France on strike so we’re in a car

The whole of France went on strike today. It wasn’t very noticeable out here in the country – apart from one thing: Our train from Avignon to La Puy was cancelled.

After some feverish planning we ended up hiring a car and wearing the exorbitant one-way fee. Having made that decision, we then decided to drive the back roads through the countryside which was marvellous. The trip started with shaded roads lined with trees making tunnels through the countryside. Then we were following rivers and crossing small bridges.

We stopped for coffee in a small town and cruised the local market in the square before taking some fresh pastries down to the river Rhône.

Back on the road we soon left the lowlands behind and climbed high into the mountains with sweeping views of green forests and wide plains. And finally we made our way into Le Puy en Velay where we are spending the night.

Spot the bridge

Le Puy is the starting point for the Stevenson’s Trail (more on that over the next two weeks of walking it) and for the Camino de Santiago from France – so walking boots abound. The town is surmounted by a Cathedral and a huge stone volcanic plug with a red-metal statue of the Virgin Mary. The statute was made by melting down cannons captured from the Russians at the battle of Sevastopol in 1866.

Le Puy’s old town has some lovely streets although it’s a steep walk up them to the Cathedral. Luckily tomorrow we head out in the opposite direction – which will still involve hills, but hopefully not on the first stretch.

Le Puy en Velay

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