After my detour in Perigord, I got back on track and made my way Southwest into Aquitaine, the heart of Bordeaux wine country.
On the way into Saint Astier, I took a break by this lovely canal and made some serious headway on A Farewell to Arms. Not my favorite Hemingway book (that would be For Whom the Bell Tolls), but nevertheless it’s made for enjoyable reading. And something about Hemingway makes me want to drink really good wine and eat really good cheese.
After Saint Astier I trudged for over 30 km in the rain to Mussidan. I think that photo sums up Mussidan. It’s a town that has seen much better days; somehow there are still people who need film developed, and if you couple that with the massive trailer encampment in the heart of the town you have a pretty depressing picture.
Luckily, my fortunes improved, and the next day’s journey to Ste Foy la Grande was beautiful. Even though the Camino mostly traversed asphalt roads, they were all quiet and situated deep in the back-country, so I didn’t have to dodge cars every few minutes.
Around noon that day I stopped in the small town of Fraisse and rested in the shade of the parish church. They had a picnic table set up and I brought out Hemingway, stared at the clouds, and took this picture of myself:
I don’t look in the mirror too much these days (when you camp outside there are no mirrors), but I think I’ve lost a little weight! I certainly feel like I have.
With about 6 km left for the day, I found myself facing a monstrosity of a hill. What better way to celebrate the last climb of the day than a good run to the top? With my pack on my back I sprinted as hard as I could. There was a cool breeze cascading downhill and it was refreshing as I heaved my way forward; about halfway up I stopped to catch my breath, walked for about ten seconds, then sprinted to the summit. This was the view that greeted me:
When you suffer for something, you appreciate it more in the end.
I camped not far outside the grid-shaped city of Ste Foy la Grande and walked to Saint Ferme yesterday, with another solid 30 km of pavement awaiting my feet.
As I left the city I found a farmer’s stall selling the biggest and best raspberries I have ever tasted in my life. Each one was half the size of my thumb and had the perfect ratio of tartness to sweetness. I paid 2.50 Euro for them so I knew I was getting my money’s worth!
Near the end of the day I stopped in Pellegrue, an old Roman town with a sad Romanesque church that has seen better days. I ate lunch under the empty covered market in the town center and was accompanied by a couple of older French gentlemen who had been lingering nearby. I shared my wine with them and enjoyed the day, then continued onto Saint Ferme, a Romanesque abbey with some of the best-preserved capitals I have ever seen.
Unfortunately the lighting was poor so I didn’t get any good pictures of the sculptures, but I did catch the sunset at the right time, hitting the side of the nave.
Today I find myself in La Reole, a city about 20 km south of Saint Ferme, with another 10 km or so to go before I settle in for the night. I’m going to be camping somewhere between here and the next stage on the Camino, a town called Bazas. Spain is a week away, or maybe a little more, and I can’t wait for my first sight of the Pyrenees. Bon Soir!
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7 thoughts on “Tramping Through Vineyards: Three Days in Aquitaine”
Nathan, there is a fine cathedral in Bazas, Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Bazas. It boasts a fine tympanum. The church was rebuilt after it was devastated in the Wars of Religion, but is still worth a visit.
Hey Dennis! I’m here in Bazas right now, and had a chance to check out the cathedral. The West portals are indeed brilliant examples of Gothic sculpture. It’s a shame they’re in such bad shape, but they are still wonderful. Captieux by nightfall.
Mussidan looks so familiar…towns shut up for the night, people behind their shutters…
It was a pretty sad place to be.
“When you suffer for something, you appreciate it more in the end.”
Do you have a map of your journey? I looked through a couple of your posts but didn’t see one offhand. Will you be traveling through Bilbao? It’s the birthplace of Miguel de Unamuno (I wrote my undergrad thesis on him) and something about your physical pilgrimage reminds me of his journey. Here is a short essay he wrote in 1910 when someone asked him about “his religion.” It’s called “My Religion.”–http://www.armandfbaker.com/translations/unamuno/my_religion.pdf
Hey Amanda, thanks for your comment.
Unfortunately I don’t have a map of my journey. I have more or less followed this route here:
I will not by going through Bilbao–that’s on the Camino del Norte. I am walking the Camino Frances, which goes through Pamplona, Logrono, Leon, and Burgos on the way to Compostela.
Thanks for sharing that essay with me. Very compelling–I can’t completely relate to his struggle because I’m not a Christian, but then again, I don’t think he was in the sense that most people conceive Christians to be. And he says some particularly beautiful things; my favorite being “I have grown accustomed to taking hope from desperation itself.” What a heroic idea.