A Breath of Fresh Air

How are you? Wherever you are, undoubtedly COVID has, or is having, an impact on your life? In our little corner of SW France we’re doing ok. Life of course is far from normal, but we’ve escaped relatively mildly compared to some folks I know. I’ve not been able to work since last March when all our concerts were cancelled and my fledgling walking venture (which seemed so full of promise) never really got started. We’ve not seen our family in a year as travel restrictions prevent this, and sadly we lost Viv, Gerry’s beloved mum… mum to us all really and the best Grandma any child could ever imagine. If we felt 2020 was bad then 2021 was worse.

Other than this, our day to day lives really haven’t been affected greatly, Gerry has worked as normal and time just rolls by. Winter is behind us and there is a world of possibility ahead. We’ve had our first vaccination and we’re due our second next week. Spring is here, lockdown has eased and it feels as though maybe, just maybe… positive changes are in the air.

It’s French Tax Return season and for 6 weeks life is always crazy for Gerry. He works all week and then we spend the weekend catching up on chores. Normally I leave him at home, with all the food and drink he could need, and go walking on a camino. This year I’ve decorated. But today we decided to skip the chores and go for a walk… and what a glorious little stroll it was!

Last year, I joined Sara Dhooma in Perigueux and planned to walk a while with her on her travels along the Camino Vezeley but sadly it came to an abrupt end after just one day. But it was a glorious day and whilst I’ve lived here for 14 years I’d never walked that section of trail. It was a little rainy and wet when we walked last autumn but today it was glorious sunshine. Instead of fabulous autumn golds we had the zing of spring with fresh green shoots and swathes of wild flowers.

There are a few options for walking the Vezeley Camino from Perigueux. You can walk along the Voie Verte (the green way, a footpath that follows the River Isle) towards Mussidan, and then follow the arrows to Sainte Foy le Grande and onwards. You can follow a camino variation towards Bergerac and onwards towards St Jean. Or you can walk part of the camino to Chancelade and then join the Voie Verte towards St Astier. From St Astier you can also choose to divert towards Bergerac on a GR (via Villamblard) or just carry on the camino to Mussidan. It’s confusing, and I’ve never really understood why there are so many choices but I’m not complaining, it means there are many local camino trails for me to discover.

Early this year we walked from Perigueux to Chancelade along the canal and river towards Chancelade. Today we decided to walk from Gravelle towards St Astier, a few kilometres further on from Chancelade. Like so many other pilgrims I have missed walking so much; my heart has ached to go back and find arrows so getting out of the car and picking up the camino markers just made me want to skip.

We started walking around 9:30am. We had no real plan except to go about an hour or so and head back to the car. We stopped to buy bread and Mr S. said he needed breakfast. He wanted a Croissant Beurre but sadly they were all sold out, even at 9:30 in the morning! He made do with a slice of apple tart and munched as we wandered out of the village and onto the camino.

We ooh and aahed at the flowers and the river, we admired the lovely houses that lined the path and their beautifully clipped gardens and as we crossed little bridges Gerry checked for signs of fish. Before long it was time to take off a few layers, first the long sleeves and a little later, Gerry’s zip-off legs were dispatched too.

We talked about our plans for retirement. Gerry retires in less than a year and we have so many things we want to do, places to visit, walks to walk, and such a long wish list we wonder if we’ll have time to do it all! But we plan. We passed a bridge and decided it was like a bridge coming out of Oviedo, we passed a newly planted field of trees and I was reminded of a day on the Sanabres. We strolled along and Gerry hummed and it reminded us of our day into Melide. Walking is intertwined with our memories of places and events, its like a thread that runs through our timeline and we see it as part of our future too. And so we plan.

We reached the halfway point. It was time for a little snack before turning around and heading back. If you’ve read our other blogs you’ll know that finding a suitable seat is often ‘interesting’ for us but today we spotted a large tree trunk, in the shade under a tree. Perfect for a quick cup of tea and a banana. I also switched from Tevas into my Lone Peaks for the return journey.

As before on our there and back again walks, the view going home is never the same. You see things that you missed the first time and the perspective is always different… and we walked on the other side of the canal too. It was glorious. We stopped a kilometre from home on a bench beside the water and had another cup of tea and listened to the birds and the frogs and decided that life was not so bad after all. We just have to stay positive and hope that soon… very soon… things will be better.

7 thoughts on “A Breath of Fresh Air

  1. Every mairie near us has a “yellow post/arrow system” and a map for one or two walks in or around that mairie’s zone – free if you ask nicely or 50cents for the photo copy costs . I’ve now collected 20 of these for visitors and friends; they give distance (10 – 30 kms usually) and difficulty – Facile – Moyen – Difficile and time taken (for “average walker”) – we calculate “average” as about 5 Km per hour in our experience with these mini maps – we’veprobably done all of them twice and the “favourite” ones 5 or 6 times each.

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    • we love those local walks too… I try to choose the ones that avoid the forests… I love a forest but I also love a nice open view πŸ˜€

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  2. As always Colleen lovely to read about your adventures 😊
    I do hope you continue to enjoy your life on the open path ways sothag we can continue to read about them too.
    Take care.

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  3. Good for you, Colleen (and Gerry). we haven’t seen anyone for nearly a year and attended no events du village… but walking three times a week has kept us going and internet works well for us (except that the fibre optique that Orange AND the Maire promised us 10 years ago STILL hasn’t been connected – apparently the cable was installed and passes 100m from our door but they haven’t worked out WHO is going to connect it to our network or when it CAN be done). end of rant.!!! Covid does make one a little bit intolerant and more impatient than before (or is that old age). May see you at the dechetterie some day but we’ve told the Maire to install a badge system so we can know who has been vaccinated and who to avoid talking to. He doesn’t think the non-vaccinated would like to be excluded by the badge-wearers but it might stop this stupid elbow-touching (= 0 cms)and boot-tapping (= 0.5 cms) – end of 2nd rant.
    As we used to say on the camino : “Buen camino … and … keep walking !!”.

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    • Ah Bill… these really are difficult days aren’t they. Perhaps you and Maria should drop by for a cup of tea and a slice of cake… we can sit outside under the terrace (when the rain stops πŸ˜€ ) We’ve had both our shots now… it feels like we’re taking steps to freedom in a brave new world? (maybe not so brave or new… but we can hope ) x

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  4. Still waiting to get out to our house in France. This walk along the river sounds great. We have a narrow boat and the idea is to move between France and the narrow boat in the UK when hubby retires so a river walk is definitely up my street. I was wondering which village you lived in. We are near Orival between Chalais and Aubeterre. We have booked tickets for the Eurotunnel end of June. Maybe we are being optimistic but heyho! Do you use maps or do you have a site you can recommend with walks in the Charente/Dordogne area?

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