When we were in Las Vegas with the Matron of Honor and the Best Man, The Best Man told us about the Pilgrimage of Saint James, also known at the Way of St. James. The pilgrimage is a trek across Spain ending at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. The path outside of Spain varies and extends into France, Italy, and eastern Europe. The most common path starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in western France and is known as the French Way. The French Way is 769 km (477.83 miles) long. To be an official Pilgrim, you have to complete at least 100 km (62.14 miles). The Best Man and Matron of Honor were thinking of doing the 100 km segment in 2010, the Holy Year for Saint James. The wife and I are very interested in doing this walk as well.
The French Way is a well define path. It is traveled by thousands of people each year - the number is increasing each year and is especially heavy during Holy Years. There are refugios or albergues (dormitory style pilgrim hostels) located in villages and cities along the path that cost only a few Euros to stay at. Camping is not required. Some of the albergues are spartan and we would probably have to carry sleeping bags. Some food and supplies are also available at the albergues. I'm guessing it would take at least a week to ten days to do the 100 km.
As I've researched the Way, I have found myself considering doing the entire French Way. I would go ahead of the others, walk the Way, and meet up with the them in Sarria, Spain, the 112 km point. I figure it would take me almost 50 days to do the whole thing. This would mean doing about 10 - 12 miles everyday. Everyday for 50 days. I would have two years to prepare. I wonder if two years is enough to psych myself into it?
The logistics of it are relatively simple. Fly to Paris. Take a train/bus to Saint Jean. Pick up a Pilgrims passport (You receive stamps from churches and albergues to prove you were there). Pickup a map and guidebook. Start walking. The longest gap between albergues is 26 km (16 miles) between Saint Jean and Orisson. It is also the part of the trail that goes through the Pyrenees. Most towns with albergues are around 5 - 10 km apart (3 - 6 miles)...
OK, I can feel this becoming an obsession already. We'll see if it really happens.