En-route to Santiago – France

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A lovely Singapore sunset.

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Arriving at Schiphol airport Amsterdam. After spending most of the flight from Singapore to Amsterdam ill KLM insisted Sandy be  driven to the Air France gate for the next leg of the trip in an electric car reserved for the ill and frail. Being sick however did allow Sandy to lie down on 3 seats for most of the 12 hour flight!

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Elizabeth was our warm and generous Servas host in Toulouse. Elizabeth picked us up from Mermoz metro, helped find Peters’ rucksack lost somewhere during our flight from Jakarta to Toulouse by KLM/Air France or Garuda in the previous 36 hours. Elizabeth graciously hosted us last night to a dinner of Galette complet. This is a dish from Brittany France that comprises a thin pancake base wrapped around ham, cheese and egg – very repeatable back home in our kitchen. Patrice the region coordinator returned in time to join us for dinner. This morning Elizabeth transported us to the gare at Toulouse in good time to catch our 9.11 TER train to Gaillac for the first part of our days journey. There we’ll meet cousin Di and family for lunch before 2 further train trips today. We will eventually reach Decazeville from where we resume our May 2013 unfinished Camino after taking a train to Ville-Franc then an ‘auto-car’ (bus) onto Decazeville. When here last year a train ran between Ville-Franc and Decazeville but now the train has stopped and even more people are on the road. Is this progress?

We will walk only 7 kms this afternoon to tonights pre-booked gite where we’ll enjoy the demi-pension offered. If the regional speciality sausage is on the menu then Sandy may become a vegetarian for the night! !
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After completing the first days walk Peter patiently awaits the Menu Pelerin to be served – together with its unlimited ‘vin compris’ at the Bar restaurant Marie in Livinhac-le-Haut. The Pintade on the menu is guinea-fowl – poultry not served in Australia but a specialty of France and many of its former colonies. After sampling it we believe Australians are not missing anything! !
We will be served breakfast here tomorrow morning – perhaps minus the vin!
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Enjoying our well earned Pelerin dinner.
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Boots on before starting out on our 2nd days walk from Livinhac-le-Haut to Figeac. Feet are in good shape so far after yesterdays short walk.
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Our first nights refuge/gite was a delightful place – clean, friendly to non-French speakers, warm and secure – all a Pelerin could wish for.

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The centre square is in front of the Livinhac-le-Haut church and directly in front of our bedroom. Fortunately the church bells did not start ringing on the quarter hour until 7am!
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An elaborate roadside crucifix complete with stones, representing a pilgrims burdens, which they carry all the way from home and deposit along the way at crucifixes such as these.
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We were very high in the mountains – the early morning on day 2 was very foggy and misty.
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The path today was mostly on these sorts of rural tracks. We didn’t pass through another town. There was only one spot on the 26km of track between Livinhac-le-Haut and Figeac that served food and drinks – a great opportunity awaiting some canny entrepreneur.
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The remains of this old cross sits in front of the new one.

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Here is the history of the three regions through which the Camino runs in this part of France.
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The Way sometimes is a well formed road and at other times not much more than a single mountain bike track.
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A roadside medieval church left open for passers by.
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A disused well is covered up for safety reasons.
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Another ornate roadside crucifix complete with pilgrims stones.
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Day 2 picnic lunch – an idyllic environment along The Way.
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Variated roses – lovely!
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Old tiles protect young tomato plants in late spring from Mr Frost!
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A bicycle sculpture framed against the old church of St Jean Mirabel and the rural landscape.
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A seriously large French domestic vegetable garden.

Arriving in Figeac Sandy was exhausted so laid down while Peter took a stroll through the old part of town enjoying a beer at an outdoor cafe. To his amazement sitting nearby him were 3 of our fellow Tour de Darling 2013 cyclists – Noel, Danielle and Karl who were in Europe for several months cycling and camping throughout their travels.

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Everyone in the Figeac gite helped Bernard celebrate his 65th birthday. The superb 5 course dinner included a hot gazpacho soup, salad and terrine, pork steak with dauphine potatoes and garlic zucchini, a cheese platter with 3 local fromages and was finished off with the piece-de-resistance, the birthday cake complete with candles – the sort that you cannot blow out – no matter how hard you blow!
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Outside of winter animals in France are generally not shedded unless in need of protection like this cow hovering over her newborn baby calf.
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When baby is strong enough mother and calf will return to the fields with the remaining herd.
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A very pretty view can be seen looking out from the restored town of La Fayschelles.
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Irises are out in full bloom in late spring.
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Another old roadside crucifix.
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More Irises on display!
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Old shelters like this are found through out rural areas – they are often used by walkers for a dry picnic lunch spot in wet weather.
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Dappled shade shelters The Way.
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Another crucifix adorned with many scallop shells and stones.
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Most villages have a religious sculpture in the centre of their town.
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Night 3 was at the communal gite at Carjac – where not much English was spoken by management. Our reserved room identified us just as ‘ two Australians’. No evening meal was available at this gite so we enjoyed a local restaurant dinner.
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A more substantial but antiquated roadside chapel.
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Gaillac – the sun had just broken through the mornings mist.

