11 Sep 11: Moissac to Auvillar

Route: Moissac to Auvillar  21 km

Route was along the canal and due to be 17 km. But I stayed on the left bank, missing connection to the big bridge from the right bank over the canal, and covered an extra 3 km before getting everything sorted ( Belgian pilgrims, local fishermen, wayside residents etc – it really is handy knowing a bit of French!). Along the canal is really quite nice and I admit to being very jealous of the canal boats. But that’s another trip. I was moving at the same pace as a group of 8 (7 women and 1 man) from Normandy who had stayed at the same gite in Moissac. Several spoke English and we were old friends by the end of the day. Also saw a group of 5 Dutch; Rom Bates says he’s seen many more Dutch this year and fewer Germans. The Dutch wear orange shirts; it’s a bit like a Clemson game. This is another GD hilltown; although I suspect if I were residing here during the Hundred Years War, I would be grateful for these steep slopes and the protection from bloodshed and famine they afford. At the moment however, I am not grateful.Except, of course, for the view and the breeze.

Lodging: Clos d’Alange  is a new place operated by a young Belgian woman. Her father is German, and her French is scant – English works better. The only problem is her location: nearly 1 km out of town and up the hill. I don’t know how this is even possible: isn’t a hilltop town supposed to be at the top of the hill? She has a little two- bed German style cabin, freestanding, with shower, toilet, sink and kitchenette (sink, 2-burner cooker, microwave, coffeemaker, toaster, 5 cu ft fridge). Exceptionally well stocked German style breakfast with enough left over to make a nice lunch. But I wanted a real meal for dinner, not a German evening picnic. So she drove me down to town for dinner (she picked a restaurant and made a reservation for me) then retrieved me afterwards.

Cuisine: Dinner was simple in an outdoor seating area, but the food was exceptionally well prepared. “Du Tourisme” and they have a pilgrim menu, which I took. Starter was poached eggs (done perfectly, best eggs I’ve had in France yet) on a toasted baguette slice with foie gras sauce; tomato salad on the side. Just magnificent! Main was confit de canard with a side of potatoes fried in duck fat. Scrumptious! Les Normands at the next table had the salad of duck parts (sliced breast, fried gizzards, big slice of foie gras on top of large plate of greens vinagrette) which they raved about. For dessert I had three scoops of ice cream (French scoops are the size of golf balls): rum-raisin, prune-armagnac, and vanilla. I’m not sure whether this is gelato or not, but it is intensely flavored, very consistent in quality from town to town, and rapidly becoming my favorite way to end a meal. I spent a delightful evening getting to know Les Normands better. Everyone thinks I am very brave to attempt Ronceveaux.

I tool some ducky leftovers back for Cibou, rescued by my hosts from an abusive owner who starved and beat her. She is a large white farm dog, maybe Great Pyrenees mix (looks a lot like Hector, for those of you who know Olga and Doug). A very sweet girl, stood up on her hind legs to give me a big hug.

Overcast and in mid 70s today but so chilly tonight I wore my jacket for the first time.

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