Tag Archives: Pilgrim

Cycle Path Psychopath part 5 – Wine, Cheese and Castles

Suevres to Limeray
Friday 10 October
Fog engulfed the Loire as I headed off this morning, backtracking a little as I wanted to visit my hosts’ friend, and visit Chateaux Chambord. I rode over to Domaine de Croc du Merle at Muides-sur-Loire, arriving as they opened. I asked for my hosts friend, who offered wine tasting? Mmmm wine and cheese for breakfast? Why not! He explained that their cheese was all from happy cows, that the milking system was fully automatic, and cows wandered into be milked whenever they felt like it. The system produces more, and better quality milk, and consequently very delicious cheese. I tried 7 wines, and ended up buying a bottle of a Chardonnay Sauvignon blend, and a cheese – lunch for the next few days.

Wobbling towards Chateaux Chambord, I rode past a of group army men, one of which recognize my shell and wished me a good Camino. Arriving at the Chateaux, I took a wrong turn, and circled the fairytale castle in the fog before finding somewhere to park my bike. The chateau is a World Heritage French Renaissance marvel constructed by King Francis 1 of France around 1519. A quick visit with a stamp in my Credencial, then on my bike… Only to get lost exiting the castle, I circled again, and again before finally finding the road to Blois, passing a couple of women cyclists several times. We ended up, on the same road, and seems they had been lost too, and were heading in the same direction. Finally back on the marked path, only to be interrupted by some road construction and a detour. I asked directions in broken French, and got us back on the correct path. I soon left them, as I had further to go after my, ahem, breakfast detour.

Arriving at Blois, I regretted that I hadn’t arrange to spend the night there, as it looked quite magical across the river, but I had booked to stay at a campsite further along the Loire, at Limeray. It was much further than I had anticipated, so pushed the pedals a fast as I could to make it before I got dark. With detours and getting lost I ended up doing 88 km that day, the most so far. I arrived at the small campsite, that was not quite what I had expected… Situated between a busy highway and a train line, it ended up being the nosiest night in had spent in France! The facility’s were good and clean, and after I set up my tent, had a lovely hot shower I heated up a quiche I had bought earlier and opened my bottle of wine, before snuggling down for an early night.


Cycle Path Psychopath part 4 – The Delights of the Loire

Saint-Jean-de-Braye to Suevres
Thursday 9 October

Leaving Saint-Jean-de-Braye, I was now on the Loire à Vélo path, all the way to Tours. Following the Loire River through wonderful landscapes punctuated with magnificent chateaus, along well marked cycle paths – this was truly a delightful ride.

As I was coming into Orleans, my brake cable suddenly came loose, and my brakes didn’t work. I stopped and fiddled for a while when an elderly trio, stopped and were the first to recognize my scollop shell on my bike, asked “Saint Jacque de Compostelle?”, I nodded and the gentleman, saw I was having trouble, and fixed my brakes. The sun had decided to shine today, making the ride even more enjoyable. Continuing on, I saw my first marker for the Camino, confirming I was actually on the correct path.

I stopped for lunch in the picturesque medieval town of Beaugency where I managed to get another stamp in my Crediencial, albeit a boring municipal one from the tourist office, as everything else of historical significance was closed. This was truly a delightful stop, I circled the town several times taking in the atmosphere, before settling on a small brasserie for lunch. Again another gastronomic delight – goat cheese and tomato flan, followed by Poached fish with capers. These menues are good!

Continuing on to Suvres, I passed fields of wild flowers and stopped for a photo of the biggest fungus I had seen, and saw my first wildlife – three pheasants in the bushes. My hosts were not going to be home until 6.30 – I arrived around 5.30, so headed to the local Tabac for a coffee. They soon sent me a message, as they arrived earlier than planned. I love CouchSurfing! Again my hosts were charming and their house was an absolute delight. An old sprawling farmhouse, that had been converted into a modern comfortable home completed with skateboarding rink! A delicious home cooked dinner, fromage, wine, and good conversation, warm shower (with ‘disco button’), and washing machine followed by a contented sleep in a comfortable bed. She worked in local tourism, so directed me to some sights not to be missed the following day, and his hobby was making film clips for the French reggae band he performed in. They had a friend who was a local wine and cheese producer, so called him to arrange a visit for me the following morning.

