Today is a cake (or a gift)

Saturday, October 3 – Day 26

Last night was so wonderful. Gîte d’étape Le Presbytère is just the most fabulous ever. It was a wonderful combination of place and people, and it was just good. Very nice energy. It really is amazing how much that can help when you’re not having so great of a day. The thing about the camino, and seeing these places in the book, you have absolutely no idea what a place is going to be like until you get there. It’s always a surprise. Usually it’s good, sometimes not so good, and sometimes it’s just wonderful. If I ever get to do this again, I think it would be interesting to stay in completely different places, but I would definitely come back to Le presbytère.

I slept so much better than I have been. I still woke up a lot, but the sleep itself was better. A thunderstorm came through around 5 am, and that did not bode well for the day ahead. Claire and I slowly got up at 7:15. According to the weather app on my phone, the rain was supposed to stop by 10 and it wouldn’t rain the rest of the day.

There was a poem on the wall of our room. I didn’t take a picture of it, but the last two lines were something like, “Tomorrow is still a mystery, Today is a cake.” So I pointed at it, and I said, “See, Claire, today is a cake!” So she read it, and said, “oh yes,” nodding her head, “today is a cake.”

We had a wonderful breakfast, then packed our stuff up. Claire went to the church to mediate for a while. Then before we left, we performed the cup song for Marinette and Michel. I learned the movements at girl’s camp forever ago, and Claire did the singing.

We left at 10, full of happiness and general good cheer toward the world around us. It was a shorter day, so it was nice to leave a bit later and not have to worry about getting to where we were going early enough. For once the weather app was right, and it did not rain for the rest of the day. It was a bit muddy, which made the walking a little slower, but we stayed dry. It was definitely a much better day than we had imagined when we woke up.

It was very nice to walk and talk with Claire. I think we both said some things that we needed to talk about. Claire is actually a professional musician and does percussion and back up vocals and has gone on tour with some French artists. She was supposed to start another tour this September, but that fell through, so now she is walking the Camino to just see what happens.

At one point we met some people walking toward us with big shopping bags. We thought they were collecting Claire’s chestnuts, so we asked, and it turns out they’re mushroom hunting! HUGE mushrooms!

Around noon we came to a little town that had a small pilgrim rest stop by the church. We met Laurence there and she joined us walking to Aire sur L’Adour.

It was just a very nice, pleasant day. We talked a bit about our nervousness and excitement for Spain. We are getting closer to the Pyrenees, only 160k away, and some people claim to have seen them, but none of us have. None of us have ever been to Spain, and we are comfortable with the chemin in France, so we don’t know what to expect or how different it will be. None of us know Spanish, so we were going over the simple words and phrases.

We stopped for lunch. Laurence had some cookie/cracker type things, and asked if either of us wanted some gateau, which is cake. So I triumphantly declared again, “Today is a cake!” Then Claire started laughing and said, “oh, now I understand.” I had totally misread the poem. It said, “Today is a gift,” which is cadeau. Apparently I just have cake on the brain. I giggled about that for a while.

We got into Aire sur L’Adour and went our separate ways. We are all probably going to Santiago (I say probably, because Claire was only supposed to walk 4 days from Le Puy) so we will probably meet again at some point.

Today really was a gift.  It was a very nice day that lifted my spirits.

I stopped at the Cathedral before going to my hotel. It’s a small Cathedral, but very ornate. There was a pilgrim’s office inside, so I got a stamp and wrote my information down in the book. When I walked in, there was someone practicing the organ, playing a hymn I recognized. It was nice that it was a hymn and not “House of the Rising Sun.”

My hotel is a real hotel! The bed looks glorious, but it currently only has a bottom sheet. I went to try to ask the man if I could get a top sheet, and I think he said I could get one tonight. He doesn’t speak english, so we’ll see. There is a big, very fluffy comforter on the bed, but that would make me too hot. I think it will be a very nice comfortable place to spend two days. I will be well rested and ready for my last week in France.

Dinner was pretty darn good. I do have to say, though, that hotels shouldn’t advertise that they speak English if they don’t. I realize that my French has severe limitations, so I try to pick places that speak English. It just makes things easier for everyone.

