a new donativo gite, run by Vincent, a very nice Swiss man, who fell in love with the superb stone house with huge lofted open barn verandah spaces. it is called Le Par Chemin and located in Espalais just 1.5 km before Auvillar, where we had booked. Since John had developed some muscle pain in his right leg, we felt tempted to stay especially since a German chef was volunteering there, but we decided to climb up the hill instead, where I had booked into the gite communal for the night. I stayed there last time and it is beautiful. We had a double room and I cooked dinner for us and a couple of nice French women.

Auvillar to Miradoux 18 km
Lovely walk today, every hour we came through a beautiful village and had a rest, as John needed to look after his leg and it was extremely hot.
St Antoine was our favourite, so quaint and immaculate, full of little ancient houses and flowers everywhere, exquisite little church.
We arrived in Miradoux hot and bothered and had planned to stay with Therese, a very pilgrim friendly woman, in her 70's, who is known all along the route. Unfortunately the ancient beds looked like we were in for a bad night's sleep, given John's leg and back, so we went on to stay in a marvellous new gite, La Bonte Divine in yet another beautiful old building, restored by a young couple. Nathalie used to restore antique paintings and Stephane used to and still does in the winter paint houses.
The mattresses were great and dinner cooked by Stephane was restaurant standard. A Pousse Rapiere as aperitif, which is a drink of Armagnac and white wine, delicious, followed by rocket salad with bruschetta with local cheese, tomatoes and poppy seeds, with yellow chicken from the Gers region, cooked in turmeric, white wine and olive oil with prunes and couscous. For dessert we had grapefruit sorbet with fresh fruit salad, liberal amounts of a very good local red and tisane or digestif to follow. The bill was 30 euros per person for the night, dinner, drinks and breakfast. The shower and bathrooms were finished in charcoal grey tiles with twin shower heads and granite stone basins.
The only unfortunate thing was that we shared the dorm with 3 French women, all wearing earplugs, who ignored their cellphone rings during the night and we were woken no less than 5 times. To top things off, the women decided to get up at 5 am for an early start and after the usual plastic bag rustling we were finally able to get back to sleep around 6 am.

John here: You think you know your body and which bits are vulnerable under stress. Well right out of the blue, yesterday, after a full day's rest and three hours into a dead level shady walk along the canal, my right calf which has never given me a twinge began to show serious signs of muscle strain. This got progressively worse and I hobbled through the last 5km to our destination for the day. After a good night's sleep and regular massage with Antiflamme I nursed it through a therapeutic day reduced to 18km. Fortuitously we passed through three beautiful villages which provided an opportunity for a half hour break every hour and a half and not only have I survived but it seems to be coming right.

24.6. Miradoux to Lectoure 16 km.

We decided on a short day today to allow John's leg to recover, which it is gradually doing. I felt really tired after the bad night and took a tumble on a bit of wet grass, slight graze and a bit shaken up, that's all fortunately. As we were walking along there was a big brown envelope stuck to a lamppost in front of us with our names on it. John had changed the rubber tips on his walking sticks and left the old ones on the breakfast table by mistake. Stephane and Nathalie who had to go to Lectoure anyway had put the bits into an envelope for us along with muesli bars and good wishes. How .absolutely amazingly sweet.
When we arrived in Lectoure, Marie Ange, whom I had stayed with last time I walked this route called us on our cellphone and offered to pick us up to take us back to her house for the night. She had recently moved house and as it was some distance out of town we gladly accepted. We had a very relaxing afternoon and after an early dinner, a grillade in the garden, we went off to sleep. Marie Ange only takes in people occasionally now, she is too tired she says.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Le Puy Route 2012 11.6.-21.6

For photos please click on link to picasaweb album in previous post for now until we have remembered how to set up the link again....was planning on continuing the previous post for the whole trip, but stuff kept on disappearing from it, so I figured I might have gone over the word limit. Irritating technology for sure!

11.6. Felzins to Faycelles 20 km.
Another day of dodgy looking weather, grey sky, a couple of showers.We walked through Figeac and after a little lunch stop and a look at the Rosetta Stone we continued on to Faycelles. We arrived just before the thunderstorm and torrential rain. Our washing on the line got soaked, we kept warm and dry in our lovely little Caselle, a round stone building which used to shelter shepherds, now restored into a glorious little guest house.I
Olga and Slavka arrived, drenched to the bone. We were the only guests in the local restaurant where we were treated like royalty and John loved the Confit du Canard in particular,

