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The Way of Le Puy: All the Stuff You Wanna Know or Oughta Wanna Know Before Starting Out 1

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andycohn

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (12-15); Muxia (15); Portuguese, Primitivo (17); Norte, Ingles, VF partial (18), Le Puy (19)
andycohn submitted a new resource:

The Way of Le Puy: All the Stuff You Wanna Know or Oughta Wanna Know Before Starting Out - How to navigate the Le Puy route, a practical guide to information and resources

This seeks to answer the most common questions people have about the Le Puy route before starting out, and provides practical information on the route, accommodations, and available resources. Besides an introductory chapter on the route in general, the country through which it passes, and the terrain, it includes the following sections:
- Route-finding
- Guidebooks (and apps and gps tracks)
- Accommodations
- The Food
- Winging It or Making Reservations
- Your Fellow Travelers...
Read more about this resource...
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF14(21?)
Aussie Camino15
WHW15
CP16
CdelN Fin/Muxia18
GGW StCuthWay HadrWall CotswoldWay19
andycohn submitted a new resource:

The Way of Le Puy: All the Stuff You Wanna Know or Oughta Wanna Know Before Starting Out - How to navigate the Le Puy route, a practical guide to information and resources



Read more about this resource...
Thank you Andy. We are intending to walk the Via Podiensis in 2021, having previously walked the Frances, the Portuguese from Lisbon and the Norte. We were able to relate perfectly to your comparisons and found your advice very, very helpful for our planning.
Thanks again, Anne & Pat
 

Pamelalove

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Santiago (french Route) (10/19)
Podiensis (2020)

andycohn

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (12-15); Muxia (15); Portuguese, Primitivo (17); Norte, Ingles, VF partial (18), Le Puy (19)
No, no. I don't want to make money off it. Trying simply to be helpful. Just click on the "download" button, or on the blue text of the title, and you'll have it. Hope it's useful. If it is, you could always write something nice as a review, and then other people might be steered to it, too. Also, always happy to answer any questions that might arise.
 

Pamelalove

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Santiago (french Route) (10/19)
Podiensis (2020)
No, no. I don't want to make money off it. Trying simply to be helpful. Just click on the "download" button, or on the blue text of the title, and you'll have it. Hope it's useful. If it is, you could always write something nice as a review, and then other people might be steered to it, too. Also, always happy to answer any questions that might arise.
Your information was AMAZINGLY helpful! Thank you so much Andy! Did you like the Camino Primitivo? Camino Norte? Would you suggest combining the two?
 

andycohn

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (12-15); Muxia (15); Portuguese, Primitivo (17); Norte, Ingles, VF partial (18), Le Puy (19)
That was a nice email to get on Christmas day! Glad it was helpful.

As to the Norte and Primitivo: The Primitivo still ranks as our favorite of the caminos we've walked. Of course, that's always really subjective and it often depends on factors that have nothing to do with the camino itself -- such as the group you fall in with. But relative to the Frances and the Portuguese, we appreciated its tranquility, its beauty, the small towns, the lack of urban intrusions, its ruggedness (the same things we liked on the Le Puy route). And we happened to fall in with a terrific group of people.

I had more mixed feelings about the Norte. It's almost unendingly beautiful, but lot of tourist towns and tons of road walking, especially in the middle sections. These can sometimes be avoided through alternatives that have developed, but a lot of them are a fair bit longer, and often there's the impulse to just get somewhere. To us, the best parts were the first week or so to Bilbao, and the last part after it leaves the coast.

As to whether to do the Norte the whole way, or cut off onto the Primitivo, that becomes a matter of personal preference. The Norte gets a lot more serene after the Primitivo splits off, and it's a less arduous route than the Primitivo. It also combines the coast and inland views in a way that the Primitivo does not. And yet, the Primitivo just had a special hold on us.

Of course, the best thing is you don't have to make a choice until you get literally to the junction. With us, these decisions have often been made just because we wanted to stick with some people we had met.

I'm pasting in below longer descriptions of the 2 routes that I wrote after I walked them. They're from a longer "how-to" book that's similar to what I wrote up on the Le Puy route, but more comprehensive and geared towards beginners who've never walked a camino before. If you want it, let me know and I'll forward it.

Hope this is helpful. Have a happy holiday.

Camino Primitivo

The Primitivo branches off from the Northern Camino in Oviedo, near the northern coast of Spain, then cuts down west southwest, traversing the Cantabrica Cordillera mountain range, and meeting up with the Camino Frances in Melide, some 53 kilometers east of Santiago. Its overall length, including the stretch shared with the Frances from Melide to Santiago, is 334 kilometers, or 207 miles.
Several things distinguish it from the Frances. On a day by day basis, there’s nearly twice as much climbing, but less than one-tenth the number of people. (Of those earning a Compostela in June, 2017, when we finished the Primitivo, 26205 people walked the Frances, 7428 walked the Portuguese, and 1927 walked the Primitivo).
It’s also almost unendingly beautiful. Like the Frances in Galicia, much of the landscape is green and rolling, but the settlements are spaced further apart so it’s far more of an uninterrupted rural experience. The hill walking is strenuous, often 2500 – 3000 feet of climbing a day – flattening out only as it nears the last, shared portion with the Frances. But the rewards are great. Even though the mountains top out at only 4000 feet, some parts feel almost Alpine, with only low vegetation and spectacular panoramas on all sides.

We loved it. Because places to stay were more spaced out than on the Frances, most people tended to stop at the same place every night, so we soon felt like we knew everyone walking with us. With the exception of Lugo, an achingly beautiful city where we lingered an extra day, the towns were small, which also reinforced the feeling of intimacy we developed with our fellow travelers. It helped, too, that only some 30 – 50 people follow a given stage each day, rather than the many hundreds on each stage of the Frances. Even with few people, it didn’t feel lonely on the trail, since everyone tends to start around 7:00 AM. The feeling of lots of company can be illusory, however, as we found out one morning when we started after 8:00, and didn’t meet a soul for hours.

