Day 3 St Chely – Espalion, 22 km/13.75 miles

October 1st 2009

After breakfast we walked down through St Chely to the bridge where we took some photos and then up the road festooned with signs and from where we could look back towards the town slowly being enveloped in the morning sunlight. We were now on both the GR65 and GR6 as they share the same route as far as Figeac.

The road walking didn’t last too long and then we were into woodland mainly of chestnut trees this time, their fruit littering the paths. As the photos show, we had some beech woods too and lovely fungi.

On this particular day the walking was sublime and although there were a few hamlets, we didn’t pass through anywhere of note and were able to walk through the best of wonderful rural french countryside more or less on our own and undisturbed. How lucky were we as how often in life do you get the time and space that allows this. I know that’s why my time on the Camino is so important and why I come back feeling so good.

One of the many taps/fountains provided for walkers, a godsend.

We stopped among the shade of the trees for lunch but in a position also ensuring us a wonderful out look and ate the quiches we’d bought the day previously but that we’d been too full for after our tart.  When walking we do try to leave time not just to eat but also to relax and it’s an opportunity to check the guidebook and see where we’ve been and where we are heading next. As we sat, some of the large group passed us here and as usual nods of camaraderie were exchanged, there is a real feel of being part of a community doing this walk.

Confusion on the Camino is very rare but here we did get a little lost as it was unclear where we should be going and in some places there were obstacles across the path. After a bit of tooing and froing, we decided to press on and we came out on a lane where a house on the side of the road clearly welcomed walkers.

We joined some others already there and ordered cool drinks enjoying the exquisite views. The loo had one of the best views, see the next photo, even though you had to pay to use it. I remember Teresa getting involved in a discussion here about the film Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep.

Our goal for today was Espalion but one of the places I remember with most fondness is Saint Come d’Olt (Olt is the old name for the River Lot, one of France’s best known rivers). This town looked wonderful as we approached and I remembered bypassing it on our journey from the airport because of the twisted spire of the church of St Come and St Damien.

This beautiful medieval town has few modern buildings and the church is 16th century. There is also the 10th century Chapelle des Penitents, formerly a pilgrim hospital dedicated to St James.

The Hotel de Ville was once a 14th century chateaux and there’s a wonderful gothic bridge over which we had to walk.

As you will see from the photos I was rather bowled over by this place so please excuse the number of photos I’ve included. I do have to tell you that there were loads that I left out.

The next few are taken around the church, starting with this one of me outside the church door, just look at the wonderful carvings and the craftmanship. No longer do we get that.

Inside, and I’ll include at least one of these later, were some wonderful modern stained glass windows.

I have been amazed at the number of very ancient churches we’ve visited that have very modern windows, much more so than in the United Kingdom.

One of the photos shows clearly the twist in the spire and I’ve done a little research into this wondering what the story was. Nothing too exciting I’m afraid this was a deliberate design just like that of the church in Chesterfield in England although there is a story told of that one.

Outside the church made up of the cobbles is a wonderful depiction of the scallop shell.

And would you mess with this woman?

This is the wonderful view of St Come d’Olt as you stand on the bridge over the River Lot It was on this bridge that we met one of the large walking group we’d met before, this time the lovely gentleman who’d had the blisters. His feet were much better now and we talked about the route we’d take next. He was staying in St Come d’Olt but we figured that we’d probably meet again.

After a bit of deliberation, Teresa and I decided to forgo the high route and instead follow the route along the river. The Lot rises in the Cevennes and flows through Quercy joining the Garonne near Aiguillon. It’s  481 kilometres (299 mi) long and gives  its name to the Lot department.

I love this photo of it as it slowly flows through the countryside and the colours, especially of the plants in the foreground is beautiful.

As we walked along the river I took the sweet corn stored and this wonderful gate into a garden.

As we approached Espalion along the river one of the first things we saw was the sight of the two bridges. The Pilgrim Bridge also called the Pont Vieux is one of the most unusual medieval bridges in France and has UNESCO World Heritage status.

In the middle of the 10th century, because of an increase in traffic, probably because of the Compostela pilgrimage, the de Calmontsbarbican.  Then between 1841 and 1846, a second bridge was built known as the Pont Neuf. It was listed in 1888.

On one bank of the bridge these wonderful medieval houses can be seen.

It was all quite a site and Teresa and I quite tired by now wandered through Espalion looking for our hotel. Thankfully I’d had a look for it on the web so had some idea of it’s direction and it’s look. We were shown to our room and then, as is customary, went in search of that sunny spot to celebrate the day’s walk with a beer. It wasn’t the prettiest spot as it was right on roadside and we both agreed that in London there’s no way we would have done this but when in Rome…. and the beer was great.

It was a lovely hotel with wonderful food and I remember vividly the choice of about 10 deserts and this is a 2 star hotel!


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