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Monday, 05 May 2008

The Pilgrim’s Place: Le Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle - Page 5

Written by Cameron Karsten
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I came to Le Puy after being inspired by a book written by Paulo Coelho entitled The Pilgrimage, which chronicles the author’s mystical quest along The Way of Saint James (Le Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle) or El Camino a Santiago de Compostella – its commonly referred-to Spanish equivalent. This lengthy pilgrimage from France across the Pyréneés and traversing Spain is rough, challenging, cultural, and it is isolation from the external world for le pelerin (the pilgrim).

My moments alone walking, sleeping and eating gave me space to truly feel, observe and rethink. I came to see the reality of my present situation. Before me, I had one and a half more months of walking until reaching Santiago de Compostella. First, I had to go up and over the Pyréneés. Second, I had to keep moving; every day walking to an unknown destination where I would unpack my gear, curl up for a short night’s rest, and then pack it back up again the next morning for another day towards some other place. Third, I had the cold to combat as summer neared its completion and the transformations of fall descended upon me with its cascading leaves and gossamer webs. An August moon would shortly be in the past as the crisp winds sailed over the Atlantic—clouds thick and their bellies full. I faced the facts: I was ill equipped and unprepared. I was quickly tiring.

As I wandered through the small picturesque town situated on a bend upon the River Lot, I came to understand much about both the external world of Cahors, as well as the internal world I was walking within. And as I lay down in the city’s youth hostel—clean and fresh—I closed my eyes and slept. The other pilgrims around me spoke of their onward journeys; some returning home, some to the end in a nearing Spain. Deep within me I knew that in less than a week I would be home and within my own bed. Secretly, my body understood this, as well as my mind.

Cahors would be the last time I would see The Way of Saint James. As if Tobias’ divination were the first sign, my solo-questing upon Le Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle came to a close. From the first steps to the last, it all came with enthusiasm, which transformed into deep appreciation. Two days after I arrived by foot in Cahors, I left by train, traveling at exhilarating speeds northward to Paris. The factors were many to bring me to such a sudden conclusion, and it was El Camino a Santiago de Compostella that allowed me to experience these lessons. It was the art of the pilgrimage that presented me with the direction in which I was to proceed. Such is The Way of Saint James, and such it remains until the day I choose to return.

The Pilgrim’s Place: Le Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle, Santiago de Compostella, El Camino a Santiago de Compostella, The Way of Saint James, pilgrimage France

Resourceful Links & Info:

—The French perspective with information and guides for the routes through France:

—The Spanish equivalent:

—The American guide: enjoy the English language while you can before you practice your French and Spanish along The Way:

—Another fantastic website in a variety of languages for the numerous routes to choose from:

—Coelho, Paulo. The Pilgrimage. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.

Coelho’s blog can be found at:

—Hostelling International’s website, with worldwide locations and booking information:

—Camping Beau Rivage’s website, which is located in Livinhac-le-Haute along the River Lot:

—Raju, Alison. The Way of St. James: Le Puy to the Pyrenees. Cumbria: Cicerone, 2003. An excellent compact guidebook for The Way covering two volumes: Le Puy to the Pyrenees and the Pyrenees to Santiago—Finisterre.

© Cameron Karsten

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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