Hey guys! I’m going to try and do some blog updates about my Camino journey from time to time over the next month. Keep in mind
that I’m posting from my phone so sorry if the formatting is weird! I’ll try and fix any issues when I’m back to having a computer to use.
On Monday I took the train from Paris to Le Puy-en-Velay to begin my second round of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. (Last year I hiked 3 weeks of it with my family.) My train got in at 8 p.m. and I somehow found a gite, aka a hostel for pilgrims, that had space for me. Unfortunately, restaurants and grocery stores in town were closed so I went without dinner, but ya know, such is the life of a pilgrim. I departed Tuesday at 7:30 and hiked the 24 kilometers to a small town called Saint-Privat-d’Allier. It was a pretty good first day. I only saw maybe five other pilgrims on the trail all day, which is way fewer than last year. So mostly I just walked alone with my thoughts and some cows and the occasional pony or goat. Oh, the French countryside.
The fall color here is absolutely beautiful, mostly rich greens and oranges. The fog on the hills is a nice touch, too. Everything is very rustic. Most of the trek today I was staring down at my feet trying not to trip over roots or rocks but I kept reminding myself to look around and take in the hills and woods and animals and wildflowers. I don’t want to miss a second of this beautiful world!
I joined several of my fellow hikers for dinner in Saint-Privat-d’Allier, which proved to be very interesting. First off, I was by far the youngest person present. One woman I would guess was in her late thirties but everyone else had full on grey or white hair. Second, they were all French speakers. I later learned that one woman was Swiss, one was French Canadian, and one man was German, but everyone was chatting in French and I was just sitting there trying to pick out a few words I could understand. I got “hot shower,” “how far will you walk tomorrow?,” and “this dessert is delicious.” It was super awkward at first but ended up being pretty cool honestly. I was proud of myself for going with the flow and trying to speak the tiny bit of French that I know.
The next day was even better than the first. I took a coffee break in a town called Monistrol around 10:30 and met a gite owner named Peter. Peter is a British guy who my parents met last year before I joined them on the Camino. He remembered them and we sat down together and chatted for a half hour or so. It was really lovely. He even told me to come to Paris next summer and he will teach me to cook French food. Tempting…very tempting.
The hike was absolutely beautiful leaving Monistrol. On the way out of town, there is a church built into the side of a cliff. I don’t think you can go inside anymore but it’s really something to look at. There was a French man named Robert standing outside selling Camino knickknacks and telling pilgrims about the history of the church. I barely understood him but did make out that he has completed 24 caminos! Crazy.
When I finally made it to my destination, a town called Saugues, later that day, it was still quite early so I had time to walk around and choose a place to stay. Since I had plenty of food with me I decided to stay at a place that didn’t provide dinner and that had a kitchen. That’s where I met Jess, a French woman who lives in Montpellier. She’s one of my favorite people I’ve met so far – very friendly, outgoing, open minded, and spirited. We walked to a pub together, drank some beers, and then bought fresh veggies and made soup. An Englishman named Garry and an older French woman named Chantelle joined us as well. It was a very special night.
That’s all I’ve got at the moment but I also want to give a special thanks to a few people. First, my aunt Kitty for lending me a ton of her hiking gear, including the infamous zip off pants. Also, thanks to Anne from the Southern Wisconsin chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino for my pilgrim shell. (Anne, I hope to meet you in person someday soon!) And of course to my parents and sister and besties like Annie and Jordan and Melissa, etc. for the crazy amount of encouragement and support. This ones for you people ❤️