Day 2 Saint-Gilles-du-Gard to Vauvert, Monday, oil 23 September 2019

Irrigation canal

13 miles on iPhone, but officially 17. 9 km

Blue skies, light breezes and varied scenery made today much better than yesterday. Tonight we are sleeping in what was once a horse stall at a gîte operated by (according to his self-description in our MiamMiam DoDo guidebook) a ”pelerín ancien,” although he is considerably younger than we are.

We’ve just had a nice, simple dinner, and I’m having a hard time staying awake although it is only 9:30 pm.

The other guests are a young French couple, and the two women we first met yesterday on the digue, and whom we hadn’t seen since. Their names are Isabelle and Genevieve, and we will stay in the same place with them tomorrow.

Notable sights today: orchards of plums, peaches, and apricots — fruits already picked—apples still on trees, and grapes already harvested, but with a few low-hanging clusters at the ends of rows along the road, to which we helped ourselves.

We walked along the shimmering blue water of an irrigation canal, encountered a large number of domesticated pigs, rooting happily under trees in a forest mucky from yesterday’s rain, observed a few lovely white horses, and encountered some very fierce barking dogs, two of which escaped their fence and came after me. I turned and faced the, and looking into their eyes held out one hand in a stop motion, and shouted at them, « Non! » and « au revoir! » while I walked slowly backward, not wanting to risk s nip in my calf, until finally they turned away.

Finally, we came to eerily beautiful, totally burned forests, still smelling smoky. There had been awful fires in this area over the summer. At first I thought the oak leaves had just turned bronze, but then I realized this was the fire we had read about.

Kent in the burned forest, waiting for me to finish taking picture

Upon entering Vauvert, one of the first places we came to was a house with a menu du jour posted outside. We entered through a courtyard, climbed an outdoor flight of stairs, and were welcomed by a. Pleasant woman, even though it was near what must have been her 2 pm closing time. We shared one meals of salade miste, poultry and pasta. We drank 3 bottles of table water, and luxuriated in sitting in chairs at a table for the first time in two days.

There was so much more. As I walked I composed prayers for two friends confronting cancer, Anne and Anita, much-loved by many and so generous to others. May they be healed, but if that is not possible, may God hold them in his loving arms and give them peace and comfort. I prayed, too, for my friend Monica, also wise and generous, that her recovery from a stroke may restore some of the wonderful talents now eclipsed. And for my friend John who has lost his lifelong partner, Karen.

Now to sleep, so I’ll have strength to walk another day.

White Camargue horse

Day 1 Arles to Saint-Gilles- -du-Gard: Sunday 22 September

iPhone count 15.1 miles. (Official count is 19-20 km, which would be considerably less.)

The endless digue
Snails on the trail

The way was supposed to take 4-5 hours, but it took us nearly 6, from 8 am until 1:45 pm

This was a harder day than we expected, with seemingly endless along a dike, often with glimpses of Le Petit Rhône, but always with the oppressive heavy humidity that builds before rain, accompanied by swarms of flying insects, and sometimes by overbearing bamboo. We stopped once for a shared apple and two finger-sized sausages. We spread a poncho on a sandy bank, but there was almost nowhere to sit. It sometimes felt like walking through an endless tunnel, and the gravel surface became tiring on the feet.

There were many barricades along the dike. This one had a Chemin sign.

It mostly felt like a long slog. We got into St. Gilles just as the restaurants were closing for the day. In fact, every business in town, other than the church, which we are right next to, is closed up tight. We did manage to get a cold beer, before one restaurant closed, and we were happy for that.

We received a warm welcome from the hospitalier, who has invited us for wine at 6:30. He had offered to call a small restaurant and arrange dinner for us, but that place, too, was closed, so although we ate our bread and cheese, our carrot and remaining apple.

The Canadians and two French pilgrims are here tonight, too, sharing the six-bed dormitory. Some others are in another dormitory in the cellar.

We met two other French women on the path, but have not seen them here.

We will see what tomorrow brings. We have a place reserved with dinner, as most restaurants, as well as most shops, are also closed on Mondays. Tomorrow promises to be a somewhat shorter day, hopefully with more interesting walking.

The St. Gilles church is quite lovely, and here I saw for the first time the Camargue Cross

The Camargue Cross

Rain and Preparations: Arles, Saturday September 21

Tomorrow we walk, 20 or so km from Arles to Saint Gilles. Our pilgrim life will truly begin.

Cloister, St, Trophime

There were many last-minute things to take care of today, foremost among them getting a French SIM card for my phone, so we can follow our location on map apps as we walk, call ahead for reservations, and get keys to gites.

The SFR phone store could not sell me a card. For that I had to go to a tabac. Yes, if we bought their brand of card, the fellow in the SFR shop would put it in for me. To get to a larger store where They could do everything, would be a long walk or a bus trip. Two visits to Tourist Information told us this.

We did find the card after queueing in a tabac, and had it put in at the phone store. We are now good to go, with 5 g of data (that I’ll need only when there is no wifi) for the next month.

Coffee and croissants for breakfast. delicious! Why do American croissants taste nothing like these?

Selfie from atop the Arena

We ran around in the big Saturday outdoor market as rain started to fall—buying bread — 4 slices cut for us— 4 apples, a small sausage, and a round of Camembert. On the way home we picked up a bottle of orange juice and a carrot, and with some ice and a borrowed knife from our AirBNB hostess Ariane, we had a fine lunch. The rainy afternoon was spent visiting some of the many sites of interest in Arles, including St.Trophime Basilica and Cloister, Les Allycamps Cemetery (Roman and Medieval), the arena, the theatre, the baths of Constantine, and other places.

We got our Pilgrim Credentials and first stamps.

At 5:15 we returned to St. Trophime to the Accueil Pèlerin (pilgrim welcome) office that we’d been checking all day. Mass was being said, but 3 people were waiting at the back of the church wearing rain gear and sturdy sandals. «Pilgrims! » I said. And they were: two French Canadian women, Marie and Ginette, and a French man, Jean, who have walked together before. They will also be heading to Saint Gilles tomorrow and finishing in Toulouse as we will. Younger than us, and probably better walkers, we will be with them for at least awhile.

Sign at Les Allycamps

More rain is predicted for tomorrow, although it cleared a bit at sunset. It is cooler, so we will not be walking in blazing sun and heat.

We finished the evening with couscous, chicken, meatballs and vin rouge at a Moroccan restaurant. Arles is a delightful place.

Ultreia! Bon Courage!

Sunset, Arles

San Francisco: First Stop on Our Camino From Arles to Toulouse

Tuesday, September 17th

Our packs seemed too heavy as we sped through the Albuquerque airport yesterday, and again as we exited the Oakland airport and rode the BART and MUNI to our stop at 7th and Irving near Golden Gate Park.

We are still considering what we can leave out—sleeping bags, most likely. We fly to Barcelona this evening.

Meanwhile we managed a nap and enjoyed some family time as Kent practiced carrying a load of a different kind on his back.

Riding on Grampy’s Back

I am nervous about this Chemin, as there will be several days in isolated, rugged mountains with few services, but all that is yet many days away.

Meanwhile, I will live in this day, and start with this meditation from Paula:

Morning Meditation

I give thanks for the journey.

I give thanks for the arriving and leaving.

I wake to freshness and do reverence.

In a sacred manner I am walking.