Camino de Santiago Hike in France

Trip Overview

Centuries ago, religious pilgrims walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or “The Way of St. James”, as a spiritual journey or as penance, decreed by the Catholic Church, for certain crimes. While The Way of St. James still attracts religious Christians and Catholics, today’s "pilgrims” are more likely to walk this historic hiking trail in France as a spiritual retreat, seeking a respite from the hubbub of modern life. The Camino de Santiago also attracts history buffs, those who love views of the charming French countryside and those who want to experience and learn about the traditional culture and cuisine of Southern France.

The Camino de Santiago de Compostela was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987 and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The pilgrimage route forms part of a network of walking tour trails across Europe that lead to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, where St. James, the apostle, is said to be buried.

We begin our walking tour in France in the town of Le Puy en Velay. This is one of the original medieval starting points of the Camino de Santiago route. Here we each obtain “le credencial”, or pilgrim’s passport, and receive a blessing at the cathedral in Le Puy. We also visit UNESCO World Heritage monuments. Although we will walk only a small part of the Camino de Santiago, from Le Puy to Conques, our hiking route — the ‘Via Podensis’ portion — is one of the oldest and most well-preserved parts of this pilgrimage trail. And it winds through one of the most beautiful parts of France in the Midi-Pyrennes region. Heading south towards the Pyrenees, we walk through French villages and hike across high plateaus where herds of sheep and cattle graze in the French countryside. We pass the 12th-century Knights Templar grange of Le Sauvage, and stay in small rural hotels or “auberges”. Our pilgrimage hike ends in Conques, hosting one of the most evocative Romanesque pilgrimage monasteries in France.

Pilgrims have been taking the Camino de Santiago route since 950, although its use declined during times of war and disease epidemics. During the last two decades, interest in walking the Camino route has increased as people from around the world seek a journey of spiritual significance. Most religious pilgrims make the journey on foot, although some travel by bicycle, horseback, or on a donkey.

Authentic and exceptional French cuisine, charming rural villages, magnificent cathedrals, and walks through the spectacular landscapes and countryside of southern France combine to make this pilgrimage hike along the Camino de Santiago in France, an unforgettable, must-do experience!

Main Attractions

  • Hike the "Via Podensis", one of the oldest and most historic parts of the network of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route, which begins in France and crosses the Auvergne towards the Pyrenees.
  • Get a pilgrim’s passport and receive a blessing from the cathedral in Le Puy en Velay before we depart for a hike on the most authentic and most well-preserved part of the pilgrim route, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Camino de Santiago trail.
  • Hike in France’s unspoiled, breathtaking landscapes without the crowds, through charming rural French villages with magnificent cathedrals, across high plateaus and past herds of grazing sheep and cattle.
  • Learn about the amazing history of this area in the Midi-Pyrenees, where thousands of people have undertaken a religious pilgrimage on their way to the place where St. James, the Apostle, is said to be buried.
  • Feast on superb and authentic French cuisine and sample the region's wonderful wines as you remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of modern life with this "retreat for modern pilgrims.”
  • Enjoy camaraderie and share experiences with other AdventureWomen participants during this delightful, custom-designed hike for women in the countryside of Southern France.

What You'll See and Do!

Cultural Exploration, Hiking, Photography, Sightseeing, Wine Tasting

What You'll See and Do

  • Cultural Exploration
  • Hiking
  • Photography
  • Wine Tasting

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Camino de Santiago Hike in France

Trip Itinerary

For more than 1,000 years pilgrims have traveled along the many Caminos to Santiago de Compostela, a.k.a. The Way of St James. From all over Europe the trails converge, with one of the oldest and best preserved being the "Via Podensis", where our hike begins in Le Puy en Velay, France. Crossing through breathtaking landscapes without the crowds, we head towards the Pyrenees, to end in the idyllic medieval village of Conques. A retreat for modern "pilgrims"….

Day 1

Saturday, September 6, 2014:  Depart the U.S. for Your Overnight Flight to France.

