Each time she walks a Camino our heroine finds herself, at some point on her journey, with an itchy skin rash or bites. Her retired dermatologist friend says bedbugs, but no one she encounters in Spain seems to think so. This year, she finds the same sentiment exists in France.
On Saturday evening the only window in her room in Cahors opened into a busy street. The door opened into the communal bathroom. But closing one or the other would make the room stuffy. Then someone across the street started playing loud music. Closing the window didn’t help much. Then at 130 a.m. she started itching. She feared bedbugs and turned on her headlamp, but saw nothing. She finally fell asleep around 2 a.m.
The next morning she found bites on her arms, chest, and fingers. Then two more on her right thigh, and one on her belly for a grand total of 26 very itchy spots.
She shows them to her host who says they are not the bites of “punaise” (French for bedbugs). He says bedbug bites show up in groups of three. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. She has read this isn’t true but isn’t in a mood to argue. “Spider bites,” he tells her. “It’s an old house. They’re in the cracks in the stone walls.”
She applies the calamine lotion she received in Spain the last time this happened. She’s given up on caring how it looks to have dried pink lotion visible on much of her body. The lotion helps only for a few hours, but it’s better than nothing.
That afternoon Michel picks her up to drive toward Bayonne, and agrees they are not bedbugs. They arrive at The Alchemist pilgrim hostel in Navarrenx. Jean-Gerard, a self-proclaimed philosopher and her host for the evening, says the same and gives her lavender oil to apply to them. It helps a little and has the added benefit of making her smell nice.
The next morning she arrives in Bayonne at 9 a.m. and heads to the tourism office to book a room for the night. She is told there are no hostels here, but a woman next to her exclaims that there is one in her town, not too far away. They try to call, but then are informed that that one has gone out of business. The woman then invites our heroine to spend the evening at her home. Apparently our heroine looks and acts like a person who complete strangers can invite into their cars and homes without worry.
Our heroine accepts the offer. Why not? Her new hostess, Mairielle, brings her home for a much-needed shower and nap.
At some point, our heroine remembers reading something about dipping a spoon into warm water and applying it to mosquito bites to make the itching go away forever. So she tries it on two of her bites, and then applies the calamine again to the others.
She and her hostess head to the Anglet tourism office so our heroine can use the Wi-Fi to call her boyfriend and parents. Then they take off for a long walk on the beach in Anglet, to the lighthouse overlooking Biarritz. At 8:45 PM, they run through the supermarket buying groceries for dinner before it closes at nine.
When they arrive home, our heroine realizes that the two bites that she applied the spoon to have not bothered her. So she applies the same treatment to the other twenty-four. They finally sit down to dinner at 10 PM.
At midnight, our heroine lays down on the porch cushion that her host has put on the floor for her. She covers herself in the down comforter, and has the best nights sleep of her entire trip.
Earlier in the day, she had called her boyfriend. They agreed that the best way to avoid the bites next summer is to stay in the U.S.