Sometimes good fortune presents itself in the most unexpected place and at the most unexpected time. Such was my experience today.

It was a gloomy Friday morning when I left Castres. It rained during the night. A good time for that to happen. The temperature was around 17 degrees. Great for walking. Getting out of Castres was simple: one road, one direction, but what I found quite incredible was the amount of development for the next three and a half-hours of walking. It seemed that every commercial and retail business had a spot along the road, in particular, used car lots. It wasn’t long before I was yearning for some open space. France’s love affair with roundabouts was no more obvious than along this
strip: I went through eight before turning onto a secondary road that took me to Puylaurens.

I’m really starting to dislike walking the edge of main roads with oncoming cars and trucks assaulting my senses. It’s a case of hyper-vigilance all the time. I can’t take the risk of not looking at each one of them long enough to to be able to take evasive action in case of emergency. I’m so looking forward to reaching the Spanish border so I can start the Camino Norte where this problem does not exist.

I walked into Puylaurens around 3.00pm knowing from my maps that it had one hotel, but as usual, with no expectations of what it would be like. What a surprise! What a delight to have found Hotel Cap de Castel. The owner, David, a man in his 30′s, greeted me with very personal friendliness. I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels these past 70′ days, but not before have I been greeted this way. My room, located in a 16th century house, is spacious, tastefully furnished, and with some little touches that make you feel you are being thought about as a guest. One of the buildings in the grounds dates back to the twelfth century.

Dinner was by far the most beautifully presented and tasteful I’ve eaten in France so far. If ever there was a place I would like to visit again, this is it, but next time it will be longer than an afternoon and night.

I’ve spoken before about the contrasts this journey presents. I expect there will be no contrast more profound than between tonight and what I expect will be my living conditions tomorrow night when I will be camping by the roadside halfway between here and Toulouse. There is one thing I really love about my pilgrimage: these constant contrasts in every aspect of life. The rising was the title track from the first official release by bruce springsteen and the e street band in 15 years