We booked this trip from Sherpa Walking Holidays. If you are into walking, visiting their website is like a trip to a sweetie shop. They have an amazing range of walks available both guided and self guided all over the world as well as in the UK.
Bob (my companion, and with whom I have walked Hadrian’s Wall and half of The Coast to Coast as well as innumerable other walks over our 30 or so year friendship) and I were clear that what we wanted was to “self guide”. That really means that we wanted someone else to book all our accommodation, arrange the transfer of our baggage each day and give us good directions about our routes. But we didn’t want anyone else to walk with.
Sherpa did all of this. And more. Before we left, for instance, I was a bit anxious about where we could wash our clothes ( I needn’t have worried – a few rinses out of socks and pants was all that happened in my room, and Bobs suitcase could have contained a hippo but mostly it conatined socks). I asked Sherpa and they came back with a list of 4 hotels where we could do this.
I was really impressed by our information and route pack. Every days’ walk was clearly described in words and with the route highlighted on extracts of the large-scale maps of the area. Town maps were also included. This was everything we needed and only once in 10 days did we feel that the route directions could have been clearer. We had the reassurance of contact telephone numbers in France and the UK if we hit any problems. Thankfully our biggest problem was deciding on what bottle of wine to choose each night and Bobs toe (you’ll have to read the posts to find it in grahic details)
At least one other company offers a similar service to Sherpa’s and although this rival also throws in the obligatory scallop shell into the package that “pilgrims” attach to their backpacks, and were slightly cheaper, when I looked at the details of the walk, we both agreed that Sherpa’s package appeared the better.
Sherpa would have arranged our outgoing and return transport but Bob did that for us and did so admirably. It wasn’t his fault that our Eurostar out of London was delayed. Bobs looking cheerful here but that was before we had started missing our connections.
Here is our itinerary for where we ended up each night:
Day 1. Travelled on Eurostar and then by train from Paris to Le Puy.
(we made it, just, after a very very traumatic day when 4 out of the 5 stages of public transport let us down).
Hotel Bistro, Le Puy
Day 2. Hotel La Vielle Auberge, St Privat D’Allier
Day 3. Hotel La Terrasse, Saugues
Day 4. Gite d’Etape L’Oustal de Parent, Lers Faux
Day 5. Hotel Pruniere, Aumont-Aubrac
Day 6. Hotel La Route d’Argent, Nasbinals
Day 7. Hotel De La Vallee, St Chely d’Aubrac
Day 8. Couvent de Malet, St. Come d’Olt
Day 9. Hotel Aux Armes D’Estaing, Estaing
Day 10. Hotel La Bastide D’Olt, Golinhac
Day 11. Auberge St. Jacques, Conques.
Having started my blog earlier in the year, I thought it would be fun to try to blog from the walk.
I really didn’t know what kind of “live” blogging was going to be possible on this walk. Partly because I would only have my iphone to blog from and its function would be dependent on the availability of a network or wifi (the availability of both I imagined would be very patchy in the Auvergne – I was wrong on both counts), and partly because it is not a very courteous thing to do to spend any significant time giving ones attention to ones handset rather than ones friend. Or indeed, the countryside itself.
Bob and I had agreed that end of the day snoozes may be the order of most days, so I also wasn’t sure when I could do the blog.In fact I did mange to write a blog every day and post these from our hotels using their wifi or once or twice from the mobile network.
Doing this just on my phone was challenging. More than once I lost a whole post through careless or mistaken presses of keys. Many of the photographs had been under-exposed by the iphone, so these were adjusted using the Photoshop Express app. Losing material was traumatic and it did become a self-imposed (obviously) pressure. Bob was very tolerant of this agenda of mine. I managed one snooze. My choice, I know, but a little sympathy might be in order.
I was very pleased that several people followed our progress quite closely and it was great to have their comments. But they had to be answered, too. And comments were responded to at bedtime when I was tired and lets say, I would not have been fit to drive.
I am not sure if I would do this “live” blogging again. But I certainly wouldn’t try to do it on my phone. The netbook comes with me next time. And a dongle, just in case.