Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The last few days.....

Yesterday (Monday) morning we ate breakfast in Lascabanes with some of the other pilgrims, and we were all optimistic about the weather, as it had rained overnight but seemed to be finished. We set off at 8AM, and it was quite beautiful climbing out of Lascabanes, and looking back to see the little church steeple in the village. While walking I was noticing the slugs on the trail, and thinking that we hadn't seen snails for quite awhile (this is what you think about when walking!). Just after that we came upon some bushes that were covered with a variety of snails, all different colors and sizes. We spent about ten minutes taking photos of them! Other pilgrims breezed by and didn't even see them. We also enjoyed watching a lovely black horse galloping around his corral, and acting really playful. His owner was walking by, and he was reacting to her. We suspect he is a racehorse, as he was magnificent, and the ranch had high security gates, etc.

Gite in Lascabanes - early morning
View of Lascabanes as we left
The town of Montcuq was our rest stop, and even though it was Monday, there was a cafe open, and more importantly, a boulangerie! After a hot chocolate and some pizza, plus two quiches in the backpack for lunch, we headed out to do the last 7 km to Montlauzun, our destination for the night. The countryside was beautiful, a patchwork of fields, some corn, some grapes. We passed through a farmyard with a little table that had an urn of coffee on it for pilgrims. We have seen several of those in our travels here, and it's always very touching! The village of Montlauzun is visible from a distance, as it has a church steeple on top of a hill, so we knew we would be climbing at the end. When we got to the top we found our Chambre d'hôtes, the church, and the town hall, and that was it! We sat on a bench near the church and ate our lunch, and were joined by a German pilgrim who had stayed at our gite the night before. He was hoping to have a beer, but no luck! After visiting with us he carried on to the next town.

The place we are staying at is called Ancien Presbytere, run by a British couple, who are very friendly and are pilgrims themselves. It is a converted abbey, very close to the church, and has a tremendous view of the countryside. The building itself is very stately, and beautifully built, with walls about a metre thick. Our room was on the second floor, with a wonderful view, and our own bathroom across the hall. This is the Chambre d'hôtes section, but they also have beds upstairs in a dormitory, that is the gite section. Last night we ate dinner with another pilgrim, a French lady, and we had cantelope and thinly shaved ham for the appetizer, then roast duck confit, green beans and roasted potatoes for the main course, and apple tart for dessert. A nice red wine accompanied it.

View from our window in Montlauzun
Today, Tuesday, we woke up to rain and fog......I will finish this post later when we have wifi.

Later....what a morning! We put off leaving until 9:30am, hoping the rain would ease off. No luck, it absolutely poured, and before long we were mucking about on muddy slippery paths- the muck sticks to your boots like glue, which is not terrific, as your feet feel like lead! One part of the path soon after leaving Montlauzun, had ropes tied to the bushes to grab onto and hoist yourself up the hill! Thankfully we didn't need them. By the time we arrived in Lauzerte for a break, we were ready for it. No sooner had we gotten a table and we were joined by our Aussie friends that we had met in Cahors- they had cheated this morning and had taken a taxi for part of the walk, to escape the rain. She has a broken wrist, so they had a good excuse. They were staying in Lauzerte for the night, but we'll see them again in Moissac tomorrow.

Leaving Lauzerte
Lauzerte from a distance
Building for??
St. Sernin Church, on the way to Durfort-Lacapelette
We bought a clump of these grapes- really good!
We had to get some food in Lauzerte, and ended up having omelettes in a restaurant, but the service was so slow that we were there for about two hours by the time we finished eating. It made for a really long day, as we arrived at our gite in Dufort-Lacapelette at 4:45 pm. That is late for us! I am making pasta for supper, as there is nowhere to eat in this town, so should be fun. Russ has poured the wine, which was an important part of the meal :)

Photos are attached....we didn't take many today, due to the rain.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saint Cirq-Lapopie to Lascabanes

Leaving Cambrerets on Thursday, we climbed up a rocky path which eventually led to the Pech Merle Caves. Unfortunately we didn't get a tour in English, as we would have had to reserve two days ahead, but we were given an easy to read booklet to carry with us, which was fine. The tour took about an hour, and was well worth it! We saw many drawings that were very well preserved, and dated back 25,000 years. The caves were beautiful, with so many different shapes of stalactites and stalagmites. We thought they did a good job with the lighting, as it was subtle, and they limit the number of people walking through at any given time, so it did not feel crowded. We highly recommend this stop on the Chemin, but book ahead if you want to be sure to have a guided tour in English! No photos are allowed, but there are some on the website, pechmerle.com.

It was about noon by the time we finished our tour, and with a chocolate bar to fortify us (no food for sale at the caves!) we hit the trail. In Bouzies we were hoping to find food, but no luck, it was afternoon and the only restaurant was closed. We sat in the park by the river and cleaned up our remaining emergency rations - trail mix, nuts and cereal bars. It was not satisfying, but kept us going which was the main thing. The walk to Saint Cirq was stunning. It follows the river Lot, and part of the path has literally been carved out of the rock. Eventually a steep path takes you up to the village, and we had the unfortunate luck to get stuck behind a large walking group! This has happened to us a couple of times now. We had enough energy (after eating some food) to explore the village after we had checked into our hotel, and took quite a few photos of the older medieval buildings there.

Walking to Bouzies on the way to Saint Cirq.
Path carved out of the rock on the way to Saint Cirq
Church in Saint Cirq
Saint Cirq houses (cemetery behind)
Leaving Saint Cirq in the early morning mist
On the way to Pasturat
The next day (Friday) we walked to Les Mazuts, which is about 5 km past Pasturat. We had booked a Chambre d'hôtes that was in the middle of nowhere, but the distance worked out for us, so it was fine. We ate dinner "en famille" that night with the owner and her fourteen year old daughter. Had roast duck legs, mashed potato & celery root, green salad, goat cheese, and an apple tart. Oh, and rosé wine. Interesting dinner conversation, as we were all struggling to communicate!

Yesterday (Saturday) was a beautiful walk to Cahors, about 15 km, and we chose the alternate route in MMDD which follows the river. We enjoyed it so much - the path meanders through trees, beside huge vegetable gardens, and of course the river is lovely too. The main route into town goes up a small mountain, so I'm sure the views of the city would be great, but we wanted flat terrain yesterday! We thought Cahors was a beautiful city. On the way to our hotel we found stores to purchase all the items we had needed for sometime, but couldn't buy in the small villages we've been staying in lately. Most of them don't even have grocery stores, and there is not one pharmacy in the Cele Valley. Once our errands were completed, we did a bit of sightseeing, and then bumped into some pilgrim friends at a sidewalk cafe. They introduced us to some people we hadn't met yet, and we all ended up having dinner together. It was so enjoyable! Of the seven people, there were three Canadians, one American, one German, and two Aussies. The Aussie couple were staying in Cahors for a rest day today, so we're hoping we see them again. Some of the others are staying at the same place we are at tonight (Gite-Chambre d'hôtes Le Bouy) which is in Lascabanes.

Our feet are holding up, and we're happy to be back on the GR65 again. Weather has been perfect, although rain is forecast for tomorrow. Perhaps the ponchos will get used for the first time this trip! Will provide another update when we're in a wifi zone.

Village of Lamagdelaine, across the river from the trail

Serious gardens & greenhouses on the outskirts of Cahors
Entering Cahors - view across the river
Valentre bridge, Cahors
Pilgrim dinner in Cahors