Thursday, August 31, 2023



Day 28 - Nogaro

     We had a morning surprise on the trail when we met Denis.  We thought he was way ahead, but he had some knee problems and had to slow down.  The three of us were joined by Therie whom we had met at the previous gite.  It was a shorter day of walking, and we took our time.  It is a different experience walking just the two of us from walking with others.  Both are rewarding and it is good to change it up.  

    The last couple of days we have met a group of college age girls who are walking together for a week.  They have done it every year for three years.  They sleep in tents in the fields and cook their own food.

     A new feature of town landscape is a bull fighting ring.  It was the first one we saw, indicating that we must be getting closer to Spain.  We also got our first glimpse of the Pyrenees Mountains, the range that separates France and Spain.  We will get our chance to tackle them in a week or so.

     Today we also met Kevin from California who started a couple of days before us and is going all the way to Santiago as well.  His daughter and her husband are joining him for a couple of weeks.  The really ironic connection with Kevin is that we were both introduced to the Camino through the movie The Way, and the long route starting in Le Puy through a book Walking to the End of the Earth.  I am sure that we will have a chance to compare notes as time goes by.

     We are staying in a bed and breakfast type place in Nogaro.  As we approached the town we could hear the sound of racing cars.  There is an important Formula 3 race track near the town. We ate at a pizzeria which was very good.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Montreal Does It Again

Day - 27 - Eauze

     We loaded up our backpacks for another day.  A few nights ago I weighed our packs to see how much weight we carry each and every day for seven or more hours.  My pack weighs 22 pounds and Esther’s weighs 18 pounds.  In addition, we each carry 4 pounds of water and sometimes food.  So that puts me at 26 and Esther at 22.  The recommended weight is 10% of your body weight, so we are well above that.  We keep asking ourselves if we can shed some items, but everything seems to be essential for living three months.  It is surprising how little we really need, though we get tired of looking at the same clothes all the time.

     The only real town we passed through was Montreal.  We got the same cold feeling that we got from the larger Montreal, Quebec that we visited several years ago.  The Tourist office was only slightly kinder than rude and never asked where we were from. When we sat down at a table to eat our lunch in the town square, a restaurant owner came over to tell us to get lost unless we ordered something. There were no customers and it seriously looked like a public seating area.  We went to a nearby convenience store where we bought a pastry and sat in front of the store which was next to Mr. Rude’s restaurant.  We assumed they were for store customers, even with different tables and chairs.  No sooner had we begun nibbling on our pastries, when who should come charging over to chase us off?  This guy must own every table and chair in the town.  Now, I could see if it were crowded, but it was 10:30 in the morning and of the 25 tables scattered around the sidewalks and square, maybe three had customers.  One kind gentleman observing our interactions came over and said, “Just buy a cup of coffee and he will leave you alone.”  Are you kidding me!!!  We left town as soon as the dough hit our stomachs and held on to our distain for ‘Montealites’.

     It was a long walk today 17.5 miles), but it was pretty level with good walking surface, even a mixed use abandoned railway path.  The weather was cool as well.  We passed acres and acres of vineyards and only sampled a handful of a variety of grapes.  The difference between the vineyards we see here and the ones we have seen in the US is that there are no fancy wineries and tasting rooms, just field upon field of grapes competing for ground space with the sunflower fields.

     We are staying at a gite in the town of Eauze and are the only guests tonight.  We have the place to ourselves.  The only conversation is between ourselves, where there was no French spoken.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

1/3 of our Camino trip


Day 26 - Larressinglr

     This morning was quite a contrast from yesterday morning.  We were greeted with sun kissed fields of hay and sunflowers.  We played a little leap frog with last night’s roommate, but said goodbye as he is ending his walk for now. He was a nice young man who graciously pushed his English language skills to connect with us.

     It was a long day of 17 miles.  The weather was cool and threatened rain at times.  We ate lunch at a picnic table by a lake.  The town of Condom (not a spelling mistake) which had a huge church and a sculpture of The Three Musketeers, This afternoon we started to pass vineyards which marks our entrance into wine country 

    The country hamlet where we are staying tonight is very quiet and on a clear day, the Pyrénées mountains are visible.  The fellow guests tonight are all older and English comes very hard for them, so we listened to a lot of French conversation. Fortunately, we have a private room tonight.

     Today we completed 500 of the 1500 km of our entire trip.  !!!

Monday, August 28, 2023

Stuck in the Muck

 Day 25 - Marsolan. 

     It was raining when we started the day, so we covered our packs, but did not use our parkas thinking that it would stop soon.  Well, it ended up raining most of the morning.  Worse than the rain was the clay muck that stuck to our shoes whenever we walked on dirt paths.  The French have a special name for this soil - ‘dirt that loves people’ .

     Our lunch break was in Lectoure with a huge cathedral that towers over the countryside.  We assumed we could find something to eat since it was a sizable town.  However, it was Monday and all the shops were closed.   Bakeries, grocery stores and even restaurants are closed.  We ended up scrounging our packs for enough food to call it a lunch.

     If the rain and the muck and the closed shops weren’t annoying enough, we had to fight a strong headwind all afternoon.  Speaking of wind, we found out that much of today’s section of Camino was closed from June until mid August because of fallen trees.  In June there was a terrible storm that knocked down lots of trees.

     We were glad to complete 15 miles with a little energy left.  Tonight we are sharing a room with a young man Aurelien who fortunately speaks English. Dinner was salmon and potatoes which doesn’t seem very French, but was very good.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Rugby fans

 Day 24

     We got a later start since it was only a ten mile day. It rained during the night and there was a threat of some morning showers.  We were fortunate and didn’t have any rain.  The landscape was very beautiful with rolling hills and various crop farms.  The freshly wetted clay made for added padding to the soles of our shoes.

