17 April 11 – In Le Puy en Velay

The puys here are volcanic cones, created when a volcano forms underwater. This was not understood until Surtsey erupted off Iceland in the 1960s. This must have been a very exciting place millions of years ago. There are hundreds of these puys over about 400 square miles, although few as dramatic as the two in Le Puy itself. The other puy (not the one surmounted by the statue, but the one from which the city got its name) is surmounted by a church reached only by 284 steps. It was built in 961 by the local bishop, Gotschalk, in celebration of his pilgrimage toSantiagoin 950-951. He was the first documented French notable to make the pilgrimage to Santiago. The church is memorable partly because every bit of construction material was carted up those 284 steps. That must have been some project management task!  I had planned to make the trek up the steps, but by the time I had walked up from the lower town to the Cathedral three times I decided to let well enough alone. Carroll will be relieved.

 If I had been wandering around Le Puy in the summer of 1865, I might have run into a friendly and gregarious young Englishman who was having a bedroll of oiled canvas made here so that he could start a walk from a town about 20 km south of here. He bought a donkey to carry his gear, not realizing that donkeys walk more slowly than people and have a mind of their own. He walked for 12 days, about 120 miles and wrote a book about his adventures called, appropriately, Travels With a Donkey. This was his second book. It made him more famous. He went on to write many more books, all best-sellers with the English-speaking audience. His name, of course, was Robert Louis Stevenson. When he died, too young, in Java, he was the best-beloved writer in the English language.

 A century or so earlier, I might have met a local boy who grew up to be Marechal Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution of 1776. There is a street in the upper town named after him. I take a photo.

 I have discovered, back at the gite, that I have evidently left my power adapter inParis. This IS a crisis. Both my computer and my cell phone depend on regular recharging and I can’t do that. Both batteries are exhausted. It is mid-afternoon and I am sitting on the terrace of the Restaurant La Grande Ourse having a beer because it is not the hour for food. It is very pleasant out, sunny, late spring to early summer. I ask about possible Internet access. There are two Internet cafes in town, but both closed because it is Sunday. I was cautioned about the French issue with hours of business and days off. Sundays and Mondays are problematic.

While I sit here, the entertainment … there is always entertainment … is water pouring down the half-dozen steps from a public washroom across the very small square. The fire department is on the scene, but the water continues to pour down the steps. I don’t want to know what is in the flow of water.

 Karsten is due at 5:15 on the train, so I go to the station to welcome him. No Karsten. I walk back up the gite, where he arrives about 8 PM. His flight fromBerlintoLyonwas delayed four hours, so he caught a later train. I am very pleased to see him. It’s been four years since I last saw him in  Berlin. We will be off in the morning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *