A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Next Steps


I was walking again the Via Podiensis, that outstandingly beautiful pilgrim path which runs diagonally for nearly 750 km across south-west France from Le Puy-en-Velay in the Auvergne to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port near the Spanish border. This time, however, I only had two weeks, and I quit at Limogne after completing 300 km. But I can honestly say that most every day was a blessing, and most every stride was a footstep of love.

The weather was kind in the end: rarely did I have to put on my rainshell, and the majority of days were warm, even hot. I'd walked all my former Caminos during the autumn and winter months — a time I preferred, as I liked the solitude of the path in those seasons. Walking a springtime Camino was a first for me. And I loved it. Although there were many more pilgrims — at least until Conques — the wild flowers, the burgeoning of leaf and bud, the clarity and translucence of the air were a revelation...
    

That first day, the Sunday, I followed a high rocky pathway above the gorge of the Gazelle, a river as lovely as its name...




I ate my picnic lunch in the shade of the 12th-century church tower at Saint-Christophe-sur-Dolaison, then continued along old and waterlogged trackways between the tiny hamlets of Liac and Lic...


Before long I'd reached the Chapelle Saint-Roch, which I clearly remembered from my first Camino...




My first night was spent in La Grange, an excellent new gîte d'étape in Montbonnet. After five years I discovered this time many more gîtes, auberges and herbergements along the route. Presumably to cope with demand, as each year these pilgrim ways become more and more popular. This was the view from the huge panoramic window of the gîte...


Not bad, don't you think? A small group of us — Australian, French, Swiss, me the sole English person as ever — had dinner in front of this stunning backdrop. And later in the evening we watched on TV François Hollande being elected the 24th President of the French Republic...

10 comments:

pilgrimpace said...

beautiful reflections. thank you for continuing to share,

Andy

George said...

An inspiring post, Robert, and that shot of Chapelle Saint-Roch is stunningly beautiful. I have this feeling that one could not possibly enter that little chapel without being transformed in some meaningful way.

am said...

"seeking slender meaning in chaos"

That is why I walk.

Now you've got me thinking about the difference between walking in the light of spring and the light of fall and winter. Spring light is affected by the exuberant moist green of the landscape. The colors are saturated. My perception is that the light in late summer, fall and winter is golden. My mood in the spring is not the same as my mood in the fall and winter. Spring has a feeling of melancholy for me despite the abundance of flowers. Although I enjoy walking throughout the year, I yearn for the golden light of late summer, fall and winter.

One spring I went to Death Valley with my sister. There is wonderful golden light in the spring there.

I especially like the photos of the Chapelle Saint-Roch. Looking forward to your photos and writing from this spring Camino.

Ruth said...

The beautiful photos are so definitely springtime, with not everything leafed out, and the green shades of spring and fern. The stone church is an island of coolness. It is not much like Paris's Saint-Roch church in looks, size or history, but it is more of a roch than that white church appears to be (more impervious to bullet holes, too), and after considering its exterior for a long time, I would like to sit inside it after a long morning's trek.

ksam said...

Beautiful pictures. I especially liked the little cottage with the crazy quilt roof. I'm dying to try a fall Camino, as both of mine to date have been in the spring time! I want to see what happens to that beautiful sweet spring time growth, to feel the reaping end of it all.

@ am...I'm glad you posted about feeling melancholy in the spring, because strangely, that is always a part of how I view spring time. Perhaps because for there to be birth and growth something has to give way or die...?

Susan Scheid said...

How lovely this all looks. I had no idea about these pilgrim's routes. Thank you for the beautiful window on this world.

Goat said...

Ah, great. Really enjoying this, SW. Make it last!

I've heard Autumn & Winter are splendid times for a Camino. Looks like much of my journey next year, which will incorporate one or more Caminos, or parts thereof, will mostly coincide with that part of the year.

I'm also intrigued by the idea of doing a long walk sans stove and fuel. I did this for 30 days once in Japan and was at the mercy of exceedingly bad "bread", "cheese" and "peanuts cream" (sic). I'm sure the provender in Europe will be a tad more nourishing!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your visit, Andy.

I'm not sure I was transformed on entering, George — but, yes, the interior was cool and lovely. I found it amazing to think I'd been standing on the same spot four and a half years ago.

Thanks so much for your comment, am. I can't say I find springtime melancholy, though even in the midst of all that promised abundance there are always signs of transience and decay: the rather unpleasant smell of hawthorn blossom (which some say smells like death), the knowledge that that bright, fresh, soft greenness will only last a few weeks before losing its saturated intensity...

Unfortunately didn't sit inside very long, Ruth, as I was keen to secure my night's lodging in the nearby village!

An autumn camino will be very special, I think, Karin. I can feel you planning it now...

Thanks, Susan — hope you enjoy my little camino reminiscences!

And Goat, glad you are enjoying the series so far. You don't need a tent or cooking equipment on the caminos, as a rich part of the experience is staying the night in reasonably priced accommodation (gîtes, albergues) with other walkers and pilgrims. And don't worry about the food — it's great!

retha geel said...

WONDERFUL! I was not sure which walk to do this year but you convinced me it is going to be from Le Puy. I'm from South Africa and are a keen caminowalker
This is where I charge my battery and re-connect with my soul
Blessings on your way

Retha Geel
Fochville S
South Africa

The Solitary Walker said...

You will love it, Retha, I'm sure. It's a great path. Blessings to you too, and Buen Camino!