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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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Étape 16: L’Isle-de-Nolé - Marciac, 32 kms, Sunny, warm, windy late on, 24

Lovely Edna 

I’ve had the Beatles tune Lovely Rita playing in my head much of the day (for over 7 hours of walking) and it’s all because of lovely Edna, our host last night. Sometimes on these long walks if you are really lucky you are hosted by someone who just looks after you. Goes that extra mile and makes your stay something to remember. Such was the case last night. Arriving yesterday, we were barely in the door when Edna was there offering us coffee, tea or a beer. Um, we took the beer. Then we sat outside in her little oasis of quiet and talked of many things, including about her close friend whose father now has the early stages of Alzheimer’s and is caring for his wife who is in a wheel chair. We also spoke of her concern about hosting a 67 year old man who has Parkinson’s disease and was to be released from hospital that day and who she had agreed to take for a month until he found a place to live. He arrived later in the evening, but we never met him.

As I mentioned yesterday, 13 years ago Edna sold her pub in England and within two days purchased a small non operating hotel from a British couple sight unseen. Her grown kids thought that she was “daffy”, but she’d made her mind up and moved away from the wet of the Manchester area and into the sunshine of southern France. Sounds like a perfect plan to me! As a matter of fact, I think we watched the movie last winter? One day an Italian pilgrim arrived at her door and asked if there was any way he could stay the night. She agreed, and he told her that she should open as a gîte and put herself in the French Miam Miam Dodo guide book (we are using this guide). She forgot all about it until other pilgrims began to arrive at her door. Turns out the young Italian fellow had contacted MMDD and had her added to the guide. Since then, and without any direct effort of her own she finds herself listed in no less than 8 guides. And there’s good reason for this. She has a heart of gold and says quite often, “I love my pilgrims”. Her place is a bit of a clutter, but this is just part of the charm. Only one toilet is working, but really, who cares. 

As we sat eating our dinner last night a French pilgrim arrives late and asks for a bed. She quickly agrees and Stephan is with us for the evening. He two was soon enjoying a cold beer with his dinner he had purchased from the bakery across the street. We all shared some stories and experiences as we ate the salad and British Shepherds Pie that Edna had prepared and we drank wine. Eventually we headed upstairs to our small room and after checking out our even smaller double bed, we decided that there was no way that either of us would get much sleep. Our French host a couple of days before called Edna and somewhere in the conversation our twin beds morphed into a double! I considered sleeping on the floor, something I’ve done in the past, but the wood floors weren’t looking too attractive softness wise. So I decided to ask Edna if there was another bed in the place that I might use. Edna was upstairs in a slow flash and went through the available rooms with me until we found a bed that hadn’t been slept in the night before when there were 7 pilgrims in the place. I told her that I would sleep in my sheet liner on top of the bed to save her some washing, and that’s what I did. 

This morning Edna made us a traditional English breakfast as she does for “all my pilgrims” and it was the first fried egg we’d had since leaving home, and with real toast too! Traditional English tea almost strong enough to stand a spoon up in helped to wake me up in a hurry. And then we sat down to get our stamp and to pay our fee. When that was finished, Edna push a €10 note towards us and said that she would like to make a donation to our walk because she was so taken with our purpose and because of her friend. She told us that she didn’t have very much money, but that she felt strongly about supporting our efforts. It was a special moment and touched us both deeply. There were hugs at the door and she waved us off as we set out in the early morning light. What a lovely Edna.

Annemarie was inspired today to write a poem about Edna, and I haven’t read it yet because I wanted my own experience to not be influenced by Annemarie’s experiences.

Edna: A Model of Generosity 

She welcomed us into her home, offering a beer 

We quickly accepted, it gave us good cheer

She said she loves her pilgrims; in all she does her caring is there to see

Whatever she has she will share freely 

She has never walked the Camino, but she is a pilgrim just the same

The Camino found her, supporting pilgrims is her primary aim

She arrived in this place largely by happenstance 

She bought this house, she was really taking a chance

She brought us food and drinks a seemingly never ending supply

She shared information about what’s ahead; local knowledge you just can’t buy

She was curious about our cause, asking us questions while we wrote

Telling us about a personal connection, taking careful note

Dinner was both generous and flavourful 

We enjoyed it all, we left the table full

She welcomes pilgrims who drop in late in the day

And invites others to drop in for coffee she always has something to say

In France “acceuil” means make yourself at home

And she does it so well she inspired this poem

Breakfast, too, was generous and tasty

A change from the typical French pastry

She charges very little for the abundance she offers

She’s not here to fill her coffers

So imagine our delight when we were ready to leave  

She offered us a donation, we were so thrilled to receive

She waved us out the door as we walked down the road

Our hearts were full as away we strode 

Some photos from a long day.

We hauled our tiring bodies onto the highway for the final 5 kms into town. We both commented that this part of the day, after all the hills up and down reminded us both of Neil and Ken’s photos from their respective walks in Spain and Saskatchewan this summer:)

Strong winds in our faces.

Arriving into town we found a happy place...a grocery store!

Our home for tonight, on the top floor! Almost as good as our camping experience! to post and walk back into town for dinner. We have the gîte to ourselves, though we have caught the groups in front of us today.

Individual Journeys: this morning we met a man walking the other direction. He had walked from Arles to Santiago and is now walking back again...he has been walking for three months. Many of our friends and family have express admiration for Geoff’s epic journey which will hopefully take him to Santiago. While my journey is shorter, in the end it will be longer than the Camino Frances and will be my longest walk. All of these could be seen as epic journeys. The people we’ve met on this walk have varying destinations and timeframes, some are quite short, while others are much longer. Some are taking the walk in segments returning year after year, some are satisfied which a portion of the walk. Whatever the timeframe or the destination, for each it is a journey of significance. The Alzheimer’s journey is also an individual one; unique to each person and their circumstances. For some the journey is long, with many hills and valleys, while for others it is short and intense. Some who’ll have many supports, and others will “walk alone”. Those providing care also have their own unique experience. The difference is we have chosen our Camino journeys, but I have yet to meet anyone who would willingly choose a journey into Alzheimer’s.


  1. Sounds as though you had a very worth while day today! Edna was certainly a special part of it and I suspect that you will long remember her as one of those people you don't come across too often. Your pictures of the country areas that you are now walking through as well as the village of Marciac are lovely to say the least. Annemaries summary at the end of the blog was a fitting tribute to the Journey you are on and the people you encounter along the way. You are now 2 days closer to the misty outlines of the mountains - hope your weather holds for the next while.

    This is Thanksgiving Sunday in Victoria - bit of rain and overcast sky but it is October and the skies should clear as the day progresses. Keep trekking - look after each other.

    Cheers for now Dad

    1. Hi Dad, yes a very nice day. Thanks for following and I’m glad you are both enjoying the journey. All good here.


  2. Hey there,

    I’m so happy you met Edna. It’s rare for someone to take such good care of their guests. I remember a hospitalero who did something similar, and of course the people at the CSJ albergue in Gaucelmo are wonderful. . . .

    Beautiful photographs, too. Yes, the highway going into the distance, always from the left side of the road—that’s a familiar one for me.

    Anyway, have another great walk today! And I hope you meet up with more kindness.


  3. An important piece for caregivers to be aware of - let someone look after YOU once in a while!