Day 2

Sunday, September 7, 2014:  Arrive in Le Puy en Velay, France
Today you'll arrive at the Claremont Ferrand Airport in France for our 1 p.m. group pick up and transfer by private coach to Le Puy en Velay.

Our adventure begins in Le Puy, a red-roofed town of 29,000 people. One of the starting points for the Camino, the city has a rich history and has been an important religious site for centuries. In the middle ages, pilgrims stayed here to fortify themselves for the perils of a journey to the end of the continent. Inside the red-and-white stone Romanesque cathedral is a stone reported to cure fevers and a Black Madonna statuette.

Historically, each pilgrimage began at a mass held in the cathedral. Pilgrims came to bow before the statue of St. James and receive a blessing before setting off on their journey of more than 800 km (500 mi). Although our journey will be much shorter, it begins on the steps of the cathedral, where we receive a pilgrim’s passport and a blessing.

After arriving in Le Puy we have time to explore the old town and the beautiful Cathedral, which dates back to the 9th century and features huge stairways. We may also have time to visit St. Michel d’Aiguilhe and its beautiful chapel, which sits on a volcanic plug. At its foot is the little Romanesque Chapelle St. Claire, originally part of a pilgrim’s hospital.

Tonight we have dinner and an overnight stay at the Ibis Styles Hotel in Le Puy-en-Velay.

(Dinner)

Ibis Styles
47, Bd du Maréchal Fayolle
43000 - Le Puy en Velay
TEL : (+33)4/71093236
FAX :(+33)4/71092097
http://www.ibis.com

 

Day 3

Monday, September 8:  Le Puy en Velay – St Privat d'Allier
Leaving Le Puy, we enjoy wonderful views of the entire area before crossing the Velay (a land famous for its lentils and black sheep). We pass through the black basalt villages of La Roche, St Christophe sur Dolaizon, Montbonnet, and finally St Privat d’Allier. This attractive village is perched above the Allier gorge and its castle dates from the Hundred Years War.

From St Private d'Allier we are transferred to Monistrol, where we overnight.

(Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner)

Le Pain de Sucre
Le Vivier
43580 Monistrol d'Allier
http://www.hotel-restaurant-monistrol.com

Our hike, the Via Podiensis (from Le Puy to Conques), is one of the four main pilgrimage routes to the Spanish sanctuary of Santiago de Compostela from Le Puy en Velay, a Marian sanctuary since the 5th century. Since the Middle Ages, millions of pilgrims have journeyed from here to the Spanish Galicia, located at the end of the Iberian Peninsula, to venerate the relics of Saint James, one of Christ’s apostles. Today, this pilgrimage route is registered on the World Heritage list of UNESCO.

In the first phase of the hike, we'll explore several different regions of France : Avergne, Margeride, Gevaudan, the Aubrac highlands, charming and scenic in the summer months, but avoided by pilgrims in the cold of winter, when it is covered by snow and fog. In bad weather, the bells of Domerie d’Aubrac (an abbey hospital) once rang all the day and night long to guide the pilgrims toward this place of refuge.

Day 4

Tuesday, September 9:  Monistrol – Saugues
Today's hike takes us across the valley of the River Allier, through diverse terrain. We begin on a narrow stony path through Rochegude (overlooking the depths of the Allier gorges) to a crossing at the gorges at Monistrol. We hike up out of the valley past some striking geological formations and the Madeleine chapel, carved out of the rock in the 17th century. Easy tracks across an agrarian and forested Mageride plateau take us to Saugues, where we end our hike for today. This village was the meeting point for all pilgrims coming from the Auvergne during the Hundred Years War. The people here were reportedly terrorized by giant man-eating wolves in the 17th century.

(Breakfast and Dinner)

Hôtel de La Terrasse
Cours Gervais
43170 Saugues, France
Tel 04 71 77 83 10
hotellaterrasse-saugues.com

The beginning of our walk takes us across the Auvergne, a region containing many volcanoes, although the last eruption was more than 6,000 years ago. Here, many plugs of hardened magma form rounded hilltops called puys. We walk into the Mageride region across a vast undulating volcanic plateau covered with birch trees and coniferous forests. This is a wild, tough landscape and is very sparsely populated. Legends about the region include packs of large wolves that used to roam these hills. The best known of these is the Beast of Gevaudan. In this area, we pass many chapels and Romanesque churches and hospitals which have always been an important feature of The Way. The crossing of le Mageride is particularly scenic. There, we are surrounded by granite mountain tops, which, even at this time of year, are dusted with snow.

