I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Bells, Esmeralda!

It took me 5 hours to cross the vast forests of Bouconne and L'Isle Jourdain. I got lost once or twice as the waymarking was confusing in a few places. At first the ground was dead flat and the oak tree predominated; but later the land grew a little hillier and you would find stands of pine and beech among the oaks.

It was a hive of activity that day in the woods. Sunday strollers, joggers and cyclists were out in force. I met no other long-distance walkers. There were plenty of dog-walkers, however - and I even saw some dogs being carried in cycle panniers! In these woods the cyclist ruled. A gang of cyclists would suddenly steal up behind you. No one ever rang a BELL in warning - it wasn't the French custom - so you had to keep very alert for the swishing of tyres, then jump quickly out the way - usually landing in some bog, ditch or drain.

Talking of cyclists, here's a photo of Emmanuel, a cyclist I met in Lescar further along the route. I don't think it's clear from the photo whether he has a BELL or not:


He was heading for Spain and the coast of Portugal. He was unmarried and ran a small gîte for walkers and cyclists in the Auvergne. During the quieter months of the year he shut up shop and took off on his bike to wherever his fancy led him. Seems like an enviable life to me ...

Finally the forest ended and I entered L'Isle-Jourdain. I wish I'd had the time and energy to visit the intriguingly named Museum of Campanology (housed in the old market hall, it's Europe's only BELL museum) - but I hadn't, so I limped my way to the pilgrim accommodation adjoining the swimming pool opposite the lake on the outskirts of town. It sounds idyllic - but in fact it was rather cramped, and the kitchen was unusable. So later that evening I managed to find a restaurant that was open and treated myself to some cuisine traditionelle - shellfish and salmon with a beautifully dressed salad, steak and pommes frites, and a pichet of wine ...

1 comment:

Mister Roy said...

That sounds like a classic meal.