This day’s walk was special! I had not done enough research so we had an unexpected surprise. (Is there such a thing as an expected surprise?)
Today started with a bad surprise first. The only room that we could find for last night was ridiculously expensive compared to 12€ per person we spend at hostels. At least a semi-decent continental breakfast was included in the price. Oops. Then the bill came and breakfast was actually not included and it cost an insane 20€ per person by itself. In other places that we have stayed, the same croissant, bread, juice, coffee and yogurt costs about 6-8€. Fortunately, that was the only bad surprise for the day.
The walk started through the old village with views up the hill towards the citadel and many other very old houses. Eygalières is a living museum. We even passed some antique petrol pumps that looks like they are just waiting for the next customer. It took less than a half kilometer to get out of the village and onto dirt, gravel or rock paths for almost all the rest of the day until the last 2km or so. My feet thanked me 35,191 times today.ooo
We followed the marked GR route over lovely trails around a small mountain, over a Roman bridge, past a Roman milestone and, briefly, the wrong way around a small airport with ruins of an ancient fort build on the mountain at the end of the runway. We also passed though a very rural area with some impressive houses and property but still mostly on gravel roads. I think we walked for 10km before we were on blacktop roads again and that only lasted a half kilometer.
At around the 13km mark for the day, near to the town of Saint-Rémy-de Provence, we were passing behind an 11th century priory and the Monastère Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. I tried to climb a small rise to take photos over the wall but could not get high enough for a decent picture. We continued following the GR blazes to the front gate of the property where we were surprised. It turns out that a couple of centuries ago, part of it was turned into an asylum. Its most famous resident was Vincent van Gogh who happens to be both Melanie’s and my favorite artist. Other than my sister, Megan, of course. And our friend, Sandra. And our other friend, Charmaine. The facility actually has a reconstruction of van Gogh’s room and other exhibits but it was closed for lunch when we were there. There is also a nice trail from Saint-Rémy town center with quotes on signboards from his letters about the paintings he did while living there. It was his most productive period. What we saw in the town really was well done.
It was at this point that we left the Camino trail. The marked GR route bypasses Saint-Rémy which is a terrible shame. It is a gorgeous town with a lot of history and the Via Domitia went right through it. Also, the only accommodation we could find in the area, a reasonable distance from Eygalières was in Saint-Étienne-du-Grès. Saint-Étienne is about 2km off the GR trail. If we followed the trail to the closest point to Saint-Étienne, then we would have had to add 6km to today’s length as well as a 220m climb on a hard mountain track. Instead, we went into Saint-Rémy for some lunch and to look around, then followed a nearby community irrigation canal almost all the way to our guest house. That walk was extremely pleasant on dirt and gravel trails, often shaded and blessedly non-mountainous.
One more day to Arles and then four to Montpellier. We just found out that our luck with the weather looks to be changing. After walking everyday with only a few minutes of a misty drizzle, it looks like every day from now on will be wet. It’s okay though. We will deal with it. I hope.