Tony, Tim, Betsy & Ray's (not forgetting Geoff) 2014 Camino

GR65 (France), GR11 & Camino del Norte (Spain)

Anyone fancy a snack?

How about a plate of calluses?! Spotted on a menu in Bilbao, opinions differ as to whether the correct translation is any more appetizing (tripe).

Into Spain

Yesterday's walk from St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles was well worth the effort with magnificent mountain scenery and pleasantly shaded beech woods, though it lost its charm when the campsite turned out to be 4km further than expected. Thank goodness for a 'no show' which left rooms available for us. Trying hard now to swap from French to Spanish, thwarted slightly by strong local accents. The church at Roncesvalles had some interesting misericords which I wanted to investigate thoroughly but was discouraged by the way the area was roped off! Now sitting outside the tent at a wild camp at the end of another well above average day (lots of up and down as well as distance), very glad the weather is holding and the locals who were dog walking didn't object to us.

A short day....

Day started well with coffee and pain-au-raisin in bed (treat!) followed by a leap into action to see the very magnificent Emperor moth which Ray found in one of the sinks. Things degenerated after that with persistent light to heavy rain and paths thick with sticky heavy mud. The hospitalero at the gite where we had coffee described the mud as being clingy as a lover! We eventually arrived in Condom very wet and settled down to a good lunch before a quick look at the cathedral (misericords sadly still not up to the standard of Enville church), a pose with the musketeers and then heading for the campsite.

And now in the city of cats and canons

A long (30 km) day into La Romieu today. Last night's gite had an interesting interpretation of Digger, curiously close to Tigger! The landscape now is definitely very fertile arable with barley, sunflowers, broad beans, strawberries, corn and others but less of the cherry trees we've been seeing and enjoying for the last few days. The collegiate in La Romieu was well worth a visit but sadly the misericords have all been removed. Beautiful cloisters and a painted chapel made up for their absence.

Photos - cherry spitting ...

.. and dodgy translations.

Conques to Livinhac

About 25km again with over 1000m of ascent (ouch!). A misty start from our small emplacement and an initial very steep climb up the valley side past a small chapel with views back to Conques. (Photo of 3 conques?). Weather dry and mostly sunny but luckily not too hot. Cows looked distinctly Friesian today except for an unexpected herd of water buffalo. The undulating path went through different types of woodland including a long stretch of sweet chestnut. We arrived in Decazeville by 14:30 in time for a much needed beer before Tim went to hunt for some more shoes to replace the onegs that look very poorly after only 2 weeks. Mission successful then we faced a final steep 2km ascent and another 2 down to arrive at another pleasant riverside campsite. This time all the pitches have long grass and other occupants include a donkey, a goat, a duck, some chickens and a lot of rabbits (probably eaters not keepers).

And so to Conques

3 more days walking have brought us to Conques, a picturesque town which clings to a steep hillside and apart from numerous souvenir shops hasn't changed much since Medieval times. WIGS - it's the first place I've found misericords since Enville but they aren't as good! The scenery is still magnificent but sadly we have left behind the meadows of daffodils and orchids and the cows are less attractive than the dark-eyed aubrac beauties. I made friends with a donkey this morning by giving it a sachet of sugar I had been saving for emergencies. Our arrival at the campsite here was greeted by the worst weather we have seen yet - a sudden violent gust of wind swiftly followed by torrential rain and hail left us cowering in the toilet block. 15 minutes later the sky was blue again in every direction and the normal routine of tent pitching, showering and doing the day's washing resumed.

Day 8

A shorter day, about 17km, really enjoyable walking. Fields full of mixed purple and yellow orchids and a charming little mouse peeping out of his hole and allowing photos. Tonight's campsite in St Chely en Aubrac is in a valley bottom and very comfortable so after a bit of shopping and sightseeing we settle down to a couple of litres of wine and some cooking.

Day 7

A carefully timed start to the day to allow farewis to Anne and Jane as they boarded the bus to Clermont ferrand, the first stage of their journey home. The remaining 5 of us did the longest day's walk yet, about 27km, ending up at the highest campsite yet at above 1100m. Luckily some cloud cover so it wasn't too cold. Magnificent wild flower meadows and of course the local cows with the dark eyes. The coffee stop provided very yummy flaky almond pastries to keep us going.

Day 6

A perfect walking day, dry and sunny. A late start to try and dry out the tents but early mist foiled that plan! Relatively short day at about 14km but still included over 500m of ascent. Several more sightings of Camberwell beauty butterflies and a good selection of birdis - red kites, cuckoos, pied flycatchers, 2 hoopoes and also 2 peacocks in a cage at a remote farm.