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Reflections on the Le Puy

Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
I hesitated writing this thread since I will be focusing on some negatives about walking the Le Puy Camino. It is very difficult to discuss negatives without misunderstandings and misinterpretations. I will comment more on the Le Puy in subsequent postings. All clearly was not negative. Well, here it goes.

My wife and I walked the Frances in 2013 and had a wonderful time and experience. In 2015, six months ago, we walked the Le Puy and our experience was quite different. First, let me say that walking was not the problem. We enjoyed the scenery, the landscape, the solitude, the adventure, the exercise and the food. Here is a short comparison between the Frances and the Le Puy that explains why we much preferred the Frances.

First, the atmosphere was very different. On the Frances, everything was the pilgrimage. On the Le Puy very little was the pilgrimage. Most of the people we met were French and walking the Grand Randonee, not the Camino de Santiago. Many French families walk this route for a few days or a week during their vacations. For this reason, I missed the “Buen Camino” or “Bon Chemin” salutation and the camaraderie that the Frances had.

Second, unlike the Camino Frances, most of the people walking the Camino were French. We did meet some Germans and a scattering of other nationalities, but the overwhelming majority were French. I truly missed the international atmosphere of the Camino Frances.

Third, since I spoke little French and my wife spoke only some French, conversations on the Chemin and at the gites were very limited for us. I spent many a day listening to French spoken at the dinner table with limited understanding and even more limited conversation. I especially spent many meals struggling with my loneliness. This was very different from the Frances where I was able to communicate in Spanish and mostly, in English. Due to the international environment of the Frances, English was generally spoken by almost everyone. It was our experience that very many French people on the Le Puy either didn’t speak English or chose not to speak English. Quite honestly, I don’t know which it is. There were some notable exceptions and we quickly befriended them. We were also invited to Paris from two Parisian couples. Don’t misunderstand me I am not an arrogant American that expects everyone to speak English. This observation only suggests how much easier the Frances was for someone with very limited knowledge of French. If I was fluent in French, I obviously would have had a very different experience.

Fourth and related to the above, calling ahead to book reservations was very difficult and time consuming for us. My wife attempted to speak French during these times and often ran into difficulty. Even the places where Miam Miam DoDo indicated English was spoken, we found otherwise. Going through this process 30 to 35 times during the pilgrimage and several times a day (trying to locate availability) was very stressful for us (especially after a 15-17 mile walk). We also had mixed experiences at the Information Offices. Many of them were helpful, but we often ran into people there that resented our lack of fluency. Some said, "No, I don't speak English." Afterall, this is an Information Office.

Let me throw these criticism out as an introduction to more discussion.
 

jennysa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2011,2012 2013,2014, 2015 Aragones 2012, 2017 2018 Via Francigena 2016,2017 Primitivo 2018,2019
I hesitated writing this thread since I will be focusing on some negatives about walking the Le Puy Camino. It is very difficult to discuss negatives without misunderstandings and misinterpretations. I will comment more on the Le Puy in subsequent postings. All clearly was not negative. Well, here it goes.

My wife and I walked the Frances in 2013 and had a wonderful time and experience. In 2015, six months ago, we walked the Le Puy and our experience was quite different. First, let me say that walking was not the problem. We enjoyed the scenery, the landscape, the solitude, the adventure, the exercise and the food. Here is a short comparison between the Frances and the Le Puy that explains why we much preferred the Frances.

First, the atmosphere was very different. On the Frances, everything was the pilgrimage. On the Le Puy very little was the pilgrimage. Most of the people we met were French and walking the Grand Randonee, not the Camino de Santiago. Many French families walk this route for a few days or a week during their vacations. For this reason, I missed the “Buen Camino” or “Bon Chemin” salutation and the camaraderie that the Frances had.

Second, unlike the Camino Frances, most of the people walking the Camino were French. We did meet some Germans and a scattering of other nationalities, but the overwhelming majority were French. I truly missed the international atmosphere of the Camino Frances.

Third, since I spoke little French and my wife spoke only some French, conversations on the Chemin and at the gites were very limited for us. I spent many a day listening to French spoken at the dinner table with limited understanding and even more limited conversation. I especially spent many meals struggling with my loneliness. This was very different from the Frances where I was able to communicate in Spanish and mostly, in English. Due to the international environment of the Frances, English was generally spoken by almost everyone. It was our experience that very many French people on the Le Puy either didn’t speak English or chose not to speak English. Quite honestly, I don’t know which it is. There were some notable exceptions and we quickly befriended them. We were also invited to Paris from two Parisian couples. Don’t misunderstand me I am not an arrogant American that expects everyone to speak English. This observation only suggests how much easier the Frances was for someone with very limited knowledge of French. If I was fluent in French, I obviously would have had a very different experience.

Fourth and related to the above, calling ahead to book reservations was very difficult and time consuming for us. My wife attempted to speak French during these times and often ran into difficulty. Even the places where Miam Miam DoDo indicated English was spoken, we found otherwise. Going through this process 30 to 35 times during the pilgrimage and several times a day (trying to locate availability) was very stressful for us (especially after a 15-17 mile walk). We also had mixed experiences at the Information Offices. Many of them were helpful, but we often ran into people there that resented our lack of fluency. Some said, "No, I don't speak English." Afterall, this is an Information Office.

Let me throw these criticism out as an introduction to more discussion.
Thank for sharing your experience of walking from La Puy. I was planning to do it next year on my own but I think that I will rather walk another route in Spain. I thought that this might be as you have described it and as my French is non existent this is probably not a good route to do on my own.
 

NavyBlue

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy and Camino Frances. Via Francigena. Tro-Breiz in progress.
Hello,

Fourth and related to the above, calling ahead to book reservations was very difficult and time consuming for us.
As often suggested on this forum, you may use your host for calling the following one. Show him/her your choice on the MMDD and he/she will be happy to call on your behalf. Gite owners tend to build an informal network with their colleagues upstream and downstream.

Most of the people we met were French and walking the Grande Randonnee, not the Camino de Santiago
A fair proportion of the supposed "hikers" walk the Camino by sections every year. Easier for them than for people from other continents. Might be also season related, with more hikers during the school holidays and more pilgrims otherwise. More pilgrims also, in percentage, once you have passed Conques, walking along the corn fields being not as popular as Aubrac.
 

efdoucette

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2011 Camino Frances
Since 2011 - too many to list
I hesitated writing this thread since I will be focusing on some negatives about walking the Le Puy Camino. It is very difficult to discuss negatives without misunderstandings and misinterpretations. I will comment more on the Le Puy in subsequent postings. All clearly was not negative. Well, here it goes.

My wife and I walked the Frances in 2013 and had a wonderful time and experience. In 2015, six months ago, we walked the Le Puy and our experience was quite different. First, let me say that walking was not the problem. We enjoyed the scenery, the landscape, the solitude, the adventure, the exercise and the food. Here is a short comparison between the Frances and the Le Puy that explains why we much preferred the Frances.

First, the atmosphere was very different. On the Frances, everything was the pilgrimage. On the Le Puy very little was the pilgrimage. Most of the people we met were French and walking the Grand Randonee, not the Camino de Santiago. Many French families walk this route for a few days or a week during their vacations. For this reason, I missed the “Buen Camino” or “Bon Chemin” salutation and the camaraderie that the Frances had.

Second, unlike the Camino Frances, most of the people walking the Camino were French. We did meet some Germans and a scattering of other nationalities, but the overwhelming majority were French. I truly missed the international atmosphere of the Camino Frances.

Third, since I spoke little French and my wife spoke only some French, conversations on the Chemin and at the gites were very limited for us. I spent many a day listening to French spoken at the dinner table with limited understanding and even more limited conversation. I especially spent many meals struggling with my loneliness. This was very different from the Frances where I was able to communicate in Spanish and mostly, in English. Due to the international environment of the Frances, English was generally spoken by almost everyone. It was our experience that very many French people on the Le Puy either didn’t speak English or chose not to speak English. Quite honestly, I don’t know which it is. There were some notable exceptions and we quickly befriended them. We were also invited to Paris from two Parisian couples. Don’t misunderstand me I am not an arrogant American that expects everyone to speak English. This observation only suggests how much easier the Frances was for someone with very limited knowledge of French. If I was fluent in French, I obviously would have had a very different experience.

Fourth and related to the above, calling ahead to book reservations was very difficult and time consuming for us. My wife attempted to speak French during these times and often ran into difficulty. Even the places where Miam Miam DoDo indicated English was spoken, we found otherwise. Going through this process 30 to 35 times during the pilgrimage and several times a day (trying to locate availability) was very stressful for us (especially after a 15-17 mile walk). We also had mixed experiences at the Information Offices. Many of them were helpful, but we often ran into people there that resented our lack of fluency. Some said, "No, I don't speak English." Afterall, this is an Information Office.

Let me throw these criticism out as an introduction to more discussion.
This is exactly how I found the route from Le Puy to Conques in 2013. I eventually left this route taking a train to St Jean PdP and walked 2 weeks to Burgos, more appropriate for a non French speaking person, for all the reasons above, in my opinion.
 

nellpilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SDC-Fisterra 08/Camino Frances SJPP to SDC 09/Nuremburg-SDC 11- ongoing
Hi Relrog thank you for sharing your experience. It's a route I'll be joining soon.

Am I right in understanding that you walked from Le Puy to SJPP (or possibly an alternative french end point but not on to SDC?) this time- perhaps with the intent of returning to complete your pilgrimage to SDC at some stage via the CF or another Camino route?

