Tour: The climb out of Monistrol was steep – 430m (1350 ft) elevation gain in the first hour, until we came up out of the Allier gorge. After a lunch break al fresco on the roadside from our miscellaneous pack stores, we continued through mixed conifer/deciduous forest with occasional expansive views of the gorge below and vigorously rolling upland farms. There was a clear view to the east of a windfarm we had passed yesterday. We walk through small hamlets of two-story stone buildings, many with attached three-story stone barns. Everything is built of stone. We see three new construction houses today, all single story with double cinder block walls and red tile roofs. We have seen no recent construction commercial buildings since the train passed through Saint Etienne. There are lots of dairy cattle. We watched one (entire) family drive their herd to the barn for evening milking. Every farm and rural home seems to have a dog, usually a herding breed (mostly Australian shepherds and blue heelers so far), all on guard, none will approach us. We arrived early enough at our lodgings to explore the town of Sauges. The church has two very special wooden statues, one of Mary and Child (c. 12th century) and a Pieta (15th century), both polychrome. The nearby Chapel of the Penitents of Sauges had an enormous (30 ft by 30 ft) carved wooden altarpiece, polychrome and gilt, the equal of any German Baroque. It was made 1805 in Le Puy.
Lodging: La Gite Ferme (Highly recommended)
Cuisine: We passed through several hamlets today, and in Rognac followed signs to a house cafe. We each had a generous slice of wild blueberry tart that was exquisite – perfect, thin crisp crust not too sweet, generous layer of small berries chock full of flavor – again, not too sweet. Divine stuff for an afternoon snack. We’ve intentionally rested and eaten more frequently today, which has significantly helped the fatigue. Dinner at the gite (demi-pension) started with a lentil soup in vegetable broth, followed by a tossed salad with diced chicken livers (a regional dish). The main course was braised beef with buttered potatoes, followed by a cheese platter (some made on the premises, and always eat the blue last). The sweet was a vanilla creme (similar to a soft-set pudding from scratch). For the first time we did not have to wash our own dishes.