France 184 Puy en Velay/near to God, nearer to the Angels/ The Box and lentils /climbing d'Aguilhe

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April 21st 2022
Published: April 21st 2022
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I am standing alone on the top of d'Arguilhe. I can see 360 degrees all round and it is a long way down . 368 steps I think that wind their way around the Puy. The ancient remains of a volcanic plug. One of a number in the immediate area . In fact, I can see another two of them as I look around . One has a statue of red sandstone the Notre Dame de France . The furthest away is an abbey of some description . Each seems to want to outdo the other . I am supposedly near to the angels up here on top. Angels who will look after me, sing to me and care for me especially if I have crawled up the steps on my knees. I am supposed to be nearer to God too. I certainly am nearer the sky and its cooler up here and a whole load more windy. I enter the chapel on the top and have the place to myself. That is how I like it. No tourists other than me to spoil the feeling of silence and darkness . Puy the home of the famed lentil was a major bishopric in the early period of medieval France . Rather a lot of what were to become saints called along this way trying to christianize the pagans.

I stood around for a while my eyes adjusting to the gloom and could pick out the romanesque columns. The chapel seemed devoid of any light coming in through the tiny windows. The only light emitted came from a few candles lit in front of the statue to St Michael . I lit one to join the others. I couldnt believe how quiet it was up there . Where were the tourists ? On the way up I had left behind one older couple and past a guide on her way down . Apart from those it was just me and the angels .

I was standing where rather a lot of pilgrims must have stood over the years. Pilgrims were the early visitors to Le Puy and it was at one time one of the most popular destinations in France . On the road to Campostella it was a stop off point for most of the pilgrims . A place to rest, recouperate and thank God for helping them get this far . Apparently Charlemagne came twice in the years 772 and 800. Charles the Bald , Odo Count of Paris called along with rather a lot of kings and royalty . It was said that here the angels could sing to me and I could hear them singing . I could see the cathedral of Notre Dam and it seems that it was to be reached by a flight of sixty steps . I think after climbing 386 I had had enough of climbing for one day . It sounded as if the cathedral was interesting but to be honest once you see one church they have to be special to drag you in again to see another . The heathen in me was coming out. From this heady height I could see what I thought was a sandstone statue of the Virgin . Turns out that it was made of 213 russian cannons captured in the siege of Sevastopol.

It was time to climb back down those 386 steps cut into the rockface . It was an easier ascent and descent than I imagined it would be and worth paying the 6 euros to climb to the top. I waved to the driver who was sitting patiently at the bottom waiting for me to return . He had taken the time out to enjoy the sunshine and try to scope out a spot for lunch . By the time I reached the bottom he advised me I had not been very long walking up and back down again . I hardly passed a soul again on the way down . That at least gave me chance to come down at my own pace . To stand in front of the devotional statue part way up and look over the wall to the town below .

Sadly all Glenn had found us was a tabac where we had a couple of coffees sitting outside in the sunshine . I never feel like going in tabacs . They always feel gloomy even on the brightest of summer days . A smoky haze , no women and an odd atmosphere . We sat outside in the sunshine rather than go inside to the gloom .

How did we get here ? Wind back a few hours and we were driving down french national roads . We entered Puy at the large roundabout that advertised the fact that Puy is famous for lentils . A large green lentil was placed on a throne on four sides of the roundabout . On the lentils head was a crown . The king of lentils was the message . I failed to take a photo . By the time I had fired up the phone we had shot past the lentils sitting on their golden thrones . I hoped for others on the next roundabout but there were none .

Our stop was to be a new Park4night spot . It was situated along the river from the town behind a storage unit. It was gated and through the day manned by the lovely guys who ran the unit . They took the money for the parking and for hire of a storage box . The boxes ranged from 1 m square to 30 m square . All under cover. All new . All locked within the building and all having their own keys . It cost 6 euros for a half day and about 10 to stay overnight . They would lock us in if we stayed . All we wanted was to walk to the town and back, have lunch , visit the local supermarket to stock up for the next few days . We happily paid our 6 euros and were told to park up at the back , use the picnic tables and they gave us a quick walk through on how to get to town .

What else did we see ? An ancient chapel in the ancienne town . We never did find out its name nor what its purpose could be . It was in a square with a cross and an old courtyard . A single room it had only a golden altar and golden version of St Michael . And of course the candles lit the darkness .

Did we miss things in Puy en Valey? Of course we did . The cathedral with the black madonna . The stained glass depicting crusaders in Jerusalem . Perhaps as always it is another place to return to . Sometimes it is good to miss things . Always gives you a reason to want more . We certainly would stay at the Box if we ever came again .


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