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Walking across France

Moysey

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
Norte
Portugués
Has anyone walked from northern France and joined into the traditional routes? What was it like? How was the way before you reached the official path?

I’m a pilgrim who’s walked the Northern, French and Portuguese route and through that developed a love of hiking. I’m planning a walk from England to Spain, perhaps continuing to Morocco. It’s not a Camino, in as much that I likely won’t finish at Santiago at least, but I can think of few people better than my fellow pilgrims to help me out!
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

pelerine

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte 10, Primitivo 13, Plata 14+15, Salvador 16, Torres 17, Portugues 18, Mozarabe 19
Hello Mosey!
Many years ago I followed the French coast from home in Northern Brittany and joined the Norte in Irun. However there are several caminos in Brittany. One starts in the little port of Mogueriec west of Roscoff. So you could take the ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff. Or take the ferry to St Malo and start from the Mont St Michel. I think the Breton caminos join the Tours camino. Have not done this myself.


Buen camino whichever you chose!
 

John R McLean

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Completed Camino Frances (2016)
Camino Portuguese from Porto (2017)
Iona-Rome-Jerusalem (2019-20)
Has anyone walked from northern France and joined into the traditional routes? What was it like? How was the way before you reached the official path?

I’m a pilgrim who’s walked the Northern, French and Portuguese route and through that developed a love of hiking. I’m planning a walk from England to Spain, perhaps continuing to Morocco. It’s not a Camino, in as much that I likely won’t finish at Santiago at least, but I can think of few people better than my fellow pilgrims to help me out!
You can walk the Via Francigena across France and then take a right turn were it meets the Camino de Santiago.
 

Reklaw

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Santiago, 2011,2013, VdlP 2017
Some years ago I walked from Caen in Normandy to Sete on the mediterranean. I know I picked up the le Puy route as I walked through Rocamadour and Figeac amongst others you know. I drew a straight line between my start on the map and finish. Naturally I could not stick exactly to the line but it gave a guide and it largely followed the Gr paths. Good luck with your planning
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
Has anyone walked from northern France and joined into the traditional routes? What was it like? How was the way before you reached the official path? I’m a pilgrim who’s walked the Northern, French and Portuguese route and through that developed a love of hiking. I’m planning a walk from England to Spain, perhaps continuing to Morocco.
There is no infrastructure that would be comparable to the camino routes in Spain.

Have a look at a recent thread (click here) where a forum member reports from his walk in 2019. David walked from West Wales to Dover and then from Calais to Paris where he joined the voie de Tours that connects Paris to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. However, I see that he took a train from Saint-Omer to Paris. He camped a lot while in France.

The via Francigena has gained popularity in recent years. You could follow it from Calais to Saint-Quentin and then join another fairly new path, called Chemin des Estelles (Way of Stars), which goes from Saint-Quentin via Compiègne and Senlis to Paris.

Another possibility, of course, depending on where you start in the UK, is taking the ferry from Brighton to Dieppe and then onwards to Paris or Chartres to join the voie de Tours but again, I guess, that is "unmarked territory" until you reach either Paris or Chartres.

Unfortunately, you cannot contact David as he passed away this year:
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
Chemin Estelle (Star Way)
Click here for an interactive map showing the Chemin Estelle marked in pink and other pilgrimage paths in blue, see screenshot below. The via Francigena is not shown. More information about the Chemin Estelle is here, all in French.

Estelles.jpg
 
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Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Nine years ago I walked from Mont Saint Michel, which was fairly solitary (I met one other pilgrim in a month) and spottily marked in some places. The local French associations have done work in the interim and a search through the forum backpages will get you lots of detail on gîtes and support which was not available when I did it.

Be prepared for solitude, as well as prices higher than in Spain-- but very good food. The French along the way were very helpful but it will assist you greatly if you can speak some French. Local tourisme offices had English-speaking staff (as did the mairies pretty frequently so that they could serve UK and Irish residents in rural areas) and could not do enough to help.
 

FLEUR

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2012 - 2016
Voie de Paris / Tours Aulnay to Saintes 2017
Camino del Baztan 2018
I've walked some of the voice de Tours between Aulnay and Bordeaux.
Some accommodation is available for pilgrims. This part of the route is very well marked.
Try air bnb, booking.com and pilgrim associations in different areas to source accommodation.
 