Day 5

Wednesday, September 10:  Saugues – Les Faux
In this section of our hike we'll discover the Margeride plateau: distinctive villages, secluded hamlets, stone crosses, and pastures hemmed in by drystone walls. Each village has charming features (granite houses with carved doorways, cottage gardens, leaning towers… ). Our trail follows the ancient pilgrimage route from Le Pinet to La Clauze, Le Falzet, Contaldès farm, the country estate of Le Sauvage, and the St. Roch Chapel. Today’s walk takes us through a variety of terrains: wooded landscapes, moors of broom pine, woods and meadows enclosed by granite posts. About a half-mile off the main trail, is the village of Les Faux, our home for tonight.

(Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner)

Bigose Les Granges de Bigose
Lieu-dit Bigose
48200 Rimeize
Tél. : 04 66 47 12 65
www.grangesbigose.com
(3 and 4 in a room, with private baths)

Day 6

Thursday, September 11:  Les Faux – Nasbinals
This section of our route continues across the plateau of the Margeride as far as Aumont, the gateway to the Aubrac. Between Le Rouget, St Alban, and Les Estrets we pass through pretty hamlets and see churches with ‘comb-style’ belfries (with a wall of belfries supporting another smaller belfry).

We also pass through Aumont-Aubrac, an ancient crossroad of Roman routes. The church here is an ancient Benedictine priory. This marks the border between the volcanic Mageride and the granite Aubrac, beyond which our adventure continues through a landscape of woods and farms. From here, the trail follows a gentle incline into a pastoral landscape that has excellent views of St. Alban and the lush Limagnole Valley. We stop for a while in Aumont, an attractive market town with a beautiful church.

As we climb higher the forest starts to thin and is replaced by vast grazing fields. The paths here are called draille and are lined by stone walls that guide flocks during transhumance, the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. This is a wide and unique landscape dotted by huge stone boulders, small lakes, and peat bogs. Here we see wildflowers, old stone barns, drystone walls, and very few people. Part of our route here follows Agrippa’s old Roman road. We pass through tiny hamlets and farmsteads, crossing streams over ancient granite bridges. Our destination tonight is Nasbinals, a transhumance village with a superb 14th-century church built out of brown basalt.

(Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner)

Maison de Rosalie
Montgros
Nasbinals
Tél : 0466325514
Fax : 04663256463/4
http://www.hotel-aubrac.com/
(3 and 4 in a room, with private baths)

Day 7

Friday, September 12:  Nasbinals to St Chely d'Aubrac
Today’s walk is one of the most beautiful of the week. Our trail takes us across open hillsides, along grassy roads, and through gorgeous beech forests standing at about 4,100 feet – the highest point of the walk. We pass through the great transhumance center of Aubrac, with its Romanesque church dating to 1220 and its Tour des Anglais. We visit the new interpretation center and stop for a drink and a slice of fruit flan.

Once we leave the mountainous Aubrac and enter the Lot Valley, the landscape changes dramatically, becoming more lush and gentle. Our trails pass through forest and pastureland along the sparkling waters of the Lot River. We continue on through the Lot Valley, through a landscape reminiscent of Ireland, to the cozy village of Saint Chely d’Aubrac.

At the beginning of the Middle Ages this area was covered by thick forests inhabited by bandits and wolves, making this part of the pilgrimage dangerous to pilgrims. They were happy to arrive at the refuge of Aubrac with its hospital, church and Tower of the English, which was built by Adalard, Viscount of Flanders, who took refuge here after being attacked by bandits and temporarily lost in the snow.

