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A Touching Journey
on 2 December 2016
I've been revisiting my affection for all things Sewell recently. This 2003 TV series documents his
"pilgrimage" to Santiago de Compostela for the feast day of St James; a journey he made once
before 40 years ago. Travelling not on foot, as the rules of proper pilgrimage decree, but in his
beloved two-decade-old Mercedes, Mr Sewell retraces the route from Paris to Santiago taken
by many believers each year (going back centuries), for a little spiritual refreshment and cleansing.
As in his marvellous 'Grand Tour' series, made in 2006, he stops off along the way, to take in some
beautiful churches and cathedrals. Notre Dame, Chartres and Orleans come off rather well but poor
Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre gets a sound (and thoroughly deserved) pasting. At the heart of the
matter, however, is the somewhat unexpected challenge to Mr Sewell's agnosticism. His jaundiced
view of the tourist industry which has grown up around the town of Lourdes is rather tipped head
over heels by a couple of very jolly ladies from Hartlepool and he is visibly moved by the tangible
and simple faith demonstrated by a couple of unaffected students on his arrival at Santiago. He
is visibly moved by the belief of others, whilst struggling deeply with his own lapsed Catholicism.
The final scene of our hero burning (as tradition decrees) the clothes in which he made his journey
on the beach and walking out naked into the waves is a touching coda to this redemptive enterprise.
Spread over six episodes (each between 20-25 minutes in length) the series is unmissable.