The reason I ask is that I'm currently on a long distance 'Pilgrimage interruptus' myself (started from Nurnberg in Germany) & as I've ended each of the stages on my journey so far I haven't had anything like those feeling of 'closure'/ completion I felt on my arrival at either SDC and Fisterra on previous pilgrimages. It wasn't that I expected to feel that way but rather the absence of those feelings brought home the importance, for me, of my pilgrimage's ultimate destination. Indeed without the energy of that attraction/pull I doubt I'd get off my you know what. (of course I realise that this is not the case for everyone).

Though I'm now heading onto more trodden paths, as a consequence of the seasons I walk and my route choices to date on this pilgrimage, solo walking has pretty much meant solitary walking which has been wonderful...to a point. Having said that, and at risk of repeating myself, I can't wait to get back to the 'madding crowds' of the CF. So if you see a battered old peregrina viewing a pack of shrieking Spanish Teenagrinos with a puzzlingly benign grin on her face (and ear plugs securely in place)…that'll be me!

So far I've found that my solo state actively encourages/forces me to engage with locals/other pilgrims using what can only be described as hand to hand language skills i.e. whatever rudimentary German/French/body English I have in a way I simply don't to when walking with an/others (especially those possessing better linguistic skills than I do-which is pretty much anyone else) While this has worked to date that experience may very well change as I join this route.

I hope you're planning to rejoin the pilgrim throng soon but whatever your path Buen Camino.
 

mla1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (2000); Ch St. Giles (2013); Le Puy to SJPP (May/June 2015); vdlp 2016
Hi Rellrog,

I walked the LePuy route to SJPP last spring. I loved the walking and the landscapes. And I did meet some very nice people and I would go back in a second - at the very least to see the roses again! But I agree with much of your post. The social experience on this route is very different than what I experienced walking in Spain - or than I have experienced on long distance walks in the UK. And I missed that quite a bit - although I was fine to have a solitary time and to really have the main focus of my days be on the walking. But not everyone wants that.

I am relatively fluent in French - so while some of the social distance felt like it was about language (I do find it hard to follow big group discussions), it was definitely more than that. Sometimes it felt like people were just shy or reserved, but other times like they were simply not interested -- many French people walk the GR 65 in short blocks of time, with groups of friends, and they are on holiday to enjoy each other and not necessarily to interact with other walkers. Which makes perfect sense, but it can be an odd feeling to share a meal at a large table with people who don't really try to engage with you. Sometimes the hospitaliers or the gite owners made an effort to connect the people at the table - but that only happened a few times.

There were many nights when I was the only non-French person at the table, which I think would have been much harder had I not had some ability to at least listen to conversations.

At the risk of generalizing, my sense was that the French people I met were very cautious about wanting to practice other languages. I had crossed paths with one woman for days, and eaten several meals with her before she mentioned one night at dinner that she was taking English lessons at night. The man sitting beside me said he was also taking English classes. They were people I had spoken to and walked with and shared meals with for a few days, but they were still extremely reluctant to try to practice. Another night at dinner, I engaged in all sorts of mental gymnastics to try to resurrect my very rusty, very basic German in an effort to include an older woman from Austria in the conversation. I was only marginally successful. Eventually it became clear that the young woman beside her - raised in france, right on the german border -- had studied German all through school and spoke quite well. But she kept claiming that her germans skills (a gazillion times better than mine) were not good enough for her to use them -- even though those german skills could have done a lot to make the Austrian woman's evening more pleasant.

I also found, as someone posted above, that after Conques, things did change. The people who were walking the Chemin rather than the GR found each other -- and that group was more international - though it was still over-whelmingly french. In some ways I think my experience was partially a consequence of the particular 'bubble' I found myself in - other people I met seemed to have had a more international experience.

I do want to walk in France again - but this year I'm going back to spain - in part to see if I will find more of the kind of social experience I remember from the last time I was there.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
I've walked the Le Puy twice, and part of the route from Paris via Orleans and Tours, and part of the Arles, and the Canal du Midi from Sête to Toulouse. So obviously I love walking in France, or I would not have gone back. But generally, I have to agree with the comments in the original post. Walking in France is stunning countryside, beautiful villages, fabulous food, and French life and culture. It is far less about history, pilgrimage, and being part of a moving community.
 

mla1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (2000); Ch St. Giles (2013); Le Puy to SJPP (May/June 2015); vdlp 2016
And - if you like old roses - a walk in france in the spring will have you over the moon.
 

Attachments

BShea

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
(9/2013) Le Puy
(5/2015) CF
(5/2016) Le Puy
(5/2017) CF
(9/2017) Le Puy
(9/2019) RL Stevenson
Wow. I had a totally different experience in France. Although I speak French, my walking companion did not. I felt that we were both warmly welcomed by the French. They were super patient with her attempts to communicate. They viewed us as an oddity as not many Americans walk the Le Puy route and they let us know that they were watching out for us. They saved places for us at the table and made our reservation calls which made us feel like we belonged. In addition to the French walkers, there were lots of Australians, British and Germans on the route with us. We all became part of a large group doing the same stages. I absolutely loved the communal dinners. It felt like we were one big happy family having a delicious meal. I never experienced that atmosphere on the Camino in Spain. I felt like the pelegrinos I met in Spain were a lot more independent. Kind, friendly, but definitely more concerned about their speed, their distances and getting their bed. Spain felt more like a race.

The last day when we walked under the arch into St. Jean Pied de Port, I almost broke into tears. I had such a sense of accomplishment. After experiencing that, arriving in Santiago was quite anticlimactic for me. I attribute this to the long haul into the city with no real "finish line."

I think that the experience you have is the luck of the draw. Your Chemin/Camino is determined by the people who just happen to be walking at the same time that you're walking. I'm sure that if/when I do the Frances again, I could have a completely different experience. But for now, I'm going back to France....
 
Mia's "roses" photo brings back happy memories. That is a beautiful chambres d'hotes in Conques just opposite the site of the abbey. We stayed there at the end of our first part of the Le Puy route in 2007 and the roses were in bloom. It was a beautiful end to a wonderful walk.
My own experiences of walking from Le Puy over three years were more like BShea's above. I do speak some French but my husband does not. We made many friends, French and otherwise. Some we are still in touch with. Some have visited us here in Ireland. The demi pension experience was excellent. We walked mainly in late May early June and we met some other native English speakers and also Germans who spoke good English. However, that said, I can see that it could be difficult for a lone walker who spoke no French at all. Even so I found the majority of the French people we met were very welcoming and tried hard to include us in conversation. I had an interesting conversation with a French women one day as we were walking who told me that she felt her fellow French people were very frightened to try to speak English even if they had learnt it as they were afraid of making a mistake. My french is very haphazard and I no longer worry about grammar as long as I can make myself understood. In Spain I have to rely on about six words of Spanish and lots of mime but it works. If you really want to communicate you can provided the other party is willing to meet you half way.
 

marbuck

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Condom to Pamplona April 2016.
Le Puy to Condom France - April-May 2015.
Roncesvalles to Santiago April - May 2014
Finisterre to Muxia May 2014
I hesitated writing this thread since I will be focusing on some negatives about walking the Le Puy Camino.
We walked from Le Puy to Condom last year and could not agree more with your comments. But we did love walking in France, and are going back to Condom in 4 weeks time to finish our Le Puy Camino to SJPDP. Then on to walk the CP. Then because we love walking in France we are going back to Le Puy to walk the RL Stevenson before we go home.
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
I will be focusing on some negatives about walking the Le Puy Camino
Negatives? I don't find any. ;)

I have walked Le Puy twice, Tolosana twice, and Vezelay once. Your descriptions are quite accurate. I am language impaired, so appreciated the volunteer translators I found. At a gite in Ostabat, the host lead the pilgrims in song in Basque, and even the French did not know what they were singing much of the time. One song was "She'll be coming 'round the mountain" in Basque! Who would have imagined.

Your experiences were negative because you yielded a bit to your insecurities. If being lonely or in communicado does not bother a pilgrim, then your accurate facts to not lead to a negative. Pilgrimages in France do not lead directly to the cathedral in Santiago, the real point of a Camino de Santiago, so the general atmosphere is different, just as you say. Without the end goal, the routes in France do not attract as many "foreigners." The French take to the GR system every weekend, so booking ahead becomes necessary because the French book ahead. I always found the hosts willing to make phone calls a couple of days ahead so that I did not have to struggle with a phone call in French.

The caminos in Spain drew over a quarter of a million pilgrims last year. The routes in France drew just a few thousand. It makes quite a difference! Vive la difference.

I describe the difference between the Chemin du Puy and Camino Frances as the Chemin de St. Jacques is a pilgrimage with the French; the Camino Frances is a pilgrimage with other pilgrims. One needs to decide which is best for himself/herself.

Your post is an excellent description of what many find! I hope it helps some Members decide what to do. The ones that hate crowds may love a two hour dinner with a conversation mostly in hand gestures...
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2020? Looks like.... nowhere! 😁
Hi Rellrog,

I wondered, after reading your comments, how French people would feel if travelling, say, to Sacramento? Would the locals all happily talk in French to make them feel at home? Just asking...

I agree with some comments above though, most French people I met when walking are extremely reluctant to speak English but in my experience it's because they're afraid of sounding stupid! It is embarrassment, not unfriendliness.
'Onest! ;)

And forgive me for going on, but I can't help adding this: when I travel to foreign countries, I do not expect the locals to speak either French or even English! I brush up on the necessary phrases to survive and make contact.
 

