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Le Puy to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port is in France while Camino Frances is in Spain all but one day which is the main differentiator. Here are 10 more differences from one pilgrim’s admittedly biased perspective:

1. Quieter: There are significantly less walkers. I did the walk in 28 days in late July and August and some days only saw 2 or 3 others on trail. Rarely more than 10 or 15.

2. Mostly French Walkers: I would say that at least 80% of walkers you meet are French and perhaps 10% German. The rest are a mix of mostly Europeans. I met only 2 other Americans and 1 Canadian until the last 2 days when I crossed paths with a tour group of 9 Americans and Canadians. Below pictured is a family of 7 ( including two infants on their parents’s backs) that plans to walk stages of the Camino from Le Puy to Santiago over the next 15 years together:

3. More Mountains and Nature: Less road walking and hillier especially in the Le Puy to Conques stage making it a bit tougher than Frances. The mountains gave way to rolling hills filled with brilliantly blooming sunflower fields. Then a shorter stretch through a relatively flat region with corn fields reminiscent of Iowa and last the rolling green foothills of the Pyrenees with the mountains in the background. The Chemin follows the GR65 route and for mountain lovers you can take longer more rugged but more beautiful alternate trails if you prefer. Or take the easier route.

4. French Language: As most of the walkers are French and you are staying in French Gites and homes it is good to know a little French. However it is the Camino and people could not be friendlier. I had many French ( especially Adeline and Charles and Louise from Paris, Michael from Lauzerte ) a Romanian ( Raluca ) and German couple (Andrea and Sven) that were compassionate and kind patiently translating for me and helping with reservations. In fact while I have spent several months in France and love the culture, people, and food. I have found walking through the rural parts of the Camino Le Puy have been perhaps the best way to experience France.

5. French Food vs Spanish: The food is so so to good on Frances but it is a highlight of the Chemin Le Puy. Many of the Gites include 3, 4, or 5 course meals. The food is almost always fresh and local with regional specialties. Lentil salads were popular at the beginning, then cantaloupe melons with ham. Getting closer to SJPP duck was often served. Grew accustomed to the delicious local cheeses served before dessert. Of course almost always there would be carafes of local red wine but only with the food. Before the meal an Apertiv of usually white wine would be served. The desserts ranged from flavored yogurt to ice cream sundaes to this mound of meringue with ice cream and cake in some kind of alcohol based sauce.

6. French Culture: A history rich with Catholic churches and saints is prevalent on the walk. Plus in France the churches are typically open whereas they are usually closed in Spain.

The French have style like no other culture. With clothing, food, and even in the language. Looking good and eating well is an art form in France. They make statements that have style. “As you wish” is one of my favorites and I never get tired of hearing “Voila” and “ooh-la-la”. I have also found them to be a balanced people. They seem adverse to extremes and value freedoms in every way. Below is the communal dining room at the Gite Chapelle des Ursulines in Zaire-sur-l’Adour:

7. Less Infrastructure:
This walk is more challenging from an infrastructure perspective as you are more likely to be forced to walk a bit longer than you like. Carrying a picnic lunch sometimes is a good idea. You may have to walk a little further for a cafe or tea. Less of an issue if you can do 30k a day occasionally. That said the infrastructure on Frances is great and Chemin de Le Puy is good and easily managed with a bit of planning.

8. More Intimate: While I loved Frances there are many people walking. The Le Puy Camino was more intimate because of the significantly reduced numbers making it easier to get to know just about everybody walking in a similar time frame. As we got closer to SJPP it was typical to be on a first name basis with most of the people in your Gite. Below is a dinner at Pauline (on the right in Black dress) and Marcela’s (not pictured)home in Eauze. Raluca in the pink was one of those kind people that would patiently translate and make reservations for me over a few day period where are paths crossed:

9. Family Stays: This is the most popular of the 4 major Camino routes in France so family stays are not as common as other routes I have walked such as the Camino Tours from Paris or Via Francigena or Cherbourg to Mt. St. Michel to St. Jean de Angely routes. But they are a truly wonderful part of any Camino through France. You get the chance to converse and spend time with kind generous hosts usually on a donativatio basis providing great conversation, incredible dinners and breakfasts along with a private room. If they do charge it is usually a very reasonable €30.

10. Cost: DuPuy is definitely more expensive but not unreasonably so. On the Frances I spent €25-30 per day. On Via Podiensis €35-40.

The best thing about starting in Le Puy though is it extends your Camino by 90% or more. Perfect for Camino junkies. And it provides a perfect complement to the Frances. The main complaint you hear of Frances is the number of peregrinos and amount of road walking. Camino Le Puy has probably 10% or less walkers and more nature especially in the beginning. All I can say is I love them both.

Bon Chemin and Buen Camino!
Kevin Considine
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Kevin, I agree with everything you have written. Nice pics too btw!
Perhaps another couple of differences with the Frances:
1 Booking ahead. It's a good idea on the Voie du Puy to know where you are going to stay each night, and to warn the host at least a few hours before. Or you might not get any lovely dinner!
2 Busy times of year. The French tend to walk in late April and all May because they can bridge between public holidays. July/August are less popular, because the French head for the beach then! (Massive generalisation but roughly true.)
Nice overview

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