En-route to Santiago – return to France

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We’re taking the train from Toronto Union Station to Montreal then flying to Toulouse directly with Air Transat. All relatively painless we hope after saying goodbye to Meg, Nick and Finn. We’ve had 2 lovely weeks with them at The Beaches in Toronto.

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Our last meal here in Montreal included desert.That’s minature doughnuts with chocolate and caramel dipping sauce and strawberries. Portion size was enough for 6 – a real diabetic nightmare!
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Oversized model in arrivals hall at Toulouse airport Sunday morning. The sculpture is called Jurrassic Pork – not sure we’re getting the right meaning though. It’s a bit of a mystery!

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Toulouse Cathedral – very beautiful.
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Toulouse train station. An upright piano is provided for anyone to play while awaiting a train. This young group were having a whale of a time playing classical and popular pieces and the waiting customers were delighted witb the entertainment.
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Our chambre d’hote at Pugnal near Moissac. Here lies a
wonderful story of successful migration of a young British family to France 25 years ago.
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Our delightful room – a pretty outlook.
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There were only 2 other guests – a mother and daughter who proved to be great company, widening our understanding of the French way of life.
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Jenny Smithers and her gite.
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Advertising along the route for the gite.
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The path meandered along the Canal du Midi with reflections of houseboats and bridges dotted along the route.
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Checking how to build a support for a heavy vine like this wisteria that provides dense summer shade.
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We see such beautiful flowers along The Way in early summer.
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And some interesting letter box ornamentation.
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Some pilgrims carry their luggage in backpacks while others use a buggy like the one above which can be pulled by 1 or 2 people.
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The buggy isn’t suitable for all parts of The Way; like these steps approaching the town of Auvillar.
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The Halle in Auvillar where markets and festes were held in days of old.
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Auvillar is a bastide town. This is one of its gated entrances.
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Modern art graces the public space of Auvillar.
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France beats Nigeria 2-0 and the town celebrates!
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Canard was for dinner at the bar where we watched the victorious game.
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The entrance to the town gate at….
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A welcome coffee break at …….
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A busy bee is collecting his pollen.
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A beautiful potted hibiscus.
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A religious statue in front of an out of use convent. Many such places are now found in rural France – they survivedcthe reformation and then the revolution but lost their relevance when the people in their droves were attracted to the god of Mamon in the 19 & 20th century.
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The manager of Bonte Divine gite in Miradoux. This was really delightful place to stay with 5 other pilgrims from France and Switzerland.
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Our dinner companions at Bonte Divine gite – sausage kn the menu but the great company overcome the food.
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The street outlook in Miradoux.
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Misty outlook towards an old ruined 13th century castle set amongst the French fields.
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The hexaganol shape of this tower is modelled on the Knights Templar buildings they left in Jerusalem after the 4th Crusade.
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The inside of the church with the hexaganol tower.
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A delightful over abundant flowering archway leading to the house beyond.
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Still quite a few ie 999kms yet to walk to Santiago!
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An artichoke in flower beside an almost ready to eat one.
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Arriving in Lectoure we were greeted by this beautiful vista. Here we met the French couple from Lille with whom we spent considerable time over the next few days.
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Lectoure’s signs sported an unusual name for a’hotel.
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In Lectoure we found this ancient 1950 series Fiat, currently registered and a going concern.
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Entrance to our Gite for the night at Lectoure.
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Morning dressings completed! Prevention is better than cure! An old womans approach to cover pressure points with Micropore tape has worked. The tape falls off in the afternoon shower and the feet dry out till morning when the daily ritual begins again. Result = not 1 blister! It’s not about the boots at all!
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The narrow road the Camino takes out of the bastide town of Lectoure to the valley below.
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Rich green rural scenes – droughts are almost unheard of here in south west France.
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Water is found along The Way even in deserted rural towns.
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The terrain is often undulating – climbing with a pack is hard work especially on hot days such as this.
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This French gardener was pleased to show us his roses in full bloom.
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These Florabundas were stunningly beautiful.
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La Romeiu’s former glorious monastery.
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La Romeiu’s cloisters.
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Our Chambre d’hote in La Romeiu.
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There is a story in La Romeiu that during the time of the plague the town’s population was saved by a cat. The cat killed the rats and stopped the disease spreading. Since then the town people have had a special place for cats with many sculptures of them seen in public and private spaces.
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The grounds of the chapel at St. Germaine are used for summer concerts and festes – this advertisement is for a concert and dinner on Sunday July 6th. We will miss it by a day!

