Monday, 3 June 2013

Day 4: Oloron Ste Marie - Hôpital St-Blaise

Today was a day of utter pilgrimage luxury - not only did I wake up at 8.35am (in time to be out of the hostel by 9am) but I also had a very civilised breakfast while watching the local half-marathon go by. By the time I was ready to depart the contestants passing by were the enthusiastic Sunday walking crowd, so feeling a little sheepish I joined in the race stream and walked along at a brisk pace while talking to one of the entrants, feeling ever so slightly out of place with my large pack and lack of race number. 

The first half of today was walking on local roads that were completely deserted. My feet feel fine, but the area around my shins is feeling the effect of four days of solid walking. I'm hopeful that simply plugging on will do the trick as the muscles build up. I passed the Lindt chocolates factory in the outskirts of Oloron, but it was shut for Sunday, which to me is pretty much confirms that there is no god.

In the absence of chocolate lunch was a banana and a Jesuit - which I'm sure you'll be disappointed to hear is a local pastry slice, rather than my feeding on other pilgrims. I also bought a tin of pâté that I'll have tomorrow - I would say that it looks delicious, but it's a tin of food so I really have no idea.  I suppose that's the excitement with tinned pâté: there's a nice picture on the label, and it feels very rustic, which bodes well. Standby for a pâté update in my next instalment...

Me eating a Jesuit
The weather has also been improving. Aside from the rain slowly disappearing (only some drizzly patches today) I've noticed that I've been wearing one less layer each day since I started, and today I was just walking in my shirt and waterproof jacket (and shorts, shoes, etc. obviously). To be honest it was bloody freezing when I left Lourdes - I was wearing everything that I'd bought with me, and was looking rather wistfully at the photos of people in t-shirts, shorts and sandals that are littered through the guidebook for the Spanish section. There hasn't been any danger of getting out my sunglasses, but each day seems a little better. By the time I emerged from the forest at Hôpital St-Blaise the grey sky seemed less oppressive, although the children playing around the medieval church did come over full of interest in my shoes, which were caked in mud, as well as the scallop shell on my pack. 

approaching L'Hôpital Ste Blaise
Hôpital St-Blaise is one of the traditional stops for the Chemain de Saint-Jacques - it is in the middle of nowhere, and has nothing beside the UNESCO listed church, two restaurants and the pilgrim accommodation that I've got all to myself tonight. One of the restaurants did me a bag of food for supper and breakfast for €11. I got back to the pilgrims' kitchen to find that they'd done a delicious meat and noodle thing, along with a slice of cake and some oranges - perfect. 

I'm aiming to cover the 30km+ to Ordiarp tomorrow, which means that I should be in St. Jean Pied-de-Port on Tuesday evening. Hopefully the mountain pass will be clear enough for my passage into Spain!