Saturday, May 25, 2013

Days1-5, Chemin de Saint-Jacques

Day 1. Le Puy en Velay; bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!
Started our journey with about 50 other pilgrims in a small town famous for its green lentils and lacemaking. At morning mass, we received a blessing and a special pilgrim passport to show at each hostel along the Way. An ornately dressed statue of a dark mother, or the "black virgin," presided at the front of the 11th century cathedral. I lit a candle in front of a statue of St. Jacques the pilgrim for our journey, and all mes cheries back home. 

Day 2-3. Muddy trails and lots of rain, hard slogging and some steep climbs in the Massif Central, an old volcanic mountain range. Met Denise and Savas, a couple from Australia who are always joking, and really fun to talk with. Stayed at our favorite hostel so far run by a friendly woman named Sonia, who served a 4 course dinner made with products from her family's farm, including more cheeses than I have ever had in one meal.

Day 4.  
Worked our way up to an average of 20 km per day now, about 12-14 miles through lower hill country in Auvergne, a lovely agricultural region known for its cheese and meat. Lowlights: bedbug sightings and my first dog bite of the trail. (It was a sheep dog and just nipped my calf, didn't hurt really.) Highlights: after tiring of baguettes at every meal, Rachel and I bought tuna and goat cheese and made a dandelion salad with greens foraged along the way. Miam miam! (Yum!)

Day 5. Snow!!! This (below) was the view from our window in the morning. We walked through a mixture of snow and sleet all day at an elevation of about 3,500 feet. The locals said this weather was really unusual for late May, and we were unprepared. Denise and Savas, our hiking companions today, laughed at our trail fashion - wool socks for mittens and our silk liner sheets for scarves. Denise said that sometimes the Camino isn't about the journey, it's about the destination. Today was such a day. 

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