NavyBlue

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy and Camino Frances. Via Francigena. Tro-Breiz in progress.
Hi,

most French people I met when walking are extremely reluctant to speak English but in my experience it's because they're afraid of sounding stupid!
I concur with that. When learning foreign languages in the french highschools, the pedagogy (is it really one ? :rolleyes:) is mostly about grammar and avoiding mistakes, not about communicating with others. Middle-aged people have few or none opportunities to practice and maintain their English, except the few ones who work in an international environment. If you make the first step, trying to use your French, as miserable as it could be, they will feel safer ! Doesn't work every time however.

And by the way, large conversations in French are not always easy to understand, even by... a French !
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
This is the kind of misunderstanding I am referring to. Domigee, I always expect difficulties in communication when I go abroad...and I do brush up on the basic language when I go there. I speak Spanish and, in addition, I took 2.5 months of Spanish when I was in Spain. When I spent a month in Portugal I took a class on Portuguese basics in Lisbon. I have traveled all over the world and always brushed up on language basics before going...but there is only so much one can do. My posting was only highlighting the difference between my "experience" between the Frances and the Le Puy. The Frances was a wonderful experience for me because 50% of the "wonder" was the pilgrimage itself and 50% was the wonderful communications I had with the many pilgrims that became our friends. Due to my lack of French fluency, I can't say the same about the Le Puy. I expected that before walking the 450 miles, but didn't realize the extent of the problem. I am not blaming the French people...we met enough very nice people to have fond memories. We still are in contact with a couple of Parisians we met on the way. Interesting that of the different countries we went into during our 7 months in Europe, we found the Portuguese...both in Lisbon and Porto... to be the overwhelming friendliest. In addition, almost all of the youth we met there spoke English...very surprising. One thing they told us and we experienced is that, in Spain, movies are dubbed into Spanish. In Portugal, foreign language movies are left in the original language and Portuguese subtitles are used. That is one of the reason, they say, English is so widely spoken there. We are considering walking the Portuguese Camino next....Lisbon to Santiago.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2020? Looks like.... nowhere! 😁
I shouldn't have added my last paragraph, Rellrog. :oops:

I am still very irritated because of something that happened to me in Spain last week: I was sitting on a bench watching the sea and a young couple approached me to ask for help (a long story) ....in English! I am not English, I don't even think I look English.... No attempt was made to say 'hola' or '¿hablas inglés?' And it happens time after time...

So mea culpa, I should not have brought my irritation to this forum, you certainly didn't deserve it. For my punishment, I think I'll have to do another pilgrimage ;)
 
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C3 to Camino

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(Sept 2018 planned)
In what little travel I've done, I've always run into someone who takes offence that they aren't being spoken to in English. Usually (sorry to say) North Americans.

That being said, Rellrog's point is well taken. We are considering options for our Camino, including the Portugues if we only have a short time. We do not speak Portuguese (my husband gets by in Spanish, and we will both be learning more before we go). Would I run into the same problem on the Portuguese, or even other routes less popular than the Frances? Or is this strictly a Le Puy issue because of the GR?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
Not a problem, Domigee. I fully understand. I like your penance, though! :) I travel quite a bit and often to countries I don't speak the language...Japan and China. I never expect that people will speak English. I make do with the few words and phrases that I learn. Only I suffered badly on the Le Puy when I had much to share and inquire about and was not able to do it during a social setting...like dinner. My only point is that one's experience is so much greater when you can communicate. I love discussing with others, the route, the culture, politics, what they think of American politics...Donald Trump :), etc. Its horrible to know enough French to tell that people are talking about their day's experience and not be able to converse.

Regarding, C3, I have not been on the Portuguese Camino yet but I spent a month in Portugal and was surprised that so many people spoke English...especially those under 40 years of age. It was almost like being in Germany or the Nederlands. We often tried to use Portuguese but the response was usually in English. One thing I experienced is that the Portuguese do not appreciate it if you assume they understand Spanish. They do, in fact, but resent it when people equate Spanish with Portuguese. It is my experience that the Portuguese have an easier time understanding Spanish than the Spanish with Portuguese. To answer your question....I suspect you won't have a problem with English on the Camino Portuguese.
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
I like this thread as I start from Le Puy about five weeks from now.

Someone above said teaching of foreign languages in France focus on grammar, not communications. I had the same experience when being taught French in my teenage years.

And, with significant hearing loss, I often fail to hear voices in a higher register or rapid fire speech, even with good hearing aids.

When en chemin next month I will use my current host to phone ahead for me. I will practice "bon matin", or is it "bon jour" even in the morning? And I will have "s'il vous plait" off pat, along with "Je n'parle Francais"

I will focus on the environment, natural and built. Encouraged by the example of the Bishop of Dunedin, I will enter open churches to say a prayer, to admire the strength of the community that built it and what they have achieved, and to have a rest.

I am sure I will be frustrated and upset from time to time. Possibly like the pilgrims of earlier eras that came from further afield.

If I encounter people I can communicate with, that will be a bonus for me.

The original post has been helpful to me: thank you.
 

NavyBlue

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy and Camino Frances. Via Francigena. Tro-Breiz in progress.
I will practice "bon matin", or is it "bon jour" even in the morning? And I will have "s'il vous plait" off pat, along with "Je n'parle Francais"
"Bon matin" doesn't exist --> "Bonjour", or "Bonsoir" in the evening.
"Je ne parle pas français"
"Merci"

A good start. You will find more on the internet !
 

Sixwheeler

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Arles Route (2013/2014 onwards)
I generally find that I practice my French on the French and they practice their English on me, it's very odd but often hilarious. One thing is certain, however bad your French if you try using it they will be generous in helping you; but do expect to have your grammar corrected.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
I agree that you should always attempt to use what French you know; however, I should say that the last sentence from Sixwheeler didn't always work for us. Often...especially when people are busy...like the gite owner or restaurants or shops...fumbling through one's poor French was not appreciated and eyes roll or testy responses are returned. This especially happened when we called for reservations. I can certainly understand their point of view but it still put additional stress on us. I remember saying to my wife, "what happened to the idea that the French will appreciate our attempts at French?" Expect that all won't be easy and, as someone said above, sing your praises when you are successful.

Regarding languages, I certainly recognize that those of us in the US are probably the worst in speaking languages other than English. It has much to do with our very poor language education and the lack of sufficient opportunities to use the language we learned. Both my parents were tri-lingual, but that is because they were not raised in the US. Hence, please don't feel that I am beating up on non-English speakers.
 

efdoucette

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2011 Camino Frances
Since 2011 - too many to list
So, here's a comment that will no doubt get me in trouble. It's a little off topic and I hope that I do not offend someone but it's just an observation that I have been dealing with lately. I say lately because I am a few years into retirement and have been doing some travelling now that we have the time.
Other than the basics of "hello, thank you, goodbye ..." are we expected to learn the languages of all the countries we visit. I have been to Morocco, Mongolia, Latvia, Norway, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, well you get the idea. And I'm sorry if someone gets annoyed but are we not to visit these countries because we don't speak the language?
 

cecelia

several caminos- '03-'13
[QUOTE="efdoucette,
Other than the basics of "hello, thank you, goodbye ..." are we expected to learn the languages of all the countries we visit. I have been to Morocco, Mongolia, Latvia, Norway, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, well you get the idea. And I'm sorry if someone gets annoyed but are we not to visit these countries because we don't speak the language?[/QUOTE]
Hi efdoucette,
In my opinion, the issue is not about whether we learn to speak the language of whichever countries we visit, but whether we have an expectation that others in those countries speak our language. If we do, we misunderstand our place in the world. (Not suggesting at all that you do)

Learning to speak at least bits of other languages enhances our personal experience as most suggest (and no doubt that is your experience as well - especially the basic courtesies you outlined), but as an obligation it's as unreasonable as it is to expect them to speak English - no more, no less.

I don't think anyone here is being critical at all of those who don't speak French or Spanish on the camino. But the obligation is clearly on us to get what we need when we are in foreign countries, not on the locals. (I've heard yelling doesn't really help either :) )

My experience on the Le Puy route was different from the Frances for sure, but not in a bad way. Since I'm Canadian and took French grammar in school, I feel some obligation to try to stumble through French where I can. I found the French people to be endlessly patient with my bumbles and not at all critical (with one exception as I've mentioned before on this forum). Admittedly I do apologize for my lousy French up front.

I did bump into one man who was a hospitalero for a week who wouldn't even look at anyone who didn't speak French, talked loudly to the French men at the table, ignored all women even his partner for the week, who is a French woman. I choose not to blame his behavior on the French, but just on his personal ignorance. Everyone else was great and helped me when I needed help (to make or cancel reservations or whatever). For the most part though I memorized the phrases around making reservations ahead of time and everyone appeared to understand (or at least there was a space for me when I arrived!)

However, it's definitely a more solitary and, incidentally, much more expensive route and VERY different from the Camino Frances. That's not all bad however!
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
I have found people very helpful in France, when I bumble around using a polyglot mixture of schoolgirl French, the odd (unintended) Spanish word, a bit of English, and lots of hand gestures. The one thing that stands out is how important it is to commence conversations with a polite preamble - good day, how are you, the weather is beautiful, your shop has so many good things, etc. That is an essential part of French culture, and is very helpful in getting people "onside". I think sometimes we are so focused on getting our needs met and it causes offence if we immediately launch into "Can I have...." or whatever.
 

