Wednesday, July 10th

Still here, at the gite, I've been invited to walk with the two people from yesterday. I still don't know their names.

St Marcel
3.5 kms out of Conques, which, I've been told, just suddenly appears. A break, sitting in a field by the road. Got slightly lost, missed a GR turning, but it doesn't matter, just followed the sign to Conques, 'til we found the trail again.


Inside the Cathedral. There's an organist somewhere, playing, and a priest in white with a black cap who's trying to light a candle on the altar. There's tourists looking at everything, some with binoculars to see the details in the carvings that adorn the columns. And the columns just soar, they're magnificent. It's all a fawn colour, but turns pink somehow in the evening when the sun comes through the grey windows.

Left the people I've been walking with at the Cafe de The. Chocolate crepe and a coffee and a taste of aligo, the regional speciality. Farewells in front of the Cathedral. I'll miss them. A few minutes later, the father reappeared with advice about the monastery, as a good place to stay. Okay then, I'll try it.

a little later
But it's not open, yet. Time for another look in the Cathedral.

The tympanum is brilliant, heaven on the left, hell on the right, guys being carried upside down through fire below, being fed to monsters, and in one detail, the hand of God itself, anointing.

More priests in white have just appeared, and a bell outside is tolling on, and on, and on, finally receding into nothingness. A service is beginning, a choir behind the priests. Now more singing as they sit, even the spoken parts are sung with call-and-response harmonies echoing; they stand again, singing; tourists behind me shuffle in and out, there's two kiddies playing among the choir, and I suspect that may be it. No, there's a blessing of the choir. Yes, that's it. They must realize that this is mostly a show for the tourists, like me.

The Monastery, the Hote de la Pelerins
Hoping to get a bed here, in the monastery. I'm already kind of booked in at the other Gite here, if adding my name to a list of other names pinned to the front door amounts to booking in. But here's better. Been told to wait 15 minutes, although that was 20 minutes ago. This could be an experience that I'll still be talking about in years to come, although it may be a nightmare too, can't tell at the moment.
There's the Belgian duo, and another French pair that I've not seen before have sprung from somewhere. The French guy has a sunburnt neck.
I wish I could book places, but I can't. Tried last night, but just got a recorded message saying if you want something, press something, if you want something else, press another thing entirely, if I wanted whatever, however, press another. I didn't understand it.

Still waiting.

Yep, I'm in. I'm blessed. In a dormitory, with about 20 others.
5 euros to see the St Foy collection? I think not.

Anyway, there's a bit of a free gig going on in here. The organist, and two young violinists who are very, very good.
And a photographer. Camera on a tripod, pointed up.

I think this is the third time in the Cathedral. I've had a long beer with Anthony, discussing work, religion, the other people moving in parallel with us, Ana, the Belgians and Norwegians who always seem to arrive looking immaculate, Jean-Louis and others.
A walk around the town, the tourist traps, the postcards, the books in French, on The Way. Even if they'd been in English I wouldn't have bought them, just have to carry them. Boy, ya gotta carry that weight .. Did buy a chocolate pain though.

A group of grey-robed apprentice priest-types have arrived, I'm wondering where they've walked from. They're all kitted up for walkin' too, maybe they just haven't travelled any road that I've been on.
There's violin auditions for something going on on the upper street, and there's some sensational playing to be heard.

Meal at the Monastery, and I'm feeling just a tiny bit pissed. Sat opposite a Belgian guy who was just so funny, yet turned out to have been to Australia four times, and likes Melbourne best, and is planning another trip. He even got the joke that if you don't like Melbourne's weather, well just wait a minute. Everything was funny at the end, and to prove how French he was, he produced four types of cheese from his pockets, just needed the bottle of vin rouge, but we'd already drunk that, and more.

I think the chick violinists of France have all been hit with the pretty stick. And Holy Bejaysus, they can play. Apparently that's what the auditions have been for. It's considered a privilege to play for the monks at Conques, so that's what they're vying for,
Another free gig in Conques Cathedral. Awesome, just awesome fiddle playing. One girl in particular, who just seemed to become the music, seemed as though she had a direct connection with her muse.
Left when the boy who stuffed his part in the Quartet section began his solo. Not a team player, I guess.