It’s easy to get overwhelmed with information when preparing for a pilgrimage, especially if this is your first time doing a trip of this sort. These tips may help you know what to expect and to feel prepared for the Paris-Chartres Pilgrimage.
What to Expect
Catholics from many countries join their French counterparts each year, and are organized into chapters. Our chapter is usually roughly 25-30 participants (although our numbers often grow as individual pilgrims join up with our group!).
On the 3-day trip, Latin mass is celebrated each day, whether outdoors at the campsite or at the Cathedral. There is also a benediction (also in Latin) and adoration of the Eucharist (which lasts throughout the night), and many opportunities for communal prayer and confession.
At night, pilgrims sleep in large tents which are moved from site to site for us. Registration with a chapter is required to have space in the official tents. Roughly divided by chapter, men and women are usually in the same tent, but divided with a canvas wall.
There aren’t any showers en route. Men may wash up at large water troughs in the open, while women have the opportunity for more privacy and wash up at water troughs inside a tent. Be prepared–the water is not heated.
As for your personal items, you may bring a larger pack with clothing, extra food, flashlight, sleeping bag/pad, and pillow, and this bag will be transported from one campsite to the next each day. It will be waiting for you at the campsite when you arrive on foot (so be sure it is very waterproof in case it is sitting out in the rain!).
Bring a smaller (also waterproof) backpack to carry on your person each day. In this pack, most people bring their food for the day, hat, bandaids, prayer/songbook, and other essentials for the walk. See the list of things to pack for more information.
Notre-Dame de Chrétienté supplies water at each stop along the walk and at the evening campsite.
In the mornings, breakfast is provided, including coffee, hot chocolate, bread, and jam. At the campsite in the evening, hot soup and bread is available. Pilgrims should bring food to supplement the evening soup, as well as lunches that can be carried with them each day. These should be purchased before leaving Paris, as there are very limited opportunities for purchasing food along the way.
Dinner on the Friday evening in Paris is not organised and meals en-route to/from the pilgrimage are not included. Dinner on Monday in Chartres is included as is breakfast on Tuesday morning.
Be prepared to share your food, and to partake of others’, as there is a general spirit of generosity and sharing. Some recommended foods to pack in your bag or backpack are:
- Boulangeries in Paris will sell assorted sandwiches, such as ham (sandwich au jambon), shrimp (sandwich au crevette) or salami and brie.
- Whole fruit
- Trail Mix
- Dried fruit
- Individual packets of nutella or peanut butter or jam
- Beef jerky
It is up to each pilgrim to arrive in Paris at least the day before the Pilgrimage begins.
Following the walk, once the group has arrived in Chartres and attended the mass in the Cathedral, participants are free to stay on in Chartres, continue their own travels elsewhere, or return to Paris. There is a free train service that runs that afternoon from Chartres to Paris for pilgrims who wish to return.
On the last day, your bags from the campsite will be at the train station. After mass, walk to the train station to collect your things.
A medical tent is erected at each evening campsite, and every 2-3 miles along the route there is a medical team. There are medical staff and a shuttle bus for any pilgrims needing medical attention. For those who find themselves unable to walk any farther due to an injury, the shuttle bus will bring them to the evening campsite or if needed, a nearby clinic or hospital. It is not recommended to do this pilgrimage if you have significant health problems.
What to Pack
- Good Quality walking or hiking boots
- Several pairs of socks (Hiking socks are recommended)
- Large Waterproof Backpack or duffel bag (transported to the campsite each night)
- Small Waterproof backpack or bag (smaller, for carrying with you as you walk)
- 1-2 changes of clothes, Such as 1-2 shirts, 2 bottoms
- Clothes to sleep in
- Sweatshirt or warm pullover
- Sunscreen and Hat
- Food for lunch and to supplement provided evening soup
- Eating utensils
- Mug for coffee and evening soup (bring tea bags if you prefer tea)
- Sleeping bag
- Tarp or plastic mat to keep off moisture from the ground
- Toiletries, including washcloth, hand towel, and soap
- Any needed medications, including ibuprophen
- Band-aids, antibacterial ointment
- Blister prevention cream and/or moleskin to prevent blisters
- Rosary, any prayer book you’d like to bring (Please note each participant for this chapter will receive a hymn book prior to departure in Paris. This will include a rough itinerary, hymns that are sung en route, meditations, and prayers.)
- Plates or Mess kits
- Large hiking backpacks–choose something small for while you’re walking
- Think waterproof
- Think light