The flavours of the Camino St Jaques

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It was always a dream of mine to walk part of the Camino de Compostela. When I was  eighteen, my mother decided to close her guest house, pack her life into her 6,5 kg bag and head on the life-changing adventure of walking the Spanish Camino from the Pyrenees mountains and ending in Santiago. All on her own.

I remember being so touched by this, partly because it was the time I was becoming an adult myself and it caused me to see my mother in a very different light- as the strong woman she is. Because, let’s face it, it took serious mental and physical strength to walk over 800 km of dusty road in one pair of shoes and three changes of clothing! It all sunk in for me when my mother met me in a backpackers in Dublin at the end of her trip with that same outfit she left with, only so much richer with the memories made, her grey regrowth hidden under a scarf and her skin a few tones darker – the signs of  the time that had passed.

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Since that first trip my mother has returned with my father walking different routes, some of them slightly overlapping previous legs she had done. So, when my husband and I decided to take a six-week holiday in Europe last year and it coincided with my parents walking  from Le Puy to Figeac in  France, it didn’t take  much consideration to decide to join them for ten days, walking approximately 200 kilometers.  Being a qualified chef and passionate foodie, traveling to France was obviously a dream come true. What I craved to see was the countryside markets, the real everyday life of the French, the beautiful farms and the rolling hills.

The Camino was such a surprise to me on so many levels. We had decided to camp most of the way and save our Euro’s so that we were able to afford the odd meal out in a restaurant and spoil ourselves a little. The start was the beautiful quaint town of Le Puy, the area where the Le Puy lentils are from. We camped in a beautiful camp site, walking distance from the centre of town, and my parents stayed in a very cute guest house for pilgrims, just off the town square. We started the evening having drinks on the square where the sound of children laughing filled the air. We found a cosy restaurant in a side alley called L’Ecu d’Or and for 15 Euro we had the choice of Salmon Rilletes, or smoked duck served on Le Puy lentils. Then for the main course we had steak or chicken slowly roasted in red wine. I can’t remember if dessert was on offer (must have been) but the portions were so generous that we didn’t even consider. What a start to the trip!

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From there we were on foot on the most glorious, unexpected culinary journey, tasting local delicacies made by the French: nettle soup, local cheeses, rustic tarts, hand-crafted pastries for breakfast eaten while sitting in a field on an early morning pit stop, it was juts one culinary delight after one another.

When we arrived in the enchanting Figeac ten days after starting our journey, we were only just adapting to this new rhythm of setting up camp, eating well, walking, fresh air and were deeply disappointed to head back to “civilisation”. I would go back and do the same stretch of the Camino in a heart beat!

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4 Comments

  1. What memories! Having walked the Camino Francés (StJeanPied de Port to Santiago), Camino Portuguese (Lisbon to Santiago) as well as Via Podiensis from Le Puy en Velay to Moissac – my recommendation is as follows: for culinary feasts nothing beats the experiences Nelleke describes of the via Podiensis , for your first Camino: Camino Francés , if you’re pressed for time but want to do a complete sectio Porto to Santiago. See http://www.csjofsa.za.org/

  2. Would love to know what you suggest with time constraints in mind. Thank you

    Ina

  3. Ina (and anyone else wondering) If you have 1 week to spare, I would suggest starting in Sarria in Spain on the Camino Frances as you have to walk the last 100km uninterrupted (no taxis etc.)to get your ‘compostela'(pilgrim’s certificate)Alternatively you could walk the shorter Portuguese Camino which officially starts in Porto. The first time I walked on my own and averaged 31 days at 27km per day, but for that you have to be strong and fit (mentally and physically) With Nelleke and Michael we aimed for 20km per day and that was perfect as it allows for a leisurely lunch break.You can walk anything from 3 to 4 km per hour depending on the sights and the terrain!

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