From Conques to Decazaville, a Day on the Camino

Heather Waring

WomenWalking:WomenTalking

iAnother day dawns on the Camino and as usual curiosity as to where the path will take us today and what we will see.

I’m back in 2010, when on a spring morning the sun was shining in the sky and the scents of freshly baked bread and freshly brewed coffee greeted us as we entered the dining room. A good breakfast sets you up for the day and still on the subject of food, the first step after leaving the hotel is the purchase of handmade rolls from the bakery across the way so we know we have lunch.

That done, now it’s time to get back on the trail.

This morning our path takes us down the Rue Charlemagne under the Porte du Barry and then across the Dourdou River and up towards the Chapelle Sainte Foy. This small chapel can be seen from the town of Conques partly hidden in the foliage about half way up a rather steep hill. It’s a daunting start to the day.

The sun is hot already and as we start to climb we regularly drink from our bottles. I’ve always been someone who needs to regulary stop and start on steep inclines and get my breath back. Water helps. Even at my fittest, this is the pattern that seems to occur, don’t suppose it will ever change.

At least we were climbing up in the trees which makes it more tolerable and suddenly we are there, actually easier than we thought.

La Chapelle de Sainte Foy

The story about walkers ringing the bell had been with us since we first heard about it, so we all take it in turns to toll the bell letting others know we have reached this point.

There are wonderful views back across the valley on this cloudless day. There is also heat and we are really thankful to be doing lots of woodland walking as this offers shade and is therefore cooler. We also make sure we have plenty of stops and keep on hydrating.

The paths vary through the day from narrow and smooth, through wider and gravelly and we have  the odd minor road too. Variety is always welcomed.

As well as the lovely flowers, we spot many insects and some amazing hummingbird thing. We all thought it was a bird at first but it may have been a hummingbird hawk moth which I’ve sometimes seen in the house in Burgundy.

Sightings of sheep, horses and cows are plentiful and an abundance of fruit – pears, apples and grapes growing close to the path. This is rural France, very fertile and ripe. This is why the meals we are eating are so good made totally from local produce used to the full.

We spot what we think is Decazaville from a position on high but the path then takes us over into another valley and there is our destination.

The town takes it’s present name from the Duc de Decazes, the minister for industry under Napoleon and is responsible for the promotion of large-scale mining in the area, today it has the largest opencast coalmine in Europe. Employment other than farming for the area and somewhere we weren’t visiting. 

It seemed to take ages to actually get there as is often the case but our route, though longer, is more picturesque than following the road. Close to the town it becomes very steep and we’re grateful for walking poles that provide extra stability.

We arrive in the town and to our hotel with a little help from the locals. Goal achieved and nothing else to do then but to grab the nearest table and chairs in the sun and order in the beers. Time to contemplate the day and celebrate before hot showers and dinner. 

If this is whetting your appetite and you’d like to experience some time on the Camino in France, which is less well known but oh so beautiful, then a Camino Experience in 2021 might be for you.

In 2021 it is Holy Year on the Camino and I always said I would not run one then on the Spanish section as it gets far too busy and that is not what the Camino is for me. I will however do a French section, likely to be the one starting at the stunning UNESCO Pont Valentre in Cahors. Interested? Check out my Camino Experiences and schedule in a virtual coffee to see if it’s for you and join our waitlist for more information.

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