June 28—Day 11: L’Alcan
Rest day today. After more than a week of walking over 20km (12.5mi) each day, I was fatigued and needed rest. My stomach was still off kilter, but my head felt better. I slept in, then had simple French breakfast of bread and jams with coffee, passing the morning with Catherine.
In the afternoon, some family came by for lunch. I’m not sure how common it is in all of France, but assuming it’s typical, taking a break from work and school for a lunch at home seems a very nice custom. Catherine had made a tabbouleh and salad from her garden, with a spaghetti bolognese. Hearty, and very good.
In the late afternoon Catherine and I went for a walk, along with her dog Lenox (which is ironically similar to “Linux,” an important bit of software I use when not hiking in France). The GR5 passes just near her home and we followed the trail a little ways to an old fort with a view to Chateau du Joux, an impressive castle on a small peak above town.
On the walk we ran into two guys with full backpacks and found out that they had just started the GR5 themselves. They had similar plans to mine and we exchanged phone numbers so we could meet up once I was feeling better. No more walking alone!
Back at the house Catherine prepared a couple soups, one of zucchini and the other of cabbage, along with some tagliatelle pesto. It was great to have warm, home cooked meals after a week in the woods. Though I’ve been pretty lucky with dinners, really. For desert she brought out cherries and apples. Simple, excellent.
After eating, Catherine’s husband Dèdè helped my repair my sleeping pad with some smartly applied super glue. We also fixed my flip flops, passing a washer over the bottom of the toe strap to stop it from running through. Dèdè worked as a mechanic and his garage showed it: collections of little motors on the shelves and all sorts of bolts and nuts and washers and wires and tools covering the walls. He clearly enjoyed tinkering, and I was happy to let him patch up my things.
I stayed up a bit longer, reviewing the schedule and distances and deciding whether to start walking from the house or to drive down to meet up with the two guys. I’d already taken rides on a few occasions and didn’t want to cheat myself out of any more of the trail, but the schedule was tight and now there were other people to walk with. Catherine was resolute: she’d drive me down to meet the guys, to wherever they’d made it to that evening; I had no reason to disagree.
I went to bed, feeling much better than the night before after a day’s rest. Nothing restores the body like good people and good food. A nice bed doesn’t hurt.