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Le Puy to Conques in October - Trip Report

longwei

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy - Conques (Aug/Sep 2018)
#1
Hi everyone, I posted a thread a couple months ago about having cancelled my walk in August and rescheduling it to October due to a chest infection. I’ve just gotten back home last week, so I wanted to share some observations, tips and experiences from my trip with this forum in case anyone will find them useful :)

This was my itinerary:

11th to 22nd October
Day 0 - Travel to Le Puy from Lyon
Day 1 - Le Puy to Saint-Privat-d’Allier
Day 2 - Saint-Privat-d’Allier to Saugues
Day 3 - Saugues to Le Sauvage
Day 4 - Le Sauvage to Aumont-Aubrac (Skipped)
Day 5 - Aumont-Aubrac to Nasbinals (Skipped)
Day 6 - Nasbinals to Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac
Day 7 - Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac to Saint-Come-d’Olt
Day 8 - Saint-Come-d’Olt to Estaing
Day 9 - Estaing to Le Soulié
Day 10 - Le Soulié to Conques
Day 11 - Return to Lyon from Conques

Overall I had a great time on the walk and not too much difficulty.

I had two points of some stress:

1. I started getting a mild cough a few days into the walk. I planned to walk from Le Puy to Conques in ten days, however I ended up skipping two days of walking as I came down with a mild cough and did not want to risk exacerbating it given my previous illness. I skipped a 29km day of walking from Le Sauvage to Aumont-Aubrac, on a cold (12C), windy and drizzly day, luckily managing to get a ride with the Malle Postale baggage service as it arrived in the morning, despite not having booked. I spent the rest of the morning waiting to see a doctor in Aumont-Aubrac, who recommended that I take a couple days of rest. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe the cost for a consultation was not more than 30 euros. I was able to book a private room at La Ferme du Barry for two nights, and booked a spot on the Malle Postale bus from Aumont-Aubrac to Nasbinals the morning after, from where I resumed walking.

2. Getting back to Lyon from Conques. I had left the bulk of my luggage for my holiday in France with a service in Lyon (Nannybag) and had planned to return there for a week of sightseeing and gastronomic delights. My thought was I could take the Malle Postale bus from Conques back to Le Puy and then a train back to Lyon. However I did not book this in advance, and was unaware that the Malle Postale office was closed on weekends as it was past the peak season! So they were unable to organise this shuttle for me. Luckily another pilgrim had pre-booked a fare with the same company the other way, from Conques to Figeac, and I was able to travel with her to Figeac, where I could catch a train, a bus, and another train back to Lyon. This was a long day of transit after over a week of walking, but bearable. All up the journey to Lyon took about 9 hours, rather than the 6 or so hours it would have taken with my original plan. I suggest you research and book transport out of Conques well in advance, as it is not very well connected to public transit. It is a bit easier to get to Toulouse or Paris (Via Figeac or Rodez) than Lyon I think.

Observations:

- As everyone reports, the scenery is stunning beyond expectation. I found the first two days especially beautiful, though perhaps that is the effect of novelty.

- Le Puy-en-Velay is an absolutely magical town, try to spend at least half a day there, two nights would be relaxed and charmed.

- Don’t miss the evening pilgrim’s mass when you arrive in Conques

- If you’re approaching Le Puy-en-Velay from Lyon by train and have an interest in modernist architecture, Firminy is right between them on the way and is home to the Site Le Corbusier, including the church of Saint-Pierre, which is a must-see.

- Unfortunately I did not get to experience the desolation of the Aubrac as I missed the longer walking days on the plateau. People I met later along the way mentioned it as a highlight

- I’m 27 and not particularly fit but had no trouble walking from Le Puy to Saint-Privat-d’Allier and then to Saugues the next day. I didn’t find the route as a whole too challenging physically, though there were a fair few hills. My stages in the second half of the walk were all rather short. My weight is about 65kg and I think my pack fully loaded with water and food would have been around 7-8kg, so I was a bit over the 10% target but it was fine.

- Walking poles are an essential on this route - they take a lot of pressure off the knees and feet. The poles I took from home turned out to be broken but I was able to buy new ones the morning of my walk in the centre of Le Puy. Unfortunately the vast majority of people I ran into had no idea how to use their poles! To get the most out of them I recommend searching YouTube for some how-tos.

- Injinji liner socks (with the toes) are AMAZING and I cannot recommend them enough. I spent a long time testing sock combinations before my trip. I ended up wearing them underneath a pair of wool socks (also advertised as liner socks but not extremely thin). I had absolutely zero problems with blisters or sweaty feeling feet for the entire walk - in fact I got a few blisters whilst travelling in Paris beforehand as I wasn’t wearing the Injinji liners!! Just pair them with socks that fill out your shoes to a comfortable level, not too tight or too loose.

