20 April 12 – Paris to Aumont-Aubrac

I get up early and have a leisurely breakfast at a tiny place on a side street near the hotel. Of course I have two baguettes and a grande creme (that’s the new-to-me term for cafe au lait, or a latte). It’s cool and overcast, the forecast is for rain, but there is none while I am in Paris. I get a taxi from here to the Bercy train station and there confirm my ticket to Clermont-Ferrand and finally, finally, get a ticket for the bus from Clermont to Aumont-Aubrac. Neither I nor my travel agent could purchase this ticket on-line, even though the bus is run by the railway company.

The train leaves sharp at 1 pm, of course, we’re in Europe where trains always run on time. I sleep most of the way, although I do note that the land is flat as we travel south for the first two hours. The next 90 minutes the land starts to roll. About 40 minutes before Clermont we stop briefly at Vichy. Vichy is famous for its water and infamous for being the capital of the puppet government of the southern half of France during World War II. I will tell you more about Vichy France later.

At Clermont I have 12 minutes to find and get on the bus which, like all busses in Europe, is spotlessly clean. As we continue to roll south, the country gets seriously hilly and the weather gets seriously wet and cold – about 5 degrees by the time we arrive in Aumont-Aubrac. I debus, get my backpack (yes, it came off the plane nicely) and walk a few minutes to the Ferme Barry, where I am welcomed by the owner, Vincente and his wife. He does not remember me, but I remember him. He is a big friendly bear of a man, who cooks the meals here, including his famous arigot, a mix of mashed potatoes and cheese that strings out like pasta. And dinner will be soon.

I have a bed in a room with four others, all men. Along with five women, we eat at a communal table, good filling food and red wine, water for those who want it. My iPad is a big hit, since everyone wants to see either tomorrow’s route (for them – I am taking transport to St. Chely d’Aubrac) or their hometown. They are mostly French, with one Swiss and one French-Canadian young woman. Also the images of Cian and Bella, which are my screen savers, are very popular.

I am glad to have today behind me, since it was one of the more tedious days and I wasn’t sure until about noon that I could get here today on the bus. So all’s well that ends well, and today is ending very well indeed.

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