Our hike from Manciet through Nogaro ( from the Latin, “the place where they plant walnuts”) was pretty uneventful. Overcast all the hike. Rained shortly after arrival. Cloudy weather is usually great for walking. We pretty much tracked the Dutch sisters who were at the Gite in Manciet last night. They are on their way to Saint Jean Pied de Port and also started in Le Puy about the same time as us. We had a chance to compare notes on Gites and related topics. We split off from their path about a kilometer ago as we had to seek out accommodations a bit off the beaten track because this is a big French holiday weekend.
We arrived at the Domaine de Castagnere, a Chambre d’Hotes, around 1:30 after covering g 18 or 19 km. The Chemin was for the most part pretty easy but we ran into a stretch of ugly mud after Nogaro. The local four-wheelers had used a wet section of the trail for practice and made a bog with no work arounds. Survived it without too much duress.
Thought this would be a good time to explain for posterity the difference between a Gite and a Chambre d’ Hote (or CH). A Gite is designed to meet the needs of Pelerins and Hikers. The idea is to provide a dry bed and a shower. Usually, a Demi-pension is available at extra cost. The beds in the French Gites can be in Dortirs (Dorms) or Chambres. The dorms are usually four to twelve beds although we have frequently been placed in private rooms with two single beds. You usually provide your own silk sleep sack while the Gite provides a pillow case cover and blankets. The toilets and showers are shared. People usually shower upon arrival which avoids lines. The Gites are usually closed until 2 PM and you need to be out the door by 8:30.
Everyone beds down shortly after dinner. Ear plugs can be handy but normally you are too tired to notice. Everyone discreetly enters and leaves the beds in their night clothes. It is bad form to pay to much attention to your neighbor. The system is designed to keep costs down. You provide your own soap and microfiber towels. The cost for two with Demi Pension is 60-70 Euros ($80-93).
We have been in Gites built specifically for this purpose. Most are converted structures. We have seen all kinds of remodeling including old bakeries, barns, horse stalls, ancient buildings, nunneries and monasteries.
The fun in a Gite is the social part. You are usually with one or more pilgrims that you recognize or have conversed with before. The dinner meal is normally a two hour affair with ample wine and aperitifs. Mostly the meals are excellent as previously discussed. The breakfasts are bread and toast, juice, yogurt and coffee or tea. Sometimes fruit and an occasional egg are provided. You brush up your crumbs and head out for the hike.
A Chambre d’Hote or CH is a French B&B. You have your own bath and a double bed if desired. This is not always the case in some of the funkier places where you can share a bath with another room. The host usually welcomes you with whatever beverage you desire and you are pretty much on your own. The rooms are usually much nicer and warmer or cooler if needed. The meals have been universally great and for an an additional 20 or 25 euros, they are a great change of pace from Gites. The place where we are tonight is our fanciest so far. It is an old large farm house with five Chambres and some Gite spaces which are being remodeled by the owners who greeted us in their painting outfits.
If a Gite or CH does not provide Demi pension, you have the option of a restaurant if you are in a town. Obviously, we make sure the meal is available if we are in the middle of farms like we are tonight.
It is always interesting to count boots or transported bags upon arrival at a Gite or a CH. the number of boots divided by two give the number fellow travelers. That math lesson was for my daughter-in-law.You look to see if you recognize boots or walking batons or transported bags. If there are a bunch of transported bags, you know that everyone will be dressed fancier than you at dinner. If not, you will recognize their clothing as belonging to the hand wash, back pack crew.
So concludes my essay on this topic for the moment. The pictures below are from the last two days. I will have to wait until tomorrow to upload as the Internet is far away. Maybe at a Bar when we stop for a morning lemonade or coffee.
The burro pilgrim just arrived and is pitching her tent since she sleeps near the burro. It is raining. Peggy just decided that burro travel is out. May be an interesting dinner topic. I wonder what a wet burro smells like?