So. The Pilgrims’ Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Le Puy en Velay, is at 7 each morning. Expecting a 10 minute or so ‘quickie’ we were surprised to be involved in a full scale catholic mass complete with – well with everything. Susan was honoured to be selected to carry the blood of Christ (or wine) to the altar.

After this full mass the pilgrims were invited to a separate prayer fest of their own, at which it transpired we were the only three English people there, the majority coming from France and 11 from Switzerland. A smiley priest encouraged us to take prayers written by others along in our pilgrimage and to take a copy of the book of St Luke. We also received a small scallop shell miniature each.

This shell, like a charm from a charm bracelet, is representative of the scallop shell, ‘coquille de st Jaques’ which is a theme throughout the route, brass shell symbols being embedded in the streets in towns to mark out the route, and many pilgrims carrying one on their rucksacks.

Then the walking….. but first a few pictures from round Le Puy:

Ancient shop fronts.

Steep streets and steps to the Cathedral, , narrow ruelles and the doctor’s surgery.

A typical pilgrim: hat, stick, boots, exhausted.

And so the walking started.

Initially a guide to how the GR or Grande Randonnée works. The system works over all the GR system in Europe. Ours is GR 65.

We are walking from Le Puy to Conques, around 200 in 10 days.

The official start:

All uphill it seems, with us getting accustomed to carrying our rucksacks and using our walking poles it was hard and we were glad to arrive at Montbonnet tonight, having followed the GR65 from Le Puy.

Everyone ‘doing’ a Camino has to have a Credenciale or a kind of passport which is stamped at the outset and again at every stop – by the gite owners or the Boulanger or the priest or some other noteworthy person in each village where you stay.

Most gites or auberges – rather like an old school youth hostel – will not put you up unless you arrive on foot (or horse or mule) and have a credenciale.

Tonight we stayed in the Gite L’escole in Montbonnet. Previously a school it was changed to a hostel for cross country skiers some years ago and is now run by a lively woman who chatted to us throughout dinner, making us all introduce ourselves in English and French.

Our group tonight was 14 and included Germans, lots of French,our New Zealand friend and travel companion Megg, two Finnish people and we three English.

Food? Home made veg soup. Lentils de puy and boudin (fat sausage) or omelette for the vegetarians, locally made cheese then apple tart. All around a big table. Was really fun. Oh there is wine available too!

There’s so much to say about today – the bowl of the Le Puy volcanic plain, the Kite slowly twisting and turning above, the wildflowers : banks of violets, celandines, cowslip, Stitchwort…..the slow flowing streams, the traditional architecture….

Note the posts for tying the mules? These are at a picnic spot.

And the people. This is Dédé. We met him over lunch. He was walking too – a little round trip to the bar. Lovely smile.

Distance: 19km

Items lost: 2, one rediscovered and cumulative total three.

Tantrums: nil

Taxi trips: one. Megg has been unwell for days so came ahead, but seems better now.

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