(Breakfast and Dinner)

Hotel Restaurant de La Vallée
12470 St Chély d'Aubrac
Tel: 00.33.(0)5.65.44.27.40
www.lescoudercous.fr

Day 8

Saturday, September 13:  St Chely d’Aubrac - St Come d'Olt – Estaing
Today's walk takes us through beech woods before we follow along an open ridge. We cross some small stone bridges and arrive in the hamlet of La Roziere before descending to St Come d'Olt, a pretty, walled village that has medieval gateways and a twisted church spire. There is a great patisserie here where we can enjoy a meal before transferring to our hotel in the village of Estaing, one of the most beautiful in France.

Estaing is an important village along the Camino and holds the famous festival of St. Fleuret on the first Sunday in July. Hundreds of costumed people follow a procession to commemorate Saint Jacques and other pilgrims. A stunning castle, gradually being restored, makes an imposing landmark in the village of Estaing.

Our hotel for this evening is an charming small hotel located in a quiet area of the village of Estaing, listed as "one of the most beautiful villages in France".

(Breakfast and Dinner)

Auberge Le Fleuret
Hôtel-Restaurant
19, rue François d'Estaing
12190 Estaing
Tel : 05 65 44 01 44
Fax: 05 65 44 72 19
www.auberge-st-fleuret.com

Day 9

Sunday, September 14:  Estaing to Golinhac and Conques
After walking a short section of trail running along the banks of the Lot River, we climb up to the Campeux plateau. We continue on through the gorges of the Lot, crossing through dark forests and tiny villages to Golinhac, a village where the church is built on the remains of an ancient priory. Then, we pass through Campagnac and smaller hamlets until we reach the very tranquil village of Espeyrac. It is an idyllic spot for a break, as is the next village, Senergues, which features a picturesque castle.

Finally, we hike a stony descent into Conques, our final destination for today. This gorgeous town is set against a lush green background and is a treasure trove of art and architecture. The people of this medieval village have preserved the old streets lined with wooden houses, Roman fountains, and ancient fortified walls. It is one of the finest hill-towns in France, clustering around the magnificent Romanesque abbey of St. Foy, patron saint of prisoners.

For centuries, Conques was a destination of enthusiastic pilgrims. Believers came from far and wide to see the relics of the child martyr St. Foy (Faith), killed in Agen by the Roman governor in the early 4th century. Standing in the middle of town, construction of the great abbey church of St. Foy was begun about 1050. Its red-gold stone and luminous, layered arches make it a highlight of the entire route.

Tonight we celebrate the end of our pilgrimage hike and the end of the first stretch of the Camino, by staying at the historic Hôtel Sainte Foy. Set in a 17th century building and furnished in the comfortable style of around the 19th century, it exudes the feeling of old world charm and tranquility. With a terrace and views of Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, regional cuisine can be enjoyed under the 100-year-old grapevines on the covered terrace of the hotel’s restaurant. Drinks are served in the on-site bar and breakfast is proposed every morning.

(Breakfast and Dinner)

Hôtel Sainte Foy
Conques
Tel: 05.65.69.84.03
Fax: 05.65.72.81.04
www.hotelsaintefoy.com

Day 10

Monday, September 15:  Departure
This morning we are transferred back to the Clermont Ferrand Airport by 12 noon, where you can catch a flight beginning at 1 p.m., or take the train to Paris.

(Breakfast)

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Camino de Santiago Hike in France

Traveling to France


Flights & Traveling to Clermont Ferrand, France

You will need to coordinate your flights with our group pick-up at the airport in Clermont Ferrand, France. You must be at the Clermont Ferrand Airport in France at 1 p.m. on September 7, 2014 for our group pick-up and transfer to your first night’s hotel in Le Puy en Velay, France. If you are unable to arrive for the pick up at 1 p.m., you will need to come in a day early and stay overnight in Clermont Ferrand, then come back to the airport to meet the group on September 7.

This airport is well connected to flights to and from Paris, from both airports and it is only an hour's flight.

The airport is only 4 miles from downtown Clermont Ferrand – a quick bus ride or taxi ride.