The woman who was running dinner tried to tell my why I only had one sheet on my bed, and I couldn’t understand her at all. She said something about pilgrims and envelopes, so I thought she was trying to say that they expected pilgrims to bring their own sheets, which is fine, I do have a sleeping bag, but this is a hotel and I expect real sheets! After dinner she said it was all taken care of and came up to my room with me. Sure enough, there was a sheet on my bed! She then explained using pantomime that in France the big fluffy comforter is the top sheet and they wash and change it every day. So I said I understood, and thanked her for the sheet, and told her I sleep very hot. Sometimes my sleeping bag is too hot. I will now be nice and comfortable for my two nights stay!

Back to dinner. She was telling me my choices for the first course, pottage of legumes, or something else that she said had corn and cheese and was very good. It has been my experience that legume soup isn’t usually that substantial, so I picked the second one. Then she started telling me about the second course, and I honestly don’t know if I had a choice or not or if she just chose the chicken for me. I tried to ask if there was another choice and she looked shocked and said, “you don’t want meat?” I’m here two nights. I wonder if I will have to eat the same thing two nights in a row. Not that that would be bad, but it would be nice to try other things.

The first course was absolutely delicious, and I have no idea what it was. Something orange, so squash, or sweet potato maybe, and corn, and cheese, and it was like a thick dip. I ate it with lots of yummy bread.

The chicken was delicious. It had a nice crispy skin and was even served with a piece of bacon. It also had a bunch of different oils as garnish, so the dish was quite oily, but it was very good.

For dessert I chose the chocolate mousse. Can’t go wrong with that. The other choices were cheese, ice cream, or flan.

They put me at a small table by the front desk and next to the kitchen door. It was highly amusing watching the wait staff. One guy and one girl. They would stand at the counter looking out over the room, then dash off when they noticed something, or when someone rung a bell in the back that signified something. Then they would come back and stand with their backs to the desk again. It reminded me a lot of watching ball girls/boys at tennis matches. They had sharp eyes, too. Whenever I took the last piece of bread out of my basket, it was whisked away and replaced in a matter of seconds, and my water carafe did not go empty.

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7 Comments

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  1. Oh yeah, I’ve had chestnuts in Korea, but I think horse chestnuts are not the edible kind. I don’t know how you tell the difference.

    You could start a Facebook group for non-celiac wheat intolerance, specifically focused on travel, and find out where people have been able to eat the local wheat and where they haven’t. (Seriously–I could help find people!)

    I love “today is a cake.”

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  2. I have had a rough couple of days myself, and I always look forward to reading your blog posts. They are a joy and a treat to read. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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  3. I’m imagining tennis ball boys and girls dashing out with bread.

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  4. I love reading these posts! You paint great pictures with your words.

    I wanted to comment on the wheat thing–I recently found out that my daughter has fructose malabsorption. Turns out she can’t handle the carb part of the wheat. She can have spelt in moderate amounts, though. Anyway–can you eat other gluten containing grains in the US? Just not wheat? And is the wheat in France/Europe just a different variety that’s more tolerable?

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    • At this point it really is all speculation for me, but I think it might not have anything to do with gluten at all, but something to do with the processing. The one time I’ve felt any discomfort was when I ate something that was obviously a packaged sweet roll from a store, but that was also when I was on the antibiotics. I haven’t had any problems with things like cookies.

      At home when I thought it was the gluten, I’ve had “gluten” responses from Bob’s red mill gluten free pizza crust mix, and there was one other that I can’t remember.

      I haven’t tried spelt recently.

      I am going to try some things when I get home and see how I do.

      It could be the type of wheat here and the way they don’t use the same chemicals, pesticides, and processing that they do in the U.S.

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  5. I had the same problem with NO SHEETS in most of Europe. Our apartment didn’t have top sheets: just duvets. Of course, you can’t tuck those in and have them cover up to your chin when you are over 6′ tall (you understand!). And none of the hotels had top sheets either. I made one of some fabric from IKEA and then left it at the first hotel we stopped at. AAGGHH. Then someone gave me some yards of silk – really! – so I made a silk sheet. Heaven! I took it with me all over eastern Europe. And I brought it home.

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