Camino de Madrid

Camino de Madrid
Camino de Madrid

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Day 13. Castre to Abbey of En Calcat (21 kms)

13 April, 2011

There is nothing - absolutely nothing -half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boots.

The day was fine but cool, lovely weather for walking through green fields on country roads.

I am glad to be out of the woods. There was always the potential for disaster. One wrong turning and I would have been wandering forever around a confusion of forest tracks which led only to logging sites.

Everyone is friendly in this part of the country, perhaps because there are relatively few walkers. In other parts of France, my Bonjour has been met with a surly nod, and in England, farmers have been known to leave a bull in the field to discourage walkers from using the public footpath that runs through their land.

I am staying at a Benedictine abbey built around the turn of the last century. Perhaps because the dormitory has been taken over by a larger group, they have put me in the conference centre with my own private room and bath.

The church is huge, neo-Romanesque in light stone, devoid of garish ornamentation. I listened to an organ practice, and then attended Vespers.

Christianity got off on the right foot when the followers started singing.

As I listened to the service, I reflected on the great tradition of church liturgy and music, and its evolution into Good News Bibles, emasculated hymn books, and hermaphroditic prayers.

The meal was simple: garlic soup, green beans, cheese, puréed apple, and biscuits. And another superb vin du pay. The monk responsible for the meal tried to force the rest of the bottle upon me, and insisted I put some biscuits in my pocket for the road.

The garlic soup reminded me of a monk at an abbey just before Leon, who was famous for the garlic soup he would make for the pilgrims. He was getting on in years but still insisted on saying mass. Two other priests would stand on either side and steady him, and prompt him when he forgot the words.

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