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Lost on the VF?

Richo

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, 2014; Via Podiensis 2017, Via de la Plata planned for May 2019.
Hello pilgrims. I'm looking at starting the VF in 2022, or more likely 2023. I walked the CF in 2014 and Via Podiensis in 2017. My concern is my less than brilliant sense of direction. I even got lost once on the Camino Frances (albeit not for long) . I understand that the VF is not well signposted, particularly in France. How difficult is it to keep one's bearings and what precautions/measures should one take to keep better on track?
Thank you,
Richard.
 
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Corned Beef

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
VDLP (Part) Jan/2022
There are plenty of maps and GPS tracks over on the official site. Best start there.


Signs in Switzerland and Italy are very good. It's just the French part you'll need your maps as backup.

I used GPS on a phone which is sensitive enough to tell you when you get a few metres off track
 

timr

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Several and counting...
Hello Richo,
Let me give you every encouragement with your plans. This subforum of the Camino website is very good for getting replies.

Another very good resource is Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome (I should declare an interest as I am a trustee). www.pilgrimstorome.org.uk. There is a lot of information on the website. eg https://pilgrimstorome.org.uk/planning/
The associated FB group is quite active too. https://www.facebook.com/pilgrims2rome/ (You need to be approved).

I walked from Canterbury to Greece (on the way still to Jerusalem) in 2018-2019.

Yes, France signposting was not very good and quite often non-existent, but I suspect it may have improved a bit. From Switzerland onward, there is really no problem and it is essentially as good as most routes of Camino de Santiago.
What has become the standard way for many people is to use GPS on phone. I know this doesn't suit everybody. When I walked there was no app for France, but it has now been completed. I did try out the app for Italy, but ironically I didn't need it.
See this page of the official VF site.
 

timr

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Several and counting...
There are plenty of maps and GPS tracks over on the official site. Best start there.


Signs in Switzerland and Italy are very good. It's just the French part you'll need your maps as backup.

I used GPS on a phone which is sensitive enough to tell you when you get a few metres off track
Exactly as @Corned Beef says! And in fact that ping if you deviate a few yards off centre of track can be quite irritating. 😯
For the reasons I stated, I didn't have to use it seriously as you can definitey manage in Switzerland and Italy just by waymarking. It makes a useful back up.
I haven't tried out the app in France. A possible complication is that there are really quite a lot of different ways to make your way through France. The EAVF are promoting the 'official' way, but there are various other ways. I am not sure how the app deals with this.
Having said that, I didn't find it too difficult to navigate through France using maps in guide book, though i would not say I never got lost.
 

roving_rufus

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2013-2015) Portugues (2017-2019) Via Francigena (2018-??) Camino from Ireland (2020-??)
France is more of a mixed bag with marking. Some areas are really well marked with GR markings and other VF signs but other regions have not been as proactive in marking and maintaining route marking. Also as the route through France is now an official GR route it has the tendency to meander to avoid even small sections of road, adding distance for just 100m of quiet road, and making very illogical turns to do so. I didn't use the app but guides were helpful including details of useful shortcuts, but the reality is in France you will probably get lost so finding apps and downloading maps onto an offline map app like maps.me will be important.
 
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Corned Beef

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
VDLP (Part) Jan/2022
Is the VF in France termed GR145? Not sure so don't want to be definitive.

 

timr

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Several and counting...
France is more of a mixed bag with marking. Some areas are really well marked with GR markings and other VF signs but other regions have not been as proactive in marking and maintaining route marking. Also as the route through France is now an official GR route it has the tendency to meander to avoid even small sections of road, adding distance for just 100m of quiet road, and making very illogical turns to do so. I didn't use the app but guides were helpful including details of useful shortcuts, but the reality is in France you will probably get lost so finding apps and downloading maps onto an offline map app like maps.me will be important.
Yes indeed @roving_rufus
I teamed up with an intrepid team of French people for a week and crossed into Switzerland with them. They were only walking a week at a time twice a year from Canterbury to Rome. They were tremendous fun to be with and ultra-organised. They had large scale maps printed off for each participant and *always* followed the GR using a French app which I didn't bother downloading. GR routes are actually well marked with balises, (I mention it a bit here) but they are essentially non-directional so you need a map or app to navigate using them.
My friends dissolved in consternation if we ever found ourselves walking more than 100m on a tarred road, as it surely meant we were lost. Un doute the cry would go up and we (they) would huddle around maps and apps until the error was identified. They were wonderful company. I didn't enter into the cartographic obsession(!) but happily followed along.
(PS interested to know how your plans to walk from Ireland are coming on?)
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
Also as the route through France is now an official GR route it has the tendency to meander to avoid even small sections of road, adding distance for just 100m of quiet road, and making very illogical turns to do so.
I walked from Canterbury to Rome in summer 2015. Before I set off I looked at maps of the route in France and it struck me as being unnecessarily convoluted - probably to avoid road walking. So I decided to walk an alternative route mostly based on canal towpaths until Besançon where I joined the official VF route and stayed with it to Rome. From Besançon onwards marking was pretty good but I did lose my way a couple of times. Not too hard to find my way back on track though. There is nothing to prevent you choosing your own route between the main towns and villages along the way.
 

