Well compared to what we walked last year, this will be a relatively easy day. It’s still overcast but warm although I’d like some sun. It’s so hard to get it right. For the last couple of years we’ve walked in late 20 degree and 30 degree heat so we aimed for earlier this year, guess the weather is just so unpredictable. Even the French are surprised at how cold it is compared to normal.
So 7.30 a.m alarm and straight away we’re into our usual routine, one of the great things when you travel with the same person. Breakfast was delicious and lots of it too. The usual bread and jam, croissants and pain au chocolate but also yoghurt, ham, cheese and lovely coffee. So important to have a good breakfast.
We got left about 9.00 with all the gear having left our bags to be picked up by the baggage service and first stop was the boulangerie. Wonderful pizzas and quiche were bought for lunch and we had some fruit too. We’d checked for the signs the day before so we were clear as to where we were headed. As Lectoure is on a hill, it was down, a nice change from a climb up when you are in a valley setting and a gentler start to the first day. It’s just 11.9 miles and we start by heading west.
Gentle walking and space and time to look around, lovely to be back on the camino and searching for those old familiar red and white signs we love. The signage is so good that it means that you don’t have to have your face stuck in a book. I was busy taking photos as usual of the coloured shutters, those wonderful trees and the paths ahead.
As always, it’s good to look back and see from where you came, something that it’s easy to forget about when the enthusiasm to get ahead takes over.
Once we crossed the muddy River Gers, we headed off the main gravel paths and road heading into woodland and it was here that we first encountered mud. I hadn’t really thought of this liklihood, after all, all the walking in France to date has been on hard baked paths but now we began to realise the impact of the rain and started to understand why the river was so muddy too. Not too bad though.
Love this photo of the tree. Teresa had used the phrase ‘shored up’ when we’d been walking round Lectoure the day before and now it was used again in reference to the tree. Not sure whether the tree had had a wall build up against it or not but it grabbed my attention. It looked such a healthy tree and this definately added character.
At this point we were getting a bit peckish and in need of a comfort break too. Breaks are really important to take and we try to do this every couple of hours. At this stage we were looking for the right place to stop, something we are quite particular about. Well, you do want to have a pleasant place.
We came to a fork where the main path went to the right wending it’s way through the countryside and the other option was to follow the road which would get us to Marsolan faster but as neither Teresa or I really like roads we already knew which one we were going for. At this fork there was also a picnic table and an information sign giving info about the Way of St James. The only thing missing was a loo….but when you gotta go….and by now we are well versed at hiding behind trees, boulders, small huts etc with the other keeping a look out if needbe.
We’d not seen another walker all day but had just settled our selves when along the road in ones and twos came a large group and we then realised that it was the Australians that had been staying in the hotel in Lectoure. As we discovered when they stopped near by there was also a group of three French ladies. Given our experience from past sections, it then began to get quite clear who were the people we were going to see over and over again.
Once the group moved off, one of the French ladies kindly took our photo, so hard to get one of the two of you together on a trip like this.
At Marsolan we visited the church, had a chat with some of the Australian’s who were having a break and filled up at the water tap. These are clearly marked as here and are invaluable especially when you consume as much water as Teresa and I do every day. It is worth though filling up when you can as there have been times when we have got very low on water and when the weather is very hot, this can be really dangerous.
Downhill from here quite steeply into the valley and then at the bottom almost immediately uphill again. Here we began to see more mud and my poor new shoes were looking quite sad. Teresa discovered her gaiters, given as a pressie and together we got them on. What a great idea, mine where at home because in France I never need them!! Think again Heather.
This photo doesn’t really do the rape seed justice, the colour was so amazing and looking across the countryside these fields really did brighten up the countryside.
As we made our way slowly up a long hill, my phone began to ring and I found myself helping to sort out a problem at the office, mobile business indeed. Not ideal but I was glad to be able to help and once things were organised again it was time for lunch. The ideal large log came up just at the right time which provided seats for us and a table too. It also provided a great view back along the path from where we’d come and we could see all the other walkers who may come our way. Why is it that food just tastes so great in the fresh air? It was so delicious.
After lunch the mud really did kick in and as it was all so clayey soon we felt much taller as it just clung to the soles of our walking boots. So little control as to where our feet were going so thank goodness for walking poles. Soon our trousers were also filthy, though Teresa so much cleaner than I due to her gaiters.
We came across this wooden ladder and hut high up into the trees, can only imagine that it would be used by hunters. As you can see by Teresa’s height, it was pretty tall.
One thing we hoped to see after lunch was the Chapelle d’Abrin but it was only when we started to see what looked like the church in La Romieu ahead that we realised we must have missed it. This Chapelle was the former Commandery of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem and a pilgrim halt at the meeting of two routes, the other coming from Rocmadour and Moissac via Agen, it’s now a private house. Not sure how unless it was slightly off the path and we missed the sign. We could have gone back but…..
