The Camino Frances

The Camino Frances

Thursday, May 29, 2014


In Madrid

Yesterday we spent travelling, and went to a local mall for dinner. Just as we were finishing, Lenore, Paul and Lilly joined us. What a surprise! They had just flown in from Toronto, and today went to Ponferrada, to meet Raphael, who will drive them to Foncebadon. They are the hospitalero/as for the first half of June, at Domus Dei, the donativo albergue in Foncebadon. How amazing to be there to see them. Here is where they will be working.

Today we took a bus and Metro into downtown Madrid. We found a free 3 hour walking tour of Madrid, and it was wonderful. The guide Tatiana, was from Kyrzakhstan, married to a Spaniard, and full of information and humour.  We saw so much and learned  a great deal about Spanish history.
One of my favourite squares on the tour was the Puerta da Sol, where we assembled for the tour.

Felipe III rey de España

After the tour we had an enourmous meal, then tried to walk it off.  Eventually we found our way to the Prado, which is free from 6 to 8 pm every day. We saw most of the Goyas, Reubens, and Velasquez. My favourite it still this one.

So, it is back to Toronto tomorrow, and hiking the Toronto trails. I´ll be blogging on wandering in Toronto, just not as frequently. Thanks for following my adventures so far, and post if you have any questions.

Buen Camino

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It´s all about the People/Pilgrims

Day 35 In Santiago

Today we met more friends and made new ones, and heard stories.
At lunch, once again at the Parador, serving hake, pulpo and tuna, I met a pilgrim who has walked 13 Caminos. He thinks he is done with the Camino, as he has walked every path!
I met Lise, and we are having supper together. She says she has walked 9 Caminos.
I met a woman who walked only 15 km per day. That was her limit, and she started in St Jean in March, when the weather was great.
I met people at lunch who had walked the Camino del Norte - quite a challenge.
I met Mark and Debbie, who had to sleep in the loft of a barn with the animals in Foncebadon, which seems to be having an overload each night.
I met Jennifer, who has a blog and does a painting - at least- every day. She walked the same distances as Wendy and I so we saw her often. We stayed at the same albergue in Palais de Rei, and here is her posting from that day. Here is her blog.

Photo: Yesterday was another drizzly walk in Galicia to Palas de Rei. Cold and rainy so I was left to sketch in the cafe at the Albergue. The walls were covered with pilgrim paraphernalia and coins from all over the world. Lots of pilgrims sharing the sleeping quarters, but at least I had the highly coveted lower (abajo) bunk.
Tomorrow we take the train to Madrid, and since I have a hard time sitting still, I think I will wander the aisles and hear more stories.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Paradors, and a free meal

Day 34 Santiago - 5 km, around the city

Up at the late hour of 7:30 after a good nights rest. We hustled off to the Parador for a free breakfast.

Paradors are luxury hotels developed by the Spanish government. I have been inside several, and they do a great job of updating the interiors while retaining the original structure and ambiance. It you saw The Way, you saw the parador in Leon, which they used in the film.

The one in Santiago was a pilgrim hospital dating back to 1499, and provided shelter and care to pilgrims until 1952, when it was converted to a Parador. They continue the tradition of serving pilgims - many who can afford it, stay here while in Santiago. They also provide free meals to pilgrims.
Spain - Galicia - Parador de Santiago de Compostela - one of the Spanish Paradors Paradores
In order to get our free breakfast, we lined up at the garage entrance. The first 10 pilgrims to arrive before the meal are escorted into the Parador, past the paying guests, the luxurious dining rooms, the beautiful cloisters, and into the kitchens. There we picked up carafes of coffee  and hot milk, and a plate of churros ( like crullers) croissants and a cinnamon roll-like bun with apple filling. We carried them to a special dining room, just for pilgrims, and proceeded to enjoy ourselves. We met new pilgrims who were recent arrivals
( you must claim the meal within 3 days of arrival in Santiago). Some had walked different routes than us, and once again were from different countries, all in Europe. Two women that we had encountered several times, who left St Jean on the same day as us, were there. They were from the Czech Republic, and so the conversation also touched on Russia and eastern European politics.

We went back for lunch, which is the big meal. Since it was at noon, and most pilgrims are not ready to eat then, or are at the Pilgrims¨ Mass we once again were among the first to arrive. The meal included about 5 kinds of meat, all variations of pork. Later at the Bispo Taberna, we wondered where all the pigs were kept. We saw and smelled many cattle, but no pigs. Back to the meal: 3 kinds of tortilla, bread, lentil soup, ensalada mixta, empanadas, wine and sliced pineapple, plus 2 kinds of cake. It is 6 hours later, and we still aren´t hungry for dinner.

The food was great, but the opportunity to once again meet with other pilgrims and share stories over a shared meal was really the reason we went.

Thank you Parador Santiago de Compostela.

Here is another story of the free meal:

At 4, we went back to Bispo Taberna, to meet more Pilgims that we had met along the way. And Lise, who arrived with the 2 guys who had walked with her. We´ll catch up with her tomorrow.

The Camino experience continues to amaze us.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Day 33 Arzua to Santiago 21 km

We were out the door before 6 am, and by walking steadily, with one break for cafe con leche and one bathroom break, and one chocolate break, we were at the Cathedral at 10:45. A record time for us, but we are feeling fine, but stirred up.
We checked into our room, and went back for the noon pilgrims´service. It was huge! The Cathedral was filled - perhaps 1000 people, and at least half were recently arrived pilgrims. There was no space even for more to stand! There was a great choir and small orchestra, and about 15 guys in white robes - priests - to serve the mass to all who came forward - perhaps half the people.
I teared up when they swung the botifumeria, right over my head. It takes 6 guys in red robes to keep it swinging back and forth, almost to the roof of the cathedral. There are videos on youtube if you want to see it in action.

