March 30, 2024 Arles to St. Gilles – 20 kms – Hotel Le Saint Gillois 

It feels wonderful to once again be walking on the Camino.  We spent a couple of nights in Arles, which is a beautiful small city, but as always I was chomping at the bit to start walking.

There is generally a little anxiety about the first days on a Camino.  Will I have foot problems?  Are the first days too long?  This time I am recovering from a cold, and I’m concerned I may overdo it and become more ill.  Of course many “colds” these days are actually COVID, and mine may be no exception.  My taste has again been slightly altered for many foods, which seems a bit cruel when you’re eating in France.

Despite my concerns, the first day to Saint Gilles went well.  We are crossing the top end of the Camargue, which is essentially the delta of the Rhone River.  Many pilgrims skip it, but like the Meseta it has its charms.  There is an abundance of bird life, including flamingos later in the season.

Previously unbeknownst to me, Saint Gilles was during a certain period in the Middle Ages the fourth most popular pilgrim destination in Christendom, after Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago.  The large 12th century church, formerly associated with a major monastery, suffered considerable damage during the religious wars, but the facade remains one of the finest we have seen.  Across the middle of the facade are sculptural depictions of more than a dozen events during the Passion and Resurrection, and the quality of the work is remarkable.

I’m delighted to be back into the rhythm of Camino life, and I can’t believe how fortunate I am to be doing this for the next three months.

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