- I would recommend boots over shoes as well as the paths are fairly rocky.

- I bought an Orange SIM card from a random shop in Paris. This is probably a faster approach than buying one in an Orange store. The shopkeeper couldn’t speak English however, and I didn’t realise at the time that I was required to send off proof of identity by mail to register my SIM! If you do not do this they will cut you off in 15 days or so. I got mine in in time thankfully.

- Demographically speaking, a third of the pilgrims/walkers I met were French, a third Belgian and a third Canadian (not French Canadian). I was fortunate that I had English speaking company for good portions of the walk, mainly the Canadians and some of the Belgians. I’m 27 and I only met a single pilgrim younger than me, a 19 year old Parisian girl, everyone else was in their 30s to 80s I believe! All lovely, friendly and kind people.

- You can do this walk without speaking French, but it really helps to have a bit under your belt. I basically can’t understand anything a French speaker says to me in French but I can get my point across to them in very broken French. If the person you are talking to only speaks a tiny bit of English, then you can meet each other in the middle with mutually rudimentary and broken speech. This was a lot of fun! Other people have said around 80% of the people they met were French speakers, that seems roughly correct to me, but some of them, especially the younger ones, will also speak English reasonably well, or at least enough to help you out.

- I was lucky to have wonderful weather, no truly rainy days, and daily max temperatures between 12 and 25 C (colder on the Aubrac, warmer in the Lot valley). Early-mid October is a beautiful time to walk, with the autumn leaves.

- It’s better to book ahead the night before, or at least morning of, to avoid the stress of finding a gîte upon arrival. In the peak season places could be booked out, but as it was mid-October for me it was more common that the gîtes had already closed for the year. I approached three gîtes in Saint-Come-d’Olt that were all closed before ending up in a chambre-d’hotes, which was lovely accommodation but slightly pricier. The lovely Gîte Saint André in Saint-Chély closed for the year the night after I stayed there too!

- Following from the previous point, I personally wouldn’t try this walk any later than I did as most accommodation, services etc will be closed and the route will be very quiet, and the weather turns swiftly in late October.

Prettiest towns:
Le Puy-en-Velay
Saint-Privât-d’Allier
Saint-Come-d’Olt
Estaing
Conques

Recommended gîtes and accommodation:
Saint-André in Saint-Chély- the best!! Extremely cosy lounge, delicious dinner on a long table and the loveliest hosts.
Le Sauvage - Book this one as early as possible, it was booked out even this late in the season and some people had to walk to the next village
Bisquine du Jean in Saint-Come - this is the cute nautical themed chambre-d’hotes I stayed at, the host doesn’t speak English but will try and share his love of blues guitar with you regardless of any language barrier. No dinner available, but the most luxurious breakfast spread I had on the chemin, with a selection of homemade jams, local chestnut honey, a few pastries and a fantastic baguette.
Le Soulié - Relaxed donativo hillside retreat with a communal Christian hippie vibe. A good place to stay if it’s not too quiet or if you are with a group, especially if the weather is nice enough that you can enjoy the terrace.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
2015
#2
I was planning to do the Norte in September, but think I'm becoming captivated by Le Puy. My only worry is my lack of French...am hoping for some quaint little villages enroute. Will I find them on Le Puy more than Norte? Anyone who's done both can you weigh in???
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2012 & 2015
CP 2014
VP 2017
Hospi 2017
#3
Oh how I loved the Le Puy route. I haven't walked the Norte, so can't speak to that, but for those considering this route, I second a lot of what Longwei has said. I walked from Le Puy-en-Velay to Figeac. Beautiful scenery, definitely some intense ups and downs (maybe felt moreso because I was either walking in 90 degree F heat or in pouring rain!), adorable towns (at least three have appeared on the "most beautiful in France" list), and GREAT food. Do the demi-pension option. Includes a four-course home-cooked French dinner. The third course is a CHEESE course -- need I say more?!

Yes, a different experience if you don't speak French. You'll meet some who speak English, but usually not many. So if you don't speak it, this might be a quieter trip for you.

Wished I'd had boots instead of hiking shoes. Definitely take poles. Do book a night ahead, or book that morning for that night. The French are meticulous about bed bug prevention. You'll often be asked to put packs in a communal room and take what you need from them in a basket to your room.

