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An interesting article about 'The Way of St. James'

Pauline

Forums Admin
Great article Chris! I am very interested in the St James Way and have been meaning to start a post about this topic. I know that TrekCapri is planning to do this walk next summer. I would love to hear from anyone who knows more about it or has walked any of it.

Here are my notes:

This pilgrimage routes start many places in Europe but all routes end at Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. There are also routes from France, Ireland, England and Portugal.

This pilgrimage route has many names - The Way of St James, Le Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle (French), El Camino de Santiago de Compostella (Spanish). El Camino, The Way. The symbol is a shell and you will see it on the trail markers.

The main part of the trail is also called The French Way (Camino Francés) and goes from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles on the Spanish side and then another 780km to Santiago de Compostela. This walk takes at least four weeks.

Photo of trail marker near St Giles in southern Provence, showing the white and red mark for a national trail and the yellow shell for the Saint James Way.

st-james-way-.jpg


We have walked parts of The Way in France - two parts in Provence and one in Midi-Pyrenees - and in northern Portugal, but have not walked any of the trail in Spain.

David Downie's book "From Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James" documents his walk on the Saint James Way through France. I liked this book, but it covers in more detail the walk from Vezelay (outside of Paris) to Macon (Burgundy). The second part of his walk from Le-Puy-en-Velay to Roncesvalles (the more popular walk) is given a very short description.

Downie says the pilgrims' highway was built on top of an ancient Roman road that linked northern Europe to the heartland of Gaul and on to Spain.

The movie "The Way" with Martin Sheen, written and directed by his son Emilio Estevez, gives a good description of the main part of the walk in Spain, from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela.

The movie was partly based on "Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down The Pilgrim's Route Into Spain" by Jack Hitt. I thought this was a good book.

Another good book that covers this walk along with two other pilgrimage trails is "A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful" by Gideon Lewis-Krau.

Walk the Camino is a company that organizes group or self-guided walks on the Camino.

Macs Adventures offer self-guided walks on the St James Way in France, Portugal and Spain.

Photo of trail marker in Haute Provence, near the Monastery in Ganagobie. The Saint James Way passes through this area.

st-james-way-1138.jpg
 

Shannon

100+ Posts
Fat Italians on the Camino! Horrors!

I haven't walked the Camino (well, except for 10 minutes here and there to dinner) but I have spent a lot of time on it.

In past centuries pilgrims walked the Camino because they got time off from purgatory to do it. Well that was the main reason anyway. Now, yes it is more fashionable but people do it for MANY reasons. Soul searching, religious reasons, or simply a walking holiday. Who cares what people do it for?

The writer (after that doozy of an idea that "all pilgrims should be poor") says that Germans are different than the Americans or Spanish or French on the Camino. WHAT COMPLETE ROT. There are people with gross toenails from every nationality, and people who hire those vans to move the luggage from every nationality. If some Germans are carrying less and "smiling condescendingly" I'd bet there is a 50% chance they've got someone moving some stuff for them. Believe me, I have seen plenty of Germans with little Gucci backpacks walking the Camino, and you aren't going to convince me they've got all their stuff in there.

Spain is in a severe, severe, SEVERE situation with the crisis. And the writer laments how instead of the farmer lets some pilgrim in and feeds him sausage, he is encouraging his grandchildren to open hostels along the Camino. Well to that farmer I say THANK YOU because maybe instead of losing some cool kid to London where he can work as a waiter he stays in Spain and these little villages that may have died, can stay alive.

It is true that the people who buy the gear and walk the last 100 kilometers (and the sometimes obnoxious bikers) can be a bit much when they round the corner into the Praza do Obradoiro like they've done the whole shebang, but for every one of those guys there are three or four who have walked hundreds of kilometers, and I don't care if they stayed in a giant room with 100 beds or a 30 euro private room, they are still walking the Camino and there are still dogs and bug bites, and winds and dirt blowing in your face. Its not a luxury vacation by any stretch of the imagination. It is an experience.

When I was in Santiago de Compostela in June I ran into someone I knew from Santa Cruz, California. She and her husband had just walked the whole way; it took 33 days or something like that. It was an amazing experience and while I was talking to them and later when we shared some wine they ran into dozens of people they had walked with at some point. From everywhere - all over Europe, Australia, Asia. Pauline, you would love it.

There are so many cool people working in businesses along the Camino. I hope it continues to be popular, so they can stay and thrive.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Thanks for the details Shannon. I think these long distance walks are becoming more popular now and this is the most well-known of them. I think I would love it and maybe some day we will do some of it. The Cotswold Way did me in with only 10 days of walking - so I don't think I could do the whole thing :dork:
 

Kathy

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
We just finished the Coast to Coast walk in England (16 days/192+ miles) and are thinking about our next long distance walk. We've been interested in the Santiago de Compostela for a few years and have done a lot of reading about it. We really enjoyed the movie "The Way." Some French people we met on the Stevenson walk a few years ago said that in the summer it can be very challenging... there are so many people doing this now that the hostels get very full. People leave before daybreak so they can get a bed at the next place. If you don't get a bed, you keep walking or sleep outside.

