Thursday, 5 June 2003
Distance 27 km
Duration 6 hours 10 minutes
Ascent 485 m, descent 530 m
Map 57 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Topoguide (Ref 652) Sentier de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, Figeac/Cahors/Agen/Moissac
The raging wind and rain of the night had ceased by the time we got up and we were on our way by 7 am. This day was a repeat of the year before and we were agreeably surprised at how easy everything was. We avoided our previous mistakes, such as accidentally climbing to the top of Lauzerte instead of taking the ring road, and missing the short-cut through the woods that leads up to the pigeonnier.
On this stretch we passed the three charming women from Luxembourg that we had spoken to in the square yesterday, still glamorous in lipstick, earrings and silk blouses. I felt the need for a change from my red T-shirt, now an uncertain blotchy pink. My only other shirt was a heavy, long-sleeved thing, too hot to wear most of the time.
Down to the lonely church of Saint-Sernin in the forest, then over another rise, we descended past a row of cherry trees, which we were sampling when interrupted by a distant angry bellow from the farmer. Pilgrims must be like starlings to him – they are certainly numerous enough.
A short walk on the D57 and another rise took us down through sunflowers and a nut orchard, across a footbridge and up to the welcome hospitality of the Aube Nouvelle.
Wading up between prune trees and vines, our boots sank into the sticky mud and we knew we could never scrape off enough to enter the premises. Fortunately there was no need. The smiling waitress brought our coffee out into the garden, accompanied by a free plate of cakes.
Beyond Durfort-Lacapelette (godless town with no church), we passed the church of Saint-Martin, dwarfed by its oak tree, and followed the stream, then blasted up to the ridge that would take us to Moissac. Here we fell into step with a cheery group from Alsace, including a bandy-legged old fellow hobbling on a stick. We were to meet them again several times.
We had lunch in the shade of a tall graveyard wall before the final easy descent towards the Tarn, with views on either side.
In Moissac we knew, not only where the camping was (over the Napoleon bridge on an island), but also where the cafes were – in the Place des Récollets, which we had found with difficulty last year.
This wide central square was formerly the site of a large monastery of the penitential order of the Récollets, demolished during the revolution. Subsequently the opulent houses of the great river-boat masters sprang up around it.
Nowadays the two main sights of Moissac are the cloisters of Saint-Pierre’s and the beautiful bridge that carries the canal over the Tarn.
After coffee we strolled around to the camping. The grand old reception building, which used to be a mill, was unattended, but we went in and did our usual routine of showers, clothes-washing and sleep.
Back in town, we managed to send an email before dinner, quite an achievement as there was only one public terminal in Moissac and it was in demand.
We dined in the Place des Récollets, on a terrace with the plastic curtains down to keep out the chill. There were plenty of fellow walkers there.
It was one of the few occasions when we did not succeed in avoiding chips with our meal – usually we ask for something else, but this time we forgot. Chips and Coke are taking over French cuisine.
We had a salade auvergnate (with goat cheese), then an omelette, a steak (with chips, very nice too), and finally a platter of cheese. It was a protein-charged and delectable dinner. We seem to have an inordinate craving for protein whilst walking.