The Bad Pilgrim

Wednesday 8 October

Until now the only stamps I had in my Credential the ones I’d procured in Paris – my host commented that I was a very bad pilgrim, and that as Orleans was a very important stop on the Camino, I should be able to get one at the Cathedral. However, when I went there, there was no one to be found. A bad pilgrim indeed! I headed to Joan of Arc’s house, as this historic town was her birthplace, and asked if they knew where I could get a stamp. She said she didn’t, but said she knew someone who would know. There was an old priest and nun waiting in the reception area, who tut tutted in French when she asked them – it turns out I could get a stamp right there.

Next I went in search of ‘the menu’ again, but I was a little late, and all choices today were with beef or pork, which I don’t eat. I found a small place offering a plate de jour of Poullet with thyme, and it didn’t disappoint. The rest of the afternoon I spent wander the town, enjoying the atmosphere.

My host was busy working that evening, and had told me about a small Resturant that served mussels, so of course I had to go. The heavens opened on my way, and I was soaked, but a warm bowl of mussels can cure anything. Later I met my host in town, and we cycled together along cycle paths back to Saint-Jean-de-Braye. Such a joy to cycle at night without risk of cars running you down.

Cycle Path Psychopath part 3 – The Menu

Guillerval to Saint-Jean-de-Braye
Tuesday 7 October

I was tired and sore, still suffering from Jetlag, with a sore head from wine and Champagne too… and had a longer ride today, and it again looked like rain. My host offered to give me a head start and drop me 10 km down the road – I agreed, as I was off the actual Pilgrim route anyway… And it meant I got to spend more time chatting to my host. She dropped me just past Angerville, and it was to be a fairly easy ride to Saint-Jean-de-Braye. Easy, except for the heavy rain, and that I was really hungry and hadn’t packed any snacks. I was thinking that the next store I found I would stock up on chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, and cheese… And turned into every village looking for something open. Nothing. Until I arrived at the small village of Aschères-Le-Marché – it had Marche in the name, so I figured there may be a market there… but it was closed. I looked around and found a small Resturant with a set menu for lunch. In my broken French I explained that I didn’t eat 4 legged animals, and the waitress offered pickled fish with potatoes, an omelette, cheese, dessert and wine for 12€ – the wine alone would have cost me that in Indonesia! The omelette was sensational! I can safely say it’s the best I’ve ever eaten, and I make quite a good omelet myself.

I’d had enough of Google’s muddy field detours, so turned it off, and got out the old fashioned maps – it was a fairly strait forward route to Saint-Jean-de-Braye, again until I encountered roundabouts, and went off in the wrong direction for a couple of hours! I turned on Google who wanted to send me through the fields, but I decided the brave the busy highway for a couple of kilometers instead.

My host for this evening was a lovely young woman who worked developing waste solutions, a subject which I’m very interested, as it’s a very big and growing problem in Indonesia, where I live. The local government are trying to make disposing of garbage a user pay system – the more you throw away, the more you pay, and she was developing special bins that measure garbage. She also did voluntary work in a bike shop which repairs bikes for people who can’t afforded new bikes. When I complained of a sore back, she made some adjustments on my bike, and it was much more comfortable to ride, she also fitted my bike computer, which I hadn’t figured out how to do, so now I could see how far I rode each day. I spent two nights here, as it was only a ten minute bike ride from Orleans, where I wanted to do some sightseeing.

Cycle Path Psychopath part 2 – Muddy Fields & Scarecrows

Bretigny-sur-Orge to Guillerval
Monday 6 October

This morning I was a little late to rise, but finally got on the road and wanted to visit the church in Arpajon, as it was on the pilgrim route and wanted to get a stamp in my Credential, but it when I arrived it was all locked up, and no one to be found… So I continued onto Guillerval, my next stop. I was extolling the virtues of Google maps as it took me off highways and into delightful woodland paths, when the heavens opened and I found myself in the middle of a muddy filed and only able to travel at about 5kms per hour. To add insult to injury, Google kept telling me 5 mins to your destination. There was no village in sight, and in the distance I could see a perfectly good minor local road… But I was stuck pushing my bike through the mud.

