We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm.
"Mais non! It doesn't make sense. It doesn't sound like that at all!" she insisted.
This passionate response from my French friend came after she asked me what we say in America for the sound a rooster makes.
Maybe I didn't sell it to her, I think, and I make a crowing sound like "Cock a doodle doo!"
"Non, it's cocorico. It sounds just like a rooster!" she insisted.
"It sounds like a drink," I insisted. "I'll have a cocorico in Puerto rico."
We were both bent over laughing as we continued walking down the road, the sun shining on us after walking five and a half hours so far. We had started that morning in Figeac, France, in the Lot region. We'd left behind the more extreme mountain climbs in the Aude for rolling hills and homes built of bleached stone with carefully sculpted roof tiles. We planned to walk four days along one of the many trails that lead to El Camino de Santiago in Spain. In France, the routes are called Chemin de Saint Jacque de Compostelle
On Tuesday we dropped the car in St. Cirq la Popie, our ending point, and we took the bus back to Figeac. We found a restaurant in Figeac, eating dinner at 8 p.m. When we opened the menu, we nearly fainted at the perfection. I had told Claudine on the bus that I hadn't eaten foie gras or duck since I'd been back in France. Then we searched for a restaurant that served foie gras. We ended up at La Puce a l'Oreille in Figeac. Starting with foie gras then moving on to magret de canard (duck).
"If we eat foie gras for dinner every night, we'll gain many kilos before we get home," Claudine pointed out before taking a bite of the starter and pausing for the sheer pleasure of it in her mouth.
If ever there was a meal fit for the word sublime, this was it. The setting, the service, the food. Surely we were ready for our hike the next day.
The jovial host at the B&B saw us off after coffee and croissants. We stopped at a bakery for a baquette sandwich -- jambon sec, butter and lettuce. The bakery server cut the sandwich in two so we could share it later. And, voila, we were off. The trail would be 21 kilometers from the Figeac to Corn.
Corn is a strange name for a town, but in France, they don't call corn corn. They call it maïs with two syllables. A fairly steep climb took us out of Figeac, but the entire hike, 15 miles, we only climbed about 1400 feet, which we struggle up in 45 minutes leaving our town.
Hiking long distances in France is very different from the United States. We don't carry tents and sleeping bags. We don't pack our bags with beans and rice to eat over a fire. We walk from town to town and sleep in a gites or B and B. We have dinner in a restaurant or at the host's table.
After a few hours of hiking, we ventured through the village Faycelles and stopped to take pictures of the irises lining stone steps. At the top, we stopped for coffee and a panoramic view of the valley and river below.
Two hours later in Beduer, we walked into town to find that the only store near the trail had closed at 12:30. We couldn't buy drinks for lunch, but we had our water and our sandwich. Claudine had brought along two pain au chocolat from the day before, so we had those for dessert as we sat at a concrete table by the cathedral with a view of a nearby chateau. We chatted with hikers from Canada, from Nantes and Orleans France. Most of the hikers on this trail are from France.
During our six hour hike, Claudine had declared it "French speaking only" so that I could practice my French. Walking and following trail markers and trying to speak only French, it was a challenge. But by the end of the day, I wondered if I'd be able to speak English when I called Earl later.
We walked a few kilometers outside of Corn to our BnB, thinking we would never get there. Stopping to take pictures of a field of poppies. A climb up to the BnB and we were greeted by a giant white Great Pyrenees dog with deep woofs.
Finally, after 15 miles, 22 kilometers, we could take our shoes off our tired feet. Rinse the salt of sweat from our bodies and enjoy another great meal, this time of cucumber in creme fraiche for starters then couscous with lamb and carrots followed by gelato.