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Where to start in France?!

mamadoodle

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances May/June 2014
Del Norte/Primitivo (Sept/Oct 2016)
My husband and I have walked the Frances, del Norte, Primitivo and Portuguese Caminos. We now want to experience a Camino in France but don’t know where to begin. He is currently studying French so we can communicate a bit. I understand and speak some Spanish but no French. How do we begin to gather info on possible routes and do you have any recommendations for a potential route for us.
 
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JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
Arles itself has now become a great gathering point, including for information, other help, and practical purposes -- but the proper beginning of the Arles Way is actually at Saint-Gilles.

There are many potential starting places.

Arles itself of course, Saint-Gilles, Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for a coastal start though watch out for the mosquitos, or, well, Montpellier, Castres, or even Tolouse.

There is a very good Parish Albergue in Montpellier.

Of course, France is a lot broader than jut the Arles Way, but that's the section you chose to post into.

---

As a "purist", I might say : Start walking from where your plane touches down ; and yes, from the airport.

But as always YMMV.
 
Past OR future Camino
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
If you've time on your hands, the route from Mont Saint Michel is interesting-- there's several threads on this site and the most recent is https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...lan-from-mont-saint-michel.43610/#post-967833.

I've also walked the Tolosana (from Toulouse) to Auch and Paul then south over the Pyrenees at Somport and on to the Camino Aragonese at Jaca.

Try to learn and use all the French you can as many people in rural areas have none at all. Many younger people do and you will also find that tourismes (always) and mairies (frequently) have English-speaking staff, who will be very anxious to help. The French love US pilgrims (as much as they do us Canadians) and you will be well-received-- the west and south of France was liberated by US troops in WWII and they have not forgotten.

The food is excellent and the wine is exquisite-- you'll have a great time.
 

Barbara

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
All the French routes are full of interest. Some are easier than others for accommodation. Where are you arriving in France? It's almost certain that there will be a recognised route near your airport/ port/ railway station. I suggest you look at the Confraternity of Saint James (Camino pilgrim) site for a good overview. Should you choose the Tours route I can probably help with more detailed information.
 

mamadoodle

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances May/June 2014
Del Norte/Primitivo (Sept/Oct 2016)
If you've time on your hands, the route from Mont Saint Michel is interesting-- there's several threads on this site and the most recent is https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...lan-from-mont-saint-michel.43610/#post-967833.

I've also walked the Tolosana (from Toulouse) to Auch and Paul then south over the Pyrenees at Somport and on to the Camino Aragonese at Jaca.

Try to learn and use all the French you can as many people in rural areas have none at all. Many younger people do and you will also find that tourismes (always) and mairies (frequently) have English-speaking staff, who will be very anxious to help. The French love US pilgrims (as much as they do us Canadians) and you will be well-received-- the west and south of France was liberated by US troops in WWII and they have not forgotten.

The food is excellent and the wine is exquisite-- you'll have a great time.
Thank you. That is encouraging.
 
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MinaKamina

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Jacobspad 2017
santiago-de-compostela-map-of-europe-_9.gif


This map isn't even complete....
 

MaryLynn

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
A few years ago, I walked from Toulouse to Puente La Reina on the Arles and Aragones Camino with a Danish friend, who I had previously met on the CF. Toulouse was easy to get to, then we took a train to our starting point. On Day 4 of the walk, we met two cousins from Quebec and they joined us, which solved most of communication problems.
The walk was wonderful with beautiful landscapes, friendly people, lots of history, and it was not busy. I highly recommend it!
 

