Saint Chely D’Aubrac
Friday, our eighth day on the Camino. We woke early, left the suitcase by the gate (for the Malle postale man), and walked to the hotel to have breakfast. At 07:30 the street was empty, the sky was still gray and it was pretty cold . Breakfast with our friends improved our spirits and we felt ready to follow our plan and head on for the 22 kilometers walk. A short inquiry revealed that there was no bakery or open store in Saint Chely D’Aubrac. It turned out that even the locals buy fresh bread at our hotel so that’s what we did.
Now we were ready to go. We passed the church, crossed the stream over a beautiful little stone bridge and took a photo of the small house nearby with the shell on it’s wall. We began to climb up the side of the mountain – back to the altitude line from which, with so much effort, we descended last evening. From this side of the mountain we could look at the village nestled in the valley, illuminated by the strong morning sun. For the next hour and a half we mostly climbed up the mountain. It became our private joke to gamble every morning about the expected amount of climbing up. Every day we laughed at ourselves for choosing to go the route that gives mostly an uphill hiking experience.
At the top, the landscape became yellow again, with fields on every side. A short walk took us to the tiny village of L’Estrade. Two dogs, several cats and a picturesque seating area with water tap and an iron bread oven. In the past the peasants were obliged to use the oven of the landlord, for a fee.Now it is part of a welcoming sitting area for pilgrims. Within a few minutes our friends and then a group of French college students appeared and joined us. We talked a little and set off for the next village -La Roziere. Six kilometers separates between the two villages and a height difference of 500 meters. We began to descend and after two kilometers entered a beautiful forest of tall chestnut trees. For us as Israelis who come from a Mediterranean landscape, the hike in a real forest is a special treat – high trees, different species with a variety of trunks, varied types of leaves, many shades of green … – this is a special and delightful experience.
Saint Come D’olt
A few minutes after we left La Roziere , we began to descend towards Saint Come d’olt and were busy in conversation . Suddenly we heard a loud whistle. We turned back- on the ridge was our Swiss friend, ‘whistling and waving, signaling us to return. We turned back and reached him. He told us that we had not noticed that we had missed the trail mark. We felt lucky. He saved us a long and unnecessary walking in the wrong direction. We continued together and soon arrived to Saint Come D’olt. With a medieval character and three fortified gateways the entrance to the village has a nice charm. Between the alleys rises the Gothic style twisted spire of the church -very unique and beautiful. It was close to three and we were hungry but first of all we went to see the church. Beautiful outside, quite ordinary inside- now we were ready to look for a place to eat. Around the corner, in the central square, we found a coffee-restaurant. Cold mint beer and warm chocolate cake had a refreshing effect and soon we moved on. At the exit from the village we stopped on the stone bridge over the river and looked back – the picturesque village on its stone houses looked calm and authentic and we wished we could stay longer. But at this point of the day we had to make a decision. We could either climb up the mountain and go 7.8 km or walk along the Lot, an easy walk of 5.8 km. Our friends decided to take the harder trail and we, too tired, took the path along the shaded Lot.
The path we chose followed the river, sometimes close to it, sometimes with a glance from above. Sometimes we walked on the road in the heat, with houses or fields beside us, and then the landscape changed into a boulevard of trees. About two hours later, at five o’clock, after 22 kilometers, we entered a large public park – the entrance to Espalion. On the hill opposite us stood the castle of Calmont d’Olt, with charming historic presence, dominates the town. We approached the riverbank and the ancient bridge dating back to the 11th century. Ancient houses with wooden balconies and black tiles, fortifications that began in the 15th century gave the city a magical look -all seemed to be taken from a legends story. We walked through the main street and found our hotel- ‘hotel de France’. This hotel has no pretensions and we felt lucky to receive a spacious, clean room overlooking a lively square. We took a rest and waited for our friends. Later when they arrived we sat together in a restaurant in the square and enjoyed a good dinner. The next day the couple had to finish this section of the Camino and return to Switzerland. The acquaintance with them and the hours we spent together on the Camino added to the beauty of the experience, we were sorry to part. Together we reminisced about the past week and raised a toast for future meetings.
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