Vézelay Route to Santiago de Compostela

Day 1, 9th April. Vézelay to Le Chemin

The day started with a trip up the hill to the cathedral, where the monks and nuns were singling Laudes. We sat through that, a service I didn’t recognise and when it finished we got a pilgrims’ benediction. It was a nice way to start and the singing was beautiful.

At breakfast we saw the Frenchman (whom I said we wouldn’t see again) and then the “German” from the friends of the Camino whom we saw yesterday. I’ve realised that French people often don’t respond by giving their name when you give yours. I should have written it down, because I asked him.

Anyway we got a filled roll to carry and headed off into a cold misty morning, full of promise.

Vézelay was very prominent on its hill for some time.

Vézelay in the morning sun

We came to our first decision point, northern or southern variant, just on the edge of Vézelay It’s very obvious, but we heard tonight of someone who went the wrong way. But the sun came up to reveal a beautiful spring with flowers and new shoots on the trees, oaks, beech and poplars mostly. It changed every kilometre or so, hills, valleys, pastures, woodlands. Rivers and creeks.

We took the Nevers alternative

 We passed through the villages, all with their shops and cafes permanently shut. We saw no commerce for 25km, so were fortunate to be carrying food and not relying on the guidebooks. St- Père and Précy-le-Moult

 Next part was another Roman road to Bazoches and its chateau of the 12th century, extended by Marshall Vauban, the great fortress builder under Louis Quatorze.

 After Bazoches we had a long climb up to a plateau through beautiful pastoral country with Charolais cattle and hilltop copses. The day was warming up and we were now down to T’s and shorts, but it continued to heat up right to the end. A beautiful spring day to start our Chemin. There was no place to have lunch so we sat on the ground by a new field of wheat, the only sounds were birdsong and an occasional car way in the distance. 

We walked through another forest with its (closed) chapel of Saint Roch, a sure sign we were on a pilgrim trail.

Through Neuffontaines with its old roadside washing facility

and Vignes-Le-Haut, where the paddocks we’re getting smaller and the farming more intensive.

 Then a long, steep drag up the hill to Le Chemin, which I did not enjoy a bit. I was tired at the top but we stopped to admire some flowers and chat with the owner, a Dutch woman. Then on the L’Esprit du Chemin for our day’s finish. Huberta, our hostess gave us the full rundown of their history in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Le Chemin while we sat in the sun. They have beautifully restored an old wine-making facility into a gîte. We were their only gusts and the hospitality was as if we were house guests, right down to the home made aperitif.

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