You will be dropped off on September 15 at the Clermont Ferrand Airport at noon, so you should not make any flight departures before 1 p.m., as the van will not get you to the airport before 12 noon.

Important Information About Travel Arrangements

We suggest you book your air reservations with our travel consultant soon after registering for this trip! 

On this AdventureWomen Camino de Santiago Hike, we ask that you work directly with our travel consultant at Montana Travel to make your travel arrangements. After booking your trip, please call Ciretta at Montana Travel, in Bozeman, Montana, to discuss your air schedule based on the arrival and departure times we have set for the group pick-up in Lyon, France and departure out of Toulouse, France. 

1-800-247-3538

Email: ciretta@mttravel.com

FAX 1-406-586-1959

CANADIAN RESIDENTS, please call 406-587-1188

When calling, please identify yourself as an AdventureWomen traveler. If you leave a message on Ciretta’s voice mail, she will return your call promptly. She will be happy to discuss your travel plans and help you decide when to purchase your ticket for the best rate. If you purchase your ticket through her, she can also help you with hotels, should you want to come early, stay longer, or share a hotel room with another participant. If you do not purchase your air ticket through Montana Travel, you are responsible for making your own arrangement for hotels, rental cars, trip extensions, transfers, etc.

NOTE: The recent trend in travel is for travelers to finalize their plans much closer to departure time than was customary in the past. While we try to be as flexible as possible booking last-minute registrants, we must often relinquish hotel space and air reservations 6 to 12 weeks prior to departure! Please keep this in mind when making your travel plans.

Hiking Experience, Physical Condition Required & Health Insurance

This hiking trip is rated as High Energy! It is for serious hikers, not just those who want to come only to do a "spiritual" pilgrimage hike. So you will need to be a very good hiker, and in excellent physical condition. We walk from 9-12 miles a day (15 - 20 km per day), often in rugged terrain. A typical day consists of 5-6 hours of hiking, which includes time for lunch, of course! Average altitude gains are approximately 500 meters (1,500 feet) per day. The most you will carry on your back is a daypack, with your camera, rain gear, and drinking water.

The terrain can also be uneven and steep, so good hiking boots are recommended, as well as a walking stick if you prefer to hike with one. The pace on this tour is leisurely with stops en route to explore villages, and cultural and historical sites.

We will have a support vehicle, and there will be choices for shorter options on certain days. But you should expect, even with the shorter option, to hike a minimum of 9 miles per day.

You must have your own health insurance and be in very good physical condition for this adventure, which is essential for your enjoyment, as well as to your personal safety, and the safety of the group.

Passport & Money

Citizens of the U.S. must possess a valid passport to travel to France. There is no visa required. If you do not have a passport, APPLY NOW! You should always carry two extra photos, just in case of emergency (i.e., if your passport is stolen).

Credit cards are widely accepted in France and ATM machines are accessible in many towns. It is easiest to bring a few hundred dollars in cash, which you can exchange into Euros, for your spending money.

Liability Form & Final Payment

Part of what AdventureWomen, Inc. hopes to foster is the taking of more self-responsibility for our own lives, health, and safety. Please read the Liability Form carefully, sign it, and return it with the remainder of your balance due by June 8, 2014.

A Short History of the Camino de Santiago, "The Way"

According to legend, the story of the pilgrim’s trail began in the 9th century, when the bones of the apostle St. James, who was murdered in Palestine, miraculously appeared in a remote Spanish village called Galacia. Word spread round the Christian world, eventually reaching King Alfonso II of Asturias. He undertook the pilgrimage - journeying through dark woods and daunting mountains, to Santiago - and invited fellow Kings and nobleman to follow in his footsteps. This ‘original’ route became very popular in the early middle ages, and was walked by millions of pilgrims during the following centuries. The Way of St James has now existed for over a thousand years, and was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times.

