If I hadn’t made a reservation I’m sure I wouldn’t have chosen last night’s chambre d’hote. But in the event it set me up for another memorable evening. Soon after our arrival the rain started and continued for the rest of the night. Water drained through all sorts of unlikely places in the house. The owner booked us a table for 4 in the little wooden shack which served as the only restaurant in the village. It was fortunate as he had already reserved a large table for his own family and friends and the place was filled by one other booking. Less fortunate pilgrims were turned away.
We shared a table with the Swiss couple who are walking all the way from Le Puy to St Jean with a donkey. They live in the French part of Switzerland and even though they were clutching the same Swiss passport as C, they might as well have come from different countries. So English was the only common language and I got the chance to learn about life on the road with a donkey.
I have to say straight away that I haven’t got the guts to make this journey with a donkey and I was in awe of their exploits. They had previously walked the nearby Stevenson Way in the Cevennes with a donkey, inspired by the famous book I mentioned earlier. I suspect there are many donkey rental companies in the Cevennes like there are many boat rental companies on the Norfolk Broads. And I suspect many donkeys are prematurely returned. But the Swiss couple had found their passion and were enjoying their donkey camino. Being France, there are plenty of places to stay with a donkey. Last night’s owner had a small horse in a paddock and judging by the state of the donkey this morning, the two got along well. The morning ritual is to scrape out all the mud from the hooves, load all its equipment and set off, carrying your own backpack of course. I heard the horse shouting farewell as they departed.
We followed them into Lectoure and saw them secure the donkey outside the Cathedral. It all seemed very natural.
I persuaded C to stop in Lectoure because my guidebook promised many delights in this “gem of a village, very popular with British tourists”. Foremost is the “Therme” or thermal baths with all sorts of massages and spa treatments included in a pilgrims package. But this being Sunday in France, the place was closed. So was the town. Perhaps it was a lucky escape because the owner of tonight’s chambre d’hote said it was horrible.