Hello from Washington DC

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by MarkWoods, Nov 17, 2017.

  1. MarkWoods

    MarkWoods New Member

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    Hi!
    I just completed the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome. Started August 2 and finished on October 26, 2017.

    The spiritual, cultural, and physical experience was incredibly positive. I am very thankful.

    If you are thinking about walking the Via Francigena and have ay questions, please feel free to reach out.

    I camped about 45%, stayed in pilgrim hostels about 50%, and b&b or hotel 5%.
     
    Gary Owens and snotpeer like this.
  2. O Peracha

    O Peracha New Member

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    Hi, Mark. Congratulations and thanks for posting. I'm thinking of doing the Switzerland to Rome portion in 2018. Appreciate your thoughts on . . .

    1. What was the weather like in Switzerland and Italy? How hot was Italy? Assuming you were there in Sep and Oct.
    2. Based on what I read, I'm assuming that the camping was because of personal preference not due to lack of accommodations. What was Italy like in terms of pilgrim hostels vs. hotels/B&Bs? I'm not planning on taking my tent.
    3. Based on some blogs that I have read, there is a roughly 200 km section in Italy that goes through some rice fields that have a lot of bugs. Does this sound familiar? If so, how bad was it when you walked thru there?
    4. If you've done any other long walks/caminos/pilgrimages, how does this compare? I know this is very subjective but am interested in your thoughts.

    Thanks, again.
     
  3. snotpeer

    snotpeer New Member

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    Hy Mark, great job reaching Rome!!
    My name is sander Bob and
    I'm planning to go early May 2018 ( I have three months ) would love to hear from you.
    Hints and tips are welcome.
    e.g. Did you had a route guide / book ?
    I'm looking for one only can't find one ... Do I need one ? ( how well marked is the route ). Off course i have mobile phone with navigation that will get me in the right direction. Also did you use you'res and what app's did you use. ( for sleeping / route )
    Did you camp in the wild ?

    Do you have a blog or vlog ?

    And so on...

    Hope to hear from you

    Greetings sander Bob
     
  4. MarkWoods

    MarkWoods New Member

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    Hi O Peracha. Here are my thoughts. I'll be in the Dallas area 12/16 - 12/30 visiting family. If you happen to be up that way, give me shout and we could share a coffee or beer.

    1. Swiss weather. I crossed in to Switzerland Sep 4 and left Sep 12. The weather from Orbe to Martigny was great. Upper 60s in the day and low 50s at night. Some rain but not much. A bit colder from Martigny to Orsieres....into the low 40s at night. I choose to hike fro Orsieres to the Great Saint Bernard Pass in one day and was worried about the weather, but it was fine and about 40 degrees at the top of the pass. It snowed though the night of the 11th at the pass and the walk into Italy was in the 30s with a few inches of snow. But that disappeared in about two hours of hiking to lower elevations.

    Italian weather. In general, the weather was great. 60s and low 70s during the day and 40s and 50s at night. And also dry. But folks were commenting that it is not usually that dry.

    2. French and Swiss accommodations. The bulk of my camping was in France and Switzerland. Biggest reason was to save money, flexibility on miles per day, and keeping close to the trail.

    Italian accommodations. Some camping in Italy (the best campground and best wild camp were both in Italy) but the vast majority was pilgrim hostels. I did not use any hotels or B&Bs in Italy. I encountered three types of pilgrim hostels - private hostels just like you see all over the world, municipal hostels, religious sponsored hostels. The private hostels are few and they are generally a little more money (15 euro) and a little nicer. The municipal and religious stays were fine and usually about 10 euro. After sleeping outside alone for so long in France and Switzerland, any type of hostel was a big bonus for me. I was very grateful.

    I did not make reservations ahead of time at any point along the Via Francigena. Simply let each day unfold. I loved it.

    3. Rice and bugs. You'll hit the rice fields in earnest right after Santhia. It will be harvest season mid to late September and the bugs were not an issue at all. The dry days and cool nights did not produce bugs.
    But it did get a little buggy near Pavia and the river bottoms. I simply put a dew rag under my hat and let it fall over my neck and ears and was fine. In general it was not a big issue for me.

    4. Previous pilgrimages. I have not walked any other pilgrimages. This was my first. Each day was unique. Each day was a blessing. Each day brought new experiences, new people, and new scenery. So special....hard to put into words.

    Hope this helps. If you want to talk offline, just lemme know. thanks.
     
    Domigee likes this.
  5. MarkWoods

    MarkWoods New Member

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    Hi sander Bob. Feel free to reach out offline too.

    Route guide book. I used Paul Chin's English guide published by Lightfoot. I bought the online version which is delivered in four PDF files. It was helpful and would use it again. A little outdated in a few spots, but that's expected since things change along the trail a little each year.

    The trail is not marked in France. I used Google maps and its built-in GPS a lot in France along with Paul's guide. The Via Francigena is lightly traveled in France when compared to Switzerland and Italy. I only met two other pilgrims in France. One on bike and one on foot.

    The trail is well marked in Switzerland and mostly well marked in Italy. But even so, I still used Google and Paul's book some here too.

    I did not use any apps. But i did use the accommodation spreadsheet that is posted on The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome.uk website. It was helpful.

