The Camino

The French call it le Chemin. We started seeing the same people as we hiked either from the gite the night before or at stops to sit or drink. There was a group of three ladies walking much faster than we did laughing and talking a mile a minute. One of them always wore shorts, even on the day we got heavy rain and wind. On our very first night at our gite we met a man we would see over and over, sometimes on the road or in our gite. We used a company to carry our bags to each gite. I knew I wouldn’t be one of those with a huge bag on my back. There were a few places to get fresh water but toilets were rare.  I am not a camper and don’t like the whole potty in the forest thing but had to a few times. Most of the meals we had each night were what Maurice called “gite food”, not the best but filling. There were always big tables for the hikers at dinner so we got to know each other.

There were symbols of the pilgrims everywhere. This was on the side of a church. The scallop shell represents Saint James as those that made it all the way to his burial site brought back a shell to prove they had made it.

There were churches everwhere and lots of little places set up for pilgrims too.

Lots of roses and crosses.

There were signs everywhere, especially in villages. Mostly we depended on the red and white ones for directions but still managed to lose our way a few times.

Spring flowers were everywhere, especially these white daisies.

The Way

So, here I am on the Camino de Santiago, two days out from where the trail ends before you enter Spain. It has been extremely hard. Walking six miles a day at home didn’t come close to preparing me for this. Maurice has finished a lot of marathons so, no matter what, he finishes. Me, not so much. On our first day it was in the 90’s and the heat was really getting to me. We got to the last village for the day but had to walk 3 kilometers more to get to our gite (which is a home or farm with rooms to rent). We turned at the sign which said it was 800 meters further on which seemed like miles. Then we got to the farm/gite and it was at the top of a high hill. I started crying, something I seldom do, and Maurice came and took my hand and somehow got me up that hill. The owner told me I should have called, she would have come and got me. They served a huge dinner later and sat at the table while we ate. I found out that all of the gite owners did this. I was so tired that I just wanted to eat and go to bed but  had to sit there politely. They served us a wonferful salad plate and then cassoulet, a heavy dish made with their own ducks. Then fresh strawberries. I was asleep by 9 PM.
This is how a lot of the Camino looked. By the way, we were in the southwest part of France the whole time. Many trails went through thick forests, through small villages here and there, sometimes we were beside a road with occasional traffic. We rarely were beside heavy traffic.

Since it was going to be in the 90’s again we started walking at 6:30 which is how I got this shot of a cow at dawn. There was a calf too but it doesn’t show here.

There were roses blooming in every village and in front of every house. I liked the rustic patina of this house and the climbing pink roses.

I liked the roof of this building made of chisled rocks.

You can see some of the rolling hills that we climbed or went down. Going downhill was the hardest for me. I should have gotten some of those walking poles so many of the hikers use but I didn’t just for one week being cheap.

Cute colt along the way. We didn’t see many horses, mostly cows.

Walking

Maurice and I try to walk just about every day. Here are some things I’ve seen since we got back to our beach place.

I love seeing red poppies in the Spring. I usee to see a lot more in Provence, fields of them, and maybe I will find a field full of poppies (coquelicot in French) here but, in the meantime, one or two brighten my day.

Friday is the big market day in our village. We bought some fish for lunch. I always like looking at all of the varieties and the lovely patterens you see.

Paella to go.

Roasted chicken for sale. I don’t buy it if it’s been sitting as it isn’t juicy enough for me.

 Maurice and I kept seeing hikers here and there in France doing the famous Camino de Santiago, also known as Saint James way. It is the name of pilgrimage routes to the shrine of James, the Apostle in northwestern Spain. Many follow the routes as a form of spiritual growth and the path goes through many towns with churches or cathedrals where pilgrims often spent the night. It is one of the most important Christian pilgrimages done and is now on the UNESCO list as a world heritage site. It is done by the religious or by those who love to hike or just for the challenge. All of this to inform you that Maurice and I are doing a small portion of it, the part seen on the map starting at Air-sur-l’Adour almost all the way to Spain at St-Jean-de-Port. If you have seen the movie, The Way, this is where the journey starts by a father whose son died on The Way.  It’s a pretty good movie and gives you an idea of what it is like. So, we are using a company that will take our suitcase to each stop so we don’t have to carry everything in a backpack. Some of the days will be really long and I hope we are in good enough shape to do it. I guess, if we are near a road or highway we can call for a taxi. We will see. I’m hoping our daily walks will make it easier. I will write about it of course when we return. You can follow me on Instagram at Linda Pennington-Mathieu or on Facebook at Linda Mathieu where it will be mostly in real time.

Back at the Beach


 We have arrived at our beach place ready to see what summer has in store for us.

We arrived at the la Rochelle train station which looks very castle like. Our trip is a little over three hours from Paris.

Our very first night I ran out to the beach to get some photos as the sun set. I love the sun shining through the beach fence.

The sunset through the fence.

And, finally, the sunset. They usually aren’t this spectacular in the Spring as I recall. There is no filter with this photo either, this is just how it looked, filling our living room with scarlet light.

A Fun Experience

A friend and I were exploring the area around rue Montorgueil and she took me in to look at a restaurant, le Comptoir de la Gastronomie, which not only served food but also sold food items. They have ravioli stuffed with foie gras which draws a lot of people. It has a great interior as well.

One shot of the interior.

Another view.

This little place was right across the street. As we were exiting the restaurant, my friend saw a girl eating what looked like really good panna cotta and commented on it and then told them of another place that had even better. The couple, a father and daughter who turned out to be from Amsterdam, asked more questions and my friend had so much information-she’s a foodie-that they asked us to sit down and have a glass of wine so we did and had a really delightful conversation with them. They were so much fun that when they invited us to share a meal with them the next evening, we accepted. People who love food often make instant connections. I love food and trying new places but am no gourmet by any means but I’m game for new experiences.

We passed this interesting entrance as we walked to the bus stop with an Agnes B. shop behind.

On Rue Montorgueil

I love to walk down Rue Montorgueil in Paris. It’s very lively and full of restaurants and shops which are constantly changing. There’s always at least one new one each time I go, although old standards remain.

All of the streets in the area are paved like this.

One of the old places that still remains. I had lunch one time with a friend on the second floor and it was very good.

 Stohrers has been around since 1730 when the baker came to France with Marie Antoinette. It’s always winning awards for its pastries. This year it won for their chocolate eclairs. They also sell meals to go.

Don’t these look incredible? Cherries made with almond paste for sale at Storers.

The eclairs don’t look too bad either. It’s very hard to find any with vanilla creme inside like the States. They usually have chocolate creme although these come in a variety of flavors.