Madame Marinette said I was the first English pilgrim in her gite, Le Presbytère à Lanne-Soubiran. The region is popular with English tourists but English pilgrims are almost non existent on the Via Podiensis.
At 7pm Madame rang the bell and a dozen pilgrims settled at the table on the patio. Before dinner was served, the wine was poured and Madame asked each of us to introduce ourselves. We were one German and 3 French plus a French group of 7. This group had met a few years ago during treatment for cancer and were walking the Camino in stages every year.
Dinner was a delicious couscous salad, meatloaf then chocolate cake and ice cream. After dinner we were all invited into the adjoining little church where candles were lit and we sang Hallelujah in honour of one of their group who had died in February. One of the ladies was a fine singer and went on to perform a couple of uplifting songs. The moment was overwhelming and, for me, was one of the defining memories of the Via Podiensis. We then returned to the patio for a cup of tea.
It was too hot to sleep and the experience in the little church had left me restless. Madame came into our room to throw open the windows and to pull down the insect screen. Sometime later the cold air arrived, I pulled up a blanket and fell into a deep sleep.
Today we made an early start to avoid the heat and as before, the grass was heavy with dew. We only had to walk 20Km to Aire sur l’Adour because after Aire there is nothing but fresh air until Pimbo. Why don’t we have places called Pimbo? As soon as I saw it on the map I knew I had to stay there. All will be revealed tomorrow.
The first part of today’s walk was through woodland but then we rejoined the disused railway. The tracks are still down on this section but are all overgrown and a couple of SNCF men were working on something. In the distant haze I saw the familiar figure of F, the pilgrim ghost, materialising and coming towards me. I had already noticed his camper van parked earlier so I was expecting a visitation. He told me the way ahead was hot and very flat but in Hamlet’s own words there needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us that.
Someone had set up a little pilgrim resting area by the side of the old railway called Gardez Le Moral. In my head it seemed to say “The Immoral Garden” but I’m now told it means “Keep your spirits up”. I would have particularly appreciated it a couple of days ago but it is always a welcome reminder. There was a French Canadian lady resting there. She is walking from Le Puy to Compostela.