So how did the bones get to Spain? Saint James was beheaded in Jerusalem in 44 AD on the orders of King Herod Agrippa. Then, according to the legends, the body of the first apostle to be martyred was carried in a stone boat to the coast of Galicia. He was then buried in Compostela where he lay forgotten for many centuries. Around 814 AD, bones were unearthed in a Roman cemetery in Galicia in northwestern Spain and they were proclaimed to be those of St. James the Apostle. (The truth of the matter probably lies somewhere between the medieval cult of relics and some clever local promotion.) As a result, Santiago de Compostela became a destination for Christian pilgrims second only to Jerusalem and Rome. Europe pilgrims (literally) beat a path to the tomb of St. James by walking the Camino de Santiago, or, in French, the Chemin de St. Jacques, and in English, the Way of St. James. Much of the route has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the wonderful churches, sacred sites and religious monuments along the way.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Camino de Santiago Hike in France

What's Included in the Cost of Your Adventure Vacation on The Way in France

  • 8 nights lodging: 6 nights lodging in twin-bedded, double-occupancy rooms with private baths, and 2 nights lodging with some rooms shared by 3-4 persons, each in her own bed, with private baths. Hotels are comfortable, clean, and cozy, but not luxurious.
  • Meals specified in the daily itinerary, including 8 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 8 dinners.
  • Transportation and all transfers in France, from our meeting point at the airport in Clermont Ferrand, France.
  • Fully-guided walks each day led by Gillian Arthur, our European-based guide.
  • All luggage transfers.
  • All gratuities on meals covered in the itinerary.

Not Included

  • Round-trip airfare and/or train to Clermont Ferrand, France.
  • Drinks including all alcoholic beverages, wine, and beer.
  • A tip to your main guide ($100/person), assistant guide ($50/person), and driver ($20/person).

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Camino de Santiago Hike in France

Hiking the Camino de Santiago Route in France: What to Pack 

Very Important Note About Packing

It is very important that you bring only ONE medium-size piece of luggage, and not a huge suitcase. You just need hiking clothes, no fancy clothes, so pack light! Also, many places have washers and dryers, so if you choose you can wash your clothes along the way. Bring a lock for your suitcase (make sure it is a TSA approved lock if you put in on your suitcase for your overseas travel).

You will be personally responsible for carrying your luggage to your rooms, up and down stairs (no bell boys in these hotels!). Rooms are fairly small, as are your transfer vehicles. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you adhere to this suggestion by our guide, Gillian.

Gillian also suggests bringing a collapsible hiking stick(s), which we have listed below.

September weather in this region in Southern France’s “Midi-Pyrenees” generally averages comfortable daytime temperatures in the 70’s to 80’s, with rain possible. Nights are cool, as we are at an average altitude of about 3,300 feet (1,000 meters). As with any hiking trip involving mountain travel, you should be well-prepared for weather changes.

