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Montpelier start

2020 Camino Guides

sinead10

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino frances
Camino le puy
Hi there,
I am thinking of walking this route starting in montpelier. I only have a week off work so it'll be a quick trip.
What are people's experiences of this route? Any idea of the kind of weather I might experience in April?
What are the walks like?
I speak French (badly but can get by)
I'd like to hear from people who've walked this route.
Thanks
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
The parish albergue at Montpellier is one of the best !!

It's lovely between Montpellier and Lodève, particularly the end of that stretch -- and Lodève is a small and friendly typical French provincial town (a French girl I walked with for a day or so had only limited time too, and she bused easily out of Lodève, so that might be an option). There's a stretch through mountains after Saint Guilhem le Desert, where there's a great night's stay, but it's sensible mountains because it's just the quickest route.

After Lodève though, the waymarked pathway starts to take all manner of strange detours up mountains and crests and passes ; although to be fair the original route has been tarmacked over and so has become annoying and boring in a different manner -- though if you enjoy the mountain hiking, going up to those heights could be just what you'd want !!

After Lunas, the tarmac variant via Le Bousquet d'Orb > La Tour sur Orb > Saint Etienne-Estréchoux > Saint Gervais sur Mare is a bit better (I completely avoided the straightforward mountain hiking that the waymarks take you up into, including getting up very close to two summits, 786 metres and 1022 metres). The traffic is not as bad as between Lodève and Lunas, there's a good stretch on the old smaller road you can follow, and even when you get back onto the main road it's easier to walk on and pretty flat to La Tour sur Orb. A tiny road, not too bad, from La Tour to Saint Etienne-Estréchoux, then some pleasant enough valley tarmac along a river to Saint Gervais sur Mare.

From Saint Gervais onwards it all becomes a lot more sensible again, especially after Murat-sur-Vèbre, though I'm uncertain you'd get that far in a week -- I'm just adding these extra details in case you're a fast enough hiker.

(If you're interested for the future, it's beautiful between Murat and Castres ; and then it becomes very rural and multiple-choicey after there, down through Revel to Avignonet-Lauragais // Villefranche-de-Lauragais by the Canal du Midi)
 
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sinead10

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino frances
Camino le puy
Thank you so much for your honest reply.
I am not sure if this is route is for me.
I have a terrible sense of direction so would most definitely end up lost. I'm going alone and have no problem walking alone for long periods of time but it's nice to bump into people too. Hmm, lots of food for thought.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
It is indeed fairly easy to get lost on some parts of that trail.
 

Kat Kostrzewska

Online guide https://caminodesantiagobybike.co.uk
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2018), Via Tolosana (2012) Camino Norte (2014)
I cycled Via Tolosana in 2012 and in 90% percent of the albergues I was by myself. I was just given a keys to the empty hostels. Saying that - I will never ever forget welcoming committee ready for me in the morning in one of the small towns in the Pyrenean area...yeah

However if it is your first camino and you have just one week in April - not the most popular month ever - maybe choose some other route. To meet with the others and have a full camino experience.

Tolosana is an amazing, but also very solitary and demanding route.
 

Kat Kostrzewska

Online guide https://caminodesantiagobybike.co.uk
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2018), Via Tolosana (2012) Camino Norte (2014)
JabbaPapa I smiled to myself when I read your post about the amazing parish albergue in Montpellier.

Indeed it is one of the most beautiful albergues on the whole camino. It is organised in the old sacristy and furnished with the period furniture. Pilgrim's beds are rather simple, bathroom is specious and everything looks perfect at a glance. But is it really?

So I got to Montpellier early evening on Saint Roch Day (Saint Patron of Montpellier and pilgrims) and I decided to spend the night in the said albergue. I had called the telephone number provided but for some reason woman who answered the phone tried to discourage me from staying in the albergue. There was a language barrier between us, but I was stubborn. This is my place for the night on St Roch day in the city of Montpellier!

So I did stay in that albergue. But I can't say that I slept well because I have never before and I hope I will never again see so many bedbugs. They were everywhere - in the pilgrim's beds and even under wallpaper. In actual fact beds moved so did the walls.

I moved to the other part of sacristy and spend the night on period chaise longue.

That beautiful piece of furniture was definitely made for sitting not sleeping.

This is how Saint Roch Saint Patron of Montpellier taught me how not to get my own way. At least on the Camino. I will be grateful to him for that lesson for all the days of my life.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
So I did stay in that albergue. But I can't say that I slept well because I have never before and I hope I will never again see so many bedbugs. They were everywhere - in the pilgrim's beds and even under wallpaper. In actual fact beds moved so did the walls.
I've stayed there twice now -- first, on my 2005 and as I understand it fairly shortly after it first opened, the priest who began the place was still the main hospitalero, such a lovely funny man, and there was a large number of pilgrims that time ; then last year, where I had to stay two nights over Easter weekend from suffering sunstroke, five other pilgrims over the two nights including one I never set eyes on.

