My Travel Diary of the Camino de Santiago (le Chemin de Compestelo
I always keep a travel diary on our trips. This time I did it on my iPhone instead of in a pretty notebook at the end of long days with just minimal notes. I’m posting it with a bit of editing and addition for those who are curious and/or want to do it themselves one day. You are on your own as far as walking the Camino de Santiago. You learn to keep your eyes peeled for the symbols marking the way. Sometimes you can’t find one, especially at intersections, and you have to wander around looking for one. It’s not much fun to trudge up a hill and it dead ends and you discover you missed the symbol. There is a book called Miam Mian Dodo which helps in giving pretty good directions.
Someone took the time to put this on the trail. Maurice didn’t even see it. I just wondered at who did it.
We stayed at a really nice gite the night before we left , la Bastide du Cosset in Barcelonne du Gers. It was full of antiques and great to explore. It spoiled us for the next places couldn’t compare. There was chicken for dinner with really delicious potatoes (Potatoes Daupinoise I think) at dinner. We met a few people at dinner who were also doing the Camino. The hike was very long on a hot day and some hikers stayed in the last village for the day (we didn’t go through many villages on the Camino), but we walked 3 km more to a sign pointing to our gite which said it was 800 meters on but by then it seemed much longer, then a long uphill walk to finally reach la Ferme de Marsan- a total of 18.5 miles, 90 degrees. I cried as we climbed the hill. A nice couple owned the farm and it is common to have a gite on them with rooms for let like this one. We ate a wonderful dinner salad with their own foie gras-also sold in Paris on a street near us. The owner told us he was born in room up above us in the main house. They sat and talked with us while we ate which also included cassoulet with their own duck in it that the farm puts up and sells. The TV was on the whole time. Our room had a kitchen and everything for breakfast so we could do it ourselves.
Up early to leave at 6:30 to beat the heat. It was a beautiful morning and quite a bit of shade but lots of hills to climb and descend. I only made it for 5 hours. Maurice called the owner of next gite to pick me up which she agreed to do, thank God. He walked two more hours. This gite in Larreule was not as nice as our last one. It had very steep ladder like stairs to the upstairs bedroom-so steep that that night when Maurice made a trip to the bathroom he stayed downstairs and slept on the couch rather than climb it again, not enough furniture, shower nice but no shower gel. I guess gites don’t supply it. Next door was a farm with roosters crowing, flies flying, tractors chugging around. It turned out that the farmer was the gite owner with his wife. There was a pretty good dinner-a pasta vegetable salad, lamb, peas with onions and potatoes, and cherry clafuti. About 15 people were at the large table so it was fun. The family cat sat in my lap and then the owner did a trick with it. Smart cat. Two of the hikers told us they were taking a taxi to the next village as the day had done them in so I didn’t feel quite so inadequate.
A sort of shrine seen on a tree during our walk.
It was 30 degrees cooler with rain and wind. I made it all the way but it was hard. I was so exhausted that I was rude to gite land lady. I just wanted to lie down not chat. It didn’t help that my socks were so wet that I could wring water out of them and that our water proof jackets weren’t. Maurice had a map and directions in his pocket that got soaked. Luckily, they let us use their dryer. Our room was very plain with no shower gel, shower mat or shelves. We had a very good dinner with green vegetable soup, tagine and rice,and apple cake-all started with a prayer. I don’t like to be forced to pray, especially when we are strangers but that’s me. There was an interesting couple from Tahiti who told us a lot about living there.
Rain off and on, a little wind and it continued cool. It was very hilly with a total of 51 stories climbed according to an app on my iPhone. I would say that it was indeed hilly. I did pretty good until the last hour. I have trouble finishing. The country side was amazing with rolling hills, freshly planted crops and lots of cows. We bought a very fancy ham sandwich along the way made by a very slow, nice young man. We sat to eat but I notice most hikers remain standing to, I assume, not get stiff. Not many cars were seen, even on paved roads unless we were getting near a village or group of houses. We ended in Navarrenz at a gite called Cri de Giraffe with four other walkers we kept either passing as they stopped to eat or drink or as they passed us being faster walkers. The old man in the group must walk alot as he seemed to have no problems. We were greeted at the door by friendly guy with a bisous for everyone. He told me I needed shoes one size larger for room for swelling. Too late now. It was a very nice place, a refurbished old house with wooden floors but we had to take what we needed out of our suitcases and carry them upstairs as I guess they had bed bug problems before. It seemed rather strange and I was really tired and didn’t feel like doing it but did anyway. I’m noticing a crabby Linda routine here. A more gourmet dinner than most gites was served with fish soup, a lovely salad, then fish with fried potatoes and grilled endive. Dessert was a prune tart with whipped cream. I don’t think I will lose weight even with all of the walking. The couple who ran this gite came from Lyon and wanted a simpler life style.
We left with a bit of rain here and there but it stayed cool all day until the very last. We walked mostly through forest until the last part where it started to warm up. I had to sing to keep my spirits up, old rock and roll classics and songs from Broadway Plays. I played music on my iPhone until it ran out of power. A long uphill walk finally brought us to our new gite, a very nice large house. Our room was up the stairs to the second floor. The lady had house type shoes to change in to. Nice room, large bed, separate bathroom. Drinks and hors d’ouvres at 6:30 where we learned that they had sold their nice house with all of the furniture and were going to move to Valencia, Spain where is much cheaper. They don’t speak Spanish btw. They and the other guest couple, the ones from Tahiti, are all very anti immigrant and what they see happening in France. One thing I learned about gites and hikers on the Camino is that sometimes you are stuck with people, usually the owners, who use dinner as a time to talk and talk and give their opinions when all you(mainly me) want to do is eat and go to bed. Dinner was fish soup (again), melon with serrano ham, then wild boar-sanglier-and white beans. The lady had cooked the boar for 7 hours so it was very tender and tasted like a cross between lamb and beef. Dessert was banana in rum with chocolate ice cream. Too much food. My right big toe is red , swollen and throbbing so I won’t be walking tomorrow.
A nice man picked me up with the luggage and took me to the next village, Osterbat, which was very small but there was a cafe where I sat and killed time reading. I then walked up a very steep hill (was there ever any other kind) to the gite which wasn’t that nice but there was a bed where I took a nap as I was starting to feel sick. I didn’t feel like dinner so I missed the host singing. Maurice liked it but another guest said he sounded like a chicken. Maurice brought my dinner up to me on a plate. He said I probably couldn’t have made the whole hike-very hilly and a nine hour day.
I went with the baggage man again, very nice man who took the time to go off the main road to look for Maurice to see if we could see him walking which we didn’t. We finally entered the main gate going into the city of Saint Jean Pied de Port, into the ancient city where millions of pilgrims have walked. The hill going in was steep and cobbled and I walked on it to the bottom to our hotel. The city is fairly touristy but I enjoyed it. There were many places for pilgrims to stay with ancient doors with writing above them telling the history and age. Maurice join me after lunch and we met some of the pilgrims for drinks that evening and also had dinner with them. The hotel was called the Central Hotel was very nice and clean and it was wonderful not to have any surprises. And there was shower gel! We left early the next morning in a taxi to go back to get our car and went home finding it very strange not to be on the Camino anymore.