Reflections and images from my travels

Le Monastier to Le Bouchet. First day of the hike. I awoke quite refreshed in Le Puy. After a relatively substantial breakfast, I was picked up by my taxi driver to be taken to the monastery about 25 minutes away. This would be the start point for my first day. I was provided with a day by day set of extensive and detailed directions so I would not get lost….hopefully! The directions did require some interpretation but were quite clear overall. I was quite careful and initially double checked every turn just to make sure I did not make a mistake. The weather was going to be hot today. The distance to be covered today was approximately 21 km. There was going to be a couple of steep ascents as well as descents. I started at 933 m and ended at 1213 m.
Robert Louis Stevenson stayed one month in Le Monastier. At that time, the town was full of lace makers selling their wares on street corners. The town’s history is intimately linked to the foundation of the fifth century Benedictine Abbey that had an importance at the level of Le Midi itself. In 732, it’s Abbott was killed by the Sarrasins. The Abbey is considered one of Velay’s major works of Roman architecture. Robert Lewis Stevenson began his 230 km trek here. He spent his first night at Le Bouchet Saint Nicholas.
The highlight of this day was descending into the Loire Valley and then ascending up the opposite side. The Loire is France’s longest river at 1012 km with its source in Ardeche to the southeast. Stevenson had lunch at the Hotel de la Loire [called the Hotel Senac at the time] which I passed at the bottom of the valley. Interestingly, Regis Senac emigrated to the USA in 1872 and participated in the American Fencing Championships in New York four years later. He opened a school to train elite American fencing corps and wrote a book on fencing still found in the Congress library. Apparently, Modestine [Robert Louis Stevenson’s donkey] encountered a male donkey near here and Stevenson was forced to “stamp out the nascent romance”. The incident saddened him, reminding him of his estranged American lover.
I was doing quite well and had lunch by a nearby stream. The weather continued to get hotter. I checked my thermometer which registered 37°C! The next section was all uphill and I knew I was going to pay for it. The next 11 km were tough. I was sweating buckets. I budgeted 2 L of water but ran out with 5 km to go. I was starting to slow down and my hiking boots [new… I know!] were really bothering my feet. The last 3 km seemed like 30 km!. I eventually reached my bed-and-breakfast which was completely empty except for me. The owner only spoke a little bit of English. However, over dinner we carried on a conversation for about an hour and a half!. What a nice fellow. He prepared an absolutely wonderful dinner which was preceded by an aperitif of white wine and chestnut. This went down very well. The quality of the food was excellent. Suddenly, two more guests arrived Jean Pierre and Chantelle. As I found out later, they were traveling by car and doing day hikes to complete a section of the complete French Camino trail. They expected it would take six years of their three-week holidays to complete. We then proceeded to chat into the evening even though I was quite exhausted. I was hoping to go to bed early but Chantelle wanted to show me absolutely every picture she and her husband had taken over the last three days!. She was so sweet and passionate about what she had seen that I simply made a choice to stay up until her iPad [thankfully] ran out of power. I finally got to sleep at about 11:30 PM. The room was basic but very comfortable. The owner even accommodated me by serving my breakfast at 7 AM the next morning so I could get an early start. I also decided that evening that hiking boots were not required for this trek. The ground conditions were dry and could certainly be handled by my trainers which I’m very happy I brought along.

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