    My best tool hands down was my Google Nexus 5 cell phone and Google's Project Fi cell plan. It has a SIM card that works in most countries around the world. No need to switch out sim cards and the international data and cell rate is the same that I pay in the USA. I hit very few did cell zones.

    Second best tool was a simple single blade pocket knife. Used it just about every day.

    I wild camped a lot. About 50% of the camps were wild camps. Never had an issue. Left no trace and was very discreet and left early each morning.

    Thanks, Mark
     
  6. Gary Owens

    Gary Owens New Member

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    Congratulations Mark . I can tell you had a wonderful experience . I am hoping to walk this is in the next 18 months , so was very interested to read what you have writen so far. I have friends from Brisbane , Australia m who also recently completed from St Bernards Pass to Rome in late October . Their photos and bits I read on Face Book posts were great . One thing I did read was that they only came across one other person walking . How was your experience from St Bernards Pass to Rome in relation to meeting other walkers . This year I walked the 1,000k Via de la Plata by myself and loved it , but also loved the sprinkling of people I met daily .
    Thanks for posting and offering to share your thoughts on the walk .
    Cheers
    Gary
    gary@lorhiti.com
     
  7. O Peracha

    O Peracha New Member

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    Thanks, Mark. This was very helpful. I am trying to combine this with another walk while staying within the 90 day visa waiver limit.

    Haven't firmed up our plans for Christmas yet but may be out of state. If we stay home, I'll reach out and perhaps we can meet somewhere in Dallas. Thanks for the offer and info.
     
  8. William Marques

    William Marques Moderator Staff Member

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    1. Cannot answer was there in August and hot but varies greatly from year to year.
    2. I would say you need to be prepared to use a variety of accommodation from pilgrim hostels, b+bs and hotels but that a tent is not necessary.
    3. In August we were lucky and not troubled by mosquitoes. I have been on the CF at roughly the same time of year and fro one year to the next have had insect trouble or no insects but in the Po valley between Santia and Piacenza I would plan on insects being there.
    4. More like the VdlP than the CF. Some great towns and villages but fewer pilgrims. When you get to Rome you are just one amongst all the tourists and pilgrims who arrived by plane or bus do not expect the same welcome as at Santiago.
     
  9. MarkWoods

    MarkWoods New Member

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    Hi Gary. Great question. Here was my experience from The Great Saint Bernard Pass to Rome:

    I met one pilgrim at the pass that was going all the way to Rome, and also some folks that were just hiking for a few days along the trail.

    But once I reached Santhia, I started meeting and bunking with more folks. From Santhia to Lucca, there were about 6 to 10 folks walking the same stretch I was walking each day. It was fun getting to know them and bunking at hostels each night. I am a very slow walker, so at the most I would "hang" with folks for just a few days then fall behind.

    While crossing the Po River on September 25, there were 10 pilgrims in the boat with me.

    From Lucca to Siena, there were 10 to 20 folks walking. About a third were doing just one week. This appears to be a popular part of the trail.

    Then from Siena to Rome, about 6 to 10 folks.

    I noticed that the pilgrim hostels throughout Italy were mostly occupied by pilgrims carrying their own belongings (no baggage service) and going long distances or all the way to Rome. Most of the short term walkers I met were staying at B&Bs or hotels.

    The French have a saying that goes something like this, "it is better to drink poor wine with good people than good wine with strangers". This analogy fit my experience well with the pilgrim hostels. They were sparse, old, a little chilly and drafty at times, and mostly clean. But the pilgrims i bunked with were great and a close bond was formed in a short time. I loved the experience of the pilgrim hostels in Italy.

    Ciao Gary.
     
  10. snotpeer

    snotpeer New Member

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    Mark ,first wanna say thankz for you're reaction .

    so there are no markings in france ... no markings at all ??
    than i do need to buy that lightfoot guide too ... ( or could you share youre's ? ;-)
    a good thing is i'm from the EU and mobile-phone data/roaming is free from extra charge in the whole EU ..
    so navigation on mobile phone is " in da pocket " .. next to the blade pocket knife. ;-)

    you didn't use any app's or website's on mobile at all ?
    i'm thinking about of using airbnb , couchsurfing or camping search-website's ... when wild camping is'nt an option

    i already found "The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome.uk website " and checking that out ...
    another question .. did you walk the UK-part in 1 day ..

    again thanks for you're reaction

    greets Sander
     
  11. William Marques

    William Marques Moderator Staff Member

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    The UK section is much easier to walk in one day if after Sheperdswell you follow the road signs to Coldred and Lydden rather than following the circuitous North Downs Way.
     
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  12. MarkWoods

    MarkWoods New Member

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    Hi Sander.

    There were a few markings in France but not enough to show the way. Occasionally I'd stumble upon a 10km section that was well marked, and then the marking would simply disappear.

    I did not use any apps that are specific to the Via Francigena. Just Google when I wanted to find a campsite, bakery, etc.

    I walked the UK section (North Downs Way) in 1.5 days. In Dover, I stayed in the Dover Backpackers hostel. It is not very good, but it is close to the ferry and the people i met there were fun.

    Cheers.
     
    Domigee likes this.

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