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La Voie d'Arles October - November

Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#1
After all the useful advice I got on this forum I decided to learn some French and undertook an eight week course at Alliance Francaise de Sydney before beginning my Camino. So now I'm confident to walk the walk and even attempt the talk.

The canal alternative route out of Arles was an enjoyable way to start the Camino and there were not many of the mosquitos I had heard so much about.

There has been a lot of rain and some tracks are more like streams than paths but this does not detract from the beauty even when pelted by rain.
The mud is the usual soft gooey stuff that sticks to your shoes adding a kilo to each foot it's been quite deep too not that this has dampened my enthusiasm, I'm loving every bit of this walk.

Following the entire GR with it's delightful off-road challenges from Arles to Montpellier would have been very difficult without GPS. The GR653 is clearly marked on the Garmin France Topo Pro V4 map (expensive but can be downloaded if you know where to look). I met two fellow Pellegrino's at lodgings who had walked mostly on roads because they had lost the way.

I'm now at Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert staying at the clean and comfortable Carmel St Joseph. Wow this is a stunningly beautiful village.

The walk had been highlighted by the friendly and helpful nature of the people I've come across so far they have made everything relatively easy.

Two things that have made walking in the rain enjoyable are my OR waterproof broad brimmed hat and Dexshell waterproof socks. With the hat on you don't have to have the annoying raincoat hood over your head all day unless its driving rain in which case the hat hood combo works well. The socks keep feet warm and dry so light weight trail runners mean no need for boots although time will tell if there's snow later on route.
 
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MCFearnley

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Ponferrada to Santiago (September 2016)
#3
Two things that have made walking in the rain enjoyable are my OR waterproof broad brimmed hat and Dexshell waterproof socks
I too have an OR hat that served me very well on both the rainy days and sunny days of my Camino. Love the hat. It was on my head every single day and it has become my signature piece. A couple of times I heard my name shouted out from behind as pilgrims I met previously recognized me by my hat. It's purple with a black brim.
 
#4
Thanks for the lucid, interesting report.
A pleasure to read. Keep it up mate.
And good idea about the hat.
I've got a favourite but it's not waterproof. I'll have to get a can of that spray on waterproofing.
Regards
Gerard
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#5
Saint Guilhem Le Désert to Joncels.
The mountains have been delightful although a real test for my fitness. I was lucky to escape forecasted rain as there has been only fog and light drizzle.

The path out of St Guilhem is well waymarked but it's steep and rocky zigzaging and climbing up the mountain finally reaching a plateau with stunning views even though the mountains were shrouded in a thick foggy mist.

The way continues through open windswept scrub and eventually descends to a medieval fortress.

It took me most of the day to reach Saint-Jean-de-la-Blaquière where I stayed at the comfortable Gîte Le Saint Jacques.
Interesting and beautiful countryside continued until reaching Lodève.

In Lodève I stayed at Chez Nina which was a great place to stay, Nina told me of those who trek through from St Guilhem Le Désert to Lodève in one mammoth mountainous 40km day, they must be very fit and or crazy.

From there it's very tough going with many steep climbs but also many beautiful trails where you're isolated and surrounded in tunnel like vegetation the loudest sound being my feet breath and staff except of course for the too close for comfort sound of hunters in there hides emptying gun barrels on pigs or birds.

If the sound of the shotgun was too close I'd bang the metal tip of my staff on a rock so hopefully they wouldn't aim my way.
A highlight was the small medieval 12 century village of Joncels 5km before Lunas with its narrow streets of ancient stone buildings. The village had no shop no bar and no restaurant but fortunately it did have the brilliant Gîte de la Forge.

The friendly hosts cooked food that was to die for and the selection of homemade jams presented at breakfast was a treat to behold.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Many more in the future (hopefully)
#6
Great pictures and great update. I am so envious. I am not sure why, but I have recently become a bit obsessed by the Arles route, even though I will not get a chance to do it for another 2-3 years. Glad you are enjoying it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#8
Phone to have or not to have.
It's 5km to Lunas from Joncels and I'd heard they had a Tabac shop there where I could buy Orange phone credit for the mobile I definitely was not going to bring on the Camino.

