On My Way

So far I have been unable to connect to wifi, and the data is awful. It takes way too long to load websites, let alone try to upload pictures. Imagine trying to navigate a site and every time you click, sometimes it takes 5 minutes to load, and sometimes it doesn’t load at all. So until I get wifi somewhere, I’m just going to have to focus on typing the posts, because I just don’t have enough time to try to post anything. It’s annoying.

I went to bed late last night, and I did fall asleep fairly quickly, but I woke up an hour and a half later because of an incessant buzzing outside of the window. Some kind of transformer or something. I have earplugs, but they won’t work very well. The way one of my ear canals is shaped, it’s very difficult to get ear plugs in, and then it just doesn’t work very well. I set my alarm on my fitbit and my alarm on my phone for 5:20. I woke up and had to go to the bathroom, and realized it was 5:45. My alarm didn’t set on my fitbit, because of the stupid internet, and I couldn’t hear my alarm because apparently the earplugs worked for that. I was still able to get to the Cathedral about 15 mins before the Pilgrims mass started. I skipped breakfast entirely, because it was just bread.

It was the first time I’d ever been to Catholic mass, and it was in French. I understood a word here and there, but that was about it. It seemed like a large group of pilgrims starting. Maybe about 70? When it came time for communion, the priest announced that non-Catholic pilgrims could come forward with their arms crossed at their chest if they wanted to receive a blessing instead. I have no idea what he said in the blessing, but it was nice.

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My favorite part of the mass was the singing. I don’t know if it’s because of the cathedral, but everyone sounded really good. I like how the songs have cadences that maximize the acoustics. It was pretty cool.

At the end of the mass he gathered everyone together and talked a bit more about the Chemin, and gave us all little medallions to cary with us. We also had the option of getting a rosary, and prayer that someone else had written to take with us. I had to search the “other languages” box for a while to find one. Mine said, “I pray for a more humane world.”

He asked everyone to raise their hands when he called their country. Most of the people were from France, but there were others from across Europe, Australia, and Canada. When he said, “Les Etats-Unis,” I was the only one to raise my hand. Either I was the only American there, or the only one who understood enough French to know what he was saying.

Then we all headed off. I walked out the front of the Cathedral to get a picture, and two girls from Australia asked if I wanted them to take my picture.  I’m not posting that picture, though, because it turned out rather unfortunately.

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Then I went back inside the cathedral and headed out the back, because in my previous wanderings around, I had come across the markings for the GR 65. After I got back to Rocher st. Michel, I realized that I was probably going the wrong direction.  But, I wouldn’t have gotten this picture otherwise!

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I thought maybe it looped around, but no, I was just going the wrong way. So I headed back into the city center, looking for an ATM to get some more money. Either the dollar has dropped horribly the past few days, or I just got a really bad exchange rate. 200 Euros at the airport cost 226, and in Le Puy they cost 238.

I found myself walking out of the city on the Chemin, and I realized that I was very unprepared. I hadn’t bought another water bottle, so I only had the one 500 ml one. I also hadn’t eaten. I ate one of the Lara bars I brought with me, but I just kept chugging along. It was quite a steep climb up out of the city, and it stayed that way for a few hours.

About 7.5k in, we came to a little drink station, and the guy must do pretty good business. I bought 2 L of water for 1.5 Euro. I got a 750ml water (the one that leaked) at the airport for 3.15 Euro.

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The first town we came to was (I believe, I don’t have my paper with me) St. Etienne.  There was another old church, and more obligatory pictures.

Moo!

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More cute towns and beautiful scenery.

I didn’t make nearly as good time as I thought I would. Yesterday as I was falling asleep, I realized that my feet didn’t hurt, and that was a really good sign. However, today with my pack on for the full10+ miles, that really made a difference. My feet are pretty sore still tonight. I think I will take it easy for a few days as I get used to it. Ok, my fitbit says I walked 36,088 steps and 16.24 miles. I did a lot of unnecessary walking.

