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Beginner's questions about the route

Hi everyone,

So after walking from Roncesvalles to Santiago from November 26 to December 30 last year (still less than a month ago!) I am already planning my next pilgrimage, this time from Le Puy to Santiago. I've got a free year in Europe, though hoping to find some work in Germany for a while, so I thought come September, I'll walk for two or two and a half months before having to go back to Australia in late November. I decided this while walking across the mountain ridges after Villafranca del Bierzo in snow and sunshine shortly before Christmas. I was tossing up the Via Francigena from France somewhere down to Rome, but I think I'll wait a few years for that, otherwise my stepdad will probably have a heart attack. (Thanks for that idea, by the way, Sil!)

So anyway, I'm wondering about a couple of things and hoping you all wouldn't mind giving me some tips. What's different about the Le Puy route (in comparison to the Camino Frances) other than the obvious things like language and it being a bit more expensive? At this time of year, how many people can I expect and what sort of temperatures? Not that it matters, I'm pretty tough. Slept in some freezing cold places on the Frances in winter!! I like being able to cook something for myself at night, will I be able to do this? I'm a vegetarian, so I find it easier to do so. Is it really necessary to book ahead? I don't really want to carry a mobile phone with me. And the route itself: how long are the breaks between albergues or gites and does anyone have a map showing the mountains and that sort of thing?

That's all I can think of at the moment.
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
Hi Jo,
I guess 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder', but I found the Le Puy route quite beautiful, especially from Le Puy to Conques. There are far fewer people walking than on the CF, and the gites are smaller, but I found there was a real community feeling amongst the walkers.There are also quite a lot of rather beautiful historic towns and villages that you pass through in places.

Your best bet for knowing about accommodation is getting hold of a Miam Miam Dodo guide (which you can get by mail from CSJ), but I wouldn't get it yet, as there might be an updated version available next year. There aren't as many choices as in Spain, and in places you have to make a call like, do I walk 17km or 32km? The Miam Miam Dodo guide usually lists which months a gite is open, and many are open from about 'Easter to All Saints' though some are open year round. It might not be quite so necessary to book in September: I walked in May which is full of public holidays and a very popular month for walking. However, there isn't the same choice of accommodation as on the CF, and if you don't book, you might end up having to pay for a more expensive chambre d'hote. Here is a list of gites- though without a map it doesn't give you any idea of distances: http://www.xacobeo.fr/ZE1.03.Puy_gites.htm

The MMD does have maps but doesn't show much about altitudes. There are altitude stage maps in some tourist offices. You can also go to the godesalco site http://www.godesalco.com/plan/podense, plug in a start and finish place, and print off your own altitude charts. There are some rather big 'ups and downs' in the first few days from Le Puy, but once you have left Conques behind, they become more 'rolling' and you even get places where it is 'flat' for a few days. The Aubrac Plateau is a 'high' point and you could get bad weather there anytime. Quite a lot of the medieval towns/villages are on top of hills so you climb up to them, then down again!!

I never took a mobile phone but I had a phone card I could use in phone boxes. You can also ask many of the tourist offices to book ahead for you and most do that willingly. I probably will take a mobile phone with a French SIM card next time though, as the card didn't work in all villages, and not all villages had phone boxes, and often I got answerphones but couldn't give a number to ring back...

You don't need to worry about the cold as the gites are heated in France, and pretty much always have blankets available. There are good kitchens in most of the municipal gites, but in more rural areas, the private gites tend to offer "demi pension" which includes your evening meal and breakfast, and they don't necessarily have a kitchen you can cook in.

Well, that's a start. Have fun!
Margaret
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
My synopsis: The Spanish Camino de Santiago is with the pilgrims. The French Chemin de St. Jacques is with the French. I won't be surprised if others disagree!
 

gittiharre

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Austria Czech Le Puy Geneva RLS V. Jacobi V. Regia V. Baltica/Scandinavica Porto Muxia
Hi, Margaret gave your great info and Falcon's synopsis is spot on. I walked last year from Le Puy to St Jean in September. Like with you, my first walk was the Camino Frances in 2006. When I set off from Le Puy it was still very hot, by the end it was warm and mellow. I just needed a light fleece in the evening. I had one day of torrential rain and a couple of showery days.There were quite a few people around and one did have to prebook a few days in advance. Occasionally I was the only person staying in a place. Have a look at some of my blogs listing my favourite places to stay. A couple of must stays if you self cater is the Gite Communal at Auvillar, it is beautiful with a wonderful kitchen and La Gloriette in Limogne en Quercy, characterful, great kitchen beautiful parklike garden. I loved the route, but most walkers were french speakers and quite a few people seemed to do segments rather than the full distance. People were really firendly, but there is not that same sense of being carried by a wave of pilgrims, like on the Camino Frances. Next year I plan to walk from Strasbourg to St Jean Pied de Port with my husband. Regards, Gitti
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
falcon269 said:
My synopsis: The Spanish Camino de Santiago is with the pilgrims. The French Chemin de St. Jacques is with the French. I won't be surprised if others disagree!
You might be surprised to hear that I agree Falcon :lol: ...... though I am aware that my perceptions are coloured since I can speak a reasonable amount of French but hardly any Spanish, so could communicate quite easily with the locals in France but not in Spain.

