14 Sep 10: Saint Chely to Saint Comte d’Olt

Route: 16.5 km with 270 ft climb and 1620 ft descent

Tour: Finally GR 65 merges with GR 6, and following the old road I climb the hillside south of town, giving lovely views back down into the village. Cool and pleasant climbing gently on forest track through birch forest. I’m underway at 0830, make two half-hour stops midday, and arrive town at 3 pm. Halfway up the hillside we are passed by two mountain bikers – going uphill slowly but still faster than we walkers can manage. We pass through two hamlets, the second one has a coffee/tea stop under a shelter, making a very popular stop. We continue undulating along the edge of the plateau, with grand views all around. Of a sudden, the stone underfoot changes from slate to something white – quartz? marble? limestone? We’re now in the drainage of the Lot, which has the Roquefort caves, so perhaps it is limestone. Forest changes to a mix of oak and chestnut. My feet are very tired from all the pounding on the stones with each descent; the climbs are not painful except that I know they mean more descents. The afternoon heats up into the low 80’s and I am grateful for the occasional shady stretch. Today I only took 1 liter in the water bladder, but finished it off plus 600 ml from a bottle-fill at a fountain mid-afternoon (gulped the whole bottle in one go and felt much better immediately). I found the mid-afternoon snack stop, without the blog-advertised crepes. The church here in town has a famous twisted steeple. Very interesting medieval buildings around the church.

Lodging: Although I reached town in good time, the gite (Gite Rouse) directions were inaccurate and impossible to find; I finally had to call the gite and they sent out Monsieur with a car to search for me. It has become my most-hated part of the day: trying to find the gite. Accommodations are pretty good but the location is on the outskirts of town, which means a lengthy walk to get a meal.

Cuisine: Breakfast was the traditional French, except that he had the Belgian froot sirop, current preserves, and cherry preserves – the first time I’ve seen any of those. Lunch today was the tin of smoked herring, which was very good – I’ll have to look for more. The afternoon stop had a “pear tart”, really more a pear-topped yellow cake – tasty and filling but nothing special. No demi-pension here, so I had to go into town to find a restaurant. Killed time until dinner with an aperitif made locally from the Gentiane blooms which grow in wild profusion on the spring hillsides here – I’d been wanting to try some. Dinner itself was a pave veau (2 inch by 2 inch by 6 inch block of veal) browned nicely all around, served with rice and a sauce of local mushrooms. Dessert was a sweet risotto (like a rice pudding) served with a caramel sauce on the side for individual drizzling – a real treat.

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