I found the shop/bar slightly off route and bought a 10€ credit receipt but could not figure out how to get it to appear on the phone. The barman was not very forthcoming and shrugged indifferently. His customers obligingly tried to help, 10am and they are blind drunk they borrowed my glasses and started pressing wildly determined to solve this puzzle.

I managed to get my glasses and phone back and tried the not so drunk folks outside. Lots of head scratching and button pushing but to no avail until finally the barman decided he'd better take control and sorted it out in no time.
Smiles all round and the pilgrim with his walking stick goes on his way to his next adventure.



Got to say the phone is brilliant it's a camera a talking back home device and I'm even writing this post on it in a hotel room in Saint-Félix-Lauragais.

Lucky I bought the tent too because there's no accomodation in range from here so I bought some salami bread cheese and fruit and will find a spot to camp on the Canal du Midi tomorrow night.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona to Santiago (2013)
Le Puy to Pamplona in segments (2013 - 2016)
Pamplona to León
#11
Good work on your French study before departing. I hope it has paid dividends.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#12
Good work on your French study before departing. I hope it has paid dividends.
Interesting yes the eight week course in French made some difference and I'm glad I did it but honestly I would have been fine with zero French.
So long as one is ok with aloneness it's a brilliant walk and when you do come in contact with humans remember to smile and be pleasant which is not hard after being surrounded by all that beautiful nature.
To not go anywhere because of language or fear is a mistake.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#15
Hard choice Laurie. I've done some of the Arles and all the Norte. Really, whichever way you choose you can't lose. Pray that life will be long and you can do both.

If you want company and perhaps a camino family ("through walkers" - help me, I'm using that phrase!), go the Norte.

Food is fabulous on both - French county cooking or seafood? More planning required on the Arles - small villages tend not to have shops these days, and accommodation needs determine where you stop. On the Norte accommodation is plentiful and we never had to think about where the next meal was coming from.

Landscape? I could not choose.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#16
From Lunas the going gets really tough so I was glad to have gained some fitness along the way walking from Arles.

The trail goes through beautiful forest which is silent other than a few bird tweets and the sound of my own feet, lots of twisting and winding up steep rocky slopes. One section from Castanet-le-Haut to Ginestet is uphill all the way for 7km some of it seriously steep.

The nightly stay in Gîtes offer clean comfortable safe and cheap accomodation they are mostly well maintained by the nicest people and there's hot radiators so drying walking clothes for the next day is no problem. Because I'm traveling out of season I've usually got the Gîte to myself otherwise I'm sure there would be competition for radiator space.

The problem I have with steep down hill slopes is there is inevitably an uphill following but at least I'm now fit enough to keep on going without stopping to rest until over the crest. There have been some flat ridge hugging trails deep in the forest that could go forever.

The stone work in village walls and along the lanes of the trail look like they've stood the test of time. I often find myself wondering who laid these stones, such artwork.



The lake near Lac de Lauzas is an interesting change in scenery.

After La Salvetat-sur-Agout the country opens up and the walk heads into farmland and forestry tracks with gravel roads and gradually more and more tarmac roads by Castres.



 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#17
Did you too stay at CH Mde. Angelani very close to that bench
Don't think so -- the bench was the location of a nice rest, possibly with beers.

From Lunas the going gets really tough
errrrrmmmm, yeah, it's actually somewhat advisable over that particular patch to avoid the GR / "official" Camino where appropriate. TheFrench Association of Hikers leads you through avoidable mountains, avoidable wilderness, avoidable hardships that are hard on both body and spirit ; and away from the traditional path, away from the villages and Parishes, away from the people that make a Pilgrimage (rather than a hiking trip) worthwhile (though the inevitable solitudes are essential too).









---

We've seen things the same way ... :) (photos from 2005)
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#18
From Castres to Toulouse the hills are not as taxing and the going gets easier.