I eventually arrived in the charming little village to the delights of an old stone farm house filed with art and warmth. My hosts for this evening were again a wonderful generous and welcoming family, we got on very well and talked late into the evening. They offered a nice bottle of red, and my first Champagne in France… Delicious home cooked food, again with ingredients from the garden. Charming kids who were really interested in my pictures of Indonesia – I didn’t want to leave! The cat and the goat even made me feel welcome too! In the village there was a scarecrow competition, and this family had made several, one of which was a fully working robot constructed of old computers – when you clicked it showed postcards of its travels around the world, it’s sure to win!

Hati Hati Buen Camino

Hati Hati means be careful in Indonesian. It’s a common farewell, I guess as to leave the comforts of home is inevitably inviting danger. This is what my Balinese neighbors wished me today as I left for my Camino. Traditionally your Camino begins at your front door… YES, I have begun! I am writing this at Denpasar airport (but probably won’t post until tomorrow).

I am packed (sort of)… all to be sorted and rearranged / discarded(?) when I am in Paris, as I really packed for three trips – the bike ride, the hike, and the recovery (I need a nice dress and my smart boots to wear while toasting my accomplishments). I plan to store some, and post some back to Paris along the way, so my load will become lighter, physically, and hopefully metaphysically, as that’s what a pilgrimage is about, right?

I have my Credencial del Peregrino (pilgrims passport), it arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago… And did cause a flutter of excitement. I have my scallop shells, the ancient symbol of St James and the Camino. I am going to attach one to my bike, and another to my pack. Last night I sewed a small clam (not quite a scallop, but close enough) to my hat. I have my stone, laden with wishes and desires to leave at the Cruz de Ferro. I have sorted some CouchSurfing hosts for my first couple of nights of my trip, and my dear friend is meeting me at the airport in Paris to ease me into the land of fromage et vin.

And so with expectation, some trepidation, I board the plane for what may be a life changing(?), well perhaps just a life affirming journey. With that I’m not sure I can wish this to myself, but I will anyway – Sally, Buen Camino!

Planning the Way

So now I am in the planning stage… The bike route, is actually the less travelled pilgrimage route on my trip, and for me the most daunting part. My bike is my car, but I only ride the streets and back lanes of Bali. Okay, in the crazy traffic of Bali, but I’m generally the fastest moving vehicle. I’ve never had a puncture, and don’t know how to change a tyre. I am however used to riding 70 or so kilometres a day… sometimes. I own a mountain bike, it’s the only kind I’ve ridden since I had my Malvern Star Dragster when I was ten. My bike can’t fit racks for touring, and probably is too much of an inconvenience to take to France anyway (well to get it back again). I don’t need the latest fanciest bike, I don’t need to go that fast, but I would like to be able to carry my stuff comfortably. I’ve tossed this back and forth, and It seems buying a bike in Paris (secondhand?), then hopefully selling it at St Jean, looks a less expensive option than hiring one. I am hoping there are people wishing to buy a bike to travel the Camino Frances to Santiago, as for that part of my journey I would like to walk. Anyone reading this around the third or fourth week of October 2014, want to buy a bike in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port?

There is a Camino that starts in Paris ‘The Tours Route’. This is the path I wish to take. I like the idea of following a medieval pilgrimage, and feasibly my course can replicate that path. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of information in English about this particular way. The main source seems to be out of print and, at least on my searches, unattainable. However I have managed to scrounge from the web, a list of towns that the Tours Way follows, so will probably rely mostly on Google Maps to get me there. I have ordered a French street atlas online, but that was months ago, and I’m still waiting for delivery. Everything takes longer than anticipated in Indonesia. Hopefully it will arrive with time for me to plan.

BrieleyLuckily my guidebook for the Camino Frances has already arrived, ‘The Brierley’, as it gets reverently referred to in Camino circles. I’m told it’s good, but I’ll probably just walk until I get tired or hungry. I believe it’s good for spotting English speaking pilgrims. I wish more were available as ebooks, as for me it’s not just a stroll to the local bookstore. I did find and read a recent account on foot by a South African Pilgrim who follows the Tours way, but it’s not a guidebook as such.

