Since the 11th century, Vézelay has been the departure point for one of the historic routes leading to Santiago de Compostela. Along the way, you'll see the Sainte-Marie-Madeleine basilica, a treasure of Roman art, and the church of Saint-Jacques d’Asquins, which houses a magnificent bust of the saint in polychrome wood. These two buildings are listed as World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
Our expedition along the Way of St. James
I normally plan my holidays a long time in advance, but this time, it was a bit of a last minute affair... And in fact it was just as well. I'll explain why: it was impossible to find accommodation I liked in my usual destinations (I usually go to the Atlantic coast). So I said to myself: why not try something different? And that's how I ended up in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, with just my backpack and a map of the hiking route.
I parked my car in Vézelay (it would have been a shame not to visit the town), and I set off on my "pilgrimage". That's right, for those who don't already know, there's a pilgrimage route that departs from Vézelay and arrives in Santiago de Compostela. Well... I didn't go all the way to Spain, but over 2 weeks I still managed to cover almost 300 km. For a beginner such as myself, I think that's pretty good! But it wasn't too difficult, and there are always opportunities to stop. There are some incredible heritage sites to visit! I think my next holiday will also probably be another case of "last minute organisation".
From Vézelay, the way of the pilgrims branches off into two routes. In following the section towards the north, you'll discover Varzy and the Musée Auguste Grasset, exhibiting objects and artworks that were gathered in the 19th century by a passionate collector. You'll then arrive in La Charité-sur-Loire, and the church of Sainte-Croix-Notre-Dame there is listed by UNESCO.
Plan your hiking trip and book accommodation
Along the Way of St. James, you have several options for accommodation:
- the refuges reserved for pilgrims (in Varzy, Arbourse-l’Hôpitot, Corbigny and Saint-Révérien),
- other more standard accommodation services (hotels, campsites, holiday gîtes, bed and breakfasts).
Nevers / Saint-Pierre-le-Moûtier
The southern branch will lead you to Corbigny Abbey, then to Prémery, Guérigny and the forests brimming with wildlife. In Nevers, you can admire the famous Duke's Palace and several churches from the 11th to 20th centuries. You can also stop off at the Espace Bernadette Soubirous-Nevers, where you can learn about the life of Saint Bernadette. Finally, this route leads to Saint-Pierre-le-Moûtier, the presbytery and Éventées Mill, with four big fabric sails.
However long your expedition will be, make sure you have the right clothing and shoes suitable for walking. If you go away for a few days, take a sleeping bag and toiletries that are easy to carry. Then, you're sure to be able to make the most of your hike!
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