The landscape is more agricultural and opens up to vast fields of crops and pasture.

Fortunately there is not massive clearing and belts of trees protect fields from wind and leave space for wildlife to exist.


More and more towns and roads and then the the bank of La Rigole that feeds into the amazing Canal du Midi



 
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Camino(s) past & future
VDLP to Finisterre 2009
Le Puy to SJPDP 2013
Frances 2014
#19
Thanks for your great Blog Michael, did you go further than Canal du Midi? If so I'd love to see more of your fabulous photos and read more as I'm off to walk the Arles route mid May and its hard to get much info about it. Looks beautiful and sounds challenging.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#20
Lovely photos Michael. We walked from Sête to Oloron-Sainte-Marie via Toulouse and the Canal du Midi. I'd like to go back and walk the standard Arles route from Arles to Toulouse, and then from Oloron-Sainte-Marie to Punta la Reina.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#21
Thanks for your great Blog Michael, did you go further than Canal du Midi? If so I'd love to see more of your fabulous photos and read more as I'm off to walk the Arles route mid May and its hard to get much info about it. Looks beautiful and sounds challenging.
Hi Cherie, thank you and yes I did walk further than the Canal du Midi. After two years of procrastination I’m finally ready to complete my post on the wonderful Arles Camino I undertook in October 2016.
My earlier posts got me as far as the Canal so I’ll continue from there with photographs and the odd comment.
The reason I am now inspired to complete my report is because I have begun planning a new Camino adventure and sharing the delights of this beautiful path is an important part of the journey.

The canal leads right into the city of Toulouse.
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Camino(s) past & future
CF 13
VdlP 14
LePuy 15
Invierno DosFaros CP 16
The 88, Japan 17
Sicily. Arles-Santiago Fall 18
#22
errrrrmmmm, yeah, it's actually somewhat advisable over that particular patch to avoid the GR / "official" Camino where appropriate. TheFrench Association of Hikers leads you through avoidable mountains, avoidable wilderness, avoidable hardships that are hard on both body and spirit ; and away from the traditional path, away from the villages and Parishes, away from the people that make a Pilgrimage (rather than a hiking trip) worthwhile (though the inevitable solitudes are essential too).
I recently found your post from a couple of years ago, referring to the section between Castanet-le-Haut to Ginestet. Were you suggesting that this section should be missed? If so, would you suggest walking the road and then rejoining the GR further onwards? Thanks. Geoff
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#23
I recently found your post from a couple of years ago, referring to the section between Castanet-le-Haut to Ginestet. Were you suggesting that this section should be missed? If so, would you suggest walking the road and then rejoining the GR further onwards? Thanks. Geoff
Hi Geoff I would stay on the path it's hard going but if you started in Arles you'll be fit enough to take it on and you will be rewarded by the absolute beauty !!!
IMG_0563.jpg
 
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JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#24
I recently found your post from a couple of years ago, referring to the section between Castanet-le-Haut to Ginestet. Were you suggesting that this section should be missed? If so, would you suggest walking the road and then rejoining the GR further onwards? Thanks. Geoff
It's really a general observation about the GR hiking trail versions in France as opposed to the traditional routes -- OK if your plan is to approach your pilgrimage as much as a hike as the Way, then sure following the GR routes can be the better choice.

And I'm not saying "skip" any sections ; as a matter of fact, some of the harder sections are identical to the traditional route, whereas some physically easier tarmac sections might be of modern origin. But also vice-versa.

My suggestion is really to try and be wise, or intuitive, or circumspect, or etc., from one day to the next concerning one's daily route, rather than following the GR waymarking as simply as one follows the yellow arrows in Spain.

My comment was not about the Castanet-le-Haut to Ginestet section in particular.

But rather that some tiny local tarmac roads in France can often be a better solution to those seeking an experience of the Way rather than the hiking trails that the GRs define. It is rare that making such a choice would require walking beside traffic -- most of those little roads, including down here on the historic tarmac'd Camino here, generally have maybe one motor vehicle every 5 minutes or so during rush hour, otherwise maybe one every half hour, and sometimes even fewer.
 
