25 April 2011 – retracing my steps

It’s the 25th of April and time to say farewell to my erstwhile family of fellow pilgrims: Karsten, Felicia, Jocelyn, Francine and Max. Sophie will be travelling with me today, so it’s not quite farewell for her. We have a wonderful breakfast with Jean-Claude, then have a little movie session in which Francine asks questions and Felicia takes a movie with her camera, then they pack up to leave. It takes a little while because Karsten isn’t ready. In the half-light of dawn, someone has taken his boots and left another pair, same brand, a half size larger. The other person is going to have a long day with too-small boots.

 Finally they leave and Sophie and I slowly make our way to the same bar where I had the beer yesterday and where the transport vehicle will pick us up around 11 AM to take us to Aumont-Aubrac. There Sophie will catch the bus to take her onwards, while I will stay overnight and catch the bus tomorrow (Today’s train to Paris is full – it’s the last day of Easter vacation). Sophie will help me find a place to stay in Aumont-Aubrac. We will have several hours there. It’s warm, peaceful, birds singing, sunny, just a lovely day in this remote valley.

Yesterday evening I was able to get Internet access and book my flight home for Thursday, two days from today. Not Air Canada at around $4500, but the Polish airline LOT at $1674, about 1/3rd the price … and I get to visit Warsaw, another unexpected treat.

 In Aumont-Aubrac, after a 55-km drive, we find me a room at the Sentiers Fleuris, a lovely welcoming place with dinner, bed and breakfast for 38 Euros. Sophie and I go out for a bite before she leaves. She tells me that she thought about her father a lot during the past few days. He is late 60s, has what sounds like terminal cancer, widespread in his abdominal cavity and lungs. He wants to walk a piece of this trail with her so she plans to come back this fall with him. She tells me that she had a very strict upbringing, left home, made some bad decisions (her words) and after five years was lost and searching.  She met a young priest to whom she told everything. He said that it could all be fixed. She is now a devout Catholic, very happy, 39 years old. It turns out that her birthday is 14 July, same as Carroll’s and that she loves the fireworks (She lives in Paris, where they celebrate Bastille day every July 14th). Every year she figures that they are especially for her.

After our lunch, she goes to the church for a visit, I go back to have a little sleep. At 3:30 she comes back to my place and we walk together to the station. The bus comes, we embrace and say farewell and she is gone. I walk back to the hotel in a rain shower with the sun shining through. The hotel has WiFi, so I compose and send several days of my blog, then have dinner with another wonderful welcoming host, Andre, who does the arigot thing again to the amazement of the assembled crowd. I sit for dinner with two Italians and three Germans, a small family from Munich, all of whom speak good English.

 Overnight I think about staying on one more day here instead of spending two overnights in Paris (Will Inrig has found me a place to stay in Montmartre) but I decide that I would rather get near where my plane will be on Thursday, so I will go to Paris in the morning.