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My name is Clothilde.  I am a shopkeeper in Paris, France, and I am going on pilgrimage.  I am going because I love God and a pilgrimage is like one long prayer.  I also think it will be a great adventure.  I am traveling with some friends from my neighborhood.
 
There are three great pilgrimage places that most people want to go to:  Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela.  I would like to go to Jerusalem, but it is so far, and so dangerous, and also expensive.  I would go to Rome, but it's also far away and you have to travel through many mountains to get there.  So we are going to Spain.  We started out at the Church of Saint James in Paris (St. Jacques, we call him) where the priest blessed our pilgrim cloaks, walking sticks, bags, and the broad-brimmed hats that will protect us from sun and rain.
 
The route we are taking will lead us from Paris to Tours, to Bordeaux, to St. Jean Pied-de-Port, where pilgrims from all over France gather before heading over the border of Spain.  Then, our journey will lead us along the northern coast of Spain, through towns like Pamplona, Burgos, Sahagun, Leon, Astorga, Ponferrada, Melida, and, finally, Santiago de Compostela.  We will stay in Spain for a while, then start on our way back again.
 
Wealthy people travel or on horseback, or even by boat, but we are going to walk.  Fortunately, my friend has a copy of the guidebook Pope Calixtus wrote about the Camino (that means "way" in Spanish).  We read it every day to see what we should expect.  It is a helpful book because it warns you what rivers not to drink from (some of them will make you sick) and it also tells you which are the best places to stay. 
 
Countless people are on their way to Santiago de Compostela in this Holy Year, so everything is beautiful, but crowded!  There is one mountain so high that when you get to the top, he says you feel like you can touch the sky with your hand. 
 
The Camino of Santiago is an amazing experience for us.  We get lots of visitors in Paris, of course, but nothing like this, where you hear people speaking hundreds of languages and dialects, dressed in all kinds of outlandish costumes; some rich, some poor; some noble, and even royal families, but most ordinary people like us.  We can't wait to get to Santiago de Compostela to receive our scallop shells, which we will wear for the rest of our lives to show that we have been all the way to the shrine of the Apostle James.
 

Photo at top by Dr. Wendy Shore

 

Return to the Pilgrim Way of St. James page to continue exploring!

 

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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303