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What you need to know before you leave to hike the Chemin d'Arles.

Camino(s) past & future
Porto to Santiago in early Feb 2015
#1
I just returned from hiking sections of the via Tolosana, or chemin d’Arles and would like to offer advice to future hikers. First of all this trail is a GR and not necessarily a camino. Be prepared to do 20 plus kilometres per day with no place to sit except for the ground. Don’t expect any place for water or food once you leave in the morning and don’t expect that once you arrive at your destination that restaurants are open and that grocery stores are opened. The reality is that small villages in France are having difficulties surviving.
Accommodations are sometimes hard to come by and are not always acceptable.
A cell phone is a necessity because a lot of the gites are not manned by people but you must phone to obtain a code to enter. This also means that you don’t get a stamp on your passport.
I would recommend that you carry food to last you at least 2 days. Many places are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays and you might want to opt for a place with a demi pension on those days.
 

frida1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April 11-May 11 2014
#2
We walked this in May 2017 and much of what you say is true. It’s a beautiful walk. Perhaps in high summer there are more facilities, but villages are far apart and you need to be prepared! Weekends can mean nothing is open, and you do need to plan accommodations at least a couple days ahead.

As two senior Americans, we did fine, but it wasn’t easy or anything like the Portuguese or Frances.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#3
I always try and warn people against following the waymarks on this route too religiously ...

You're quite right that it has, for the most part, been established as a GR, not as the Way of Saint James.

The most terrible thing, from a pilgrim's perspective, is that the waymarked route VERY frequently deviates around the historic villages that ANY normally motivated Pilgrim would consider as being essential to their Camino. It is a scandal.

But if you ignore what the waymarks and your guide book might suggest, and instead simply follow your gut, it's a fantastically beautiful and rewarding section of the Camino !!!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#4
Well, it sounds like one Camino to tick off any bucket list I have before even considering or attempting it...I'm a little adventurous, but all the above observations have scared me off and I'm glad! Thank you all for the warnings, seriously!
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#5
Well, it sounds like one Camino to tick off any bucket list I have before even considering or attempting it...I'm a little adventurous, but all the above observations have scared me off and I'm glad! Thank you all for the warnings, seriously!
No, that's not right -- it's a very beautiful route, please don't understand these caveats otherwise !!!

You do need a deal more of independence than elsewhere, but the closer you get on your Way to SJPP is the closer you'll be to your own Will.
 

frida1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April 11-May 11 2014
#6
Jabbapapa, can you name a few places not on the official route that should be. I’d like to know what we missed, maybe we can see those places someday.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Porto to Santiago in early Feb 2015
#7
Well, it sounds like one Camino to tick off any bucket list I have before even considering or attempting it...I'm a little adventurous, but all the above observations have scared me off and I'm glad! Thank you all for the warnings, seriously!
I don't want to scare people, I just want them to be prepared so that they can have a wonderful experience. I wish I had known this before attempting this trail.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#8
I don't want to scare people, I just want them to be prepared so that they can have a wonderful experience. I wish I had known this before attempting this trail.
No worries. I appreciate the info. Thank you for sharing your honest assessment through your personal experience.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#9
Jabbapapa, can you name a few places not on the official route that should be. I’d like to know what we missed, maybe we can see those places someday.
Not really, there are just some pointless detours on the GR up and down mountains that are usefully avoided by following small, quicker roads instead.
 

fransw

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2012; Le Puy - Conques 2014;Camino Aragonese Oloron Ste Marie - Puenta la Reina 2018
#10
I just returned from hiking sections of the via Tolosana, or chemin d’Arles and would like to offer advice to future hikers. First of all this trail is a GR and not necessarily a camino. Be prepared to do 20 plus kilometres per day with no place to sit except for the ground. Don’t expect any place for water or food once you leave in the morning and don’t expect that once you arrive at your destination that restaurants are open and that grocery stores are opened. The reality is that small villages in France are having difficulties surviving.
Accommodations are sometimes hard to come by and are not always acceptable.
A cell phone is a necessity because a lot of the gites are not manned by people but you must phone to obtain a code to enter. This also means that you don’t get a stamp on your passport.
I would recommend that you carry food to last you at least 2 days. Many places are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays and you might want to opt for a place with a demi pension on those days.
I walked solo last May from Oloron til Puenta la Reina in mostly heavy rain! I can confirm your experience. Even in the evening one could not always find another pilgim for a chat. To my feeling it is a bit sad as the authorities want do a lot to promote this Camino.
 

backpack45scb

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2001 CF, 04-6 LP, 07 Port, 08-10 Arles, 11 Mozá,12-13 Gen-LP. 00-10 PCT, 15 Norte, 16 Primi
#11
Well, it sounds like one Camino to tick off any bucket list I have before even considering or attempting it...I'm a little adventurous, but all the above observations have scared me off and I'm glad! Thank you all for the warnings, seriously!
I've been walking Camino routes almost every year since 2001, and the route from Arles is my favorite of all, because of its great variety of scenery, and the beautiful cities encountered. It does require planning several days ahead, and reserving the next nights lodging. The statements about the France GR routes is true. They do frequently avoid interesting villages in order to climb to some out of the way place of significance.

