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.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Étape 12: Toulouse - L’Isle-Jourdain, 27 kms, warm, sunny, 20

Finding Our Groove, But Not The Variante!

Last night we enjoyed a nice evening out by eating cassoulet. I didn’t find it quite as good as the first time I ate it in Bayonne in 2014, but it was pretty good. This one was duck and sausage with white beans. Very filling, and happily washed down with a nice red from the Cahors area just north of us on the Le Puy route.

Went for a walk and we found a few lights, but we didn’t really see much of Toulouse, just as we experienced in 2016 when we were transiting and needed to briefly stop on the way from the airport to the train station to purchase a guide book for the Le Puy Chemin.

We said our goodbyes in the hall way outside our rooms and this morning we were up early in order to pick up breakfast food on our way to the train station. We had considered taking a rest day in Toulouse, but neither of us felt the need and we really seemed to want to find our rhythm again. We had a wonderful time with Kathy and Bob, but with that behind us we knew it was time to press on while we held a decent weather window. 

We decided to follow the generally accepted procedure and not try to walk out of Toulouse due to the very heavy morning traffic and kilometres of industrial areas one must walk through. So we walked across town to the train station instead. I like French train stations. Besides being able to find tea, they also play a little jingle when they make train announcements. David Gilmour used that jingle as a core part of a recent song, and I found myself annoyingly playing this over and over in my head as I walked later in the day!

and caught the small train for Pibrac. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to walk out of a big city. We enjoyed a bit of breakfast on our short train ride, more a commuter train, and enjoyed the quiet company across from us.

A very short time later we arrived in the pelerin friendly town of Pibrac and located the route just a few blocks from the train station. Just up the hill on the way into the centre we picked up the sunrise.

We found the markers for the trail, and after passing the church we set of in search of the variant route we had decided to walk. 

At first it was ok, but then it was as if some key rote markers had been removed. With the help of a few strangers we managed to find our way eventually to the village of Brax where we reoriented ourselves and set off again. However the problem of the missing signage turned out to plague us for much of the day. Happily we are getting by quite well with our basic French and where we found gaps, we found willing help from the locals. The signage has changed. Gone for now are the red and white markers, to be replaced by these.
We were able to look back towards Toulouse as we started the climbs off the ancient lake bed.

We both felt some pleasure as we left the rather flat countryside that we’d been crossing the past 3 days. 

We began to take in some nice distant views of the Pyrenees which made me excited knowing that we will turn southward in about a week and cross them about 4 days later. Fingers crossed already for a good weather window!

We arrived in the village of Pujaudran at 12:30 just before the small grocery closed and picked up our lunch supplies which we enjoyed while sitting on a small park bench beside the elementary school where there was a courtyard full of young kids playing.

We kept the Snickers for first on this walk! The duck patè was very nice thank you:)

Then it was back to the upward trending roads, but the scenery as we went was really pleasing to the eye.

And still feeling fresh, our destination came into sight, still some 3 kms down the road.

We thought we were staying at a place very close to the centre of town, but turned out it was well out on the other side of the town. We’d hoped to eat at a small place, but it looks like that won’t happen so we’ve asked for demi-pension here tonight which will likely work out a bit cheaper in the end. We really don’t need to add another 5 kms of walking just to eat! We have a moderately long stage tomorrow.

As we walked today we discussed our time with Kathy so that Annemarie could write something to be posted. At a certain point I put all the emotions of the past week or so away and just got down to some good solid walking. There will be time to perhaps reflect in about 800kms from here as I pass across the flat Spanish Meseta. After all, what else will I have to do there for 8 days?! Walk and reflect, reflect and walk:)

Geoff and I shared our reflections on our time with Kathy, and the conversations we shared along the way. Kathy speaks in simple phrases, rarely full sentences. Her commentary during more superficial conversations (such as family dinners) often seems off topic or unrelated. This makes conversation very difficult, especially in terms of ensuring a common understanding. Our conversations while walking gave us a chance to get better insight into how she feels and what she is thinking. I tried to avoid distractions, and to give her time to get her thoughts together, and I asked lots of clarifying questions... if I was off track she would clearly tell me. Geoff and I were both struck by her insight into the effects the disease has had on her. Her intelligence and wisdom are still there, it just takes more effort for her and those close to her to access them. While she has short term memory loss, she still surprises us sometimes with things she does remember. As she was pondering, I was never sure if she was thinking, or if she had forgotten the was about a 50/50 split. Her long term memory is still pretty good, so many memories of other trips were triggered for her as we walked along, and we enjoyed sharing these with her. Despite concerns expressed about the risk of further progression or disorientation due to the many changes she was experiencing each day we saw no evidence, and when I asked Kathy about it, she said she didn’t feel like it was a problem...she would just follow our instructions or follow us along, and she felt totally comfortable with this. Kathy left this Camino full of confidence and wanting more. We left her with some reassurance that the Kathy we’ve always known is still in there.


  1. You have covered a lot of territory and accomplished a great deal since you left Vancouver on September 17 and this has surely been a reflective day for you. And what a beautiful countryside awaited you to reflect and encourage you as you start Day 1 of the next segment of your trek. I particularly liked the long, gentle - but probably challenging slopes in some places - that you had to traverse as you left Toulouse but a nice start for the more rugged areas that you will encounter in the days ahead.

    As our old weatherman would have said "all things considered, a very usable day".

    Cheers for now. Dad

  2. Somehow your last photo seemed a fitting expression of all you have been writing about here - beauty, fragility, resilience, interdependence, transience...

  3. "Rattle That Lock"...
    (just trying to be helpful with the song title..."

  4. Well, the cassoulet looked delicious, even if it was just pretty good. I’ve never had it, never been to Toulouse. Maybe someday.

    You’ve had another lovely day of walking. I’m happy the weather has held for you. We have several inches of snow as of this morning, and I’m glad you’re not walking in that. But—never say never!

    I’m also happy that you were able to spend time with Kathy. It’s a progressive disease, as you know, with no positive outcomes. My dad got worse and worse and I’m happy he was spared the final stage. Maybe that’s selfish on my part.

    Have another great day walking. The time you spent with Kathy must’ve been emotional and yes, you have many kilometres to think about it.

    Take care,


  5. Those moments of connecting with the person "still there" can be so precious and delightful, and can be a helpful touchstone when it's hard to remember that person is still here. Love your reflections and Kathy's sharing - thank you.