Well, today has gone remarkably smoothly. The bus to Edinburgh was only five minutes late leaving and the driver didn’t go the long way round, the flight looked like being late to leave but wasn’t, the connection between Paris CDG and Gare de Lyon was smooth and we had lots time to kill before boarding the TGV (1st class!) to Lyon, to find the hotel right outside the station. The hotel is rather on the grotty side of average: a soulless multifloor concrete box with just the one bath towel, but otherwise more or less adequate.
While waiting around Gare de Lyon – a vast station with at least 3 “halls”, I was intrigued by the motorbike-taxis plying their trade. Passengers put their luggage in a top box on the bike, are supplied with crash helmet, a sort of flak jacket similar to that used by de-mining teams and then, installed on the pillion, are wrapped in a modern equivalent of a travelling blanket
before being whisked away to thread through the traffic to their destination – or possible death.
I started the morning by celebrating Sonia’s birthday. I waited until 8 before ringing her up with birthday wishes, knowing that by then she would be up and getting ready for a day at the coalface of Special Education. Unfortunately, I forgot that we’re an hour ahead, so she started her day by being woken by the phone at 7am. All things considered, she was remarkably good about it.
Breakfast was the usual French p’tit dej, modified by the nondescript standard of the hotel. However, Laurie enlivened it by choosing an egg to go with his ham and cheese: as he cracked it open he discovered to his dismay and my amusement that it wasn’t hard boiled. In fact it wasn’t cooked at all and the grubby Formica topped table was covered in raw egg. How we laughed! At least I did.
We were surprised to be charged e80 for breakfast until it transpired that when I booked our room online I hadn’t actually paid. So his credit card took an unexpected hit. How we laughed! At least I did.
Catching the train to St Etienne de somewhere was straightforward and as I write this we’re speeding along on the top floor of a double decker TGV in order to make a connection for Le Puy.
There was a slight hiccup in St. Etienne, where the “train” turned out to be a bus to Le Puy. However, we arrived in good order, dumped our luggage, bought a sandwich and patisserie, then started our walk. We decided the word of the day – and possibly the trip – was “bucolic”. Stevenson described this area as like Scotland, and if he was thinking of the lowlands and Borders then we would agree. Distant hills and rolling farmlands, though pleasantly warm. Easy walking, on good tracks or minor roads, the ascents never too steep and even the “disagreeable wind” was only occasional.
Our hotel (**) is good, the room perhaps a trifle small, but well enough equipped and le patron is amiable.
Today is not strictly part of the Stevenson way as we started from Le Puy and arrived at Le Monastier, where his travels actually started. Tomorrow will see the official way begin. Today’s walk was about 20km, tomorrow’s, one of the longer days, 23 and if the route continues as it has been so far, I foresee no great difficulties. I had better stop now or Laurie will have finished the crossword. Besides, it’s my turn to buy the beers.