Via Podiensis: How I got to Le Puy

Greetings pilgrims, and readers. I’m currently sitting in the Gites des Capucins which sits directly on the GR65 route – the Road to Santiago itself. In my last post I promised the next few weeks will be given over to the Via Podiensis pilgrim’s route through France – how to do it, why to do it and some interesting (I hope!) findings. So here’s our first post, simply on how to get to the starting point – Le Puy en Velay.

Today’s costs

€55.00 – Flight from London Gatwick Airport to Lyon
€15.90 – Rhonexpress tram link from Lyon airport to town centre (for the main station)
€24.00 – Train fare Lyon Part Dieu to Le Puy station
€23.50 – Dorm room in Gites des Capucins
€20.00 – Food and drink (approx.)

Practicalities

As it is with Santiago itself, there are many ways to get to the starting line. My decision to use Lyon was based on a quick glance at a map and a good rate offered by EasyJet. An alternative would have been to take the Eurostar – which now goes from London to Lyon – but I decided against it for time and cost reasons.

Lyon-Saint Exupery airport is a good, modern little hub – I’d recommend it as a starting point. Once you’ve recovered your gear it’s a stroll out to the Rhonexpress tramlink which links the airport and the city centre. It’s about 25 minutes and 3 stops to the centre of town and, conveniently, the main Gare (train station). If only the ticket machine hadn’t spat out my 20 euro note! (You can also buy tickets on the tram I believe.)

The next step is to get yourself a train ticket. Go into the main Gare, to the guichets (ticket counters). For Le-Puy-en-Velay it’s necessary to change at St Etienne – cost €24. My journey happened to fall during one of those famous French strike days. A journey which should have taken about 2 hours or so had me waiting for buses and arriving very late indeed. On the plus side, the bus took us right up the Loire Valley, surely one of the loveliest in Europe. I guess the train would do likewise.

Le Puy isn’t massive but a street map would help, especially if like me, your Google maps refuses to work when you need it! The town is big enough place to have all kinds of accommodation on offer. I’m intending to do my walk to St Jean Pied de Port on as close to £1000 British moneypounds as possible – for this reason I chose the Gites des Capucins as something reasonable (though at €23.00 it’s more than I’d normally want to pay).

You should consider buying your maps and guidebooks in Le Puy – there’s a strong focus on the Way of St James here and the shops are full of the stuff. The excellent Miam Miam Dodo guide is everywhere – I think it’s harder to find outside France.

Pilgrim’s Reflections

Arriving in a new country is always a source of apprehension. How will the people treat you? Will they laugh at your terrible attempts at the language? Will they overcharge you for everything?

Well, during my first 2 days here in France the people I’ve met have been more than wonderful. As I struggled with the ticket machine in Lyon airport, a lady helped me out. As I was standing in line for a sandwich, someone gave me a voucher for money off. As I struggled to orient myself in Le Puy, a shop owner gave me both a physical map, plus careful directions. The road provides and the faith you have in people remains strong as ever.

Because of my late arrival, tiredness and need to buy a few things, I decided to postpone my very own Grand Depart to spend the next day in Le Puy. And that’s the subject of our next post. Alors…

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