Once again I was overwhelmed by hospitality at the gite. I was invited to dine with the couple who are managing it for the week. Next week, someone else takes over. All are volunteers.
I decided to follow Le Canal du Midi into Toulouse and avoid the meanderings of the GR. The hospitalier walked with me for a few kilometres to send me in the right direction.
The canal was constructed in the 17th century under Louis 14th to allow passage from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic without going around Spain. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
I walk peacefully along the bank of the canal. When I can, I go down from the bitumen to the old towpath where the walking is easier. Ducks paddle in the water. Birds chirp. Doves coo. Joggers pass in both directions. A phalanx of cyclists whizzes by.
The mottled colour of the plain trees which line the canal reminds me of the gum trees along Bay Road where I used to walk to school. We would carve our names in the trunks and peel off the bark to make propellers. At a certain time of the year I would wave a branch above my head to ward off the swooping magpies.
Only the distant sounds of traffic from the autoroute and the drone of aircraft going in to land at Toulouse Airport mar the tranquility.
I stop at a little restaurant by a lock to have a coffee. I ask how far to go. Douze a Toulouse, she says. Douze a Toulouse.
I walk on. A tall, lean fellow approaches. Ultreia, he says. Ultreia, I reply, the pilgrims' greeting. He talks about his own experiences on the Camino.
As I walk into the outskirts of the city, the canal continues to provide a little ribbon of calm.
I arrived at the pilgrims' reception at the beautiful Basilique Saint-Sernin, but unable to find a suitable gite, I booked into a hotel.
Later, drawn back to the basilica, I entered the church to the glorious sound of an a capella choir. The conservatory choir was performing Les Reponses de Tenebres by Victoria. What wonderful music! I noticed that like every other choir in the world, they were recruiting tenors. Perhaps they would accept me.