We had a cold, crisp and windy gray day for a long walk but we did it. Melanie is still suffering with congestion, a runny nose and a sore throat but she was knocking out the kilometers at a great pace. Before anyone asks… no, I do not use a whip.
Before the walk though, I still have to go back to events from last night and this morning. Last evening, we had a nice vegetable purée soup, duck, roasted potato dinner cooked by our hosts. Afterward, Melanie went straight up to bed to sleep. She missed some fun. Shortly after she went up, the hostess asked us all to gather round in front of the fireplace for a compulsory “moment”. I sensed a seance or kumbaya event coming on and explained that Melanie had already gone to bed. With a stern look, the hostess told me to go get her. I went up and told Melanie what was happening and then returned with the news that she was already asleep. “Should I wake her”, I asked? “No” grumbled the grim reaper.
We all had a chance to “share” a story from the heart about anything we wanted to talk about and in any language we were comfortable with “even though she was speaking in English so Michael could understand”. Huh? Just for the fun of it, I started “sharing” in Indonesian and thanking God for a decent season but asking for another championship for Manchester United next year. Fortunately, no one else spoke Indonesian. I did add in English though that I hoped Melanie would quickly get better and that everyone would have a good rest and safe Camino.
Yesterday, the hostess kindly agreed to take us to Gimont in the morning to start our walk where we stopped yesterday. I want to make this clear – this offer was very generous of her and above and beyond anything expected. That said, just as I was going to bed, the host said to me “I’ll be taking you to Gimont tomorrow and that works out fine because I have a 9:30am appointment there anyway. 9:30?!?! We were kind of hoping for 7:00, 7:30 or 8:00am at the latest. Who starts walking a 29km day at 9:30am? Beggars can’t be choosers though so I bit my tongue and Googled for a taxi company in Gimont. I found a one person operation and prayed that they could fetch us in the morning.
Now remember that the gîte is a farmhouse, out in the middle of nowhere and 700m down a bumpy, rocky path. How do I describe this place in French to a taxi driver, if I can even get a hold him? At about 7:45am, as Betty and the German boy were leaving and well after the Brits left, another young man appeared. He is a French student doing an internship nearby and he lives in the gîte during the weekdays. I asked in my best French if he could call a taxi to take us to Gimont. He obviously was impressed with my French enough that he replied in his perfect French… and not a word of which I understood. Luckily, the young German boy was nearby and heard what was said and translated for me. The student said that he worked near Gimont and he would be happy to take us if we could leave right away. Melanie and I quickly grabbed our things, ran to his car and finished packing inside. The Camino provides!
By the way, Norbert, the older German who wanted to discuss (and veto?) our plans with us after we showered yesterday… he was still in bed. Maybe he plans to leave at 9:30am. He did, however, model his underwear for everyone at 6:30am when he walked to the bathroom. He actually stopped in front of Melanie’s and Betty’s bed to show that he was, umm, err, at “attention”. Melanie averted her eyes before he got all the way out of bed and Betty was still sleeping so Norbert just wandered off to take care of business. Sicko.
Once we arrived in Gimont, we went back to our favorite patisserie for breakfast and then we found a pharmacy where the pharmacist spoke English. Melanie was finally fixed up with enough drugs to fix her for good and we set off for the trail at 8:30am. A good porting of the 7km to the first town of L’Isle-Arne was on muddy, hilly tracks that was slow going. Most of the mud was the gooey stuff that cakes to our shoes but we had the good old black stuff too that just lets us sink in if we stop for a millisecond. After that, the rest of the way to Auch was on quiet backroads, sometimes that paralleled the actual marked trail that we now avoided because of the mud.
It was a great walk today with hills that reminded us of Tuscany. Every hill though, I would tell Melanie and this was the last one and were about to be rewarded with a stunning view down on the ancient town of Auch, home of the Three Musketeers. As we crested on hill 6km before Auch, we were actually rewarded with a nice view of a neighboring hilltop village of Montegut. While on the trail, the Brits from yesterday caught up to us. They are stopping in Montegut but we will likely see them again tomorrow. Along the way, while walking with Les and Peter, we stumbled onto a restaurant in Lussan that had just opened for the day. The four of us, muddy boots, backpacks and all went in for a drink. I guess it was a fancy place as we were kindly told to get out. If we wanted only a drink, we could sit outside in the cold. We did just that. We were thirsty!
^ Montegut on the small hilltop
We still had more hills to climb but eventually, we did hit the one that gave us that magnificent and breathtaking view of Auch. The town was developed on a hill next to the Gers River more than 2,000 years ago. We still had to cross a valley to get to the old town and its crown, the cathedral. The last few kilometers passed quickly though as the view just got better and better.
We are now resting in the almost fancy Hotel de France. It probably was grander at some point, during its 300 year history, but now it’s like Singapore’s Raffles Hotel, before the 1989 renovation. It has lots of cool old touches but we also like that it is on the same square as the Cathedral. We managed to visit it and get our credencials stamped before they closed. It is stunning and photos just don’t do it justice. We also met Pete in there, the young German that I watched the Bayern Munich – Real Madrid game with. Pilgrims always bump into each other.