It started raining this morning shortly after we got up, so for the first time out came out the raingear.
In spite of the rain the countryside is still magnificent, the fields of grasses and flowers beautiful. Guylène said it is a popular area for cross country skiing in winter. I was worried about it being too hot, but infact we are still high enough in the mountains – 2500 – 3000 ft to benefit from the cooler mountain air.
The walking is comfortable. Each day it gets easier. My ankle is still a little tender, but has not gotten any worse, and I am only aware of it on steepish inclines and descents.
We walked together today, and the theme for the morning was Giles.
Beate had a rain cover for her pack, but neither her pants or her jacket were waterproof, and in no time she was pretty wet. Shortly before Montgros Giles passed us by at a very brisk pace. He noticed that Beate was very wet, told her he had a pair of rainpants she could use as long as she was walking, she could send them to him later. By the time we got to Montgros he had not only gone through his pack to find the rainpants, he had found a small washing house in which she could change. She thanked him, and off he went.
He was in the church at Nasbinals when we first arrived. But left before we did. After the church a cup of cocoa or coffee seemed in order. We stopped at the first café, and who should turn up but Giles, to suggest lunch together in Aubrac. He suggested one restaurant, Guylène preferred another, it was agreed and he was off. Such appoinments are really not the norm on the camino, but we had also observed he did things like ask people why they were on the pilgrmage, what their jobs were, which are also not part of pilgrim etiquette. As he had started this walk with a group of friends as a randonneur, and left them as he discovered the pilgrimage we figured he just didn’t know. He was an enthusiastic convert to the idea of pilgrimage.
In no time the cafe was full of soaking pilgrims, wet packs and wet raingear. We saw some folks we knew, including the Germans from yesterday and Patricia, Inbrit and Martine. After coffee and a croissant (considerably cheaper than breakfast) we were off.
Again really great walking over the hills through pastures full of cows with few or small clusters of trees and here or there a stone house with lace covered windows.
After my last camera died from getting too wet in Galicia I swore I would not take
pictures in the rain, but even so it was so beautiful I could not help myself.
Finally the church and tower of Aubrac appeared. I was surprised the town was
so small as so many places have d’Aubrac affixed to the name I expected a
larger central village. There are only about 8 houses, 2 restaurants, the church and
another tour d’anglais.
Giles was there to meet us as we entered town with the news that the agreed upon restaurant was closed today. We settled on the other restaurant and met him there after a visit to the church. The church is very interesting, on one wall is a panel of a painting of the Pilgrimage to Santiago of Adelard, Count of Flanders, in the 12th c I think. He passed by Aubrac and was instrumental in founding an Abbey here. On another wall is a panel of a modern pilgrimage, complete with inset photos.
Very interesting juxtuposition.
As soon as we were seated at our table, Giles announced he was treating us to lunch. We started to protest, but as the conversation progressed it became obvious this meal was his last on the camino, and he wanted to share it with us. In fact a taxi was to come take him away so he did not have much time for lunch.
Never the less it was a nice lunch. The meal was a local speciality – aligot, sausage, small salad, cheese plate, creme brulée for desert. Aligot is mashed potatos mixed with melted cheese stirred to a thick and elastic consistancy. It looks a bit like the more elastic fufu from West Africa. Tasted good as did the sausage. While eating ze wrote a goodbye/thank you card for Giles which we gave to him as the meal ended, and he took it, said goodbye and hurried off to his taxi.
Just as we were finishing lunch patches of sunshine appeared here and there, and the rain lessened. It was still windy, so I kept my rain pancho on against the wind.
Again, fabulous walking through stone demarcated fields, expansive views with only a small stone hut here and there as a sign of human habitation. Then we began a descent through a wooded valley on a narrow path until the utterly charming village of St. Chély d’Aubrac came ino view on the river at the bottom of the valley.
Due to several days of terrible cell phone reception and phones answered only by answering machine we did not have a reservation for a gite. All the gites were full, but luckily the communal gite had just opened up an overflow room with mattresses so we were well taken care of.
The office de tourisme had tons of interesting information on the Aubrac area, especiallyon the cows of the area for which it is famous, in additon to other historical facts.