After an early rise, I got to the cathedral for the 7am service. There were about 70 pilgrims, mainly French. Amongst the others there were Belgian, Swiss, Canadian, German and a couple of Brazilian ladies from Recife.
There was a short service after which everyone was introduced to each other and to the Bishop of Le Puy, a friendly bloke. He made some witty remarks on the way. Very convivial and everyone was presented with a small medal for the journey ahead.
Leaving the Cathedral was daunting knowing that 1521km lay ahead. The first steps lead out of the main entrance and followed the steps down and through the old town as they have done for over a thousand years. A steep climb followed and after about 5km I stopped for a coffee at a pilgrim stop. Not bad and I hope the refreshment stops would continue! A few others arrived. The owner wished us all well saying that at the same time last year there were several inches of snow! Lots of mud but no rain followed.
As the day warmed up, I arrived at a small church made of pink volcanic rock in Saint Christophe sur Dolaison and dating from the 12th Century. The local cafe did a good sandwich and coke. Continuing on and up and getting hotter, finally arriving at the small village of Montbonnet (1108m, so quite a climb for the first day). Quite a group of new pilgrims had congregated at a small cafe and all wanted to celebrate the first few kilometers with a cold beer. They had none. The bar had actually run out. The soft drinks were a better idea anyway!
Continuing on I was surprised to pass patches of snow in a wooded area. The descent down was a running river pretending to be a footpath. Rocky and wet and fast flowing. Happy with the waterproof leather boots in those conditions.
Arriving at Saint-Privat d’Allier I chanced on the Accueil Pèlerin – a family run dormitory where you joined the family for a meal. And it was a great meal. Two sisters Marie and Sophie were there as was Christophe who I had had a coffee with on that first stop earlier in the day. Herbert and Roger joined us with Frederique.