France: Sept 2016

We decided we were due for another long walk, so we headed off to LePuy en Velay in France to walk along La Vía Podiense that runs from Le Puy to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port near the Spanish border, where it connects into the Camino France's, the el Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route across the north of Spain.

We stayed for a couple of days in Raray just outside Paris with Annie and Jonathon, a delightful couple who happen to be summer neighbours of Roxanne's Mom. We went for groceries into a little town named Senlis and ducked into the local cathedral when it started to rain. There was what looked like a family group of 7 or 8 people ranging in age from young children to a middle aged woman, chatting with the organist when we arrived. Then they started to sing...

We took the train to Le Puy en Velay in southern France. This town is a pilgrimage destination in its own right and also the beginning of the Via Podiense. Le Puy is a gorgeous little french town with medieval centre. On the top of the highest mountain in the town is a monumental statue dedicated to the Virgin Mary called Our Lady of France. It was created from the cast iron of 213 cannons from the Battle of Sebastopol in the Crimean War. The guns were a gift from the emperor Napoleon III.

One of the reasons Le Puy is a pilgrimage site in its own right is that the cathedral houses a statue of a Black Madonna with a long and complicated history. They like to dress it up in a tea cosy...

Back on the Way.

Only 1517 km to go!

Old mill along the way,

villages and chateaus...

and different reasons for walking. Here, Jean Claude is walking for courage - he has a small tumour in his eye.

Chapelle de la Madeleine buiit into a cave. The small caves in the background are for sleeping - they have body-sized trenches carved into the floor of each one.

Tree stump carvings on the way to Saugues.

Candle for Peter...

Cow crossing.

Pelerin hut.

aaah, France...!

Budget accommodation.

Progress so far... each blue dot was where we spent a night.

Foggy mornings in the river valleys.

Shadow pelerins.

All of the chambres d'hôtes (bed and breakfasts) where we stay provide breakfast - usually juice, toast, homemade preserves and coffee. One chambre d'hôte provided this spread just for the two of us - we couldn't even put a dent in it...!

French cow.

We'd been hearing about a lot of difficulties that people we knew were having back in Canada. Roxanne wrote a letter back to her Mom that included this: "...about the second day into our walk, at dinner time a German woman was asking everyone around the table why they were walking. I started to think about that and I realized that I am loved and blessed - there is no pain or difficulty in my life right now, our children are healthy and happy, I’ve always had good work and a supportive husband, always had good food to eat, our country is not at war…. There are no big problems in my life. I knew that there was a reason for us to be doing this, and I started to realize that we walk to give strength to others so that they may find peace. I know that through the suffering that everyone is having eventually comes understanding and strength. That is our prayer for you and for all of us..." We lit candles for everyone.

It looks like tomorrow will be our first rainy day, so we're taking a day off and staying in Conques.

Seeing a lot of stained glass windows is a bit of an occupational hazard on the Camino walks. Here are two of our favourites from opposite sides of a small church in the middle of Via Podiense in France.

We arrived at one chambre de hôte (B&B) about 3:00pm. There was a sign on the door that said they wouldn't be back until 4:00 pm, but in the meantime, here is the key to the church if you're interested in looking around.