alhartman

2005-2017 Delightful 346 days in Spain and France.
Past OR future Camino
2017
I have walked LePuy twice. Toulouse and Vezelay, and RL Stevenson once each. I speak poor French from high school over 60 years ago. There must be 50,000 km of GR and PR in France--a walkers paradise. And the French are wonderful!! The food is wonderful!! the scenery is wonderful!! The infrastructure is good!! Lots of stairmaster days early! There are just enough walkers to practice French at dinner and walk alone during the day!! Did I mention the wine and cheese!! or the gesier salad, or the aligot, or the Armagnac>
It is totally different from the FrenchWay!!. It is a French host experience first and a fellow pilgrim experience second.
My favorite is LePuy--on to Santiago for the whole 70 day meal deal. If I had life to do over again I would consider starting in Geneva or Cluny/Taize.
Gronze a a good planning aid.
Godelsalco is a better detailed planner. https://godesalco.com/plan/podense
MiamMiamDoDo book and reservations ahead are necessary. It is mostly demipension so they need to know how many guests to plan for.
Do it--and as much as you can.
 
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Sandrapf99

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Future:As soon as we are able to travel post Covid travel restrictions.
My husband and I have walked the Frances, del Norte, Primitivo and Portuguese Caminos. We now want to experience a Camino in France but don’t know where to begin. He is currently studying French so we can communicate a bit. I understand and speak some Spanish but no French. How do we begin to gather info on possible routes and do you have any recommendations for a potential route for us.
The Camino Le Puy is fantastic. I walked it from mid September to mid October. It was incredible 😍🤗
 

lisagb

Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
My husband and I have walked the Frances, del Norte, Primitivo and Portuguese Caminos. We now want to experience a Camino in France but don’t know where to begin. He is currently studying French so we can communicate a bit. I understand and speak some Spanish but no French. How do we begin to gather info on possible routes and do you have any recommendations for a potential route for us.
I would definitely study some French. There is very little if any English spoken on the Le Puy route at least. Emailing or phoning ahead for a place to stay so you can plan your route is good. I went in mid September to mid October and until October 3 or so I needed to reserve a week ahead in order to be able to keep to my route. I think if you learned some
French it would help as your husband wouldn’t have to translate for you and you’d feel more capable. With your Spanish it wouldn’t be too difficult. The Le Puy route is simply gorgeous and the people are lovely. Have fun!
 

Kevin Considine

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
My husband and I have walked the Frances, del Norte, Primitivo and Portuguese Caminos. We now want to experience a Camino in France but don’t know where to begin. He is currently studying French so we can communicate a bit. I understand and speak some Spanish but no French. How do we begin to gather info on possible routes and do you have any recommendations for a potential route for us.
I have walked parts of Camino Tour which starts in Paris. Started in Cherbourg as part of a Camino from Ireland. This one involved walking through the Bay at low tide to Mont St. Michel which was spectacular. After Mt. St. Michel it gets flat and you are going through lots of crop fields. I also started one in Lourdes and walked a few days on Arles before veering onto Camino Aragones to Somport. That said, I haven’t done Vezelay but most people and me included would recommend the Chemin duPuy (Via Piodensis) starting in Le Puy en Velay. Mountains, beautiful scenery, more Camino infrastructure and not a whole lot of pilgrims. I have a resource on this site comparing it to Camino De Santiago:


You can also see photos on my blog at:
 
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mamadoodle

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances May/June 2014
Del Norte/Primitivo (Sept/Oct 2016)
I have walked parts of Camino Tour which starts in Paris. Started in Cherbourg as part of a Camino from Ireland. This one involved walking through the Bay at low tide to Mont St. Michel which was spectacular. After Mt. St. Michel it gets flat and you are going through lots of crop fields. I also started one in Lourdes and walked a few days on Arles before veering onto Camino Aragones to Somport. That said, I haven’t done Vezelay but most people and me included would recommend the Chemin duPuy (Via Piodensis) starting in Le Puy en Velay. Mountains, beautiful scenery, more Camino infrastructure and not a whole lot of pilgrims. I have a resource on this site compring it to Camino De Santiago:


You can also see photos on my blog at:
This forum is extremely helpful. Thanks so much.
 
