Anglès looked much better this morning in the sunshine than it did yesterday in the fog. It's a pilgrim-friendly town, with an inexpensive municipal hostel for those who stop overnight and public toilets and drinking water for those who pass through. The bakery opens at 6:30 and the epicèrie at 7:30 for picnic supplies. We headed out of town past a field of curious cows and into the woods in the crisp morning air.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
It might be argued that there is nothing particularly spiritual about a pilgrimage. To the contrary, it takes us back to the most basic, most animal human occupations: walk all day, eat, drink, sleep. Keep out of the rain, shelter from the sun. Go off the path to answer the call of nature. Find a safe place to rest in the dark hours. Nothing else to worry about.
Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat.
You become aware of your body, attuned to its needs and to its capabilities. If you treat it well, "brother donkey" will take you farther than you ever thought possible.
A chunk of cheese and a piece of bread by the trail tastes better than a four-course meal in a restaurant.
Water from a fountain tastes better than an expensive wine.
A single daffodil in a mountain meadow contains more beauty than an entire garden.
A wheatfield in Spring is so green it stops you in your tracks.
Perhaps this is what is spiritual about a pilgrimage.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Monday, April 23, 2018
Gervais-sur-Mare - Murat-sur-Vèbre
25 km - 1159 m elevation gain
The greatest danger facing the hiker in France is not wild boar, or bulls, or even derelict old stone bridges, but the risk of starvation. Especially on a Sunday!
French villages consist entirely of houses, and the occasional church (normally kept closed). Places of business are few and far between, at least compared to Italy; some towns seem to have none at all. Whether this means the local people are entirely self-sufficient, or that they drive to the supermarket in the nearest big city, I do not know, but it is most inconvenient when on a Long Walk, when your body is consuming about double its usual number of calories and demanding compensation!
Saint-Gervais-etc.-etc. is one of the rare towns you come across on the GR653 that is actually big enough to have a grocer, a baker, a pizzeria AND a brasserie. Unless it happens to be Sunday, that is. In which case the only enterprise open for business is the brasserie. And when you ask for the vegetarian menu advertised on the blackboard, they say they cannot make it today. Why not? Because it's Sunday, and the greengrocer is closed. Couldn't they have bought enough vegetables on Saturday to last through Sunday? is the question that comes naturally to mind. But even if I were capable of framing the question in French (couldn't you... if you... surely requires the subjonctif, or the conditionelle - maybe even both!) it wouldn't do much good at this point in time. So I settle for what the waiter manages to rustle up, which involves a lot of carbohydrates and not much actual nourishment, and pay 12 euros for it - as much as a night at a gîte communal.
The following morning, it being Monday, the grocer is still closed but at least the bakery is open. Sweet croissants for breakfast, savoury croissants to take along for lunch, accompanied by bread - more carbohydrates!