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DAY 11 from Saint Jean d’Angély to Mirambeau: 85 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

It's going to be another day filled with Romanesque art and beautiful nature. I am literally

cycling along the Via Turonensis since yesterday, which means I often ride alongside

busy Departmentales roads. I prefer to remain faithful to this old Camino. Floky is

following the directions on Google Maps, leading him through varied and scenic routes.

He is truly delighted by the beauty and tranquillity of the surroundings. Magda is tracking

both of us on WhatsApp live location and claims that we are usually cycling parallel to

each other, a few kilometres apart. The nature along the road can be seen in the video

that Floris posts on Instagram every evening. We regularly meet up along the way.

Today we are going to visit the city of Saintes together.


We depart at 9 a.m. since we have to be outside by that time at the latest. We cycle

through the city, as we are staying in the centre at the Abbaye Royale, with the

ruins of the grand church next to it – only the two towers remain. We pass by the square

with the beautiful 16th-century fountain and later we ride under the Tour de l'horloge, A clock tower with many half-timbered houses, leaving the city situated on the Boutonne River

behind.


Saint-Jean-d'Angély: towers of the abbey church, the fountain and the Tour de l'horloge


After about 30 km, I reach the Abbaye aux Dames and visit the church of Sainte-Marie-

aux-Dames de Saintes. This abbey church is characteristic of the Romanesque style of

Saintonge. It is distinguished by the presence of a bell tower with a square base,

supporting a round tower with bell towers on the corners. At the top, there is a

"pine cone" symbolizing eternal life, which reminds us of the church of Notre-Dame la

Grande in Poitiers.


On the west side, three parts have been beautifully restored from 1924 to 1939. The portal

has four arches. The bottom one depicts the hand of God with angels, blessing the

believers entering. The second one is of the Easter lamb, symbolizing Christ, along with

the four evangelists. The third tells the story of the massacre of the innocents. The fourth

shows the old men of the apocalypse, the kings of the Old Testament – including David,

recognizable by his harp. There are also animals depicted: lions and birds, two of which

are drinking from a cup, probably alluding to the Eucharist.

Saintes: church of the Abbaye aux Dames, west portal and interior of the church


The portal is flanked by two arcades dominated by the theme of redemption and the Last

Judgment. The arcade on the right portrays the Last Supper, while the one on the left

shows Christ welcoming souls into heaven. They all have female characteristics, which

could be explained by the fact that it was an abbey for nuns. The interior of the church

has two domes and is beautiful, simple, and spacious, but there are no particular

features distinguishing this abbey. Around it, you can see the old abbey buildings, but

little is original. The whole place makes for a lovely walk. It's starting to drizzle lightly, but

I think it will pass soon.


Back on the bike, I pass by a Roman triumphal arch and cross the river to reach the St.

Pierre Cathedral, with a part of the cloister beside it. Floky is waiting for me there, and

we take turns visiting the cathedral to watch over the bikes. This St. Pierre Cathedral

doesn't make much of an impression on me, except for its beautiful tower. Until the 14th

century, there was a Romanesque church, and then a late Gothic cathedral in flamboyant

Gothic style was built. It suffered greatly during the religious wars.H


Saintes: triumphal arch, St. Pierre cathedral and portal


Meanwhile, it's starting to rain harder and harder. We cycle past the Roman amphitheater

to the church of Saint Eutrope, which is partly Romanesque and partly Gothic. I am

particularly interested in the ancient crypt under this church. That part was built in the

eleventh century and has a very simple structure. The vault is supported by beautiful

impressive pillars mainly decorated with flower and plant motifs on the capitals. It is dark

and not very uplifting.


When we step outside, it's raining heavily. I enter a bakery to buy

two slices of pizza for Floris and a quiche because he's always hungry. He eats one slice

immediately, and the other is for later. Despite the rain, we decide to set off, hoping it will

stop soon. Each of us goes our own way. After about half an hour, the rain turns into a

real downpour. I take shelter under a tree (as there is no thunder). Everything is wet.

