Day-94, Jul 24, Chatellerault walk to Dissay, France (then by train to Poitiers)

I received a sad message during the night that our American Pilgrims Co-coordinator, Anita, had a bad fall during their group’s walk–concussion with possible sutures of her lip. Haven’t heard the final outcome. It saddened me because Anita is one who gives her all to the spirit of Camino–my prayers are out there for you, Anita.

The sunflowers smiled at me as I passed them, and I hoped they did to all who need a brighter day! My main goal for today was to walk about half the 33.1 km and see the famous battle area for the Battle of Tours, aka the Poitiers Battle of 732, then take the train to Poitiers. It took me out of the way a few km, but was well worth it–just mulling it over in my mind how significant it was, even though it only lasted a day.

It’s basically an outdoor area meant to be walked or cycled; I focused on the starting area that explains what went on. Here is the first major clash between Europe, King Charles Matel and his forces against an Islamic Invasion, the army of the Umayyad Caliphate led by ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, Governor-General of al-Andalus. Rahman was killed the first day and it was all over. But it could have turned the other way!

Am sleeping at the Auberge Jeunesse (youth hostel) in a 4-bed room reserved for pilgrims–and I’ll be the only one in this room–nice place. There seem to be quite a few people here, just not pilgrims. They wave the 10€ membership for pilgrims!

Day-93, Jul 23 (St Jacques’ Day),  Dangé-St-Romain to Chatellerault, France

Easy 15.9 km (10 mi) on small paved country roads–all level. I had a spacious Gite last night all to myself above a veterinarian office that luckily didn’t board any animals. All for 10€, and tonight is even better. I’m at the Le Chillou D Ozon Campground in Chatellerault with some 30 or 40 families. But mine is a camping trailer maybe a 20-footer fully equipped for pilgrims, a Gite,  but again, I’m the only one in it (in a pinch, it could hold 6). It’s situated on the Vienne River. And the price for pilgrims is 4.32 €!

Being St Jacques’ Day today, I had to Facebook an appropriate photo of him overlooking Paris. Although I didn’t take the photo, I was at the tower whose top he adorns. Tomorrow will be a long-distance day to Pointiers with a must-stop at the famous battle of 732 against the Arabs on this side of the city. 

Day-92, Jul 22, St-Maure-de-Touraine to Dangé-St-Romain, France

Yes, I found the energy to go the few km into the town for some cheese tasting, except we did it on a crepe–fantastic!

Today was filled with unbelievable coincidences. It was a great walking day for doing 21.8 km (13.6 mi). My Belgian roommate parted ways at 10 am, and I headed for a boulangerie / pâtisserie and had some pastry and coffee. We ended up going completely opposite ways–mine possibly a few km shorter although it didn’t seem like it. We talked about a good village for lunch, that I aimed for. We both enter the village from opposite sides (after 17 km–10.6 mi) at exactly the same time! We couldn’t have planned that. We ate, both had the Ftench version of bacalao (salted cod)–fantastic meal, and went our separate ways–he’s only doing a one-week stage starting at Tours and ending at Pointiers.

We’re staying in different villages, although I thought it was the same. I ended up having to walk an extra 5 km. I picked up the key at the office de Tourisme. Got a liter of Perrier on the way to my Gite–got settled into a place with three double beds, but I’m the only one in the place. While going to find my Gite (kind of a fully-equipped place, but it doesn’t seem different from an albuerge), I crossed the River, la Vienne, spelled exactly like Vienna! A good omen!

Here I am at a Pizza Restaurant, and as usual, the first guest at 7:30. I couldn’t help doing their pizza with ham and local goat cheese (chèvre). Fantastic!

Day-91, Jul 21, Veigné to Sainte-Maure de Touraine, France

Had generally a cloud-covered day to trek the 23+ km (14.4 mi) and started down the Camino waymarkered path until I took a spill among logs and branches strewn across the path. Then I came up to a blockage I couldn’t pass. So I backtracked and made sure to stay on small paved roads. 

The day wasn’t going well until I found a great place to have lunch. It was in the town of Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois on the St Joan of Arc Plaza and ironically a young fellow sitting several tables away ended up being my roommate at a small “albuerge” I arranged to stay at through the Office de Tourisme. They also got me a reservation for tomorrow night. All good signs.

My roommate brought to my attention that the town we’re staying in, Sainte-Maure de Touraine, is very famous for its goat cheese by the same name. But we’re  over a mile from town and I may not feel up to going into town for some of that good cheese.