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Old community washing pools are no longer in use since the advent of washing machines.
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More beautiful roses along The Way.
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In Condom we stayed at this former Carmel convent. The few remaining aged nuns were unable to maintain the buildings and grounds so moved on. It is now a Gite as well as social housing for recovering substance abusers who work at the Gite. It was a great night sans any vin – something we have not experienced yet in France.
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The outdoor areas of the Gite were very inviting.

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A choir group was staying at the Gite and entertained us with a wonderful recital after dinner.
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Four Muskateers with Peter and I and a fellow French pilgrim at Condom. We’d met at Miradioux days earlier. Her shoes had broken down and she had walked barefoot to Condom the first town along The Way where she was able to replace them.
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Today’s Way showing the route markers for the GR65.
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Key medieval buildings along the route.
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The gite at the bastide town of Monreal run by Anita. It was here the next day that Sandy’s boots mysteriously disappeared. Fortunately we found the walker who put them on inadvertently before they left the gite.

Anita was a former pilgrim who now provides accommodation to walkers for 7 months a year. In the non walking months she leaves France for the warmer Spanish climate.
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Peter and our French family and friends group enjoying the well formed route here.

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Hydrangeas flower well here in July.

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We’ve walked along several former railway lines and past many former railway stations that the railways (SNCF) have sold off. This is now a small hobby farm – the rail lines are long gone.

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Each day we see acres and acres of sunflowers as well as established vines. There are many fields with new plantings so we assume that French markets for wine must be growing.

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In Eauze we experienced the annual feste with its ‘show like’ side-show alley and childrens rides. The locals were disappointed with the turnout – this could relate to the poor weather or the World Cup being played at the same time.

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Two wonderful French pilgrims we had the pleasure of meeting along The Way. Both sang in choirs in their home city of Lille and sang in beautiful harmony. Today we said goodbye to each other and their parting gift was to sing a farewell hymn in English sung in 2 parts that they’d learnt from a visiting American choir master. It was heavenly standing on the GR65 – the Camino, and listening to them sing their goodbyes to us. Just a magical experience! They set off from Eauze this afternoon by bus to Agen then train to Montauban then an overnight train to Paris and onto home to Lille by train tomorrow. Such happy and contented people they were.

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Sandy, Anne-marie, Guy, Marinette, Christine, Jean-marie, Sylviane, Jeanne and Peter gathered for Sunday evening drinks at the Cafe de France in Eauze.
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It was a wet and humid walk out of Eauze along the route to Nogaro.

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The ducks didn’t seem to mind the rain. Plump and inexpensive duck meat is the wonderful by product of the Foie Gras industry. These ducks have not yet undergone the fattening process and probably don’t know they will be for the table soon.
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A graveyard of farmer’s cars.
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The same farmer provides cafe and tea and cake at his picnic table for passing pilgrims and passers by for a mere donation.

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This spiders web was so fine it captured and held these droplets of rainwater.
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Approaching Manciet where we expected to buy a baguette for lunch. Unfortunately they were sold out so we had to settle for plastic sliced bread – a poor substitute even with some wonderful jamon on it.

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The old bull fighting ring at Manciet – this was the first of these rings seen along The Way as we approach the Basque country of France and Spain.

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The building style here is reminiscent of Tudor Britain.

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A 16th century map showing the numerous medieval Camino routes pilgrim took to Santiago de Compostela.

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This is the rural equine gite we stayed in enjoying the company of the French group who befriended us at Monreal.

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As it was cool inside the farmhouse gite Peter lit a roaring fire. Everyone then came into the living area to get warm – others from the gite, chambre d’hote as well as all the campers! It was very cosy with everyone there with boots and shoes and clothes drying in front of the fire.

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Another old rural church near our gite. This was in somewhat better condition than many we have seen – many would be deemed ‘dangerous buildings’.
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Another roadside cross complete with pilgrims pebbles placed in front. The pebbles symbolise the ‘letting go’ of the pilgrims concerns as they walk along ‘The Way’.

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This Meridian line location is aligned due south with the zero degree marker at Greenwich, London, UK. There was an argument between the British and French government as to where the zero line of longitude should fall. Britain won thanks to Lord Nelson’s unforgettable win at sea.
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Directions from Nogaro to other points of interest in the south west of France.

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Nogaro’s bull fighting ring being prepared and painted for this weeks bull fight.

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Today the rain rarely stopped and the track deteriorated significantly into a muddy mess – thanks also to the previous passage of a tractor and a horse!

