Walking the French Way of St James: Le Puy to Aumont

Chely de Aubrac
Chely de Aubrac

Walking the French Way of St James

Allie has her first Camino experience on a self guided walking tour from Le Puy to Aumont in France 

In the spring of 2019, UTracks’ expert Reservations Consultant Allie Peden added to her vast repertoire of hikes and outdoor experiences with a journey along the French Way of St James. Read on to hear about her firsthand knowledge of walking from Le Puy to Aumont in France.

Walking in the glorious Italian weather on the Via Francigena |  <i>Allie Peden</i>

Ever since I first learned the story of St James and heard that pilgrims have walked the Way of St James for centuries, I too wanted to walk along this route to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. 

While it is a dream to walk the full French Way of St James and the full Camino Frances one day, I chose to start my Camino pilgrimage by walking the first stage from Le Puy to Aumont in France. My thinking being that 5 days would be the perfect introduction to both self guided walking and walking as a pilgrim. Breaking the Camino into sections is also a great option for those who are short on time. 
Stopping for rest beside stone buildings during the Camino |  <i>Allie Peden</i>

The walking itself is not challenging, but some days can be long. The beauty of self guided walking means that I, along with my group of friends, could walk at our own pace. We could take breaks as we pleased, and every day involved a nice leisurely picnic. 

Bushwalking in Australia is a favourite pastime of mine so preparing for this walk allowed me to do more of something I enjoy. In the months leading up to the walk I would try to get in as many day walks as possible, choosing longer day walks as my trip to France grew closer. I also keep active during the week with a variety of gym classes and found it was satisfying to be in training mode with an upcoming walking holiday to look forward to! 

After a few relaxing days in Lyon, France’s gastronomic capital, I was very ready to leave the big (but beautiful) city and get walking.

Arriving in Le Puy-en-Velay, where the tour begins, was one of the biggest surprises for me. It’s such an enjoyable town with lots to see such as the St-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel perched on volcanic rock and dating from the 10th century. Nearby, an 1860 statue of the Virgin Mary looks over the town from another volcanic outcrop. Walking up to these monuments was a good warm up for the legs!
Overlooking Le Puy

My friends and I had planned to be in Le Puy-en-Velay for Saturday so that we could experience the market, which has taken place since the 15th century. Some of the local cheeses aren't sold anywhere else in France and it’s a great opportunity to stock up on fresh produce for lunches on the upcoming walk. We left the markets with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, cured meats, olives and nuts - everything we needed for the first couple of days. With our luggage being transferred we were able to squirrel away the extra snacks and not worry about the weight of carrying our purchases.

The next day my friends and I rose early to attend the pilgrim’s mass. This is celebrated every day at the cathedral of Le Puy-en-Velay at 7am. I found this a truly special experience: seeing all the pilgrim walkers donned in their raincoats (on this wet day) with their walking poles, together listening to the enchanting French hymns.
Wet weather gear along the Way of St James in France |  <i>Allie Peden</i>

The first day was very damp. I was happy I had good quality rain gear and waterproof boots. With good company, pretty scenery and an impromptu picnic lunch in a church, the first day’s walk was very memorable. Each day of walking provided such a variety of scenery: from green hilly ridges, to valleys with streams, quaint bridges, fields with flowers, old villages with beautiful stone houses. It was so beautiful we didn’t even notice that we’d been walking all day. 

We were walking in May, and while spring can bring rain (as it did our first day), it also means fresh green grass, spring flowers in the fields and moderate temperature – all very nice for walking. My favourite day was walking to Saugues through the village of Rochegude, famous for its St Jacques Chapel, and then down into the gorge of Allier to cross the Eiffel bridge of Monistrol d'Allier village. After crossing the bridge there is a quaint bed and breakfast that also sells delicious coffee and cake. One of the best things about walking holidays is all the guilt free eating I can do! 
Very happy Camino walkers in France |  <i>Allie Peden</i> Sampling some local meat at a farmer's market in France |  <i>Allie Peden</i> Tonight's lodging along the Way of St James |  <i>Allie Peden</i>

