The Unexpected

So we left Annecy and headed back across France towards the Atlantic coast. I was driving sometime in the evening and told Maurice I was exhausted and saw that the next place was a city called le Puy de Velay and asked Maurice to use Google (what did we do before Google and our portable phones?) and see if they had hotels there. Indeed, they did so we took the exit and saw a cathedral on top of a hill as well as a chapel on another little hill and a giant figure of Mary on yet another-it turned out to be an old volcanic area. The name le Puy sounded familiar to me and I soon found that this area was home of the famous green lentils with their own AOC label and very famous in France for their taste-it’s that volcanic soil. It turned out that le Puy had a very long religious history and that it is the starting place for the Camino de Santiago de Compestela, an ancient route across France going into Spain to the tomb of Saint James. In fact, Maurice wants to try it next year, at least the part in France. Maybe someday we will make it all the way. We saw a lot of people with back packs around the city and beyond in this area.

Seen on a building near the cathedral.

The steps , and there were many, going up to the cathedral where there even more steps. That is quite a hill.

This is the starting place of the Camino. The night before I read that there was a mass for the people starting the walk but it started at 7am so I thought I wouldn’t see it, however, I woke up really early, so early that I had to wait for the sun to rise to set off and I made it to hear the mass with about 200 walkers. I liked seeing their bags in the aisle.

A sign marking the start.

All of the streets and alleys in the old section of the city were paved with either plain rocks or with these nice black and white stones.

The cathedral has two black Madonnas which are said to cause miracles and have roots in the deep relious past of Goddess worship.

Statue of Saint James. His symbol is the half shell and you see it in many places welcoming the pilgrims to hostels and the like.

This huge statue of Mary was outside the cathedral up even more steps. It was made of melted down Russian cannons captured during the Prussian war.

Next door was a chapel with this fantastic ceiling. The whole place was very baroque in decorations.
So, who knows what you can find by making an unscheduled stop? This turned out to be a most fascinating city.

7 thoughts to “The Unexpected”

  1. I saw that church twenty five years ago, but their were no pilgrims that day, though at the time I knew nothing about them. Good that you got up early to be there. I remember the strange hills within LePuy, can’t remember what they were called, hope it’s not Puy or somerhing obvious… Have a print of the church in my living room which I found locally years later and I like it a lot.

    1. This is beautiful, a happy mistake for you! I feel suddenly inspired to hike that (until I realize once again I am a chubby 50 year old in nyc) sigh.
      Paris in early October for 8 days though. Spent 4 days last November, been reading your blog ever since. Thank you!

  2. Good morning, what an excellent decision to stop at this special place.

    (side note: night driving is no fun, it’s good to know when the time is right to stop and rest).

    I enjoyed all these pics very much; I’ve long been intrigued by the Way of St. James.

  3. Just one of the things I love about Europe is that there always is something wonderful just over the hill. Such an interesting city; a fortuitous stop for you…and for your readers.

  4. I just came across your blog and found it a happy coincidence that the very first post I read talked about Le Puy. In 2013 My husband and I walked the Spain portion of the Camino de Santiago (from Pamplona to Santiago), and we’re planning on hiking from Le Puy to Pamplona in two or three more years. We hope to be (early) retired by then and living in France (possibly the Dordogne region), so I was further excited by your other posts.

    Thanks for the timely posts!


    1. Julie-I loved Dordogne. It is such a beautiful area od afrance. Be ready for lots of hills from le Puy. We saw a lot from our car. Some hikers said it was pretty hard. Good luck in moving to France!

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