The necessary train…

From Tolouse to Rodez..

Added by kyeh52: Walking is not just a mean of transportation from point A to point B. Starting and end points are to be carefully selected to represent a meaning which goes much beyond the need of travelling. The starting and the end points must be connected by means of  an historical way, which still resonates by the many feet that have stomped the cobblestones over the centuries and the millions that likely will follow. If this connection is not there, then it is much better take the train, the bus or even a taxi.

Day 1, Besozzo to Toulouse (by train, plane and taxi)

Not much of an exhilarating day, let alone the mixed emotions that were hovering upon us.at the very moment of zipping up for the last time the luggage and leaving home.

A few chores had to be managed on the way to the airport such as leaving the small service car we use in Besozzo to the service shop, sorting the garbage according to the strict collection rules, calling the locksmith to fix the house gate that got misaligned maybe due to some contractor’s truck that bumped it inadvertently, and so on. That was the most tiring part of the day.

The TILO train to the airport was super clean and perfectly on time since it’s a Swiss train connecting the Ticino canton to the Malpensa airport. Unfortunately there are only four TILO trains every day that stop in Besozzo. The other trains that eventually connect Besozzo to other destinations are normally old and dilapidated and will make the traveller miserable even before the start of the journey.

Now we are in our hotel room in Toulouse. Tomorrow will reach Conques to get our first stamp on our pilgrim’s credential passport.

Today the adventure begins. First step: the necessary flight

From Milan to Tolouse.. In order to start my Walk I have to fly first. We arrived in a quiet and small hotel in Tolouse about 930pm.

The weather is cloudy and the local temperature dropped at least 10 deg C from Besozzo.

Thanks God I bought some sweets at the Airport before departure: we are having a nice tea-dinner and get ready for some good rest.

Tomorrow we are leaving early to reach our next destination : Conques and there – in fact – the Walk will start for good…

Packing completed?

Maybe yes but likely not.

Two small backpacks weighing about 6.7 Kg each may need some last minute fine tuning. Excluding the weight of the empty sacks, we have packed about 10 Kg of stuff for the two of us, of which at least 30% belong to the “what if…” category, something like: “What if we get a cold whether front?”, or “What if we get a downpour when we got no shelter?”. For this last category I have got a small umbrella stuck in the side zippers, just in case. The rest of the “fears” are managed with some extra warm clothes. Funny enough, the whether forecast indicates 36 Deg C as the daily temperature at our starting point with a lower point at 23 Deg C at 7 am. I think we have to sleep on it tonight and leave the decision to jettison something behind to tomorrow morning just before leaving home for the “unknown”.

Both of us will also carry a small belly pouch to keep some of the items handy, like the cellphone, pocket money, tissues, etc. A common carry-on bag will be left at the Toulouse train station to be picked up on  the way back and contains some of the “civil” clothes to change before boarding the train that will take us home at the end of the journey.

 

Why?

It  all started few months ago with the intention of filling part of my day with something useful and healthy: walking was the choice.

After few weeks, I became somehow addicted to my morning walks enjoying every minutes immensely: an amazing discover.

The decision to follow my husband in his second endeavour : a  ‘short ‘ walk  from Conques to Rocamadour is a logic consequence of such discover and that’s Why I will be shortly on my Way.

image

 

 

Shaping up the itinerary

Unlike the Camino Frances from St.Jean Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela, it has been not so straightforward to find publications in English describing the itinerary I had to learn how to use Google maps and import GPS tracks from other walkers until I could reach an acceptable detail to map out the road and the likely stages where to rest and find overnight accommodations. The traditional route cuts through from Figeac to Cahors, and the detour to reach Rocamadour is less travelled and listed just as a variant. The total distance is “only” 187 km, whereas the section up to Rocamadour is about 100 Km more or less.

Itinerary

Most of the planning time has been spent to identify possible overnight stops in between stages just in  case we get tired early or we like to take more time to visit the surroundings. From my past experience, I am confident that what we will find along the road will be more exciting than any solution we can blindly find on the Internet, so let be it.

Today we have purchased the basic personal supplies for the journey and tomorrow we will try to fit everything in the backpacks. Eventually some of the stuff will need to be left behind.

On Wednesday 20th we shall leave the Italy hometown of Besozzo to reach the Malpensa airport to catch a flight to Toulouse from where we will reach the small village of Conques to get started with the walk. As training we have been taking some quick walks around some of the minor lakes here in the Varese region: yesterday we completed a 19 km trek in just 4 hrs. Even though we are a bit overweight due to the excessive Italian food intake of the past two-three weeks, we feel energised and ready to go.

Some background information

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.

A fourth French route, the via Tolosane, crosses the Pyrenees at a different point (Somport), becomes the Aragonese Way when it enters Spain, and joins the Camino Frances further to the west.

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.