While I was reading the news about the Tour de France Sunday, I grew increasingly intrigued because now the race crosses roads I have walked and towns through which I have wandered.
On Sunday, Stage 14 of the Tour began in the ancient town of Revel, France. Revel is also on the Grande Randonnee (GR) 653, one of the pilgrimage routes of the Camino de Santiago. It’s a quaint town well worth a visit and is a popular stop for both hikers and tourists. (The grande randonnee (long-distance routes) of France are often given as GR followed by a number, i.e. GR 5).
First stop for visitors should be the tourist bureau (which is housed in the center square). We found them very helpful; they handed us a free self-guiding walking trip map for touring the town and allowed us to leave our backpacks with them while we were wandered around. Although the self-guided tour didn’t take long because it focused on buildings and history near the square, it was captivating to see the old half-timbered buildings and painted wrought-iron balconies.
In the center of town is a large square marketplace, which on Saturdays has one of France’s largest farmers’ markets. The marketplace is covered with a handsome, heavy-timbered roof and the sidewalks in front of the surrounding shops and restaurants are also covered with wooden roofs.
One of the rewards of hiking in France is being able to eat heartily at the end of the day. Revel and the surrounding countryside offer great food and our dinner splurge in Revel did not disappoint. We both had salade verte (a green salad) with bite-sized pieces of duck, Kalamata olives, tomato, corn, and shaved local cheese — all lightly dressed. Then came the cassoulet (a casserole of white beans with a variety of meats), and finally the dessert sampler for Ralph and the cheese plate for me. This, including a bottle of wine, came to 60 euro (about 90 USD). A very friendly and helpful waiter served all of this.
The next morning we had the standard petit déjeuner of croissant and crisp toasted French bread, jam and yogurt, orange juice, coffee and tea and set out for a day that was, unfortunately, about 90% road walking.
While those on Stage 14 of the Tour de France soon left the valley and climbed into mountainous terrain, hikers of the GR 653 continue through the lowlands with fields of corn and sunflowers as far as the eye can see. Soon we’ll reach Toulouse, France’s fourth largest city.
Transportation to Revel from S.F. Bay Area: When one breaks a long trail into sections for hiking (which is how we completed the 564-mile Arles, France to Logrono, Spain route (aka as the Camino Aragonés) over a period of three years), the logistics of getting to and from your starting point is complicated, but certainly do-able.
There are several options for reaching Revel. Our flight was to Heathrow, transfer flight to Toulouse, then by bus to Revel.
The most well-known (and traveled) route of the Camino de Santiago (aka St. James Way, Camino Francés, or GR 5) travels across northern France from the French/Spanish border in the Pyrenees to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela. However, there is a network of trails throughout Europe that either join into the GR 5, or go directly to Santiago.
Click here for maps and info about Camino routes