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JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#25
Hi Geoff I would stay on the path it's hard going but if you started in Arles you'll be fit enough to take it on and you will be rewarded by the absolute beauty !!!
View attachment 43033
That particular part of the Arles Way is OK in dry conditions, and it would seem that you and I were both fortunate in that regard, but I would NOT suggest that anybody should attempt it on wet ground (AKA horrid mud).

There's an even worse section on the Somport GR route after Oloron, which is horrid for the same reasons in even bone dry weather.

That is also a quite nice photo you took -- but this particular sort of footpath is pretty common throughout France. There are a few like this even 'round here on the French Riviera, and the local GR version of the Camino would appear quite similar to this.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 13
VdlP 14
LePuy 15
Invierno DosFaros CP 16
The 88, Japan 17
Sicily. Arles-Santiago Fall 18
#26
Thanks for your replies and clarifications. My wife will be with me so I was curious about some of your earlier comments, and for her experience I need to be a bit more aware than when I walk solo. I've walked distance in the south of France a couple of times, and generally have a good idea of what to expect. However, each route has it's own unique features and challenges.

JabbaPapa, I believe I understand your point. I've also walked routes where one is directed over unnecessary terrain or through areas which aren't relevant to the intended journey (meeting people in their communities, etc) and I've learned to adjust my route. The weather too is always in the back of my mind vs route conditions. Thanks for the heads-up should it be raining. Mud isn't your friend! In that case we will find the quieter roads which are often quite beautiful to wander along. Generally I think we will mostly follow the GR route for the beauty and the experience. Our French is a bit limited and having some route markers is often helpful.

We will begin walking from Lodève Sept 21, but will be walking fit before we leave home as has been our past practice. I suspect that it will still be warm and dry, but of course this isn't always guaranteed.

Our primary guide resource will be Miam Miam Dodo. I'm not in the habit of using GPS, but we will carry an Iphone with us (will need a SIM card and a data plan when we arrive). Is there something else (an app or GPS) that we should be considering? I know this route is not well travelled which is part of the appeal, but also part of the challenge.

Thanks again.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#27
If you do want to use a GPS app Maps.me works well on the iPhone. It uses OSM maps that can be downloaded free and used offline. You can download the necessary files here. https://www.santiago.nl/downloads and info here https://www.santiago.nl/smartphone-on-the-camino
I learned earlier on to always follow a marker over the GPS but it's really useful when there is no marker or you can't find one and you just want to check......In the early stages I met other walkers who had spent the whole day on roads because they missed the markers.
 
Camino(s) past & future
'Portuguese,Frances,Norte,Salvador/primitivo,Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, VDLP spring19
#28
If you do want to use a GPS app Maps.me works well on the iPhone. It uses OSM maps that can be downloaded free and used offline. You can download the necessary files here. https://www.santiago.nl/downloads and info here https://www.santiago.nl/smartphone-on-the-camino
I learned earlier on to always follow a marker over the GPS but it's really useful when there is no marker or you can't find one and you just want to check......In the early stages I met other walkers who had spent the whole day on roads because they missed the markers.
Michael
This thread is fantastic. Hopefully one day I can really make use of it.
You’ve given some great info and beautiful photos.
Thanks for spending the time to post and share it.
Annie
 

lunna

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances; portugues, lisboa-muxia; norte + to bayonne; vdlp; chemin du puy; voie d'arles/ aragones
#29
Hi Michael - this really is a fantastic thread, thank you! Can you recommend 'must stay' gites along the way? Also, it seems that there are five days of really steep, difficult walking but the rest is a bit easier, no? I walked from Oloron over to Jaca last year, so I'm familiar with that stretch of the Arles. I'll be starting the Voie d'Arles next week, and will (for once) play it by ear, and, if need be, will avoid the most difficult parts. I have the Miam-Miam, as well as a German Rother guidebook. Never used GPS before, but there's always a first time ...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#30
Hi Lunna, thanks so much for your kind feedback. I can only think of one or two gîtes that I did not like all the rest were great !!! After Montpellier and Grabels the accent begins to the beautiful town of St Guilhem le Désert, from there It took me 9 days to reach Castres where it's more rolling hills rather than mountains to Toulouse, you may walk faster than me ?
I'm sure you will love the journey.
 