Past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
We began in Lourdes - after seeing Toulouse and Moissac. It was a wonderful walk!
 

Tom Hagger

Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés, Norte, Primitivo, Português, Plata etc.
As you have seen, Mamdoodle, there is a great choice in France - St Michel, Paris, Vézelay, Le Puy and Arles being the main starting points. The other routes usually end up at Saint-Jean-Pied-de Port, so for something different I would recommend the Chemin d'Arles, followed by the Camino Aragnesa, after you have crossed the Pyrenees at Somport. You reach the Camino Francés at Punte la Reina. From there you can follow the Camino Francés, perhaps later diverting onto the Camino Inverno. Personally, I would recommend walking to Pamplona (one stage back on the Camino Francés) if you have plenty of time. You can then take the lovely 3 -4 day Via Verde Plazaola northwards, to reach San Sebastián (Donostia) on the Camino del Norte. There are other routes branching off the Norte before reaching the Primitivo. Some are excellent routes through amazing mountain scenery, but with few or no waymarks; you need good Internet access or a selection of detailed maps. If, on the other hand, your French Camino takes you to Saint-Jean-Pied-de Port, the Chemin de Saint-Jean á Irun is an excellent 3 or 4 day walk to join the Norte, through the French Pays Basque. I could send you a detailed itinerary of the two less-well know routes shown above.
Best wishes, whichever way you choose! Tom
 
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backpack45

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Vezelay (2017, in progress); Primitivo & Norte; Geneva/LePuy; Arles; Portuguese; Francés + more
I have walked LePuy twice. Toulouse and Vezelay, and RL Stevenson once each. I speak poor French from high school over 60 years ago. There must be 50,000 km of GR and PR in France--a walkers paradise. And the French are wonderful!! The food is wonderful!! the scenery is wonderful!! The infrastructure is good!! Lots of stairmaster days early! There are just enough walkers to practice French at dinner and walk alone during the day!! Did I mention the wine and cheese!! or the gesier salad, or the aligot, or the Armagnac>
It is totally different from the FrenchWay!!. It is a French host experience first and a fellow pilgrim experience second.
My favorite is LePuy--on to Santiago for the whole 70 day meal deal. If I had life to do over again I would consider starting in Geneva or Cluny/Taize.
Gronze a a good planning aid.
Godelsalco is a better detailed planner. https://godesalco.com/plan/podense
MiamMiamDoDo book and reservations ahead are necessary. It is mostly demipension so they need to know how many guests to plan for.
Do it--and as much as you can.
The walk from Geneva to LePuy (and then onward) is wonderful. There were very few people on the route. And few accommodations in which to stay along that first part, so generally we stayed with hosts who had opened their homes to pilgrims. The hosts are enrolled with a program called Accueil Pelerin and we paid by donativo. Our French is pretty terrible, though we try. So generally we look at Miam Miam Dodo and try to select places where it is indicated the hosts speak (some) English. I absolutely love staying with families and sharing a meal with them when that opportunity arises. The French are wonderful hosts. And LePuy onward is gorgeous, too, especially the early stages through the market town.
 

Farmer Col

Aussie Col
Past OR future Camino
2021
I agree with backpack45 that the walk from Geneva is fantastic. Depending on your time limit you can walk to Le Puy, then pick up the rest of the French way through to Conques and beyond. French is helpful, but I found the people to be very friendly and helpful, particularly if you at least made an effort to use their language. I think they realized that their English was a lot better than my bad French with an Aussie accent.
 
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sharon w

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
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
You could walk the RLS route from Le Puy to Ales or the Chemin de Saint Gilles from Le Puy to St Gilles. Then continue on the Arles route.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Past OR future Camino
2019
I can highly recommend the Appletree Hill Gites located in Saint Mar des Bois on the Chemin de Saint Michel between Caen and Mont Saint Michel! Ran by a lovely British couple, they have accommodations from a simple but lovely “Pilgrim’s room” to a standalone one bedroom building to a three bedroom house. The Camino literally runs by their front gate. About 50km from Michel.

