I generally like to take a few rest days along the way. It gives me a chance to watch the French Open in a quiet bar with a large beer while the world goes by. It’s also good to rest the body and absorb more of the local culture. But pilgrims rarely endulge themselves in this way. I had a charming message from “I” on Monday who is now way ahead of me and will finish on Saturday. I’m her “single pole walking companion” because we both only use one pole. The Japanese team are keeping up too. They don’t believe in rest days.
So yesterday I waved goodbye to C and everybody else and headed into Condom wondering what new pilgrims the Camino would deliver. It was a dull day. The highlight was the dull Armagnac museum which displayed some ancient grape pressing equipment from earlier centuries. The Cathedral is 16th century and also dull. The market was an ugly mess. I ate a large lunch to fill the day and to avoid having to return in the evening.
Strangely, almost no pilgrims arrived at the gite which was full the day before. There was only 1 other man with a torn ligament in my dorm, like me, left over from the previous day. But then P thrust himself on me and suggested we go out to dinner. He was 1955 vintage from California and immediately introduced me to his stunningly beautiful wife on FaceTime who is a project manager with Deloitte (and was clearly multitasking over breakfast). P himself is a very successful business consultant with the same firm but walked out to tackle the whole Camino and then move on to the PCT. Or the Central Divide. Opportunities are endless.
We settled in a surprisingly nice restaurant near the Cathedral and I listened with interest while he gave me an account of his lifetime achievements. But the real drama played out at the very next table, behind P. A poodle had ordered a large juicy bone and was about to crunch into it when a Rottweiler tethered to another table saw the feast and dragged the diners with him in pursuit of the bone. The poodle put up an extraordinary defence and retained the bone and its dignity. I was expecting a different outcome. And when P’s steak tartare arrived there was another moment of poodlemania. I had an omelette and was undisturbed.
This morning I made a quick exit. P had said he was taking a rest day and I encouraged him, suggesting a visit to the Armagnac museum. It was a pleasant enough walk to sleepy Montreal du Gers. I am the only pilgrim in the gite and when I returned from the bar the table was laid for two and the Madame poured the wine. She had 10 pilgrims last night including M, the Australian actress. She pointed out the distant Pyrenees, almost 250Km away. I have walked 500 Kms from Le Puy but still have some very long days over the next week or so, just to reach base camp.