22 Sep 10: Figeac to Grealou

Route: 20.3 km with 500 ft climb

Tour: The day started with a good climb out of town to the ridgetop, about 300 ft in 30 minutes. Then it was walking along paved country byways along the ridgetop. The route entirely to Faycelles is pavement or road shoulder, which is very hard on my feet. I was underway at 8:15 and reached Faycelles 11:00. This is an interesting Gothic church, quite large to be so isolated. But, we are on a hilltop, so perhaps this was the area fortress during the long wars. Figeac is a large place with extensive suburbs, which took an hour to transit (after climbing the ridge!). The light industrial area included a plant for fois gras and other regional specialties; their factory-direct store was hard to pass up! There are fewer walkers today, all French so far (lots of people I met earlier were only going as far as Figeac). The French are quite distressed that I am walking alone “and have no one to talk to you”. But I find peacefulness in walking alone, both quiet and my own pace, that I do not get when walking with companions, whether new friends or old. The countryside views here are bucolic but nothing special. The afternoon walk was more level, with a better quality footpath, ending uphill. With an 81 F afternoon, it was a 3-liter day.

Lodging: Atelier des Volets Bleus (Highly recommended)

Cuisine: Breakfast at the Hotel Pont D’Or was the most robust yet this trip, with yogurt, cold cuts, cold cheeses, hot scrambled eggs (frozen) in addition to the usual French menu. Also hard-boiled eggs that were overcooked and had broken shells. (The French just don’t understand how to do eggs for breakfast.) Lunch at La Forge in Faycelles was the plat du jour – roast pork with sauted peppers and mashed potatoes. Dinner at the gite was home-cooked Swiss rosti potatoes (hash browns) topped with fried eggs sunnyside up, along with a green salad and a karottensalat (pickled beets, grated carrots, diced tomatoes and cucumber). The pilgrims cooked for each other from supplies provided in the kitchen.

Grace: This tiny gite created a gem of community. The owner is Swiss, while the guests were a German, me, another Swiss, and an Austrian, all women. Conversation ganz auf Deustch with occasional exceptions for my sake. I could follow about half the discussion (topic and sentiment but not the details). I am finding it is so nice to be able to discuss the day’s adventures with other walkers who have shared similar. Lodging by myself at the hotels offers more privacy, and more conveniences, but much less companionship. There are many expats in this area; two Brit ladies stopped by to chat with Madame; one had lived here 18 years. Madame has lived here 27 years, with the gite open for 7 years. This is a depopulated area, so property is much cheaper (especially cheaper than the UK). Madame is an artist, so the gite is done in wonderful colors. The feel of the place is wonderful, family, accepting, home. A real gem, very highly recommended, especially for women and any German-speakers. There was much discussion at the table of the pilgrim experience along other parts of the Camino. In Germany, one can start as least as far north as Cologne; the trails are in excellent condition but uncrowded (our Cologne pilgrim started from home and walked 400 km before seeing her first pilgrim; she took the route through Cluny to Le Puy). In Spain there is a huge mix of nationalities, and hardly anyone (except the Spanish) speak Spanish. In Norway, one must carry complete sleeping gear and food, not much different from the Appalachian Trail. In the UK, walking paths are beautiful, especially in Cornwall, but lodgings are B&B rather than hostels, so it is expensive.

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