Going to Le Puy: Upon arrival in CDG Airport, you can take the train straight to Le Puy. Just go to the ticket office or one of those ticket machines. Trains leave several times a day and transfer through Lyon and St. Ettiene. Depending on where you buy your ticket, you might need to transfer by bus to another Paris station, so make sure you have at least a half hour or more to spare.
If, like me, you want to kick around for a couple of days in Paris, you can similarly order a ticket from any Gare (train station) or the SNFC website. Again, be sure to pay attention to the departing station. The signs inside the station will tell you which hall to go to, and the platform number will appear 20 minutes before the train leaves.
The ticket cost me 92 euros. The info man told me it would have been a lot cheaper if I’d booked it two months in advance. Who does that?
Staying there: I stayed my first night at the hostel Auberge de Jeunesse, which was half a km from the train station close to the cathedral in the Centre Pierre Cardinal. It seems you can’t book ahead online, but there’s an email and number at their site. It was spare but clean and only 15 euros.
Even more delightful was the Gîte de le Pèlerin at 28 Rue Pierre Cardinal, located in an old stone building even closer to the Cathedral. You must have a pilgrim’s credential to stay there (see next post). The accommodations are run by incredibly kind and friendly staff, who I believe are volunteers connected with the Amis de St. Jacques in Le Puy. They serve breakfast at little round tables. The sleeping arrangements are beds in private cubicles within one great dormitory. I highly recommend wearing earplugs! The night I slept there, some pilgrims were leaving by 3:45 a.m. The cost is by donation – “donativo”. (Literally, you can pay nothing or whatever you’re able, but if you’re able to pay, some tell me a good benchmark is 10 – 30 euros.)
Of course, there are many other wonderful places to stay in Le Puy. The tourist office is especially helpful (and English speaking).
Seeing the city: This is an old and lovely city, well-worth a day-long tour. Go to the tourist’s office, get a historical map and take a walk. If you miss everything else, however, don’t miss the Chapel de St.-Michel on top of the rock peak on the other side of the statue of St. Mary away from the old city. It’s a 10 minute walk from the cathedral and possibly another 10 minute climb (after buying a ticket). The difficulty of the climb gives a bit of seclusion and a feeling of holiness to the asymmetrical sanctuary. And the effort is nothing to that of the people who built the chapel stone by stone in the 10th Century.