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The French Camino: Le Puy to JSPP the first four days

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Jul 27th, 2018, 12:02 AM
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The French Camino: Le Puy to JSPP the first four days

Back in Switzerland after a four-day hike from Le Puy to Domaine Sauvage on the pilgrim trail.

Packed: 1 pair of shorts, one skirt, three t-shirts, two pairs of socks, 3 pairs of underwear, one pair of light sandals, one sarong, leggings, one very light sweater, one wind jacket, lots of plasters and compeed, a bathing suit, three bottles of water, some snacks, a knife, an umbrella, a silk lining, a light poncho, shampoo, conditioner, sun screen, a charger, a plastic box for food, safety pins, clothes pins, sun screen, extra shoe laces, a straw hat, a swiss knife, a travel towel and my poles. Also, bring tissues to be used as tp.

My bum bag with bottle holder was indispensable. It truly was the best choice on how to transport water easily.

Money: Figure about 40 Euros a day for accommodation and snacks. Make sure you have a bank card and a credit card with you for emergencies. We used the credit card to book the compestelle bus back to Le Puy.

What I would change: my hiking boots. Even though they were top quality (salomon ultra light) they were too narrow so one instep began to hurt. Also, I wouldn't bring a cup or plates. I'd also bring trekking sandals to be used during the day or evening.

Maps and info: miam do do guidebook. The info on accommodation is top notch and the maps are extremely helpful.

Gites:

Tip: Book at least one day before. It gives you a destination and there's nothing nicer than being expected and welcomed by gite owners.

Le Puy: Accruil Saint George. A very simple and not too hospitable large building once housed by nuns. The room was clean as well as the floor showers and toilets but the bed was creaky and breakfast was rather a sad affair. Can't beat the price and location though and I could park my car there for a few days so all in all, it was fine.

Rochegaude: My goodness, this gite was exquisite. The kind and lovely family was incredibly hospitable, the food divine, the gite was clean and it felt like you were sleeping in the alps. Despite its distance from Le Puy (23 km), I'd recommend doing the long hike again just to stay as this perfect place. Have I mentioned the cheese? Heavenly.

Sauges: Gite Itier Martins: hospitable with great rooms (our own toilet and shower!) and delicious food. Loved the atmosphere and we met some people here who'd we see again and again. Mass at the church was said and done in 22 minutes.

Domaine Sauvage: what a treat! It was the first time we shared a room with 4 other strangers and they were all fantastic. No one snored and the place was clean and relaxing.

Transport back to Le Puy: Luckily we booked the compostelle bus (which works with lemalle post bus) two days before at the travel office in Sauges. We had to pre-pay with credit card as there are only 8 spots in the bus. We arrived at the bus stop inchapelle St Roch 1 hour early and the bus came a 20 minutes early! Yes, 20 minutes early. According to the bus schedule, it should have been there at 11.10 but it was there 10.50, which was a good thing because it needs more time to get back to Sauges.

Terrain: mostly off the asphalt with paths that take you through fields, forests, up hills and down hills. I'd say 20% was on asphalt and the rest was on natural ground. One of the hardest walking surfaces I found was in Le Puy as you walk up or down from the cathedral. It's steep and those cobblestone rocks are quite uneven.

Language: You need French. At least enough to get you by. Sitting at a table of lively pilgrims all talking in French can leave you feeling left out and a bit lonely. Some pilgrims speak some English but a lot of the gite owners do not. 85% of the pilgrims are from France. Luckily, on our last day, we met some Germans and other German Swiss so it was incredibly rewarding being able to speak a languge that I can easily converse in.

Weather: dry and warm. Perfect hiking weather.

Signposts: the trail is well marked. Besides the yellow signs with Chemin st Jacques posted on them, the red and white lines were lifesavers in keeping us from getting lost. The red and white “x” markings kept us many times from taking the wrong path too.

