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Vicki’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 14 Aug 2012

Location: Le Puy-en-Valey, France

MapI had a very enjoyable drive over the Alps, via the Picolo/Petit St Bernard Pass, which is on the border between Italy and France and is 2188m high. It took ages due to the steep winding roads (and slow drivers) but I'm sure it cost less than the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
My first impression of Le Puy-en-Valey was not great. The hotel is in an out of town shopping area - not very scenic, and the only restaurants are a Chinese and a Buffalo Grill - not what I had in mind! It does have free wifi and parking though, and is nice and quiet. But today has been really good. I left the car at the hotel and walked into Le Puy along a very pleasant path by the River Borne, a tributary of the Loire, which it flows into very close to where I'm staying. The path is part of the GR65 - the Chemin de St-Jacques, or Camino de Santiago. I've been interested in this walk since reading Paulo Coelho's book The Pilgrimage a few years ago. I will definitely have to read again.
Le Puy is a very interesting, ancient town. I spent all day wondering around, following a well thought out tourist route (in English!). Of course I couldn't come to Le Puy and not eat lentils, so I had a really nice lunch of lentilles vert et saucisse de pays, with a bolle (cup) of cidre brut. I also sampled some of the local digestif liquer- Vervaine Velay, which is really nice, so I bought a small bottle. The highlight of the day was the cathedral. It's the starting point for the Camino de Santiago in France and is a really good place to be in. It's quite big and there are lots of amazing works of art, frescos etc, and the famous Black Madonna, but it's not overly ostentatious like some Catholic cathedrals I've seen. It has a really good feeling about it, especially in one of the side chapels. Those of you who read my USA blog may remember the bit about the energy vortices in Sedonna, which I was a bit sceptical about. Well, if such things exist, there was one in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament. It had an amazing feeling about it, which I've experienced in only a few places, including Glastonbury, Machu Picchu, and New York.
I finished the afternoon by walking up to Saint-Michel-d'Aiguilhe - a chapel built in 961 on the top of a volcanic cone. This was very interesting, but not the "emotional" experience the literature promised. There was a guide in there describing the various frescos, treasures etc, which I just about understood. I've been trying to speak French all day, which has been possible because not many people here speak English. I even had a conversation in a shop with a guy who didn't speak any English at all! Trouble is, as I have spent the last month in Italy, I sometimes reply to people in Italian - it's very confusing (not that my Italian is much good).
So tomorrow I head up to Beaune, where I have reserved a camp site. Then Thursday I'll be in St Omer, and Friday home.