Over the last few days, I was treated to awesome views of the snow capped Pyrenees. I was sadly reminded that this brings me closer to the end of this walk.
But, I am thankful. I am ever thankful to the wonderful people of France 🇫🇷 for their magnanimous warmth and courtesy to us, the pilgrims. They went out of their way to say, “bonjour”, smile, wave and honk their car horns. They made time to ask about our journey and about ourselves. At least, I think that was the case, as the conversations were always in French. Seriously though, they always used English when they could which made me ashamed that I did not make too much of an effort to speak French myself.
This year, my brother Jerry joined us for the first two weeks of the trip. This was special to me as I watched him dive into unchartered waters. He struggled with the terrain, an old hip injury and travelling with his kid sister and her husband. But, Jerry kept his head above water, listened and showed courage in reaching every summit one painful step at a time. He did brilliantly both on the flat and downhill and taught me a thing or two about walking down steep treacherous slopes. Being with him on those climbs were extremely memorable. As my sister Vicky, so beautifully said, “Lucky you!”
The walks have been fine and the scenery breathtaking. The walks in the south of France took us through the Occitanie and Acquitaine regions, ending in the Basque Country. We have had our share of mud and difficult terrain. We have had some stormy days but we delighted in the chance to walk in cooler temperatures. We went through some beautiful towns and stunning villages. We stayed in some beautiful chambre d’hotes in the most exquisite settings. We had the most gracious hosts who lived in amazing homes and then completed the setting by serving some outstanding meals. How do you begin to say “merci” or thank you to all of that?
We have had our experience of the great “shut down” on public holidays and it is a learning curve for both pilgrim and traveller. We have had to deal with the scheduled rail strikes that we wittingly work around while knowing how crippling this is to an economy.
This escape into adventure could not have been made possible without the many hours of diligent research by my husband, Michael. He travelled through the blogs and websites of pilgrims and Caminos. He looked at all the possibilities and then mapped our route. He downloaded the area needed onto maps.me, the Camino Route as well as other helpful routes. This year he had the added responsibility of including, Jerry. Michael tasked himself with gently immersing Jerry into the way of the Pilgrim and the multi-terrain walker. The first two weeks had all the challenging climbs with very little chance of bailing out. Actually, this whole trip has been that way and coupled with the complete shut downs has been quite a challenge. But, Michael has painstakingly ensured a roof over our head and a warm meal at the end of each trying day. He painstakingly studied French and used it to communicate over the phone, in gite’s, chambre d’hotes and restaurants. He has communicated in our daily walks with fellow pilgrims, interested men or women in the street or in the bars, restaurants and pattiseries. God bless the man who delivers my “un café noir et grillées baguette”. But, I thank him for more than that: a picture perfect walk every day, patience as I struggled to keep up, a blog so painstakingly written and researched, fresh clothes washed and put out to dry and his wonderful company. The walks give us a chance to appreciate each other’s company and a myriad of stories or simply walk in companionable silence. We enjoy the daily horny cows grazing, lambs unhurriedly taking a hit of grass, frisky donkeys, grinning horses and friendly dogs barking their welcome. We are gifted each day with nature’s welcome of a glorious blue sky or a cloudy stormy day. We are blessed to be able to plan and then walk the plan. As always, we count our blessings and thank you all for walking this Camino with us.
Merci et au revoir❤️🇫🇷