Toilets: we usually found a toilet when needed but learned to bring your own paper/tissues. Half of the time, there was no tp available.
Impressions:

- I spoke to a woman who was almost two months on the camino. She started in Belgium and wanted to go to SJPP. I asked her if the experience was what she had expected and her reply was: she didn't think it would be so stressful. I thought about that and it's true: you need to stay organised and stick to an early schedule.

- People tend to poorly apply their sunscreen and pay for it dearly with sun burns. Luckily, I put sunscreen on every morning and had no problems.

- Hats: YES! I loved my wide-brimmed straw hat. It kept me cool and it was comfortable.

Sarong: Yes! It was a blanket, a fly net over my face, a towel and gave me warmth as a shawl in the evening. To be honest, my sarong was basically just a large, light-weight shawl that I'd bring again with me.

- Injuries: You see them on the trail. People limping due to blisters or ill-fitting shoes. Odd accidents happen including horses who push pilgrims to the ground.

- Other pilgrims: we saw families, lovers who chose tents instead of rooms, families with donkeys and a woman who pulled her backpack on a trolley just to name a few. After awhile, you see the same pilgrims again and again and with time, seeing them again is like a family meet up.

Food: The gites offer the best food ever. Those dinners are worth every euro you pay for and are a part of the experience. Don't skip on them when possible.

- I hope to continue the walk someday. There's so much to see and experience that I can already heare it calling.

For excellent up-to-date info on the trail, join the FB Forum: Way of St James - Via Podiensis - Chemin du Puy-en-Velay
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Jul 27th, 2018, 03:26 AM
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Interesting. I've been in Le Puy later in the year when it seemed as though the majority of pilgrims were German speakers.
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Jul 27th, 2018, 04:03 AM
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Originally Posted by kerouac View Post
Interesting. I've been in Le Puy later in the year when it seemed as though the majority of pilgrims were German speakers.
I wish but the overwhelming majority of pilgrims are French natives. In fact, I didn't run into any native English speakers at all.
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Jul 27th, 2018, 04:05 AM
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Wow - great!
I just read an interesting book about the French Chemin de St. Jacques and Spanish Camino.
Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist is an interesting story about two unrelated people who meet up and eventually begin a romantic relationship - but first need to resolve personal issues which is why they are on the walk.
"The protagonists’ route to Santiago begins in Cluny, France and follows the Chemin de Cluny before joining the Chemin du Puy (Via Podiensis) to St Jean Pied de Port, France, the starting point of the popular Camino Frances (French Way). They then follow the GR10 walking path along the Pyrenees to Hendaye, France, where they take the Camino del Norte and then the Camino Primitivo, joining the Camino Frances at Melide. The total journey takes them approximately 90 days. The book’s appendix notes that the authors walked this route together in 2011 in 87 days, covering a little over 2,000 kilometres."
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Jul 27th, 2018, 04:08 AM
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It's an amazing journey where anything or nothing can happen. I love the idea of bringing only the minimum basics and leaving yourself open to whoever or whatever you come across. The Le Puy path is beautiful and because it's higher elevated, it's a bit cooler too.
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Jul 27th, 2018, 04:18 AM
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Thank you so much for sharing this. One of the paths crosses over our house, so we sometimes come across pilgrims picknicking on our roof! And there is a young English man staying with neighbors of ours here who's about to take off on the Camino, and it's been fun listening to him describe his preparations.

Thanks also, nanabee, for the name of that book. Going right on my reading list!
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Jul 27th, 2018, 04:29 AM
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I thought you were on the trail! There are so few native English speaking pilgrims that I bet you'd be a hit among many of those who's tired of not being able to have a deep conversation in English. Having said that, I met a German who taught politics in English. Now that was a riveting conversation!
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Jul 27th, 2018, 05:34 AM
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Ican imagine! Must've been fascinating.

Most of the folks who stop on top of our house are French, which doesn't pose a communication problem for us, fortunately. If we're feeling benevolent, and if they're not littering (which the pilgrims never are), we often invite them down for a cool drink or a dip in the pool.

It's the motorcyclists who stop and leave their beer cans and lunch wrappers that drive me nuts, but they don't get away without an earful from me.
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