Camino de Madrid

Camino de Madrid
Camino de Madrid

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Day 10. June 15, 2014. Carcassonne to Montreal. 28 kms

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

I was totally alone in the abbey, a huge building with three floors, and room for a hundred people or more. It was a very secular institution devoid of crucifixes on the walls, and seemed to be totally given over to the business of providing accommodation for parties of students and travellers. This was probably the only way for the institution  to survive. There may have been a few members of a religious order in a remote part of the building.

I walked down the hill to the Aude, crossed the Vieux Pont, and saw the familiar red and white markings of the grande randonne above a coquille Saint Jacques. I decided to abandon M. Lepere, and to follow the GR.

I turned left and walked along beside the river. As in any large city, lost and lonely men sat on benches waiting for something to happen. One accosted me and wanted to talk. I didn't understand him but that didn't seem to matter.

It is much easier and more enjoyable to follow the markings than to consult guide book all the time. However, you only have to miss one of the signs to get lost. I took a wrong turning on the outskirts of town, and a man stopped his car to put me right. Be sure you take the Rue de Romarin," he said. I thought of my little herb garden.

At last, I reached the open fields. I stripped the wild oats from their stems and scattered them to the wind. I chatted with a couple of chooks. And then I met a man with three dogs. We walked together around a lake. The dogs knew their routine. At regular intervals they would plunge into the lake.

In the village of Lavallette. I asked a wizened old man if there was a bar in town. "No beer, no coffee," he said with a malevolent smile. So I ate a banana on a bench beside the Club de P├ętanque. The wind made the sound of rushing water in the poplars.

Eventually, I found a coffee at Arzens. Two men and a woman were talking in a bar. It was a conversation I've heard many times in a bar, but never understood. It came in bursts, rising and falling, rumbling along quietly and then rising in a crescendo of guttural ejaculations before falling again into near silence. I was reminded of the harsh cries of a crow, but also the squawk of a parrot, and perhaps the hee haw of a donkey.

Later, I encountered something of the same at a bar at Montreal. This time I could hear loud shouts and huge banging sounds, as if someone were being thrown into the bar. Was it safe to go in there, I wondered. I ventured in cautiously, to find that the proprietor and his friends were watching a game on the television, and slapping their fist on the bar at exciting moments. This is serious rugby country.

I climbed gradually all day, and by the afternoon I was on the ridge overlooking the plain. I heard a solitary lark. My spirits were uplifted.

I am staying at the municipal gite. Three others have arrived, a Dutch couple and a French woman, a serious pilgrim indeed. More about them later.

The church, a collegiale, once a study centre for clerics, is very impressive from the outside. It dominates the surrounding countryside. Inside it is very somber, adorned with many paintings and wall coverings.

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