roving_rufus

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2013-2015) Portugues (2017-2019) Via Francigena (2018-??) Camino from Ireland (2020-??)
Is the VF in France termed GR145? Not sure so don't want to be definitive.

Yep it's the GR145 in France.
And I very definitely made up a route in France, at times using the GR, but I had a fondness for the old Raju guide from Cicerone, as she wrote before it was made a GR route and had no qualms about walking on quiet roads. Knowing key villages and towns on route allows a choice of how to get between them (even some main roads are walkable especially on Sundays). Hikers tend to want off road hence the GR rules on suitable routes but Pilgrims tend want more direct unless there is a good reason to meander (eg avoid a major obstacle or an interesting place to see)
 

Tassie Kaz

Sempre Avanti
Past OR future Camino
2023?
Hello pilgrims. I'm looking at starting the VF in 2022, or more likely 2023. My concern is my less than brilliant sense of direction. I even got lost once on the Camino Frances (albeit not for long) . I understand that the VF is not well signposted, particularly in France. How difficult is it to keep one's bearings and what precautions/measures should one take to keep better on track?
@Richo, I walked a combo of the PWC (London to Canterbury) & the VF (Canterbury to Rome) in 2019. I'm not a purist & very much enjoyed making my own way across France.
Unlike @roving_rufus, my relationship with my Alison Raju (RIP) Cicerone guides was less amiable due to her penchant of muddling up left & right (from memory 🤔, @Bradypus ?? disagrees with me on this point 😄). I actually deliberately challenged myself to find a better (subjective of course! 🤭) route than the official or Cicerone suggested.
Large swathes of the path through France are huge agricultural areas criss-crossed with farm tracks accessible to the public. I had the Cicerone guides & paper maps to plot a general course (ie start & end point for the day), but then used Google maps 'on the ground' to navigate to that days destination, very often using these farm tracks. I only recall 3 occasions through the entire VF I was lead astray by Google maps requiring a little backtracking or some adhoc 'geographical realignment' 😁 to correct.
I did not use any kind of online guide, app or GPS. I never once through France, or the rest of the VF, felt I was lost.
My chosen path through France was also very much dictated by accommodation availability.

So, to answer your specific concern, I suggest you contemplate the following;
i/ what is your tolerance for going 'off piste'? Are you a stickler for the official path?
ii/ do you need the reassurance of sign posting or way marking? Although I felt I made my own way across the large scale agricultural parts of France, I was amazed how often I encountered signage of the actual path
iii/ what is your accommodation preference? ie pilgrim type, hostels, private accom, etc
These questions will help you decide how to tackle France. IMHO, the more relaxed you are about your specific path for that day, the more you will enjoy it. If you spend your time anxious about straying from the official route (& lets remember here, that no-one knows exactly the route Sigeric took, just his nightly stops), it could negatively impact your outlook & overall experience. As long as you reach your intended nightly stop, does it really matter which route you took to get there?