This is where we were to meet up with cousin Di and family prior to the start of our walk for lunch. Unfortunately they had car issues on the day so our rendezvous didn’t happen but will now do so at Auvillar, just one days’ walk out of Moissac. There is a superb restaurant there with great reviews – but we’ll do our own rating after the dinner!

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Some beautiful variated French pelagoniums.
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Enjoying coffee at this cafe enroute between Carjac and Limonge-en- Quercy. The proprietor has on display numerous painted scallop shells. The mineral water is sought after by locals who come with containers to take supplies home.
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Wild orange-red Flanders poppies are everywhere in France at this time of year.
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Dinner at La Maison du Chemin gite in Limogne – at the table there were 3 native English speakers, 1 American and us 2 Australians. The rest were French walkers! It was a lively dinner table tonight – but a bit tricky following the conversation though.
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This is the regional dish called casselout. It comprises duck with Toulouse sausage and lots of white beans. Delicious!

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Peter enjoying his time in the ‘green room’ surveying all the damp laundry waiting to be dried. This was a superb private gite run by a couple who had completed several different Caminos in the past and now wanted to provide quality hospitality for pilgrims. They felt they knew what pilgrims really appreciated – very true! Their attention to detail was just fantastic – from the decor to the warm welcome to the food.
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Most on The Way are two legged but today we met this delightful group – husband and wife from Marseille who have ‘rented’ this pack horse (or is it a donkey) for 6 months and together they have walked from Paris to Limogne-en-Quercy. The goal is to reach Santiago within 6 months- doing it even more slowly than the average hikers speed.
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Today’s track surface was better than on previous days with fewer loose rocks to contend with.
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Another crucifix – this one in poor shape and repaired roughly with string.
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This is what remains of a rural communal washing facility near Le Pech. It was used by the community for both personal hygiene and clothes washing in times gone by.

This region was the setting for the books Chocolat and Peaches for Monsuir le Cure and it will be good to find some of the features mentioned in these books.
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One of our fellow French walkers inside our difficult to find rural gite at Le Pech called ‘Elisa’. It was a very steep climb up to the gite from the path.
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Getting ready to leave ‘Elisa’ next morning after a restful evening.
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Late spring brings much beauty to the French gardens.
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Water points for thirsty walkers are provided by some caring landholders along the way.
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An uphill but shady climb in the early morning light.
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It’s been awhile since this rusty bike has been ridden.
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Lush green scenery like this has inspired so many European painters!
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A ruined tower along The Way.
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We enjoyed a coffee here but had to wait for them to open at 10am – walkers start too early for this business!
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A perfect yellow iris.
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Our destination tonight is looking enticing.
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We arrived and the gite lives up to its photographs – the pool and the climbing roses are magnificent! Rooms are OK but bathroom and laundry facilities are a bit short on for 8 people!
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Superb climbing roses grace the verandahs.
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Terrine was the special entree served as part of the demi pension tonight. We’ll have it again on tomorrows baguette sandwiches – Sandy’s getting to like variations of terrine and sausage – there’s not been much choice for 6 days.
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Every French house has an outdoor eating area – usually somewhere in full sun. Eating in the sunshine appeals to those living here in this cold European climate. An outdoor pizza oven is also featured in most rural gardens.
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We walked through this quaint village en route to Montcuq.
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We’ve spent 2 nights with these 4 charming French girlfriends at 2 different gites. Unfortunately we were not always able to keep up with their pace during the day – they had youth on their side!
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Limestone, (calcium carbonate), is the dominant rock in the surface soil profile – hence the white coloured roads and farmer’s fields in this region.
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Our lunch break was beside a village well enroute to Montcuq.
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Charming village dwellings line the narrow streets. These wooden scarecrows embellish the front door- perhaps Peter’s next project?
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An intact dry rock emergency shelter along The Way.
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A modern day horticultural use for a millstone in Montcuq.
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Our charming gite at Montcuq was a former stable.
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The stables were situated in the grounds of a old mill. Formerly the waters were diverted through the mill but the mill ceased operations when electricity arrived. Now the river has adopted this new course which lies in front of the gite/stables and guests enjoy a paddle or cool swim here on a hot day.
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The chef with his many knives served us a French version of sushi using the tubes from the leek vegetable instead of seaweed, ie Nori. It was different but delicious. Each night our demi pension dinners have been a delightful romp through rursl French cuisine.
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Dinner at Montcuq had these 2 wonderful local cheeses.
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Gerard, an Australian who shared the evening at the gite with us. We were able to speak English together- a real treat!
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Leaving Montcuq Tuesday morning for Lauzerte after a good night in the stables.
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This sign shows we still have a very long way to walk from Montcuq to Santiago.
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A different French poppy – a double flower – and it’s red rather than the commonly seen red- orange coloured Flanders poppy.