However, most GRs have an accompanying guidebook called a TopoGuide. The Arles route has 3. These guides are in french, and if you read french, quite informative. I don't read french that well, but take the guides because of their excellent 1;50,000 topo maps. Using these maps, it is quite easy to see where the GR makes a meaningless deviation, and where you can easily just walk down the road thru the village and rejoin the GR again. You do need one of the more pilgrim oriented guides to arrange for accommodations. I haven't updated our Arles web page for quite a while, but I do list the guide books down towards the bottom of the page backpack45.com/arles.html
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#12
Thank you, @backpack45, for some added info. I did walk the Le Puy route last June as far as Auvillar and loved it, but the Arles camino still sounds more intimidating to me. I/we did get lost a couple of times as often the GR stripes are on both sides of the trees since you can walk in either direction...Add in the yellow stripes here and there, and well, that sometimes became a bit of a problem! Lol.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances. 2001
Via de la plata 2008
Arles Planed this April
#13
Thank you, @backpack45, for some added info. I did walk the Le Puy route last June as far as Auvillar and loved it, but the Arles camino still sounds more intimidating to me. I/we did get lost a couple of times as often the GR stripes are on both sides of the trees since you can walk in either direction...Add in the yellow stripes here and there, and well, that sometimes became a bit of a problem! Lol.
This is my first time joining a discussion on this forum I hope I’m doing it right. I walked this route a few years ago at the age of 70 and can confirm That it requires more skills than the Camino Francis. I speak no French and carried no phone so I found that the option of sleeping rough was essential and that the French I G in maps were wonderful. These maps can be downloaded electronically for about €25 a year and I used them both for finding the route and for planning alternative routes that were more interesting or efficient. The deserted small villages were a bit spooky and even water was hard to find until I discovered that the cemeteries always had an unlocked tap. Being flexible with the route worked well for me. I started with the Arles switched to the towpath of the canal do midi then dropped south to the Piemonte. Any town that had a visitor center seem to have an English speaker with information on the Camino. The lodging that I manage to find on the in frequently traveled Camino was always a pleasant and unique experience ranging from being the guest of the vocal clergyman to being a celebrity at Lourds where they gave me dinner and a private room and refused to let me pay.
I just returned from hiking sections of the via Tolosana, or chemin d’Arles and would like to offer advice to future hikers. First of all this trail is a GR and not necessarily a camino. Be prepared to do 20 plus kilometres per day with no place to sit except for the ground. Don’t expect any place for water or food once you leave in the morning and don’t expect that once you arrive at your destination that restaurants are open and that grocery stores are opened. The reality is that small villages in France are having difficulties surviving.
Accommodations are sometimes hard to come by and are not always acceptable.
A cell phone is a necessity because a lot of the gites are not manned by people but you must phone to obtain a code to enter. This also means that you don’t get a stamp on your passport.
I would recommend that you carry food to last you at least 2 days. Many places are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays and you might want to opt for a place with a demi pension on those days.
I walked the Arles route, switched to following the tow path of the Canal de Midi, and then dropped south to the Chemin Pimont in May 2013 and although I walked alone with no French and no phone and was 70 years old, I found it doable and very worthwhile. The comments about this route are accurate don’t be too easily discouraged! It’s worth the effort. The things I found most useful were: a subscription to the downloadable French IGN large scale maps. With this I could re-find the route when I lost it, choose to walk an alternative road when the GR trail headed up onto a mountain and right back down for no apparent reason, I carried sleeping bag and a tarp for rough camping (didn’t have to find lodging every night), the small deserted French villages are kinda spooky but I could reliably find water ...one live tap in every cemetery I visited. Any town large enough to have a visitor center seemed to have an English speaker who helped me find pilgrim lodging or attractions. The pilgrim services varied, sometimes I was the guest of a local clergy, one time I ate in the staff room of a luxury hotel. When I arrived at Lourdes Pilgrimage Center and presented my stamped credential they refused to accept payment for food and lodging. I was rare as they receive thousands of visitors via car and bus. Pilgrim stamps aren’t reliably found in France and I logged latitude and longitude of my nightly camp or got a signature of my host on my credential. This route is not convenient but it is remote and beautiful and very worthwhile.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#14
Thank you, Gary, for contributing to this discussion. You've given many interesting details about your walk and I'm sure your input will be helpful to those who may want to consider this route, however, the Arles will probably stay on the back burner for me...maybe I'll reconsider when I'm 70! :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-SJPDP (Apr-May 14),
Via de la Plata (Sep-Nov14),
Arles - SDC (Sept-Nov 15),
Lisbon-SDC 2017
#15
I walked the Chemin d'Arles-Aragones-Frances to SDC September to November 2015, aged 61. The Arles route was lonely, but I always found accommodation, although the food supply was sometimes difficult and I ate at odd times as the opportunity arose. I used Miam Miam Dodo for accommodation and the route map. Some of the waymarking was indeed bizarre and sometimes I took the road, having extricated myself from some obscure path where the signs just ran out. At one gite, two Frenchman shook my hand and congratulated me on finding my way to that night's gite. They too had got lost. Often I was alone in gites/albergues. I needed a cellphone to book ahead and call in daily to friends. Only once did I feel in danger walking alone, but the 'suspect' young man was in fact warning me of a boar hunt up ahead, which I cottoned onto when I came across, at 200m intervals along the road, elderly men in camping chairs, each wearing a fluoro vest and holding a rifle in his lap. One was asleep.

