July 17, 2008

Day 13: 26 April- Golinhac to Conques

I breakfasted with the two French women, who turned out actually to be from this region, and who were to finish walking that afternoon in Conques.
Then it was time to leave the dramatic setting of Golinhac behind- and it felt like quite a wrench to leave it!
But I was soon traversing other attractive pieces of countryside.
I had quickly come to love this departement of France, Aveyron, the landscapes gentle and dramatic at the same time.
The day was warming up, and I was glad to find shade.
It was wonderful to walk beside this pretty babbling brook, without worrying that flooding might soon disrupt the path!
The Chemin wandered up and down hill to pretty villages like Espeyrac,
then Senergues. This was where I had lunch and chatted with an older German man who had also left from Le Puy. I had seen him on and off up to this point, then ate lunch with him along the path a few days after this, but I didn't really see him again, until one day near O'Cebreiro, nearly at the end. I think he walked faster than me in the early weeks, but as he was older, his knees started to suffer more with the descents, and I caught him up again. The Chemin was quite full of meetings and partings and meetings again...
After lunch it became increasingly hot, then difficult to walk in the heat. It was so hard to believe I had been in snow just a week before.
I passed the German group who were singing hymns in a small church.
It was a long descent into Conques, down a rocky path that seemed to take forever in the heat, and the monastery lay quite hidden in its valley until I was very near.
Then the sight of the village quite took my breath away.
And somehow, arriving here after two weeks walking, I felt I had become a pilgrim who belonged, rather than just a walker.

I had missed out on sleeping in the monastery though; being a weekend, I was told it was 'full' when I rang, (though I discovered later that they keep some places for walkers who turn up with packs on their backs.) Never mind, if the same happens to you, the gite communal was actually a pleasant place, newly redecorated, and I had good conversation there with others, some of whom I kept seeing over the next few days.
My most urgent need after walking in the heat of this afternoon was a good shower, which the gite provided! (This was a luxury medieval pilgrims would never have had!)
Conques was a beautiful place to wander in
with steep streets and so many medieval houses.
I went to hear the office sung at 18:30- only a small group of priests but people were able to join in and take part- and the sounds rose in the narrow church, angelic sounds. Then at 21.30 there was a concert (by a visiting group who were also starting as pilgrims,) -another taste of heaven.

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