Recommend:
-Join the Way of St James - Via Podiensis - Chemin du Puy-en-Velay Facebook group. Very helpful people.
-Gite la Grange - Montbonnet - Serene, clean, peaceful space with delicious food.
-Le Sauvage - another amazing space with a great meal. Owned cooperatively by local farmers, from what I could gather from the history talk given to us after dinner.
-L'Auberge des 2 Pélérins - Le Villeret d'Apachier - Jean-Louis and his wife are delightful (they speak French and German). Clean, relaxing space. They teach you how to sing Ultreia at the communal dinner. Did I mention the cheese course? They have a kitchen, as well, if you'd like to cook.
-Gîte d'étape communal del Roumiou -- St Come d'Olt - great atmosphere, great meal, incredible views from the upper windows, great owners

I've walked the CF from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port and the Porguése from Porto. The CF has its own spirit, but as of this moment, the Le Puy route is my favorite. Can't wait to go back and do more of it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
#4
I was planning to do the Norte in September, but think I'm becoming captivated by Le Puy. My only worry is my lack of French...am hoping for some quaint little villages enroute. Will I find them on Le Puy more than Norte? Anyone who's done both can you weigh in???
I walked the Norte in 2016 and Le Puy to Auvillar last June. I loved them both, yet they are entirely different. A number of the villages on the Le Puy route are fairytale beautiful and there is a nice variety of terrain along the way. You will see no water, save one pond, and the cost is somewhat more expensive. The Norte is beautiful with craggy cliffside ocean shorelines, some sandy beaches and coves and a nice mix of inland scenery as well. A few of my favorite towns/cities for me were San Sabastian, Gernika, Bilbao, and Santillana. Hope this helps.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015
#5
I loved the water on the Portuguese, but found I missed the quaint little villages. The towns you cite are really cities, and that's what is deterring me. Perhaps I can do both. How long was the Le Puy to Auvillar? # of days? ONe other concern is the markings...especially since I don't speak French. Well marked?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
#6
I loved the water on the Portuguese, but found I missed the quaint little villages. The towns you cite are really cities, and that's what is deterring me. Perhaps I can do both. How long was the Le Puy to Auvillar? # of days? ONe other concern is the markings...especially since I don't speak French. Well marked?
Yes, they are cities on the Norte, but those old historical city centers are always amazing. But if you are looking exclusively for pretty villages you should probably choose the Le Puy. It is well marked and I do not speak French, but still managed. It is more expensive in general than Spain and Portugal.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015
#7
ON the Frances we generally either called a day ahead or winged it. On the Portuguese, we did most all of it before we left on booking or other...what did you do on Le Puy?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
#8
ON the Frances we generally either called a day ahead or winged it. On the Portuguese, we did most all of it before we left on booking or other...what did you do on Le Puy?
Most everyone who had walked it had phoned ahead a day or two at a time so that's what we did. Reason being that often you will want the demi pension (dinner & breakfast) offered by the gites as many times there is no where else to eat anyway! The hosts need to know how many to cook for.
Not speaking French myself, there was always someone around to call on my behalf...gite owner, tourist office, etc.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015
#9
Sounds great. Quick question...what time do they generally serve breakfast. We generally like to be walking by 7, which is early for breakfast. I like to walk a few hours and then find a bar...or at least thats what we did in Spain, perhaps not so prevalant in France?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
#10
Breakfast was usually served between 7 and 8, but you'd better plan to stay and eat the breakfast provided before you head out. There are rarely any bar/cafes along the way most of the time before lunch to grab a coffee. And speaking of coffee on the Le Puy, I was personally very disappointed in it as I was spoiled by the wonderful 'cafe con leche' in Spain. Although "adequate" infrastructure, it is not at all as prevelant as on the Frances, where you can skip along and practically stop and get a refreshment every few kilometers.
 
Camino(s) past & future
C Frances 2005, 2007
Le Puy en Velay -SdC 2009
Via de la Plata 2011
gr 653 from Oloron to Puente la Reina 2012
Gr65 from le Puy to Figeac 2013
Irun to Santander 2013
Porto to SdC 2014
Astorga to SdC 2015
#12
Sounds great. Quick question...what time do they generally serve breakfast. We generally like to be walking by 7, which is early for breakfast. I like to walk a few hours and then find a bar...or at least thats what we did in Spain, perhaps not so prevalant in France?
I do not think I got any breakfast until 07.30 or 08.00, breakfast most often white bread, jam, coffee/tea. If you stay in a town with a bakery, they often opens at 7.00 . Not many bars along the way, food is mostly only served in lunchtime from 12.30 - 14.00. other times - no food until dinnertime a bit earlier than Spanish dinnertime.
I have walked the route a couple of times, in 2009 from Le Puy to Santiago, and the years after the second time in portions.
My first time,food was a big problem, always hungry, lost 10 kg.
Since then I knew about shops and bars beiing closed half Saturday, Sunday and Monday, so carrying food was my option. Demi-pension is a must at the gites.
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-18
#13
lunchtime from 12.30 - 14.00.
Restaurants will advertise opening 12-2 for lunch. However, don't show up later than about 1 expecting to be served. I was able to find a restaurant for lunch less than 25% of the days walking Le Puy. Plan to take lunch with you. And, given the many closing days (and closing hours - often closed 12 to 3), carry lunch for several days. It might be dinner one night, too!
 

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