For me, Europe will probably seem incredibly expensive as I work in South East Asia. When I return to Australia I constantly annoy my friends and family by exclaiming in shock “You want how much for that?”. Ok, I do it here too, but it’s part of the regular bargaining process. I have saved some cash, and hopefully will be enough, as I’ve booked and paid for my flight. I found this handy Camino Calculator If I sleep under a bridge, eat sunshine and moonlight and don’t wash, it will cost me nothing! It seems that the Camino Frances can be done on as little as €25-35 a day, as there are pilgrims hostels (albergues), and set menú del día, available for very low prices. However, France will be a lot more expensive. I was rather shocked to see hostel beds for €50 – that’s a 3 star hotel here! I am taking my tent. I love camping, so that’s a good option for me. I will also take advantage of CouchSurfing.org I’ve been a member for a while, and actually love playing host, so hopefully I may get to be hosted along the way. I think it’s a great way to find the secret locations of an area, and truly hang out with the locals.

Once complete, I’ll share my planned route.

18,262 good days

“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” Unknown

This year I will turn 50, and by my birthday will have lived eighteen thousand, two hundred and sixty two days. Good days. I’ve long had a dream to drink champagne in sight of the Eiffel Tower for my fiftieth birthday. As that date is approaching I have began to think about making it a reality.

I’ve never been to Europe! I know, I know, I’m Australian… That’s what we do when we leave school… I even work in the travel industry (yes, I know…), but Europe is a place I thought I could go when I’m old, after all there are many wonderful and amazing places in this wide world, some of which I’ve actually been lucky enough to travel to. I figured at 50, I’m probably official ‘old’, well middle aged as I plan to live until 100, so time for Europe.

Paris, well it’s in France, which is near Spain. The Camino de Santiago goes through Spain. This is another of my dreams, albeit a more recent one. I think I first heard about the Camino maybe ten years ago – I recall reading about in in a book, but don’t recall the book. The author had started in France, which at that time apparently wasn’t a popular place to start. As I work as a tour leader in South East Asia, I get to meet many well travelled folk, some who have travelled the Camino. The first guests to tell me of their trip, a French and Canadian couple, enthralled me with their stories, I was hooked… I wanted to do it! Over the years (I’ve been in Asia ten years), I had more and more guests who had walked the Camino, but the clincher came last year when one mentioned that there was a town in Spain with free wine for pilgrims. I like wine.

‘Pilgrims’ or peregrino(a), in Spanish, is what people who follow el Camino de Santiago are called, as it’s a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the place said to house the remains of St James the Great (San Iago), Jesus’s mate and patron saint of Spain. Apparently a grumpy fisherman before he became a fisher of men. El Camino de Santiago translates as ‘the way of St James’, of which there are many routes, all ending at the Cathedral in Santiago. This Christian pilgrimage has been followed since Medieval times. Some do it as a religious pilgrimage, some for other spiritual reasons, some for the culture, some for sport, and some for just a nice walk.

Earlier this year I had a Spanish guest who had done part of the Camino as a teenager, who said, if you’re going to do the Camino, you must visit Finisterre, ‘the end of the world’, well at least it was, back when the world was flat. That certainly sounded a romantic notion to me, yes, that will be included on my trip!

As a trip to Paris had originally been the main agenda for the trip, I planned to fly in and out of Paris. The Camino I wanted to walk (there are many routes), is the most popular (hopefully for a reason), it’s what’s known as ‘the French Way’ or ‘Camino Frances’, however it starts in the South of France, at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Saint John at the foot of the mountain pass), not near Paris. As I always say, anywhere is walking distance, it can just take a bit longer.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really think I had ‘a bit longer’, and started to research trains, planes and ways to St Jean. My friend Steven Herrick wrote a book about cycling in France, which I read and enjoyed. It got me dreaming. I like riding bikes. I could ride a bike from Paris to St Jean, and have a nice cycling holiday in France too. So that is my plan.

Please join me on my journey on my blog.

A lovely old map of Paris