Bedbugs neither time -- but I did gather in 2019 from the strictness of certain rules and do-nots that there had previously been bedbug problems, which one of the hospitaleras then confirmed to me ; I did not realise it had been as bad as you describe, but that certainly does explain why the anti-bedbug rules are so much stricter than elsewhere !!!

I'm sad that they ruined your own stay there ...
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
Hi there,
I am thinking of walking this route starting in montpelier. I only have a week off work so it'll be a quick trip.
What are people's experiences of this route? Any idea of the kind of weather I might experience in April?
What are the walks like?
I speak French (badly but can get by)
I'd like to hear from people who've walked this route.
Thanks
I'll be brutally honest: the 10 days from Montpellier are very isolated - you'll be walking through a nature reserve with very few facilities or resources, and sometimes you won't see anyone all day, even in the albergues. You usually have to get albergue keys from the Mairie, which is shut at random times, and over the weekend, which is really inconvenient. You often have to carry food, etc, as there's no guarantee you'll have access to anything during the day, or when you arrive in your small village in the middle of nowhere. In all likelihood, there won't be any transport back to Montpellier from wherever you've ended up on day 6. If that hasn't put you off, ha ha... the weather in April can be bad - and the Mistral will be very strong!

Of course, if you're up for a challenge, you might have the time of your life. But if you're looking for a more hassle-free experience, where you can just hit the trail and not worry too much, then I wouldn't recommend it.
 

Kat Kostrzewska

Online guide https://caminodesantiagobybike.co.uk
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2018), Via Tolosana (2012) Camino Norte (2014)
JabbaPapa I insisted on staying there so I only have myself to blame.

Good that bedbugs are evicted, because albergue is a gem. I am going to stay there next time I am in Montepellier. I wonder if this period chaise lounge is still there;)
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
I'll be brutally honest: the 10 days from Montpellier are very isolated
There were around half a dozen + walking at the same time I was, that I'd bump into from time to time, on my 2005 ; and there were a handful around Montpellier when I switched out from there on my 2019 -- so I think that people's experience will vary greatly and individually.

You often have to carry food, etc, as there's no guarantee you'll have access to anything during the day, or when you arrive in your small village in the middle of nowhere.
hmmmm, a lot of this is a function of your K/day hiking speed -- the slower it is, the more you'll need to carry with you. But also, if you get onto the tarmac variant rather than follow the waymarked trails up and down the mountains, you will walk through a larger number of larger villages, and so will find yourself in less distress.

Of course, if you're up for a challenge, you might have the time of your life. But if you're looking for a more hassle-free experience, where you can just hit the trail and not worry too much, then I wouldn't recommend it.
But Montpellier to Lodève is still great ... there's just that complicated mountainous stretch thereafter.
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
There were around half a dozen + walking at the same time I was, that I'd bump into from time to time, on my 2005 ; and there were a handful around Montpellier when I switched out from there on my 2019 -- so I think that people's experience will vary greatly and individually.
Of course I get that experiences will vary, but the OP is asking for opinions about walking for a week in April, which I doubt will be busy. I walked in June last year, and at most there were two or three of us in the albergues. It could have just been bad luck, but when I spoke to the hospitalero at Saint Roch he said it was generally a very quiet route - even in June, I was the first pilgrim to stay there in 3 days!

hmmmm, a lot of this is a function of your K/day hiking speed -- the slower it is, the more you'll need to carry with you. But also, if you get onto the tarmac variant rather than follow the waymarked trails up and down the mountains, you will walk through a larger number of larger villages, and so will find yourself in less distress.
Carrying food was more a necessity as so many boulangeries and shops were closed in the small villages, so one wasn't always assured a meal (other than an overpriced pizza at the bar). As for the tarmac variants, I'm not really sure these are an option? I tried walking along the D35 once, and a police car stopped and told me it was illegal! Unless I missed something (although even if you look on Google maps, there are very few roads in the region...)?

But Montpellier to Lodève is still great ... there's just that complicated mountainous stretch thereafter.
The 'complicated mountainous stretch' is quite exquisite - incredible views, beautiful landscapes. The French take the concept of the "Parc Naturel"very seriously! I agree this is a great walk, I'm just not sure I'd recommend it as a "one week in April" type of camino 😆
 

billmclaughlin

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP/Burgos 2012; Le Puy/SJPP 2013; Aumont Aubrac/Aire sur l'Adour 2014; Burgos/Santiago 2016.
I gave up on this route quickly. Met no other hikers. I’m happy to walk solo but not to dine solo. And the waymarking left much to be desired. Try Le Puy or a segment of that route.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
As for the tarmac variants, I'm not really sure these are an option? I tried walking along the D35 once, and a police car stopped and told me it was illegal! Unless I missed something (although even if you look on Google maps, there are very few roads in the region...)?
Well, "illegal" I doubt it, but one of the reasons why I remember the stretch between Lodève and Lunas with such fright is that there's a choice between a lengthy mountain detour and a rather busy stretch of tarmac -- this is what's "complicated" about that stretch. I did by that point have a great deal of personal experience walking on busy and yet overly narrow tarmac, so it didn't overly fluster me, but I was certainly happy upon getting past that patch and into Lunas !!

