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Learning to Walk

August 27, 2022

On the verge! A Day in Le Puy

I slept SO well last night and was the last one awake in the room this morning. Hope I was not serenading everyone with snores as they got ready for the day. Ear plugs are a wonderful thing. They just muffle the noise enough so you feel like you’re in a cocoon. Last night I stayed out late enough to watch some of the light show they do every evening on the famous buildings and monuments. I only saw two—the projections on the Cathedral and on the old hotel in the square where I had dinner. The problem with staying to watch the light show is that by the time I got back to the room, a little before ten, everyone else was in bed with the lights out. I managed to get myself ready with only the light of my phone as quietly as I could. Tonight, I hope to be one of the ones asleep when others come in. Pilgrim mass is at 7 am, then I’m on my way!

This morning I began the day by going to the weekly market. So much fun! Bought some local goat cheese, home made bread, fruit and olives for lunch. Then I climbed up the volcanic spire atop of which is the Chapel of St. Michel. It was built in 961 by Gothescalk, bishop of Le Puy, who resolved to build it after making what is thought to be the first pilgrimage from Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela. Lots of deep breaths on the climb—not just because of the stairs, but because you are walking up the side of the cliff! There is a wall between you and a fall, but it’s a challenge when you are afraid of heights. The other most famous site on top of one of Le Puy’s volcanic spikes is Notre Dame de France, erected in the year 1860 with the metal of 213 cannons captured from the Russians in the Crimean War. Yes, I copied that bit straight out of the tourist brochure. I wonder how long fighting over Crimea will go on? I decided I did not need to climb up. I mean, the view of the statue has to be better from a distance, right?

This day in Le Puy was a good warm up for tomorrow’s steady uphill slog to Montbonnet. It’s just 15 km (about 10 miles), but uphill a good bit of the way. Walking around Le Puy, especially walking up to the Cathedral involves lots of climbing. I don’t know if you can tell from my photos just how steep the road is up to the Cathedral, and then there are the steps to get into the Cathedral itself. I didn’t think to count, but there must be well over a hundred. I found myself wondering how many people would make it to church on Sunday at Madison Ave. Presbyterian if they had to climb that hill and those steps in order to get there! There are racing teams all over town. I don’t know what’s going on. As I came down from the Cathedral this evening, one team was pushing a teammate who uses a wheelchair all the way up that cobble-stoned hill. They seemed to be having a great time of it, laughing and cheering all the way. They have been parading by the square where I am eating dinner. It’s like the Olympics with country after country going by. I heard someone say “motorcycle” so maybe it’s an international motorcycle race? (Yes, I looked it up—a big race that lasts for days.) I’m glad I made my reservations for this weekend in May! Whatever it is, the swallows or swifts (not sure what they are) are NOT happy about this commotion. They are trying to go to bed for the night and are frantically circling and swooping and crying out overhead. Poor babies. They are clearly alarmed.

This evening I had planned to go to the Pilgrims’ welcome reception at a cafe behind the Cathedral that happens every day, at least during the summer. I had heard that this was a good place to meet other pilgrims, but it must be hit or miss. When I got there, the only people were the hosts, and one other person. I had a brief conversation with one of the hosts, then said farewell and went back into the Cathedral to head to dinner. I was a bit disappointed, but sometimes disappointments lead to a blessing. As I walked into the Cathedral I heard gorgeous choral singing. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, when all of a sudden a group of about a dozen young men wearing uniforms and carrying backpacks emerged up the stairs into the Cathedral singing. They stopped as soon as they got in front of the altar, and I was afraid I had missed most of it. But then they went to the higher altar where the Black Madonna is, and after kneeling in a row and praying for a few minutes they started singing again. It was gorgeous. I hope I’ll be able to post a video below so you can hear them. They looked like a group of scouts, so I called them “the singing scouts” in my head. One of them, a leader, was clearly a member of a religious order as he was wearing long robes. After they finished their sung and spoken prayers, they dispersed, and I went up to one of them, inquired if he spoke English (he did), and asked him who they were. He said, “We are scouts. We come from all over and we walk far. We are Catholic.” I asked, “Are you a choir?” He said “no, we just sing always.”

I’m having the exact same dinner I had last night. As I perused various menus walking around town, nothing looked as good or healthy as the salad I had last night. I did get adventurous and try a different glass of wine with it.

Lesson from today: Take some deep breaths and you can do just about anything. If one thing disappoints, there is probably something wonderful lying in wait. Oh, and “sing always.” I will probably need to keep those in mind as I walk tomorrow, and the day after and the day after . . .

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6 Comments
  1. ooooh those photos !…I could never have imagined …you’re walking through such a world . absolutely wonderful.

  2. dianner212 permalink

    ooooh those photos ! . .I could never have imagined ….and you are walking thru that world.. .absolutely wonderful.! Dianne

    • It’s good to have you following along, Dianne. It’s like I have lots of people walking with me.

  3. You had quite a day!

  4. Susan Anderson permalink

    Thank you, Beverly, for including us in you amazing adventure and for your beautiful photographs.

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