Day 31: St Ferme to Bassanne

I found wifi. Of course in a local cafe. Great beer.

I wonder if St Ferme lives up to its name!

Yup, it has. But, how can one complain about this when one can eat like this here:

                                                  Those two women were angels – and good cooks too. That guy there is Philippe from Luxumbourg. Just started walking with him. It is always best to be with someone on these trips, especially in the bush. If you break an ankle you will need some one there to help you.

The walk today was normal. 25 kilometers. Went fast as we talked almost the whole way. What about you may ask? Well stupid stuff really. What else can one talk about while walking on a 900 kilometer trip as we are all crazy to do this. I mean you have to be.

Look at this picture. Sunflowers on the right and wines to the left. All the major food groups in my diet at least. Love it.

Come to France they said……okay!

Song today? Well it is my grandchild’s birthday tomorrow. 5 months old. Love her. Ruby…

Pascal: I found wifi.

John

Day 30: St Foy de Grand to St Ferme

I was just kidding. Found wifi in the old Pelerin Hotel.

Camped last night in St Foy de Grand. Beautiful town. Larger than what I am used to but again very disappointed in that the only restaurent open was a pizza place. I do not want to keep going on about this but one of the things I was really excited about and looking forward to with this walk is good, rich French cooking and fine French wine. Alors not to be. Over the past 30 days I have only had 3 meals in the French way and a little wine. Why? Nothing open on any day at any time. Oh well, the walk, the people here and the people I have met more than make this worthwhile. I can always have French Fries and a nice glass of Bordeaux “fanta.”

Church at St Foy.

Dordogne River, St Foy.

Weird but the whole campsite was filled with Brits. At first I couldn,t understand a word they said as I have been listening to and trying to speak Frecnh for the past 30 days. And while it is still very warm during the day it is now unbearably cool in a tent. I was very cold last night..I don,t want to camp anymore. I hate camping. Why? Other campers and what would normaly take a few ninutes at home to do takes 1/2 hour in a tent. My wife used to say: “ I have such a nice kitchen at home, a nice washing machine and drier and such a nice bed, bath and shower. So what on earth am I doing here?” You know, I can’t argue with that.

On my way at 0615. Dark and cool. It stayed that way until about 1030 and then it got hot. Up to 30 today. I was able to cover off about 28 kilometers. Not bad but glad to reach my destination of St Ferme. St Ferme has an Abby that goes back to the 12th century. Unbelievable.

The landscape today was covered by  dark purple grapes. To me they looked like Concord but I know the French would cringe if they heard me say that. Here is a picture. See how happy I am here:

                                                           Not at me but what,s behind me. Contented. And there were fields and fields of them. It would be as if the entire wheatfield of Saskatchewan was covered by grapes…beautiful, beautiful grapes, mmmm, mmmm good. Thirsty?

By the way. I am out of the Perigord region but I forgot to tell you that the Perigord is separated into 4 regions. Perigord Verte or green on account of the colour of the rivers and streams in this area. Then Perigord Blanc on account of the white limestone they use for many of the buildings and churches / abbeys you see here. Beautiful. Perigord Noir due to the darkness of their forests and then Perigord Rouge for the wine. The area I am going through now is not Perigord but Gironde. Beautiful, not Perigord, but I thought I would pass that on as part of this travelogue.

 

This song was written by Badfinger. Harry Niilson and Mariah Cary covered it and made big hits out of it but Peter Hamm of Badfinger wrote it with Evans. It is raw and basic and I like this version the best.

 

 

 

Day 29: Mussidan to Saint Foy de Grande


What a difference a day brings. I must admit that yesterday was terrible but after a cold shower and a few pilsners, while looking out over the beautiful French countryside, one,s hiking troubles seem to fade away. And yes Scarlette, tomorrow is another day.