Louise G

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Tour de Mt Blanc 2010
Cycle Loire 2011
Gr 20 Corsica 2012
West Highland Way 2012
Coast to Coast 2014
Cinque Terre & Amalfi Coast 2015
Camino Le Puy - Santiago(April 17th 2016)
I am also starting from Le Puy in mid-April. As a minimal French speaker, I have found that if you make the effort, much hilarity & mix ups can break the ice & the French people usually go out of their way to assist. I have been to France each year for the last 7 years, tracking down my ancestors - so feel an affinity anyway. I had not planned on making any forward bookings for accommodation, as I am never sure how far my poor long-suffering feet are going to carry me each day. Is this going to be a real problem?
 

marbuck

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Condom to Pamplona April 2016.
Le Puy to Condom France - April-May 2015.
Roncesvalles to Santiago April - May 2014
Finisterre to Muxia May 2014
And I'm sorry if someone gets annoyed but are we not to visit these countries because we don't speak the language?
I agree, I am from Australia and have travelled a very large part of this world and I only speak English. I find a smile will get you anywhere you wish to go.
 

Lucy Longpath

Lucy Longpath
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015), Puy Way (2016), North Wales Pilgrims Way (2017), Camino Vezelay(2018) &(2019)
I am also starting from Le Puy in mid-April. As a minimal French speaker, I have found that if you make the effort, much hilarity & mix ups can break the ice & the French people usually go out of their way to assist. I have been to France each year for the last 7 years, tracking down my ancestors - so feel an affinity anyway. I had not planned on making any forward bookings for accommodation, as I am never sure how far my poor long-suffering feet are going to carry me each day. Is this going to be a real problem?
Hi Louise, we are starting from Le Puy on 14th April so perhaps we will meet you somewhere along the way. We will be walking quite slowly. I have read that it is important to book as you go along as a lot of places are demi pension (half board). They may be in rural locations so the hosts need to know how much food to buy in advance. Miam Miam Do Do has all the information for booking accommodation. It is in French. There is also an iphone app for Miam Miam Do Do. I have also read that it is possible to get help with booking the next place from the hosts at the place you are staying. It does mean deciding how far to walk in advance which is not so flexible. There are also about 3 Bank Holidays in May when there may be high demand for accommodation. During these holidays we may find it more difficult to buy food, shops closed etc. not sure about restaurants but may be good to book demi pension a few days in advance.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
Louise, we went during the high season...July. During that time booking ahead is an absolute must. The one time we were not able to book ahead, we spent quite a bit of time looking for a vacancy. All the advice I read says that booking ahead is a very good idea. Even though you are going in April I still suggest making that call...or having someone else do it for you. Oh also...walking into small towns on a Sunday is difficult. We stayed in Decazeville on a Sunday and just about all eating establishments were closed. This was less a problem in the bigger cities. Bon Chemin!
 
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mla1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (2000); Ch St. Giles (2013); Le Puy to SJPP (May/June 2015); vdlp 2016
I walked in May last year and many nights the gites were fully booked, especially around the various holidays. At those times reservations were essential. And if you want to stay in some of the well-known places, like the Monastery in Conques you will need to book well in advance. But there were also many days (mid-week would be fairly safe) when I just booked in the morning, after walking for a little while. And a few times when I just stopped where I wanted to and found a bed. As many people have said, your host can help you book for the next night - but other walkers will also help you make reservations.

One thing to remember about reservations: If your plans change, you need tocancel your reservations so someone else can have that bed -- and so the hosts don't waste money on food that will not be eaten. I had a number of conversations with frustrated hospitaliers about people who reserve but then don't show up.
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
I was planning to do it next year on my own but I think that I will rather walk another route in Spain.
Reading Rellrog's original post, I think it is important to focus on his central issue: that his inability to communicate in French made him feel lonely, isolated, disconnected, and this was very uncomfortable for him. Not everyone reacts in the same way.

I walked the Le Puy route in two segments, in consecutive years, as my first experience walking the pilgrimage routes. The first year, I spoke no French at all (the first week I had fluent friends along with me). The second year, I wised up and learned some basic phrases. Everything Rellrog describes about the external facts was consistent with my own experience; but our internal experience was entirely different. I stayed at gites that were listed as English-speaking in Miam Miam Dodo; and so there were almost always other English-speaking pilgrims staying there too (Germans, Dutch, Swiss, Austrians, Aussies) for conversations in the evening. I relied on other pilgrims (Normands and Quebecois), as well as gite owners, all of whom were fluent in French, to call ahead for reservations. This required making myself a bit vulnerable - which I found to be the essence of the pilgrim experience. I took a Kindle along and was able to read when there wasn't a conversation to join. Frankly, I enjoyed the solitude, the quiet, and not being involved in constant chatter.

The Le Puy is a wonderful route, and offers a very different pilgrim experience from the Camino Frances in Spain. Walking in Germany or Switzerland offer different experiences yet again. As the French say, Vive la difference! As with all the descriptions of personal experience posted here in these forums, "your mileage may vary".
 

Cayou

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 Villafranca to SdC 2016 St Jean to LosArcos 2018 Leon to SdC 2019 Le Puy to Conques
Planning on Le Puy - Conques in 2017 and this thread has been a great help. Hearing experienced Pilgrims/Hikers share their personal thoughts is more than special.
So:
1. Need to practice some French - hate to be the lazy American
2. Need to anticipate a different feeling with people we encounter - and that's not a bad thing
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
Well now that you pointed out the four things you didn’t like about Le Puy, can you tell us the four things you liked about Le Puy? Okay…here it is.

The landscape and the towns that we walked into were outstanding and picturesque. Le Puy en Valet was a spectacular old town with a beautiful cathedral. Our gite had a roof that gave us a 360 degree view and an excellent view of the cathedral. The Town of Navarrenx had beautiful streets and shops with many shops containing cutout pictures of its owner just outside of the door. Condom had a great festival when we arrived and the town was picturesque to say the least. Moissac had beautiful canals and we spent a lot of time watching the boats going through the locks. Lauzerte and the towns in that vicinity had acres of sunflowers that had faces carved in them. It took us hours to pass these field, they were that large. We often had to walk around them to get to the other side. It was in this location that we met Peter the German pilgrim that is spending all his days walking the Camino. He has walked the Camino almost 20 times and is known by everyone we met. A very nice guy...we had a picture taken with him.

Just a note about getting into towns on the Le Puy. If you see it and it looks about half a mile away…add another 2-3 miles to that since the path leads you around the town to the “correct” entrance. Oh my! St. Jean Pied de Port was much larger and more touristy than we remembered two years before. It is still a lovely place. Enjoyed listening to the click clack of the trekking poles the next morning as the pilgrims headed for the Napoleon. We wished we were with them.

The food in France was wonderful. I never complained about the food in Spain…even the Pilgrims menu, but the French meals were above and beyond my expectation. I am somewhat limited since I don’t eat much meat…was at one time a vegetarian…but my wife had her fill of foie gras and other French specialties. She loved it all. I loved the Garbeaux soup that was filled with green vegetables (and a ham hock). This reminded me of the Caldo Gallego in Galicia, Spain, that I so adored. No complaints about the food in France…except for me, there was too much meat. However, this can be said of Spain also. Small complaints are that you have to arrive at the restaurant within a specific time frame or told that the restaurant has stopped serving. Several times we arrived at 1:30P (believe it or not) and was told that it was too late for service. Be careful!

The gites, both small and large, inexpensive and expensive, public or private family run, were mostly very comfortable and clean. All complaints, as stated before, were on making the reservation and not the establishment itself. The food was very good. We tried the full range of gites and, as expected, the more you are willing to pay the nicer the place was and the better the food got. Some of the food was clearly exceptional.

The fourth Like is the approach to San Jean Pied de Port. We spotted the Pyrenees two or three days before arriving at SJPdP and the sight was amazing. Both my wife and I could not stop staring and could not avoid the tears since we, 2 years before, had started there. We felt like we were finally arriving home. Like arriving at Santiago we spent the next couple of days in a state of euphoria. I am sure others can relate to this.
 
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John Lunde

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 Santiago
Arles 2018 planned
I have walked the Le Puy route and found the experience varies with the nature of the countryside I passed through (poorer areas are kinder to pilgrims) and the ratio of pilgrims to holiday hikers. I agree with what is said here about this route. I speak little French and always begin with "s'il vous plaît pardonnez-moi , je ne parle pas français". I had two principle difficulties. (1) Finding food on Sundays, Mondays, holidays and in villages. It is surprising how many such days occupy the calendar in April and early May. It is also surprising how often one comes to a village or town between the hours of 1pm and 4 pm when the shops and cafes that do still exist in them are closed. Restaurants are usually not serving again until 7pm. The French eat their meals at meal times and no snacking it seems. I'm sure a sound command of French would have enabled me to conduct the conversations necessary to find the off route exceptions. I did not note excessive hunger among any of the French people walking. (2) I experienced a fairly high degree of social isolation due to my inability to command conversational French. I found more interest in conversation among the fellow pilgrims, French and otherwise, than I did among the French holiday hikers. But the holiday hikers were the majority by far. One example was a night at table with perhaps a dozen French holiday hikers. The conversation went on for a long time in rapid French as one might expect, at length the man next to me turned and asked in perfect American accented English where I was from. I answered in English, he smiled, several around nodded, and then he turned away and all went back to French conversation. I don't think it was rudeness or any animus but just a lack of interest. One post earlier in this thread wondered what a French speaker would experience in California. I don't know about California but in Minnesota I have been at table in such situations with a non-English speaker present and efforts were made by several people to engage them as much as possible by whatever means were available. My impression in France was often a lack of interest in things and people not French.
That said, I experienced a number of conspicuous examples of kindness and consideration by French people as I passed through. For example, a bar and restaurant owner in Condom, after telling me his kitchen was not open and seeing the raw hunger on my face motioned me to follow him, walked me out of his place and around to a small food store I had not seen and up to the case with plastic wrapped ham sandwiches. He stayed with me while I bought them and then seated me at one of his outside tables to eat them. This was a universal language that needed no translation. I shall remember this man long after I have forgotten everything else about that day.
In sum, the Le Puy route is wonderful but be prepared for its particular difficulties.
 