     A word about our fellow pilgrims.  As I already mentioned, the majority of pilgrims in France are women.  Most travel alone, though there are groups from time to time.  95% of the pilgrims are French.  They are usually completing sections of the Camino in one week shots.  We have only met two Americans on the trail so far.  Most pilgrims can speak a little English and many speak English well, which is a great help.

     This evening’s gite is very classy, with a private room and bathroom.  We are never very certain of what we will get.  The owners moved recently from the Caribbean French island of St. Martins. We watched a rugby game between France and Australia.  The sport is very popular in this part of France. The small town is having a carnival tonight, complete with fireworks.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Back in Shoes


Day 23 - Auvillar

      We ‘slept in’ a little since today’s stop was a little shorter and the weather was cooler.  We bought some cheese bread at a farmers market and left at 8:15.  The first part was flat and much of it along a canal which was a nice change.  Then we got in some hill climbing in before it flattened out again until our destination   Auvillar has a unique town square with a circular grain market building from the 18th century.

     Esther decided to try putting her shoes on for the last few miles.  It seemed to be fine, so maybe she will start wearing them little more.  Our gite is small with no breakfast, but we were given a private room.

     We met Denis and another couple for drinks and then went to a pilgrims mass at the church.  They did something really nice after the mass by inviting all the pilgrims to some refreshments and an opportunity to share our stories.

   We ate with Denis at an Asian restaurant that was very good.  It felt like a last meal with Denis as he will be picking up the pace. He will finish his walk at St. Jean Pied de Port.  We will miss him. He was a great companion.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Camino Buddies.


Day 22 - Moissac

     A couple of firsts occurred today. It was the first day that we traveled the whole day with other pilgrims.  Denis and Elise both made it obvious that they wanted to walk the day with us.  Denis is from the foothills of the French alps and is a retired sports instructor.  He looks strikingly similar to Martin Sheen, who is the main actor in the movie that introduced us to the Camino several years ago.  Elise is a free spirit.  She is a retired computer programmer from southeastern France.  They have both traveled a lot and can speak some English.  The four of us enjoyed each other’s company and tease one another.  Unfortunately,  Elise slipped and twisted her foot early in the day and by late afternoon she was really hurting.  We reluctantly said goodbye when at a gite a few miles from the end of our walk. Another highlight was meeting Claire. We traveled earlier with her and thought that she had lost us in the dust when we took a day off.  She is one of only a few pilgrims we have met that will be going all the way to Santiago this year.

The other first was our longest day so far, which was 18 miles.  The weather finally cooled down enough to walk in the afternoon.  We are staying in a private house room on an old street in a larger town that boasts an 11th century church and abbey.  We had pizza on the street tonight in the shadows of the church.

     Today we passed through an amazing array of crops. We passed apples, plums, grapes, kiwi, sunflowers, figs, sorghum and melons.  We were able to sample most of them since we could glean them along the route.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

A Fortress City

 Day 21  Lauzerte

     A quick breakfast of banana, oatmeal bar and Starbucks powdered coffee in a dixie cup, and we were out on the trail at dawn. Today’s landscape took a dramatic turn to farm fields of various crops on rolling hills.  We passed fields of lavender, sunflower, sorghum and corn. Unfortunately, we are late in the season and the lavender is cut and the sunflowers dried up.  

     We met up with several pilgrims that we had seen on previous days, and walked together for part of the day.  Usually pilgrims walk alone unless they are a group traveling together.  But occasionally, they spend a couple hours together.

     We are staying in the old city of Lauzerte. It is uniquely situated on the top of a hill and was a twelfth century fortress town. We arrived shortly after noon and hung around with Denis and Elise until our gite opened.  We were joined by several others whom we had met before and a few new ones.

    We had rice and cream sauce, our first rice in France. After dinner we walked around the town with friends, soaking up the architecture and stumbling on a food festival with some real impressive cuisine.  It was a bit of a shame that we had already eaten. We went back to our sweaty beds for the last time.  Coolness is coming tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

1/4 the way


Day 20 - Montcut

    We had a horrible night in the heat.  The enclosed loft room with no ventilation was a furnace.  Fortunately, there was a hammock and lounge chair outside that we escaped to for most of the night.  We left for our 12 mile hike very early, to be done by noon.  In my haste to leave, I left my trekking poles at the gite - the first forgetful casualty of the trip.  Not even my Bulthuis mental item checklist caught it. By the time we discovered it, we were hours from the gite, and we weren’t about to walk back and get them.  So we are down to one pair which should be okay as we don’t us them much and most of our treacherous walk is behind us.

     Speaking of behind us, one fourth of our entire trip is behind us.  We are half way through the French portion, and a little behind our anticipated timing.  But we have had two big factors which have slowed us down, the terrain and the heat.  We have already noticed a significant easing of elevation variety and we only have one more day of intense heat.

     We were able to make our destination shortly after noon.  Montcuq is yet another ancient town with an impressive 12th century tower. We were fortunate to be able to check in to our hotel room early.  By mid-afternoon it was 103 degrees.  We went to a grocery store and opened freezer doors pretending to look at frozen goods.  - desperate times call for desperate measures!  Just one more day of this crazy heat! 

     We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant - burgers with local cheese.   Then we walked back up to the old city and enjoyed a little coolness.  Tonight should be better with lots of ventilation and a fan. 

     On a side note, my face plant looks gnarly, but it’s healing.