Tour: This was a day of extremes! It was so cold (we wore long underwear and turned up the heat) last night – the temperature was around 40 F – and it is still chilly this morning. The route is much improved, better maintained, with a well-engineered gentle grade as we climbed 500 ft throughout the morning through conifer forest. We see evidence of some logging (using the thinning-out technique) and occasional clearings to splendid views. At the crest, we briefly stopped at the former 12th century Templar hospital. It is very windy (15 knots with higher gusts) all along the pass. On the far side, weather is clearing, sunny, and 20 F warmer (a very welcome change!). After passing two small shrines to St Roch (a fountain and a chapel), we descended all afternoon to Saint Alban. Several times we crossed paths with the group of French we first met at the Sauges gite – they are using Transbaggages to send their luggage on ahead each day, so they are walking with very light packs and can cover more ground comfortably. In the afternoon we are passed by a German tour group (9 walkers and 10 cyclists), who are making Saint Jean Pied de Port (SJPP – at the Spanish border) in 10 days travel. They had a bus with a bike trailer; it acts as a “sag wagon”. It’s nice to exercise my German a bit, chatting with this group as we pass.
Lodging: CH Les Genets
Cuisine: For our last evening together as a pilgrim band of five, we splurged on a wonderful meal at La Petite Maison. We started with two amuse-bouches: a mini terrine of smoked salmon pate with croutons, and a mini tureen of Potage St Germain. We had our choice of starters: fresh asparagus with cured ham and shaved parmesan, or duck foie gras terrine with prunes and gingerbread. There were two choices for main course: lamb and chevre ragout en pappiotte with ratatouile, or poached whole trout with cumin-crusted carrots. The cheese course was fresh cheese (like a coeur de creme) with a fresh berry coulis. Dessert was a choice of crepes flambe or chocolate bombe. We had a bottle of local merlot to wash it all down.
Grace: It was a long, hard day with many painful steps. We are grateful to recall a mantra from our friend Emily, “Trust in goodness, Calm and peaceful, Strong and healthy, Slow and steady.” These words prove to be very helpful during some of the really difficult stretches.