Monday, 9 June 2003
Distance 17 km
Duration 3 hours 25 minutes
Ascent 282 m, descent 382 m
Map 63 of the Top-100 series
Topo-guide (ref. 653) Sentier de Saint-Jacques de-Compostelle, Moissac/Condom/Roncevaux
We had no need to hurry today, as it was such a short stage.
The morning was dry but our washing was not, after the chilly night, so we shoved it in a plastic bag for later.
Cutting back to town by a lane we had discovered yesterday, we set off in a westerly direction, sustained by a handful of cherries from the tree we had camped under.
The GR rose and fell like a ship at sea and we soon began to feel hot in the sun. It was a relief to get to the chapel of Sainte Germaine in its small park of oaks, whose interior was as cool as a cellar and bathed in golden light.
Further on, past a couple of hamlets, we slithered down a slope beside a grotesquely restored farmhouse, with monstrous plate-glass windows more suitable for an aiport lounge. At the bottom there was a small artificial lake where fishermen were hard at work doing nothing.
When we came to a road, we turned along it and pursued our way up hill and down dale until the rooves of Condom came into sight below. The descent was on a grassy path between trees, a pleasant change from the road.
It is remarkable how quickly you stop sniggering about the name Condom and accept it as normal. In town, the Office of Tourism was closed for the Pentecost holiday, but we found out from the boulanger that there was a camping ground not far away, on the river.
The cathedral square, although large, seemed too small for the overbearing cathedral, but we sat down gratefully under its bulk at the Cafe des Sports for our second breakfast of pastries and coffee. It was almost midday.
Greatly refreshed, we crossed the river Baïse, thick as soup, and were directed along a path on top of the flood dyke, shaded by lopped plane trees. At the camping, there was nobody at the desk, so we made ourselves at home in a hedged plot. Showers, a picnic lunch and sleep occupied the afternoon, which was as hot as an oven.
It was still hot when we wandered back to look at the sights. In the cathedral, a service was taking place in Dutch, perhaps for our fellow campers from last night. The beautiful cloisters had been roofed with a big creamy sail and boards covered the lawn. Presumably it was going to be used for one of the many outdoor concerts that take place in France in the summer.
We retired to the Cafe des Sports again, and just in time, as it rapidly filled with diners and latecomers had to eat indoors. We had a large salad followed by pizzas.
At the adjacent table was a man with a beautifully dressed woman loaded with make-up and jewellery. We fell into conversation and, when he found out we were walkers, he said he had walked the first part of the pilgrimage recently, and was burning to do more of it.
He spent the rest of the evening trying to convince his glamorous companion that she would also enjoy it. She did not seem to be coming round. They lived in Pau, only an hour or so’s drive away, but for us it was to take three weeks.