The view overlooking rolling hills and low lying fog was gorgeous when we set off from Lectoure this morning. The Chemin leaving town goes down a set of stairs through the old Castle of the Counts of Armagnac. The high walls of the castle built on a limestone cliff were imposing from a hundred metres below. Roosters announced their presence as we passed.
Soon we noticed a couple of signs. One was a road sign indicating that Condom-en-Armagnac is 21 kilometres away by road. When walking the Chemin, however, the distance is 31 kilometres. That’s too much for us old folks so we are breaking this stage into two: Lectoure to La Romieu (18 km) today and La Romieu to Condom (13 km) tomorrow.
The other sign we saw was about the Route d’Artagnan. We are walking in the footsteps of d’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers. How cool is that?! The route was established on the basis of historical and literary documents that retrace the travels of Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan. In 1667 he was appointed captain-lieutenant of the 1st Company of the Musketeers of the Horse Guard of King Louis XIV. Renowned during his lifetime for his courage and his humanity, d’Artagnan became a character in Alexandre Dumas’ novel, “The Three Musketeers.”
The highlights of today’s walk were the sparkling spider webs, new crops of sunflowers that were actually yellow instead of brown, more farmland, beautiful distant views, and a 10 km/hour breeze to wick away the sweat when temperatures peaked. Shade trees were few and far between, but wherever there were trees, birds were singing …bless their little hearts. 💕
For the last five kilometres we were hoping La Romieu was over the next hill and finally it was. Whew! It is a lovely medieval village with an abundance of cats. They are well behaved, never cause any problems, and always stay in the same place because they are made of stone, thanks to artist Maurice Serreau. Even the lovely Chambre d’hôtes du Perrouet where we are staying is decorated beautifully with ornaments, paintings, and photographs of cats. There is a legend that goes along with the presence of all the cats and it hangs on our bedroom door.
It goes something like this… “In 1338, a little girl called Angeline was born in La Romieu. While she was still very young, both her parents died suddenly, and she was adopted by a kind couple that lived nearby. As Angeline grew, so did her love for cats and there were always a few that followed her wherever she went.
During this time, two years of severe weather caused a famine and the townspeople were hungry. They were searching everywhere for anything that was edible. Soon the village cats started to disappear as the starving villagers resorted to eating cat stew. Angeline was horrified and begged her adoptive parents to let her hide a couple of cats in the attic. They couldn’t say no to the poor child. She had already lost her parents and they didn’t want her to suffer the loss of her beloved cats as well, so they agreed. Since Angeline hid one male and one female, her kitten collection increased steadily.
Finally, to everyone’s relief, the weather improved, crops flourished, and food was again plentiful. But because there hadn’t been any cats to patrol the village streets, the rats had overrun the town and were ravaging the crops. The townspeople held a meeting to try to find a solution.
Everyone was surprised but happy when Angeline announced that she had twenty cats (as the cat population in her attic had increased tenfold) and they would be more than happy to help with the rat problem. All were in agreement and the cats were let loose in the village. The rats soon disappeared and the crops were no longer threatened.” (This was first published in February 26, 2015 by France Today Editors.)