One last note about the Chateau. Yes the place was grand from the outside but the inside was a dump. He charged 18 euros for just the bed and shower. No food, no drinks, nothing while the town was over 2 kilometers away. Now you may say 18 euros is cheap. Yes but in the pelerin refuge business 18 euros should bring some extras. Crap,he did,t even provide toilet paper. I left him a calling card in response to that. Oh, and I think the original owner of that Chateau lost his head at some point in time. Spooky.

Today I did 33 kilometers in 6.5 hours. In comparison yesterday I did 24 kilometersin 7 hours. That is what the hills do to you. Slow you down to a crawl while tiring you out:

I don,t know if the grade of the slope shows in this photo. Oh and this is for my friend Pascal:

 

Not sure if this is a nice horse or not Pascal. And this is me almost passed out in the heat yesterday:

Things are a lot better. Todays walk went very well. Off at 0615am and before I knew it I had knocked off 10 kilometers. Landscape is changing again. Lots of southern pine and a few palms. Lots of forests and the homes are beginning to take on a more Spanish vibe as we, or should I say I, edge closer to Basque country. Today was overcast with a high of about 25 C. Humidity is sky high as we had a massive storm last night. Oh, it would have been nice sleeping in the Chateau during that storm…for sure.

I have entered Bergerac country. Wow, I have dranked about this place, er sorry, dreamed about this place all of my adult wine drinking life:

Can ya read the sign?

Just look at this country side. Red, red wine, as far as the eye can see. Mouth watering!

Now that is a grape field!

You may not be able to read it but an area here is called Vignobles. Now the French would pronounce that as Vee-know-bla, silent at the end. But us Canadians would pronounce that as Vig-naw-blahs, as in, well you know, hey that woman over there has very “ vig-nob-blahs “ don,t ya think? Definitely lost in translation. And I passed a town called Fleix. Now the French would pronounce that as in “Fvlew” while we Canadians would say “Flees”and there is no way on God,s green earth would you get me into a town called “Flees.” No way. Again lost in translation. And this is the sort of stuff that goes through my mind while doing a 900 kilometer walk.

Come to France they said. I,ll drink to that. Cheers!

 

 

Day 28: Chateau Puyferrat to Mussidan

Today was by far the worst day of my life. But first  Chateau.

When I first arrived I thought wow, a real Chateau. Look at this place. Once inside though things took on a more sinister tone. The owner or caretaker met me at the door. He told me to follow him. He had a sinister look about him, long black hair, as black as hades itself, curly too and fell back over his shoulders into one ot those man buns. He wasn,t tall, perhaps just shy of  6 feet. His mustache and beard were unkept and he seemed to walk with a slight limp.

”This way” he said

I followed him up three flights of stairs into the tower. Everything had a morbide look and feel. The air was heavy, dank and stale. The smell of death! It was a gloomy dark staircase and when we got to the top he had to swipe a veil of spider web to clear the way for me. He then blew on the shelf by the door where the key was lept. A cloud of dust filled the air. He coughed and his cough was bronchial and deep. He started to hack and hack, unrelentlessly and as fast as it began it stopped.

”This way”was all he said.

We walked down a very long and dark corridor. The walls were painted blood red, but faded into a pasty looking tone of pink and purple. The curtains were old and stank of mildew. The floors creaked and creaked. Suddenly I thought I heard moaning, a soft cry, then laughter. But not the ha ha kind of laughter but laughter that was maddening, sick, tomented.

” This way” he said again.

Finally we stopped at a massive door that was locked with gigantic shackles. All I could do was look around me….and gulp, and gulp again until I could gulp no more.

” This is your room” he said to no one. I gulped. Slowly he pushed the massive door open. Caaaaaaawwwww-reeeeeeeek, caaaawreeek followed by a squelching noise, then that moaning again, screams but from where? Not my room I hoped. All I wanted to do was turn and run. Run and get the hell out of there.  But I could not move and then the door swung wide open. And then my host reached for a torch. And then we walked inside. And then, and then and then……….

BOOOOOOOOO!!!

