We cycled the northern route. Bourges cathedral (we rode into Bourges along an old Roman road so that's quite evocative) has five portals and six tympanums (tympani? not kettle drums!) which could be considered excessive. The plain of Berry might be hot in midsummer but in Autumn it was sunny and breezy - perfect!
We stayed in
Pilgrim's gite in Arbourse - a dear little gite beside the mairie - clean, well equipped including some tins etc with prices on
OK, back now. Pregnant-teenage-daughter-getting-married-in-10-days-time gave us a scare this morning. She is now safely ensconced in an ante-natal ward. We heard the heart-beat loud and strong and the scan showed that the baby is growing and the cord is functioning well, so panic subsided somewhat. I have been in the hospital most of the day, and now I'm home I am using the forum to wind down!!!
Back to the Vezelay route. We used the Chassain guide (see the CSJ website and other posts in this sub-forum) to locate our night stops.
As I said, Arbourse was a lovely little 'Refuge de Pelerins de Voie de Vezelay', in a quiet and pretty little village. My notes say we got the key from Mme Shafer, second house on the right down the hill from the Mairie. THere were sheets, duvets, heaters and wonderful showers. Suggested donation here of 10 euros a head, I think.
Next night, Baugy. We called at the Mairie for the key and were shown the way to the municipal Refuge, next door to the presbyterie and close to the church. Microwave and kettle only cooking appliance here.But clean, cosy, showers, fine. I didn't note the cost/expected donation here - not a lot, anyway.
Next night Bourges, where we found the cathedral TOO MUCH. MAybe we had just seen enough by there. We stayed in the homeless foyer as suggested in the guide. There is a little apartment set aside for pilgrims. We paid for the evening meal and breakfast and it was quite a significant amount - over 40 euros for the two of us. The food was simple and not an awful lot. We went out to find a phonebox and had to knock to be let back in at 10.30. We had an interesting conversation with one of the residents at the evening meal. At breakfast everyone was very silent.
At Bourges we rang ahead to one of the 'Accueil pelerin a domicile ' (private homes which offer accommodation to pilgrims) numbers in the guide. This was at a farm called La Tripterie, - wonderful set of old buildings - where they have a large caravan tucked under a barn roof - in effect a refuge, with shower, kitchen, food supplies in the cupboards etc. We shared this with a french pilgrim who shared our pasta/courgette/cheese one-pot supper. Host very friendly and full of sensible suggestions about the route. Donations.
Next night - expensive hotel in Argenton-sur-Creuse. Low point of trip - too many hills, too little calories at the right intervals. The cheaper hotel which advertised pilgrim rates was very shut up.
Next night - Benevent L'Abbaye. DO NOT MISS Benevent L'Abbaye. The pilgrim refuge is about 2 metres from the Abbey. It is run and kept by Dr Conquet who is 'a character' and a fount of knowledge about the celtic/druid influence on Christianity in the Limousin. He can explain at great length how the abbey's proportions fit the Golden Ratio. And a lot more. At the right time of day the sun reveals a mason's mark (a goose) in a stone block in the church wall right opposite the refuge.
The refuge itself is large, cold and ramshackle, but has plenty of blankets, shower, water heater and a single cooking ring. There is a wonderful view out over a valley from the kitchen window. Dr Conquet is very fond of his notices. We stayed two nights. 6 euros per person per night. The key is at Dr Conquet's house, or the pharmacy.
Next night at St Leonard de Noblat. Key for pilgrim refuge at the tourist office. I think she asked for 8euros donation per person. This refuge is also very close to the church. Its quite large with several bedrooms, a well equipped kitchen and a sitting area.
Then Flavignac. Again opposite the church (which has 'treasure' in glass cases and an unusual carving on the wall above the door). Another little but perfectly equipped refuge with two sets of bunk beds. excellent shower etc. I think it was 4 euros 'expected' here. Key at the Mairie.
And thats as far as we have got, so far!
I tried to add a photo or two (especially one of Dr Conquet's notices) but I need to 'smallen' them and I can't remember how.
I will complete our 'blog' one day and the photos will be there- but THINGS keep happening. (see above).
That is quite an idiosyncratic list! It seems to wander between the north and the south routes - from Vezelay one is usually offered a choice of two routes - the northern one goes through Charite-sur-Loire and Bourges, the southern through Nevers and La Chatre. They join up at Gragilesse. This is quite an interesting mix. It misses out Bourges which is my least favourite cathedral. La Charite is unmissable, though I reckon. We didn't go through Nevers - I believe it has the body of Bernadette!
Again, south of Limoges, it seems to suggest a different route to the one prresented by M et Mde Chassain as The Correct One. For example they do not go through Solignac, which we did and liked. They take you through Les Cars and Thiviers to Perigueux.
I am going to compare the two routes for hills. (We are cyclists!) Falcon - where did this list come from? Are there any refuges (pilgrim gites) on it?
Ah- ha - that list is the GR 654. I have tracked it on the map and it wanders all over the place. The distance from Vezelay to SJPDP via the GR 654 appears to be, from that list, 1087 km. The route from the Chassain guide, available from the CSJ in London (in French with with some English translation), is 884 km via Bourges, or 923 km via Nevers. I think that means the GR 654 takes you 20% further!
We'll be sticking closer to the Chassain route, although they are annoyingly insistent that nothing else is historically accurate, and I am sure that pilgrims have always been making their own mind up, diverting to miss a particularly steep hill, maybe, or to stay in a place someone else told them was unmissable. So we feel free to do likewise!!