Faycelles to Cajarc 22.5 km

Fantastic walking and only a few spits of rain. Young Oak forests, stone walls, a beautiful lunch spot on a moss covered stone wall in warm sunlight. A little blue butterfly the underside of it's wings in shades of gold with peacock feather like patterns in greens and blues, big black eyes, went walkabouts on the back of my hand for several minutes, It suddenly flew off, when John moved his hand to scratch his ear!
We checked into the gite Le Pelerin in Cajarc and we cooked a fantastic meal with our Czech friends who had found Girolle mushrooms in the forest. Pasta with mushroom sauce, pork chops, a fresh green salad and strawberry tart for dessert as well as a range of local cheeses.
A German man was there, who had walked all the way from Germany via Cluny. He was in a bit of a bad mood, as the spiritual enlightenment he set out to find, had not come to him. He asked me why I liked doing these walks and I replied that I enjoyed the simplicity of life and freedom from responsibility. His view was quite different, he found the experience a series of complex tasks, if not done to perfection and in the right order, the next day is ruined according to him. John agreed with his view of life on the trail being complex.

Cajarc to Limogne en Quercy 20 km.

Lovely sunny day, not too hot. We arrived in Limogne and checked into Gite Les Glorettes, one of my favourites, a grand Quercy style stone house with blue shutters in park-like grounds. The lively Marie greeted us warmly and as she remembered me from my last visit and I had recommended the place to the Czech women, she invited us to stay in her private part of the residence and we had a huge chateau like room with antique furniture and beautiful ensuite all to ourselves.
We had dinner again with Olga and Slavka in the sun in the beautiful garden, Marie's friend Robert is a pizza chef and we had pizza with goat cheese and honey, a delicious combination.

Limogne en Quercy to Poudally 22 km.

Very hot, around 28 degrees in the shade, slow walking and we were exhausted when we got to Poudally. The gite had been extended since my last visit and now has a huge modern annexe with 6 bedded rooms on different levels; with little ladders leading from one to the next, a bit like a chicken house; cute and clean. In spite of the numbers, Elsa, the owner prepared a fantastic meal of huge platters of a Caesar type salad with smoked duck breast and bacon, followed by a superb lasagne of salmon and courgettes, a Tiramisu like dessert. There was a very noisy group of holidaymakers staying in the gite, 18 women and 2 men and there was much drinking, shrieking and bad singing, shouting across tables, cellphones rining in the strangest sounds, e,g, baby cry, trumpet etc as they all had turns speaking to absent spouses. Our walking and pilgrim table was a subdued affair, we were tired after the long day in the hot sun and disappeared off to bed as soon as dinner was over,

15. 6.
Poudally to Cahors 19.5km

Cloudy start thankfully, not too hot. The drizzle soon stopped and we reached Cahors around 2 pm. On the way we met two Australian men with 6 backpacks leaning against a tree, the packs were leaning and one of the men too. They had asked a taxi driver to drop them 10 km along the route where they were meeting up with their mates who wanted to walk 30 km, but the taxi driver got it wrong and took them too far, so they were in for a long wait in the middle of nowhere. One of the men was an eye surgeon from Sydney, who knew John's eye specialist. On arrival in Cahors we were greeted by volunteers based in a little booth on the bridge crossing the Lot river with cold drinks and a map of Cahors. Nice, they stamped our pilgrim's passports and gave us directions to our lodgings. We had booked into Monsieur Capredon's chambre d'hôtel, a house in the old centre, where he was born and his mother had a drapery shop. The old table for cutting the fabric now acts as a table for brochures and guidebooks as well as his liver d' or which is full of grateful and complimenting comments from pilgrims and tourists who have stayed with Pierre. A welcoming and attentive host and we had what used to be his parents' rather grand bedroom with four poster bed and a view of the courtyard and neighbouring ancient houses and roofs. This was our home for three nights.
Lovely dinner at le bergagnoux restaurant, vegetable velouté, followed by a delicious fish stew and strawberry tart. Not at all expensive at 16 euro for the 3 course menu.

Cahors rest day
Ambling through the colourful Saturday market in front of the cathedral. Hot sunny day. We bought sheep cheese, huge olives stuffed with garlic and a superbly flavourful and rich pesto made from roasted red peppers for our picnic lunch, sweet juicy peaches and a crusty baguette. Brigitte my friend from Brussels arrived in the afternoon and treated us to a superb dinner in a rather elegant Michelin style restaurant La Balandre
we had had pre dinner drinks with our host who enthusiastically shared some of his childhood memories growing up in Cahors.

