I have been daydreaming for some time about picking up again my backpack, the walking stick and the St. James shell to hit once more the road. I still consider my previous experience walking the Camino Frances one of the most eye-opening of my life and surely one I always wanted to repeat in different conditions and possibly to share also with Raffaella, my wife. In addition, I promised myself to pay a visit to a fellow pilgrim and a dear friend Father Xavier Larribe who now serves the community in the venerable church of Notre Dame in Rocamadour, an UNESCO site and a popular pilgrimage destination. I gradually came to the conclusion that the only way to accomplish my intention was to reach Rocamadour on foot. But from where?
A few weeks ago, I happened to watch a TV documentary on Nat Geo on a quest for Ancient Relics of Christianity and it came out that in the Treasury of the Abbey of the small village of Conques, there are over 20 remarkable golden art masterpieces including a 9th-century chest donated by King Pepin and the golden letter “A”from Charlemagne. It is said that Charlemagne had 24 golden letters made for 24 monasteries throughout his kingdom, and he liked Conques so much that it received the “A.” If Conques was liked so much by Charlemagne how could it be not interesting for me? I had finally both the start and the end of my walk. Both villages are actually connected by the Via Podiensis or the Le Puy Route which is one of the four routes through France on the pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James the Great in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwest Spain. It leaves from Puy-en-Velay and crosses the countryside in stages to the basque village of Ostabat. Near there, it merges with two of the other historical medieval routes, the via Turonensis and the via Lemovicensis, and thereon they reach Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the most common starting point of the Camino Frances towards Santiago de Compostela.
Connecting in Le Puy, the via Podiensis is preceded by the via Gebennensis which leaves from Geneva, gathering Swiss and German pilgrims and feeding into the via Podiensis.From Geneva to the Pyrenees, the two routes (via Gebennensis and via Podiensis) are waymarked as one of the French major hiking routes, the GR 65, with a few local variations or detours, including GR 651 through the valley of Célé and GR 652 via Rocamadour.
Since Raffaella and I both retired from work in the last 12 months, we thought it could have been quite auspicious to attempt together this symbolic walking tour as a celebration of the past life accomplishments and to usher the many other projects we are looking forward to undertake in next stages of our lives.