When I got into Montbonnet, I thought the gite was up a hill to the left, due to an unfortunate sign placement. It was closer to the other road, so it made me think the gite was up there. So I passed what I thought was the gite, and went looking for an advertised “snack bar.” I walked almost halfway up the hill, then came back down and ran into some pilgrims who thought it was up the hill, so I went all the way up. I saw someone and asked “ou et le Snack Bar,” and she was very helpful in trying to explain and even walked me part way down to show me a shortcut to make sure I would get there.

I found the snack bar, and was ready to eat a horse, because I hadn’t eaten much and I also didn’t plan ahead by bringing anything with me. I ordered a croque monsieur, since I’ve heard that name before, and a lentil salad. The guy looked at me and said it was a lot of food. I said I was really hungry. Then he seemed surprised when I actually ate it all. It wasn’t the best food. I guess it’s what passes for cheap French bar food. The lentil salad was pretty good, though. It was basically lentils with oil and vinegar. The croque monsier is a ham and cheese sandwich, with some white gravy on it, or something. It was a little odd, and I was worried about it, but I guess I did ok. I guess bread in the middle of France doesn’t kill me.

Then I smartly took my shortcut back to the other village, but it wasn’t until I got there that it was not the gite. Turns out I was super close to it when I took the shortcut. Lots of unnecessary walking.

The gite is L’escole. Everyone else there was French. I might have said this before, and I will probably say this again, but the French totally have a bad and wrong reputation for being unfriendly. Everyone is so nice! Even the 70 year old grandmother types who don’t speak any English aren’t offended when you say you don’t speak French. And everyone has been so patient in trying to communicate. It’s not just people on the chemin, but people in stores and restaurants, too.

Monique had me sit next to her at dinner and tried to explain the conversation to me. This dinner was by far the least impressive food I’ve had so far. Extremely bland. The cheap bar food was better.

The first course, though, was delicious! A simple green salad tossed with a mustard vinagrette. I will have to make it when I get back. The main course was a pork sausage and lentils. Both were horribly under-seasoned. It was still food. Then there was a cheese course, which smelled and also kind of tasted like a barnyard. I didn’t ask what kind it was. Then desert was a piece of fruit. I’m really glad I ate earlier in the day, because I was still hungry after the meal.

I was in a room with 2 men. Jean-Marie and Michel. Jean-Marie spoke a little English, and was excited to tell me about his grand circle trip he did of the American west, and also to show me his yellow motorcycle. Michel didn’t speak any English, but we still managed to communicate, and he became a grandfather for the 4th time that night, a girl named Lulu.

Etienne knew what he called “Beatles English.” He was fun to talk to as well. Veronique helped me reserve a place to stay the next night. Everyone was so friendly and actually seemed like they wanted to talk to me.

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8 Comments

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  1. The reputation for language snobbery that the French have is based upon Paris, of course.
    Once you are out into actual France, attitudes change– we do the same thing in the big US cities, of course.
    It’s a good thing you like lentils!

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  2. Oh, I love the shot leaving through the doorway. And the cow is great. I’m so glad you’re able to post all these even if it is a pain. You’re on your way! I hope the unnecessary walking is not a common occurrence!

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  3. What is a gite ? I’m SO glad the people are friendly. It sounds like you’re having a great time and learning a lot. I love the pictures!

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  4. Almost thou persuadest me . . . to pack up and come follow you on this trip! We saw tons of Santiago pilgrim sites all over Germany, lots of sea shells on statues. Have an awesome time.

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  5. Any idea how many of today’s group are going the thousand miles?

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  6. I LOVE the pic with the archway/people and the cow pic, too. Such beautiful countryside! I wonder how your perspective will change over the 1000 miles? It makes me think of how my perspective changes as I become more comfortable in a role or assignment. I can’t wait to read more about your experiences!

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  7. I love the cow pic so much!

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