  • Waterproof parka and rain pants. The TravelSmith, LLBean, and Campmor catalogs have excellent, breathable rain gear. See the “Resources” sheet in your registration packet.
  • Medium-weight women's hiking boots. It is best NOT to wear shoes, even if they are walking shoes, because ANKLE support is absolutely essential, as is a good Vibram hiking boot sole. You do not need to buy heavy, leather boots as there are numerous, medium-weight, quality hiking boots on the market. Asolo, Garmont, Merrill, Vasque, and other makes are widely available and designed especially for women. Since they are waterproof, Gore-tex boots, although a bit more expensive, are our first choice. Other boots should be waterproofed with one of the excellent waterproofing products available such as Nikwax. MAKE SURE your boots are well broken-in and that they fit properly. Please do not come on this trip with a pair of boots you have never worn before!
  • Comfortable hiking socks (Thorlo’s or similar). It is best to wear two pairs of socks while walking, a thin liner sock and a thicker wool or hiking sock.
  • Regarding Foot Care: To prevent blisters, many hikers use moleskin. However, we recommend bringing a small roll of ordinary duct tape as an alternative. Applied before the hike, it reduces friction much better than moleskin. If you develop a blister, Spenco “2nd Skin” is a very comforting necessity. Your foot care kit should also include: cloth Band-Aids (not plastic), individually wrapped alcohol pads, a small tube of Neosporin or other antibiotic cream, and foot powder.
  • Comfortable shoes for the evening in hotels and mountain lodges.
  • Medium-weight jacket, fleece jacket, or sweater for cool evenings.
  • Small day pack: this should be large enough to carry a spare sweater, rain gear, camera, and a drink (or water bottle).
  • Money belt, waist pouch, or a way to carry your money, passport, and airline tickets. You can leave these valuables at the hotels while day hiking.
  • One-quart water bottle. We recommend the 24 oz. Nalgene Everyday OTG Tritan Bottle. Made of Eastman Tritan™ copolyester, the bottle is completely BPA-free. Tritan™ copolyester provides excellent impact resistance and is suitable for both warm and cold beverages.
  • Pants (loose and comfortable for walking) and two pairs of walking shorts (if you like to wear shorts). Zip off pants are often the most versatile.
  • Shirts (long- and short-sleeved) and a few T-shirts.
  • Underwear, sleepwear.
  • Hat for sun and rain protection.
  • Swimsuit.
  • Three bandanas (100% cotton) for uses too numerous to mention.
  • Swiss Army knife or equivalent (for picnics, opening wine bottles, cutting cheese, etc.). Be sure to pack this in your checked luggage.
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm with sunscreen.
  • Small flashlight with spare batteries and bulb to use if you need to get up at night and don’t want to wake your roommate by turning on the lights.
  • Earplugs. We recommend Mack's Pillow Soft Whitle Moldable Silicone Snore Proof Earplugs, which you can buy at most drug stores. Good to 22 decibles!
  • Small travel alarm clock.
  • Toiletries, prescription medications, and a washcloth (sometimes not provided in Europe). To cover all your bases, you might also include an Ace bandage, Pepto Bismol, Immodium, and Correctol.
  • Ziploc bags in various sizes for dirty boots and dirty clothes, film, etc.
  • Camera and plenty of extra memory cards, batteries, adaptor (if applicable), and battery charger.
  • A collapsible walking stick (to fit into your suitcase) if you prefer to hike with one.
  • Book, notebook, pen, lightweight binoculars (optional).
  • Electricity: France's electric current is 220 volts, 2 prong European outlets, so if you are traveling with electrical appliances you will need an international converter. Cameras only need the 2 prong European adaptor.

Some Extra Items to Add to your "What to Bring" List

With 30 years of experience flying around the world, we think these items help make your long airline flights much more comfortable and even more bearable:

  • Neck pillow - Inflatable neck pillow for blissful support and deep sleep. For packing, it folds into itself. Self-sealing valve means nothing to close. Soft microfleece cover removes for washing. Eagle Creek Large Inflatable Travel Neck Pillow.
  • Sleep mask /Comfort eye shade - Ultra lightweight and comfortable, the Comfort Eye Shade screens out light and distractions for a cozier flight. Ultra-soft micro fleece for comfort. Adjustable elastic strap for a perfect fit. Made of Molded Polyester Micro Fleece. Eagle Creek® Comfort Eye Shade at TravelSmith.
  • Travel compression socks - Reduce ankle and leg swelling and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. These doctor-designed socks stimulate circulation through gradual compression that stops swelling and guards against (DVT). Made of coolmax®-lycra®-nylon. The TravelSox® cushion Walk Socks have extra-padded soles and are made of moisture wicking SoftPrim®. TravelSox® Cushion Walk Sock™ at TravelSmith.
  • Noise canceling headphones - Block out unwanted sounds of children crying and airplane engine drone, and/or enjoy great audio sound. Reduce distortion and increase perceived loudness so you can enjoy sound at a lower volume. Get the around the ear design, which is very comfortable.
    • Bose Quiet Comfort 2 - List Price: $199.99. Oval shaped around-the-ear design, an iPod fits nicely in the center of the case between theheadphones. You can get the next generation of Bose Quiet Comfort 3 but the cost is $349.00.
    • Audio Technica ATH-ANC7- List Price: $219.95 Excellent sound quality and above average noise cancellation. Comfortable leather cushioning around the ear and can be worn for long periods of time with no discomfort. Excellent headphones with a reasonable price tag.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.