(FWIW I did take the trail for the first half of Lodève to Lunas, and only switched to the D35 mid-way -- and yes there are some rather beautiful views up there ; I can see now BTW that there's a trail variant up there on that side taking you into Lunas, but you would definitely need an app to not get lost up there !! But knowing what I know now, that's probably the route to Lunas I'd choose personally)

And as for more villages, I was thinking of the far more viable tarmac variant between Lunas and Saint Gervais-sur-Mare, almost none of which even needs to follow the D35 if you really want to avoid it. You can follow the old D8, cross over a bridge to the D35 a little less than half way, then just cross over it and take a teensy tarmac road passing up through Saint-Xist (tiny hamlet), then down again almost all the way to La Tour-sur-Orb.

Some tiny tarmac up into the mountain from there, then either carry on with that 'til you're above Saint Étienne-Estréchoux and take a footpath into the village, or (as I did having no map app in 2005) follow an even tinier road through a valley to the main road leading to that village -- very little traffic there, and the tarmac out of Saint Étienne-Estréchoux winds pleasantly along a river valley 'til Saint Gervais-sur-Mare and back to the waymarked GR Camino.

The route is great between Montpellier and Lodève ; and again after Saint Gervais -- but it's complicated between Lodève and Saint Gervais, as it forces you to choose between several non-ideal options, the traditional route having been tarmac'd over and made into an overly busy main road.

You know, I do actually need to think about all this stuff myself, as it's on my return route this Camino if I can manage to get it done, so I'm going to have to confront these difficulties a second time ; just walking the other direction ... 😵 :cool:
 
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Karl G

Member
Camino(s) past & future
August and September 2019 - Arles
Hi there,
I am thinking of walking this route starting in montpelier. I only have a week off work so it'll be a quick trip.
What are people's experiences of this route? Any idea of the kind of weather I might experience in April?
What are the walks like?
I speak French (badly but can get by)
I'd like to hear from people who've walked this route.
Thanks
Hi Sinead,

I walked from Arles to Toulouse last August/September and posted on the forum of my experience: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/arles-to-somport-reports.64232/. Hopefully it will give you a good idea of what to expect.

My suggestion given your limited time would be to leave from Grabels (a short tram ride from Montpellier). You’ll skip an OK but mostly urban/suburban stretch and will instead start at the beginning of much more natural beauty. I’d also suggest ending at Lunas. Once you leave Grabels you’ll be committed - meaning there is no public transportation between towns except at Lodeve where you can find buses or Lunas which is served by the train.

I highly, highly recommend using Gronze.com to understand route descriptions and options, distances, accomodation options, elevation changes, services in upcoming towns, etc. If you use the Chrome version you can opt for a translated version into English if that is your native language. I believe it is a better resource than Miam Miam Dodo and you can research your walk on it now rather than waiting to get the book.

Finally, waymarks are inconsistent on the Arles. Sometimes they are very good, sometimes they are spotty. However, Gronze.com solves this as well. If you are registered and go to the Travel tab you’ll see you can download the track into an app such as Gaia GPS (I used the free version.) I found the tracks incredibly accurate and useful. And, the GPS does not require internet so you can save battery on your phone.

Bonne route!

PS - depending on time available and what you are looking for you could also consider starting in Lunas and ending in Castres. You’d be walking through some of the hardest stages on that route with lots of elevation change and it is challenging - but beautiful. Again, reading descriptions of the stages and options on Gronze.com will you give you a good idea of what to expect on either option you may end up choosing.
 
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frida1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April 11-May 11 2014
My husband and I walked from Montpelier to Puente la Reina in 2017. In general, the first 10 days is a pretty tough walk. Lots of elevation and rocky footing hazards. My husband is a very good route finder, and we did not get lost in the woods, although we met those who did. Distances between destinations are fairly long, and many in between villages are deserted, with nowhere to get food or rest. In May, we found that weekends and Monday holidays (there are many) meant that restaurants and stores could be closed, even in more lively villages. It is a beautiful walk, but I'd recommend it most for experienced hikers who understand elevation profiles, route finding and self-support. I think we met 6-8 people along the first 10 days out of Montpelier in May.
 

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