- Camino del Norte (Spain) - known as the northern route, 830 km more or less parallel to the northern coast of Spain, includes San Sebastian and Bilbao and ends in Santiago
- Via de la Plata (Spain) - 1,000 km route that starts in Seville and heads straight up and then west to Santiago. The last 300 km or so can be completed via the Camino Sanabres or by joining the Camino Frances at Astorga.
- Camino Le Puy (France) - the most popular of the French routes, approx 750 km from Le Puy-en-Velay to St Jean Pied de Port at the foot of the Pyrenees, where it connects with the start of my previous caminos, the Camino Frances.
- Camino del Norte would be the obvious choice, I thought. The distance is about right and the terrain challenging. The coastal aspect is appealing, as is the opportunity to visit San Sebastian and Bilbao. While there would be fewer pilgrims than the Camino Frances, it seemed there would be enough that it wouldn't be lonely. But it just wasn't feeling like the right choice this time.
- Via de la Plata, the Silver Way, captured my imagination. I really like the name for a start! A few days in Seville before setting out is an exciting prospect, the early spring weather would likely be dryer and warmer than on most other routes, and 1,000 kms to Santiago is a neat number. But I was concerned at the descriptions of isolated stretches where you may not meet another walker for a few days at a time.
- Camino Le Puy consistently gets rave reviews across the board - the volcanic landscape of Velay, the Aubrac plateau, the vineyards of Armagnac, the hospitality of the gites in rural France and the opportunity to pass through some of the most beautiful towns in Europe. Sounds perfect. But the only reservation I had about Le Puy was a big one - it's not in Spain!
I decided there was no hurry to decide. I would let it rest with me for a while and the answer would come in time. That's another thing I love about the Camino - you don't have to make too many arrangements. Just decide when to go, get yourself to the beginning, and start walking.
Time went by. I was no closer to a decision. I was drawn to Le Puy but could not imagine being so close to Spain and not spending time walking there. I love Spain! It crossed my mind that if I gave myself a little more time away, I could walk the Camino Le Puy and continue over the Pyrenees into Spain. Perhaps as far as Pamplona (3 days walk beyond the border) and perhaps even a few more days on one of the other Spanish routes. Worth considering.
A month or so later, still undecided, I received an email from Sheryl from North Carolina. Jill and I met Sheryl and her husband Glenn early in our Camino in 2013. Many days we found ourselves walking together or arriving at the same albergue or casa in the afternoon. After Day 19 in Leon, I don't think we saw them at all on the path, but figured they were not far away. We were thrilled when they arrived in Santiago just one day behind us. It was a great reunion shared with others who had become our amigos peregrino along The Way.
When Sheryl's email arrived late last year, it was as surprising as it was brief. Like me, they were planning to walk another Camino in April 2014 - and added the not so cryptic question, 'How's your French?' So, my decision became an easy one. I am not one to ignore such serendipity! Oh, and another peregrino friend Bob had the same idea, so he'll be there as well!
We will all arrive in Le Puy on the night of Wednesday 2nd April and set out from the Cathedral on the morning of the 4th. We haven't discussed any more than that. I don't know how far they hope to walk or how much time they have allowed. Whether we walk together for a day, a week or a month, it doesn't matter. I'm just excited to be seeing them in less than two days' time.
The Camino has a way of bringing people together. My friend Rosanne says the Camino is the gift that keeps on giving. For me, that has certainly been true.
Off to the airport soon! A plus tard. Hasta luego. See you later.
P.S. The answer to Sheryl's question 'How's your French?'. Not good. C'est la guerre!
|Paella in Hontanas, Camino Frances, April 2013. Glenn, Sheryl, Bob, me and Jill.|