Monday, September 04, 2023

French Anomalies


Day 32 - Maslaeq

     It was Monday today, so we were prepared to deal with some shop closures, but today really emphasized the inconvenience to pilgrims.  In rural France, there are very few stores open on Monday. It probably stems from the prevalence of single owner shops with no employees.  They are open on Saturday and sometimes Sunday, but rarely on Monday.  We walked through three villages with not a single open store, bakery or cafe of any kind.  It was even irritating our fellow French pilgrims, one of them remarking, “The French don’t like to work too hard.”  Fortunately, we had enough packed snacks to make it through most of the day.  Finally, in the late afternoon we found an open bakery and savored quiche Lorraine and a lemon curd tart.

     Another anomaly of the French country from our Camino window is the dichotomy of a landscape flooded with Christian symbols with so little evidence of Christian faith.  There are crosses literally everywhere along the Camino and churches every 5 miles apart, providing the center point for every town and hamlet.  The churches are almost always open and we enter most of them to absorb the gospel images and whisper a prayer.  One small country church today was from the twelfth century.. We never see any people in the churches except for the occasional curious pilgrim.  Church attendance in France is between 10 and 15 percent.  In our conversation with fellow French pilgrims there seems to be a lack of interest in religious matters.

     Today’s walk was on the shorter side.  The landscape is a lush green, which feels odd for late summer.  The gender prevalence has switched a bit and tonight Esther has to contend with five men by herself.  Fortunately, we have a private bedroom. Dinner arrangements were a little bizarre tonight.  The host marched us all down to a cafe a few blocks away, told us to each pay the owner, then we all marched back to the gite with a huge cooler type bag and the hostess sat us down and served it as if she had made it.

     We were fortunate to have two very good English speakers with us tonight who were anxious to speak English.  It was a retired gentleman from Belgium and a young man from Holland who started walking from home.

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