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French-Speaking Women

Now that I have your attention-my reading about the Spirit yesterday was about sex so I thought I would comment on the women I’ve met. My trail friends here are French speaking (France, Switzerland and Belgium) and most are women.

They are all between 62 and 72 warm and friendly and compassionate. They look like American women, the big difference is that few speak English.

The fact that all are walking a trail with their pack means they are a select group and I couldn’t draw any broader conclusions than this: the women I have become friends with here are delightful.

I’ve been “adopted” by these friendly people, perhaps I am a project. There are some couples on the trail but the majority seem to be women walking alone. I’ve met some guys but they move on quickly, except Benoit, who is struggling with a sprained ankle.

I haven’t seen Edith for a few days but she was fun to walk with and spoke English. Anne Marie (left) is taking a detour today, I hope we meet up again. Anne Marie (2) sings beautifully in an ancient Corsican style, haunting ancient spiritual songs. I’ve only seen a video but she has promised she would sing in one of the churches on the Way today.

Anne Marie (1) told me yesterday that I was like a big teddy bear looking for a soul mate. Maybe I’d been singing the seafood song: I flounder then I lobster.

Now I’m resting on a hillside out in the country after a lunch of bread and cheese. Where’s the wine?

As far as the idea of bringing a French woman back to Texas goes, I’ll take George Washington’s advice and avoid foreign entanglements. But these women are great trail mates.

I’ve quit saying Bon Chemin as people don’t seem to recognize it. Now I say Happy Trails.

Eat, Sleep, Walk, Repeat

The cycle of life on a Camino seems consistent. Here in France the accommodations are generally gites instead of albergues, and so far have all been beautiful places.

This is the sleeping room and bathroom (two shower stalls and two commode stalls). Unisex. €36 for the night and dinner/breakfast.

This was dinner last night at Domain du Sauvage. Soup, beef and potatoes, cheese, bread, wine, cake. And I now know all these people. Two are here at my gite tonight.

This is the village, Les Estrets, where I am staying in tonight. One of the reasons they offer breakfast and dinner is that there aren’t restaurants nearby, and we are afoot.

Walking alone in the morning is good contemplative time. I am fresh and the air is cool. I am working my way through “40 Days With the Holy Spirit” and finding meaning every day. This morning I was breathing in the Spirit.

I had a short conversation with this huge cow early today. He was not talkative but focused intently on me. Later in the day I talked Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr with David, an American (the first American I have met).

This is where I am hanging out before supper. I’ve had a shower, my other set of clothes are drying on the clothes line, and next I am going to try to make conversation in French with my friend Ann Marie, my new friend Ann Marie, Josette, and another Pilgrim I haven’t met yet.

Tomorrow I’ll do it all over again.

Eating with Sauvages

Day 4 ended up in a farm collective originally built by the Knights Templar. They still exist, I stayed in an albergue they own in Spain last year. Now it is owned by the government and is mainly a restaurant with two gites and an auberge. It is called Domain du Sauvage.

I was greeted at the entrance to the farm by a sign that said “wild horses live in the woods keep your distance.” A kilometer later I found the alleged wild horses. The complex of massive stone buildings is in the background.

Earlier I had to thread my way through a herd of dairy cows on the move.

A few times today I wondered if I was in Wyoming. This is very rural and again I saw few people and lots of cows. I walked through three villages and on paved roads and saw not one car on the road.

I had hopes of a snack and coffee at this restaurant but the sign said “Ferme”. I lucked out, remembering an apple in my pack

The auberge is around the back, quite nice, and they resisted the temptation to pave a sidewalk to it to keep you in the moment.

Lunch was fantastic, €12.50 with a glass of Hefeweizen. Some of my trail friends have shown up; Rose Marie and the Canadian sisters Marguarite and Michelle.

Wandering loose the Via Podensia in France.

Vibes

If the Camino across northern Spain is a moveable feast, and Portugal a slug fest, then in France it is a walking holiday.


There are ancient chapels built in improbable places, like this on high above Monistrol dedicated to Mary Magdalene.

Cows on the road.

Eight sided medieval castle tower here at Le Creax

Dessert at a cafe after lunch on the trail of an excellent sub sandwich purchased from the bakery as I was leaving this morning.

I walked with Edith this morning and learned some French. I met her two nights back at the gite. I’m now ahead of her so we may not cross paths again.

Landed at a nice gite in a tiny village with 4 French guests.

Dessert was apple pie with white cheese (yogurt?).

The Beast of Gévaudan

There are varied representations of this legendary beast all over town.

It is reputed to have killed a hundred people, mostly women and children; some kind of wolf? Hound of the Baskerville?

This bridge in Monistrol d’Allier was built in 1888 by the Eiffel Company, who also built the famous tower in Paris. Note the flower boxes at the other end.

I walked close to Dallas today. A local told me the Texas city was named from here. The City of Dallas has no good explanation, so I’m going with this one.

This sculpture is of salmon in the river.

This 12th century church is simple but exquisite, built on top of a cliff.

Dinner at the gite last night- lentil salad (a local crop), sausages and mashed potatoes, fruit and cheese, and chocolate cake. With wine and good company. €32 includes the bed, dinner, and breakfast.

The 12th century church in Monistrol (there seems to have been a building boom that century ) depicts Jesus as the risen Christ as the gardener speaking to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb.

Still wandering loose in France.

Far from the madding crowd

I met more cows than people on the trail today. Surface was volcanic gravel or grass. Little on roads.

This guy is like a ranger who maintains the Camino. He told me about a more scenic (less road walking) traditional route. I took it and was by myself. Well marked, walking on grassy trails, gorgeous country.

I stopped in this church in Bains from 1125 at his suggestion.

I finally realized a big learning experience from last year’s Camino:how to enjoy traveling alone. This trail requires me to speak French, be careful about navigating, plan for enough water and good for the day- not like in Spain! It’s work! I had a blast today and kept a good attitude. My body is holding up ok so far, the problematic foot and back pain from prior walks were minimal.

My Caminho Portugeus in May with Kay was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. This may end up be the most incredible solo experience. I’ve asked lots of people for directions. I had two people pull their cars over today and get out to congratulate me and told me of their Camino experiences ( at least I think that’s what they were saying). No one seems to speak English but they are friendly, helpful, and the bread is really, really good.

Pilgrimage: Wine, Women, and Song?

By the time I reached Le Puy en Velay, in southeastern France, I was beginning to feel lucky. I made all my connections, two airplanes and three trains, but the last two were tricky. French trains are fabulous but they don’t always show up where you expect them. I only made it because people I had asked questions of- is this the right track for the train to Lyon? – came back to me to tell me the track had been changed. The French National train app also told me to go to track A at the last second, and people were running so I did too. Just made it in as the door

They are having a renaissance festival in Le Puy. Pop-up camps with a bar and everyone is in costume. I was their first customer. Spiced Wine

The familiar shells

Bon Chemin. Le Puy was great. I did partake of some spiced wine but not the women and song. Pilgrim mass at 7 am was great; I got a blessing from the priest. I told him I did not understand most of it but it seem to me to be about love. He told me being a priest is all about love.