An Unexpected Encounter from: IT’S A LONG WAY FROM TIPPERARY TO SANTIAGO. Day 140 Baimorto, Galicia. October, 2018.
10 days ago I was spending the night at La Ferraire Albergue and the owner/hospitalero Sergio and I had several conversations about various aspects of The Camino and we seemed to agree on everything. In fact it was eerie as his words were the exact words I would have used when he answered questions from the other pilgrims. Then just before bed he told me about an Albergue I should not miss, O Xistral, in a remote rural area of del Norte. For some reason as I got closer to the albergue I sensed it was important to go there and changed plans and walked 2 straight 35K days to make sure I would spend a night there. Yes the place was quite nice with a big yard with hammocks and a pool, and a delightful hospitalera, Paula, who escorted me into a small 4 bed room with 2 singles and one bunk bed. As I unpacked I sensed this was a place that I would certainly enjoy but not one I HAD to go to. That second an older couple came in and had taken the singles but I was happy to get the lower bunk. WAIT! I know this couple. It took just a few seconds but then it clicked, it’s Gabrielle and Patrice, from the small village of Poille in western France, who had hosted me in their home back in July on Day 57 of my pilgrimage. They took a few seconds to recognize me but I said, “It’s Kevin your first pilgrim” ( I was a bit off the Camino and they had given their name to the Association a few months earlier but until me they had not hosted a pilgrim). They smiled and then laughed and Patrice said knowingly, “Porquoi pas”. His comment got me laughing as it means “Why Not” or “Porque no” in Spanish which is my trademark reply to any positive suggestion. We had a delightful time reminiscing and talking about our Camino experiences as they had started from around Bordeaux. This happened on Day 126 of my pilgrimage from Ireland.
Thinking back to Day 57 on July 10, I had a long road walk on a very hot day to L’Hermenault and found there were no rooms available. So I headed to the local municipal office, The Mairie, where a kind woman made multiple calls to no avail. After about 35 minutes when I was thinking I would have to sleep on the grass in a small park nearby, she gave me a thumbs up and 5 minutes later Patrice and Gabrielle were there and drove me to their home in nearby Poille where Gabrielle provided an aperitif (water with Grenadine syrup), a very cozy bedroom, and told me “This is your home”. I noticed she had her Compostela (Certificate of Completion of the Camino) framed in the kitchen with map of the Camino Frances and a bottle of Santiago de Compostela on a shelf. I felt at home instantly as there is a connection and very strong communal spirit with fellow pilgrims. Gabrielle is 68 and her husband Patrice 69. As the day turns into night we are talking of future Caminos including their following in my footsteps this Fall on Camino del Norte. (I had long forgotten this but when I reached the fork in the south of France I veered left on Camino Frances rather than the del Norte. The pleasant conversation continued through a delicious dinner of duck with potatoes, green beans, and carrots from the garden along with some local wine. Followed by some more wine in their cellar.
Then we relaxed and Patrice and I watched the second half of France clinging to a 1-0 victory over Belgium to make the World Cup finals.
In the morning, they would not take money so I told them I would pass on the money to someone in need. Then Gabrielle and Patrice insisted on driving me back to the Camino in Mervent where I could start out the lovely day with a forest walk. We hugged goodbye more like old friends than new acquaintances.
I had been thinking about del Norte since starting it that it does not have the same energy as Camino Frances. I still think that but also have come to learn that the Camino spirit will find you no matter what if you stay open. And it is 3 nights later in Boimorto, and I will be dining with my dear friends Patrice and Gabrielle for the 4th night in a row as we kept ending up together without planning to. Such is the beauty of The Camino.
When I finally reached Santiago for the second time I had a picture taken of me in front of the Camino. I did not notice until a few days later, but the couple on the right side are Patrice and Gabrielle.