In France there was "Radio Camino" that I am sure you will discover as a single woman walker from Australia Jo..... people will have heard of you before you arrive or meet them...... You will ring up to book accommodation and they will have heard about you already..... or you will go to visit a church and they will already know you are from Australia...

And it is all very 'personal': the French use 'tu' and first names with fellow walkers, whereas more normally they would be more formal and use 'vous' with Mme Surname. I was sitting in a cafe in St Chely d'Aubrac one day when we were asked about someone the police were concerned about as it seemed they had become 'lost' after crossing the Aubrac Plateau in bad weather. But the police were using the surname: we had to say, we didn't know anyone by surnames, as we always used first names.
Margaret
 
Thank you for the replies so far! I feel obliged to add that even on the camino Frances the Radio Camino operated quite nicely for me. For about two weeks I was walking with Ariel from home and Rachel who I had met on the third day's walk - three Australian girls all under 19! We were walking through this forest somewhere in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden another woman is walking towards us, and with a completely obvious Australian accent, she calls out to us: 'Hey! You must be the three Australian girls!' Another instance: We arrived in Burgos, and the hospitalero greets us with 'Ah, you are the Australian girls? Your friends were here last night and left messages for you in the guestbook!' (In spanisch. It was something along those lines.)

It sounds like a lovely route to walk. I think I might brush up on the French I know though, I studied it for three years at school (that's only a year ago for me) so I can probably get by with some practise and revision. Margaret, Falcon and Gitti, did you ring ahead and book accommodation every night?
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
Artemisofephesus said:
Margaret, Falcon and Gitti, did you ring ahead and book accommodation every night?
Yes, I think I booked every night on the Le Puy route except my first one walking, and that night I rang and booked from a phone-box at lunchtime en route. (And was glad I did, as I think I got the last bed, and the gite I stayed in was so welcoming and a great intro to being 'on the road'.)

Near the end, from Aire-sur-l'Adour on, I found it harder to stay where I wanted as there was a big group of 17 from Dijon with two vans who had pre-booked months ahead. And although 17 hardly makes an impact in Spain, it can fill gites in France. I could have 'solved the problem' by staying put for a day or two and getting out of sync with them, but by then I was keen to get to Spain before it got too hot, and I was walking quite a bit with a couple from Quebec I didn't want to lose touch with... By then I also had a fairly good idea of how far I could walk in a day, and I booked right through to Orisson, about ten days worth of bookings, in one afternoon at the phone-box! (Actually, I think I booked Orisson and l'Esprit du Chemin first and worked backwards up my route...)

This is quite a contrast to Spain where I never booked a single night anywhere. But in Spain the albergues were more regularly spaced, and you could judge often during the day whether you just wanted to walk another 5, 8, 10kms....
Margaret
PS Sorry if I am too verbose, but in genealogical terms I just discovered I am related to a very famous Irish orator (as well as being distantly related to Peter Lalor of Eureka Stockade fame), so am feeling distinctly 'wordy' this morning!!!
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
Book about three days in advance. If you will not be using the reservation, call as soon as you know. They know pilgrims may not be able to keep to a schedule, so they do not mind cancellations. However, they are extremely irritated by "no shows." They expect the same degree of courtesy from the customer as you expect from them in taking your reservation. I am certain that many of the candles in French churches were from concierges seeking forgiveness for the evil thoughts they had about "no shows." Put a smiley face here if you believe in emoticons...
 

nellpilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SDC-Fisterra 08/Camino Frances SJPP to SDC 09/Nuremburg-SDC 11- ongoing
Margaret
PS Sorry if I am too verbose, but in genealogical terms I just discovered I am related to a very famous Irish orator (as well as being distantly related to Peter Lalor of Eureka Stockade fame), so am feeling distinctly 'wordy' this morning!!![/quote]

Hi Margaret,
Which Irish orator Daniel O'Connell?
Nell
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
nellpilgrim said:
Hi Margaret,
Which Irish orator Daniel O'Connell?
Nell
No. Richard Lalor Sheil, who gave some famous speeches in the House of Commons it seems, and was associated with Daniel O'Connell....
Margaret
 

gittiharre

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Austria Czech Le Puy Geneva RLS V. Jacobi V. Regia V. Baltica/Scandinavica Porto Muxia
Yes I booked 3 days ahead. The most amazing "radio" thing was near the end when I had booked into a place and another woman who had sat 2 chairs away from me over dinner one or two nights earlier had got there before me, found bedbugs and walked on into another place, then walked 1 km back, when she heard I was planning on staying in the place she checked out of, to pick me up and " save" me from the beasties.
I had already spotted the infestation myself and was en route out of the place when she came towards me.SHe had no pack on and I wondered what she was doing walking in the wrong direction, then I realised she had come for me! It was fantastic. How kind and thoughtful. Love, Gitti
 

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