Le Puy to Saint Jean Pied de Port

Aubrac, France

Stage Two: Chemin de St Jacques

Le Puy to Saint Jean Pied de Port, March 4th to April 4th

This section, on the Le Puy Camino, took us to the wind swept plains of the Aubrac. Cold, I got frostbite on my nose which took weeks to heal but no snow and so we were able to cross through one of the worst marked sections. Thankfully we had a GPS and a thermos.

Our bodies had settled down a little but we were still struggling. It wasn’t until the end of this section that we felt we could walk forever. But still no feet problems beyond the ache every night and my bunions which miraculously also stopped hurting. Ice covered pine trees and half frozen ponds that crackled under foot, the weather moved into spring and with amazement, we watched as our walk took us past the first flowers, daffodils, and jonquils, then days of golden canola fields and fruit orchards with apples in blossom.

Le PuyFood and wine continued to be plentiful and the highlight of the day. That and the occasions when the room had a bath I can fall into. Each new pleasure was so exquisite, the rest of the world and our lives faded away. This was life.

The highlight was Conques, staying in the Monastery (okay the food wasn’t the highlight) being blessed by chanting monks and crawling into bed between centuries old walls and imagining everything they had seen. A beautiful town and monastery and a charming tradition of ringing every pelerin out of town and onwards.

Conques FranceWe met a few pelerins, the pressured pelerin who didn’t talk to us – later we found out because he couldn’t speak French and we had, of course, greeted him with Bonjour. He came from our home town. A French woman doing her two weeks holiday, picking up each holiday from where she left off a common way for Europeans to do the walk as the longer leave was impossible. Two days where local dogs attached themselves to us for almost the entire way, well suited to the pelerins. Trying variants – my favorite via the canal after Moissac meant a long welcome flat section. Another variant forced on us by a large sign threatening to shoot us. Pelerins are not welcomed by all the French!

Great meals, including ones we cooked ourselves to ensure our vegetable content was adequate. Some tough climbs – including one where the supermarket was at the bottom of the hill so we had to add all of our fare to our packs and all but crawl our way up.

Finally Saint Jean Pied de Port. It was a beautiful day and we decided on two nights at a good hotel and a night at Chez Arrambide to celebrate. We felt great but what to do? We wanted to continue but didn’t want to be with hoards of pilgrims. So it was simple. Take the GR 10 through the Pyrenees (mountains? Huh, we’d done a ton!) to Hendaye, pick up the Camino del Norte and get to Santiago that way. Easy…..

This is the second of four posts by Simone Sinna, the first was Cluny to Le Puy, the third is on the Camino Norte but starting at St Jean and walking to Hendaye, and the final post is along the Camino Primitivo into Santiago.

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  1. Eric BROUSSINE on November 15, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for the memories. My wife and I walked the Camino Frances this time last year (47 days) and the experience is still very much alive in us. There is hardly a day goes by when we don’t think about our walk – the scenery, the architecture and especially the people we met. There is something ethereal and mystical about the Camino, something Paulo Cuelho writes about in his book, The Pilgrimage. There are moments in my life even now which rekindle very vivid memories. I could be walking down the street, driving along or even shopping and pop(!) a memory of the walk will come into my head. It is as if the soul of the Camino is alive and well inside me; a technicolor déjà Vu experience – strange and mystifying yet beautiful and profound. The Camino has me in its grasp, cradling and protecting my psyche, my essence, my memories, my very being. I could be so bold as to say that I am a minute personification of the Camino.
    With such powerful reminisces, my wife and I are thinking of completing the Camino by walking from Santiago to Finisterre, a sense of closure if you will. Although we believe that this will only rekindle our need to walk more, perhaps from Puy to St. Jean. The mystical, spiritual and ethereal dimensions of the Camino live on in us, the pilgrims. Is this a closeness to what some may call God? Are these epiphanies or are they the ramblings of someone who just had a fabulous time?

    • Jen on November 17, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      What a beautiful description! I can only hope that I will be able to go someday. ..

    • Julianna on November 18, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Thank you for posting. My guy and I are leaving May 23rd through July 1st and we are very, very excited. We walked Iglesia, Spain Camino last year and it changed our lives.

  2. Rob Hay on November 15, 2015 at 11:49 am

    I wonder also you might consider the Camino Portuguese..This year I walked the 240km Porto to Santiago in 11days.Such a different “feel” to the French Way I did back in 2012. Buen Camino!

    • gwen07 on November 15, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Rob, I am planning a Porto – Santiago walk for Sept./Oct. of 2015. I am reading a lot re: experiences others have had along the French way – among others – but little (I’m still searching) about the Porto to Santiago. One negative – is that some/most of this route would put me on paved roads(?) Also, I’ve heard this is about the easiest walk (maybe because of the paved roads?) and being a first timer I want to ease into My Way 🙂 Any answers, suggestions, commiserations would be most appreciated. Thanks, gwen

    • Eric BROUSSINE on November 18, 2015 at 6:41 pm

      Hi Rob,
      My wife and I are planning our next pilgrimage on the Camino Portuguese. However, I understand that if we were to start from Lisbon, there are hardly any Albergues or hostels until we arrive in Porto. Is this true or are there some that are opening soon? Would you recommend that www started from Porto instead. Time isn’t an issue for us and we want to be visit Lisbon anyway. Any advice gratefully accepted.

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