Walking in France – Camino de Santiago

Walking in France – Camino de Santiago

Walking in France - Camino de SantiagoHave you heard of the Camino de Santiago? It is a huge network of walks that link through several different countries all leading to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. My big sister, Emmy, lives in Port-Sainte-Foy, right on one of the routes through France. So, when Marc and I visited her, we decided to wander along a part of it.

This French section of the walk is called Chemin de St Jacques de Compostelle. We only explored a teeny part of  the trail, but it was so gorgeous that I’d like to share it.

We’d arrived in the South of France after a cold wet week in the UK so it was like going back in time to earlier in the autumn! Port-Sainte-Foy is right next to the Dordogne river, so it is a gorgeous area full of grape vines, rolling hills and pretty farms. There were virtually no tourists around in December, but it was still lovely, so I highly recommend visiting the Dordogne at this time of year!

We started in Port-Sainte-Foy-et-Ponchapt, which is a pretty town on the river. It’s pretty lovely even in December. It must be stunning if you see it full of grapes!

If you walk up to the top of the hill there is a ruin of a windmill, le Moulin de la Feraille. So, I learned a new French word – moulin! I actually remembered it as Mulan (like the Disney cartoon) because they sound sort of the same to me.

From up on the hill we had a fantastic view down to the Dordogne. There are views back down to Port-Sainte-Foy-et-Ponchapt on one side of the river and Sainte-Foy-la-Grande on the opposite side.

Now this was one year ago before we even knew we’d be able to move to Canada, and before we’d even started walking along the North Downs Way. Looking back has made me notice that writing a blog seems to have helped us both lose a bit of podge! I weigh the same amount so I guess all this walking and cycling (and blogging) has given me extra muscle!

This area seemed to be more like autumn than winter, with plenty of leaves still on the trees, old man’s beard on the bushes, and even persimmons on the trees!

We spent the walk wandering from moulin to moulin! Spot the moulin in the photos. It is the same windmill from different angles as we wandered closer.

This is Le Moulin de la Rouquette. As most of these moulins don’t have their windmill sails, they sort of remind me of more Disney cartoons. I can totally imagine Madam Mim popping out from this one!

The next section of the walk was along a small road, that was pretty busy with tractors! We kept having to stand on the grass as tractors zoomed past. I guess they were all getting ready for winter as everyone (apart from us) seemed busy.

We made it to a pretty crossroad with a building by the side of the road that had filled their shuttered windows with fake flowers. It really brightened up this winters day!

Now we’d made it to the official Camino de Santiago I started to love the various sign posts! They have slightly clichéd (but nice) quotes, as well as plenty of painted shells pinned on to posts. I’d love to know if the shells continue all the way to Spain!? Someone must have had to collect a whole lot of shells, especially to decorate the route up in the mountains away from the sea!

The other thing I loved about this Camino de Santiago walk, was all the farm animals! We walked through quite a few spaces where horses were relaxing in their fields. We also met a friendly donkey, loads of chattering goats, geese and chickens. The cows remained mysterious. They’d follow us with their eyes, but they couldn’t be bothered to come closer to stare (and chatter) at us like the other animals did!

There were quite a few dogs in people’s gardens as well. It seemed like French dogs didn’t really approve of random hikers. They would start to shout (well, woof) at us as soon as we’d get close to their hooman’s land. Then, they’d keep barking until we’d made it waaaay further down the road! I can’t tell if they were pleased to see us and woofing greetings, or if they were swearing at us!

Anyway, it was a really pleasant walk, especially on the quiet sections along farm tracks, rather than roads. The French countryside is truly gorgeous.

My sister started the walk with us, but didn’t want to join us the whole way. She’d kindly offered to pick us up if we ended up too far away to walk back. We’d planned to loop back around and walk along the Dordogne back to her house; So we left the Camino de Santiago and headed back toward the river. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite get close enough to the river to walk along it. And the road back to Port-Sainte-Foy-et-Ponchapt had crazily fast drivers. So in the end my sister rescued us near a village called Coutou.

There are some really lovely walks along the Dordogne; But be warned, if you go off the main Camino de Santiago route, the French countryside isn’t really set up for random walkers. You should bring a map to plan your route. And then if that fails, make friends with my sister and persuade her to come and rescue you!!