At this point Charley and I don't see ourselves leaving before daybreak, sleeping in a big dorm room, or possibly sleeping outside. So maybe we're not true pilgrims in the spirit of the walk. But we don't mind staying in very simple places (if they are clean), occasionally sharing a bathroom, and walking in the rain and mud. We've never carried all our gear (just a daypack), but I realize that could be possible if you just had one change of clothes and really minimized toiletries and electronics.

What we are tossing around is starting our walk in Bonnieux and hooking up with the Camino Arles, not as popular of a route. It would be about a week from Bonnieux to Arles, I think. (The GR 653D is the Via Dometia and the Compostela route from Geneva.) And perhaps we'd do the walk in some stages of two or three weeks... not all at once. We hope to spend more time in Europe in 2016 and may start this then. (But I'm also interested in Offa's Dyke in England/Wales.)

We really do enjoy the daily rhythm of long distance walks and the camaraderie with other walkers when you're traveling a defined route. Some of our walks have been peak life experiences for me.

Kathy
 

Kathy (Trekcapri)

100+ Posts
Hi Chris, that is a great article. Thanks so much for sharing. Pauline, I am planning on doing the Camino de Santiago on the Camino Frances Route. I originally planned on doing it next year starting in Astorga because I am limited to 3 weeks due to work. However, life changes and I have postponed my Camino until Fall 2016 starting in St Jean Pied de Port. Some of the legs are pretty long so I'll break it up a bit and have some rest days in between so I can explore certain towns that appeal to me.

Here are my notes so far:

Movies:
- Love the Movie "The Way" I've watched it literally 10 times
- I also enjoyed watching the Camino Documentary: Six Ways to Santiago I went to a screening in Newport Beach & they held a Q&A after the movie. The Director, Lydia Smith and one of the featured Pilgrims was there (Annie O'Neal) to talk about their documentary & the many, many interesting stories and people they met while filming. They gave us patches for our backpack. Waiting in line we met a group of ladies who walked it part of the way. Their friend didn't want to walk it but wanted to be a part of their journey so she took a taxi from one stop to the next all the way to Santiago.

Books:
- So far, I enjoyed "I'm Off Then" by Hape Kerkeling & "Grandma's on the Camino: Reflections on a 48 Day Pilgrimage to Santiago" by Mary O'Hare Wyman. Enjoyed both. Hape did skip over a section or two, but this 70 year old grandmother literally walked every inch of the entire Camino Frances Route. Her observations and stories were interesting and often times funny. I have downloaded a couple more books but haven't read them yet, so I can't recommend them at this time.

As far as guidebooks go, these are the ones most recommended. Only the last one is offered (so far) in a Kindle version. Since I'll be taking my sweet time I'm really liking the Cultural Handbook a lot.

- A Village to Village Guide to Hiking the Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances: St. Jean-Santiago-Finisterre by anna Dintaman & David Landis
- A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean-Roncesvalles-Santiago by John Brierley
- The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook by David M. Gitlitz & Linda Kay Davidson

YouTube Videos are also a great source of inspiation: I love these
- Life Lessons from the Camino de Santiago (Samson1729)
- Camino De Santiago by David Faddis

I love Spain & can't wait to see this part of the country. I wanted to do this for such a long time but I didn't want to rush myself, so had to postpone it like three times until I would be able to do it without time contraints. Everything I've read really encourages people to walk their own Camino. It is a personal journey and experience. I do want to try (knock on wood) to walk the entire way without skipping. But if I have an injury or something I will do what's best for me to keep moving forward. There is a luggage carrying service that many pilgrims recommend using especially on 1-2 of the steeper sections. I'll take their advice. :) I have another confession, I'm saving enough money so I can afford to stay in private albergues or pay extra for a private room as much as possible. The thought of sleeping on bunk beds just doesn't sound appealing and it would distract me from my experience. On the other hand, they say it is part of the experience, so I may try one or two of the albergues that I've read positive reviews on just to have that experience, but even Hape toward the end started staying in private albergues/hotels. There may be times when I may not have a choice.

My Camino isn't for awhile but I'm enjoying the research and I am learning so much. I love hearing from others who are walking or planning on walking any of the Camino de Santiago routes. I heard positive things about the Portugese route. They say it is less crowded.

I'm actually heading to Portugual this year and out of curiosity, I'm going to try to find out where the Camino Portugese starts in Lisbon. I think it starts near a church/cathedral. This will be a vacation not to walk the Camino, but I think it would be fun to check it out in addition to everything else. :)
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Thanks for the book list Kathy. I bought the Hape Kerkeling for the Kindle. Let me know if you like the other ones you got.

