In mid-April Sean and I drove 560 kilometres (350 miles) north east of Burgos to Bergerac in the Dordogne region of France. Although we’d enjoyed our time in Spain, making friends and immersing ourselves in northern Spanish life, it was time to move on, to return to the UK for the spring and summer, and to run our Write from the Heart writing workshops.
Having spent over seven months in Burgos we were used to seeing a variety of Camino signs to help guide the many pilgrims, or peregrinos, on their way through the city towards León and eventually Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in north-western Spain. They were often a joy to see as they varied from one to the next, although the basic elements were always the same — either a scallop shell or a yellow arrow, or a combination of the two. To the initiated, the sign on the Burgos pavement gives contradictory advice since the arrow is pointing ahead but the scallop shell, metaphoric of all roads converging at Santiago de Compostela, the final destination on the Way of St. James, is pointing to the left.
The scallop shell has been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago for so long that it has both myth and metaphor attached to its once practical use as drinking cup.
Whilst in the Dordogne we revisited the small bastide town of Eymet and were surprised to come upon a Camino sign outside On the Road Again, a garage owned and run by vintage car specialist Michel Ossard. Seeing the signpost gave us both unexpected warm and fuzzy feelings. Something so familiar yet far removed from the place where we had first learned of its significance.
Later that day we talked with our lovely CoushSurfing hosts, telling them we were surprised to see the familiar scallop shell outside the Eymet garage. It turns out that both Bergerac and Eymet are on the Way of Vézelay, one of the four traditional routes into Spain which joins with the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) just beyond Pamplona.
And so Eymet and Bergerac are just two stops along one of the many ways leading to the way that 200,000 people walk every year en route to Santiago de Compostela.
Mufidah Kassalias is a writer, photographer and slow traveller. A digital nomad, she’s also co-founder of Creative Thunder, helping creative individuals and small businesses to fire up their online presence and prowess. To get a free copy of the inspiring Creative Thunder Manifesto, click here.