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Day 34: fom Le Puy-en-Vélay to Brioude, 120 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Bruno arrived safe and sound in Lyon at his hotel last night and found packaging to store his bicycle. This morning he has informed me that everything was OK at the airport and he has wished me a safe journey back to Leuven. Later in the day I received a message from Magda that he had arrived safely in Oxford with his bicycle. This morning I woke up as usual (too) early at 5 o'clock. When I opened the window it was pouring cats and dogs and I thought I wouldn't be able to leave immediately. By 6.30 am it had stopped and at 7 am I was already on the road to Brioude.

There is no other way to leave Le Puy-en-Vélay than to climb and it is long and steep uphill but the fresh legs do a good job in the morning and I progress well. In the distance I see an indication of the Forteresse de Polignac and can't resist cycling a little closer. The construction started in the 10th century, naturally in a strategic location along important roads. It is located on top of a small plateau of an extinct volcano and could house 800 men.

The forteresse de Polignac in the rain and the mist; threatening clouds above the Massif Central, Borne with its typical church

For a moment I considered taking a detour to La Chaise Dieu abbey, an extra 35 km but luckily I listened to my common sense that made me notice that I am already tired enough without making any extra effort. It started to rain lightly and the road kept rising and it's getting cooler. I stop in Fix-St-Geneys to put on an extra polo and later a thick hoodie from the Rinus-Pini fund plus my raincoat. An old man (80 years old) comes to say that he used to cycle a lot but that he no longer has the legs to do it. His name is Emiel Prévot, he comes from the North, near Calais. He is of Flemish descent; He says that prévot means provost or gendarme. He tells me that his wife died 8 years ago of a brain tumor “foudroyant” (as fast as lightning. Fortunately, his granddaughter had a baby that year and he loves his great-grandchild. He wishes me well and walks into the butcher's.

Col de Fix-St-Geneys, the village and Emile Prévot

The road just keeps going up and I wasn't really expecting it. It's getting cooler and wetter and mistier. Finally I see why. I have climbed to 1116 meters and gone over the Col de Fix-St Geneys. On the way down I get colder and colder because it is only around 10 degrees and yesterday it was more than 34 degrees in Le Puy-en-Vélay. My teeth are literally chattering and my hands are freezing cold and shaking. In the village of St Georges-d'Aurac, along the N 102, I see a bistro, Le 201, which is open, and I stop for a warm drink. I drink two café crême in a row with warm milk in it and stay indoors for a while. Then back on the bike to continue descending carefully, because it is getting busier on the road. Fortunately, the weather is improving and the fact that I still have to go up a bit on a regular basis allows my body to warm up again. I gradually feel better and warmed up again. Magda was worried and now relieved.

Emergency stop at St. Georges-d'Aurac; le Vieil Brioude

The N102 is getting busier and busier (it's the last Sunday of the holidays) and this road changes from two alternating lanes into three and suddenly it becomes 4 lanes where cars are allowed to drive 110 km/h. That becomes too dangerous and I find another quieter road on Google maps that first takes me quietly and safely to the old village of Le Vieil Brioude, beautifully situated along the river Allier at a height, and with a beautiful church. After another 5 km up and down I reach the (new) Brioude. New is therefore still medieval. I stop at the supermarché Casino, which is open on Sundays, and another cyclist stops next to me to also do some shopping. He is from Muizen near Mechelen and comes here to tour the region with his special bicycle. He came here by car and will return home the day after tomorrow.


Church of Le Vieil Brioude, meeting Tom from Muizen and St; Julian's basilica in Brioude

I call the owner of the apartment that Magda has booked for me at 100 meters from the super beautiful Romanesque church of Saint Julien de Brioude and I can immediately get the code to enter. At 13 o'clock I'm already inside and I can catch my breath and eat something. The weather has improved in the meantime and there is even some sun. At 2 pm I am out the door because I want to take a thorough look at the church and the village. A lot of people are already out and about because tomorrow, August 28, is the feast of Saint Julien of Brioude, a saint from the 4th century. Today he is celebrated because it is Sunday and there is even a kind of carnival procession that travels on the outskirts of the town and there is also a fair.

Brioude: St. Julian's basilica

In the church I take a ticket with a guide who gives a tour at 2.30 pm and it will be two fascinating hours with a group of 6 people. It is again a Romanesque church in the typical Auvergne style, built at the beginning of the 12th century; Many abstract drawings on the outside in different colors. A beautiful octagonal tower stands on the crossing. Different types of granite and basalt were used, often of volcanic origin, which gives a wide variety of colors. Inside beautiful columns, capitals and also many frescoes on the columns and also on the ceiling above the narthex at the back with a Christ in a mandorla surrounded by all heavenly hosts or types of angels. That interests Rientje very much, just like yesterday in the Maison des Anges on the Aiguilhe St Michel in Le Puy-en-Vélay.

Brioude, St. Julian's basilica: frescoes on the pillars, Christ in a mandorla and the designs on the floor made with pebbles

What is also very striking is the floor, which consists entirely of irregular pebbles and was only discovered at the end of the last century. It was hidden under a floor that was installed above the original floor in the 16th century. Finally, new modern abstract stained glass windows were installed in the church in 2008. The earlier stained glass windows were all destroyed during the French Revolution. A competition was held that was won by a Dominican of Korean origin but who had studied arts in France. This Kim En Joong has turned it into a very colorful whole that led to a lot of controversy. So much so that the local archbishop would not consecrate the new stained glass windows. In the end it was our Mgr Dekesel van Mechelen who was willing to come and inaugurate them. I personally think they are beautiful in that Romanesque building.

Brioude, St. Julian's basilica: icon of St. Julian, crypt of St. Julian, capital

After a two-hour tour, I walk through the town for a while and then I go back to my apartment to write my blog of the day; I catch myself calling Magda more and more. We miss each other and look forward to seeing each other again. The day after tomorrow Magda will fly home from Carcassonne and our daughter-in-law Vero will pick her up together with our grandson Jacob. That will be a party for both of them because they missed each other. I miss our little Jacob too, but it will still be some time before I'm home. Tomorrow I continue cycling to Clermont-Ferrand via Issoire. But first a good night's rest. Hopefully the weather will be better then.

Brioude, St. Julian's basilica:: a modern glass-stained window, Mary just before giving birth; one of the typical old houses of Brioude

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