Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Stepping into the past right in the heart of the village

We had our usual walk yesterday and took a route through the centre of the village. Everybody says bonjour to everybody, so when we passed this old lady standing outside her large double doors, we smiled, said bonjour and carried on walking. She called us back and we thought she needed help with something. She asked us to step in. We obliged, waiting for some request for assistance.

Nope. She wanted to show us her splendid fireplace. We looked around and found ourselves in a bar, with a counter, glasses neatly ordered behind it and the shelves stocked with bottles of booze. There were plant pots and ashtrays on the counter (smoking inside bars has been banned for a good number of years). We said we had no idea the place was a bar by looking at it from the outside. 

We remarked how cool it was inside, the building being on the shady side of a narrow road. She explained that she has been retired for many years, but in its heyday the bar was incredibly busy in the summer, as it was so cool. She told us to come to the back with her and opened some sliding doors to reveal a dining room. They had two waitresses, her husband ran the bar and the cellar because they had no fridge in those days, and she cooked.

We asked if she lived there, so she led us to a door, and behind it was a large spiral stone staircase, very much like the one in the tower. She wanted us to go upstairs, but we made some excuse and declined the invitation. Lovely Jeannine must be in her 90s and very lonely...

Then we noticed the scallop shell carving (coquille de St Jacques, Santiago in Spanish, St James in English) on the fireplace, a sign that the pilgrims were welcome there for food and rest on their way from Rocamadour to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain. The pilgrimages started centuries ago, dating back to the 12th century (1152). These days people still do it, some for religious reasons, others for the challenge. There are several routes to Compostela and the one starting in Rocamadour, passing through our village, is an important one.

A couple of weeks ago, during another walk, we noticed a young couple with backpacks. We met them later at the Café de Paris and found out they were walking the Route to Compostela. The girl was Dutch and the guy Belgian. They asked about a cheap place to stay the night and the barman suggested "La Brasserie", where TW and Irishgirl stayed when they visited us. We would have invited then to stay with us, but the guest room is full of boxes and clothes on the bed, courtesy of our Billy...

A little while later, a few local English people arrived at the café and we asked if they knew anybody who could accommodate them for the night.

One of the couples has a house they rent to visitors in the middle of the village and offered it to them at a friendly price. The following week we found out that the guy who owns the house took them some food, because the only restaurant open out of season is the Brasserie, with very steep prices for the evening menu.

If we had met the lonely old lady a few weeks earlier, we're sure she would have been delighted to welcome them with open arms!

I didn't have my camera with me, but I found some photos on the net.

The old bar/restaurant:

The Coquilles de St Jacques, the first one above the door, the others in different spots around the village.

This fireplace is almost identical to the one we saw at the bar: 

A similar staircase. Please note that the old lady's house has a tower...

The start of the journey, Rocamadour:

And the end, Santiago de Compostela (St Jacques de Compostelle)

Further reading about the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.