HilaryF

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy route Aug/Sep ( 2016)
Camino Frances Sept (2017)
I am planning to walk the Le Puy solo in August. All this information is very helpful. I speak minimal French, although I have done a French for Travellers course in preparation, find it difficult to learn.

I had read previously about difficulty booking accommodation in the high season, so I have booked ahead the whole way to ST Jean. This keeps me to a schedule which is the downside, but makes me feel a bit more secure about not having to sleep in a bus stop. The walking and the solitude will be a major part of the experience for me.

I chose the LePuy because it is quieter and from what I have read, more beautiful. I am hoping to continue to Santiago at my own pace, no booking ahead, so I am expecting this to be quite a different experience.
 
S

Satírico

Guest
Negatives? I don't find any. ;)

I have walked Le Puy twice, Tolosana twice, and Vezelay once. Your descriptions are quite accurate. I am language impaired, so appreciated the volunteer translators I found. At a gite in Ostabat, the host lead the pilgrims in song in Basque, and even the French did not know what they were singing much of the time. One song was "She'll be coming 'round the mountain" in Basque! Who would have imagined.

Your experiences were negative because you yielded a bit to your insecurities. If being lonely or in communicado does not bother a pilgrim, then your accurate facts to not lead to a negative. Pilgrimages in France do not lead directly to the cathedral in Santiago, the real point of a Camino de Santiago, so the general atmosphere is different, just as you say. Without the end goal, the routes in France do not attract as many "foreigners." The French take to the GR system every weekend, so booking ahead becomes necessary because the French book ahead. I always found the hosts willing to make phone calls a couple of days ahead so that I did not have to struggle with a phone call in French.

The caminos in Spain drew over a quarter of a million pilgrims last year. The routes in France drew just a few thousand. It makes quite a difference! Vive la difference.

I describe the difference between the Chemin du Puy and Camino Frances as the Chemin de St. Jacques is a pilgrimage with the French; the Camino Frances is a pilgrimage with other pilgrims. One needs to decide which is best for himself/herself.

Your post is an excellent description of what many find! I hope it helps some Members decide what to do. The ones that hate crowds may love a two hour dinner with a conversation mostly in hand gestures...
It is easy to yield to insecurity, especially after too much browsing on internet fora. I'm getting more encouraged to try trekking in France, however, after reading this thread. I have my maps and some phrases to use and that was all I needed in Spain in 2014. Buen camino.
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
I am planning to walk the Le Puy solo in August.
August will be very hot (at least by Seattle standards - your life in Australia may be better preparation for the heat). Also the French - including gite owners, shopkeepers, and restauranteurs - take holiday. So be very fore-handed regarding your food supplies. Check with your gite about local supply availability.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
Like John, I have had similar problems. Like John my experiences were both negative and positive. Regarding the latter, I remember the Chambres d’hote owner in a small town that insisted that we should not miss a Holocaust museum located just outside her town. She drove us there and stayed with us to answer our questions, and drove us back to her place. Then there was the young female owner of an AirB&B that we stayed at in Le Puy. She invited us up to her flat…two flights up from ours …for breakfast and a viewing of the town from her roof. She was extremely helpful in pointing out the places we had to visit and how to get there. Then there was the chambres d’hote owner that couldn’t speak a word of English but made us feel very comfortable during breakfast and the delicious dinner she served us the night before. She even offered to wash our clothes. These people and the two sets of wonderful Parisians we met on the pilgrimage are the memories we cling to. Then there is Domigee (on this thread), who is French, and I find to be a delight. She is kind, understanding and very easy to converse with.

I do have similar experiences of people at dinner ignoring me until someone asks me something in English. They then proceeded to spend the rest of the meal not sharing any of the conversation with me. This happened often enough to be unusual in polite society. Again, I don’t expect conversations to magically switch to English, but I do expect some consideration ….especially since there are those conversant in English and I was clearly uncomfortable. As I said before, I have travelled frequently and widely around the world and I don’t remember getting this degree of annoyance anywhere else….not in China, Japan, Turkey, etc. I do believe many French are impatient with the non-French or the nonspeaking French. I wonder how they expect to be treated when they travel outside of France and are unable to converse in the native language. It is impossible to be conversant in every country you visit...especially if travelling is your passion.

Interesting because I remember once having breakfast in a small hotel I was staying at in Santander, Spain. Each customer, on entering the dining room, greeted the host with the customary “Buenos Dias.” A French man walked in and greeted the host with a “Bon Jour.” Even though the host replied in Spanish, the gentleman continued to speak to him in French. I suspect this person would be annoyed if a Spaniard visiting France would say to him, Buenos Dias!”
 

HilaryF

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy route Aug/Sep ( 2016)
Camino Frances Sept (2017)
It is late August I am starting, so I am expecting the heat. I am currently walking in hot humid conditions at home. Thanks for the tip about the food supplies.
 

Eagle

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Franceis '07, Camino Portugues '10, Camino Franceis Sept '12
I walked from LePuy to Roncessvillas Sept-Oct '15. I had the exact same experience as Rellrogg 100%. I stopped answering the question about the difference between the Chamin and the Camino. It just upset people. France is about French holiday hikers that have little feeling about the pilgramidge and are not going to Santiago...ever. The Camino Frances is about an international community walking the ancient Way of St James to Santiago. Just a different cultural experience.
 

sharon w

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007
Camino Portugues 2009
Via Podiensis, Camino Frances, Camino Finisterre 2012
Cammino di Assisi 2014
Via Podiensis, Camino del Norte, Camino Frances(Astorga to Santiago) 2015
Aussie Camino 2016
I have walked the Le Puy route twice and will do it again if I am able. Both times were fabulous. Most of the French people we met could speak some English. However, it is always common courtesy to attempt to speak French when in France.
We booked accommodation up to Figeac from home by email. Then we asked our gite hosts or the tourist office to book ahead for us. We were a group of 3. That is the only reason we booked ahead. Most solo walkers got accommodation easily. Also, as stated previously, if you are booking demipension your host needs to prepare the food.
I found most of the French people on this route were walking a pilgrimage and not just the GR route. They usually walk a week at a time. Eventually they hope to make Santiago. There are many on the Frances who are not walking it as a pilgrimage but for other reasons - to lose weight, as a walking holiday etc. As well, the churches are mostly open in France unlike in Spain.
Also, the French showed us how to enjoy the day. You don't have to race along to get accommodation. You enjoy a "pique nique" at 12.00 in the fields if fine.At night you feast, in most gites, on local produce in a communal atmosphere. Mmm ....makes me want to be there now.
 

sharon w

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007
Camino Portugues 2009
Via Podiensis, Camino Frances, Camino Finisterre 2012
Cammino di Assisi 2014
Via Podiensis, Camino del Norte, Camino Frances(Astorga to Santiago) 2015
Aussie Camino 2016
It is late August I am starting, so I am expecting the heat. I am currently walking in hot humid conditions at home. Thanks for the tip about the food supplies.
Started in late August last year and arrived in Santiago in November. It is a great time of year to walk.
 

HilaryF

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy route Aug/Sep ( 2016)
Camino Frances Sept (2017)
Started in late August last year and arrived in Santiago in November. It is a great time of year to walk.
Thanks Sharon, any tips as this is exactly what I will be doing. I have 90 days on the Schengen visa and hope to use all of them. I am trying to pack for nearly all weather without adding too much weight.
 

Joanne Vos

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
June - October 2016
In 3 months I will start my camino in the Czech Republic. After that Germany, Switzerland, France and of course Spain. I love the fact that I cross the several countries and with those their several languages. This is one of the basics of Europe. On my smartphone I already installed the several dictionaries and I'm planning to do some basic language lessons along the way. Plenty of time to learn at least the most needed sentences. Sure I won't be able to go in depth in my conversations but on the other hand, I will be having lots of other experiences on my journey.
 