Contact at:
appletreehillgites.fr
 
Past OR future Camino
Latest: Rota Vicentina '19; Portuguese '19.
I loved my Le-Puy Camino, I was a solo walker and managed with virtually no French. The people I met & all the hosts were helpful, the food was amazing and it worked well for me generally staying where dinner & wine would be served.
That was my experience too! I absolutely loved it all!
 
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Past OR future Camino
Latest: Rota Vicentina '19; Portuguese '19.
That is very encouraging. What guidebook did you use or could you recommend one for us?
I used "The Lightfoot Guide to the Via Podiensis" by Angelynn Meya. It worked very well. I also had an online version of "Miam Miam Dodo" that I occasionally referred to for additional options.
IMG_20211201_194924744.jpg
 
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anamcara

Camino Walker
Past OR future Camino
2022 Chemin du Piémont 😎
Already lots of good info here @mamadoodle My deux cents - having walked the Le Puy and the Arles Way as well as the RLS (The Stevenson Way) mentioned by @Sharon - and LOVED them all - for a first French Camino I would choose the Le Puy for a few reasons but … well…it’s simply wonderful with an extraordinary array of beautiful villages and towns.

If you decide on the Le Puy way, it’s definitely worth having at least a full day to enjoy Le Puy.

On thé other hand, if you decide on the Arles Way, I would suggest starting in Arles - wonderful town. If time permits, you can continue the Arles Way over the Col Du Somport to thé Camino Aragones as @MaryLynn suggests. It’s typically 7 days) to Obanos where it joins the Frances.

Bon chemin! 🎒🇫🇷❤️
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
To read and see more about the Le Puy route you might enjoy the novel Saint-Jacques ...La Mecque by Coline Serreau published 2005 by Flammarion. You can buy the book and the later movie version on Amazon. Basically this is the story of four adult siblings, three men and one woman, who do not get along and who must walk the Le Puy camino in order to receive their inheritance.

As well two young French-born Arab boys also are on the camino believing mistakenly that it leads to Mecca. The movie scenery is great and the situations amusing.

Any reader/viewer who has been a pilgrim will recognize the traits both good and bad of fellow pilgrims. Happily after all is said and done the final scene might be titled "...all you need is love!".

Happy reading/viewing and Bon Chemin,
 
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anamcara

Camino Walker
Past OR future Camino
2022 Chemin du Piémont 😎
To read and see more about the Le Puy route you might enjoy the novel Saint-Jacques ...La Mecque by Coline Serreau published 2005 by Flammarion. You can buy the book and the later movie version on Amazon.
Ah @mspath I think you may know that is my favourite Camino film. I haven’t read the book - I’ve only seen the movie - a few times 🥰 Superbe!
 
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alhartman

2005-2017 Delightful 346 days in Spain and France.
Past OR future Camino
2017
Having a similar experience as Jenny (Vezelay, 2x LePuy, Toulousana, RLS) I would ratify her recommendations!! If I get an unlikely future walk, I would start in Taize/Cluny for a new experience and to lengthen the journey and for a bit of 'spiritual'. My 'top' camino was LePuy to Santiago in 2013 for my 70th birthday. For me, the journey of a lifetime.
Only downside was having such rudimentary French from highschool; I would have loved a better visit with both French Hosts and pelerin.
And it is not even remotely like the CF!! but lots here in form on the differences............al
 

anamcara

Camino Walker
Past OR future Camino
2022 Chemin du Piémont 😎
Only downside was having such rudimentary French from highschool; I would have loved a better visit with both French Hosts and pelerin.
I was pretty much in the same boat. But I suspect the language 'barrier' is not so great these days. @alhartman walked Le Puy in 2013 and I in 2014. Some years later we lived in the Gers region (on the Le Puy way) including time spent looking after a friend's gite du pelerins which gave us a close up look at the mix of pilgrims - at least during that time.

