Day 1 – Saturday, 27 July – Le puy to Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille – 19 kilometers
I slept, but I didn’t sleep well. I woke up I don’t even know how many times, but I slept until my alarm went off at 6:15. I got some things ready, then made it to the Cathedral a minute or two before mass started. It was raining, so it looked my first day was going to be a very wet one.
The mass really was beautiful, and there were a lot of pilgrims there. There was one other American who walked a few months before I did, and was now walking again to Rocamadour.
When they give communion, they also invite anyone who isn’t catholic to come forward with their arms crossed over their chest, showing they won’t receive communion, but the priest gives them a blessing instead. I debated whether or not I wanted to do it this time. I did it last time, but I was feeling a little out of place not actually going toward Compostelle. I told my host last night that I was walking to Rome, and he thought that was strange. He also thought it was strange I wanted to go to the pilgrim’s mass and said it was only for pilgrims going to Compostelle. I know that’s what it’s geared toward, but that doesn’t make me any less of a pilgrim, I’m just not doing it the same way as everyone else. I did decide to go forward for the blessing after all, and I was surprised at how much it moved me.
After the mass the priest called everyone forward to give their names and say where they were from and where they were going. Just my luck he called me first. He was still very welcoming after hearing I was going to Rome.
We were invited to take a prayer left by previous pilgrims to take with us. I chose at random from the English ones, and I got this one. “For Jerry that he have no more pain.” It seriously makes me cry every time I think about it. I don’t think it was a coincidence I chose it. I certainly know what being in pain is like and I have a lot of empathy for others in chronic pain. Everyone, please add Jerry to your prayers. He will be in mine.
After the mass, I went to take a picture of St. Michel Rocher. I didn’t have time to walk around and take a lot of pictures of Le Puy, but that’s only because I spent a day doing it the first time. If you haven’t seen those pictures I highly recommend looking at them. I will edit a link to that post in, but idk when I’ll be able to do it.
The first time I was in Le Puy, the day before the mass, I found the markings for the GR 65 leading behind the cathedral, so I assumed that was the way I would be going in the morning. Thankfully it didn’t take me too long to figure out that it was the wrong direction I was supposed to be going. It’s the GR 65 leading to Geneva. I never imagined that I would actually be going that way in the future. But, I’m not actually starting out on the GR 65, I decided to take a variant that is supposed to be very beautiful. So in honor of not going that way, I retraced my steps back to St. Michel Rocher to take a picture of the way I wasn’t going.
I went back to the hotel to have breakfast. They didn’t have any hot chocolate out, but I’m also not in a rush to start eating sugar on purpose, so I didn’t ask about it. I did have bread, butter, and jam, and some orange juice and a yogurt. I sat with a man who is walking to Conques. He is concerned about his knees.
I checked out of the hotel and headed off to run my errands. Luckily the rain had stopped during mass, so I didn’t get wet! I have some gps tracking apps this time instead of a Fitbit. I didn’t turn it on when I was running my errands, but I probably should have. I know it added at least 3 kilometers onto my day.
I went to the tourism office and asked them where I could buy hiking poles. I didn’t get any at the Decathlon because I didn’t like the grips, even though they would have been a lot cheaper. I went to 3 stores before I found the kind of poles I like, but I think it’s absolutely worth it for ones you like. I was also able to get bar soap and ear plugs from a pharmacy, and I was walking out of town by 10 am. I felt really good this morning, and it didn’t take long for me get into hiking mode. Wearing my pack is very familiar, like a hug from friend. It was up, up, up to get out of the city.
I ran into two women walking the GR 70, the Robert Louis Stevenson trail. I had looked at it as a possible route on my adventure. I was thinking about do it, then getting on the Arles way and the Via Domitia which goes into Italy through Torino (Turin), but the guide book wasn’t very good on accommodations. If you do that way you probably need to take a tent, and I’m definitely not doing that. Anyway, I’m only spending I think 2 days on the RLS trail before I head off in my own direction.
Constantina is from Greece and Natalie is from Canada. They invited me to spend the day walking with them. We went down a few long descents, and my legs didn’t hurt yet. I was wondering how long that would last, and it didn’t take long for me to find out. The walking pains are coming back quickly, also like familiar old friends. My feet especially. It’s still not going to stop me. Last time every step was incredibly painful, so I’m not very surprised that my feet are already very sore, but I am a bit disappointed. I really didn’t think things would be magically better this time. I just hope the recovery will be better.
Some new pains are my hip flexors. The day before mom’s funeral I walked 8 miles and somehow strained my left hip flexor muscle. Now both of my hip flexors are equally hurting. I’ve never had this issue before. I quickly learned that hip flexors are incredibly important, especially when walking uphill. It’s what brings your leg forward. I am definitely walking slower than I was 4 years ago. So between my hip flexors and my feet on day one, I am not optimistic about what my condition will be at the end. At this point I don’t feel like it will keep me from doing it, it just is going to be very painful. I knew it would be, though. I had no delusions about that. I just hoped it would start slower.
My shoes are altras, which have a very wide, foot shaped toe box. I still got a size bigger to accommodate foot swelling, but now I’m wondering if that wasn’t necessary at all because of the shoe design. I was definitely sliding around more in the shoe. Tomorrow I will try lacing my shoes tighter to see if that will decrease sliding on the downhills.
It was a really gorgeous day. It was around 70 with a cool breeze. I did rain, but not until the hour or so before we ended. I did get chafed, though, from the rain, so it’s a good thing I brought my glide stick along. I was prepared!
Natalie gave me some chocolate. I didn’t say no. It’s the first chocolate I’ve had in a very long time. It was very good. French chocolate isn’t as sweet as American chocolate, but it still makes you plenty thirsty. Hopefully this will remind me that chocolate while walking is not a good idea. I wasn’t carrying enough water with me today and the last thing I needed was chocolate to make me thirsty.
Constantina decided to try to take a shortcut through a field but was thwarted by a fence in the way. This is why you don’t take shortcuts.
I did get sunburned on my arms. Even though it’s cloudy, kids, you can still get burned!
I’m staying at the Robert Louis Stevenson Gîte and it looks like I have a room to myself. I forgot to stop my gps trackers when I got here, but one of them has an automatic pause function if you stop for more than 3 minutes. Apparently the walk was 19 kilometers and took 6 hours. That’s only about 3 km an hour. That will help me better prepare my days. I’ve got a 30km day coming up.
I took a shower and washed my clothes. I strung them on a line in the room since it’s raining outside. Since it was raining, I started working on my post. The rain seemed to stop for a bit, so I went out to see the church, but it started raining again and I got all wet again.
I think the church used to be an abbey. It’s set out like a small cathedral and it has choir chairs. Unfortunately they can’t afford to have many lights on, and the ones they do have on are on timers. I would have liked to have gotten some pics of the side chapels, but they were all too dark.
Dinner is at 7:30 or 8. It’s actually pretty chilly with the weather, so I’m already wearing my long sleeve shirt. I’m glad I brought it!
Dinner was excellent! Perfect. So much better than the meal I had last night in the restaurant. It was aligot and sausage with salad and tomatoes. The cheese was that same cheese from Saugues last time, the one with the mites in the crust, and some really good bleu cheese. Dessert was rosehip sorbet and a really soft, fresh cheese. It was all seriously good.