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Early birds get the worms. No sleep in’s allowed to make the distance required each day.

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A mid morning break to visit this infrequently used chapel below – only used now by locals for baptisms, weddings and funerals.
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Our target destination – the bastide town is still a distance away with a sharp uphill climb at the end.
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Two colourful front gardens, made up entirely of pots, seen in the bastide town of Lauzerte.
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We made it to our hilltop destination of Lauzerte. It was a tiring day’s walk that was rated easy!!!! We didn’t think so.
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Last nights room shows the monastic simplicity of communal gite accommodation. We had the whole 2nd floor to ourselves – the bathroom was next door so it could be said we almost had an en-suite!
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The Cafe du Commerce in Lauzerte where we spent some time outdoors enjoying the sunshine with other tired walkers.
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This Lauzerte refuge is for Franciscan monks
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There are many different varieties of snails in this part of the world. We’re not sure if these are the edible sort!
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Some stunning roses are grown here in Lauzerte.
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And pelagoniums.
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The central courtyard of the Ancien Carmel gite – now used to grow vegetables and flowers. The order of nuns left here long ago but this beautiful sunny space continues to be enjoyed by gite guests.
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The cross at the ancien carmel gite, in Moissac.
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Modern sculpture compliments the architecture of the nearby Moissac cloisters and cathedral built in the middle ages.
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In times gone, before people used watches, church bell ringers used the sun dial seen here on the face of the cathedral to know when it was time to ring the cathedral bell.
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This is Tim who hails from Belgium. He’s a fellow pilgrim who volunteered his services to run the gite for a few weeks till his knee recovers sufficiently to continue walking. Tim was a solid lad and reminded us of Friar Tuck – of Robin Hood fame! He was walking BAREFOOT to his destination of Santiago – a walking style he’d adopted 15 years ago. He’d walked many religious routes in Europe this way – his feet must be very tough indeed!
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A painting depicting a pilgrim on The Way hangs at the entrance to the Moissac gite.
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Early evening view of Moissac from our bedroom window.

Moissac will remain etched in our memories for some time. It was here we broke our daily pilgrim walk for Sandy to seek medical help at Moissac General Hospital for a painfully inflamed infected cyst which lay underneath her rucksack strap. Surgery was conducted that day.
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Recovery is happening at Castleneau de Montmiral, a beautiful bastide town near Gaillac where Sandy’s cousin Di lives in a delightful 17th century townhouse. The patio overlooks this wonderful view of French agriculture.

We are here for a week while they enjoy a week on a canal boat further south in France.

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Here is the typical French housewife/madame preparing a regional masterpiece in Di’s newly renovated kitchen!
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Di grows this lovely clematis in her densely potted easterly facing patio garden. The patio is just a riot of colour here in early summer – Di’s labour of love.
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Peter enjoying his favourite lunch – a baguette with regional
soft cheese eaten outdoors with a glass or 2 of the local red wine thrown in!
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Sandy enjoys it too! It’s clearly medicinal and aiding her recovery.
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It’s been a very quiet week here enjoying the simple pleasures of rural French life – without wheels or much public transport. Despite this we’ve enjoyed our peaceful stay, especially the birdlife on the patio during the day, the Tuesday village market, the daily visits to the boulangerie and drinks at the local bar tabac.
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And the late sunsets. Dinner is always eaten outside  in the warm weather – no mosquitos to content with here in this part of rural France.
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Last morning at Di and Dave’s at Castleneau de Montmiral.
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Di’s elusive cat, Hannah is delighted to see her back home.
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One of many fledglings that frequent the patio for food.

We left Di’s for Gaillac to catch a train to Toulouse in readiness for our flights to Canada tomorrow. What we didn’t know was that a lightning train strike had been called and no trains were operating from that rail station on Saturday. There were a small number of buses in their place however they were full by the time they reached Gaillac.
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Awaiting the bus at Gaillac which when it came by was completely full so couldn’t take us to Toulouse after all.
There were some feelings of panic but when theyvpassed our transport dilemma was solved by taking a 90euro shared taxi with 2 French women reaching Toulouse and our Marriott hotel a bit later than planned.

But we got here and are now ready for tomorrow’s flight to Montreal at 8am flying with an unknown to us, but well respected Canadian carrier called Air Transat.

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2 Responses to En-route to Santiago – France

  1. Margo Hodge says:

    Dear Sandy and Peter,

    Sorry to hear that you weren’t well on your next leg of the trip.

    All went well with the Yum Cha lunch for Refugee scholarship. We raised $450. I enjoyed the International Music Festival. Also had 2 excellent theatre shows!!

    I hope all goes well for your next part of the trip, Love, Margo

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