|The 'Ways of Saint James' to Santiago de Compostela (from John Brierley's A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago). Please click on the map to enlarge.|
Here's a map showing the principal pilgrim routes in France and Spain. (It's a very basic, simplified one, and does not show all the Spanish routes, nor all the European routes which link into the French ones — but it's fine for my purpose here.) All these paths are the 'Ways of Saint James'.
As you can see, the four main French paths begin in Paris, Vézelay, Le Puy and Arles. They all join what's known as the Camino Francés (The French Way) either at Saint-Jean in France or Puente la Reina in Spain. The Camino Francés, the most popular by far of all the paths, and marked in brown on the map, runs from the Pyrenees on the French-Spanish border right across northern Spain to Santiago — after Rome, the most important Christian pilgrimage site in Europe.
Over the past five years I've walked four of the paths marked here: the Le Puy route (Via Podiensis), the Arles route (Via Tolosana), the Camino Francés, and the Seville route (Vía de la Plata or Camino Mozárabe). Last September I also walked the path from Geneva in Switzerland to Le Puy (Via Gebennensis) — not shown on the map. On my recent two-week trip I decided to walk part of the Le Puy route again; I'd never done any of the routes in springtime before. I finished just short of Cahors, which is almost at the half-way point.
The whole stretch from Geneva via Le Puy to Saint-Jean is also known as the GR 65 — part of that excellent network of waymarked footpaths the French call the Grande Randonnée.
To give some idea of scale, here are the distances of some of the routes: Le Puy 750 km, Arles 800 km, Camino Francés 800 km, Seville 1000 km.