It was a day full of pleasant surprises.

Upon waking I decided I had to do some walking today, despite Mereille’s offer to stay longer. She drove me back to Montbazin. I had the pack on my back and was ready to commence walking when the sky opened up. I hurriedly threw the backpack into the car and we took refuge in a nearby cafe for half an hour until the downpour passed. Rugged up in my wet weather gear I left shortly after midday in a light, steady rain.

I pulled into Villeveyrac to eat after a couple of hours walking. A young boy of about
10 followed me up the hill into the centre of the village. He had a few words of English, all of which he used. I asked for directions to a cafe. When we got to the top of the hill he pointed it out. Language is no barrier. I prepared my lunch in the town square and had to eat part of it under a plane tree because the rain started up again. I then headed to the cafe to finish eating.

About 8km out of Montagnac is the Cistercian Valmagne Abbey that was founded in 1139. The church, in classical Gothic style, was begun in 1257 on the foundations of the original Romanesque chapel. The church is a monumental 83m long and 24m
high. The monks used to rise at 2.00am but in winter they were permitted to sleep in until 3.00am. The only room heated was the one where sick monks were kept. It’s hard to imagine how the monks would have coped with cold winters. This abbey was once one of the richest in southern France until it suffered the effects of the Hundred Years war, and later the Religious wars. The French Revolution of 1789 saw the abbey ransacked, documents burned, and the abbey confiscated as national property. It was sold in 1791 to a man whose descendants still own it. After the sale the
church was turned into a wine cellar which prevented it from becoming a stone quarry, as was the fate of many abbeys during the Revolution. Inside the church
today I saw 18 massive wine vats – empty, of course. When the woman on the reception desk found out I was a pilgrim on my way from Rome to Santiago she waived the a��7.50 entry fee. The hour I spent there was well worth it although it meant not getting into Montagnac until around 7.00pm. There was to be wedding at the abbey this evening. Guests were to wear Medieval costume. To get the place in the correct atmosphere about fifty people in costume were hired to play musical instruments of the day, look the part in chain mail, demonstrate the finer points of sword fighting, and stand as guards with stern expressions.

My last 4km into Montagnac was on a very narrow road which weaved its way through vineyards and rolling green valleys. On the outskirts of town I found the municipal camping ground which I checked before walking into the village to find a restaurant for dinner. I thought I’d return to the ground after dinner. Failing to find some place suitable to eat I went to a grocery store, took my purchases to the
nearby square, and commenced to eat. A passing man spoke to me. We started up a conversation. Vital, his name, is French and from Toulouse. He is working in Montagnac for a week building a straw bale house. He invited me to stay at the
house he is renting in the village. I agreed. I was given this massive bedroom He went off to pick up a friend at a railway station leaving me the run of the place. He was totally trusting of me. The friend, who has just returned from three months in Tasmania, will be working on the same building project. Vital and his friend went out for a while tonight and left me to my own devices. I feel totally comfortable here. Earlier, Mireille had offered to come and pick me up at Montagnac, drive me to Sete for the night, and return me here tomorrow. These acts of generosity overwhelm me. Vital was surprised when I told him his was the first offer I had received to stay at someone’s house. May there be more. Spontaneity rules. Springsteen invokes the idea of order other info rising not just to describe the fireman’s brave final steps toward heaven but to suggest our own capacity for transcendence in the face of unspeakable sadness