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Treading in wet boots and wet socks, and beginning to feel unsettling chills from the cold and cloud which had been too aggressive for the brief sunny spell, I made my way uphill yesterday from the Tourist Information office to the cathedral square in the town of Aire sur ‘lAdour. The very pilgrim friendly town of Aire sur ‘lAdour. Light music accompanied my cobbled walk and at first I looked up to see which window it was coming from, only to realise that this soft tuneful music was being played lightly and smoothly from speakers all the way up the street. I popped into a patisserie to buy bread and the woman behind the counter gave me such a warm, beautiful smile; enough to almost convince any pilgrim to immediately stop his Camino and spend his remaining days among the baked produce afternoon delight aromas of blissful courtship.
At the cathedral square, where I sat down on one of two metal benches to tuck into my baguette, I bumped into Xavier – a lovely pilgrim from the French town of Brive – and having asked me where I was sleeping that night and me having replied “here on this bench” he advised that I should go into the cathedral to see if they had a better option available. I tucked my baguette under my right arm and walked into the cathedral, where I was given the tip from one of the secretaries working there that I should call in at the monastery around the corner and perhaps ask for a bed for the night there. The secretary was inside the cathedral with his colleague btw between the hours of 4-6pm to issue advice for pilgrims and also to provide the pilgrim stamp for the town (in the pilgrim passport). So, my potential night’s sleep was to be at the Monastere Saint Joseph – Communaute du Chemin Neuf:
I squelched the 50 metres to the (open) monastery gates, and entered the courtyard to ring the bell. Sister Claire arrived at the door, invited me in, and said I could stay the night. She asked if I was religious and I replied “not so much, but a little”. Her face dropped for a moment, but I had the feeling that she respected the fact that I had been honest in my response and that besides, a “little” was surely better than nothing. I interjected that I was catholic and this went down well as she was also catholic (I luckily didn’t add that I used to sneekily sip the blood of Christ when I was an alter boy in my early youth). As sister Claire briefly showed me around the monastery – my room, the showers/toilet, the kitchen – the conversation evolved to the topic of religious inclusion and exclusion (tolerance and intolerance for other religious denominations) until it was time for the very kind and helpful sister Claire to head off to early evening prayer and for me to shower up and take my rest.
The fire drill:
Show yourself at the window. Wait for the firefighters. Pray.
I showered. I shaved. I powered up my electronics. I viewed the rain and cold outside from the warmth and comfort of my private room. I gave myself a pat on the back for enduring the past few days of the rain and cold and without complaints; always having faith that on the Camino a good day follows bad. I drank a cup of green tea. I slept for 10 hours and dreamt all night of my children.
I awoke early, took my standard two coffees before I was able to begin to function as a human being, and ate some of the breakfast and lunch package which sister Claire had prepared for me on the kitchen table the evening before.
At almost 7:30am it is time for me to take a morning shower, prepare my rucksack for the day’s walk ahead, and to briefly stop by the Biblioteque to upload this post. The next town of any significance on the route is Arzacq-Arraziguet and I am 99% certain that there will be next to nothing in between except for gently rolling hill countryside interjected with some cloud, rain and sun, and an increasing number of fenced-in geese as I have now reached Foie Gras country:
The very helpful and lovely woman at the Tourist Information office yesterday explained that the southwest of France (south of the Garonne river to be specific) is gastronomically rich and I would have to agree. She also mentioned that she lost six kilos when she visited England because the food was so poor and I will return to the Tourist Information office today to vandalise her car and graffiti spray the office entrance, because everyone of sound mind and upmost taste knows that English cuisine is one of the world’s best kept secrets 🙂
What’s your opinion of English food btw?
I’d love to know.
Pls feel free to leave a comment below…