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Day 31: from Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac to Saint-Alban-sur- Limagnole, 60 km

Up early again, and by 7 o'clock we're on our bikes. St-Chély-d’Aubrac is truly a village where many pilgrims and hikers stay, so there are already quite a few people out and about. Some with heavy backpacks, others with carts they're pulling behind them. Still, others have their heavy backpacks transported by specialized companies. They're mostly heading towards the Pont des Pélerins. Everyone is surprised that we're doing the Via Podiensis in reverse because the way we're doing it involves more climbing than descending. For me, there wasn't much of a choice since I wanted to do both the Via Turonesis and the Via Podiensis.

Cycling on the plateau d'Aubrac So, we set off in the direction of Aubrac, which means we have to go back up the 5 kilometers we descended yesterday from the D 987 to St-Chély-d’Aubrac (located at 810 meters altitude). The morning is cool, and the ascent is smooth. Both the cyclists and the bikes seem well-equipped. At the top, we follow the D 987 to the right, which takes us to the first charming village, Aubrac, named after the plateau it's situated on.

Plateau d'Aubrac

This morning, Bruno had a whole bowl of Oriental tabbouleh. For the road, he has a baguette on which I've generously spread an entire jar of Nutella at his request. He needs a lot of sugars. And bananas. He also has four bottles of water for him and three for me. We add a splash of "menthe" each time because we're not very fond of the taste of plain water. Additionally, he eats many bars with nuts, dried raisins, etc. In French, one would say that Bruno eats like a (gentle) "ogre".

Aubrac with the Tour des Anglais

The landscape keeps changing, becoming rougher as we climb up to 1307 meters. In Aubrac, we're almost at the highest point. Aubrac is a very small village with a few houses but an impressive Romanesque church that actually used to be a hospital in the Middle Ages. Later, it was converted into a church. Next to it stands a large 14th-century tower called the "Tour des Anglais". There's also a 16th-century building that now serves as the Maison forestière. It's all that remains of a former "dômerie" (a type of large estate) of the hospitaller brothers of Aubrac, who protected pilgrims traveling to Santiago and/or Rocamadour to worship the Black Madonna from the 12th to the 17th century.

Aubrac: Church and information about the Domerie

From Aubrac, we're truly within the vast Parc Naturel Régional de l’Aubrac. Parts of it are very rugged, yellow and reddish in color, with fewer and fewer trees as we climb higher. Some areas are completely covered in large and small rocks, as if a giant had scattered them across the fields and meadows. Perhaps this is the result of a volcano explosion or some other reason. I need to look it up. In some places, the residents or farmers have piled up the stones to work the land or create pastures. These stones also form walls between the pastures and the agricultural land. There are many typical light brown cows. Many of the cattle wear bells around their necks. We see a large herd that I capture on video, and the various sounds are pleasant to the ears.

Parc Naturel Régional de l'Aubrac with the mysterious stones

You could take a photo around every corner and get something different. It's stunningly beautiful and unlike the many landscapes we've seen in the past days. The photos try to convey the great variety in landscapes. However, I must add that many pilgrims in earlier centuries were afraid to travel through these regions: there were natural and human dangers lurking everywhere. Nowadays, the Via Podiensis is especially popular for this section. Yet, I wouldn't say this is the most beautiful stretch of the many Camino routes. There are many that I find beautiful, each for a different reason.

Chapelle de Labastide and Nasbinals: the church

Along the way, a little before Nasbinals, we pass by the 16th-century Chapelle de Labastide, standing alone by the road. It used to be dedicated to the Holy Cross, but now it's dedicated to Our Lady of La Salette. We continue riding leisurely and reach the village of Lasbinals. It's situated amidst all these beautiful landscapes. It has a lovely Romanesque church from the 12th to the 14th century, built entirely from gray granite, a material I truly appreciate. Many cattle markets are held here, which is normal in this region. Then we pedal on to Aumont-Aubrac. There's a very beautiful and unique Romanesque church there, dedicated to Saint Etienne, with beautiful modern stained glass windows. The side of the church is quite special, as seen in the photo.

Aumont-Aubrac: St Etienne church, pilgrims; Eveline and Michel

In front of the church, many pilgrims are resting, including Eveline and Michel, who are on a pilgrimage with their Border Collie, Neva. They're walking from the south of France. Bruno quickly makes friends with the dog. He's crazy about dogs and hates cats. We tell them why we're cycling, and they appreciate it greatly. We have a nice conversation and then say goodbye to them and Neva.

Once past Aumont-d’Aubrac, the landscape changes again as we descend slightly and more trees reappear. We're following the Truyère River roughly. We pass by the village of Rimeize, which also has a stunning Romanesque church with a tall "clocher peigne" or "clocher mur" (a tower-like structure with openings) containing four bells. Right in front of the church stands a fountain, an excellent opportunity to refresh my head and refill our water bottles. Today, they're predicting a high of only 32 degrees Celsius, but it's still pretty warm around noon. We reach our destination just before the local SPAR store in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, a small river, closes for a few hours. The staff is friendly and helps us quickly with our shopping. Half an hour later, we're already settled into our small apartment, the bikes are indoors, and my e-bike's batteries are charging.

Rimeize: church with "clocher peigne"

We reach our destination just before the local SPAR store in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, a small river, closes for a few hours. The staff is friendly and helps us quickly with our shopping. Half an hour later, we're already settled into our small apartment, the bikes are indoors, and my e-bike's batteries are charging.

After having a bit to eat, I do a small laundry load – underwear, my cycling shorts, a pair of shorts, and a T-shirt – and I hope everything dries quickly; otherwise, it'll be placed at the back of the bike to dry. Rain and thunderstorms are expected tomorrow, though. We'll see. We're going to explore the town for a bit. The attractions are limited to a medieval castle built in the 12th century that got a Renaissance facelift in the 16th century. The tourist office is located there, and we get our credentials stamped. Then we visit the local granite church, which also has a beautiful "clocher peigne" (bell tower with openings). They've inserted some rose-red stones between the gray granite blocks here and there, adding a nice touch of variation to all that gray.

St. Alban-sur-Limagnole: castle and another church with "clocher peigne"

We don't stay outside for long because it's still too hot. We head back to our cottage. Bruno rests a bit and then cooks delicious pasta for the two of us, while I write my blog. With this sentence, I've completed the 31st entry. Now comes the revision and improvement work by Magda. I've already sent the day's photos, and it's up to Magda to insert them into the story at the right places. She does it wonderfully but spends a lot of time on it. Fortunately, the blog has many loyal readers. Every day, a few people (sometimes 15) also read the English version created with AI, first by Floky and now by Bruno.

Tomorrow is our final ride to Le Puy-en-Velay, with quite a bit of climbing. We hope to leave early to arrive before it gets too hot, but it might rain, and we'll need to be cautious on the descents. We'll be happy to have completed these 800 kilometers TOGETHER in the planned number of days since Bruno needs to be in Oxford the day after. I will miss him just as I missed our Flo when he came along with his dad. Bruno has just come downstairs to have a bar with nuts and such after dinner.

Pilgrims on their way

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