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DAY 25 : from AIRE-sur-l’ADOUR to CONDOM, 80 km.

Early rising is becoming a routine as it remains very hot. A sort of super heatwave is even announced for the upcoming days with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius and more. We'll see and adapt accordingly. At 7 o'clock, we leave the door and drive to the old center of Aire-sur-l’Adour. We want to take a look at the église de Saint Pierre du Mas, also known as the church of la Sainte Quitterie. A partially Gothic building with a rather heavy tower.

Sunrise in Aire-sur -'Adour. Cathedraal St.Jean Baptiste, facade and apse

The church square is calm, but we immediately notice that we are on the Via Podiensis. Several pilgrims are already on their way by foot or bicycle, all heading towards Santiago de Compostela. We're going the other way because we're heading to Le Puy en Vélay. We're following in the footsteps of the well-known Dutch writer Kees Noteboom, who, as an agnostic, wrote a beautiful book about his journey from Santiago to the Netherlands.

After a short tour, we cross the Adour mountain river with a beautiful sunrise and head towards Condom via Barcelonnette du Gers, Lelin Lapujolle, Nogaro, Manciet, and Eauze. On the way to the town of Nogaro, we continue along the Adour valley with beautiful fields surrounding us. We now come across pilgrims regularly. The first person I engage with near Lelin Lapujolle is Pierre, a man in his 70s who is on his way from Figeac to Roncesvalles, just across the Pyrenees. In Nogaro, we naturally stop at the cathedral, which is partially Romanesque and Gothic. The Romanesque choir has beautiful capitals and sculptures.

Lelin Lapujolle, Jacques and the entrance of the Saint Nicolas church in Nogaro

As we leave the St. Nicolas Cathedral (statue next to the church), we meet Jacques, a small man also in his seventies, with a heavy backpack. We greet him and wish him a safe journey. He's on his way to Santiago from Rodez for his wife, who suffered severe myocarditis due to Covid and couldn't come along. He carries her paternoster with him. In every church, he prays for her and takes a photo of himself with the paternoster. He notices our sign and asks for more information. He also wishes us all the best. It was a powerful moment that deeply moved both Bruno and myself.

Nogaro: Capitals and statues in the St. Nicolas chursch

From there, we continue to Eauze, a more challenging part of the road. We're on a departmental road with a series of steep hills, but we manage. It's still cool, and we're feeling fresh as well. We make another stop in a small village where we meet Jean, who is responsible for the church: 85 years old and he has been in charge of all the church services for years. He had just performed a funeral. He opens the church again and shows us two old Roman sarcophagi that were repurposed for Christian graves. There are also some beautiful recent icons in the church.

Jean showing us the two sarcophagi

Back on our bikes, we continue pedaling towards Eauze, still going uphill. Along the way, a sport cyclist with strong calves, according to Bruno, encourages us. Jean-Paul explains the best route to take and guides us to the central square of the bastide of Eauze. We wish each other safe travels. Eauze has a beautiful central square with those typical houses you can walk under. A lovely cathedral, Notre Dame de la Gélise (named after a small river), resembles a fortified fortress with a stately tower. Inside the choir, there's a series of beautiful stained glass windows and icons from 1977. It's quite cozy, and it's now 11:30 AM, so we decide to have a picnic on the west side of the church.

Eauze: The church, the village square and William near the fountain

By a beautiful fountain, William is resting. He saw our bikes and can't believe we're cycling so far for a good cause. He's amazed by Bruno, who sacrifices his vacation to accompany his grandfather. It's great to be able to cycle with him; he rides naturally, without a motor, pure and simple. I use an assistive motor, as I wouldn't make it without one.