Memories here of last year with all the fruit trees, the nets were up to protect the fruit from the birds but there was little fruit to be seen in complete contrast with last year.
As we headed towards the view below, it was a great feeling to realise that we were nearly there and a beer hopefully in the square at La Romieu was waiting for us.
At this point we passed some wonderful gardens open to the public and more fields across from them full of fruit trees.
Once into La Romieu, we headed for the church which is huge and reflects it’s former importance. This 14th C Collegiale was built by ClementV, one of the Avignon popes and the name of the town itself takes it’s name from the romieux which were the pilgrims who passed through it on their way to Santiago from Rome.
La Romieu is a small village really with some pretty houses and little passages and sculptures of cats all over the place. I had discovered the following before we left – “ Although you probably won’t miss them, I still must point out the various cat scupltures that are placed in different spots in the village.It would be a good idea to wander slowly through the narrow streets not only to get a better feel of the village but to find these”. We did find these in various places and also heard the story -
Angeline and the Legend of the Cats
In the year 1338, in a Gascon village called LA ROMIEU, renowned for its beautiful collegiate built 20 years previously, Vincent and Mariette lived contentedly. Vincent was a woodman and his wife often accompanied him into the forest to make up bundles of faggots. They worked hard, and with their poultry and pig, their fruit and vegetable garden, their table was always laid full with food.
They had been married for 3 years when Mariette gave birth to a little girl, whom they called Angeline. Alas, one day Vincent was crushed by a tree he was felling. Inconsolable, Mariette sank into a depression and 2 months later was found dead, holding little Angeline in her arms. The little girl was taken in by a neighbour and was brought up with their children like one of their own.
Angeline showed a great affection for cats and there were always one or two around her which at night even slept in her bed. She also often shared her bowl of food with them. With the passing of time, Angeline became a healthy young girl who helped her adoptive parents in the fields, always accompanied by her cats.
In 1342 and the 2 years that followed, the winters were harsh and the spring and summer so wet that it was impossible to sow their crops. There followed a great famine and inspite of the distribution of the collegiate reserves by the lord Arnaud d’Aux, the inhabitants soon had nothing left to eat. They thought of the numerous cats in the village and set about catching them.
Angeline’s adoptive parents, knowing how much she loved hers, allowed her to keep a male and female cat on the condition she hid them well, as the neighbours would gladly kill them. Angeline, therefore, shut her two cats in the attic by day and at nignt she let them out to hunt. But the famine grew worse and many villagers died. Angeline and her parents barely subsisted by collecting roots in the woods and sometimes they found mushrooms but it was hardly sufficient. Weakened by hunger, they managed somehow to survive this terrible period and more clement times finally arrived, allowing them to harvest what they needed to live on.
But in LA ROMIEU where the cats had disappeared, the rats proliferated to a point where the crops were once again threatened. Angeline, with infinite caution, had been able to hide her cats in the attic and they had produced several young kittens. There were now about 20 of these cats. The villagers wrung their hands over the damage caused by the rats. Angeline announced that she was going to release some 20 cats which the inhabitants would be able to adopt. The rats rapidly disappeared and it is thus that Angeline ressembled more and more, with the passing of time, one of her cats, her ears looking more and more like the ears of a cat.
Thanks to the following website for this http://www.brouquere.com/visit/collegiale-romieu_en.htm
The first time I heard this story was as we sat in the square with our beers and Paddy, who was the leader of the group of Australians, who had by now arrived, was telling the story so I had to find out more.
Beer finished we set out to find the gite where we were staying. It was 1km outside the village and necessitated a walk along the road and then up a long drive way. Unfortunately once we got there, we were informed that due to a plumbing problem, we would not be staying there – just what you want to hear when you want a shower and a chance to relax. However, the good new was that some alternative accommodation had been organised and the lady who owned it was coming to pick us up and would later take us into the village to the restaurant for dinner.
Lily, here in the photo with Teresa, was a gem and her house was stunning. All wood and light with decking the whole way round had been built by her and her husband and we had a wonderful room and bathroom. She made tea and we sat and chatted, she teaches English to adults which was lovely for me.
That evening, in Le Cardinale restaurant in La Romieu, we had a wonderful meal which started with a cold buffet of quiche, tomatoes, vegetables, cheese etc, then we had Melun which is Hake accompanied by Tapenade, tomatoes and a cream like crab sauce and a wonderful desert of pineapple and cinnamon creme brule for Teresa and red berries and aniseed creme brule for me.
It was all served so quickly that we were both in bed by 9.15 all be it writing up journals and reading.