Wednesday,July 31st

Okay, bring on the day! Had muesli for breakfast, had an anti-inflammatory last night, the water bottle is icy-cold, so, just bring it on.
All 32kms of it.

Wo, yeah. I feel good. James Brown ain't got nothin' on me (I think it's the anti-inflammatories).

Now this one's special. It's as wide as it is long.

20.5kms so far, and barely raised a sweat, well, one hill did, but I've finally learned the fabulous hill climbing avec backpack technique. Don't lean against the backpack, don't bend your spine, and just bend your hips, and breathe in rhythm.

And over there, in the distance, are the Pyrenees. They look massive, blue and misty, like a mirage.

Brave Madeleine, fais chauffer ton four,
Mets y de la peine, et tout ton amour,
Fais des petits gateaux, fais en à la pelle,
Pour les pélerins de Compostelle...

And for the last half hour at least, on the descent, been singing in French, well more like mumbled French actually. Brave Madeleine, who makes small cakes in her oven for the pilgrims to Compostelle. Clementine taught me the words, and just expected me to sing. Can't believe it. Enjoyed it, actually.

The gite is more like a hospital ward, there's pilgrims flaked out all over the place. Guy's bed in the hallway, like a patient nervously awaiting surgery. There's two older ladies in the beds next to mine who I haven't seen on the road at all, but they've flaked too. Pathetic really, there's absolutely no stamina in any of 'em.

Navarrenx looks like a great town. Not a Belle Plus Ville, but nice and human. Passing a photographers, specializing in wedding photography, and something I've never seen before is a photograph of the all the guests and the bridal party at somebody's wedding. Like a football club photograph. The bride and groom front and centre, the very old and the very young down the front, the rest arranged somehow.

Bardu Centre, for what's become the traditional beer of the day. I think this is Stella Artois, the woman asked "Stella?", and of course, I reply "oui" as I don't know what else there is anyway. It's the same woman that we paid for the gite. 7 euros.

A walk around the town, down to the Shopl, groceries for tonight's tea, tomorrow's breakfast, muesli again, and tomorrow's lunch. Today is Assisi's last day on The Way, and he's returning to Saint Malo for some kind of exams. So, it's a feast tonight, apparently. Two bottles of wine for the four of us. One to compliment each course, so I'm told.
Then to the boulongerie, for chocolately-almondy pastry thing. Delicieaux!

Guy's son and daughter-in-law turned up here, got French-kissed by the d-i-l, as is the custom.
Then got side-tracked by a second-hand bookshop. The only thing in English was The Collected Works of Lewis Carroll, but Assisi and Clementine got really excited, buying John Steinbeck's To Worship Another God, or, in French, Le Dieux Acceil.

To the town square. It has the pub on one side, while opposite os the Hotel de Ville, with it's flags flapping, the EU flag, the French, and the local one; deep violet flowers are in boxes underneath the windows. On the other side is yer typical French building, cream with light blue shutters; while in the middle of the Square, tables are set up for the patrons of the bar. The American couple are there. Saint Francis and Assisi despise them intensely as the guy makes no attempt whatsoever to speak French, but expects them to speak English, not to mention the crack about us being "very civilized" as we were managing to make coffee at Sauvelade earlier today. To them, the American assumption that they have the most advanced civilization on Earth is not only wrong, it's offensive.
Anyway, French music plays from speakers somewhere, sounds like a cross between folk music and marching bands, Massed accordions or something.

Apparently, 'the plan' is not to get to Saint Jean Pied de Port via Aroe and Ostabat, three days. but via Saint something-or-other, to make it in two, and have two days at Saint Jean, one of them a rest day. Thank God. That will make 6 consecutive days of over 30kms. But it's getting easier to do that. Today was almost effortless. Maybe it was the anti-inflammatory, maybe it was the really bad night's sleep, maybe because with the exception of some small hills today's walk was nearly all flat, maybe it's the weather, cool-ish, short rain (one real blast), maybe it was the singing.

Being told the story of Saint Quitterie, beheaded apparently. The story goes that water gushed forth from the ground where her head landed. It rolled away, and the headless Saint Quitterie was somehow able to talk to the place where her head had come to rest. At the second place, a second fountain of water also gushed. Saint Quitterie is now the patron saint for curing headaches and insanity. Clementine, told me this. She intends to be a saint, but has a problem with the martyrdom aspect.

By the way, 'headache', in French, is 'mal de tête'. 'Knee' is 'genou', leg is 'jambe', while 'foot', naturally, is 'pied'. Conversation at dinner times, when pilgrims are together, generally revolve around genou's, jambe's and pieds. They usually have a complaint somewhere. Except for me. So far, the one small blister, which I believe makes me the Superman, the Terminator, the Dynamo of Pilgrims. Yet, I have nothing to prove. I don't have to do it fast, just keep on walking on and on and on, and if that means keeping up with the others, then so be it, if it means falling behind, then so be that too.
I've discovered why 'Yellow Submarine' is popular with English speaking pilgrims, it's the absolutely perfect walking pace.

Now, this is definitely weird. I'm in a school room. Kiddie's work around the walls, in French, the pupils of Saint Joseph's Ecole, and pilgrims are being served little biscuits and white wine.

Earlier, walked to the eglise, as I was told there was something on, some pilgrim-related event, and there's Saint Francis himself, doing a reading, a bit of singing, then, we're led over the road to the school.

Talking to people. Real live, non-pilgrim type French people, who seem pleased to meet me, and the Navarrenxian daughter of the guy who organizes these pilgrim parties recommends Saint Palais as a good place to stay. Yep, goin' there tomorrow. She seemed pleased.

Now, this is utterly and truly bizarre. Veillee Scoute. The event has been advertised everywhere, and the audience of about 20 is actually enjoying this.

There's a campfire, which the scoutes keep well tended, and performing skits, and singing songs. There's a few families, about 6 scoutes who take turns to lead the singing, and a monk. Truly, a monk in his cream coloured robes.

Now there calling up participants from the audience to be in their skits. Clementine gets up willingly enough, it's some routine with the monk. I don't get it, it's all in French. But it involves spinning, and the monk falls over, and everyone laughed. Other songs that get faster with actions. Songs that involve jumping on the great and yelling "Boom!" when you land, oh those oh-so-funny-Frenchies and their nuclear bombe testing.

Now the monk is reading something, he's wearing a head light so he can see in the dark. Scoutes are acting out the story.

Drinking whatever it was that they called cappuccino, came in a powder, tasted like chocolate with mint. And I'm sure we bothered everybody on the first floor of the gite building (the gite itself is on the second) when we got back. Intentionally getting the guard dog frantic. Kind of fun.


Dear Christophe (otherwise known as Assisi)
If you ever read this, I hope you did sensationally well in your exams. And thanks for the friendship. The scissors where much appreciated too.