C3 to Camino

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(Sept 2018 planned)
I had a similar experience with the language issue in Galicia last July. We were a dozen people, with not one common language between us. It seems to me that it is normal for the language being spoken to be the language of most of the speakers. In our case, there was some English being spoken before supper, and at one point they mostly switched to Spanish or Gallego (except for a few words, I can't tell the difference!). After a couple of hours of intense concentration trying to understand, one of our hosts asked why I wasn't participating in the conversation, as I had been before supper. It had never occurred to him that I was so focused trying to understand. My French background allows me to understand some, but I am by no means even conversational in either Spanish or Gallego (the only one, as it turned out)! However, I didn't expect them to switch to English or French, and they didn't expect me to speak in Spanish or Gallego. We all just got along. That week-end is one of my favorite memories of Galicia.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Geneva to Irun then Norte to SDC 2015, Piemont Pyreneen 2018
Wow!
What an interesting discussion. I walked completely across France last year and even though I am a Canadian and did take French in school a very long time ago, I am by no means fluent. But I got along just fine. I found everyone helpful and patient as I sometimes struggled to make myself understood. Oddly, the only folks who ever gave me a hard time about my French were folks from Quebec! Go figure.
It is very true that the French love to walk, and I have to say that the majority of the people I met were in fact hoping to eventually reach Santiago but the beauty of living in Europe is that you can walk for a day, a week or for however long you want. Where as when you are coming from as far away as Canada, say, we tend to want to make it in one long push.
I never booked ahead. I occasionally had to walk a few extra kms to find a bed, but several times the person running the gite offered a mattress on the floor and apologized that that there was no bed frame to go with it. My most memorable "no bed in the inn" time was a when the woman who ran the fully booked gite said she had a friend who has an extra bed and would I like her to call the friend. I hesitated for a few seconds the nodded "yes". Twenty minutes later a very elderly woman roared up in her fancy car and told me to get in. Off we sped over hill and dale until we arrived at a lovely old farmhouse where I was greeted by her equally elderly husband and shown to a lovely big room overlooking a gorgeous green field, and forested valley.
After I had showered, washed my clothes and had a quick nap it was time to begin eating....and that we did for over three hours. Aperitifs, pate de fois gras, numerous salads, steak and the piece de resistance "French onion soup" prepared in an 18th century French kitchen, and I really don't speak French but we chatted non stop throughout. At one point Madame asked Monsieur something in a language I had never heard before and I asked if they were speaking Oc, as we were in the Langue d'Oc. They both looked at me and fell silent, nodded their heads and said most French people have never heard of their ancient language.
I am hoping for a return next summer with my two oldest grand daughters and we'll walk from Arles.
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
My most memorable "no bed in the inn" time was a when the woman who ran the fully booked gite said she had a friend who has an extra bed and would I like her to call the friend. I
That has happened to me a half-dozen times in France! At one place the host asked what we wanted for breakfast. We said "eggs and bacon." We got it, the first non-bread-and-jam breakfast in weeks!!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
This has happened to us also. One such instance was when we rolled into Aroue. It took us 30 minutes to find our gite...only to discover it closed. At first we thought we were early and waited. We eventually started looking for a place to eat lunch. We discovered the small town did not have many eating establishments and everything was shut tight. One person told us that the nearest place for food was the next town. We sat on a half wall and contemplated what to do. After another 30 minutes a car drove up and asked if I was Roger. When I said yes, he turned off his motor and jumped out. He explained that he was the owner of the gite and that the town had suffered a water contamination. He said that everything was closed, but we can go with him to his house for the night. We hesitantly got in his car with our backpacks. His English was very poor, but with some of my wife's
French and hand signals we followed his lead on a 25 minute ride to a nearby town, Laas. He pulled up to a beautiful home that was under renovation. At the door, his wife greeted us (in French) and invited us in. She showed us to our very nice and large room on the second floor and private bath. Since it was too late for lunch at a restaurant (2:30P), the husband ran across the street to a restaurant and persuaded them to serve us. The meal, as usual, was wonderful. All-in-all, this was a great experience with wonderful, considerate and friendly hosts. BTW, the small town was beautiful and we spent much time walking around taking pictures. The next morning he drove us back to Aroue to continue our pilgrimage.
 
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John Lunde

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 Santiago
Arles 2018 planned
Yes Rellrog, this is the beauty of this kind of travel, and part of the soul of the pilgrimage experience. The pilgrim is reduced to the essentials and we become aware of what is important and grateful for the kindnesses large and small.
 
Camino(s) past & future
camino del norte ( 2 parts 2013 and 2014) Want to do the Portogal coast camino in summer 2016, and Via della Plata and the French Camino 2017 and 2018- hopefully
I hesitated writing this thread since I will be focusing on some negatives about walking the Le Puy Camino. It is very difficult to discuss negatives without misunderstandings and misinterpretations. I will comment more on the Le Puy in subsequent postings. All clearly was not negative. Well, here it goes.

My wife and I walked the Frances in 2013 and had a wonderful time and experience. In 2015, six months ago, we walked the Le Puy and our experience was quite different. First, let me say that walking was not the problem. We enjoyed the scenery, the landscape, the solitude, the adventure, the exercise and the food. Here is a short comparison between the Frances and the Le Puy that explains why we much preferred the Frances.

First, the atmosphere was very different. On the Frances, everything was the pilgrimage. On the Le Puy very little was the pilgrimage. Most of the people we met were French and walking the Grand Randonee, not the Camino de Santiago. Many French families walk this route for a few days or a week during their vacations. For this reason, I missed the “Buen Camino” or “Bon Chemin” salutation and the camaraderie that the Frances had.

Second, unlike the Camino Frances, most of the people walking the Camino were French. We did meet some Germans and a scattering of other nationalities, but the overwhelming majority were French. I truly missed the international atmosphere of the Camino Frances.

Third, since I spoke little French and my wife spoke only some French, conversations on the Chemin and at the gites were very limited for us. I spent many a day listening to French spoken at the dinner table with limited understanding and even more limited conversation. I especially spent many meals struggling with my loneliness. This was very different from the Frances where I was able to communicate in Spanish and mostly, in English. Due to the international environment of the Frances, English was generally spoken by almost everyone. It was our experience that very many French people on the Le Puy either didn’t speak English or chose not to speak English. Quite honestly, I don’t know which it is. There were some notable exceptions and we quickly befriended them. We were also invited to Paris from two Parisian couples. Don’t misunderstand me I am not an arrogant American that expects everyone to speak English. This observation only suggests how much easier the Frances was for someone with very limited knowledge of French. If I was fluent in French, I obviously would have had a very different experience.

Fourth and related to the above, calling ahead to book reservations was very difficult and time consuming for us. My wife attempted to speak French during these times and often ran into difficulty. Even the places where Miam Miam DoDo indicated English was spoken, we found otherwise. Going through this process 30 to 35 times during the pilgrimage and several times a day (trying to locate availability) was very stressful for us (especially after a 15-17 mile walk). We also had mixed experiences at the Information Offices. Many of them were helpful, but we often ran into people there that resented our lack of fluency. Some said, "No, I don't speak English." Afterall, this is an Information Office.

Let me throw these criticism out as an introduction to more discussion.
 
Camino(s) past & future
camino del norte ( 2 parts 2013 and 2014) Want to do the Portogal coast camino in summer 2016, and Via della Plata and the French Camino 2017 and 2018- hopefully
So interesting to read this. But I have decided to walk the Le Puy this summer(alone). I am eager to practice my french... My experience from the Camino is Camino del Norte)I need a book that I also can bring along during the walk. Any suggestions? In english.
Best wishes Åshilld
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
Le Puy will be a great place to practice your French. We used two books...Miam Miam Dodo (in French) and the Cicerone book. We used the former for its gite and chambres d'hote recommendations. We used both for route guidance. For the latter, we didn't find either to be that great. We would have liked to use a Brierley, but he didn't write one for Le Puy. If I was to do this route again, I would still get the Miam book. I would look for another in English that is highly rated by Amazon.com. I see some there that I didn't see when I first looked. I am sure others have suggestions.
 

sharon w

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007
Camino Portugues 2009
Via Podiensis, Camino Frances, Camino Finisterre 2012
Cammino di Assisi 2014
Via Podiensis, Camino del Norte, Camino Frances(Astorga to Santiago) 2015
Aussie Camino 2016
Thanks Sharon, any tips as this is exactly what I will be doing. I have 90 days on the Schengen visa and hope to use all of them. I am trying to pack for nearly all weather without adding too much weight.
Hi Hilary,
Last year, we had 85 days for our trip. We spent 2 nights in Paris, then train to Le Puy. Walked to SJPDP then caught the train to St Jean de Luz where we had 2 nights before walking into Spain and walking del Norte. Upon reaching Santiago we decided to forego walking to Finisterre/Muxia as we had been there before and wanted to explore Santiago in more depth. We had 5 nights in Santiago and then 3 in Barcelona.
So, altogether, 73 days walking. The weather was delightful. Some storms at the beginning and then fine through France. Only a couple of very hot days. Some rain early on in Spain and getting cooler. Only twice did I wear gloves and that was in Galicia. Of course, it rained a lot in Galicia. I loved the coolness for walking. So I guess, take layers. Many women were wearing leggings under shorts as it became cooler. Wet weather gear was the most important.
In 2012, we walked from April till July from Le Puy to Finisterre. We walked the Frances after SJPDP. As I recall we used about 85 days. We had 2 nights in Paris and 2 in Le Puy and SJPDP and Santiago. The rest of the time was spent walking.
The scenery is stunning in France and the food delicious. Enjoy!
 

HilaryF

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy route Aug/Sep ( 2016)
Camino Frances Sept (2017)
Hi Hilary,
Last year, we had 85 days for our trip. We spent 2 nights in Paris, then train to Le Puy. Walked to SJPDP then caught the train to St Jean de Luz where we had 2 nights before walking into Spain and walking del Norte. Upon reaching Santiago we decided to forego walking to Finisterre/Muxia as we had been there before and wanted to explore Santiago in more depth. We had 5 nights in Santiago and then 3 in Barcelona.
So, altogether, 73 days walking. The weather was delightful. Some storms at the beginning and then fine through France. Only a couple of very hot days. Some rain early on in Spain and getting cooler. Only twice did I wear gloves and that was in Galicia. Of course, it rained a lot in Galicia. I loved the coolness for walking. So I guess, take layers. Many women were wearing leggings under shorts as it became cooler. Wet weather gear was the most important.
In 2012, we walked from April till July from Le Puy to Finisterre. We walked the Frances after SJPDP. As I recall we used about 85 days. We had 2 nights in Paris and 2 in Le Puy and SJPDP and Santiago. The rest of the time was spent walking.
The scenery is stunning in France and the food delicious. Enjoy!
Thanks Sharon.
 

