6 Sep 10: Le Puy to Montbonnet

Route: 15 km with 1440 ft climb

Tour: I attended Morning Mass for pilgrims at the Le Puy cathedral, which was a very interesting structure. More than 40 attended, about 75 per cent French. There were 6 Quebecois, 2 Norwegians, 2 Swiss, 1 German, 1 Brazilian, and us Americans. After collecting our packs we set out – finally! There is a steep (750 ft in first hour) ascent coming out of Le Puy on 80 degree day. We took our lunch break in a churchyard at the town square, where we refilled water (total 2 liters for day’s walk, I was too thrifty in the morning and suffered). My pack feels heavy, but I know first days are always hard for me, I’m still jet lagged and I never did well with heat. The road was mostly dirt farm roads, some section terribly stoney (rocks ranging from hens egg to softball size). Soil here is volcanic, rich and black. Roads topped with crushed pumice, dark red. Fields were mostly pasture or sileage (hay, corn, clover). Farm buildings uniformly field stone quite old, recently repointed, with red tile roofs and stained wood frame windows with external shutters. We stop at a little 12th century chapel outside Montbonnet, then make our way to the gite.

Lodging: Gite L’Escole, which is in an old stone barn, renovated. First time for the soon-to-be-familiar bed bug prophylaxis drill (leave your packs in the foyer and carry inside the stuff you’ll need for the night), which was very aggravating given our fatigue. Other guests all French save one German woman who was an English teacher.

Cuisine: Demi-pension accommodation includes dinner and breakfast. Dinner began with a lovely tossed salad (greens from the garden, tomatoes, simple vinagrette dressing). The main course was a penne pasta with fresh vegetables and sliced pork roast (French pigs are almost as lean as ours, I wish there was a bit more fat for flavor). Dessert was a cheese platter followed by fresh fruit. The French folks at the table showed us the proper way to serve ourselves cheese: slice it in such a way that everyone gets a bit of the rind. Tonight’s assortment included one of the local Auvergne bleu cheeses, which I acquired a real taste for over the course of the trip. In our room, the German woman was complaining about French bread – that it has no taste. After a few weeks of it, I understood her point. (Note: Central Market carries Auvergne bleu.)

Grace: We were so grateful to finally be on our journey, and to have arrived and settled into our lodgings before the thunderstorm (which had been threatening all afternoon) broke.  There was much lightning, and pelting rain with wind, all night. We felt very snug and slept like logs.

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