I left the Chateau at the witching hour of 6 am. It was dark but, as you can imagine I had a restless sleep. Hopefully a nice day. But the weatherman scewed up again he called for a high of 26. Not bad but what did we get? 36. Awful. And what made it worse were the hills. One after the other. Only this time short but very steep. By 8am I was covered in sweat. My shirt was soaked, my glasses fogged up and my hat drenched. Not rain – sweat. I have never, ever sweated like this. Not with playing hockey, football (American) or anything else. And the hills? Well imagine a staircase with 10 steps. Now  look at those steps from the side. Each step equates to a hill about 1 km in length at a grade of about 20-30 degrees. For my Mill Bay friends walk up Noowick from Mill Bay road to the highway and do it 10 times. Or walk up Mount Doug 10 times. That is what I am dealing with in 30 plus degree heat. No wonder I am crazy.

This is not fun. It is no longer a pilgrimage in my mind but an endurance or survival test. I was really worried about water today for the first time. And I had no time for that pilgrim rite of self reflection, self expression, well being, sense of belonging or how and why the sun comes up. No, for me today it was all about how I was going to make it up the next hill, and the next, and the next. Step after torturist step all the while the sweat was stinging in my eyes. And, as an added bonus today, we had those small black bugs. We call them smidgens. They abound in the north late August, early September. They don,t bite. They swarm around your eyes, nose, mouth and ears. They are annoying.

So, it was a great day for hiking……NOT!

I need something to cheer me up and make me happy:

Day 27: Perigeux to Chateau Puyferrat

Before I even get started today, you will not believe where I am staying tonight. In a real Chateau- Chateau Puyferrat – my destination. Check this out:

That,s my room in the tower. And the front entrance you may ask:

Those are my servants you see there. They are taking my rucksack up to my suite. They wouldn,t touch my shoes though. Radio active they said. I gave them the day off. Hey Marg!

Back to Perigeux. Our host last night was a Quebecois from Riviere de Loup. He told me that his ancestor was born in France in 1640 and came to Quebec from St Rochelle back in 1670. Obviously he never returned. So Michael decided to close the loop and return to France and to the very village where is ancestor was born and baptized. I forgot where it was. Full circle.  I told Michael that I was a Toronto Maple Leaf fan ( I am not ). That got him going.

There was also a young couple there. I would say they were recently married. They were doing the Camino in stages and were now about to go home to Paris after a weeks worth of walking. It seems that everyone I meet is going home.  Could it be my smelly socks. They are very keen on the Camino life and would love to open a Pilgrim,s Refuge. Good luck to them.

You know, there is a huge interest in doing the Camino. A world wide interest. Amazing. I had never heard of this until I talked to my friend at home.

I noticed from the hostel log book that Guy, the Anorexic Pilgrim, had stayed there the night before. That means he is now a day ahead of me. That also means he walked 41.kilomters. Unbelievble. You know, Guy is skin and bones and he looks like death itself. Totally unhealthy looking. I,ll never under#tand why people at our age feel they have to look like they are in their 20s and not their 60s or 70s. After all why did god invent suspenders? And if he wanted us to look like the walking dead he never would bave invented beer or…French cooking, or…..Orangina. Never.

The walk today started badly. I had to navigate though 4 major hills. By 9am I was soaked in sweat. I could wring out my hat,s perspiration. Awful. Two of the hills were so steep and the terrain so bad with strewn rocks, pebbles and loose soil I really was worried I was going to sprain or break an ankle. That would be the end of my Camino. Finally it flattened out for the back half and I arrived at my Chateau safe. – 25 kilometers later – but the last kilometer was straight up. By the time I arrived at my Camino I was beat. There was nothing my servants could do. I was not happy with the pilgrim gods. They are letting us down. I can still her Gill the mathematician model screaming to the heavens:

”Sacre Blue. You gods think you are so smart with us pilgrims. You are not. If you think you are so smart you come down here and you try to do this…you….you pilgrim gods you. Sacre Blue”

Or something like that. Gill cracked me up.

Oh yeah, here is the view from my bathroom, shower area:

Now this is what I would call a mushroom

All for today.

And for all those hills out there:

Rest in peace Tom Petty