Friday, 30 March 2012

All paid up

The excitement is mounting as the balances are paid and there is now nothing stopping us going.  April 25th is only 25 days away....Woohoo!! God, I love this walk and I love walking with Teresa too.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Next section booked

Yes, the date is April 25th and we head to Lectoure to pick up where we left off in May 2011 and walk another section of our beloved walk. 

It's a rather early start, plane from Gatwick at 6.30, be there for 4.30 but the exciting part is always going so we'll chill in Costa, grab breakfast and natter ten to the dozen about what's in store for us. The days are shorter than on the last section so not so much exhaustion and a little more time to explore, I hope.

When I got bored the other day I did a little research and this is what I found:

La Romieu, the place we walk to on the first day has a wonderful collegiate church and there are loads of photos on a website re cats and I discovered the following - " Although you probably won't miss them, I still must point out the various cat scupltures that are placed in different spots in the village.It would be a good idea to wander slowly through the narrow streets not only to get a better feel of the village but to find these" Well there's a task for us. We'll be up for it after only 12 miles.

Condom after 10 miles and a cathedral, two castles and
Condom is known for the production of Armagnac. Well it might be quite a night!!

Montreal-du-gers an ancient walled town founded in the thirteenth century on the site of a former Roman fortified camp. Thirteenth century is to see, beautiful houses and one of "most beautiful villages in France" More Armagnac.....oh help!!

Eauze - cathedral, market on a Thursday morning and not a lot else.
small Gascony town renowned, however, for its motorsport race track, called the Circuit Paul Armagnac. Created in 1055 by Saint Austinde, Auch Archibishop. It was an area of refuge, where people could not be arrested and where wars were forbidden. Called Nugarolium, which means ‘the walnut tree town’ and developed around the Saint Nicolas collegial, which still exists. Important stop in the Saint Jacques de Compostelle walkway.

Aire-sur-Adour lies on the river Adour in the wine area of southwest France. Fancy market place like in the place with the lovely hotel last time which I cannot remember. The town has a twice weekly market that is said to be one of the best in the region, and possibly even one of the best in France, so don't miss the opportunity to check it our for yourself, don't know when it's on though. The Cathedral of Jean-Baptiste is impressive, the old church with its massive crypt and the amphitheatre where the bullfighting takes place. Very popular in this area.

Can't wait.


Monday, 28 November 2011

Heading in the right direction.

Small steps at first and the 'gotta get planning' is happening.

I've been planning work for 2012 and as the diary has been filling up, it's definitely been time to look at dates so those have been shared with Teresa and I have emailed Ann at

We're hoping to cover two sections in 2012 so we can get to the French/Spanish border and would like to start the first one in mid/late April. Not sure as yet if the seasons have started then. Fingers crossed as getting the time in May is going to be difficult. Will keep you posted

Monday, 14 November 2011

It's that time again.

'The Way' is now out on DVD so that would make a nice stocking filler.......

Of course that got Teresa and I talking about the next stage of the Camino and it was on Dec 31st last year that we sat and planned this year's section over coffee and mans in Stanfords...... got to get planning.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

On the way home.

Up early as this morning we were leaving so we had breakfast with Francoise and the Australian lady who we met at dinner last night and who lives in Sydney, in the same area as Karen and Anthony. It was a nice breakfast but the pain au chocolate where not a patch on the day before.

The day promised to be interesting travelwise and started with a 40 minute bus journey to Agen and from there we took the TGV to Toulouse. What could have been fraught with challenges went extremely smoothly with time in Agen for coffee.

Although Toulouse is not my favourite place, it was really good to know where things were so we first stopped at left luggage and got the bags taken care of, then purchased the bus tickets to get us back to the airport and after that were able to chill.

We had a few hours to pass so decided to head back towards the basillica and once there, the little restaurant we'd eaten in the first night was bathed in sunshine and had a few free tables so we settled there and had a wonderful lunch as the photo shows.

After lunch we had a last wander up to the square where Sephora was visited to buy pressies and then back to the airport where I saw good the bet I lost and bought champagne for both of us, delicious.

It seems that we are now 2 sections away from the French/Spanish border so here's to completing two sections in 2012 and then being able to move onto Spain. In the meantime, we have 'The Way' to watch.

Last day, Auvillar to Lectour

Not surprisingly, there was a fabulous breakfast today and the Pain au Chocolate was too good to leave so had to take half of it with me for later.  Sad to leave but I'd love to come back to this hotel some day...

Off at 8.00, our last day and we bought quiches at the Boulangerie and Olive Fougas which is like Foccacia.

We knew we would be road walking and weren't looking forward to that but it wasn't bad at all. Most were minor roads with good views so plenty to see and admire. There were also some grassy and shady lanes to walk along.

We'd made the decision that as this was a very long final day, we'd stop regularly so we did. First in Bardigues, then St Antoine, Flamerens and then Miradoux. In most places there was a tap to refill the bottles and a WC and we had food with us.

