And they’re off! As I wrote in the previous post, we began our walk in Le-Puy-en-Velay, a lovely historic city about two hours southwest of Lyon. It’s one of the ancient starting points in France for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Saint-Jacques de Compostelle in French) in northwestern Spain, 1,522 kilometers away (946 miles).
This route is often called the Via Podiensis, although its more utilitarian name is the GR 65, where “GR” stands for Grande Randonnée (great trek). All of the GR routes are marked with a white-and-red blaze, which you’ll see in the photos below. This section of the GR 65, between Le Puy and Conques, is considered by many French people to be the prettiest in all of France. Our plan was to walk half of it now, and half later. When we started out, I tried to say “Conques or bust!” to Claude. As often happens, it fell flat, but we finally figured out that “Conques ou rien!” would be the translation (Conques or nothing).
That was then… Twenty-seven years ago, I set off from my home in California and paid a visit to my friends Mindy and John, who were living near Paris at the time. Part of the vacation involved Mindy and me taking a road trip, with our first stop landing us in Saint-Émilion. Wine and hilarity ensued, but that’s a story for another day. We continued south, passing through Auch long enough for each of us to air-kiss a giant statue of D’Artagnan, and then we continued toward the towering Pyrenees, where we explored towns and hiked and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
This morning we awoke to a grey and drizzly day. After breakfast, we checked out of our chambres-d’hotes (B&B), and bid each other goodbye. Maryse and Claude were headed west to visit friends, and I was headed east to higher—and it turns out, even wetter—ground. An hour later I arrived in Le Mont Dore, in the Puy-de-Dôme. With the wet weather and low clouds, I really have no idea what the surrounding country looks like. Except that it’s green.
This weekend is Heritage Days in Europe (Journées du Patrimoine in French), when an astounding list of places are either open when they usually are not, or are free of charge, or include guided tours. It’s a great time to visit Europe, because it’s a time to see things you otherwise might not be able to visit.
The Château de Val is generally open, so I don’t think much was different. But the Patrimoine people were there, handing out all kinds of information, and the local fishermen were doing some kind of event on the lake.
We could tell that night was becoming day because the grey was a slightly lighter tone. There was little drama: the rain that fell was soft, barely making a sound; the dampness seemed to wash out colors before our eyes; all was quiet.
We got our raincoats and umbrellas, and drove into Égletons to see if the visitors center had any suggestions for rainy-day things to do in the area. Not much, it turns out, so three somewhat soggier souls piled back into the car for the one-hour drive toward Collonges-la-Rouge. We drove through low, thick fog and occasional rain, but by the time we arrived, the grey was lighter and the rain had stopped.
Today was a transition day. We made a couple of visits in the area near Saint Geniez, and then drove three hours to get to our home for the next three days. To arrive in the town of Égletons, we drove through the Aveyron, then through the Cantal, and then into the Corrèze. As you’ll see, the landscape became even greener as we made our way north.