montréal, gers, france
The walk is easier on my Way to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port at the foot of the Pyrénées. The path seemed more flat and undulating than steep and tiring.
Possibly I felt a bit more energy because I was walking through the Armagnac region. Most drinking Americans will know of Cognac, but fewer will have drunk Armagnac, an older distilled brandy than Cognac.
On this day I take a easy meandering walk through the countryside passing farms and other farms to my next destination–Montréal, or Montréal-du-Gers.
DAY 25 de Condom à Montréal (peut-être 17km) sur Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.
I am sometimes told that I walk with blinders like a work horse. That I am too focused on the destination and do not consider what I might experience with a detour.
For that reason I prefer to have walking companions who will venture off the route and go exploring. If only I had a companion who had suggested a short detour to Larressingle, a small fortified village, listed as one of the beaux villages of France. It was only a short 15 minute detour each way.
This day’s walk does seem like a lazy one and certainly welcome after those earlier days, three weeks previously, when I climbed and descended each day. But here the pèlerin will encounter passages between farms and pastures. The horizon is often seen; the destination seems to be straight ahead rather than unseen around corner. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
Close to the return road from Larressingle and its intersection to the the Chemin is a short bridge, the Pont d’Artigues. From The Way of St James I learned it was originally a Roman bridge with five arches over the Osse River and that during the middle ages one could find a pilgrim hospital nearby, which does not exist today, of course. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
Shortly after the Pont d’Artigues one comes to l’Église de Routges, the oldest church in the Gers, hidden a little from view by the vineyards and trees, and not far from the main road. It was locked when I arrived. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
Again The Way of St James is helpful here, noting that “the small door (photo left) on the side of the church . . . was the entrance used by the Cagots, an outcast population of uncertain ethnic origin. They were found mainly in this part of France and lived segregated lives until the end of the 19th century. Like many other pariah communities they were believed to be leprous, syphilitic, unclean and bearers of all types of evil. As a result here were only allowed to enter churches by a special side door reserved for their use and were not permitted to be buried in the cemeteries used by the rest of the population.”
Wikipedia tells us that the “Cagots were forced to use a side entrance to churches, often an intentionally low one to force Cagots to bow and remind them of their subservient status.”
About 500 kilometers from Puy-en-Velay, the start of the journey, one walks into Montréal, a town with an enormous 13th century cathedral, again a testament to Montréal’s importance as a refuge for pilgrims during the Middle Ages.
I stayed in a maison d’hôtes Carpe Diem, a very pleasant stay, with hosts Micheline and Claude Bertin. Wonderful hosts.