The VF will never rank as my favourite long distance walk but I did really enjoy the challenge of navigating across France (I too utilized the canal paths when it suited). I actually felt constrained once crossing into Switzerland & then Italy as the path was so clearly waymarked/signposted & there were less alternatives to choose from. 😇
Happy trails, temporarily geographically embarrassed or not! 🤣
Overall, don't stress..you'll get there. As always, any advice from @timr is sound. 🤗
👣 🌏
 
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Tom Hagger

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés, Norte, Primitivo, Português, Plata etc.
Richo, I do not use GPS but relied on the Confraternity of St James guide and three detailed maps for the mountainous sections that I thought might be tricky. It is an advantage to have some basic French and Italian, of course, but with my minimal skills at these, I had no problems. Best wishes. Tom
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
Unlike @roving_rufus, my relationship with my Alison Raju (RIP) Cicerone guides was less amiable due to her penchant of muddling up left & right (from memory 🤔, @Bradypus ?? disagrees with me on this point 😄).
Not me! I have seen Raju's guide but didn't use it. Or any other printed guide for that matter. The online maps and accommodation notes from the VF website were all that I needed on the official route. Anything else could usually be found locally along the way or by using this new-fangled interwebs stuff... :cool:
 

Tassie Kaz

Sempre Avanti
Past OR future Camino
2023?
Not me! I have seen Raju's guide but didn't use it. Or any other printed guide for that matter. The online maps and accommodation notes from the VF website were all that I needed on the official route. Anything else could usually be found locally along the way or by using this new-fangled interwebs stuff... :cool:
Ahh...sorry @Bradypus ...I thought it was you! I'll have to go back through my old posts to find out who it was... 😉...whoever it was they didn't seem to notice the L & R issues I encountered.
👣 🌏
 

Richo

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, 2014; Via Podiensis 2017, Via de la Plata planned for May 2019.
There are plenty of maps and GPS tracks over on the official site. Best start there.


Signs in Switzerland and Italy are very good. It's just the French part you'll need your maps as backup.

I used GPS on a phone which is sensitive enough to tell you when you get a few metres off track
Thanks C.B.
 

Richo

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, 2014; Via Podiensis 2017, Via de la Plata planned for May 2019.
Exactly as @Corned Beef says! And in fact that ping if you deviate a few yards off centre of track can be quite irritating. 😯
For the reasons I stated, I didn't have to use it seriously as you can definitey manage in Switzerland and Italy just by waymarking. It makes a useful back up.
I haven't tried out the app in France. A possible complication is that there are really quite a lot of different ways to make your way through France. The EAVF are promoting the 'official' way, but there are various other ways. I am not sure how the app deals with this.
Having said that, I didn't find it too difficult to navigate through France using maps in guide book, though i would not say I never got lost.
Well that IS reassuring. Thanks for posting.
 
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Richo

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, 2014; Via Podiensis 2017, Via de la Plata planned for May 2019.
@Richo, I walked a combo of the PWC (London to Canterbury) & the VF (Canterbury to Rome) in 2019. I'm not a purist & very much enjoyed making my own way across France.
Unlike @roving_rufus, my relationship with my Alison Raju (RIP) Cicerone guides was less amiable due to her penchant of muddling up left & right (from memory 🤔, @Bradypus ?? disagrees with me on this point 😄). I actually deliberately challenged myself to find a better (subjective of course! 🤭) route than the official or Cicerone suggested.
Large swathes of the path through France are huge agricultural areas criss-crossed with farm tracks accessible to the public. I had the Cicerone guides & paper maps to plot a general course (ie start & end point for the day), but then used Google maps 'on the ground' to navigate to that days destination, very often using these farm tracks. I only recall 3 occasions through the entire VF I was lead astray by Google maps requiring a little backtracking or some adhoc 'geographical realignment' 😁 to correct.
I did not use any kind of online guide, app or GPS. I never once through France, or the rest of the VF, felt I was lost.
My chosen path through France was also very much dictated by accommodation availability.

So, to answer your specific concern, I suggest you contemplate the following;
i/ what is your tolerance for going 'off piste'? Are you a stickler for the official path?
ii/ do you need the reassurance of sign posting or way marking? Although I felt I made my own way across the large scale agricultural parts of France, I was amazed how often I encountered signage of the actual path
iii/ what is your accommodation preference? ie pilgrim type, hostels, private accom, etc
These questions will help you decide how to tackle France. IMHO, the more relaxed you are about your specific path for that day, the more you will enjoy it. If you spend your time anxious about straying from the official route (& lets remember here, that no-one knows exactly the route Sigeric took, just his nightly stops), it could negatively impact your outlook & overall experience. As long as you reach your intended nightly stop, does it really matter which route you took to get there?

