We sat down to a fabulous meal joining 28 French walkers covering two long tables. From an aperitif through entre, main, cheese board, and desert everything was fabulous.
The question we keep getting asked is why we are doing this walk – not surprising given everyone else doing it is French. Out standard answer is to refer to the French film Antoinette dans les Cevenes (which we recommend), which always raises a laugh from the French. While we did like the film we also had the walk recommended by the seasoned walking group of lovely people we met on the Camino last year.
Todays’ walk made us think about the why because we decided to take a shortcut and needed to justify our decision. Stevenson ended this stage a the Monastery of our Lady of the Snows, which was built only a couple of years before he arrived. It didn’t look that interesting to us so we decided to skip the 7km of steep walking required for the visit. Those who know us well would be proud of how we suppressed our inner completionists. We justified the skip on the basis that we were staying on the GR70, just not the technical Stevensons Trail.
Anyway we had a lovely morning’s walk, starting off in mist-shrouded forest and then breaking into high ground and sunlight. We stopped for a breather by a lake, and another by a ruined 12th Century castle. Then we found a pretty spot beside a river for a zoom call with our Australian friends.
From the river there was a seriously steep uphill stretch after which we stopped again for a picnic lunch. Then there was more downhill until we reached our decision point. Well in theory we’d already decided on a shortcut, but then a chat with a Frenchman, who we have been exchanging map notes with as we walked, changed our minds. It turned out the shortcut we were planning was the Stevensons Trail, and our new friend was insistent we should do it – so we turned up another hill. The views from the top, I have to admit, were entirely worthwhile. After a break our French friend tried again to work on our inner completionist, but we resisted and parted company while he set off on a roller-coaster walk to the Monastery. We descended a few hundred meters and realized that we could just follow the contour-line to the monastery without much effort, and so we did.
So in the end we did complete both the GR70 stage and the Trail and visited the Monastery. But we didn’t mean to!
As we expected, the Monastery wasn’t very exciting and the walk from it to the town of La Bastide was along a busy road. On the positive side that all meant we arrived later than normal at our hotel – positive because we’ve moved from cute country auberge to seedy small-town hotel for the night.
After a shower we went forth to find a beer and there it was – a donkey. Her name is Polly and she and the two-legged appendage have apparently walked from Bordeaux (which is a seriously long way).
So the donkey count now officially stands at 1.