Return to Oct 2009

Let me whisk you back to my second section of this wonderful Camino and please bear with me while I strive as quickly as I can to bring us up to date.

On May 3rd this year and just before I set off for France I’d got you as far as Espalion where Teresa and I had celebrated the days walk in a pavement cafe of sorts and also had been offered the choice of about 10 different deserts after dinner.

Let’s pick up the morning after on October as we left the hotel, our destination for the night, Estaing and for a change, a relatively short day.

Food features a great deal in our walking as we’re both foodies and we’re also in France where the food served us at dinner every evening is local, seasonal and delicious. Often there is no choice in the menu unless you want to upgrade but this is one of the things I love as it’s a little of a mystery tour.

Today as we set off food was also on our mind, even thought we’d just had breakfast, as we needed to think about bread etc for lunch. Espalion didn’t disappoint as it offered us up a wonderful market. While Paella and oysters may not be the most sensible choice for lunch on foot, it was lovely to look at all of these ready for buying and it was a joy to mill around the market taking in all the sights, smells and characters as we decided which of the wonderful breads to buy and what cheeses to have to accompany them.

Provisions got, we headed off across the new bridge and into the mist which was making this morning seem very autumnal.

 Our first stop today was the Eglise de Saint-Pierre-de-Bessuejouls 3 kms after leaving Espalion but first we had to find our sign letting us know what way to go.

The first couple of kms were along fairly main roads so it was great at last to branch off and come across the church appearing through the trees.

This church is known to be one of the oldest on the route and on the first floor of the bell tower, which was where we aimed for first, is the 11th century chapel of Saint Michel with it’s 9th century altar.

The altar itself is very plain but the chapel has wonderful carvings on the pillars and lintels and is well worth the climb up the rickety stairs to get there.

Downstairs the church itself was calming and cool and a wonderful place just to stop and rest for a few minutes before continuing. We’ve found that taking time out regularly especially when the terrain is challenging is so important as it just recharges those batteries. A mixture of short and longer breaks is ideal.

Leaving the village behind, we had to climb (no surprise there then) up a narrow path zigzagging it’s way up through a woods which then turned into a wider rockier path and finally brought us out onto the road where we had a well earned nut and water break.

On the way out of the village we came across some lovely statues and signs that I want to share with you.

A wonderful Saint Jacques made of old metal.
The cairn on the roadside keeps us on the right track.

 The rest of the morning was a mixture of minor roads leading us to small hamlets such as Griffoul, Tredou, Les Camps, Verrieres and La Roque as well as some steep wooded paths. Then through the flatter woodland, we came out along the river and past a swimming pool from where we had our first view of the lovely Estaing.

This beautiful medieval city which is one of the most picturesque in the Aveyron sits on the River Lot where you cross this wonderful gothic bridge to reach it.  It was so lovely to make our entry this way and at around 2.00 in the afternoon too, knowing that we had an afternoon in the sunshine to explore.

We could see our hotel literally across the bridge and were lucky to be given a room looking out over the bridge, a great vantage point to sit and watch the goings on. After checking in, off came the boots and we took our chairs to the window and relaxed as we ate lunch.

Our hotel, the building on the far left of the photo.

After lunch we went out to explore our surroundings and walked across the bridge again this time unhampered by luggage and went to see the statue of François d’Estaing, bishop of Rodez, who was responsible for the bridge’s construction from 1501 to 1529.

The town is perched on a rocky outcrop, as you can see from the photos with it’s pretty imposing castle giving it centre stage.  It’s characterised by the square dungeon, covered by a dome and flanked by high, fortified sentry cabins. Apparently the architecture of the castle is particularly astonishing because it does not follow any precise plan being constructed by successive generations of the Counts of Estaing between the 15th and 16th centuries.

We enjoyed wandering through the narrow streets and found ourselves being called to. On looking up we saw some of the women from the large pilgrim group we had been coming across regularly, so nice to have friends  in town.

Later we visited the church of Saint Fleuret which is built on the remains of a 11th century
Roman priory. The church dates from the 15th century and houses the relics of Saint Fleuret. Every first Sunday of July, Estaing celebrates the feast of its patron saint, this former bishop of Clermont, who died in Estaing in 620.

The feast includes an hour-long procession across the town, ending at Saint Fleuret. Celebrated for the last four centuries, the feast gathers approximately 200 actors in period costume. They revive the town’s illustrious historical personalitites, such as Tristan Dieudonné, lord of Estaing, who saved King Philippe Auguste at the battle of the Bouvines and who, as a reward, received the permission to affix a fleur de lys to his coat of arms. Three men and a woman dressed as pilgrims also participate in the procession, equipped with the appropriate big hats, flasks and walking staffs. 

Inside the church were beautiful modern stained glass windows again totally unexpected by me and at the altarpiece is a statue of our dear Saint Jacques.


I love to go off the beaten track so it was no surprise that I would end up down alley ways and seeing where narrow steps led to.

This set came to an end at a little gate that looked as if they might take me into someones private home so we back tracked and went in search of other nooks and crannies. It was so lovely to be taking time out from the usual day long walking and know that we would have plenty of time to relax before dinner ……and have time for that beer too.

We found some wonderful little shops tucked away selling jewellery and pottery (good job we have to carry our stuff as otherwise I would be tempted to buy) and also located where we would get provisions for our lunch the next day. With that all done it was time for that beer and some people watching, this time a group of people who appeared on quad bikes.

 Dinner was fabulous this evening, cannot believe that once again this is a two star hotel. It was a total feast, rich and totally of the area. Will need to walk a lot tomorrow to walk all this off.

Then just one more view out over that wonderful bridge before going to sleep.


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