John Lunde

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 Santiago
Arles 2018 planned
Le Puy will be a great place to practice your French. We used two books...Miam Miam Dodo (in French) and the Cicerone book. We used the former for its gite and chambres d'hote recommendations. We used both for route guidance. For the latter, we didn't find either to be that great. We would have liked to use a Brierley, but he didn't write one for Le Puy. If I was to do this route again, I would still get the Miam book. I would look for another in English that is highly rated by Amazon.com. I see some there that I didn't see when I first looked. I am sure others have suggestions.
From Le Puy to Cahor I had no guide book and no map. I just followed the markings, white over red. Though I did go the wrong way for a while at least once a day. I used Miam Mian Dodo from Cahor onward and found it was all that I needed. The symbols and maps were easy enough to understand and I could struggle through enough of the French. I found the maps in Miam Miam to be adequate and useful. I found the listing of stores and places to eat less dependable. Between Le Puy and Cahor there were only two days when I didn't put on my rain gear.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
We went in late July and often the weather was hot...too hot for us. We would have tried September but we had to be in Santander for Spanish classes in September. The one problem that kept recurring early on on the route were the "way signs." For someone not used to the Le Puy, you have to pay close attention to the signage and be able to make the distinction between the Camino and the GR...it was often distinguishable...but often not. We made a few mistakes when we weren't giving it the attention needed... and did some extra walking. The other problem we had with signage was the lack of signs for the upcoming villages. Even worse was the lack of distance markers telling you how far places were. This was very different from the Camino Frances. The answer obviously is to have and study your maps carefully before you get started each day. Finally, another thing to look out for, is the extra distances needed because the route was not always the direct way between places. We learned from the natives that often when the GR was changed the Camino was changed also...and not for historical accuracy reasons. In a couple of places we found a more direct route and took it because the suggested route didn't make a lot of sense. Just watch out for this.
 
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Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
The other problem we had with signage was the lack of signs for the upcoming villages. Even worse was the lack of distance markers telling you how far places were. .
All the more reason to carry Miam Miam Dodo and consult it frequently. With its schematic maps of the area either side of the route, it's quite easy to see where you are.

I will point out that the most difficult bit of every day was finding my lodgings in the afternoon, if they were not immediately on the route. These days, I plug the street address into Maps on my iPhone, and walk directly there. It's great for retracing one's steps the next morning to regain the route, as well.
 

NavyBlue

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy and Camino Frances. Via Francigena. Tro-Breiz in progress.
Hi,

be able to make the distinction between the Camino and the GR...it was often distinguishable...but often not.
There should be no difference between the GR(65) and the camino. Maybe outdated marks might be seen in some areas.

But pay attention to GR/GR crossings : more than one pilgrim got confused in Varaire, for instance.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
Do we know that to be a fact because we often found GR signs going one direction and the Camino sign going another. We were so confused once we tagged along with two older French men that seemed to know what they were doing. After about half a mile they waved us down and said they had followed the wrong sign and we all headed back to find the correct one. When we arrived at the crossroads we all puzzled at how we could have known which was the correct sign. For the sake of not adding to the mileage, I suggest sticking to maps and GPS as much as possible. Another problem we had was missing a sign altogether...which is easily done if you have your head down being careful on a rocky path or trying to keep your face dry from the rain. If you are in a location where signs are few and far between you may end up adding a bit of distance to your day's trek. Also, I highly recommend walking with someone in some of these areas. I don't know how many times my wife caught something I missed or visa versa.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Geneva to Irun then Norte to SDC 2015, Piemont Pyreneen 2018
Hello Rellrog et al
Yes we do know that for a fact: I have before me the two guides I used walking from Geneva.
They are the FFRandonnee guide Sentier vers Saint-Jacques-de- Compostelle GR 65 Geneve - Le Puy Ref 650
and the FFR guide Sentier vers Saint-Jacques-de-Compostells GR 65 Le Puy - Moissac - Roncevaux. Ref 653.
I agree that you have to always have your wits about you to not miss a marker/balisages/arrow/sacallop as for some reason they are not always front and center. My experience was that generally for the larger towns the "way" was well marked coming in but I often had to do a little searching (even from a prominent church) to find my way out of town. I explained it to myself that the city fathers now that they had me, they wanted me to wander about a bit and hopefully spend a few Euros before spitting me out onto the trail.
bon chemin
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
I'll take your word for it; however, our experience on the Chemin (Le Puy) says otherwise. We had too many experiences that contradicts GR65=Camino...always. Interesting that you had a problem leaving...we did have a problem with that too...most significant was, believe it or not, leaving Le Puy. We walked out with four people and was later joined by another three. All seven of us had to ask a driver for the right direction. As it turned out we all were heading the wrong direction. Our bigger problem was finding a short route into many of the towns. We often walked a circuitous route into the town when, had we used the road, we would have gotten in a lot quicker.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I do have similar experiences of people at dinner ignoring me until someone asks me something in English. They then proceeded to spend the rest of the meal not sharing any of the conversation with me. This happened often enough to be unusual in polite society. Again, I don’t expect conversations to magically switch to English, but I do expect some consideration ….especially since there are those conversant in English and I was clearly uncomfortable.
I've never walked alone in France, always with my own companion(s), and since these were close friends I hadn't seen in years, we were pretty much in our own bubble most of the time. So I was probably acting like the French groups described by many of you. And I don't mean to derail the thread with my comment, but I think that as people talk about how they were frequently not included in dinner conversations on the LePuy route, we could reflect on how this phenomenon works on the Camino in Spain. In my experience, the lingua franca at the big meal gatherings is typically English. Those who do not speak English may feel just like many of us felt in France. This was brought home to me at a big albergue dinner in Oliva de Plasencia on the Vdlp. All Northern Europeans and North Americans, except for one Spanish couple. Conversation flowing -- in English. It wasn't till that couple made a comment to me about how "we don't have to leave home to be in a foreign country" that it hit me how rudely we were acting. Not saying that this has turned me into Ms. Politeness, but I do try harder now!
 

pudgypilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
voie de tours 2015
This is a very interesting thread, and I'm wondering if maybe there isn't something else going here besides what everyone has mentioned. While I have not walked either the Le Puy or the Frances, on the Tours route many of the French people I chatted with mentioned the importance of doing the pilgrimage alone so that you can properly meditate and reflect, and I wonder if this may not also have been part of what you experienced. It's true that most French walkers are just hiking, but they do seem to have a great respect for anyone actually doing this as a pilgrimage and I suspect that partly you may just have been let alone to be with your own thoughts. The coquille says that you aren't just out for a companionable hike.

The Tours route is extremely solitary, not even hikers since there's nothing special to the countryside as far as the French are concerned and if you want to cover ground you don't spend a lot of time on the GR on the stretch I was on, but it was a wonderful, wonderful experience for all that. I found that everyone I met was both interesting and interested, despite my horrible French.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
Thank you for raising a very good point, Peregrina2000. I suspect the point you raised does happen often and I was not thoughtful enough to have done something about it. I will be more conscious and considerate in future settings. I do want to say that my original point was I enjoyed the Frances more than the Le Puy because I do not speak much French and, unlike the Frances, had very limited communication during the pilgrimage. On the Frances, I enjoyed the ability to speak English to such a wide range of nationalities. Since I also speak Spanish pretty well, I had another opportunity to communicate. What I wrote about was only a personal experience given my French language shortcoming. As I said previously, if I had a better handle with French, my experience would have been quite different. Again, thanks for raising my consciousness.
 

Moominmamma

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Inglés (July 2015)
Chiasso - Le Puy (Jan 2015 - July 2017)
Le Puy - SDC (Summer 2018 -)
It's good to hear all of your experiences! I walked the Camino Inglès with friends last summer and we have been inspired to keep going, so much so that we have started again but this time from our front doors to walk to SDC with a slight detour. We're doing it in sections as we have work and family which makes it hard to fit in longer segments, though once we reach Spain we plan to do the last part in one go.

We're walking from Chiasso (CH) to Basel on the Via Gottardo (we've reached Luzern, with more walking this weekend), then in the summer we'll do a week from Basel to Bescancon, but after that we're deciding whether to take the Vezelay or the Le Puy route - any advice? We'll be heading in the direction of Beaune/Chalon anyway as my parents live there.

Between us we speak English, Italian and German, and enough French to get by, so I'm hoping language won't be an issue.

Buen camino.


Negatives? I don't find any. ;)

I have walked Le Puy twice, Tolosana twice, and Vezelay once. Your descriptions are quite accurate. I am language impaired, so appreciated the volunteer translators I found. At a gite in Ostabat, the host lead the pilgrims in song in Basque, and even the French did not know what they were singing much of the time. One song was "She'll be coming 'round the mountain" in Basque! Who would have imagined.

