Saturday, 31 August 2013

Down at the farm

Around 5.30 I heared the first movements and slipped out of the room trying not to disturb Anavery. I put the coffee on and settled down to a large bowl of cereal while Tim had a cigarette and Carolina did her final packing. At 6 I said that I would wake Anavery but found him sitting in bed reading his texts. Carolina and Tim left at 6.10 she thanked me warmly for what she and I had shared. Tim said that he hoped that we would meet again on the Chemin. After they had gone I made my final preparations. Anavery said that he had really enjoyed our conversations and wished me well.
Starting today really felt like a new stage in my pilgrimage and I felt that the day off had served me in so many ways.
Dawn had not really broken as I set out. I tarried on the Pont Louis Philippe enjoying the cool air and the quiet of the town. As I walked along the banks of the Lot I said first the Angelus and then Ps 94. I wondered whether I would meet Tim on his way back from the station. It was wonderful to have the Pont Valentre to myself and I made sure that I spotted the devil! Since I had checked out the ascent I knew what to expect. It was nothing compared to Conques! I was soon on a wide path in a rocky valley leading away from Cahors. I reflected on the experience with my friends and wandered happily on.
At my second stop I met Yves and Marie Martine from Provence. Yves spoke very good English and told me that the path was much quieter now on. Apart from them I only met one other person today. Strangely the  two churches on the route were both closed. As the heat of the day built I passed a delightful village qnd I knew that my lodging for the night were between it and Montcuq. The only problem was that I didnt know where! About two km beyong the village there was a sign saying Monastere. At the acceuil I remember that the two ladies had mentioned a Monastere which would be a good place to stay. I followed the signs for 20 minutes but couldnt find either the monastere or a gite!
I retraced my steps. I was reconciled to finding somewhere to stay in Montcuq when I found a stone with an indecipherable name but with a telephone number which coincided with the one on my list. A short distance further on there was a second stone which said Ferme de Bouysse 1.5km. The first 0.5 was on the route and then I had to turn off down a very steep hill for what seemed an interminable km!
Eventually I came out of the woods and found myself in front of a beautiful farm. Two dogs approched me barking loudly. One of them seemed a little threatening. As I watched them a lady made her way down the steps: 'vous etes Gerard' she said and ushered me up the steps. You must need a beer! I put my things down and entered a wonderful farmhouse kitchen. Gisele sat at one side of a massive table and spoke with me as I enjoyed my beer. She explained that neither she nor her husband spoke a word of English! She showed me where I could do my washing and then took me to my room. It was enormous containing a huge double bed, two single beds, and space for a party. There were real sheets on the bed and towels in the bathroom!
Gisele left me to shower and then I did my washing. I returned to the room and promptly fell asleep for half an hour. Eventually when I went outside to read Gisele was pottering in the kitchen. I met her husband Jean Pierre outside. I offered to pay Gisele and she commented that It was dangerous to do so before I had eaten! She took my money €28! and stamped my pilgrims passport. I had the curious thought that so far the most expensive place to stay had been the Monastery of Conques!
Supper was served at 7. When I arrived I discovered that there were only three places set. Basically it was Gisele, her husband, and I. Jean Pierre arrived with aperitifs and then we settled into a banquet of soup, beans tomatoes eggs and melon, deliciously tender steaks, cheese and lettuce, and creme caramel! I would lie if I said that the conversation flowed but we had a great time for nearly two hours.
We agreed that breakfast would be at 6.30 and then there was a delighful touch. Jean Pierre reminded me that my socks were still on the line and suggested that I bring them in to air inside! I was taken aback by both the thoughtfulness and graciousness of these two people.
Needless to say I had a wonderful nights sleep. I was up around 5.30 getting my things ready. Around 6.20 I heared movements upstairs. Jean Pierre was busy making toast when I went into the kitchen. There were five different types of home made jam, home made yoghurt and the Creme Caramel from the night before! I noticed that the remains of the melon had been wrapped up as Gisele had suggested that I could use them on the way! During dinner Gisele said that Jean Pierre alays has soup for breakfast and, sure enough, he sat down with a bowl full. I noticed an inscription over the fireplace : 'Il n'y a pas le chemin vers le bonheur, le bonheur c'est le chemin'!
We chatted away and, just as I was going to make my final preparations Gisele appeared. I filled into the visitors book and noticed that it was more than 10 days since their last guests. When I returned to the kitchen with my pack on my back Gisele was coming in with four tomatoes for me. She carefully washed them, wrapped them in kitchen towel and stuffed them into my pack. As she watched me put on my sandals she asked whether I wore them in England. Doesnt it get a little cold in winter she asked. As I took leave of her the final word she said was 'ultreia'.
There was a another gesture to their overwheming generosity. The previous evening I had asked whether I had to return up the path. No there is a shorter alternative they said. This morning Jeqn Pierre was ready with a map. He took me round the back of the house until a shaded lane was obvious. He warned me that when I came to the first road I should go straight across. He then shook my hand warmy and wished me a good chemin. The dogs ran down the lane with me but, when I looked back, Jeqn Pierre had already gone. They were both an object lesson in hospitality.

1 comment:

  1. There is no way to happiness , happiness is the way. A wise adage. But the way has to be identified and your journey is an ideal means of identification.