Friday, May 29, 2009

A pilgrim's world is a small world

In 2006 when I walked to Rome I discovered Ann Milner who was walking over 1600 miles (2800 kms) across 3 countries and 2 mountain ranges from Santiago de Compostela in Spain to Rome. Annie was behind us by a few weeks and didn't have the benefit of our 'Cryptic Clues' (Google translated Italian daily guides). I emailed her the guides a few at a time while she was walking, giving suggestions about accommodation on the way and finally in Rome. (Read more about this amazing pilgrim here.)
Ann and I have stayed in touch through email and through our blogs.
The other day Ann mailed me about some CPR business (Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome) and mentioned that she was off to walk a week on the Voie d'Arles from Oloron to Somport then Somport to Lourdes. I told her that I was leaving for Lourdes next week to walk from Lourdes to Spain and then on the Camino Ingles to Santiago, the Fistera route to Finisterre and would be a hospitalero in Corcubion for 2 weeks at the end of the week. I told her that I would be in Oloron on the 8th June.
This was her reply:
Sil I really cannot believe this! I arrive in Ororon on 8th June to start walking on 9th. After all this time we might meet!!
Send me a txt on 8th and let me know where you are. Am looking forward to seeing you hopfully in Oloron - what a blast! Unfortunately I am travelling all the way from England that day so will not arrive in Oloron til about 20:30. Still that will give us time for a drink no doubt!! Also I'm very interested that you are working in Corcubion. Last year I walked Santiago to Finisterre and met Judith Edward, a lovely lovely woman. I would love to work in Corcubion but my Spanish is far too limited. However last year I fell in love with that part of Spain and have promised myself I will walk Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia every year for as long as I am able!
Please say 'Hello' to Judith from me. I must email her. I will be walking the Camino Portuguese in September and will get out to Corcubion about 26/27 September.
I walked my first camino in May 2002. Ann walked her first camino in November 2002.
In 2006 I walked to Rome - Annie also did the Via Francigena in 2006.
In 2008 she walked from London to Assissi and then to Rome.
I walked the Camino Frances again in 2007.
Now this year we will finally meet in the south of France in Oloron Ste Marie.
Our paths have crossed many times - at different times - each following in the other's footsteps, now we get to meet!
Watch this space!
9th June 2009 - Oloron Ste Marie
When we came down from the room there was Ann. We were so excited to meet each other at last and talked flat out for about half an hour. She was planning on walking with Jim and Gerry as far as Somport and was not intending to walk as far as Sarrance today but when I told them about the monastery accommodation we´d booked in for the night they called in at the tourist office who phoned ahead and booked them in too. We left before them and although the first couple of kms on the road was dry, as soon as we turned into the forest we started the ´Slippy-slippy-shake´on mud as thick as custard. When we did finally come out onto the road we dithered about a bit trying to decide whether to continue on the path or stick to the road. ¨The rest of the way can´t be as wet as the first part´we said, but it was! Val sent an SMS to Ann warning them about the mud and they thanked us later when we happened upon them sitting on the roadside having a snack .
When we arrived at Les Fonatines deÉscot I was amazed to find only one couple running the whole place. On the website it looked like a huge complex, with smart hotel and a few ´simple´rooms for pilgrims who had use of the grounds. Well, it is a run-down but gracious old building that once housed the St James Study Centre, was a monastery of the Knights of Santiago and still contains a few books and statues from the past.
We had a good sleep - Annie and I sharing a room with a secret toilet that we were asked not to use at night as it is electric and every noisy!
We said goodbye to each other and we left the complex before them as we had a long day's walk to Borce.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From Euro News24:

Rome, May 15 - Modern hikers following a medieval route once used by pilgrims travelling from Canterbury to Rome are to get an international web portal to help them en route. The new site will provide detailed guidance on the 1,000-kilometre Italian stretch of the Via Francigena, running from the Valle d'Aosta to Lazio. ''The portal will provide all the information currently available to pilgrims considering tackling this section,'' Florence Tourism Councillor Paolo Cocchi said. It will contain details on places to stay, services en route, places to eat and other information about the path. Cocchi also unveiled a series of national guidelines, aimed at ensuring the route offers more consistent services throughout its length. The route to Rome from Canterbury in southeast England meanders down through France, crosses the Alps near Aosta, then winds down through Parma to Tuscany before reaching Rome. The itinerary was first documented in the 10th century when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric the Serious, travelled to Rome to see the pope in order to be consecrated. Walking it took about three months. Few people nowadays are expected to do the entire length on foot but governments in Italy and France are keen to promote the old road as a vehicle for religious and cultural tourism. The success of Spain's Camino de Santiago pilgrim route, revived in the 1970s, prompted the idea of resurrecting the Via Francigena. Moves to clean up the Via Francigena began in the 1990s and a Via Francigena Association was set up in Fidenza, one of the towns on the route. The Via Francigena was designated a cultural route by the Council of Europe in 1994 and in 2007, then premier Romano Prodi unveiled the first of 1,544 signposts marking the way for modern travellers. Cocchi said work on the route was ongoing at a regional level but the main goal is to ensure hikers and cyclists can travel the entire length without any detours. Efforts are also under way to encourage more budget accommodation at regular intervals and move sections of the route away from heavily trafficked highways. Over three million euros has been invested in improving the trail over the last three years.