Fra(i)ncia XXIII – Thresholds..

So Saint-Alban-sur-Limognole was nice, a town that actually cherished the pilgrims for the business that they brought and they looked after them well. The sour taste from my mouth disappeared soon enough just by how extremely friendly and welcoming the people were. First night when I arrived, I had a talk with a guy in front of the party bar and he later saw me sitting at the other bar and we actually laughed about it. On the 3rdday I even caught him going to the other bar. Thats what I like to see, people going to each others bars and caring about the community. Spread the wealth a little ya know. 

The little shed that I slept in was pretty basic but it had walls and a roof. The first night I stayed there it became so foggy that during the night that a thick layer of ice covered the entire graveyard. It looked beautiful in a morbid way. Im not really scared of these places anymore, I associate them with water and some sort of shelter and rest than a place where people. Which are matters of the living, not the dead.. I think a lot of superstition hoovers over these places but I really dont have much time or care for superstition anymore.

I went to the church service the next day and they had a pretty young priest, albeit a somewhat older flock. The people were very nice to me though and nobody even minded Lucy being there in the church with me. Maybe its because St. Roch is a pretty popular Saint in these parts. Ill loop back to this later on in the story.

After mass I went to some shops that were actually open on a sunday, which is a rare sight to behold for most places 5 years ago ALTHOUGH it seems that France is becoming more “liberal” in regards to this.

I spend the morning typing away in party, chaos, bar l’Europe, drinking tea and doing some writing while listening to everything from crappy 90’s music to modern day shitty hiphop to chansons only a French person would know. It was alright, people were friendly and the tea was alright. I went ‘home’ afterwards to my little shed and baked me and Lucy an insane omelette. Really good having some warm food in me since the temperature was fluctuating pretty hard. In the evening I went to scour the place for electricity and I found a restaurant/gite open. I got greeted with a smile once again and I saw that theyre daily menu was on the cheap side. I just couldnt resist. I drank a few tea, was able to charge most of my equipment and the old lady (who I assumed was the mother of the owner, maybe?) made me a great meal with rice and chicken and some vegetables with a local cheese. Not nearly enough to hold me over but when you had 6 eggs with 4 kinds of vegetables for lunch, anything in the evening is just a darn calorie bonus. This seemed to become more the tradition. Live off 2 pieces of fruit and then plow through 5k calories when you had the chance. Body weight fluctuation accordingly..

I woke up the next day cold as shit, although the fog returned it didnt nearly have the chilly punch it had before and nothing was snow covered this tim. Around the time I actually woke up, the fog was already burning off, good omens.

I went to the quiet little bar of the first night and saw the owner from the party bar there, he greeted me with the hugs and kisses any French person is accustomed to giving and it didnt even fell weird anymore. He joked when I left “if I was absolutely sure I was going to leave?” since he saw my ugly mug around town for the past couple of days.. yes, yes sir Im actually going this time around.

Oh I almost forgot, a couple of days ago I crossed the border from Auvergne department into the Haute-Loire department, I came across a statue of Saint Roch. A modest fellow carrying a staff and almost looked identical to St. Jacques (Santiago), except for the fact that he had a dog with him, needless to say I could feel the connection immediately. The guy was also plague ridding, pointing to a bump on his leg.. Now thats a cool but fucking sad saint, imagine being canonized as some little bitch, lifting up his skirt to piont at some bump on his leg until the end of time. Even the dog looks fucking sad. BUT STILL, COOL SAINT BRUH!

There was also a refuge on the border that I met my first other pilgrim this camino around. There was no light burning and the place looked deserted, so I open the door en I see from the corner of my eye a older-ish lady, sitting there doing some writing or nitting. I ask her like hey, youre another pilgrim? Shes doesnt even look at me but keeps on writing, tells me yea Im a pilgrim. Im like…okkkkkeeeyy….uhm did you start in Le Puy? She said; no Im already walking way longer than that. Still shes not making eye contact whatsoever and with the sun setting I felt like I was intruding on her property or something.. I asked her where she was from and she said Germany, I switched to German and told her I was on the road a little bit longer than Le Puy en Velay as well. A small pause before she glanced at me for the slightest and I continued in German telling her I started in the Netherlands. She went back to her business after that and I said well, have a good one. Shes like; oh youre not staying here? Im like hell nah, I still need some food and tomorrow is Sunday and I noped the hell out of there. After 5 minutes I felt bad because I should have asked her if she needed anything, since she was in the middle of nowhere and I was going towards civilisation.. Even little ol’ witches need water to survive.. Too late now. Weird fucking interaction with the first pilgrim on my journey, the fact that she was also German (same nationality as my cherry popper pilgrim 5 years ago) made it all a little bit weirder. I realized once again that you can lump all the pilgrims into 2 groups, differences exist within these groups but largely – you have people that decide to go there to have fun and do it in a upbeat mood and you have people that have been hurt by the world so much that it almost seems like theyre running away from something. The German lady and me certainly collided on philosophy it seemed. Its fine, everyone has their own camino and Im not here to judge or intrude..

