Can you tell us a few words about yourself, and the paths you have already taken?
Patrice: I am 67 years old and I live in Saint-Sébastien-sur-Loire, south of Nantes. I did the Puy-en-Velay route with my daughter Marion, then the Stevenson route with a friend. In 2014, during a meeting at the Jacquaire association in Nantes, a beautiful encounter changed the course of my existence: Marie-Claude, a widow, became my travel and life companion. Since then, we have traveled the path of Saint-Jacques from Figeac to Santiago, the path of Mont-Saint-Michel from Nantes, then the path of Saint Régis, and finally the Camino del Norte and the Primitive Camino.
Marie-Claude: I am a happy pilgrim who just celebrated her 70th birthday last June, mother of two children and grandmother of three grandchildren. I live in Vertou, a pretty town on the banks of the Sèvre river in Nantes. Nantes is at the confluence of many paths: towards Compostela, towards Mont-Saint-Michel and towards Rome, by the Via ligeria. How not to give in to the call of the road?
When did this passion for walking begin?
P.: When I was a teenager, when I accompanied my uncle hunting on the weekends. Then it was confirmed during the summer camps organized in the Massif Central by the parish of the town where I lived, Aizenay (Vendée).
M.-C. : For my part, I started walking in 2009, while preparing for my retirement. I then joined a hiking club and, obviously, the desire to discover paths other than those of Loire-Atlantique was born. I joined the association of Pilgrim Stops in Loire-Atlantique and Via ligeriawhich is a well of information for pilgrims.
This path has a long history. Can you tell us a few words about it?
It is a centuries-old route of trade and exchange between the south and the north of the country, between the Mediterranean ports and Champagne. This story, evoked in one of the oldest songs of gesture, The cart of Nîmes (12th century), is still legible today, notably through the traces of cart wheels in the stone at Prévéchés (Lozère), between Langogne and Villefort. The Way of Saint-Gilles is also one of the greatest pilgrimages in medieval Christianity, and one can notably admire monuments classified as world heritage sites: the Puy-en-Velay cathedral (Haute-Loire ) and the abbey church of Saint-Gilles (Gard).
What are, for you, the other advantages of this path?
On the one hand, the diversity of landscapes: Velay, Margeride, Gévaudan, Mont Lozère, Cévennes, Gardonnenque, Costières, scrubland and finally the Camargue.
On the other hand, the very rich heritage of the municipalities crossed: in Haute-Loire, Le Puy-en-Velay (cathedral, Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques), Pradelles (castle, old houses, chapel of the Pénitents); in Lozère, Luc (castle), Langogne (Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais church, chapel of the Pénitents), La Garde-Guérin (fortified medieval town, castle), Villefort (Saint-Loup-et-Saint-Roch chapel); then in Gard, Génolhac (Saint-Pierre church), Alès (Saint-Jean-Baptiste cathedral), Nîmes (churches, arenas, Romanesque house), and of course Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, city of Romanesque art.
Is it easy to navigate?
The cumulative height difference of the climbs is 4041 m, the maximum altitude being 1235 m and the minimum altitude being 5 m. I therefore recommend training before departure by walking with your backpack.
As for the markings, we follow the red and white marks of the GR®700, supplemented by a few logos of the Chemin de Régordane. There is little tarmac: we move on dirt or rocky roads and forest trails.
Finally, for the season, I would advise avoiding the months of July and August, a period when temperatures are high.
You are particularly concerned with the value of hospitality. Is this value present on this path?
We are indeed very sensitive to this value, so important on the pilgrimage routes. Last August, with a couple of friends, we welcomed the pilgrims for a week in the Kaserna parish lodge in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the last French stage of the Way of Saint James before Spain. We notably practiced the very symbolic gesture of washing the feet. This time of welcome confirmed to us that the world needs light, smiles, happy people, positive energies and love! “Sometimes served, sometimes servant”: this could be the motto of the hospitable pilgrims.
We found this spirit on the way to Régordane, more particularly through the welcome in private homes. Daring to open your home, prepare a meal with care as if for your family, taking the time to share and get to know each other is one of the most beautiful riches: a sign of humanity, a generosity of heart.
What is your best memory?
Meetings with the inhabitants of the beautiful villages crossed. In Vielvic (Lozère, 34 inhabitants), we spoke with the oldest, Alice, who turned 100 last July: a charming old lady who walks every day, a sweet face full of wisdom. This meeting remains suspended from our path for a moment. We also have fond memories of Jean Pierre, a former scout with a passion for cinema, who offered us a coffee in Ponteils-et-Brésis (Gard), and who likes to screen films from the 1960s and 70s in his hangar.
In this gallery of beautiful memories, we will also mention our hosts: for example, in Pradelles, Danièle, very attached to Mongolia, who, at the end of the dinner, sang us a Mongolian song with nuances and modulations that still resonate in us ; or in Nîmes, Florence, who opened her home and her heart to us.
If you had to summarize this path in one word?
“Intimist”: it is a little-used path and therefore still quite secret, unlike, for example, the Stevenson path which shares a few stages with the Régordane path.
Your next path?
There Via ligeria! Departure in May 2024, for a walk from Nantes to Rome via the Via francigena. “Sursum corda” (“Hearts up”), according to the motto of this path!
Three tips for going hiking and pilgrimage on the Chemin de Régordane
To read on the way to Régordane
- The Chemin de Régordane – Chemin de Saint-Gilles (GR®700)Topoguide, French Hiking Federation, 96 p., 15.90 euros.
- On the way to Saint-Gilles-du-Gard. The Régordane route through the Cévennesby François Lepère and Yvette Terrien, Lepère éditions, 2017 (updated accommodation 2022), 106 p., 12 euros.
- Yum-yum Dodo Chemin de Saint-Gilles (La Régordane) – Chemin de Stevensonby Marie-Virginie Cambriels, Editions du Vieux Crayon, edition 2022-2023, 208 p., 19 euros