After travelling the world for 6 months, I return to the Netherlands to gather my stuff for a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. My goal is to at least reach the Spanish border and if possible I walk on to Finisterre.
In 2015 I walked from Kijkduin The Hague, which was my hometown back then, to the centre of Paris. After many beginner mistakes in 2015 I’ll be starting the second part of this fantastic hike better prepared and in good spirits.
May 2017 is finally that day. In rainy Alphen aan den Rijn I’m ready to leave. I take the early morning train from Rotterdam to the centre of Paris and take a metro to border of the town. Once arrived I quickly find the first route marker and start walking immediately.
Taking good care of myself
I spend the night in different kind of places that are located along the route. For example along the highway in a cheap F1 hotel, a family hotel in a small village, a wedding farm where I’m the only guest and all of a sudden even a Bed & Breakfast with a private jacuzzi!
What an excellent B&B location with a great garden and bubble bath! I couldn’t find a place to sleep and had to get off route quite a bit, but doing the pilgrimage like this is something I can really enjoy :-))
The hostess of the house is spoiling me with tasty bites and I feel like a princess for a day.
Afterwards I sleep more often at B&B’s, from small dirty student quarters to genuine castles.
My feet endure the walking quite well, which is above expectation. They are a bit red and bruised, but I don’t have any blisters. Maybe that’s because I put tape on my little toes every day? My bag is way too heavy again, I’ll never learn…. On the sixth day I send a 3 kilo package back to the Netherlands, and I drop some of my clothes at the second hand recycling. This is a lot better, what little does a person actually need. My bag weighs around 9 kilo excluding any food and drinks.
The route differs enormously, from asphalt roads to farm green land, nice forest tracks, through lovely villages or a muddy mountain bike trail through the woods. Occasionally I walk in the rain and even get a hailstorm once every while. It’s at that moment that I ask myself why am I doing this? But overall, it’s just great weather to be walking.
The first week I focus on all the discomforts. How hot it is, how heavy my bag feels, oh no it is raining, sore feet, do I feel an old injury coming back in my knee? The second week that feeling has passed, but then I feel lonely sometimes. I’m actually alone quite often, because I don’t meet other hikers and can speak barely French. Sometimes the silence is too much, but sometimes I enjoy it! When that happens, walking can feel like a long meditation…
When I’m not busy worrying, I enjoy all the thing I come across on my journey.
Literally comes across my path, because all of a sudden 2 families of wild bores cross the road. I know wild bores with little ones can be aggressive. Singing out loud I continue my walk, this way they can hear me coming. A bit down the road I see a deer watching me and I even encounter a small snake!
In the meanwhile I walked from Paris, along Orleans, Vierzon, Issoudun to Chateauroux. A total of 300 kilometres.
I’m glad there are multiple B&B’s on the route where they speak English, this is nice as I’ve a lot to talk about! Sometimes we have a BBQ with all the people and it feels like holiday. Every B&B works differently, sometimes is very luxurious and in the next place you get your heated coffee from the microwave. At one place, the house almost burned to the ground because my croissant caught on fire while in the toaster. I’m glad it all ended well.
I walk along the ‘Vezelay’ route from Chateauroux, La Souterainne, Benevent L’Ábbaye to Limoges. The landscape has transformed to hilly and beautiful!
I’ve walked 480 km so far and have had only 3 blisters. Long live Meindl walking shoes!
A friend joins me for a week and together we walk to Sainte-Foy-La-Grande. On Saturday morning I start the walk with Herman in Limoges. At night it rains cats and dogs but during the day it’s dry. Well, not the last 4 km, we are being soaked. In the B&B the wood furnace is lit and we receive coffee, beer and delicious food. Life is good!
Sometimes life is less luxurious and we have our lunch in the parking area of a supermarket.
Everywhere we enjoy this wonderful walking weather, meet fun people and the food is excellent! Nice to be able to share this experience.
Just over half
Through Negrondes and Perigueux I arrive in Mussidan. I raised the tempo a bit and walk on average 32 km a day. It’s warmer than normal in France, some days reach 40 degrees! I start walking early in the morning around 06:00 and bring along an extra liter of water. Well prepared for the hot weather in Spain.
Along the road I see a field filled with sunflowers, beautiful! These are my favourite flowers.
I also come across many churches. Sometimes the churches in France are open all day for a visit. Gladly I make use of it, it’s nice just to be able to sit for a while inside and just be. It’s also a nice spot for a quick cool break and collecting the stamps for my pilgrimage passport.
Once I crossed the Dordogne, I’m almost in the Pyrenees mountains. Nowadays I sleep in Chambre d’Hôtes le Refuge. These are often beautiful country houses with a swimming pool and a lower fares for pilgrims. I’m not complaining!
My blue shoes broke…this is not really helpful along the way.
Quickly I bought new Meindl shoes, nice pink ones. They walk just fine, so on the Spain!
I start my crossing of the Pyrenees from France to Spain.
What a beautiful environment! Walking seems to go better each day, I feel on top of my game. While nearing the border, I get more energy and the walking almost seems to go automatically. I know now, that I will finish this journey in one try. On my way to Santiago de Compostela!
Every morning I get up and feel like walking. I’ve got a beautiful life and feel happy. After 4 to 5 weeks of walking my mindset has changed. I’m not busy with the hustle of the day and it feels like being totally carefree in the now. I can’t really explain or compare with something, but take it from me, it feels lovely!
For my last stop before the border, I arrive in Saint Jean Pied de Port and look back on my journey through France. I’ve walked everyday and almost did 1100 km. What an effort, cheer to that!
Tomorrow I’ll cross the border into Spain!
I the coming month I have to walk around 900 km to Finisterre. This little town is located near the sea, 90 kilometers passed Santiago de Compostela.
Do you want to read along? Read part III to Santiago de Compostela https://www.marianaroundtheworld.com/en/europe/to-santiago-de-compostella-part-iii/
Do you want to read part I of my trip to Santiago de Compostela? https://www.marianaroundtheworld.com/en/europe/to-santiago-de-compostela/
Paris – Montrouge – Lihas – Etrechy – Guillerval – Fresnay les Chaumes – Artenay – Orleans – Jouyle Potier – Chaumont sur Tharonne – Salbris – Vierzon – Gerbois – Issodun – Montierchaume (300 km) – Le Poinconnet – Bonnilly – La Souterraine – L’abbye Benevent – Saint Martin – Saint just le Mortel – Limoges (480 km) – Saint M. Le Vieux – Dournazac – Chaleix – Negrondes – Perigueux – La Bassanie – Mussidan (650 km) – Calabre – Saint Ferme – Pondaurat – Cudos – Bourriot Bergonce – Peyran (860 km) – Benquet – Doazit – Orthez – Sauveterre de bearn – Ostabat – Saint Jean Pied de Port (1070 km)