I was happy enough to set off this morning after spending the night alone in the little Chez Monique hotel. It has been a little disappointing to see so few pilgrims these past few days. But I am reminded that it is a privilege to be able to walk the Via Podiensis and that life changes quickly on the Camino (thank you DJ).
My early start meant that the forest was silent and the grass was heavy with dew. I have been walking barefoot in sandals this past week and my feet are delighted with this change. Unfortunately my boots have made my backpack terribly heavy. But I have rejigged my plan to avoid using Madame Claudine’s baggage transport. So instead of walking 3 days of 34Km I am now walking 29 Km all next week and can manage to carry my pack.
I soon arrived at the Chapel of the Command Post, Saint Christie Hospital, hidden in the forest. It was soon after sunrise. After a couple of mediocre cathedrals, here was a real Camino church with a good atmosphere, the sort of place where you have to spend a few minutes. I slowly opened the door and looked inside. It was very dark. The chapel was built in the 12th century by the Knights of Malta as part of a larger complex of hospital and facilities for the pilgrims travelling to (and from) Compostela. You can feel the history inside the chapel and see it outside on the gravestones.
A familiar German group arrived, somebody walking from Cologne and others from Switzerland. I walked with them to Nogaro, my breakfast stop. It was good to reconnect with some pilgrims again. The vineyards still dominate here but cornfields are now fighting for supremacy.
The Collegiate Church Saint-Nicolas in Nogaro is another Camino gem. Saint Austin himself consecrated it in 1060, dedicated it to Saint Nicolas and placed it under the patronage of the Virgin Mary. Impeccable credentials.
These days the temperature is reaching 30 and there will be a heatwave next week with 36 forecast on Tuesday. I ran out of water about 3 Km before tonight’s gite, Le Presbytere.
What a little piece of heaven is this Le Presbytere. A beautiful large house in a beautiful small village with a beautiful large garden. Some gites hold the maximum number of pilgrims like an airplane. But this is a real home and it is full of happy pilgrims. Madame Marinette welcomed me with a large jug of cold water which I drank without any formalities. She has since been busy preparing our dinner with lots of cooking noises and delicious smells coming from the kitchen. And there is the smell of baking bread throughout the house.
I have now settled outside with some 1664 beers. This is rural France and my faith is restored (again).