I wouldn't walk it alone again, it was just too lonely.
 

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
#16
I walked the Chemin d'Arles-Aragones-Frances to SDC September to November 2015, aged 61. The Arles route was lonely, but I always found accommodation, although the food supply was sometimes difficult and I ate at odd times as the opportunity arose. I used Miam Miam Dodo for accommodation and the route map. Some of the waymarking was indeed bizarre and sometimes I took the road, having extricated myself from some obscure path where the signs just ran out. At one gite, two Frenchman shook my hand and congratulated me on finding my way to that night's gite. They too had got lost. Often I was alone in gites/albergues. I needed a cellphone to book ahead and call in daily to friends. Only once did I feel in danger walking alone, but the 'suspect' young man was in fact warning me of a boar hunt up ahead, which I cottoned onto when I came across, at 200m intervals along the road, elderly men in camping chairs, each wearing a fluoro vest and holding a rifle in his lap. One was asleep.

I wouldn't walk it alone again, it was just too lonely.
I just returned from hiking sections of the via Tolosana, or chemin d’Arles and would like to offer advice to future hikers. First of all this trail is a GR and not necessarily a camino. Be prepared to do 20 plus kilometres per day with no place to sit except for the ground. Don’t expect any place for water or food once you leave in the morning and don’t expect that once you arrive at your destination that restaurants are open and that grocery stores are opened. The reality is that small villages in France are having difficulties surviving.
Accommodations are sometimes hard to come by and are not always acceptable.
A cell phone is a necessity because a lot of the gites are not manned by people but you must phone to obtain a code to enter. This also means that you don’t get a stamp on your passport.
I would recommend that you carry food to last you at least 2 days. Many places are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays and you might want to opt for a place with a demi pension on those days.
I would say that the Frances was probably like the Arles route in the past. It is only with more people walking it that more accommodation, bars etc will happen.
I have just finished the Arles route. We had no trouble with accommodation or meals as we mostly booked Demi pension or carried a packet of pasta plus the usual fruit, nuts, chocolate etc. Most gites in small villages with no facilities, had an epicerie in the Gite which the hospitalero would open. Miam Miam Dodo and the Confraternity guidebooks lists facilities for each town.
There is always a fresh water tap in cemeteries( if there is a cemetery on your route).
There were a lot more pilgrims after Toulouse. Some nights the gites and albergues were almost full. I agree that it could be lonely walking by yourself. Most solo pilgrims had started walking with others that I saw.
Also, along the way there are pilgrim masses or masses, of course in French. Sometimes we missed these and then noticed the sign in the Gite.
There are parts that I didn’t enjoy walking and that is in the cities. The first part between Arles and Montpellier isn’t as scenic as the latter parts. There is a tram you can catch into Montpellier which alleviated part of that walk. Unfortunately, I became ill and so we skipped the part between Montpellier and Toulouse. However, from Toulouse on definitely felt like a CAMINO to me. The hospitaliers were very welcoming and we enjoyed the company of other pilgrims. We received a stamp at every place we stayed except for the second night out of Arles.
 

Isca-camigo

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Various ones.
#18
I walked it in May/June 2014 from Montpellier to Santiago. I kept my sections to less than 20km until Castres, the first 8 days I booked in advance, I don't normally book in advance but I wasn't sure if my right knee was capable of doing bigger distances if I needed to keep on walking for accommodation. If I remember from the guides I had I could have done shorter sections in a few places but was mostly happy with 15km to 20km.
The route is stunning once you start climbing into the Haut Languedoc, I would walk it again in a blink of an eye if the right circumstances came along and that is against my ' addiction' to Camino's waining.

Food was a problem, shops, bars and cafes in the areas I went through never seemed to be open when I was there, in the end I accepted demi- pension at the gites as being my only source of food for the day, not a total hardship, I had some glorious meals such as a 5 course one at Villa Issiates in Joncels and then a buffet breakfast the next day. I think generally if you look at the various guides they will show you who does demi- pension, my advice to anyone wondering about this route is go to the places that do DP for two reasons, you might not have the option of food elsewhere and also the company of the people who serve it, it's true it can be a lonely route so fork out a bit more and go to the private gites rather than the municipal gites.
 
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