I picked up a few maps about the trail in Spain and France. I also got The Roads to Santiego de Compostela, which I need to sit down and read.

I thought you were doing the walk next summer, but I understand delaying it if the timing will not work. I don't think I could do the dormitory accommodation - I would be the woman snoring and keeping everyone awake :)

Keep us posted as you do your research. This topic is endlessly fascinating for me.
 

Kathy (Trekcapri)

100+ Posts
Hi Pauline, LOL! I can't imagine you snoring. It's okay, I'm a bed tosser so my bunkmate would not be happy with me. I'm definitely going to try for private albergues or rooms, but if not I'm bringing ear plus. You'll like Hape's book. I'll check out your recommeded reads too. I agree that the Camino de Santiago is very fascinying read. As I get closer to my dates i will start a thread to share what I've learned and all my preparations in case other travelers are interested . Its going to be so awesome and I can't wait.
 

Kathy (Trekcapri)

100+ Posts
Hi Shannon, I think you and your mom will really enjoy Cadiz. It's such a laid back town and the older section is very charming. I just read somewhere that there is this bridge that connects to Spain from Portugal. The pairing of Spain & Portugal sounds like be an awesome trip.

I'm basing in Lisbon & there are some nearby towns that I can visit as day trips. I may do at least one overnight (or two night) day trip further north, maybe Porto or some place like that just to mix it up from central Portugal. I'm just starting my research trying to figure things out. I remember reading Deborah's post about Lisbon and knew I had to put it on my list. After traveling to South America (which I loved too) the last two years, I've missed Europe.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
So far, I enjoyed "I'm Off Then" by Hape Kerkeling & "Grandma's on the Camino: Reflections on a 48 Day Pilgrimage to Santiago" by Mary O'Hare Wyman. Enjoyed both. Hape did skip over a section or two, but this 70 year old grandmother literally walked every inch of the entire Camino Frances Route. Her observations and stories were interesting and often times funny. I have downloaded a couple more books but haven't read them yet, so I can't recommend them at this time.
I finished the Kerkeling book today. It has been interesting reading it while we are on a walking vacation in Switzerland but we are staying in a comfortable chalet and only walking 2 to 3 hours a day, nothing like what he did. He gives a good description of the trail and his personal journey. A bit too much emphasis on God for me, but it is a religious trail so I should not be surprised.

I like it that pilgrims have been walking the trail for hundreds of years, but I don't like it that the trail is on roads for many parts (not main roads, but country lanes with not much traffic). I like footpaths that have never seen a car.

I somehow missed in all this that Shirley MacLaine wrote a book about doing the walk (The Camino, published 2001). Her new age spiritualism books had a big effect on me 20 years ago, and she lived in the Santa Fe area. I got her book to read.
 

Kathy (Trekcapri)

100+ Posts
Hi Pauline, I've been looking at your photos in Switzerland and the trails you're on are stunning. I've read that there is a mix on the Camino, some on/near by roads, some on foot paths. I think I would enjoy the foot paths better myself. I agree with you. I think the appeal is the fact that people have been doing this pilgrimage walk for hundreds of years and there's so much history.

AnnieNC recommended Shirley's book to me and I heard it (got the audio version) so long ago I had forgotten about it. I really enjoyed it a lot as well. Definitely some spiritualism in her journey. I admire her for going full on pilgrim sleeping in albergues & carrying her own pack. She had some interesting observations and description as well. The audio book although more expensive was actually great because Shirley does the narration.

I guess it goes to show that the Camino experience affects people in so many different ways. Pretty cool.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
... AnnieNC recommended Shirley's book to me and I heard it (got the audio version) so long ago I had forgotten about it. I really enjoyed it a lot as well. Definitely some spiritualism in her journey. I admire her for going full on pilgrim sleeping in albergues & carrying her own pack. She had some interesting observations and description as well. The audio book although more expensive was actually great because Shirley does the narration. ...
I finished her book today and enjoyed it although I paged through a lot of the new age spiritualism stuff (which was about 1/3 of the book). She really did full on pilgrim as you said! By the end she was sleeping beside the trail.

I wondered about how she handled the press who seemed relentless in following her. Why did she have to go to such lengths to avoid them? Couldn't she have kept walking, maybe talked to them a bit? Instead she was hiding and escaping and by the end getting a car to take her past them. I found all that odd. We saw her in Starbucks once in Santa Fe and no one was making a fuss. I guess it was different on the Camino.

Boy, her descriptions of the refuges!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
So he walked from Pamiers south of Toulouse and then along the Pyrenees to St. Jean Pied de Port, where people start the main part of the Camino? That must have been a tough hike!
 

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