Moysey

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
Norte
Portugués
Thank you so much for your advice everyone! I didn't expect so many responses.

I'd be starting in Horsham, West Sussex so Newhaven or Southampton seem like the most sensible crossing points. Perhaps the Voie de Tours, but avoding Paris at the start, will be a good route to follow. I very much assume that it'll be camping most of the way but that's not a problem. At very least the stench built up after a few weeks in a tent will help to ensure social distancing.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
I'd be starting in Horsham, West Sussex so Newhaven or Southampton seem like the most sensible crossing points. Perhaps the Voie de Tours, but avoding Paris at the start, will be a good route to follow.
I'm getting excited for you ☺. I personally like this idea of starting from home and then following a direction that feels natural. So Horsham - Newhaven - Dieppe - Rouen (there seems to be a trail from Dieppe), then perhaps along the river Seine until you hit the next trail shown on the map and then down to Chartres? 😊
 
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Moysey

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
Norte
Portugués
Hello everyone!

I've mapped out a pretty rough route that I'm hoping to follow now. I'll be crossing Newhaven-Dieppe, winding down to Bordeaux then following the Camino del Norte before switching to the Via de la Plata.

I've written a short blog post too in case anyone has too much time on their hands and wants something to read!

 

André Walker

Never loosing my way: always standing on it
Camino(s) past & future
Holland-St.Jean, Frances, Del Norte, VdlP.
Unfortunately, I can't help you with the western routes. My wife and I have walked from our home in Holland to Santiago, following the bright red and the bright green routes.

1596632017752.png

The northern part had almost no pilgrim accomodations. This was no problem for us, carrying our large backpack including a tent. So we did a lot of camping (and the occasional hotel room). Although every now and then we saw shells at private homes or churches. They would provide us with a place to sleep or offer to make us lunch.

But I guess all the routes lack the infrastructure you might be accustomed to when walking caminos in Spain.

When we got further south, it got better: monasteries, gîtes, more camping grounds. Because we liked to camp we did so as much as we could. Especially the municipal camping grounds offer basic (but good) facilities for a very low price.

And, because people would recognize the shells on our backpacks, we had a number of experiences that have become very dear memories. Just a few of them:
  • In Belgium we were offered a place to spend the night for free. We ended up in an abandoned restaurant (which apparantly had been going bankrupt a long time ago), sleeping on a dirty floor. After having taken a look at the toilet suddenly my need to use it had completely dissapeared. But we managed to ride it out. Although we were up and walking about an hour before sunrise.
  • In Reims the cathedral was closed to the public that afternoon. Being pilgrims eager to visit the cathedral on our way south, we were allowed to enter, to find there was a rehearsal going on by a professional French opera singer singing 'Ave Maria'. This was magical and brought tears to my eyes.
  • A bit further south we crossed a part of France called Champagne. Passing the entrance of one of the famous vineyards, we were stopped by the owner who recognized our shells. Turned out he had walked to Santiago when he was younger. We had a very pleasant chat and he invited us in for a tour around the vineyard and some champaign tasting. When we left, I noticed the sign at the entrance saying the fee for such a tour was € 45,- per person. The tasting was so good that we stopped at the first camping we could find (I know, you're supposed to spit it out).
  • North of Vezelay we had to climb a mountain. It wasn't very high, but it was very steep. On top there was a farm. The elderly couple who were living there invited us into their garden and gave us cool drinks. When we were getting ready to leave, they insisted on having a picture taken of us. Of course we didn't mind. He then took us inside the farm where, in the living room, they had this wall that was covered with photos of pilgrims of many years that had passed and paused there. It makes me feel honoured knowing that my wife and I are up there too.
  • Further south, during a hard climb up a mountain alongside a small tarmac road, a car coming up from behind stopped. The man offered us a lift to avoid this and a next climb and didn't mind us being dirty and sweaty. He said his Rolls (yes, it was one of those!) needed cleaning anyway. We kindly thanked him and tried to explain these hard climbs are actually part of the fun.
Those were just a couple of nice and fun experiences you might run into on your way through France. If you are open to it, there might also be a number of very meaningful encounters (the ones that are hard to put down in writing).

I'd say "Go for it".

 


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