Since 2013/2014, I think the demographics of the le Puy may have changed quite a bit and there are now more people walking who can speak English. And with that, many more of the hosts can speak more English. I don't know if this change in demographics is true of the Arles Way - maybe, though to a lesser extent. These opinions are based on no scientific data gathering whatsoever!

In my experience in France, if you can speak even a few words of Camino French - your hosts and French pelerins will appreciate that and do their best to communicate in one or both languages.

Bon chemin!
 

mamadoodle

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances May/June 2014
Del Norte/Primitivo (Sept/Oct 2016)
Having a similar experience as Jenny (Vezelay, 2x LePuy, Toulousana, RLS) I would ratify her recommendations!! If I get an unlikely future walk, I would start in Taize/Cluny for a new experience and to lengthen the journey and for a bit of 'spiritual'. My 'top' camino was LePuy to Santiago in 2013 for my 70th birthday. For me, the journey of a lifetime.
Only downside was having such rudimentary French from highschool; I would have loved a better visit with both French Hosts and pelerin.
And it is not even remotely like the CF!! but lots here in form on the differences............al
Thank you for this response. LePuy is beginning to look like our starting point and it’s good to know you did that trip when you were 70. I celebrated my 70th on the Norte and wanted to walk another Camino before turning 75. I’ve missed that milestone but hope to walk in France next year. Thanks again.
 

Karl G

Member
Past OR future Camino
August and September 2019 - Arles
Without a doubt the most useful resource is Gronze.com. If you open it in a Google Chrome browser it will translate into English. It has incredibly detailed information on many, many routes with distances, elevations, lodging, etc. They also have easily downloadable tracks that were more accurate than any other resources I could find when I walked about half of the Arles.

If you do walk the Arles I’d recommend starting in Montpellier or Grabels. For a first hand account of the first half of the Arles see this link: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/arles-to-somport-reports.64232/#post-790089

The Arles is very lightly traveled and some working French is extremely helpful. I did some crash cramming for two months before leaving and it was really needed. Very little English is spoken on the trail. I focused on the ten most used verbs and some basic vocabulary, numbers, days of the week, and how to say individual letters in order to spell something out loud (like your name.) I also kept written notes of some useful basic phrases in the Notes app of my iPhone and made frequent use of Google translate for emailing ahead to secure lodging.

There are also a lot of good descriptions of the Le Puy and other French routes on this site that are very helpful.

Bon Chemin,

Karl
 
Past OR future Camino
Since 2014~to~ Until I can walk
Thanks a lot Karl!

I want to do Camino de Arles next year and your information is very useful. Starting from Arles but I can change my mind from any other places. I am learning French now and it will be very helpful in Camino de Arles . Camino de Le Puy I didn’t speak any French but I managed okay ( because most of hospitalelos know a little bit of English) and I used gronze as well. I will use gronze in Camino de Arles. I am glad to know you used gronze and it worked well. Thanks again. From Vancouver
 
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hdlopesrocha

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
I started in Geneva following Le Puy-en-Velay, the route is hard for walkers and bikers from Geneva. In my case, as a cyclist, I followed the road between Geneva and Le Puy but after Le Puy I tried to stick as close to the real route.

From Le Puy you will see beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, many animals and the natural beauty of France throughout the massif central.

I really enjoyed the French part, more than the Spanish (except the Pyrenees and Ponferrada/Galicia).

Anyways, always bring a poncho with you if you think about crossing the massif central.
 
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2014 & 2017
Camino Francigena, part off 2019
I walked from Le Puy to Pampalona on the GR65 in August 2019 and just loved it loved it.
I would just like to add to all the previous good information that French campsites are great, especially the basic municipal variety. I carried a lightweight one man tent and carrymat (1.5 kg or 1.2 pounds total).
‘Bon chemin’!
Lindsay
 

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