How our Shortest Day Became the Longest, Thursday September 26, Day 5, iPhone miles 17.8 miles, and Day 6, Friday, September 27, 8.4 km, 8.6 iPhone miles (definitely doesn’t add up, although we did take a wrong turn). Plus at Least Two Unwelcome Surprises

We have been whiling away a couple of pleasant hours under the famous large old sycamore tree surrounded by restaurants in front of the historic Abbey of St. Guilhem, a place I remember from 20 years ago.

La Place in St. Guilhem with 1855 plane tree

Yesterday i discovered that the place where I’d requested a reservation for that night in Montarnaud, claimed it had not heard back, and had given away our places. I had had no email response from them. But, with the help of Laurent, whom we encountered at a little patisserie in Montarnaud, we booked at Aniane, another 14 km away for the night.

After First High Climb

Immediately upon leaving Montarnaud we scrambled up a limestone escarpment of 1000 to 1200 feet. There was a lovely breeze at the top, which helped cool our sweat-drenched selves.

Then we descended, and after another hour or two came to the village of La Bossiere, where there were tables set out on wooden platforms along the street, evidently belonging to a bar of some kind operated by some young people sitting nearby who invited us to sit. I took off my boots, propped up my feet, and we enjoyed our ham and cheese sandwich we had carried from the patisserie.

Perfect lunch spot

Along came Laurent, and then one we labeled the “fast walker,” who chatted for a moment as we filled our water bottles at the nearby park, and then rapidly disappeared ahead of us. We next encountered a long detour along a very rocky trail with almost no shade. At last the trail branched off and the grande randonee, which we followed, headed steadily uphill. In the distance I could see the large rock we’d seen before Montpellier.

Kent waited for me at the top of the hill, then pointed below. There were Laurent and “fast walker,” who had taken the low road. We’d probably climbed unnecessarily, although the views were spectacular. The track descended, we came to a road, followed the red and white bars or GR 653, but eventually realized we had to be going the wrong way—there was no Aniane in sight, and no more markers. We consulted our book and online maps. We’d gone about a km downhill in the wrong direction. Back up hill, we we trudged another 10-20 minutes, and right near the top saw our mistake—a small track had veered off to the right. We were very tired and discouraged when we finally came to the Hostellerie de Saint Benoit, which was, of course, on the road exiting the town. Laurent, who had arrived only half an hour before us, had sent the hotel owner out to look for us. He had taken a wrong turn, also, on that low road.

Hilltop above Aniane

All turned out well, and we joined Laurent for dinner, one of the most beautifully prepared meals I’ve ever eaten. I didn’t take a photo, alas, of a swirl of melon, and a salad in a cabbage leaf, holding up a skewer of fried shrimp, with berries decorating the edges. This was followed by a tender confit of duck, and finally a chocolate and cream dessert. We slept well in our private room, but it was all too short.

In the morning we said good-bye again to Laurent over a very elaborate breakfast. We revisited the village, picked up some packages of dried soup, insurance for the days ahead, and headed off toward St. Guilhem. Another short day, but again we got turned around after a lovely, quiet time at the Devil’s Bridge, and ended up in St. Jean-de-Fos, which added another two km to our walk in the heat of the day.

Pont du Diable

Final mistake of the day. At four pm we headed to our gite, only to find they did not have our reservation.

As I wrote on Facebook, there was a little note at the bottom of the welcome letter that I failed to understand . A reply had been required, so although very disappointed, we were fortunate to find two beds in the Club Alpin Francois, where we are in a room with 4 mattresses together on a platform, no space in between. We will see how the night goes.

Sadly, I did not understand that the wording below meant I was to respond “oui” or some such. So when we arrived just now, they did not have us confirmed, and they had no room. I had made this reservation several days ago and was looking forward to a lovely gite with the Carmelite sisters, and a place to wash sweaty clothes. Fortunately we have another place. St Guilhem is crawling with pilgrims and tourists. We are lucky to have a bed at all.

“Dans l’attente de votre confirmation, recevez nos cordiales salutations fraternelles”

We look forward to new adventures tomorrow as we climb a mountain and have lodging in a family home—and plan to meet Emanuel, our young friend from our walk last year.

Author: Linnea Hendrickson

I am a retired librarian who walked my first camino to Santiago de Compostela in 2010, all alone from Le Puy-en-Velay to Finisterre. I've since returned to Spain, France, Portugal, or Italy at least every other year and continued to walk the many ways to Santiago.

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