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Learning to Walk, Days 33-34, September 29-30, Eauze to Aire sur L’Adour (by vehicle)

September 30, 2022

Sometimes learning to walk is learning when to stop, or you won’t be able to keep walking! My feet and the rest of my body said, “Enough!” So I have had two rest days, and feel so much better. I think I already wrote about how wonderful the Gite Chez Nadine was, where I stayed the last two nights in Eauze. Nadine and Francis are wonderful hosts and they have created such a beautiful, spacious gite. Nadine is an amazing cook. We had five course meals both nights! They began with a touch of Armagnac with champagne, and finished with Armagnac, and in between were two or three appetizers (called entrees here, which is confusing for an American), then the main course, then dessert. Last night’s meal included a perfectly boiled egg on top of salad from her hens, then delicious mussels, then steak with pate on top, then the best chocolate mousse I’ve ever had. And there was something before the egg and salad that I can’t remember. Gite owners are such generous, hospitable folks. I think most of them probably don’t do much more than break even, and they really care about pilgrims/walkers.

Here are some photos from the church in Nogaro, Collegiale St. Nicholas, where we had a couple of hours before catching the bus. It dates back to the 11th century. It’s beautiful and has a very important old fresco that is one of the earliest to depict pilgrims, and tells the story of the martyrdom of St. Laurent. And you’ll have to google that story, because I haven’t! Looking at how immense this church is, it just amazes me that they had architects and builders that could do this a thousand years ago without any modern technology.

Aire sur L’Adour is a lovely town, obviously doing better than some of the other towns we’ve been through. Not sure what the pink umbrellas are about, but they catch your eye. And there are more of the stunning French clouds.

The Cathedral of St. Jean-Baptiste was founded in the 11th century, destroyed twice and rebuilt in the 19th century. My guidebook says it has a historic organ, but I don’t know any more about it than that.

I’m staying in a very unique gite tonight, the Chapel of the Ursulines. Chapel of a former Ursuline convent build in the late 19th century, abandoned in the early 20th century, fell into great disrepair, was bought privately and restored. It is a wonderful environment. And there is a massage therapist giving twenty minute massages for a donation. Heaven.

I realized a couple of weeks ago that I am not going to be able to walk the entire way to St. Jacques/Santiago as I had originally planned. And that’s okay. The guide books and Facebook groups where people tell you it takes 30-35 days for each route are based on walking at least 25 – 30 km a day, sometimes more, and I have discovered that I simply cannot do that. And I don’t want to. I want to take time to pause and look around, to go into all the churches I pass, to explore the villages and towns I stay in a bit. People who are walking longer days are either in MUCH better physical condition than I am, younger, or are walking such long days that all they can do is walk, shower, do laundry, eat and go to bed. I’m not interested in that! My feet start complaining before I reach 20 km, and I want to be able to enjoy the trip. So I will have to skip some parts. I hope today’s bus ride will be the last I need to take in France. I am really enjoying walking in France and want to finish walking the Chemin. I really want to be able to walk over the Pyrenees, but it all depends on the weather when I get there. The path over is closed at the moment because there were bad storms the last couple of days and some very bad falls on the slippery paths down. The path over is called the Napoleon route. It closes for the season at the end of October. So if the weather cooperates, I will be able to take it. If not, I’ll take the Valcarlos route, which is the one used in the winter and in bad weather. It goes through the valley, and while there is some climbing, it does not have the same climb as going up and over. While I very much want to take the Napoleon route, have that experience and see the spectacular views, I will of course listen to the authorities and take the Valcarlos if the weather is bad or iffy. After six weeks or so of walking, with all the climbs and descents involved in the Chemin, I should be in good shape for the climb so I hope the weather cooperates.

Once I get to Spain I will figure out what portions I need to skip over. There are some walks through industrial areas as you enter the big cities, and I will look for busses at those points. And many people skip the Meseta, which I understand is 180 km. Others say, “No! Why would you skip the Meseta!” It is walking for days across a flat plain through fields, and I have discovered that the long, flat stretches of walking are my least favorite. If I skip the Meseta I might have time to walk most of the rest of it. Other people rent a bike and cycle across the Meseta, returning it at the end of it. That’s a possibility. I don’t need to decide any of this yet!

Here is a photo from the end of dinner last night that I shared on FB, but don’t think I shared here. Armagnac. Last night’s dinner was so interesting, even though I was really suffering with my cold. There were five retired doctors around the table, two retired business executives (the seven of them were decades-long friends and traveling together), a retired nurse and her husband, a retired environmentalist, a psychologist and a pastor. We pretty much had the bases covered: could care for body, mind, soul, the earth and take care of business. And of course our wonderful hosts who built the gite themselves and are wonderful cooks. We could have created our own complete society!

Armagnac is really good when you have a cold.

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  1. this is wonderful ! . . .I’m enjoying every entry …that these beautiful churches and towns still exist is so fantastic..surving “progress” and war….amazing .
    respect and admiration for what you’re doing….D.

  2. Lovely post. I like the idea of a ready made community sharing Armagnac and fine food. Glad to hear you are making the wise choi e to savour the parts of the route you really want to see and are able to do. Loving reading your entries; I’m sorry I am so far behind but in on a far smaller scale I want to take my time following your journey. Thank you for sharing such an amazing experience with us x

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