The ride into Conques was without doubt the best day of the trip so far, a beautiful crisp morning and the light really was amazing. I was still finding the intermediate villages mostly closed up, but this was a ride to be enjoyed. About 9 km outside of Conques I met my third Pilgrim walker, another British guy from Kent, Julien. He was making his way also to Conques for the evening, so we agreed to catch up with each other later.
As I turned the corner into the town, the Abbey Church of St. Foy came into view…
It was like stepping back in time, the beautiful old buildings and ancient pathways looked like they hadn’t changed in centuries. With a population of just 291, it really is a magical place to visit and not overly touristic like many old french towns.
The tourist information office was closed, along with the Gite Communal (both were supposed to be open according to my guidebook). I spoke with a local shop owner who told me that it was possible to sleep in the Abbey, as they offered accommodation for Pilgrims. I made my way there and sure enough they have a very basic but nice series of rooms on offer, of which I quickly got myself settled in. It was going to be a very cold night with clear skies and I had already decided I wanted a night indoors.
I believe I walked every pathway in this ancient town, it really captured my spirit of adventure. Their are places where the houses are so close together you could reach out across the street and shake your neighbors hand! Then as I was heading back, I spotted Julien walking down the road chatting with a local. I informed him of the Gite situation and he confirmed he would also book into the Abbey, where we could catch up later.
I was looking forward to the evening meal which I had agreed to take along with the room, but it was not quite what I expected. Laid out on the table was a huge dish of vegetable soup (covered in clingfilm) a plate of meat (pork?) another dish of rice and vegetables, and a large slice of apple pie. It was a case of stick it in the microwave and serve yourself. Julien was a vegetarian and had opted to go for an omelet, that was until along came one of the brothers who insisted I shared my meal with him – luckily there was plenty for two!
After the meal we were invited into the Abbey for the Pilgrims blessing and then listened to the brother playing the organ and lighting up the Abbey, a wonderful experience I’m glad I was able to be a part of.
When I woke in the morning to go down to breakfast, it was snowing. As I packed ready for another day and the ride into Figeac, I wondered if I could outrun the poor weather. In reality I knew that with the closure of most facilities, time was running out for this trip.