Two weeks ago, I walked 21 kilometers on the Camino de Santiago from Sorges to Périgueux on la Voie de Vézelay.
My friend Marie-Pierre lives in Perigueux and has offered food and shelter to pilgrims on the Voie de Vézelay for nearly ten years. She is a generous host and enjoys the people she meets. They come from France and northern Europe, gathering at Vézelay, a high place on the Chemin de Compostelle. When visiting Marie-Pierre, I expressed the desire to walk for a day in the company of pilgrims.
Aussitôt dit, aussitôt fait!
We drove to Sorges, 25 Km north of Perigueux, and visited La Maison du Pélerin. I did not want to impose a tag-along on anyone, but the hostel keepers quickly reassured me that someone would be happy to walk with me. And indeed, the following day, Alain, Josette, Marie, and I set off at 7:30 am.
What a glorious day we had!
My companions, Alain and Josette, began the journey at their front door in Les Vosges, in the original medieval tradition of starting a pilgrimage from one’s threshold. They had been walking for four weeks and were going to Santiago via the coast of Northern Spain. They chose this alternative route since they had already walked the well-known Camino Francés. Marie had set off in Vézelay; she wasn’t clear on how far she would go and thought of stopping to rest for a few days at Plum Village, where Thich Nhah Hanh established a Buddhist retreat center. All three had been walking together for some time.
Perigord’s Camino is well-marked with unmistakable blue and yellow signposts. In addition, we consulted Alain’s fancy map application at each crossroad and kept on track. We traveled through villages and peaceful lush fields of wheat before entering the coolness of the Forêt de Lanmary, a lovingly maintained forest hiding an 11th-century fortress among her treasures. Marie-Pierre picked us up three kilometers north of Périgueux to spare us the busy road and traffic coming into town, and we dropped the pilgrims at the Cathedral to have their pilgrim credentials stamped. Thank you, Camino! I enjoyed the walking, the weather, the forest bathing in the light coming through the trees, the fellowship, the conversations, and the silences. Simply perfect.
The pearls I found that day.
- Do ask, and you shall receive; it works!
- The tradition of the Way of Saint James is lovely and inclusive. Each pilgrim walks their own Camino, is what everyone says.
- Pack light and listen to veteran pilgrims’ advice.
- Yes, I want to walk with others rather than on my own. Of course, I can set off solo, but walking with others is reassuring in all the ways we can imagine.
- Yes, I can walk 21 kilometers in one day! And yet I still need to see how my body manages when walking long hours day after day. I want to find out.