Coming into Escource late after 5PM, more tired than normal with the long, stressful 35K day we were welcomed by Christian waiting for us in the front of his house. He sat us down at a small table in the backyard on a warm summer evening and poured some flavored syrup aperitifs, strawberry for me and mango for Jose. I savored mine more than usual for today was particularly tough and the drink never tasted more refreshing and rejuvenating. I must have had 4 or 5 shifting to the Citrus flavor. His wife Marie Claude soon joined us and later Christian walked me to the garden where he introduced me to his mother, 97 year old Maria Theresa. They all made us feel so welcome. I have come to instinctively sense when I am in the presence of people that love pilgrims and I felt it here in a powerful way. After freshening up, I sat at the small table with Christian and he asked me 3 times to go through his guestbook. I was tired and not interested but on his third request something told me I should look if only to be polite. After going through a few pages enjoying seeing the photos he took of each pilgrim and reading some of the Thank You’s I was about to put it down but turned one more page and was joyfully surprised to see the photo of a Camino buddy from last year’s Camino VDLP, Julie Dewey, a young French girl whose company I enjoyed for she was always smiling and pleasant. I took a photo of her photo and the note and sent it to her, getting an immediate reply and sharing in a joyous Camino moment.
Soon two of Christian’s cousins Serge, a retired Parisian firefighter and his wife Brigitte joined us and Christian brought out a bottle of chilled Rose Champagne that provided a lovely tasty tickling sensation going down. Soon we moved to the larger dining table all made up impeccably with a stylish flair. At one point, Sweet Maria Theresa came up to me and took my hand and Christian indicated with his eyes for me to go with her. She led me slowly holding my hand to the side of the house where there was a small flower bed and a small round white wrought iron table next to her personal flower garden. She beckoned me to sit down and we continued to hold hands not speaking as she knew no English and me very little French but we shared eye contact and the peace of the moment. I am sure when I told her, “Merci Beaucoup” with my hand on my heart and tears in my eyes she knew I was grateful to share these moments with her in her special space. We were there just about 10 minutes but it was a moment I will never forget. Maria Theresa with her soft smile and bright eyes then taking my hand once more and leading me back to her son and the others.
After we drained the bottle of Rose, Christian brought out a white Champagne which was equally exquisite, along with some cheese and crackers to nibble on. Then one of the finest dinners I’ve ever experienced on any Camino or anywhere in the world for that matter. Starting with a salad of fresh lettuce and tomato from their garden, crab, and 4 different pates. The main was a specially prepared slow cooked duck so tender I cut it with my fork. A cream based pasta paired perfectly with the duck and 3 different local wines including a special limited edition wine, Christian’s personal favorite. A fourth course of 3 cheeses and last homemade ice cream for dessert. Christian excused himself and came out before dessert wearing a burgundy sport jacket with an emblem with a goose on it. Christian explained that he is the “Official” for the region tasked with protecting the French dining specialty of foie gras.
In these modern days there are some that protest the inhumane treatment of the geese and ducks in making foie gras but this is France and Christian is a kind, conscientious host, so I toast the Official and listen to his stories of the history of foie gras as I drink his wonderful wine embracing me in a blissful contentment. The practice actually originated in Egypt over 4,000 years ago where they saw that the process was natural for the birds to eat larger quantities of food to prepare for migration developing larger fattier livers. The Egyptians taught the process to the Romans who brought it to France. The process is known as gavage. The conversation went on until dark and while I was sad for it to end, I was grateful for the wonderful day and the man whose behavior made me angry enough to leave Labouheyre and walk on to Escource.
Aperitifs with Jose and Christian.