Van Eauze rijden we onder de steeds warmere zon door naar het volgende stadje Montréal du Gers. Een van de oudste bastides van Frankrijk. De markt onder de overwelfde huizen is juist gedaan en men is aan het opkuisen. De kerk (gesloten wegens restauratiewerken) is een goed voorbeeld van een kerk die een deel van de verdedigingsmuur van het stadje was; de zuidkant is stevig en niet versierd en dient uitsluitend als een verdedigingsmuur. De noordkant aan de binnenkant van de stad heeft twee mooie ingangen en een enfeu of ingebouwd graf vlak bij de ingangsdeur. We vullen onze drinkbussen bij met water en wat menthe grenadine die we bijhebben om het water lekker te doen smaken.

Montréal du Gers: bastide and the church with its defensive wall, Bruno is having a rest

From Eauze, we pedal under the increasingly warmer sun to the next town, Montréal du Gers. One of the oldest bastides in France. The market under the arched houses has just ended, and they're cleaning up. The church (closed due to restoration work) is a good example of a church that was part of the town's defensive wall; the south side is solid and unadorned, serving solely as a defensive wall. The north side inside the town has two beautiful entrances and an enfeu, an enclosed tomb, near the entrance door. We refill our water bottles with water and some mint grenadine that we brought to make the water taste better.

Laressingle with its beautiful fortress

A little more than 20 kilometers of pedaling, and we're in the town of Condom. First, we want to stop in the fortified 13th-century small town (village?) of Laressingle. It's truly worth it: a medieval small town with a castle and its moat still intact. A nice ensemble of old houses forming the fortification wall and in the center, a beautiful old Romanesque and Gothic church. Many tourists and pilgrims visit, but it's early afternoon and most people are seeking refuge from the heat. A truly cozy place to stay. We do have to stay a while as both our phones are out of charge, so we recharge them while having a drink.

. From this fortified castle, it's only 5 kilometers to the beautiful town of Condom, where Magda has arranged a room for us with retired elderly people. By now, it's 37 degrees Celsius, and Bruno needs to avoid the sun. Since yesterday, he's been badly sunburned on his shoulders. Today, he's been wearing the Rinus Pini T-shirt all day to provide some protection. Our hosts offer us a refreshing mint water. Clearly, they host pilgrims to engage in conversation. They tell us about their autistic granddaughter, the family's special needs child, on whom they invest a lot of time. They show great interest in the Rinus Pini Fund, which Bruno explains to them in excellent French. Our bikes can be stored in the garage, and we can then move into our room. It's already 4:30 PM, and it's scorching hot outside.

Arrival in Condom. Bruno is sunburnt

I apply some more after-sun lotion on Bruno's skin: a thick layer and also use some on my face. Bruno wants to do some work, and I decide to go to the town center to visit the cathedral and do some shopping for dinner. Unfortunately, I have to cancel the visit because the heat is truly searing, and I don't feel well. So, I go alone to a Lidl store located about 500 meters from the house. I buy two pre-made paellas (for 4 people!) plus breakfast for tomorrow morning. Also, a French country bread that Bruno spreads with an entire pot of rillettes and then eats bit by bit. Bruno calculates very well what he needs to eat to have the necessary strength to tackle all the hills on his "regular" bike. So, we eat a lot of pasta or rice, lots of bananas and other fruits, lots of cereal bars, etc. I feel really good about it (so far) as it's quite a challenge for a 77-year-old.

We can heat up the paellas in the owners' oven at 6 PM. We enjoy our dinner just the two of us in their kitchen and have a glass of white Gascogne wine from the region (more or less) that I bought at the store. We talk about the day and look ahead to the next one. After that, Bruno gets back to work. I make a brief call to Magda, our logistical support, and then lie down at 7:15 PM and fall asleep right away.

It was a great day with many pilgrims and fascinating encounters and visits. We're a bit concerned about tomorrow as it's going to be even hotter, and that will last for several days. We'll try to leave at 6:30 AM tomorrow. We have another 85 km day ahead of us to Moissac, where the beautiful abbey church and cloister await us. I've been there several times, but it's always nice to see that church again.

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