The Way (the movie) and Le Chemin

Chemin sign - 9th dayI’ve been home for over three weeks, written three articles on Le Chemin de St. Jacques across France for National Parks Traveler and preparing for a presentation on my trek. It was time to rewatch The Way with Martin Sheen.

The movie brought fame and people to the El Camino de Santiago. What the movie didn’t say is that you can walk it anyplace in Europe–and I chose to walk the French part. But still, having done a 440-mile pilgrimage, I thought it would be useful to see the movie again.

Coincidentally, the movie opened in France just as I was starting my trek at Le Puy. People were excited about it because it starts in St. Jean Pied-de-Port, the foothills of the French Pyrenees. And the movie crew did go on location in France. I recognized the train station and streets.

You can nitpick the way they portrayed middle-age hikers.

Tom, played by Martin Sheen, walks most of the trek with a woman and two men. All three smoked. On my French trek, I met only one man who smoked. Tom wore his dead son’s backpack and presumably his boots. How did that all fit perfectly?I spent hours at Diamond Brand trying on packs and boots. But enough nitpicking.

The albergue in Spain where pilgrims stay were like gites on steroid. The largest gite I stayed in had about 30 beds in several rooms. The albergues were more like the large huts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Rows and rows of beds at two level.

One scene shows the four pilgrims walking through a vineyard, each picking out a row. Only Joost, the fat Dutchman, eats grapes out of hand. Are they kidding? Everyone would be gulping down the wonderful wine grapes.

But the biggest difference were the loud intellectual discussions. They discussed medieval history and Basque heritage at the dinner table. In France, we talked about food and wine (well, it was France) and why we’re doing the Chemin. Also, there was much more discussion of religion. Maybe it’s because the Spanish El Camino ends at the Cathedral of Santiago, where the remains of St. James, the apostle, are supposed to be buried.

I’ll be giving a presentation at REI Asheville on Monday Dec. 2 at 7 pm. It’s free but you have to sign up.

This movie inspired me to work on a web page on Le Chemin de St. Jacques. Check it out.    

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