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A very French scene. A 2CV was France’s peoples car- the equivalent to the VW Beetle and Britain’s Morris Mimor. It was a car for the masses which ultimately led in part to the demise of the railway network in Europe.

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Our gite tonight is in a rural area – a long wet walk from any town. However we were expected and enjoyed the evening with 6 fellow walking friends who gather each year on the Camimo for a 1 week walk.

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Birthday dinner – duck! Delicious!
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A magnolia tree blooming prolifically in Aire sur l’Adour.
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The Hotel de la Paix in Air sur l’Adour – a major renovation is needed but it was charming nonetheless!
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Pavement markers are in place for pelegrins to find their way through the town.
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French outdoor areas often have pizza ovens and wood BBQ’s. This was the largest one we’ve seen here in the SW of France.
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Not that far to go! We’ve done over 600kms from Le Puy en Velay!
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Today’s route went past this large water storage area outside of Aire sur l’Adour.
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A lunch stop should have a seat. This one didn’t but had the next best thing – it was covered!
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Pilgrims welcome!
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Miramont’s recently restored
church.
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The Miramont parish priest and a visiting pilgrim, a Parisian priest, conducted evening mass. After church the parish priest invited all the pilgrims back to his place for a drink of local wine and Flok – a sort of Armagnac type drink. Very nice but very alcoholic!
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Drinks with our fellow 6 French walkers, the Parisian priest and the unorthodox parish priest.
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Washing up after dinner at the gite – many hands make much work!
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These ducks are the cleanest ones we’ve seen for a while. They are swimming in the farms old clothes washing pool.
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Beautiful hydrangeas – two different sorts and both magnificent!
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An old church near Pimbo.
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A modern day use for a millstone at Pimbo.
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The 11th century church at Pimbo. Unfortunately as with so many in small towns in rural France it’s in need of much repair and more funds than the few remaining local parishioners can raise. Ultimately it will be another ruin!
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A local community planted fruit trees for passing pilgrims to eat and enjoy in the years ahead.
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Still quite a way to go to Santiago.
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This house has a Norman style tower built on one side. It had extensive gardens surrounding the buildings.
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An unusual colour for a rose.
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A new house built unusually with timber with a spectacular outlook down the valley beyond.

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Ski’s and snowboards were used for this unusual gate.

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This VW campervan seen at the ‘alternative’ Feste has had a very hard life. The party was still going strong as we walked past their van along the river the morning after the event – the younger set were still dancing and drinking!
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A Camino decorated tree along The Way.
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Our first glimpse of the distant Pyrenees.
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A restored mill and house – but now all locked up with a 21st century security system to keep pilgrims out.

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Some pilgrims take their dogs for the very long walk!
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An unusually large and stunning flowering hydrangea hedge.
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An unexpected sight – a eucalyptus tree in a French field!
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A welcome buvette set up for weary pilgrim travellers. A local erected this tent in their front garden and provided hot and cold drinks and a sheltered spot for us to sit for a while.

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A Mark 2 Jaguar in a farmers shed just waiting for someone with plenty of money to restore it.

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Here’s some virtual chooks for those that don’t want to bother with real poultry.

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Beware of the cats.
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More old fashioned varieties of blue flowering hydrangeas.

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Another roadside chapel in the Basque region close to the Spanish border near Arccuz. Sandy fell backwards over some uneven surfaces inside this church but fortunately didn’t hurt a ything more than her pride!

This is our English chambre d’hote hosts pet pig.

This was our English host who had come grom Cornwall and had been running the B&B here for 9 years.

Memories of the TV show the ‘Good Life’ ? Our hosts certainly knew about that story.

This was the sign to the chambre d’hote we stayed at last night. The owner, a Brit, was prepared to do almost any work going as this sign attests.

There are plenty of horses and ponies here in the south eastern part of France.

Our dinner at the gite at Navarrenx.

The scenery is becoming stunning the further south in France we go. Here locals and walkers alike enjoy being around the water.

We visited Jack in Trie-sur-Baise. He cooked a very large sausage on the mill’s wood BBQ, that comes complete with bellows, to keep it burning well.

Peter firing up the BBQ at Jacks rebuilt mill.

Here’s a ‘good luck’ rainbow seen in Trie recently.

Jack and Robbie enjoying a tipple one afternoon at a Trie bar.

A quiet drink on Saturday afternoon in summer in Trie! Beats winter in Canberra!

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