Thankfully, I have a large Camino raincoat and a plastic tarp for part of my luggage. My

shoes are soaked in water. I call Floky, who is also seeking shelter, but water gets into

his phone. After about fifteen minutes, the heavy rain stops, and I can get back on the

road. Later, I check with Floky, and he's already back on track, enjoying the beautiful

nature. An hour later, the sun comes out, and everything is dry for both of us. That's what

he tells me in our last phone call. What would we do without our mobile phones?

Saintes:Saint Eutrope, Crypt


When we step outside, it's raining heavily. I enter a bakery to buy two slices of pizza for Floris and a quiche because he's always hungry. He eats one slice immediately, and the other is for later. Despite the rain, we decide to set off, hoping it will stop soon. Each of us goes our own way. After about half an hour, the rain turns into a real downpour. I take shelter under a tree (as there is no thunder). Everything is wet. Thankfully, I have a large Camino raincoat and a plastic tarp for part of my luggage. My shoes are soaked in water. I call Floky, who is also seeking shelter, but water gets into his phone. After about fifteen minutes, the heavy rain stops, and I can get back on the road. Later, I check with Floky, and he's already back on track, enjoying the beautiful nature. An hour later, the sun comes out, and everything is dry for both of us. That's what he tells me in our last phone call. What would we do without our mobile phones?

Pons:Donjon and church of Saint Vivien


My next stop is the pilgrim town of Pons, which I reach after 25 km. Above the town

stands a large medieval keep/castle, dominating the surroundings. Nearby, there are old

buildings where a violin masterclass is taking place in the midst of nature. It's blissful to

be able to enjoy some beautiful music from a distance. I enter the tourist office to get a

stamp on our credential. Then I take President Roosevelt Street, steep downhill, leading

me to the church of Saint-Vivien. It's a beautiful 12th-century church in Romanesque

Saintonge style but renovated in the 15th century. It is situated at the bottom of the

village along the Seugne River, along the Via Turonesis, and in the direction of the

Pilgrim Hospital. Nearby, there's a beautiful statue of pilgrims walking at a roundabout.

As I leave the St. Vivien Church, three people gather around my bike to look at the sign.

They are Christine, Alain, and their autistic son Jonathan. They think it's a fantastic idea

to cycle for a cause. They find it genuinely important. Their son participates in the

Paralympics and even became a sports champion. They are lovely people, and it's a

delightful encounter.


Pons: encounter with Christine, Alain en Jonathan; the old pilgrim's hospital under which one can cycle


My last stop for the day is the pilgrims' hospital just outside Pons, where you can walk or

cycle through. Part of the large medieval hospital is a small church now used as a local

archaeological museum. Built in the 12th century to serve as a stopover for pilgrims on

their way to Santiago de Compostela, it is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. The

street leading to it is traffic-free, except for pedestrians and cyclists.


After this final visit, I cycle another 25 km, and I reach Mirambeau where we are staying

in a B&B. I stop at the Super U, a large supermarket, to call Floky and find out what he

wants to eat. Magda informs me that he arrived at the B&B three minutes ago. So, at

around 5 p.m., we are back together after a wet and sunny day. We share with each

other what we saw when we were on our own. At the Super U, I buy a large round

paella, and we enjoy it on the B&B&'s terrace in the evening sun.


Before the meal, the owner, an artist, offers me a Pinot de Charente, a typical local and

somewhat sweet but delicious aperitif. Floky takes a sip but finds it too sweet. After

dinner, the lady brings us some goat cheese from a farmer nearby and some bread.

We also take some time to look at her studio. She paints and draws, makes jewellery,

bracelets, and other small trinkets. She also teaches drawing and painting in Bordeaux,

where we will be going tomorrow – to the capital of French wine. We'll raise a glass there

to Uncle John and Uncle Eric, both supporting the Rinus Pinifonds and avid red wine

enthusiasts. Of course, we'll also toast to Aunts Litje and Nicole and Grandma Magda, even though they DON'T drink red wine. Their support is particularly significant and

crucial for the Rinus-Pini fund in general and for this second pilgrimage in particular.


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