Despite walking 12-15 miles per day, I have never lost weight while doing a Camino. Dinner last night at the Gite d’Étape LaGrange will help you understand why.
Along the Camino routes in France, a pilgrim can stay at “gîtes.” They are privately owned by a local families. Rooms have 2-4 beds in them, but these are not hostels. Far from it, in fact. There are no bunk beds. Sheets are included. And many times there is an en suite bathroom. But the best part of a gîte? You have the option of “demi-pension” which means “half-board.” This means your hosts will cook and serve you dinner and as well as breakfast the next morning. In the case of the Gite d’Étape LaGrange, my dinner, night’s rest, and breakfast came to a grand total of 32 Euros (maybe 36 dollars). If you think that’s a deal, wait until you see the video of the place. (Click here.)
Oh — and that dinner? Well, I’m in France. Take a guess as to how amazing it is. But for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of eating in France, I’ll elaborate. And those of you that have had a meal in France, well, I’m sure your mouth is watering already.
At seven p.m. the ten of us staying in the gite gathered around the table, which was set and already had bottles of wine and pitchers of water as well. Our host, Christian, deposited two bowls on our table. The first was a salad of mostly tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs as well as some lettuce, all dressed in the mustard vinaigrette that seems to be traditional (as I’ve had it all over France and in Switzerland as well). The second bowl contained the famous Le Puy green lentils, cooked in some sort of vinaigrette as well, from what I could tell.
After some time partaking of these dishes, our host came back to the table to encourage us to finish everything in the serving bowls. Person after person passed on the salad, so it was left to Ed and I to do our part. Ed, a middle school American History teacher from Baltimore, took some of the salad, and when I asked if he wanted any more before I finished it he said, “Oh, no. I need to leave room for the next course.”
“The next course?” I asked. “I thought this was our dinner.”
“Oh, no,” he assured me. I could have left the table satiated at that moment, but having walked 10 miles, I didn’t think I’d have trouble eating something else.
For our main course, Christian served us thick links of baked sausages (another regional speciality) and the creamiest mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. I can assure you his wife Françoise (who does the cooking) didn’t use skim milk to make them.
Next came a plate of cheeses. Two, Christian explained, were made locally. The third was a type I’d had the day before less than 10 miles away in Le Puy-en-Velay. Apparently “local” here means “made in this town.” Christian explained that all the cheeses were made from cow’s milk. Not that it mattered. I was in France. There was cheese. Of course it was going to be good. (For the record: I was right.)
On the Camino in Spain, when a meal includes dessert, dessert is a piece of fruit or a small cup of plain yogurt accompanied by a packet of sugar. Certainly not what we Americans would consider dessert. So you can understand why I thought the cheese was our dessert. “Nope,” Ed said. “That was just the cheese course.” Well, duh. Of course the French would have a separate course during which the only goal is to enjoy some of the country’s cheeses.
So just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Christian, for his final performance, brought out slices of chocolate cake. And of course it was unlike anything I’d had in the U.S. It wasn’t nearly as sweet. You could actually taste the chocolate as opposed to the sugar.
And so it was that two hours after we started, the ten of us cleared the table for our host. Yes, we were paying for the meal and for his service, but when you have a meal like that money just doesn’t seem enough.
So don’t worry about me. I’m doing quite well here in France. Perfectly content to not lose a single pound this entire trip.