CHEMIN DE SAN JACQUES By David Horley (Article)


David Horley

Would you like to hike along one of the routes used by European pilgrims for hundreds of years ? Starting at various points in Europe, pilgrims made their way to a city in northwest Spain called, appropriately, Santiago de Compostela. Third only to Jerusalem and Rome as a pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages, this city is the place where one of Christ’s disciples, St James, is supposed to have launched Christianity in Spain.

These days there are both religious pilgrims and those who make some or all of the trek for their own reasons. A popular starting point is the city in south-central France, Le Puy-en-Velay, which leaves about 750 kilometres to reach the border with Spain and a similar distance to reach Santiago. But one does not have to cover the entire distance; we did a little less than half of the French portion in just over two weeks.

The recommended route in France is well marked, since it follows the established track of the Grande Randonnée 65, part of a French network of hiking trails. A couple of guidebooks which offer detailed instructions can be purchased (La Librairie Saint Paul at Saint Paul University on Main Street, Ottawa, offers the best selection). Most hikers carry a full backpack ranging from 8 to 14 kilograms but there are a couple of companies which will forward one’s pack to the next overnight destination, for a fee. Accommodation can be in hostels ( ‘gîtes’) , chambres d’hôte ( where usually one can eat dinner and then breakfast before departure the next morning) and small hotels.

Hikers enjoy a variety of quiet and delightful rural French countryside, most of the time well away from vehicles and similar distractions. There is also the pleasure of meeting a range of walkers who are following essentially the same timetable.

If a reader would like to learn more of our own experience, with a view to possibly undertaking a stretch of the ‘Chemin’, I would be ready to field a call or calls, at 613-745-6156.

David Horley

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