Twain’s comment about the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco would be updated if he was visiting this part of France right now. It is cold. And it was really windy yesterday. We thought we would be in the garden of Eden by this time after braving the mountains and dodging snow and ice. Instead we are in the meat locker with the fan on. Even the French are whining. And the cows are all huddled together and hunkered down and looking smarter than us. OK enough said about the weather although it does play a major role in decision making when you are a pilgrim.
We left the Convent two mornings ago and spent the night in a warm hotel in Estaing. That was where a French President, Valery de Estaing was from. Our host had a picture of himself in period costume walking the President through the streets of Estaing. His family castle is now a convent. We had a leisurely walk along a reservoir before starting our morning climb of 1000 feet. Made good progress and reached the top in under two hours and had covered five miles of trail. Then the wind hit us. All day long we got blasted in the face. It was also at 1 or 2 degrees Celsius (freezing). Reached our 16 km destination by 12. Got lunch from a little market before she closed. Decided to cancel our reservation since we would have to shiver in the cold outside the gite for three hours until they opened.
Eight Kms later, for a total of 24, we reached the cute town of Espeyrac whose only hotel was closed on a Saturday night. We retreated to the communal gite which was mostly empty. It filled up and we had made no reservations. All was cool until the gite police showed up and were upset that we were in the town shelter without prior authorization. A very jolly French pilgrim lady smoothed the situation over and we stayed inside. Got a pizza, wine and supplies from the only place with food in the town. One of the French pilgrims from Beaune poured me a glass of wine and the evening was fine. Showing pictures of the saloons in Columbia always breaks the ice. The wine interest provides a common language.
The wind moderated today but it is still really cold. Started our morning with another 1000 foot climb and paused in Senergues as there was a public Laverie with a washer and dryer. An hour later we had some really clean clothes that were mostly dry. This is Sunday and open stores are scarce in most places and we bought some lunch to carry. The day should not have been too difficult except I have managed to pick up a couple of blisters and I walk funny to compensate. Paused for a picnic in a somewhat sheltered alcove next to a church in St. Marcel before commencing the drop into Conques. Ran into some Scottish pilgrims from Edinburgh who were also cold and had McKenzie ancestors. Distant cousins.
Hobbled into Conques and checked into the Abbey. Interesting process as they do each person or group behind a closed door before guiding you to your room. Brother Pierre was quite accommodating even though the place is packed with pilgrims and short hikers. We have a room for four with a heater that works and a full bath that we are sharing with a nice French couple that we had not met before. Most of our other pilgrim compatriots from last night and previous nights are here also. We will compare notes at dinner.
We are 207 km and eleven days into our hike and one day ahead of schedule. We had always planned a rest day in the museum town of Conques and our timing is great. We have a nice room and a monk dinner with a bottle of wine to help ease our aches and pains. This will also give the weatherman a day to get it right. I am eager to get going again but experience tells me that rest days are important. This is a long distance deal.
I will revisit the bar with the good wifi connection and post this. Tomorrow we will show you Conques after the weekend tourists depart. I have not seen this many postcards since we left Spain.
Here we go