seeking the successive autumns on the way to estaing
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” [Letter to Miss Lewis, Oct. 1, 1841]” ― George Eliot
Fog hangs low on this cool September morning as I make my way along the Way to Estaing, one of the “beaux villages de France.” After Saint-Côme-d’Olt, Estaing will be my second picturesque village in a row.
I will walk along the Lot River and cross it. I will spend time on a bridge designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. I will see several chapels dating back several centuries. I will see the château d’Estaing, once owned by the family of the former president of France, Valérie Giscard d’Estaing.
DAY 8 à Estaing (18km) sur Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.
But first it is necessary to reach Espalion, a large town and pretty as well. As we go into Espalion, we walk through a city park along the Lot River. I see a Frenchman picking berries from the bushes. Several dogs run free.
In Espalion, there is a pilgrim bridge Pont Vieux that spans the Lot River. It was built in the 13th century during the reign of Saint Louis. The earliest mention of it dates to a charter, 1060. The houses along the bank of the Lot look like they too were built centuries ago. (Click on a photo to see more.)
Further along past Espalion the walk is flat on pavement. Eventually, one confronts a forested ridge looming above Bessuéjouls.
The Eglise de Saint-Pierre-de-Bessuéjouls stands in the background, behind the pèlerin sculpture. The chapelle is from the 11th century with a 9th century alter, and is one of the oldest on the Chemin.
After climbing a rocky, steep, tortuous path and leveling off at the top, we will make our way eventually down and past the Château de Beauregard, which was being renovated when I visited, to the église de Tredou, a church with a cemetery next to it. Nearby is Verrières. (Click on a photo to see more.)
Let’s take a stroll, a short one because the village is very small, through Verrières. Maybe it is the fictional village in Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noir? In French it means “windows.” (Click on a photo to see more.)
We know we are going in the right direction; we see markers for the Chemin on the edge of the village, the red and white stripes and the conque shell. The yellow stripe tells us that we are also following the GR65 which overlaps the Chemin sometimes.
And we walk into Verrières where we see some doors and windows, which I am like to examine. And continuing on a serpentine path, we see one of several troughs along the Chemin. And, finally, we make our way back into the sunshine and find ourselves at the other end of the village where we cross a stream and see the Chapelle Saint Michel from the 17th cenury.
Further along about two kilometers we begin to see the tower of the Chateau d’Estaing rise above and the profile of the village.
The Chemin does not cross the Gothic bridge into Estaing but turns left at the bridge and goes along the Lot River. The bridge over the Lot has been designated by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites of the “Routes of Santiago de Compostela”. (Click on a photo to see more.)
The Wikipedia article on offers a wonderful description of the chateau:
“Le château est constitué de bâtiments de hauteurs différentes organisés autour d’une terrasse. Il est composé de plusieurs bâtiments des XVe siècle, XVIe siècle et XVIIe siècle construits autour d’un ancien donjon carré dont le sommet est cantonné de cinq tourelles et d’une couverture en forme de lanterne et d’une terrasse qui domine le Lot. Le pavillon d’entrée, le château et les terrasses sont les parties classées monument historique.”
Inside Estaing one finds the église de Saint-Fleur, which dates to the 11th century. It was reconstructed entirely during the 15th century. Do you get the impression that you are walking through history, walking back into time?
Of course, one must eat and sleep. I stop and register for the night at the Aux Armes d’Estaing, a restaurant and hotel. (Click on a photo to see more.)