Cahors, another rest day! Outing to Cele Valley, Pech Merle cave and Le Halage 8 km walk along the Lot river.
The cave was an absolute highlight, I have been wanting to see it since I was a child. It was discovered in1922 by two adolescent boys and we only saw one quarter of the 4km long miraculous space. The cave paintings date back 24,500 years and were breathtaking, spotted horses, bisons, mammoths, ibex and some female forms, bear scratches in huge cathedral like spaces, stalactites and stalagmites in wondrous shapes and colours, disks and cave pearls. The variety was astonishing. John said it was definitely a bucket list experience. The number of visitors is strictly limited and I had pre booked from NZ.
After the cave we drove up to Cirq La Popie one of France's numerous most beautiful villages. It looked superb as we approached it high on a cliff overlooking the Lot river, but as we entered the village we were swallowed up by huge numbers of tourists and we took flight almost instantly.
Lunch down by the river followed by a 9 km walk along a tow path by the lot, carved out of huge limestone cliffs, absolutely dramatic.
We were on our way back to Cahors when Brigitte realised she had lost her guidebook and iPhone, probably left it on the lunch table. We drove back to the restaurant to no avail, no one had seen her things. Stress levels rising, we searched the car park and suddenly the restaurant owner came running towards us waving the book and phone in his hand. His young son had found them on the other side of the bridge, Brigitte must have left them on top of the car prior to us setting off for our walk and they must have fallen off when we drove off. What good fortune! They could have ended up stolen or in the river or broken....
Back in Cahors we are getting ready for an early start tomorrow am, as we have a long walk and it may still be hot. Brigitte is staying elsewhere tonight as Pierre had muddled the bookings, but it turned out she is happy with the arrangement. We plan to meet on the bridge at 8 am tomorrow to start the steep ascent out of town.
No dinner tonight, too much food for too many days in a row.

18.6. Cahors to Lascabanes 24 km

Good walking, perfect slight cloud cover, still glad to arrive at L'Étape Bleue, a very nice bio Gite in the country. We were put up in a little separate building made of straw bails. Very ancient beams held up the roof and the wood worms kept dropping little heaps of timber on my bed. They seemed to eat a lot in one day! Lovely dinner of salad with cheese croutons, lentils and Toulouse sausage and creme brûlée to follow.

19.6. Lascabanes to Lauzerte 24 km
Shit weather after an hour or two of lovely walking and an extended coffee stop in Montcuq the rain started and we spent the rest of the day squelching through thick mud, which stuck to our shoes. The inside of our raincoats was soon drenched as it was warm and we were sweating. We stopped in pouring rain under a tree, because we just had to have lunch and rapidly stuffed ourselves with soggy bread and soft cheese, did not bother to get the knife out of the pack, too wet and too hard. Brigitte and I had a attack of adolescent laughter at someone else's expense. A woman, older than us we had seen earlier in the day. Coiffured hair, heavy makeup, the latest designer outfit and a deep bronze spray-on tan, painted nails, she approached us without a rain cape, wet and we had visions of her tan and make up washing away with the rain. I laughed so hard that my poor post partum and post menopausal bladder gave way! Served me right! You can imagine the discomfort of my last 2 hours of walking!
The Gite at Lauzerte was still as good as I remembered it and after a hot shower and an aperitif in the spectacular square of the little fortified town all was well again.

20.6. Lauzerte to Moissac 29 km.
Boiling hot and sunny, the last 2 or 3. Hours were torture. Brigitte was over it, John coped really well and I got a second wind after a late lunch when I resorted to singing "edelweiss" badly as I cannot sing and skipping along the road into Moissac.
Our spirits lifted when we met Henry, the man with his dog, who has been on the road for 4 years. We had not seen him since that coffee stop a couple of weeks ago. He and his dog looked in good form.
We checked into a beautiful enormous room at Gite Ultreia in Moissac, run by an Irish couple. I had stayed there in 2009 and we had our final dinner with Brigitte sitting in a restaurant just in front of the abbatiale in the town square.
Just before this John bumped into a new Zealand woman by the name of Ruth, we had seen her entries in various guest books in gites. You won't believe it, she was a student of his in 1967 in Dunedin.

Rest day Moissac
Today is a music festival here and we are enjoying the day off after 3 full-on walking days. Our clothes are clean and dry and the weather outlook is promising. Brigitte left us this morning and is en route back to Brussels after her short holiday.
We were talking to Rom the Gite owner this am. The scene has changed here since my last visit and several new gites and chambre d'hôtes have opened. Things got so competitive, apparently a couple of Gite owners started to intercept pilgrims and walkers on the trail to try and get them to change their bookings and cancel prior arrangements. Rom and Aideen had a series of cancellations before they realised what was happening. Aideen consulted the mother superior of the local Carmel nuns and it seems that the Irish and catholic combination proved very powerful as the touting stopped instantly.
Enjoyed an accordeon concert on the square before dinner, early night, as off to another early start tomorrow.