In general, our fellow travelers were younger, and fitter than on the other caminos. Still, there was no shortage of geezers like us to share aches and pains. And although there was less accommodation than on the Frances or Portuguese, there was still plenty enough, and the only people who scrambled for lodgings occasionally were those who arrived very late in the afternoon. We never had problems making a reservation the day before. Although the walking was far more difficult than on the Portuguese, we actually walked further each day, averaging almost 16 miles a day on the 11 days before we hit the junction with the Frances, when we slowed down and took 3 days to do the last 33 miles. In part, this was due to the length of the stages and our desire to stay in private rooms, when possible, but also because it was so exhilarating.

Perhaps the highlight was the so-called Hospitales stage, a spectacular, remote walk to the ridge of the Cordilleras, and as grueling as anything we did on the caminos – 18 miles with 3000 feet of climbing. When we finally hit the first bar that marked the return to civilization, some 15 or 20 of our fellow pilgrims were waiting for us, and cheered us in over the last 100 yards.

Nothing topped that fellowship – and the beer that followed.


Camino del Norte

After 2017’s adventures, we thought we were done with the Camino. Other walks
beckoned: the Via Francigena in Italy, the Coast-to-Coast in England. But as winter gave way to spring, we faced up to the fact that we were hooked – incurable Caminoholics.

So this time we plunged in with both feet – El Norte, longer even than the Frances and reputedly twice as hard, with ups and downs to rival the Primitivo. (Gronze.com, the bible of information for the caminos, rates 18 of the Norte’s 33 stages as level 3 or harder – moderate to extreme difficulty – while only 5 of the Frances’ 33 stages earn such a designation).

And up and down it was – both literally and metaphorically. The climbing was as
advertised, although the worst of it was in the first week, through the Basque country to Bilbao, and once we got past that, the challenges were less daunting.
Another “up” was the route’s unending beauty. Starting at the French border, the Norte’s first 650 kilometers follow Spain’s north coast, where green-carpeted mountains descend down to pristine white sand beaches. For an hour or two or three, you’re walking on a cliff high above the beach, then you cut upward and inland, through lush pastures, past cows and horses as you climb into the hills, descending eventually to a new beach or town. While the climbs moderate after the first week, the beaches and the countryside never stop to amaze.

Weeks later, at the start of Galicia, the Camino veers inland for the final 150 kilometers to Santiago. The beaches are left behind, but in compensation, the countryside becomes wonderfully remote and takes on a special, serene beauty.

But the Norte had its down moments as well as its ups. Along the coast, in particular, the towns lacked interest. They were tourist towns, plain and simple, whose existence depended on the hordes of beachgoers – Spanish, French, German – who descend upon them in July and August. Even Bilbao was drearier than I expected. Often, there were interesting museums or things to see – I learned about cave art at Altamira, and elsewhere, about the Indianos, the Spanish who went to Latin America in the 19th and 20th centuries to earn their fortunes – but I rarely felt I was interacting with Spaniards just leading “normal” lives.

In Galicia, it was better, as there was little tourist presence and the pilgrims were not so numerous that they dominated the stopping points, as on the Frances.

There was also a ton of road walking, even though we tried to follow many of the off-road alternatives that have developed in the last few years. Much of the road-walking was on untrafficked rural lanes, which were often preferable to the mud-soaked trails (we had five weeks of gray sky and rain), but too often, especially in the long middle section through Cantabrica and Asturias provinces, the roads hosted real traffic, and even those charming rural lanes seemed often within earshot of an autovia or busy highway.

But the downs never outweighed the ups. The busy roads never lasted long, and the first and last weeks were as beautiful and tranquil as any we had experienced on the caminos. Above all, there was the Pilgrim fellowship – all those friends we made from all over the world. Sadly, many of them split off where the Norte meets the Primitivo, but then we got to make a whole new crop of friends. And an unexpected benefit of walking through tourist towns in the off-season (May) was that accommodations, especially hotels and pensions, were plentiful and heavily discounted. Indeed, while we often stayed in albergues, it was not always the economical option. Plus, the restaurants catered to a more demanding crowd, meaning that the food, while still incredibly cheap, was way better than it had been
on the Frances.

As ever, there were unexpected highlights: Gaudi’s “El Capricho” house in Comillas, and next door, a Casa Indiano mansion turned museum; the spectacular monasteries where we stayed in Mondonedo and Sobrado dos Monxes; the wonderful solitary walks above the treeline and along the ridge on the way to San Sebastian (rain and all!), and later, between Mondonedo and Gontan; the “Buen Camino” scratched in giant letters on a beach far below us, which appeared suddenly, like a sign from above, at a lull in a driving rainstorm; the
proud nationalism in the Basque country; and always, the kindness of strangers.

And unanticipated low points. Two days into the trip, Kate’s back gave out entirely, and the only way she could continue was to ship her pack ahead every day. This cut down some on the spontaneity, as we had to let the courier service know by 8:30 every evening where we were heading the next day (Correos – they were fantastic). But when we made it to Santiago, it only added to the sense of accomplishment. When life gives you lemons . . .

Overall, we took it easy. With no kids, dogs, or jobs to return to, we didn’t make a return reservation until a week before we finished, so there was no pressure to be anywhere at any particular time. While we eschewed days off after Bilbao – it was hard to stay still, and the crappy weather didn’t encourage lounging outside -- we gave ourselves breaks by throwing in short stages, maybe 15 kilometers instead of 25, and any stage approaching 30 we routinely broke up.
 

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