It was a quick, flat walk to Aire-sur-l'Adour, not the most interesting of walks. I arrived in time to eat lunch, then made my way to the gite, Hospitalet St Jacques. It was a wonderful place to stay. Both owners were former pilgrims, and they were definitely targeting the walking pilgrims, (not the car-supported kind). You could only ring to reserve here two days before. They had all beds, not bunks, and there was a beautiful kitchen/dining area downstairs. Gorgeous garden too, but it was too cold/wet to enjoy it this afternoon.
Both Odile and Andre made time during the afternoon and evening to sit and talk to pilgrims. It happened that accommodation had become very tight in this region for the next week or so, and I was nervous as I had been unable to reserve beds for upcoming nights. This was just the sort of concern that these willing hosts took seriously, and they helped people make reservations when it all seemed too hard. Odile even thought to make a morning phone call to a gite I had been unable to reach, and made a booking for me.
It turned out that the reason for the accommodation difficulty was that several groups were leaving Aire-sur-l'Adour right around this time. A large group of 17 from Dijon, complete with their two vans, were on the road, and their stages until Roncesvalles were to be nearly the same as mine. They had of course booked for their large group many months before... (I gather though, that once this bulge had passed through, finding accommodation became simpler again.)
Aire-sur-l'Adour was a place that seemed to welcome pilgrims in various ways. L&D had had trouble finding accommodation, and the lady in the tourist office used up 20 minutes of her lunchtime, ringing around until she found them a place. There was an active welcoming group at the Cathedral as well. And when we arrived at the restaurant in the evening, without a reservation, to find it already very full, they cleared a worktable and served us willingly.
The Cathedral here has part of its ceiling being repainted, and the restored section is quite magnificent. St Quitterie, uphill from the gite, has a romanesque part and a crypt, layers upon layers of history.
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