A-Z of our chemin

Last week I enjoyed the train journey up from Cahors: very pleasant and quiet and none of the antisocial behaviour we have to endure on our trains here in the UK. No beer cans, no public/private/business phone conversations and no leaking hip hop noise from bad earphones. I got home at 10pm and hit the ground running next day as Thompsons young and younger still were staying at ours while their new home took shape in the village. The contrast of complete independence and autonomy with a revisiting of the joy and bedlam of babies and toddlers has been exhausting but a lot of fun nonetheless. We are lucky to have a bolt hole in which to regroup and that’s where I am right now.

So looking back on the fortnight we had in France I thought I’d do a short review in note form.

A is for ampoule. This means blister. I’ve not really had them before and don’t want them again.

Aligot: never again please.

Asperge: a charming frenchwoman looked me up and down one morning in my walking gear. She raised her index finger and said “Asperge.” Asparagus. Lean bean perhaps? Needless to say I was thrilled.

Asking for help. We got better at it. Part of this journey, inner and outer is about not trying to do it all by ourselves. So asking the way, for help making phone calls, for explanations and then, at the risk of looking foolish, asking someone to repeat it, doucement, doucement.

B is for baguette. Universal bread and of variable quality. Filling but strangely unsatisfying. Also appearing in Bread soup the night before we came home with water and onions.

C is for Conques. Everyone finishes their randonnee at Conques. It’s a medieval town and looks like a film set. It was throbbing with tourists and wasps the day we arrived. We made our way downhill out of town to our campsite did our washing, and sat by the pool, feeling glad and a tad smug not to be tourists.

Cahors. Very large town, 21000 people, set on a dramatic bend in the river. It was a gruelling descent down from the limestone plateau (La Causse) and we crossed a beautiful stone bridge into the city proper to be met by an accueil: an historic welcome for pilgrims maintained by volunteers who offered us a very welcome cold drink, small biscuit and a prune!

Chapelle: one a day was enough. But they were rather lovely in a gentle and simple way, without the lurid ornament of some we’ve seen.

Decazeville. Just after the glory of Conques lies Decazeville. Say it out loud. If you were the town council wouldn’t you moot a new name? Especially as it held the largest open cast mine in Europe. You can visit it. We skipped this town and picked up again somewhere more scenic and pretty sounding, which escapes me now. If I need to see a defunct mine, Helen has promised to take me to Selby, or some such.

Desole: What the French say when they’re not really.

“Il y a du wifi?” Hopeful tone and engaging smile. “Non. Desole” End of discussion.

Derriere impeccable. Not me this time. We met three Aussie women who were great fun and game girls. They had some lovely kit but it didn’t stop them purchasing a little more. The saleswoman got Bronwen to try on some shorts, made her turn round and made her year – and a sale – with the words, ‘derriere impeccable’. So much better than ‘nice arse’.

To be continued.



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