Today we took down the tent for the last time. For the last two years it has been the basis of our little centre, Emmaüs, for greeting pilgrims on the Camino. Before that it served us well for family holidays going back more than thirty years. But some of the poles are now bent, the canvas rotting and the rain pours through….
So this, for us at least, marks the end of an era with many happy memories. But it is also the end of the pilgrim season. About four hundred pilgrims have passed through Emmaüs this year. If you were one of them, please leave a comment (in English or French), share your experiences, or, especially, tell us how we might do better next year in welcoming passing pilgrims.
In a couple of days time the new wooden chalet should be delivered. (Look out for photos here!) Once it is up it will need to be fitted out over the winter to make it ready for a new opening in late April 2017!
September 14, the morning after the storm, we were busy sorting out the tent. It had survived the torrential rain with only a bent pole and a little damage to the fabric but many of the contents, including our precious visitors’ book, were water logged. We cleaned and dried what we could, leaving the book to dry in the sun.
And then it was time to sit and read, ready to welcome pilgrims.
Michel stopped by and came in for coffee and a chat. He worked in banking and like many was walking the Camino in stages. He enjoyed the opportunity to leave behind the things which cluttered his life, walking only with necessities.
As he left I invited him to write in the drying-out visitors’ book. He was grateful for the welcome and my smile and conversation. It turned out that he had just had a very unwelcoming experience in Arthez. But he wrote that our conversation had restored his faith in humanity. I was grateful to meet him – as all of those who pass by. And it’s fair to say that in general the people of Arthez are very welcoming of pilgrims.
We had a huge storm two evenings ago (13 September). The tent was damaged: some poles were bent; some canvas ripped, pegs pulled away from the canvas and everything inside soaked with rain. But, when the storm subsided an hour later, the tent was still standing and usable. Happily it will be taken down for the last time at the end of this month and the new wooden shelter will be built ready for next season.
Unfortunately we were too busy holding the tent down to take any photos!
Marie from the Czech Republic and Alex from (Flemish) Belgium, stopped for a couple of hours yesterday afternon. She had started in her home town and had now been walking for about four months. He had started at Le Puy. Both were planning to walk all the way to Santiago. They were excited to see their photo on the blog so here it is! (As usual, click on the photo to see it in more detail.)
As the weather has finally begun to cool a little we are seeing more pilgrims passing the door. Interestingly several recently have chosen to stop and talk for quite a while – like Ursula and Jürgen here from Germany. They have recently bought a house on the Camino on Lake Constance in Germany and plan to offer hospitality to passing pilgrims.
In the meantime the concrete foundation slab for the new pilgrim shelter has been finished. We hope that the wooden building will go up at the end of this month.