lunna

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances; portugues, lisboa-muxia; norte + to bayonne; vdlp; chemin du puy; voie d'arles/ aragones
#31
I don’t think I’ll be walking faster than you Michael :). I will try to do bite-sized stages during the steeper parts, of at all possible. Do you recall how far, in a pinch, are bail out points to roads along the way? Thank you again!

Alex
 
Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#32
Sorry not sure about bail out points but looking on the map you could avoid some trails in favour of roads.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#33
Do you recall how far, in a pinch, are bail out points to roads along the way?
In some places, they're far apart indeed -- the GR sometimes follows the crests, and the road will be far below that in the valley.
 

lunna

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances; portugues, lisboa-muxia; norte + to bayonne; vdlp; chemin du puy; voie d'arles/ aragones
#34
In some places, they're far apart indeed -- the GR sometimes follows the crests, and the road will be far below that in the valley.
Thanks!
 

lunna

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances; portugues, lisboa-muxia; norte + to bayonne; vdlp; chemin du puy; voie d'arles/ aragones
#36
Hi Michael from Castres! Sadly, the mountains have ended :(. Turns out the walk (other than the hot first days in the Camargue) has been a piece of cake - once again illustrating the problem with overthinking about these walks (and reading too many posts online) while still at home. As a result, I almost made the unforgiveable mistake of skipping this part of the trail! The mountain walk was absolutely beautiful and the weather was ideal! Onward into the lowlands now (sad but sure I'll have other great, albeit very different, experiences along the way) - this is my sixth walk after all :)

If anyone in reasonable health has any qualms about this stroll, do not hesitate, as you will miss an absolutely fantastic experience.

PS - I have only one regret, and that is there has been a lack of blackberries this year due to the heat :)
 
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lunna

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances; portugues, lisboa-muxia; norte + to bayonne; vdlp; chemin du puy; voie d'arles/ aragones
#37
And fin
Hi Michael from Castres! Sadly, the mountains have ended :(. Turns out the walk (other than the hot first days in the Camargue) has been a piece of cake - once again illustrating the problem with overthinking about these walks (and reading too many posts online) while still at home. As a result, I almost made the unforgiveable mistake of skipping this part of the trail! The mountain walk was absolutely beautiful and the weather was ideal! Onward into the lowlands now (sad but sure I'll have other great, albeit very different, experiences along the way) - this is my sixth walk after all :)

If anyone in reasonable health has any qualms about this stroll, do not hesitate, as you will miss an absolutely fantastic experience.

PS - I have only one regret, and that is there has been a lack of blackberries this year due to the heat :)
 

lunna

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances; portugues, lisboa-muxia; norte + to bayonne; vdlp; chemin du puy; voie d'arles/ aragones
#38
Just finished the Arles-Aragones (to Punta La Reina (Gares) stroll and feeling great. At times hard but one of my most satisfying strolls yet!
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Mozárabe 2009
Vía de la Plata 2009
Arles-Puente la Reina 2016
Via Campaniensis (Reims-Vézelay) 2018
#39
Just finished the Arles-Aragones (to Punta La Reina (Gares) stroll and feeling great. At times hard but one of my most satisfying strolls yet!
Good on you Lunna so great to hear you had a wonderful experience. I’m on a cycling Camino now, I left Paris October 9 and I’m in Châteauroux tonight (Vézelay route). Not sure of which Camino I’ll follow once in Spain either Ignaciano to Barcelona or Del Cid to Valencia.
Best wishes to Michael
 

lunna

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances; portugues, lisboa-muxia; norte + to bayonne; vdlp; chemin du puy; voie d'arles/ aragones
#40
So cool Mike! Have a great ride!
 
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cdnwine The Arles route 24
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