This loop heading North from Sainte-Foy-la-Grande was about 18 km, and only took around 4 hours. There were a few hills, but nothing that would make you out of breath. It is a pleasant, fun hike. We did another walk in the other direction, so I’ll write about that too when I get the chance.

66 thoughts on “Walking in France – Camino de Santiago

    1. I didn’t know about it either when my sister told me about it. If you google the route though, it is huuuge (and more like a spiders web than a traditional route from A to B!)

  1. Looks like a nice place to relax and walk around for a bit! This is something I would love to do in France, other than Paris. Hopefully the next time I’m the country, I could go here!

    1. Oooh I love Paris too , but a bit like London, it’s just so different to the rest of the country. I can see why my sister settled in the South. It is so relaxed, with such good food…

  2. This is great, years ago I had read about this walk and then a friend did the entire walk. I think it took him 3 weeks. It’s very spiritual when you walk a long distance, like your photos show, out by yourself with hardly any people around. Glad you were able to walk someo of it!!

    1. I wonder which part your friend did. When I googled the route I was expecting it to be an obvious route, but in fact it’s more like a bit network of walks that all gravitate towards Spain. It’d take months and months to walk all of the routes!!

      It’s pretty cool to have such an international long distance walk anyway. I think you’re right that it could be spiritual. I think lots of walkers are pilgrims…

  3. I love the quote, A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. It’s interesting hearing about what Moulin means. I know the word but never realised what it meant.

    1. I was thinking I *should* have known what it means (from the Moulin Rouge) but somehow the film never connected to the word in my brain. Oops.

  4. This looks like the perfect walk – beautiful scenery, landscape and animals and not too many steep hills! I have never heard of Camino de Santiago, but will definitely add it to my list of places to visit 🙂

    1. I think some parts of it must have steep hills. This section was so close to the Dordogne that it was nice and easy. Plus tourists flock to this area in summer so there is some stunning food! I need to write a post about that too! 😀

    1. I don’t know if you can. The walk covers so many countries and regions! We used a local French map (and I found a google map that showed this whole french section – but I couldn’t re-find it when i was searching for this post)

      If you are thinking of doing a long section of the walk, I have a feeling it’d be better to buy one of the many books written about it.

  5. OK…so what is a moulin?! I know the word from Moulin Rouge, so I had no idea it had to do with farms? As usual, your writing and pictures made for a really pleasant read. Also, I’m still jealous of all the places you’ve been!

    1. It’s a windmill! 😀
      Most of the windmills we saw didn’t have sails, but they started off as windmills. There was one in every village so we could always see a couple!

  6. Josy, Santiago de Comostella has a beautiful Cathedral, in which it is said are the remains of St. James. I stayed there some years ago. Pilgrims from all over Europe, including Britain, walk there and I believe it takes fourteen days to do the whole route and pilgrims are given a certificate when they get there. Various aids are available and people can have their luggage picked up and carried to the place where they intend to spend the next night. Many people do one half one year and return to do the rest of the trip the following year. Bob and Pat Pickett did that. Love from Grandma

    1. Oooh thanks Grandma!

      So this means I have done part of several pilgrimages now. Although I’m not sure if this one counts as we didn’t even get close to Spain!!

  7. I didn’t realize the Camino de Santiago went into France! Sounds like a lovely walk though especially in the off season! I also didn’t know moulin meant windmill but makes sense… I mean the Moulin Rouge has a giant red windmill on it! haha

    1. Thanks for reading Candiss!

      lol I thought the same thing about the moulin rouge. As soon as my sister told me that is the French for Windmill, I realised that I should have known it. Oops!

  8. This is my first time to heard about the Casino de Santiago. And will surely put this on my bucket once I visit France thanks for this.

  9. Awww.. Such a lovely and relaxing walk! 4 hours doesn’t seem that long if the surroundings is as pleasant as those in Camino de Santiago! Love the views and the quotes on the sign posts.. It somehow adds a food for thought as you walk by…

    1. Thanks Marvi! I agree! I really liked those sign posts!

      We wanted to walk for about six hours…so we’d attempted to make a loop back to my sisters house- it’s just as we couldn’t get close to the river it just didn’t seem safe to walk along the busy road. 🙁

      I need to write up our other Camino de Santiago walk – that one was more like 6 hours.

