Today was an absolutely wonderful day. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get any sleep at all, because when Jean-Marie took a nap yesterday before dinner, he snored the whole time. I took a melatonin and put my ear plugs in, and I think I actually only heard him snore once. However, he was up and down all night. Headlamp on, going into the shower room (there’s no toilet in there), etc. The first time he got up I thought he was leaving, because he had said he wanted to leave at 6 am. It was only 1:30, and it looked like he was rolling up his sleeping bag. Then when his alarm went off at 6, he turned it off, and went back to sleep, and slept until 7, when everyone else got up. I think he had been so worried about leaving on time, he kept getting up to pack more stuff. He left his headlamp on the bed post and I barely got it back to him in time before he left.
Breakfast was bread, butter, jam, juice, and fruit. I don’t normally eat bread, butter, and jam, but I ate them all in generous quantities. It’s a good thing I did, because I ended up not really eating lunch.
I was almost the last one to leave. It was overcast, cold (46ºF) and rather windy. It looked like it might even rain, but it didn’t. Before I left Veronique told me it was cold and I would probably want my jacket on. I assured her that I got hot. I didn’t use it at all during my walk. I think I would only ever use a jacket when walking if it got into the 30s. I guess we’ll see!
So I headed off to where I thought the Chemin went. I totally passed the turnoff, so I had to backtrack. By that time Veronique and her friend were in front of me. I caught up and explained that I had gotten lost. The way is pretty well marked, but only if you’re paying attention. If you’re not paying attention, then you can be in trouble. I passed them and headed on my way.
Today had very little flatness to it. It was all up and down, up and down. It was a short day, only going 12.5 miles, but it was not an easy day. I climbed up one side of a mountain and down the other. It’s the Central Massif range, also called the Haute (high) Loire. The Loire Valley is famous for it’s castles. I didn’t know there was a Haute Loire as well. It’s absolutely beautiful!
When I started coming down the other side of the mountain, the sun had come out and it was a stunning view.
After going up, up, up, you must go down, down, down.
Coming down I ran into another group of L’Escole friends.
This is a picture of me and Monique. They were all taking a little rest stop to eat some dried fruit and nuts. They offered me a dried banana, which looks totally disgusting. I can’t really describe it because I have nothing to compare it to. It was black. However, it tasted almost exactly like a regular banana.
Right after the rest stop we came to the village of St. Privat d’Allier. Allier is the river.
Another beautiful little city with another old church. There was a little market, so I went inside to look around. There were a few pastries on display, and these impressive meringues.
I decided to get this, a mille feuille.
First I had to make sure it didn’t have any coffee in it, because of the color, it looked like it might. It’s been forever since I’ve gotten to eat a pastry. It’s really not my kind of pastry at all, but it did look very impressive, and I was having a perfect day, and I was in a cute little French village, so I should definitely eat a pastry. That reminds me. At breakfast this morning, Veronique asked if French breakfast was very different from what I was used to. I told her that I can’t eat bread in America, but I can eat it here. She asked why, and I said it made my tummy go (cappuccino machine noises with my mouth and twisty hand motions). She just nodded and said, “Yes, it’s different.” Yes, it is different. I can actually eat the bread! I’m still trying not to eat very much, but after the first few days, I have not had any problem. Eating on the airplane was a stupid mistake. Eating in the airport didn’t really make much sense either. But eating in central France? No problem.
So the mille feuille was basically my lunch.
After St. Privat, it was back up again.
at one point I felt like Dorothy following a non yellow brick road. The forest even looked a little dark and scary!
Saw a totally cute dung beetle, and this was a well timed out house. Much cleaner than ones in the states.
I left one group of friends, only to run into another group of 4 ladies from L’Escole. I followed them all the way to Montrisol d’Allier. The last descent was rather steep and rocky, and they all cheered and congratulated themselves on making it. It was rather funny, following them. They would argue about which way to go, comment on people’s gardens, wildflowers, etc.
I had seen this bush before, but they told me what it was. It looks just like concord grapes, but growing on a bush. Apparently they are prunelles. Little prunes? They said they weren’t ready yet, it had to frost first. Yup, I tasted one, and they were very astringent, like a persimmon. The flavor kind of reminded me of… oh, what’s that called. Mountain Holly? The thing that grows in the mountains of Utah and has small purple berries that are very sour. I like those better.
After another small up and a steady down, we came to Monistrol d’Allier.
This bridge was designed by Eiffel, and it’s actually called the Eiffel Bridge.
I got to my hotel, and met Dieter, who was waiting outside. He is walking all the way from his hometown in Switzerland, just like how the real pilgrims did it back in the day. He’s already come 600+ km, and he’s going all the way to Santiago.
After checking into the room, I went in search of some food. I didn’t find any, but I found all of my friends who were stopping here for the night. Most of them were at another gite. It would have been fun to stay with them again, since we all knew each other better, but I had other plans for the night. I picked a place with a private room that also advertised wifi, or as they say here in France, WeeFee. The wifi works, but not in my room. I had 3 days of pictures and blog posts to catch up on! The wifi was still slow at first, but it got better. Thankfully I was able to get all of my pictures uploaded and got the last two days posted on the blog. I’m writing today after dinner, and I’ll have to see if I can get it posted in the morning before I leave.
I went to look at the church, but it was closed.
I did find a little shop that was run by Robert, who did the camino and hosts a resting place for current pilgrims. You can buy souvenirs, and he gives you drinks, and he’s very free with his hands, but not in a totally creepy way. Only mildly creepy, but still harmless. He’s very enthusiastic. I ran into Michel, and a new friend Elizabeth, from Belgium. We all had dinner together, too, with 3 other ladies.
Dinner was nothing to be excited about. The opening salad was promising, but the main course was a small plate of bland spaghetti. There was a lot of bread, but I found myself wishing for some olive oil and vinegar to dip it in. The Italians got that right. The French just have a lot of dry, crusty bread. Well, that’s not the only thing they have. Then desert was a choice of cheese or a prune tart. I got the cheese. I forgot to take a picture before I ate one of them. One of them was the same cheese as the night before, but not nearly as strong. It only had a hint of barnyard to it. It’s named after some city, which of course I can’t remember. The other one was dry, and very good, but the best one was a bleu cheese with some herbs in it. A soft, cream, not aged bleu cheese. It might be one of the best I’ve ever had. It was not a strong flavor at all.
After dinner I finished uploading the pictures for today, and now I just have to finish the post, and I’ll be all ready to be caught up in the morning! Tomorrow is going to be a short day again, stopping Sauges. After that, though, I’ll start doing some longer days. Today was a pretty great day, though.
Haha. I was just thinking about how the only blister I have is on my hands, because of my hiking poles, and I realized that I left them somewhere… but I don’t remember where… I had them in town, so… oh, never mind, they’re in the corner. I totally thought I lost them, and I’m not sure if I would have been disappointed or not. I’m not sure if I like them. After all of the hiking I’ve done without them, they seem like a lot of effort. I kind of feel like I’m skiing though, and I’m sure it’s giving my arms a bit of a workout, too. I don’t like having to hold the poles while taking pictures, though.