Thursday, June 29, 2017

On Our Way, On the French Way, Getting back onto the Trail from Le Puy to Montbennett the Camino Francaise

The week on L’Isle Sur la Sorgue, Provence was fantastic.    But by Sunday it was time to get moving again. So we got in the car and drove to Le Puy, to begin the Camino Francaise on its Westward path toward Santiago.  We hope to go as far as Toulouse.  Its our forth summer of these trips, including two in Spain and last Summer in Italy.  Each year is different and sometimes very very difficult.  The feelings are never quite the same.

Getting on the road, we drove through lovely country roads, stopping at a Sunday market, full of books, secret treasures, etc, picking up a black and white photo and making our way for a Sunday lunch.

We drove through the windy roads to Le Puy where trail begins, up, up, up, the windy roads took us, entertaining the Tour De France, small villages and woods in the distance. Some of the trees reminded me of Carmel; others of Italy last summer.

We finally dropped off the car in Le Puy, a delight to be surrounded by the bike culture of this medieval city welcoming the Tour De France and the hikers for this popular wing of the Camino de Santiago.

We dropped off our bags in the room only to find signs of bed bugs everywhere.  And bad memories came back. So Caroline ran, successfully procuring a new room down the street, before we made our way up to the Cathedral for our pilgrim credentials.  The beauty of this space is hard to describe.  There is not a bad angle anywhere.  The place teems with character, an oddball gargoyle here, a cat in a window there, a view through a window or door of an ancient city just in the distance.

At the Cathedral, everyone seemed more devout than us.  The kids feel self-conscious about being tourists. But we really are all immigrants in this world.  Its ok to be outsiders.

Pray for the families, notes a sign by burning candles at the church.

“Pray we’ll get through this,” noted Caroline, a devout agnostic, feeling anxious about what lies in store for all of us.

I could barely sleep, with all the scenes of the city pulsing through my head, dreams of other worlds, exotic adventures teeming through my mind. Travel often brings these uncertain feelings.

We left early the next day.   The quiet of breeze of the morning flowing through our faces. Up, up, up we walked out of town, excited, looking back at Le Puy. Walking we recalled the first day last year when I broke my arm on the Way of St Frances.

Walking Caroline starts to wonder, who am I, what I am?  How did I get here, the sweat filling her head.

It starts to drizzle a bit.  Already we’ve encountered bed bugs, wild dogs, and crazy dreams this Camino.

I’m walking with my brother, number two, and her eleven-year-old cousin from Stockholm.  Number one walks with mom.

Number one walks with Mom.

And we make our way through the windy 18 k to Montbennett, past fields, farms, decaying ruins, and a few cows and sheep.

Number two plays queen and “I Sing the Body Electric” as we walk, singing along.

Will and I talk about Dad and our other adventures on the road, passing hamlet after hamlet, with trees taking over the old crumbling brick buildings.

Caroline and number one stroll, nap, take a few breaks in the country, sitting the Chapel of St Roche.

Arriving, everything is closed.

Closed for vacation, notes the sign.

But we find a farmer who sells us cheese.

The proprietor gives us some wine.

And we welcome Caroline and number one who eventually join us with wine and fresh cheese.

I’m surprised people in the countryside do not commit suicide, notes number one, sitting in the country.  The road offers a jarring comparison with home. It helps remind us what we have, a place to return to called home.  But as we walk, that strange feeling of being home envelops us.  

Tomorrow, we’re off for another 15 K.

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