  10. I loved Paris, but as soon as I gotba taste of the French countryside, I knew I’d have to go back just to explore the rest of the beautiful country. This seems like a nice hidden gem of a hike for next time!

  11. Snooty French dogs 🙁 You should get someone to sponsor you to do walks in every country- it would be the Josy version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? !! I love that the ruins are still left, It’s interesting to see what has actually survived- I would have assumed they are little towers!!

    1. Hehehe that would be amaaaazing!

      Although I doubt I could get anyone to sponsor me just to have fun!

      I sort of felt bad for the dogs in the french countryside. Most of them didn’t seem to be out walking, they were just tied up to their hooman’s houses to shout at passers by.

  12. This looks like such a lovely adventure. I appreciate how you seem to decide the best way to get to know anyplace is a ramble through nature. I think you’re right. What fun things to wonder–the shells, the signs, the dogs scolding or greeting. You’ve taken me with you on your walk. I just love that.

    1. Thanks Angela! You always write such sweet comments.

      To be honest, although I quite like exploring new cities, I much prefer exploring a place by wandering through rural areas. I guess I got lucky that Marc seems to feel the same way.

        1. We’re pretty different while we are walking too! Marc like to get his heart racing by going fast, while I stop for zillions of photos. I always have to run to catch up!

  13. What a wonderful discovery! In 1999, I went to France with my mother. First, to visit with friends in Paris, and then to see some more friends just outside of Lyon. At the time, I was training quite a bit for soccer. I talked my friend (in Lyon) into running with my through some country trails. She had told me that girls/women in France don’t really run. The looks we got while running on the trails were something else. It still makes me laugh when I think about it. I have never heard of the Camino de Santiago, but I would love to explore the trails. Thanks, as always, for sharing your adventure!

    1. Oooh interesting. I didn’t see many runners (or other walkers) while we were out, but it was the middle of the day, so I figured everyone was working.

      My sister said something similar about how few people take their dogs out for a walk. Whenever she goes out she’ll have 3-6 dogs (she looks after them when their hoomans go on holiday) so she always gets funny looks too!

    1. It’s not too far for you to get to! 😉

      We flew there with Ryanair (to Bergerac) so I bet you could find cheap flights from Ireland!!

        1. Thanks Orla!
          I was thinking when i wrote this it might be fun for kids too as there were so many animals as well. 🙂

    1. I loved your posts about France as well! I think we have a similar way to explore, find good food, peek in local supermarkets and then take a wander.

  14. I’m really excited about hitting the Camino next Spring. Can’t believe how green and lush things look even in December.
    And based on what I’ve read so far, the clam shells are the symbol of the Camino (so they are probably ubiquitous). The more bold finishers get ankle tattoos as completion badges.

    Thanks so much for taking us on this virtual tour Josy!

    1. Oooh are you considering an ankle tattoo Gabe? I don’t think I could get one, even if I did the whole walk. I love onsens (hot springs) in Japan too much and they won’t let you in if you have a tattoo…

        1. Yeah, it’s because the only Japanese people with tattoos are the yakuza, so most bath houses don’t want to let mafia-folks in.

  15. Persimmons on the trees, walking through vineyards, and chanterelle mushrooms in the leaves, you could’ve picked your dinner along the way. Great pictures! I wouldn’t think there would be crazy drivers along those country narrow roads.

    1. You’re right! We should have picked up ingredients as we wandered along!!

      But oh my goodness there really were some crazy drivers! I guess they don’t expect walkers, so they really go like the clappers!!

    1. Oooh that would be such a nice trip to do with your mum! If you do this section, please let me know so I can put you in touch with my sister. Maybe we can help get you some European trail magic.

    1. It really is (and all my photos are in the off season when it is *less* pretty!) If you visit when it is all green, I bet it’ll be even lovelier.

  16. After reading your post it sounds like the Camino De Santiago is a hike that should be added to anyone’s travel bucket list! Thanks for sharing all your tips for this hike in France.

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