We had a little rain, but the sky was blue most of today, and our path bordered with a profusion of violets, orchids and cowslips, not to mention green lizards. It was a shorter walk than yesterday, 16.5 kms, but a stiffer one. This photograph was taken while I was standing by the tiny Chapelle St Jacques de Rochegude, up at 967m. Below lies the Allier river, and the little town of Monistrol (through which our train passed when we were inter-railing in 2008). I chatted to a couple of pilgrim priests whilst crossing the bridge, Opus Dei I strongly suspect. That's of course steeply down at 589m., and some strong coffee was needed before the equally steep, two-hour climb back up to Montaure, 1022m. On my way, I encountered a lone Australian occupational therapist, as one does, by the chapel in the rock of Ste Madeleine. Later, René Alles, a wheelchair-bound farmer/sculptor provided more coffee in his barn at Le Vernet, where I ate my sandwich. His life-size sculpture of a modern pilgrim, shining white, stands outside.
Now, we are at Saugues, a town of 2000 inhabitants, with an excellent Hotel/Restaurant La Terrasse. Roland, Dominique and I ate there, upon Margaret Hyde's earlier recommendation. Quite unfairly, we sniggered together when the maître d. refused to provide poor Australian Judy, sitting alone at a separate table, with steak that was well done.
You've never seen such a cheese trolley! It prompted Dominique to relay the comment of an exasperated de Gaulle: Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?
We three are staying in a bright, spacious gîte at the top of a house on the Southern edge of the town: we have it all to ourselves, what's more. Our hosts, Patrick and Catherine Edon, only opened up last month: their experience as former pilgrims has paid off, their hospitality being in complete contrast with last night's! Saugues' Collegial Church, where we went for our tampons, contains (amongst other treasures) a beautiful 12th Century Virgin and child in majesty.