The VF will never rank as my favourite long distance walk but I did really enjoy the challenge of navigating across France (I too utilized the canal paths when it suited). I actually felt constrained once crossing into Switzerland & then Italy as the path was so clearly waymarked/signposted & there were less alternatives to choose from. 😇
Happy trails, temporarily geographically embarrassed or not! 🤣
Overall, don't stress..you'll get there. As always, any advice from @timr is sound. 🤗
👣 🌏
I'm not concerned about rigorously following the "traditional" path, rather I would prefer to get from town to town by the most direct route. I don't mind walking on quiet roads but balk at the busier ones, having nearly been skittled a couple of times when I walked the Le Puy route. I do prefer good signage and if I were to walk more than say, 10 kilometres without seeing a sign, I'd probably start to second guess myself. Also, as I implied, I'm no devotee of orienteering. I am pretty fluent in French, luckily so this would help, and I could ring ahead for directions - if there's mobile coverage! As for accomodation, I'm flexible. On the Podiensis I stayed at a couple of gîtes, and a few small hotels but generally at chambres d'hote. I won't be camping. 😊
 
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Tassie Kaz

Sempre Avanti
Past OR future Camino
2023?
...I do prefer good signage and if I were to walk more than say, 10 kilometres without seeing a sign, I'd probably start to second guess myself. Also, as I implied, I'm no devotee of orienteering. I won't be camping. 😊
Glad I didn't suggest a good old fashioned compass! 🤣
Good signage (or any...) is thin on the ground in France but in overdrive through Switzerland & Italy falls on the 'more than adequate' scale.
20190506_135614-1305x979.jpg 20190524_122428-1305x979.jpg
It's not your first foray & you have the huge advantage of speaking French...a language which completely defeats me 😫 so I think you'll be fine. Just expect to deviate for accommodation which could be even more of a scarcity from the impact of you-know-what. 😷
Best wishes.
👣 🌏
 

Richo

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, 2014; Via Podiensis 2017, Via de la Plata planned for May 2019.
Haha yes, Tassie, I love the great outdoors but I don't want to sleep on it or get lost in it. I remember meeting a certain (French) woman on the Le Puy chemin . She was pretty battle hardened and more or less lived her life hiking around France. She quizzed me on what I was doing in her neck of the woods and after I told her, she looked me up and down and kind of snorted: Bof! - un randonneur du Dimanche! (amateur) 😂 😂.
 
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Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
She quizzed me on what I was doing in her neck of the woods and after I told her, she looked me up and down and kind of snorted: Bof! - un randonneur du Dimanche! (amateur) 😂 😂.
Small village in the Po rice swamps. I may have been feeling a little too pleased with myself at making it all the way from Canterbury on foot - apart from the damp patch between Dover and Calais obviously. Then I met Phillipe. He had flown from Canada to Spain. Started walking in Santiago and walked to Rome then Assisi and was now on his way north on the VF to see family in Strasbourg before returning to Canada. Made my own journey seem pretty trivial in comparison. There's always someone who has gone that little bit further. Better not to make it a competition :)
 

Karl Oz

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances
Portuguese
Aragones
Sanabres
Piamonte
Elizabethpfad
Haha yes, Tassie, I love the great outdoors but I don't want to sleep on it or get lost in it. I remember meeting a certain (French) woman on the Le Puy chemin . She was pretty battle hardened and more or less lived her life hiking around France. She quizzed me on what I was doing in her neck of the woods and after I told her, she looked me up and down and kind of snorted: Bof! - un randonneur du Dimanche! (amateur) 😂 😂.
Hey Richo, as an Aussie I would bet that Tassie (Tasmania) is where Kaz (Kathy) comes from!:) We share similarly oblique monikers...
 
2022 Camino Guides
The 2022 Camino guides will be coming out little by little, most of them by the end of 2021. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
A thought-provoking Camino memoir. This day-by-day account will inspire you.

Tassie Kaz

Sempre Avanti
Past OR future Camino
2023?
Hey Richo, as an Aussie I would bet that Tassie (Tasmania) is where Kaz (Kathy) comes from!:) We share similarly oblique monikers...

I'd say you're on the money, Karl Oz 😉
Correct...I am Tasmanian. 🥰
Kaz is my nickname, short for Karen not Kathy..but hey, close enough. I'll basically answer to anything so Tassie is fine with me! 😊
@OzAnnie also shares our same sense of tying identity to place.🤗
Edited to add;
I have to say my favourite ID/place moniker is @Bob from L.A. ! ...that '!' at the end always makes me laugh. 😄
Happy trails all ye like-minded. 😇
👣 🌏
 
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