September 3: When we woke up at 7:20 AM this morning, we started to panic! How could we possibly be ready to leave our gite (B&B) in 40 minutes? We splashed water on our faces, jumped into our clothes, finished packing, ate breakfast, and were out by 8 AM. Whew! 😅 Maybe we can sleep in like this all the time.
Today was a blank slate. We had no idea what was ahead except for a very steep climb out of Monistrol d’Allier. It was a lesson in how pointless it is to worry about things. The steep climb was not as difficult as the steep descent the previous day. We watched Monistrol down in the river valley as it became smaller the higher we climbed.
Within a half hour we reached the beautiful chapel of Sainte Madeleine built into a cliff. It was decorated by Annouck Lepla, a textile artist who was obviously inspired by the underwater world – octopus, sea urchins, shells, etc. Her sculptures consist of ephemeral things, debris collected here and there. Nestled in the cavities, a coral community seems to forge links with the former inhabitants of the place, when this area was an archipelago. It is hard to imagine the amount of work that went into this creation.
It was here that we caught up with Hannah, a 34-year-old kindergarten teacher from Munich. She is on sabbatical for one year and is walking the Via Podiensis before doing anything else with her time off work. We had such an enjoyable time walking and talking, and spending time with the horses that trotted over for a visit.
Later we came to a fellow who was doing a rip-roaring business selling pan de la montagne (bread of the mountain). They look like baked potatoes, are very hard, and provide energy – exactly what pilgrims who are climbing mountains need, right? No one passed by without stopping to have a look and a chat with that happy man.
After our pique-nique lunch we made it into Saugues where we are staying tonight. Saugues is famous for a terrifying wolf that killed and beheaded around one hundred people, mostly children and women, between 1764 and 1767. It has been suggested more recently that a sadistic serial killer was responsible for the killings, not the wolf. We’ll never know.