Rabit piligrimin flying downhill on his velociraptor, on dirt tracks through forests, bouncing over tree roots, negotiating rocky rutted tracks, and trying to avoid ending up in a ditch.
And for this route I am really grateful to Les Amis de Saint-Jacques in Chartres, with their new guide to the Route des Anglais from Chartres to Cloyes (published April 2010). But I must say, I was also furious with Les Amis at various points today because of the inconsistencies, complete errors, and entirely missing sections in their guide.
This was particularly annoying when I was lost in a forest for quite a lot of the late afternoon, whizzing to and fro on my rabit velociraptor, trying to find a way out of the forest. I remembered two years ago similar moments when I was on foot, walking hundreds of miles and not at all happy with Les Amis’ instructions. At least on a bicycle it takes a few minutes to re-run a mile of the route to find out where the alternative may be! On foot it is a de-motivating disaster.
In France with the various historical turf wars between the FFRP and the regional associations of Saint-Jacques, there is a lot of debate about routes and instructions for walkers. I do not want to add an extra element of controversy, as a visiting member of the English Confraternity of St James, but I will say this: the instructions for this route should be straightforward and clear. It is not rocket science. I am writing the instructions now, modeled on Johnny Walker’s CSJ instructions for the Camino Ingles that I trialed in 2008: perfecrtly clear instructions (you cannot go wrong!) The routes for both walkers and cyclists will be clear and informative (with distances indicated on every section, measured to the last 10 metres by my bike cyclometer). these days there is no excuse: we have all the technology available to us. Let’s get the Route des Anglais on the map!
While I have been schooled in the ecumenical Gospel love-fest of Taize since I first went there in 1985, shortly after I was baptised and looking for a wider sense of Church, there is something terribly pathetic in this image. The Taize cross, a copy of the cross in the Church of Reconcliation in Taize – painted by the Taize brother Eric, and in a sense modeled on the great Franciscan icon, the San Damiano crucifix – does not belong here! The setting is a mediaeval side chapel with monastic choir stalls: the Taize liturgy requires no furniture, and the formality of the stalls conflicts with the Taize ethos. More than this, the protestant Taize origins should not be allowed to influence Catholic church decor.
Happily, I found Saint James at the end of the day in Cloyes parish church. I was very fortunate in arriving just as a pink-orange light was falling on the church interior from a west facing stained glass window. I had just five minutes in which to capture the interior before that light suddenly went.