My favourite accommodation was Hotel L’Oustal de Parent (day 4) in St Albain. If you’re considering adding an extra day to the itinerary, this farmhouse makes an idyllic pit stop after 26 km of walking. The beautiful stone building has a lovely on-site restaurant where meals are made from fresh local produce. The bar, complete with an ancestral fireplace inside, is great for a game of cards on cooler evenings and my friends and I enjoyed the outdoor picnic table surrounded by the well manicured gardens. My favourite dish of the walk was served here too - we tried aligoté which is a regional specialty consisting simply of mashed potatoes, seasoned with garlic and with melted cheese mixed through, served with saucisse! 
Ready to hit the Camino trail! |  <i>Allie Peden</i>

My advice for fellow walking enthusiasts considering a walk on the French Way of Saint James is simple - just do it! It’s an amazing experience and while I was there with friends, I also saw how great it would be as a solo journey. It was wonderful meeting other pilgrim walkers en route. I enjoyed chatting along the trail, learning where people were from, where they were walking to and seeing many of the same friendly faces each day.

My other piece of advice – if you have the opportunity to walk longer, do it! I would have loved to extend my time and walk further to Conques or Cahors and I know that I will be back on the Camino trail soon!
Click here to see the Le Puy to Aumont walk that Allie completed.
Click here to see all of the stages of the French Way of St James Camino.
Or click here to see all of UTracks' affordable self guided or small group Camino tours.
Has Allie's journey inspired you to walk the French Way of St James? Let us know in the comments. 
Don't forget to share this article with the friend's you'd walk a pilgrimage with!
France, Camino, Le Puy, Aumont, French Way of St James, Camino de Santiago, Walking, Self Guided Tour

Comment (0)

Your comment will be visible after the administrator's approval.

b i u quote

Save Comment
Join Newsletter
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ADS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Adventures South"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Adventure South</div>
Adventure South NZ is unrivalled in their geographic coverage, originality and overall quality of adventures holidays in New Zealand. Choose from walking, cycling, winter or multi-activity holidays, on either the North or South Island.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/AWH.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Walking Holidays"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Walking Holidays</div>
Australian Walking Holidays specialises in small group guided walking adventures. Since 1982 we have been guiding small groups of travellers on Australia's finest walks across our tropical, coastal or red centre landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GCT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Canadian Trails"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Canadian Trails</div>
Great Canadian Trails specialises in active holidays in Canada. With both guided and supported self-guided options available, our unique itineraries draw upon some of Canada's most inspiring parks, trails and landscapes from coast to coast.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/HUM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Humac Challenge"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Huma Charity Challenge</div>
Huma enables those with adventurous spirits to challenge themselves and make a difference for a cause close to their heart. Travel, fundraise and meet life-long friends on one of Huma's meaningful and unique challenges around the world.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TAS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Tasmania Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Tasmanian Expeditions</div>
Tasmanian Expeditions is the most experienced operator of treks and adventure travel holidays in Tasmania. We own and operate the most comprehensive range of adventure holidays available across Tasmania's varied landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/UTX-new.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Utracks"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>UTracks</div>
UTracks are the active European holiday specialists. Whether you prefer cycling or walking, 2-star or 4-star, small groups or self guided, land, river or sea – UTracks can help you to explore Europe exactly the way you want.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WYA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions Schools"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions Schools</div>
World Expeditions Schools is our specialist division dedicated to organising tailor made overseas school group adventures. Specialists in Service Learning projects, choose from more destinations than any other school group provider.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/YOM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Yomads"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Yomads</div>
Yomads offers adventures for the 20s and 30s on six continents. Designed as a way to bring young and likeminded travellers together, Yomads caters to those interested in lightly structured and active trips that allow freedom to roam and explore.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ACT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Cycle Tours"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Cycle Tours</div>
Australian Cycle Tours specialises in high quality self guided and guided cycling experiences in a selection of the most beautiful regions in Australia.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WEX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions</div>
The pioneers of original, worldwide adventure travel holidays since 1975
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TJX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Trail Journeys"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Trail Journeys</div>
Self-guided cycling experts on New Zealand's Otago Rail Trail and more
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/BMAC.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Blue Mountains Adventure Company"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Blue Mountains Adventure Company</div>
The original Blue Mountains canyoning, hiking, climbing and abseiling experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GWNZ.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Walks of New Zealand"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Walks of New Zealand</div>
Explore New Zealand's most spectacular wilderness regions with the self-guided hiking experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/NAA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="North America Active"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>North America Active</div>
USA Canada hiking & cycling tour specialists, choose from self-guided or guided trips