I did check this at one stage. From memory, there is one train you can take from Paris in the morning that arrives directly the same day in Le Puy I think. But I am sorry I don't have time to check the timetable as I am off out to work. Will try when I get home. Otherwise I think you do need to go via Lyon.
I don't know if you have ever travelled in France. They are very good in the reservations area, and will give you a printout of possibilities that they get on their computer. It makes the changes very simple.
I don't know of a direct train from Paris (Gare de Lyon) - which would be the obvious choice, but the next best would be via St Etienne Chateaucreux - which takes just over 4 hours. The two sites I have used are Rail Europe (http://www.raileurope.co.uk), SNCF (http://www.voyages-sncf.com) and the very wonderful Man in Seat Sixty-One (http://www..seat61.com) which is the hobby of a chap who works on the railways in the UK and France, and is dedicated to surface travel worldwide. His site is full of fascinating information and useful links (you could travel from the Antipodes to the Camino by container ship...!)
If you fly to Lyon - then there are regular trains via St Etienne.
Maybe I was thinking of a route with changes that I had seen. It is possible to get from Paris to Le Puy on the same day, via either St Etienne Chateaucreux, or Brioude. I got these times from the SNCF site:
PARIS GARE DE LYON 07h00 TGV DUPLEX 6681 Peak period
ST ETIENNE CHATEAUCREUX 09h41 Disabled Buffet car
ST ETIENNE CHATEAUCREUX 09h57 TER 89966
LE PUY EN VELAY 11h17 Carriage of bicycle
Departure and destination stations Times Train(s) Journey time: 06h20
PARIS GARE DE LYON 08h47 CORAIL 5957
BRIOUDE 13h51 Disabled Family compartment Trolley service
BRIOUDE 14h00 Coach 31343
LE PUY EN VELAY 15h07
Departure and destination stations Times Train(s) Journey time: 04h17
PARIS GARE DE LYON 13h00 TGV DUPLEX 6685 Off peak
ST ETIENNE CHATEAUCREUX 15h47 Disabled Buffet car
ST ETIENNE CHATEAUCREUX 15h57 TER 89974
I'm doinf the same route starting in early September. I had planned on flying to Lyon then catching a train to Le Puy. Like Pip I can recommend seat61.com having used that site also for info on Indian trains.
What sort of schedule are you setting for yourself? I'm planning on Le Puy to SDC taking me 2.5 months with a few rest days thrown in, meaning I'll finish mid November.
We got a train - left Newcastle England early in morning -to Paris then train & arrived Le Puy at 5 BUT there are flights from Paris daily - we discovered later - search Google for the airline - i'm on a french keyboard currently and typing/searching is v. difficult. Windy
Thanks to everyone for the help. I think the best option might be to fly to Lyon then train to Le Puy. This flight is about the same price as a flight to Paris but has the advantage of saving time (and money).Not long to go!
Aarleks-my schedule is very loose. My 22 hour flight home (oh the joys of living at the bottom of the world!) is 31st August and I leave tomorrow for a couple of weeks in the UK. So I don't have a specific starting date but I'm thinking that 25kms per day is a rough guide so that works out roughly to 63 days and I'll probably add several days for rest etc so maybe not too far off your 2 and a half months. So I should be finishing just before you start. From what I've read forget about learning French or Spanish-German might be more useful!
We've been on the French camino for a month now and I don't think German would be much use. French has been invaluable - but u can probably get by with English and a few words of French - it's much better with some French though.