Thursday, 20 June 2002
Distance 22 km
Map 58 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Topoguide (Ref 651) Sentier de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle Le Puy/Aubrac/Conques/Figeac
Driven by fear of the midday heat, we were packed and gone by 7 o’clock.
The path out of Saint-Chély crosses the stream on a footbridge built by the twelfth-century bridge-building friars, whose mission was to help pilgrims make their way towards Compostela.
Their signature is a tiny carved pilgrim on the stonework.
From there the track rose steeply into a beech wood, past slopes of yellow gentian, a medicinal herb also used for the ghastly liqueur called Suze.
Further on we descended a long ridge amongst chestnuts until we arrived at the Lot river itself and the village of Saint-Côme-d’Olt (the old name for the river was Olt, not Lot).
Entering the village was by way of a tunnel under the modern road and up an extremely pretty narrow street, with the peculiar twisted spire of the church ahead.
The whole town was very appealing. The remains of the ramparts enclosed a grassy square where we ate lunch after a round of coffees nearby.
For such an exquisite little place, it has terribly harsh church bells, like rubbish tin lids.
Despite the oppressive heat, we felt capable of going on to Espalion, which is only a short walk away along the river, if you ignore the GR going up into the hills and back.
The bridge-building friars had been busy at Saint-Côme too, and at Espalion, as we later discovered. The river flowed full and strong in its sheltering trees so we felt quite cool beside it.
We were delighted to find ourselves at the camping area before we even reached the town, and in a short time we had set up our tiny home in an enclosure, and adorned the hedge with our washing.
The sun was still punishing as we strolled into the village in search of dinner.
On the way we passed people playing boules and also another game called Quilles de Huit that we had not met before. In this game, a form of ninepins, the ball is used to send the bat flying, not the other way around. It seemed to be fun.
The streets of the town were full of knife shops, as we were near Laguiole, famous for its bone-handled knives.
Lentils are the local speciality and it was hard to order anything without them. I had lamb and lentilles, Keith had sausages and lentilles; both were excellent.
We had been walking for two weeks but I still had the blisters I got on the first day in Provence.