Arrived safely in Saugues near the Aubrac Mountains. We hiked a little over fours hours for our 13 kilometers. The only difficult part was the beginning where we climbed 500 meters in less than 4 km. The best comparison would be climbing Covington and then walking on Big Hill most of the way to Twain Harte. Along the way we continue to be amazed by the gentleness and kindness that greets us at almost every step.
Note: I will needed to do my narrative and then upload the blog and all the pictures at a restaurant with wifi. That means the pictures will be in one group. Hopefully, you can figure out what was going on through the narrative. Also, the pictures are compressed in size. To see the good images, you will need to endure a slide show at our home. Warning. There are at least five for everyone that makes the blog.
We have been traveling with pretty much the same group for two nights and three days. They have been always ready to help us. They are all French although one couple is from Quebec and speak little English. They do keep commenting on our hiking speed. We are accused of running if you can believe that. Both of us feel fine and are planning on stretching our kilometers tomorrow to around 20.
Back to the hike. The tough part came early as we were alongside the Allier River and deep in a valley. Very familiar to those hikers of the Appalachian trail. We climbed rapidly on roads, paths and logging tracks. About 800 feet above the river we arrived at a grotto turned into a chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene and managed to ring the bell with a stone. Followed a guy scraping the road. Very friendly and good at making mud.
Got to a plateau and were joined with our compatriots while we enjoyed an apple. We have both noticed that there is little stress on the hike. The signage is excellent and timely. Just when you are having doubts about being on the right path, there is a trail marker or sign. Very thoughtful and French. Encountered mud but navigated through without getting too dirty. Once we had reached the plateau, the conditions and scenery were wonderful. Encountered sheep, cows, horses and free range chickens as well as some stone pullets. Heard the roosters. Did run into a mangy dog who was pretty aggressive until he saw our hiking batons. About then Grandma came out and yelled some pretty plain French at her cur. Lots of slender cats not needing Goldie’s dietician approved meals.
Interesting carving above Saugues of Saint James. Also included a dog. The dog is usually associated with Saint Roch who was fed by a dog when starving. The dog is portrayed carrying a baguette. That leaves out all known Big Hill dogs.
Entered the town and were trying to find our gite. A man in a battered Renault asked where we were going and offered to give us a ride. Immediately our American sense of imminent danger started tingling. He took us to the gite which was just a couple of blocks. We dropped off our packs and removed the valuable stuff to carry around town. Our new friend insisted on taking us to a restaurant and buying us coffee. We tried to pay and he seemed hurt that we would find that necessary. We showed him some pictures of Columbia. Everyone likes the Douglas Saloon rattlesnakes. He said good bye and left.
As we sat in the restaurant waiting for the gite to officially open, the rest of our fellow pilgrims started trickling in. We greeted each couple. We showed the couple from Vichy who were staying at our gite where it was. They dropped their stuff with ours and we went looking for some food or as it turned out, beer. Enjoyed a relaxing drink and discussed hiking plans.
Found a sporting goods store with a hat that Peggy needed. The store was open but the salesperson was no where to be found. We called upstairs and finally got her to come down and sell us the hat. An American store would soon be empty of merchandise if they operated like this. She laughed at my concern about shoplifting.
Wandered into a small grocery for hard sausage, fromage, chocolate and fruit. Lady treated us wonderfully. Patiently slicing some hard cheese and helping us. Only lacking some bread for tomorrow since it will be Sunday and we will be in a remote location until we get to our destination, Le Sauvage. The name says it all.
The gite is extremely modern and we have our own room with a private bath. Fully qualifies as a chambre at a gite price. Receptionist called ahead for us at the farm gite in the mountains. We want to make sure we have a room since the local legend is about Le Bête, or the beast that lurks in the mountains. One of the pictures has the tracks of le Bête on the pavement. Hopefully, le Bete wont be on the prowl tomorrow. There is also a large fortress built by the English during the Hundred Years War. Fortunately it was closed or I would have been climbing some stairs.
We did spend some time shopping in the town centre. We could have walked down to the French equivalent of Walmart – the Carrefour. It is much more fun to buy one item here like sunglasses, bread and then find a folding knife. Each in a different place. Kind of like what Suzan says Washington Street in Sonora used to be. The salespeople welcome you with a Bonjour which you need to return. After the purchase they remove labels and other clutter. Can you remember when that simple task was performed for you? Everyone and you say au revoir when you leave the shop having bought something or not. All part of the French system. Small bits of civilized life in a charming package.
Maybe the kindness shown is because of our pilgrim status. I don’t think so. I think French courtesy, kindness and gentleness are just what Jesus talks about. We could learn a bunch from the French.