La Via Tolosana (France) & Camino Aragones (Spain): "The Arles Route" GR653

La Via Tolosana (France) & Camino Aragones (Spain): "The Arles Route" GR653
La Via Tolosana (France) & Camino Aragones (Spain): "The Arles Route" GR653


PLEASE READ: Our Camino For Alzheimer's Awareness will begin on World Azheimer's Day, September 21, 2018 in Lodève, France about 130 kms west of Arles (underlined on the map above and circled on the route profile at the bottom of the page). We plan to walk together just over 800 kms to Puente la Reina, Spain where Annemarie will determine her next steps. It is, however, Geoff's intention to continue onwards a further 700 kms towards Santiago de Compostela. To put this into perspective, the total distance is about the same as from Victoria to Santa Barbara, California. As usual, we will accept the journey as it unfolds and we are appreciative of any and all support. If you feel moved to contribute to the Alzheimer Society please click on either of the really obvious RED BUTTONS to the right or at the bottom of this page and you will be transferred to the Society's fund raising site. We are paying our own expenses and all money raised will go directly to the Alzheimer Society.

If you wish to receive email notifications when we blog, just enter your email address where indicated on the right side of this page.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Étape 24: Canfranc Estacion - Jaca, 27 kms, OK then downright nasty! 18

You’re Early!

How about a mountain sort of sunset photo to begin? Captured way above us as the setting sun caught the last ridge visible to its rays.

Our humble abode last night. Yes, I know. It was supposed to be the one on the right, but somehow morphed into the place on the left. And I was tired when I wrote the blog’s a 4**** hotel. The one on the right was a no * hotel. Given the choice which one would you pick if money wasn’t the deciding factor? The one on the right has a couple of bathroom for about 20 bunk bed clients. The one on the left has a bathroom in each room and even on the main floor where there was a billiards room, a top restaurant, a spa, a bar and a helpful lady at the front desk. I ask again, which one would you pick? Ok, still undecided? Let me provide you with the economics and a few other features. The one on the right would have cost us €50 for a full bunk bed and didn’t include breakfast. So add breakfast and a dinner out and we are talking another €45, so all in €95, PLUS a room full of other snorers.  The 4**** beauty cost us a staggering €120. I hear you, that’s a lot of cash for two pilgrims to spend. Yup. But what if I told you that the price included  a fabulous breakfast that you’d be happy to have for minimum €18 each (like the one at the Leon Parador) and that we had a dinner suitable for the Kings’s right hand knight with a price that was hard to beat. Yup, you’d take the one on the left too. If you didn’t I’d have some concerns!

My dinner last night. 

Now please don’t judge me. I was just so hungry, it happens like this sometimes on these distance walks. We had the typical two slices of bread with tea for breakfast (typical in France) and climbed hard for hours before descending for another 2 hours. To save weight for the climb, lunch  consisted of a mix of nuts, chocolate, dried fruit and a bit of dried sausage. Also we couldn’t get dinner until almost 21:00. I know, there’s enough meat there to feed me for a whole week at home, chicken, beef, lamb and pork. I also had a huge bowl of really wonderful mountain soup, two small pieces of bread and a chocolate crepe for dessert washed down with a beautiful glass of Spanish red. The menu del dia. BUT, I didn’t touch the fries:)

This morning they kindly put breakfast out for us early as typically the Spanish don’t usually surface until after 8:00. It was a really nice touch as they knew we were walking a Camino, probably one of the most respected things you can individually do in Spain. We discussed and expected the typical breakfast of about 2 calories, but were shocked when we were presented by a spread that would put most Sunday brunches at home to shame. I’m not kidding. Of course I was still hungry. So after a plate full of eggs, bacon, pane de chocolate (known here as a Napoleone- remember our fun with this Rob?!), fine cheeses, orange juice and tea (I can order all this in Spanish now) I was feeling much better. As we were all alone we helped ourselves to some amazing bread, serrano ham and cheese and made sandwiches for the road and capped this off with some nice oranges. I guess I forgot about the lunch so the €120 is looking even better!  I’d show you photos, but for once I had left it locked in our room. In a 4**** you don’t have to carry everything of any value with you like you do in the no* places. 

This is Canfranc Estacion. Quite the elegant building up here in the middle of nowhere from another time. It’s huge. This is just the left half of the station.

Back to today. Well fed, we set off in search of the first yellow arrows and found them just at the edge of town. We crossed below a dam,

and past a series of bunkers dating back to Franco’s time when he wanted to maintain Spain’s neutrality during WWII. Nasty reminders, and we saw several through the day. The openings were very low to the ground and would provide excellent cover while viewing the road across the river.

