Cycle Path Psychopath part 11 – A Real Pilgrim Hostel

Lusignon to Aulnay
Friday 17 October

Again, I hadn’t procured accommodation for tonight, but had the phone number of a pilgrims’ hotel in Aulnay, only problem when I called, no one spoke English, and I couldn’t make myself understood in French. The very friendly Hotel manager in Lusignon offered to call for me, but there was no answer. She called the Marie in Aulnay, and got the details of where to get the key, and who to contact when I arrived. She also wrote down info for a couple of B&B’s if I had any trouble.

I wanted to avoid busy roads today, so planned a route following back roads to Melle, where I would stop to look at some churches, a very pleasant ride. I had wanted to find somewhere for lunch in Melle, but was a little late leaving Lusignon, so opted for the bread, cheese and wine option by the side of the road. A good plan, as I didn’t arrive into Melle until almost 2 pm, when everything was closed. I went to the tourist office to see if they could call ahead for my pilgrims’ accommodation in Alunay, they did, and it was arranged that I would stay. They also gave me a very nice stamp in my Crediencial.

I then when to look at a couple of churches in Melle, the first one was lovely, but no longer a functioning church, the second one was the sublime UNESCO World Heritage listed Saint Hilaire. I was photographing some magnificent carvings of a pilgrim on horseback, surrounded by scollop shells, when an elderly gentleman pointed that the door was open and I should go inside, as it as ‘nouveau’… It was sparsely renovated with a layered, almost topographical white marble alter, which I later learned was the work of French designer Mathieu Lehanneur, who has transformed and enhanced the Romanesque church into a contemporary minimalist masterpiece. It was beautiful and unexpected.

I had asked for directions to Aluny at the Tourist office, and had asked if the road marked in red on my map was particularly busy, as it was the most straightforward way to get there, the other routes would have added an hour or more to my journey. She said it would be fine on a bike. It wasn’t. After about 15 minutes avoiding big fast trucks, pulling over ever time I saw one In my mirror, I cranked up the Google machine to see if there was an alternative and a way to get off the busy road, even if I had to add two hours to my trip, it would be better. I had to continue another 30 minutes along the busy road before there was an exit, but such a relief when I found one.

It was a long ride, and I didn’t arrive in Aulnay until after six, but waiting near the corner of the hostel was the elderly lady who had the key. She was very sweet and with some charades and sign language gave me instructions for all the facilities at the hostel. And what a charming place it was! Light filled and comfortable with a fully equipped kitchen, washing machine, and dryer. There were two other guests – Pilgrims! A couple from Austria, doing their third Camino, walking from Amboise to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. They were kind and helpful – it was nice to chat to someone on the same path.

I showered, did some laundry, and went in search of dinner. There only seemed to be one Resturant open in town, and it didn’t have much on offer, just a set menu, which had a pork main. They offered to make me an omelette instead, so I sat down to the delicious buffet starter including all kinds of salads and quiche, the omelette and then a chocolate mousse for dessert. It was filling and tasty. I returned to the hostel and the other guests offered to share a bottle of red, which I happily obliged.

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