 In Saint Antoine, which takes it's name from the religious order of the Antonins, after visiting the beautiful church, we stopped at the Gite E'tap so I could use the loo and while enjoying a drink in the sunshine, got talking to a guy who'd worked in Bradford for a while, he was in the weaving industry. He was suffering from blisters so Teresa gave him compeed for his foot.

This section of the walk this morning was a bit of a convoy and made us wonder if it would be more like this when we got to the Spanish part. It was made up of small groups and singles too. This was the pattern as far as Miradoux and then after that we saw no-one. It was as if everyone knew it was going to be 'bloody hot' and they stopped. Everyone had commented on us going the 'whole way' to Lectoure. Well, that was our destination so no choice.

Along the way, we visited numerous churches, all with these wall paintings that we'd seen in Moissac, rather like wall paper but painted and they were all so well protected.

Apparently at the correct time of the year, this undulating countryside is a mass of sunflowers, all turning their heads to the sun en mass depending on the time of day. That sight has yet to come this year but we'll be long gone. Sad.

We had hoped for a good stop in Flamerens as we knew there was a castle there. It's currently being restored and is 12th - 15th century. The castle was partially destroyed by fire in 1943.

There was a sign for a cafe but not to our taste at all and not at all in keeping with this beautiful monument. Instead, we sat at some picnic tables in the shade, saved ourselves money and had a lovely break.

By the time we got to Miradoux, we were knackered and we went to the church for some shade. It was really cool and we really, really appreciated it. This church is gothic and has an unfinished bell-tower. The village is at the border of Tarn-et-Garonne and of Lot-et-Garonne departments. 

The benches round the church were in the shade but all occupied and we needed somewhere to have our picnic. We found an area set up for picnics , well signposted and behind the Salle de Fetes. There were loos here too and we'd filled our bottles up at the tap near the church so we could relax and enjoy our lunch break.

About 50 minutes later, stretched and re-charged, we set off again into the mid-afternoon heat.

I love the farmers who've allowed their fields to be used for the "pilgrim paths' so we can be taken off the road. It makes the walking so much more enjoyable and also safe and we could see where, in years to come, others will truly benefit from these paths which will then be shady once the vegetation has grown up. Some are so new now that shade is missing but hey ho, you can't have everything.

We'd been led to believe that there would be lots of itinerary information on these sections, there was very little. We saw one telling us that it would be 1hr 15 mins to Castet-Arrouey and we covered it in about 55 mins but from there it suggested 2 hrs 30 to Lectoure and although we did slow down, it was more like 3 hrs 30. There was no one else around at all, hot, hot sun, no signs and therefore no idea of where we were or how much progress we were making.

Shaded square across from the Church in Castet Arrouy

Are we nearly there yet?

When we did finally see Lectoure it seemed as far away as ever and my feet were so achey. All went well at first and at least we were off road but then we turned right and I began to realise that there was a gorge like valley between us and where we wanted to be and of course this means a down and an up!!!

The down wasn't too steep and I could see that the up was at least at a slighter angle but oh, I ached and when we stopped at the cemetery it seemed as if I ached from all parts of my body.

At last we made it to the top, it didn't take that long, it just felt like it and we took photos at the cross. Another opportunity to stop and to get our bearings and thankfully we saw a sign to our hotel but of course circumstances got the last laugh as once we found it, we had to go uphill and to the right to find the entrance.

We had seen photos so knew it was going to be a nice hotel but nothing prepared us for how lovely. Hot, achey and tired we entered through this small door into a beautiful courtyard where the terrace was set for dinner and Francoise, that glamerous French lady who turned out to be from Belgium, sat sipping an apperatif. We spoke briefly and then went to check in and get showered.

Our room was of course on the 2nd floor and up very rickety stairs to what one was servants quarters but it was a lovely room under the eaves and had everything we needed. We stripped off the sticky walking gear for the last time this section and grabbed showers arriving down to dinner as different people. We were placed beside the jasmine with a view over the pool and enjoyed a wonderful meal. We started with raw salmon, with asparagus and guacamole and beetroot puree. Then had a main of duck which was huge and beautiful and served with ratatouille and the desert was layered strawberries, dark chocolate and cream, light and so tasty. All was washed down with a bottle of Gascony red and the feeling that 'yes' we'd done it.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Only two more days of walking

May 10th 2011

Yet another good night's sleep and an earlier start so we could get away and walk further before the heat set in. Everything worked well until the signs caused confusion and we had to retrace our steps on two occasions. The first was when we were trying to find the bridge so we could see this magnificent structure on our way out of town. We did finally get there and in the photo you can see Teresa making her way towards it.

After that it all happened again and after a while of back tracking, we trusted to intuition and found ourselves on the last.

This sign at one of the bridges was a lovely touch.