Hey Rob, I saw 3 of these today alone! Note the special bike rack on the back of this one. Put a kayak rack on the top and you’d be ready for anything! That’s the table from the side door. 

The day started out of with some patches of blue.

And as we crossed this brilliant Roman bridge (you’re welcome Neil and Sarah) we were hit by a wind gust that just about blew me over! 

We crossed lots of talus slopes today which made the walking a bit interesting. I find it better not to think about just how many big rocks are around when crossing these! 
We found an uncomfortable place where they really hadn’t considered the pilgrims when they built the new highway. And yes, we did barely manage to fit underneath ok.
We noticed some ugly clouds move in behind us and were so happy that we crossed yesterday.

We stopped for a break in Villanua and I found this! They repackaged Aquarius I think. Tastes the same. 

The sky was getting really ugly and I’d seen on line that a former hurricane that had been sitting just offshore was scheduled to make landfall by Lisbon and blow right across Spain tonight with massive rains and potential flooding. 

The sky continued to really darken and we could see a massive amount of rain falling in the valley some 10 kms ahead so we reluctantly put on our wet gear as a bit of rain caught us. I managed to scare a few sheep...getting one back from my encounter with the massive sheep in the Plata in 2014! Must be my red poncho?

Then they all wanted to be my friend. Too funny!

As we passed through Castiello de Jaca,

the rain looked close and I suggested it was time for the ponchos again. And then the clouds opened. It was crazy. Hiding under a bridge.

Eight kilometres later as we reached Jaca (J is silent) it stopped, but there were streams and lakes everywhere on the trail. It was just about as bad as we’ve seen it in Spain, but fortunately it just poured on us while we walked. I said to no one in particular as I slogged through the mess under my boots, “You’re early”. It wasn’t to have arrived until after 17:00, long after we would have been in and dry. As I write this the remainder of Hurricane Leslie i# dumping masses of rain, but we are warm and dry inside.

Sudden changes: We were pretty happy to cross the Pyrenees in good weather, and this morning looked pretty good as we headed out with our full bellies. It was windy, but a warm wind. Two thirds of the way through our walk, we looked at the valley ahead and could see the rain coming, so we donned our wet gear. Then suddenly the skies opened, completely changing the tone of our walk. We were walking through an area that is subject to flooding, so the best decision was to walk fast! No lingering, no stopping for lunch, or to admire the scenery. We were focussed on trying to navigate around the quickly forming lake sized puddles. While Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, it doesn’t progress at an even rate, and I have often heard caregivers talk of sudden changes in the person they care for. Changes like not recognizing their partner, or no longer being able to dress themselves, or sudden mood or personality changes. The caregiver’s life is significantly altered almost overnight, and even though they know it’s coming, and prepared as best they could, they are still surprised; much as we were with the rain today.

We have had a confab and decided that we are going to take a rain day in Jaca. We both a bit tired after 24 stages without a break, but still good to go on. I often find rest days are not very helpful unless there are interesting things to see, and Jaca is just such a place. It drips history. It’s going to rain all night, heavily. The trails will be a mess and there will be light spotty showers tomorrow. I have a phone to get a SIM card and data for, emails to catch up with and some of our clothes are likely in need of better attention than a bathroom sink can provide after almost 4 weeks. So it’s a  rain day tomorrow, but I will post. Hope everyone is well. Thanks for all the lovely messages and emails. They mean more than most folks could possibly know. So thanks. 

Buen Camino!

Geoff & Annemarie


  1. I think the measure is that " if you win more than you loose it means you are still a winner!" So I measure that you came out a winner today but a little battered in the process so a good idea to rest up for a day!! That said, it will certainly be tough to beat the dinner you had last night but you can't be a winner all the time - witness my golf score last Wednesday .................

    On the home front our weather today is bright and sunny but a far cry from what is forecast in Calgary and elsewhere in Alberta where temperatures are forecast to be in the low to mid 20s later in the week - yesterday they still had snow flurries. Enjoy your "catch up" day and hopefully your dinner tonight! Sleep well.
    Dad and Mom

  2. Great photo of you two under the bridge - you look like two alpacas!! Glad you kept your spirits up despite being drenched by the rain in Spain which seems quite content to fall anywhere. Yes, great Roman bridge and glad to see you got all four of the meat groups in last night - welcome to España!

  3. It's great to finally have found your blog! How do I read earlier blogs? Can't wait to see you again in a month

  4. That photo with your ponchos under the bridge is awesome - great smiles. Climbing under that "overpass" would have been a bit of a moment I am sure. Enjoy your rain day! It's augtober still in Victoria - much improved over rainy September.