Day-90, Jul 20, Tours to Veigné, France

For the first time in France, I faithfully followed the waymarkers for the entire nominal  16.2 km (10+ mi) route. Mind you, this was not the GR 655 (long-range hiking tour) which goes more in the fields and forests, but rather the sanctioned Camino Route–and it worked. I asked the Tours Office de Tourisme to make me a reservation with “City Hall” Mairie here, and I ended up in a 3-bed albuerge type of accommodation and so far I’m the only one here.

Day-89, Jul 19, Tours to Vouvray and back

I chose to get my 20+ km (12.5 mi) in from where I left off the day before at Monnaie by walking along the scenic Loire River to Vouvray and back (a few pictures of the Loire are included). As it turned out, this was along the sanctioned Camino Route. On the way back, I had lunch at the Guinguette de Tours sur Loire, one of several locations of this restaurant right on the bank of the river. 

Fanny, Sébastien and I went for an evening walk to show me some of the sights and sounds of Tours. The city by night is amazing and we ended up at the Tours Guinguette for a bottle of wine. A picture is included that captures some of the atmosphere.

Day-88, Jul 18, Chateau Renault to Monnaie, France

Tried to get an early start for this short 15 km (9+ mi) walk because of the sun. The picture of the sunflowers welcoming me along the way aptly set the tone. At Monnaie, I caught the train into Tours and had no problem finding my Airbnb host family. They welcomed me for lunch and we spent hours talking (in English). 

Tours is celebrating the 1700th anniversary of St Martin (he was bishop of Tours), and highlighting each day is a magical sound and light show illuminating the Cathedral’s facade–I was mesmerized for the 30 minutes and my pictures don’t do it justice. The red cloak of St Martin appears in several pics–its legend is well known and ultimately, we get the word chaplain from the priests who were the guardians of the reliquary that contained half the robe (the other half he gave to the needy soldier)–they were called cappellanu. Note his robe cut in half!

The Cathedral’s interior was overpowering with its sheer space and number of stained glass windows. I singled out one glass set, namely the “St James the Great Stained Glass Window” that captures some of the great moments in St James’ life. 

Day-87, Jul 17, Vendôme to Chateau Renault, France

My goal was to walk the 26 km (16+ mi), but since I had a tight window in which to catch the train back to Vendome, I opted to walk the same distance but in a big loop to a closer town (Saint-Amand-de-Vendôme). I passed picturesque little villages. And, being Sunday, the stores were open until noon, very different from Poland and Germany. Four points to make:

First, a picture of my lovely host family, with one member absent, the oldest daughter, Marylou; on the photo are Alice, Samuel, Eliot, and Romane.

Secondly, and barely out of Vendome, I ran into a French-American memorial that takes us back to the Revolutionary War. Native Son Rochambeau along with a French Expeditionary Force were sent by French King Louis XVI to help Gen Washington.The rest is history! 

The third is life-saving advice from Pierre in Paris: “if you ever need water in France, go to the nearest cemetery.” Today I needed some, and in a small town with a tiny cemetery, I found a spigot with cool water–a life saver! Thank you Pierre.

Fourth was most unusual. The local St Jacques Chemin (Camino) coordinator and his wife happened by and stopped the car on the road after they recognized my shell. We talked for 10 or so minutes and they gave me some helpful hints for lodging, as did Alice when I returned.

Day-86, Jul 16, Fréteval to Vendôme, France

I took the bus from my Airbnb base in Vendome to where I left off yesterday and started walking back the 17 km (10.5 mi). Only a noontime bus was available so the heat in the sun soon hit with full force, even though it was only in the low 80s.

With nearly 1000 miles behind me, I took this picture in the small, sleepy village of Pezou, with under 1000 people and about 100 mi southwest of Paris. It stopped me in my tracks as I felt the deep pain for France. Je suis très. . . non, nous sommes très désolés de cette tragédie! We all feel the pain. For the next three hours I kept getting reminded by their flags (sometimes with the black ribbons) of Bastille Day’s terrible tragedy. 

Day-85, Jul 15, Chateaudun to Fréteval, France

A scenic 25 km (15.6 mi) trek weaved in and out of the picturesque sights of the Loir River (not to be confused with the Loire River, France’s longest at over 1000 km and studded with over 1000 chateaux). But I was duly impressed with just the one chateau that I saw today.

The fountain I captured has served many a pilgrims over the centuries and was restored in 2002. The family I’m showing was truly a set of trail Angels; they immediately recognized my shell and insisted that they feed me and give me something to drink at their house. I graciously accepted and luckily for doing that because it was the only substantial meal of the day! (My fault–I had chances, but I missed them.) In return, they asked only that I pray for their family!

The Chemin de St Jacques marker stayed with me all day and filled me with warm confidence. After 25 km, I took the bus to Vendome, for my first Airbnb experience ever. Just did a replan of my next four days up through Tours, the next big city to take advantage of available lodging.