France just keeps coming at us. We are fighting back as best we can.
After a very bad night sleep for both Melanie and me, we pretty much decided to just continue walking forward from Morlaàs to Lescar, without backtracking 8km to La Lande de Haut. The only thing that would change our minds would be if some sign fell on our heads saying that we should go back. Perhaps a taxi passing in the street as we started or someone stopping to ask us directions to Anoye might get us thinking. I had dreamed of walking every meter between Lisbon, Santiago de Compostela, Leon, St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Toulouse, Montpellier, Turin, Vercelli, Lucca, and Siena to Rome but that was only for pride, so I could brag about the feat. Well, maybe I shouldn’t be bragging anyway. Maybe pride really is one of the seven deadly sins. There are a lot of things that I have done in my life that I regret but I won’t regret missing a few kilometers on this walk. In fact, I’m seriously rethinking next year’s walk between Montpellier and Vercelli.
Also in our minds today was that the expected route for tomorrow to Oloron-Saint-Marie was going to be about 31km, longer than we really like, particularly in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Adding 8km to today’s expected 21km would make two long days in a row.
Of course, eventually France comes at us and our plans go out the window but I think we are okay.
We started today at 7:45pm, after breakfast of bread, croissant, yogurt, juice and coffee that was left for us at the hotel. The sky was clear as we walked back to the church to get on the trail. We looked around for a taxi but the village was still mostly asleep. We watched one pilgrim couple heading off in the distance the wrong way as we turned at the church. The side doors were open so we went in for a prayer. I think I heard God saying it was okay to skip the 8km so we headed off towards Lescar, following the red and white blazes. About 100m further on, I looked at my GPS to mark Lescar and I realized that we were actually walking backwards towards Anoye – the other couple were on the right trail. The blazes go in both directions. Also, yesterday, we came in the east bound trail last night because we were dropped off on the west side of town. Was this THE sign? Still, there was no taxi. No, God had us turn the wrong way so that we could find the open side door of the church. We turned and went the right way.
After an initial climb out of Morlaàs and a drop on the other side of the hill, the path today was mostly fairly flat. We had some very nice forest trails and small roads around farm field but also a lot of suburban residential streets. We were definitely in the suburbs of Pau the whole walk. A highlight was a 2km section through the oddly named Forêt Domaniale de Bastard. This was an arrow straight flat trail through the calming forest and it was as peaceful as can be. We met up with German Pete there, chomping on a carrot and cheese. The French couple who Pete stayed with last night also stopped to introduce themselves and say hello. These three and English Les and Peter are all parting ways with us tomorrow evening as they continue on the Arles route over the Col de Somport into Spain then on to Puente la Reina.
The next 5 km of the route continued on a decent path, over a highway, around a horse racing track then alongside a busy road. Before we new it, we were walking into Lescar with the cool old town on the hill and a lively new section below. We had already scoped out two “real” hotels a further 1.6km down the trail so with so little to go at about 1:30pm, we stopped in a happening little snack bar “La Terrasse” at the main crossroad. We stopped for what turned out to be the best sandwich in France and the best fries we have had in a long time as well as two sodas. Melanie also hit it off with the waitress to the point of them exchanging e-mail addresses.
Finally, we set off for the two “real” hotels to let them compete to host us for the evening. France struck again. The first one, B&B Hotel, who advertises they are open 24 hours a day, was locked and had a sign on the door saying that they are happy to welcome guests from 4:00pm to 9:00pm. What the heck? It was 2:30pm and I wasn’t keen to wait. We walked next door to FastHotel and they had the same damn sign up. I wanted to set the place on fire. But wait! There is a machine for 24hour self check-in. I enter all my information, stick in my credit card and boom! Declined! I called the posted 24hour emergency number and got a recording. We went back to B&B Hotel and found a similar machine. Same results. I tried two credit cards and a debit card from different banks. All declined. I assume it is because the credit cards are issued overseas or require signatures instead of PIN numbers. I called their help line on the intercom and a man answered. I obviously woke him up. I explained that I needed a room now. He took my name then the intercom went dead. I waited five minutes for something to happen then called him back. That woke him up again. He said that he already had my name and he would be at the hotel at 4:00pm to let me in. I really wanted to kill him.
As I was looking for fuel to burn both hotels down, I checked maps.me and found an Ibis Hotel several kilometers away in the wrong direction. That wouldn’t work. There was only one other hotel in the vicinity and, surprisingly, in the center of Lescar. It was the hotel “La Terrasse”. Wait! What? The place we had a sandwich has rooms? Ugh! Now they tell us. We were just about to walk 1.6km back up the hill to La Terrasse when a woman, who appeared to be working in the B&B Hotel, came out. As best we could, we explained the situation. She offered to drive us up and we were not about to refuse. She was very sweet and more than generous.
Back in La Terrasse, we were welcomed back like old friends. You have rooms? No, the hotel closed three years ago. I hate France. We decided the only option was to sit, have a drink, wait and then walk down again at 4:00pm to whichever hotel didn’t burn down completely. The French pilgrim couple were there and we explained the situation. The next thing we know, our waitress friend had a chambres d’hôtes owner from Artigueloure on the line. If we were interested, he a has a room available for €55. Artigueloure is 5km further down the trail and in a perfect place to help tomorrow’s walk. YES!!! We took it and hurried over. It took us an hour to cover that distance, including time to stop and watch grown men playing Pétanque, a French game like bocce.
For those following us, this gîte is fantastic and perfectly located but no longer advertised in Miam Miam Dodo. I would happily have shared the details but the owner says that he is no longer interested in booking pilgrims as he usually takes in weeklong guests. He just happened to have a room available tonight (actually, a whole house available) and the waitress talked him into letting us stay here. The draw back is that he doesn’t cook dinners and there is no restaurant in town that is open on a weekday. We can cook here but we didn’t bring supplies. If we had only known. As a result, dinner for us was pasta (donated by the owner) with butter, bread from breakfast and cherry jam from tomorrow’s breakfast. Yummy. Tomorrow, of course, is a holiday so we might not have lunch or dinner then either. Life on the Camino is fun.
Day 26 – Morlaàs to Artiguelouve, 27.0km, 9.0hrs, 9 May
^the snowcapped Pyrenees in the distance.