When Dave and I walked our first Camino in 2015 to celebrate my 70th birthday, St. Jean-Pied-de-Port was our starting point. This time it will be our ending point and the birthday we’ll be celebrating when we arrive on October 7th is Dave’s 85th! 🎂 🎉 🥳
It took us two days to get to Le Puy-En-Velay in the south-central part of France. Our direct, non-stop Air France flight from Vancouver to Paris was great and so was the high speed train that got us to Lyon in two hours. Lyon is a beautiful city and worth exploring, but we slept for 12 of the 24 hours we were there so didn’t see much. Next time! The following day we were off to Le Puy by train and bus where we easily found our accommodation beside the cathedral, the Grand Séminaire – Accueil Saint Georges.
We’ve never been to Le Puy before, but arriving here and especially wandering around the cathedral yesterday afternoon made me feel like I’d come home. My shoulders relaxed and I felt such peace! 🥰 I knew this would be the best beginning of any of our Caminos. What I appreciated most was a box below the statue of St. James where pilgrims are invited to deposit their personal intention (goal) for their journey into the box. After the pilgrim mass at 7 a.m. on the day of departure, pilgrims may receive someone else’s intention for their journey and make prayers for that person along the way. Someone would have carried my intention with them this morning. Tomorrow I will carry someone else’s intention and pray for them. This is the “caring and sharing” that I love about the Camino.
The route we are going to follow has several names: the GR 65 Chemin de Saint-Jacque du-Puy, the Way of Saint James, Via Podiensis, Chemin de Saint-Jacques, and Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. By the time we reach St. Jean-Pied-de-Port we’ll have gone 766 km. It would have been 736 km if we hadn’t added an extra 30 km for taking the Cele Valley variant, but we couldn’t resist seeing for ourselves the “impossibly beautiful” scenery in the Cele Valley.
Walking 766 km in 37 days and keeping to our preferred daily average distance of 18 km is impossible, so we have to skip a section. After studying various alternatives, we decided to take the bus from Aire-Sur-l’Adour to Saint Palais for a distance of 134 km. By that time we’ll have walked for 34 days so sitting on a bus will be a welcome rest! Two walking days later, we’ll arrive in St. Jean Pied de Port, our final destination, before taking the train to Paris for a three night stay before flying home.
This Camino has taken months of planning. Unlike our other Caminos, we made reservations the whole way, mostly in gîtes (B&Bs) with the exception of a few accommodations provided by religious organizations. We booked Le Malle Postale to transport a small duffle bag filled with things we won’t need during the day for the first 27 days. It will take about 14 lbs. off our shoulders – a relief because we each have a rotary cuff tear. Our duffel bag needs to be packed and ready for pick up by 8 a.m. and will arrive before 5 p.m. at our next destination. Le Malle Postale will take us, too, if we have physical issues that prevent us from walking. All we have to do is contact them the night before.
One thing we’ve learned from walking various Caminos is that we shouldn’t expect everything to go according to plan. With all the planning we’ve done for this Camino, it seems that if one thing goes wrong, everything will fall apart like Dominoes. Who knows? What will be, will be!
Here’s some of what we’ve seen so far. Our journey begins tomorrow, September 1st.