Your experiences were negative because you yielded a bit to your insecurities. If being lonely or in communicado does not bother a pilgrim, then your accurate facts to not lead to a negative. Pilgrimages in France do not lead directly to the cathedral in Santiago, the real point of a Camino de Santiago, so the general atmosphere is different, just as you say. Without the end goal, the routes in France do not attract as many "foreigners." The French take to the GR system every weekend, so booking ahead becomes necessary because the French book ahead. I always found the hosts willing to make phone calls a couple of days ahead so that I did not have to struggle with a phone call in French.

The caminos in Spain drew over a quarter of a million pilgrims last year. The routes in France drew just a few thousand. It makes quite a difference! Vive la difference.

I describe the difference between the Chemin du Puy and Camino Frances as the Chemin de St. Jacques is a pilgrimage with the French; the Camino Frances is a pilgrimage with other pilgrims. One needs to decide which is best for himself/herself.

Your post is an excellent description of what many find! I hope it helps some Members decide what to do. The ones that hate crowds may love a two hour dinner with a conversation mostly in hand gestures...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
Hi Mominmamma. I can't answer your question since I have never walked the Vezelay route. However, I see there is a thread in the Vezelay forum that compares the two. Buen Camino on your ambitious undertaking.
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
The Vezelay route has less pilgrim infrastructure than the Le Puy route, so there are hotels and stays in private homes. You need contact numbers to find the private homes.
 

Catahoula19

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances - 2014
Portuguese - 2016
Chemin St Jacques - TBD
Via Francigena - TBD
In what little travel I've done, I've always run into someone who takes offence that they aren't being spoken to in English. Usually (sorry to say) North Americans.

That being said, Rellrog's point is well taken. We are considering options for our Camino, including the Portugues if we only have a short time. We do not speak Portuguese (my husband gets by in Spanish, and we will both be learning more before we go). Would I run into the same problem on the Portuguese, or even other routes less popular than the Frances? Or is this strictly a Le Puy issue because of the GR?
We just finished the Portuguese from Porto. You'll never meet nicer people!
 

lovingkindness

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
.
... I have decided to walk the Le Puy this summer(alone)....I need a book that I also can bring along during the walk. Any suggestions? In English....
Bonjour, @Åshilld Sofia Henriksen. Here are three books I read either prior to or during my hike along la voie du Puy-en-Velay (late Oct, 2004). Enjoy!

Montaillou: Cathars and Catholics in a French Village 1294-1324. By Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie

The Perfect Heresy: The Life and Death of the Cathars. By Stephen O’Shea

The Rule of St Benedict. By St Benedict.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
Thanks Catahoula. In light of what was said in this thread, please elaborate? I will be walking the Portuguese from Lisbon in September and would be interested in seeing what you have to say.
 

Siobhan02

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances May-June 2014
Le Puy Sept 2016
I am planning to walk the Le Puy solo in August. All this information is very helpful. I speak minimal French, although I have done a French for Travellers course in preparation, find it difficult to learn.

I had read previously about difficulty booking accommodation in the high season, so I have booked ahead the whole way to ST Jean. This keeps me to a schedule which is the downside, but makes me feel a bit more secure about not having to sleep in a bus stop. The walking and the solitude will be a major part of the experience for me.

I chose the LePuy because it is quieter and from what I have read, more beautiful. I am hoping to continue to Santiago at my own pace, no booking ahead, so I am expecting this to be quite a different experience.
What date do you commence Hilary, I'm doing it solo in August also.
 

Catahoula19

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances - 2014
Portuguese - 2016
Chemin St Jacques - TBD
Via Francigena - TBD
Thanks Catahoula. In light of what was said in this thread, please elaborate? I will be walking the Portuguese from Lisbon in September and would be interested in seeing what you have to say.
Quite a number of places we ordered a coffee or food, after they brought what we ordered, would then bring out what food or drink they thought we'd like and made sure we had it. Many other memories of people just being genuinely nice. We walked from Porto so don't anything about Lisbon - Porto. Bom Caminho!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
During this thread many people have mentioned that they will be walking the Le Puy for the first time this year. I would love to hear about your experiences in light of my comments and those of the others. Some have indicate that they speak no French, others that they speak some French. Your comments are appreciated!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Past? Not enough.
Future? Sure!
It's good to hear all of your experiences! I walked the Camino Inglès with friends last summer and we have been inspired to keep going, so much so that we have started again but this time from our front doors to walk to SDC with a slight detour. We're doing it in sections as we have work and family which makes it hard to fit in longer segments, though once we reach Spain we plan to do the last part in one go.

We're walking from Chiasso (CH) to Basel on the Via Gottardo (we've reached Luzern, with more walking this weekend), then in the summer we'll do a week from Basel to Bescancon, but after that we're deciding whether to take the Vezelay or the Le Puy route - any advice? We'll be heading in the direction of Beaune/Chalon anyway as my parents live there.

Between us we speak English, Italian and German, and enough French to get by, so I'm hoping language won't be an issue.

Buen camino.
The Vezelay route is more flatter than the Le Puy one (I think it's the flatter of all french routes), but the difference is much more in the popularity:
In 2013, at Santiago, 3433 pilgrims arrived from le Puy, 179 arrived from Vézelay.

On "la voie de Vézelay", there is very few "albergue", most of the time, you will have to organize a B&B, small hotel, or (and that's really remarkable you will find families who will take you at home).
On "la voie du Puy", there is much more gites which are comparable with the albergue.

Buen Camino, Jacques-D.
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x 2 , Norte x 2 , Le Puy x 3 , Portuguese x 2,
Mont St Michel , Primitivo .
We just finished the Portuguese from Porto. You'll never meet nicer people!
Agree completely

During this thread many people have mentioned that they will be walking the Le Puy for the first time this year. I would love to hear about your experiences in light of my comments and those of the others. Some have indicate that they speak no French, others that they speak some French. Your comments are appreciated!
The Portuguese regard themselves as Atlantic not European.
We found this out after years of wonderful home exchanges there .
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
really remarkable you will find families who will take you at home
That practice is the most amazing of the Vezelay experiences. Local support organizations maintain the list of volunteers and find one for you when you call ahead. Calling ahead is essential! Typically the host will pick you up at the church, and return you there the next morning.

I would say for the non-French speakers that you will have to become comfortable with a long dinner of smiles and hand gestures. It is probably more of a strain on the hosts, who may be expecting French guests with whom they can share regional tales, than it is on the English-speaking crowd. A subsidiary event may be the bed. One host seemed a bit put out when I used my sleeping bag on top of the bed. My French was not good enough to explain that it was more for their benefit as a bed bug protection than mine! I am afraid that I was a bit insulting, but I did not want to leave any guests behind...

The hospitality is genuine. The homes are provided by great supporters of pilgrims. Almost all of them refused any kind of payment for bed, food, and wine unless it was a commercial operation. I always insisted that they accept a donation, to be given to the local organizations if they wished.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances: March 2013
Le Puy: July 2015
Portugues: April 2018
La Plata: March 2020-to be continued
On the Le Puy, we found a good number of small gites and B&Bs that were run by foreigners...British, German, Dutch. They added a nice change to our environment and they were always very friendly and helpful. The French B&B owners were always very nice...even when they did not speak a word of English. The dinners and breakfasts were sometimes exceptional ...like the absolutely delicious homemade confitures we were served with the delicious french bread. When we told one woman that we did not make homemade confitures she made us promise that we would try to make them and email her the results. All in French and hand gestures.
 

O Peracha

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago (2014)
Annapurna Base, Nepal (2014)
GR 5 - Holland to Pompey, France (2015)
Lisbon to Finesterre (2016)
I walked from Le Puy to Santiago in May & June of 2014. Wow! I read your post and it was as if we were in two completely different countries. My French was limited to basic greetings (good morning/afternoon, how are you, etc). I had heard about how aloof the French are and their reluctance to speak English even if they can and, so, was surprised at how universally kind and gracious they were. I did not meet a single French person who was rude or did not make me feel welcomed.

I was included in conversations at dinner. I remember one specific municipal gite where dinner was not provided. Most people cooked. I bought stuff for a sandwich and joined everyone else (about a dozen people). We spent hours talking. I was the only non-French but we managed with my limited French, their limited English and Google Translate. This was not an isolated incident and something I encountered not just with other hikers but also gite/hotel owners, restaurant employees, stores, etc. BTW, there were two other non-French people staying at this gite - an Australian and British - but they chose not to join us. Neither one spoke French and they stayed to themselves.

On my third day I started walking with a French couple. She spoke a little bit of English, he spoke none. We walked together for 4 days and had a great time. They taught me the handful of phrases I needed to book a bed or room, with or without dinner and/or breakfast, inquire about a washer and/or dryer, etc. I know my accent at least in the beginning was atrocious and probably hard to understand over the phone but never had any problems with reservations.

In Spain, I ran into several people who had started in Le Puy. Altogether around 8 or 9 people. Every single one of us preferred the Le Puy to St Jean leg. We found the Spanish section way over-crowded and very commercialized.

Conversely, in France, I ran into many people who had previously done the Camino Frances and had enjoyed it so much that they wanted to repeat the experience. However, all of them (at least the ones I asked and I asked a lot) found this experience lacking. They preferred the Camino Frances and some quit before they reached St JPdP.

Please do not misconstrue my comments. I am not discounting your experience. Just saying that mine was vastly different. I returned for another hike in France in 2015 and had a similar experience. I plan on returning to France again for a different hike this year. Hopefully I haven't jinxed it.

Oh, and the GR 65 and the Chemin St. Jacques are one and the same.
 

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