18 April 11 – First day on the Chemin de St.-Jacques

The Chemin de St. Jacques is the French name for the Camino de Santiago, both meaning the Way of Saint James. It is an ancient pilgrimage route ending in Santiago in north-west Spain. We are off to a slow start today, but it’s OK because we have booked our place for this evening. It has been strongly recommended that we do this each day to be sure of a bed in the evening. I have to get a resupply card for my phone and I have to see if I can find a power adapter. We take a cab to a shopping centre, where there is a Walmart equivalent. They have power adapters, but a plastic edge has to be cut off to accept my plug-in – the manager kindly arranges this for me. At about 10:30 we are finally ready to go. It is a long hard paved climb out of Le Puy, then rugged wild countryside, a narrow trail along a cliff edge – I did not know that Karsten is afraid of heights, making this a bit of a challenge for him. Finally we come out into rolling hill country. We are in the Auvergne in the Central Massif, a mountainous region of France, averaging about 4000 feet altitude, not as high as the Alps, but daunting nevertheless. We stay in a lovely gite, La Grange in Montbonnet, exceptional food and comfortable beds. The prices here are about 50 percent more than they were in Spain four years ago, but the tradeoff  is that the food is excellent and the gites are more comfortable – no bunk beds, usually only a few beds to a room. It looks as if I will be spending on food and lodging, about 30 Euros per day. That’s about $50. Not bad.  About 19 km today – difficult but not outrageous terrain. This is about to change. The weather remains fine, cool, sunny, strong winds.

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