Today we’ ll take it easy – spend the morning in Espalion and then walk 12 kilometers to Estaing. This way we will have four hours of hiking and we’ll arrive early to Estaing. Espalion – the first town on our way that has a strong sense of vitality. The streets are full of traffic, picturesque shops of pastry and food, a museum … and above all the beautiful old bridge is reflected in the river water. We strolled around, enjoyed a good breakfast, and then followed the GR65 and left the town.
Saint Pierre de Bessuéjouls
Three and a half kilometers from Espalion stands the beautiful church of Saint Pierre de Bessuéjouls. In the old days this church was close to one of the four main pilgrimage routes to Compostela. Today, a bell-tower was left of the Romanesque church and in it, on the second floor, a high chapel dedicated to Saint Michael. We climbed up using the narrow spiral staircase with the rather high steps. On the second floor it was a surprise to find a small cubic chapel with high ceiling. In the center, close to the wall there is a big altar decorated with reddish-stone carvings and round pillars supporting the ceiling. Arched windows on either side of the room bring light in – we enjoyed from this manifest of simplicity and perfection. Five minutes of walking brought us to the center, with shiny toilets and drinking water. The nearby guest house looked abandoned, and all hope for coffee was lost. Since we gave up on coffee, we could only begin to climb – up a steep mountain – it turned out to be one of the most exhausting rises. Red and slippery earth, high rock steps, a beating sun … We gasped heavily, our knees- exhausted and worn cried for rest. But the beauty around gave a full compensation for the effort. When we reached the top an illustrated sign gave an explanation regarding the geological structure of the area. From afar we saw Espalion castle (Calmont d’Olt). Half way behind us,we did a huge detour, climbed up and down and climbed up again and now we where in the same altitude of the castle.
Verrières to Estaing
The next six kilometers passed in a continuing decline and we arrived the bottom of the Lumensonesque gorge and entered the village of Verrières (in Aveyron). Clean streets, flower-filled gardens, two old women talking near a sleeping cat, a calm stream passing under a stone bridge, a rusty saw of an ancient sawmill standing in front of a building right above the stream- A pastoral atmosphere. We took a short break on the bridge. The GR65 leaves the village and leads on the road (which was scary because there were no shoulders).Then it becomes a narrow path that climbs uphill.The climb up was meant to bypass the road and from the moment we reached the summit we began to descend. This time we entered a forest of chestnut trees rich in green, brown and yellow shades, creating a hypnotic and calming effect. Soon we saw across the river the castle of Estaing.
The romantic view of Estaing is overwhelming at first sight. A magical castle with small turrets, a river that defines the city and an ancient stone-paved bridge above it. We crossed the bridge ( the bridge is part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France) and entered the city. Beautiful facades dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, small shops with an inviting front, a number of restaurants and cafes – open !!! Who would have believed … and our hotel, which would turn out to be a wonderful surprise. We checked in at Auberge St Fleuret (Be aware that there is no elevator ) and were happy to see that the information in the internet site was accurate. Beautiful lobby, warmly decorated restaurant, a small but lovely swimming-pool area. Our room faced the street and we had the good fortune to see a folklore band strolling along the street. It was only four o’clock and we went down to have some tea in the nearest cafe. From the travelers on the Camino there was only one we knew from previous days and since we were too tired to try to make new acquaintances we decided to tour the town.
Classed as a Historic Monument in 1945, the castle was built in the 13th century around a pentagonal dungeon. Unfortunately we arrived five minute before closing time and had to see the building only from the outside.
The church of St Fleuret
Built in the 15th century, it is classed as a historic monument and houses the relics of Saint Fleuret. In front of the church there is an impresive sculpted stone cross . (Every 1st Sunday in July, a procession in period costume, passes through the village streets to glorify Saint Fleuret.)
Dinner and Breakfast at Auberge St Fleuret
We went down from our room to the restaurant without any special expectations, and perhaps that was the secret to great pleasure. By coincidence we found ourselves in a restaurant where each dish was made with great care and excellent flavors. The good flavors were only a part of the pleasure, each serving was served in a colorful, attractive, and beautiful manner.The dessert, a hot chocolate cake with caramel ice cream, was a great ending to this day.
Early in the morning, more tired than hungry, we returned to the dining room for breakfast. This time it was served in a different section of the floor. A room with wooden-paneled walls, shelves decorated with collectibles, and a large wooden table. On the table was a spectacular abundance of cheeses, pastries, jams and other kinds of food. For a moment we almost forgot about the Camino and the 23 kilometers that we still have to go today, it felt as if we had gone on holiday in a pampering hotel.
Did you like this post ? You are most welcome to sent a comment and share your experience, questions and thoughts…..