At this point, the pilgrim starts to anticipate Moissac and its fabled cloister. But there is much interest along the way. The Quercy is now softer:
The water at a choice lunch-spot shows we’re still in limestone country:
Here the pigeons sleep better than some pilgrims:
A large converted house on the way to Moissac was my booked accommodation for the night. (I was learning to negotiate for my own room at this stage.)
When I rang the bell, a tiny girl came out to receive me. In a mix of French and English, while talking in whispers, she had me follow her into the house and up a flight of steps to a large hotel-style room, too good for the money. Still whispering but not without authority, she instructed me to install myself.
I assumed, with a measure of disapproval, that there was no-one else at home…till the little girl’s mother appeared in the doorway, alerted by the sound.
Receiving pilgrims was apparently her favourite game. With apologies, I was shown out of my lavish hotel room by her English mother to a more modest one in the pilgrim wing. Oh well.
The evening brought some interesting characters and talk to the table. A retired geothermal electrician arrived first for aperitifs. His hobby now was building airplanes, especially as an educational exercise for youth. Really. I’d heard talk on the trail of a pilgrim who was wheeling a home-made cart: this was the guy! He’d designed it to carry his handicapped sister’s luggage with his own. The sister had retired from the track, Michel – I think that was his name – was now continuing on his own.
It often surprises me how the French can argue with strangers over a meal in a way that Anglo-types simply don’t do…unless they mean it to get a lot worse. A group of French travellers arrived late for dinner, and explained that they were walking but making use of a luggage service.
Michel, a southerner, quietly alerted me to the grim fact that the new arrivals were Parisians, regardless of where they lived now – and he seemed to feel that was no good thing. At table, when the jolly and none too fit parisiens spoke of their luggage service, Michel began to challenge this lack of character, pilgrim spirit and so forth.
And yet, by dessert, the subject had changed and all seemed amicable!
Next our host, a Frenchman of the anti-clerical persuasion, grew very critical of the church and local clergy…exciting further sharp words from Michel.
And by coffee, all was amicable again, digestions were fine. The French. Go figure!
Maybe the presence of another bossy little lady in the vestibule was helping to unite this race across their regionalisms and philosophical divides.