Off the Road

Off the Road

A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain

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When Jack Hitt set out to walk the 500 miles from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, he submitted to the rigorous traditions of Europe's oldest form of packaged tour, a pilgrimage that has been walked by millions in the history of Christendom.
Off the Road is an unforgettable exploration of the sites that people believe God once touched: the strange fortress said to contain the real secret Adam learned when he bit into the apple; the sites associated with the murderous monks known as the Knights Templar; and the places housing relics ranging from a vial of the Virgin Mary's milk to a sheet of Saint Bartholomew's skin.
Along the way, Jack Hitt finds himself persevering by day and bunking down by night with an unlikely and colorful cast of fellow pilgrims -- a Flemish film crew, a drunken gypsy, a draconian Belgian air force officer, a man who speaks no languages, a one-legged pilgrim, and a Welsh family with a mule.
In the day-to-day grind of walking under a hot Spanish sun, Jack Hitt and his cohorts not only find occasional good meals and dry shelter but they also stumble upon some fresh ideas about old-time zealotry and modern belief. Off the Road is an engaging and witty travel memoir of an offbeat journey through history that turns into a provocative rethinking of the past.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743261111 | 
  • March 2005
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CHAPTER ONE: SAINT-JEAN PIED DE PORT

Where does the road to Santiago begin? It was a question my medieval predecessors never had to consider. In those days, a pilgrim simply stepped out of his hut and declared his intention. Then he might report to a cloister and receive a signed letter to serve as proof of intent. Afterward, the pilgrim walked west until he picked up any of the established routes in Europe. From the east and south, the pilgrim followed any of four established roads that fanned like fingers across France and converged at the palm of Spain. A few miles inside the Pyrenees, they formed a single unified road shooting straight... see more

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