As we walked along you couldn't help but notice that along this valley floor the river, rail, canal and railway line all ran in parallel, all vital to live and to movement and of course the path provided the opportunity for cycling and walking.

We walked the first 3.4 km in about 30 minutes
enjoying the temperature of the day and also being able to set a good pace and put the distances behind us.

After lock gate two, we stopped on the far side of it taking a seat on the bank and enjoying fruit, nuts and water as we people watched especially those who negociated the lock process and elegantly appeared through the other end.

We saw the two ladies again who we'd met yesterday so had a chat and put the 'world to rights' ourselves on this easy path. It was so nice to be away from the steep ups and downs and the environment was so pretty.

It was hard to stop taking photos so you will see a few included here so you can share the views I was lucky enough to see. Lovely bridges, interesting signs giving information and beautiful boats all part of a relaxed and calm environment.

As we walked we were just about to be overtaken by an older man on a bike but instead he stopped and chatted. He was a local and had lived in the area all his life, he had lots to tell us about his life, family, his work etc. For his health he was now cycling 10-12 km per day which he enjoyed and he also shared how much he loved to chat and he told us that he had to really discipline himself otherwise he'd never complete his journey.

At the 3rd lock, we stopped for lunch. It was a great spot and here is Teresa  looking very thoughtful, not sure whether she's pondering lunch or the onward journey.

Lunch today was freshly baked pizza bought that morning and very delicious. A German women from Munich joined us. She is on her second section but from Germany.

While at lunch, we also watched this beautiful yacht come through. An English family were on it, they were spending a year or so away from home with their young children, what an adventure.

As we walked on after lunch, we could see Auvillar in the distance on top of a hill and not much further along we crossed over this lovely bridge to the other side of the canal and then sadly had to leave it and cross both it and the Garonne and head to our destination.

Road walking is what greeted us, not our favourite but we figured that it wouldn't be for long. At one point we walked past a field of strwawberries and I've never ever experienced the wonderful aroma. I could taste those strawberries....I wish there'd been some for sale.

We'd been heading for Espalais and not knowing what to expect, that's the great thing about walking through areas you don't know and where there are not places you would have heard of.

Espalais, well marked, as you can see from the photo was lovely and clean and quite modern. We popped into church which was, as always, very cool and calming.

We found a great place that catered for everyone....

The one thing that was quite clear was that Auvillar was another of those great towns on the top of a hill..... so no option but to climb, but first to cross the bridge from where there were more great views and it was a long bridge as the Garonne is rather wide at this point.

Just after the bridge we were into the lower part of Auvillar at the bottom of the hill. This area had been subject to a great deal of renovation with more houses still been worked on, I assume there is more funding to continue this. In fact in so many of the small towns we've visited there has clearly been renovation, great to see and is giving all these places a new lease of life.

Teresa outside the Information Centre

What a lovely way to enter Auvillar, we passed some wonderful houses and one sticks in mind very strongly as it was situated on an end plot and the garden was on different levels beautifully landscaped with shade and sun and a small pool built in too - gorgeous.

Once in the village, one of France's most beautiful, we quickly came upon the beautiful market place with all it's signage inside dictating where different products were situated.

Auvillar's unusual circular market place

 But before we got too distracted, we wanted to find the hotel and yes, have that beer.

Our hotel, called L'horloge was going to be near the clock tower and this, seen in the photo, forms one of the gates into the village. 

The hotel was my favourite of this whole trip, it was a little boutique type hotel with a fabulous terrace shown in the photo and where we had a beer once we got settled and where we ate later in the evening. 

The hotel was my favourite of this whole trip, it was a little boutique type hotel with a fabulous terrace shown in the photo and where we had a beer once we got settled and where we ate later in the evening.

The owner carried our bags upstairs, how unusual is that and it was so welcome. Our room was large with three beds and a lovely bathroom and looked out on a little courtyard garden. We unpacked and having changed the walking boots for sandals, went off in search of that beer!

Relaxed and refreshed, we took off to explore our surroundings. We visited the church - Eglise Saint Pierre, which was beautiful and had much information about the Camino with photos and we spent time remembering our experiences of the walk so far, brings back so many great memories. There was a chapel of treasures and wonderful singing.

While there we met the French guy we'd come across previously and the very glamorous French lady who always looks as if she's just stepped out of a magazine. She came to speak with us later.

 The views from the church were wonderful and also from the spot near the tourist office so we took some photos and then relaxed in the shade with some very tasty ice-cream.
Teresa looking down onto the Garonne far below.

Hot shower after sightseeing and then a pre dinner drink and dinner. No choice but actually prefer that as you always great really great local food and don't have to make decisions. We started with a fabulous place of chacuterie accompanied bu warm bread, then duck with fresh vegetables and finally strawberry soup with ice-cream. I really must have a go at making this dessert at home including the mint.