Funny that I met the first pilgrim of my journey exactly on the border of the 2 provinces of one where I spent wayyyy too much time for my liking, but then again, Le Puy is a very popular starting point so it wasnt all that weird on paper.. The next bigger-ish town I walked into I had a stray dog come at me immediately. It looked like a hunting dog but without an owner and it was very well natured, it was wearing a orange collar and Lucy hated his guts right from the start. She’s become more bitchy as she matured, or at least less gullible, so I decided to not entice him to come with me too much. Still he was pretty relentless in his pursuit and ran into the road, over the road, in front of cars and fuck me, people look at me angry like ‘dude watch your dog’ but my lil Lucy was walking neatly on the sidewalk and all I could do is just desolé my way to the nearest bar. The first and only bar in town was pretty nice and friendly, the lady even gave me some complementary nuts.. Theres a tea bagging joke in here somewhere but I cant be asked, sorry.

I sat there writing until the sun went down and I already secured a nice parking spot for my tent in a park not too far away. There were only 2 people in the bar and one of em bought me a croque monsieur, thats very sweet monsieur..Bruno? Cool.. Lucy ate the pork.

I had a very good night sleep but when I woke up it was raining and not too warm either, just above freezing point and hmmmmm, didnt really feel that chill about it. I sat at the bar from the day before some more, warming up and some other guy popped in. He sat at the bar drinking beer and I didnt even notice him at first since I like to keep to myself unless asked in most places. Around 1600h I just up and left, the rain had dissipated and a little bit of darkness is not going to stop me and my Lux. The guy at the bar opened conversation with me and he told me he was a pilgrim as well, Italian and his name was Francesco (Italian and Francesco, German and territorial, 2 more to go and I got me a European-stereotype of a kind, all I need is the Lazy Greek (joke!) and the obnoxious Dutch tourist.., oh wait thats me..), after Blair Witch refuge from a couple of days earlier – he was a good sight. He looked at me funny though and asked me if I really was going to go today. I said fuck yea, the rain has stopped. Now is the time to move since in 4-5 hours its going to start again. He was like but you dont see anything of the landscape. I parried by saying theres no stars during daytime and walked out the door..ehh choices..? He laughed and I wished him well already on the move. Ill probably run into him later since were going the same way. Good to see friendly stereotypes though.

Just as it was getting dark I found a chapel at the border of a village. It was cold as shit but I could put my sleeping mat/bag on the wooden altar and it was actually alright. I had some coffee and cheese left that would have to pass as dinner and the tea and water from earlier were more than sufficient to get me through the night. Had some very weird dreams (that I wont get into) and waking up having a Maria statue look at you directly is also something that you just have to experience at one point in your life.

I left a nice Dragontree stamp in the guestbook and I continued my way.

It was easy enough, the hills after Le Puy seemed to become a little bit less hillish and no more ‘hey-come-see-this-ruined-ruin-up-the-hill-and-then-go-all-the-way-down-because-fuck-you-shenanigans”.

Nasbinals was up next and the atmosphere of that place was just completely opposite from the place I visited earlier. People unfriendly, looking at you weird and distrustful, crazy expensive shops. Its whatever. I wasnt planning on sticking around here. I went to a bar to drink some tea and I saw Francesco there again. He had a beer while I drank my tea and we had some good war stories to tell each other about camino’s. It was nice having a guy around who also travelled and I had already seen his footprints in the mud earlier that day, he usually chose the same route through difficult terrain as I did so I wasnt surprised at all when I found out this was the guy’s 5thtime on the camino. A very well disciplined walker however, more so than me, 30km every day / get up at 0730h kinda pilgrim. It was cool having some company. 

I told him I was about to leave and he declared me nuts again. I told him its my rhythm and I honestly dont give a fuck. 

Maybe more fucks should have been given because the camino was about to throw me a snowy curveball.. But shit Sundae’s are part of the diet..