Our last day of walking the pilgrim path was into Conques. Glorious weather and countryside with cows. There was a farmer and his black and white herding dog miving a small herd of about 20 water buffalo, with calves, along the lower valley. These produce the fabulous mozzarella cheese.
This is a walk through hamlets enclosed in old fortresses, with stops for espresso and greeting the older locals with Bonjour! Finally we saw the sign, 30 minutes to Conques. Susana said, sí, de puede! Which means yes, we can, in Spanish. Although the sign was a bit deceptive in that the last 30 minutes was a at least 50 minutes down a very steep hill on a rocky path. But she knew she could do it!
Conques, which in French means the pilgrim shell, appears suddenly along a hillside. Streets are the original cobblestone from medieval times. And the buildings are straight out of a fairy tale. Like all streets and villages we have walked through, all is immaculate. Tourists and tourist buses pour in, filling the small village with people and offering a market for the arts and crafts of the region. We check into the Abbey St. Foy, built to house pilgrims over a thousand years ago, and it serves the same purpose today as it has through the ages.
We showered, washed our hiking clothes by hand, and explored the town a bit.
Yesterday was another glorious day for walking with high clouds, an early morning fall chill turning into a warm afternoon. We have started earlier the past two days, at least by 8:15 instead of an hour or even two later. Signs Damon and Susana have gained much strength and are past the exhaustion of walking every day for ten to fifteen miles carrying a backpack of ten to twenty pounds. Of course, today we walk to Conques, France our intended goal to complete our pilgrimage at the famous Abbey St. Foy, where we will stay. But they are feeling strong with just a few aches and pains and will recover quickly.
Last night at dinner we talked about seeing the many memorials to young men who died in the Great War, 1914 to 1918. One village had 250 inhabitants and 80 men died in the war. When the Nazis came a few years later, there was no one left to really offer resistance. The memorials to men who died in 1941 to 1945 have far fewer names, because the population was so depleted after the first war. Every village has a prominent memorial.
Today we walked through forests of chestnuts, oaks and a few ash trees. The route is in and around a few farm buildings and through a small village where we sat outside at a cafe overlooking the countryside and had an espresso and an apple tart. It was so lovely.
We walked 13 miles and were not exhausted or hardly tired. Damon and I went down to the small stream for a quick and very cold dip, just for fun. The water is clear and about two feet deep. Damon actually sat down to get wet but I just let my feet turn numb and called it good. We laughed and enjoyed the cold on a warm day.
A lentil salad at dinner. The first three nights we had a lentil dish and have not seen them for days. And this salad dressing was just a vinegarette whereas all others have had Dijon mustard in them.
It was hot and Damon and Susana stretched out on the grass.