In my humblest of opinions, churches should be open and free. Especially on the camino. If the holy church cannot see their spiritual duty to mankind; then atleast they should not fail to see it as a business. As I walk through wind and rain and cold and blazing sun these holy places not only become a place of worship and meditation, but places of rest and refuge.
Now, a layman might think that he does not want 'his' church to be a place of rest and refuge. A place where hippie freaks can roll up their joints, a place where cultural and sportif "pilgrims" can rest their sore feet. But truly, you underestimate your God and his place of worship. How many times do you think a man can take refuge without starting to feel it?
And once you've felt it a few times... you know it. And once you know you start giving. Which brings me back to my point about running a business: If you fail to serve your God; you should atleast serve your church - and you serve your church the very best by fishing new souls.
Really, it's amazing to me that you can fill a place of worship with so much silver and gold and precious gems you have to lock it up for the children of God - and yet you cannot afford a simple servant of God to watch over that gold or; to build a small sidechapel for those seeking Him outside your official hours.
Without really noticing it I had started to talk to the cows. Not like, you know, conversations; but little greetings. Bonjour Madame, Bonjour Mesdames, that kind of thing. These young ladies, like most cows that age, were a bit shy and rather curious.
I didn't know yet, ofcourse, but the Tours-trail converges with the more famous and more trafficked Le Puy-trail in Saint Palais - and quite possible one or both of the 2 other main French routes. My camino is about to change radically - the only clue I have so far is higher density of religious markings along the trail.
Behind the threes is a grand mansion. That little pavilion must have been a great place to have your morning coffee back before it became a trafficked road.
The food I stole in Bergouey. Flour, oil, eggs and sugar. If you add vitamin-pills to your diet that's really all you need.
As the rain started to pour I used the crucifix on this tomb as focus for my meditation. In retrospect He seems a feeble shield against the elements and the world. But for the 30 minutes the heavens opened up that figure seemed to grow before my eyes; and that tomb and those within seemed encased in the glow of His selfless love.
As I decided that it was not going to stop raining, and I just had to push on... the rain simply stopped.
Bonjour madame :)
Now that's a pilgrims bench. So high your feet are dangling; giving those sore and blisterridden footsies a little rest while you enjoy the view and whatever you carried with you to enjoy.
I might be mistaken, but I'm quite sure this is taken inside the Saint Palais refugio. It used to be a Franciscan monastery - now it's taken over by the government; but still run by volunteers. I don't know how expensive electrical power is in France these days - but it's strange to me that they can't afford the heating necessary for wet pilgrims to dry their clothes.
Really, I don't mind spending time inside old cold buildings. Its all part of the experience; we should learn to do with little. But to keep a couple of ovens running in a small dryingroom or the kitchen perhaps? Just to dry clothes? Just for that feeling of hospitality? It takes so little. The places I truly remember fondly along the road are not only the parroquial refugios with donativo 3-course meals and group-prayers - but also the places who just had that littlebit extra, that little consideration for roadweary pilgrims: a handicap shower, a glass of lemonade, somewhere to dry your clothes (or atleast your shoes!) on the really wet days.
My first pilgrim friend - Upstream Thomas, the [academic] philosopher, who was going from Santiago to Paris. I provided him with Paulo Cohelos The Pilgrimage and his first camino high - he provided me with a Spanish phrasebook and the much rumored and coveted secret guidebook passed out only to peregrinos authenticos.
I'll write more on him once I've finished writing my way to Finisterre as I have plenty of notes on him. So if you're reading this; just a reminder: This is a work in progress, and not really worth reading unless you enjoy watching works in progress unfold.