I am about to join friends in a tavern here for a reunion. Here is Lawrence from Ottawa in front of the tavern with his compostela. I picked mine up this afternoon too. Now it is official. I walked 780 km in 33 days. Not bad if I do say so myself. And who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mixed Emotions

Day 32 - Ribadiso to O Pedrouza - 24 km

It is the big day of arrival tomorrow - only 21 km to go, and we will be on the road by 6, as we want to be in the Cathedral for the pilgrim mass at noon.

After 33 days of journey, we will be at our destination. I am in a bit of turmoil, and I am sure I am not alone.
How will I feel on arrival?

Yesterday, I was discussing this with a woman on her second Camino. She said she felt there should have been bells rung or a brass band to mark her arrival. But it is an internal experience.

Last time, I felt flat, with little emotion - drained, really. ¨Is that all there is? ¨ I thought.After the buildup and excitement as we neared, the 32 days of walking, the anticipation. But when the botifumeira flew ( the incense burner, which is huge) I burst into tears, and was in touch with my mixed emotions and my ambivalence.

On one hand, I am glad that it is over. Unpacking every night, packing up every morning, carrying a heavy backpack, waking in the night and wondering where I am, where the servicios are, and whether I am on a top or bottom bunk, the limited choices on the menus compared to home, the wear and tear on my body, the exhaustion.

But there are losses to grieve on arrival. The end of the camraderie - perhaps 100 people we have met and had a personal connection with, and will never see again. Eating dinner every night with a constantly changing group of brave adventurous interesting people from around the world. The beautiful panorama of every day. The endorphins and high that comes with the 6 hours of walking. The freedom from responsibilities and obligations to others in our life at home. The uncertainty in returning to our old life - are there changes we want to make - do we pick up where we left off, or let go of some parts of it?

All I needed, I carried in my backpack. What about all the stuff at home?

How can I be the me that walked the Camino - my best self - in the world I return to?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Spanish Specialties

Day 31 - Palas de Rei to Ribidiso - 27 km

It rained almost all day today, but never very heavily, so it was an enjoyable time, in spite of the mud and the river running through the trail. This is what it looked like.Photo: Fairytale forest. Temperature outside around 5-7C and raining. Inside cca 36C and sunshine:-)

We stopped for an early lunch in Melide today. It is famous for pulpo - octopus, so we shared a plate and I had a glass of delicious Ribeiro wine with it. They cook the octopus on the spot in a pot of boiling water, and serve it on a wooden plate, sprinkled with hot smoked paprika, salt and olive oil.

Truly an experience.
There are other memorable dishes and drinks. Here are a few that we have enjoyed.
Fresh squeezed orange juice - a great fuel for the last few kms.
Caldo Gallego - potato, white beans, and greens fresh from the garden in a delicious broth.
Lentil soup - thick and warming, and highly spiced.
Squid in it´s own ink.
Trout, fresh and pan fried, with a squeeze of lemon.
Paella, always different, according to the seafood they add. But we also enjoyed the chicken paella made for us at San Bol.
Chicken roasted with red peppers.
Potato and tomato stew - this was enhanced by the company in Bercianos, and the fact that it was made by the hospitaleras and some Sardinians who were staying there.
Cauliflower soup with a poached egg floating in it.

Here is a post about meals on the Camino.
And check out the blog listed on the side: my kitchen in Spain,

Enjoy your meals today, wherever you are.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Somedays are great, some are not.

Day 30 Vilacha to Palas de Rei  28 km

Yesterday we felt like we were dragging. Every step felt like an effort, and we had to push ourselves to get to our destination. We couldn´t understand why. The weather was rain off and on, and it was a constant up and down, but so was today, and today was an easy 28 km. We had a spring in our step today. We arrived a little earlier than yesterday, and we felt fine. No need for a rest.  We can´t figure what made the difference, but today worked.

Maybe it is the excitement. We will be in Santiago on Sunday, so 3 more days of walking. Word was passed along the Camino today: meet  at 4 pm on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 4 pm at Taberna Bispo in Santiago. If everyone gets the message, then we should be able to meet up with all the people we have lost along the way. We heard the announcement from 2 pilgrims, then Lawrence popped out from a bar to hug us - He is from Ottawa, and we lost track of him a few days ago. He is the originator of the plan to meet!! You can get out of sync with pilgrims - we might stay at different places, we might just be 10 minutes behind them, they might go an extra 5 kms, and you won´t see them again. This way we might reconnect!

We are in Palais de Rei, and it seems to be a real centre. Everyone seems to stop here.
I remet favourite people along the way: the girls from Humberside in Toronto who know some of the teachers I know from that school, the Danish couple that we had dinner with in Fonfria, John, who has stayed in the same place for 4 nights with us, but ended up at the same hotel today, Mike, who we lost a few days ago - the list goes on and on. There are lots of kids from South Korea here, but one woman is older, and she threw her arms around me when we remet today. The people make the Camino a special experience. At coffee today, a couple of women bikers stopped, looked at my Canadian flag, and said ¨Is Wendy here by chance?¨and it was someone from Oakville who knew Wendy´s sister - they hugged like old friends.

So, we are doing just wonderfully. No injuries, and we are motoring along on schedule.

Last night with Gordon and Anne-Marie was so special - we felt like we were in their home, a private place, unlike the public places we have stayed in so far. And they ate with us, which has never happened before. Truly a unique experience.  I couldn´t load pictures yesterday, so here is Casa Banderas.

Casa Banderas, showing the three flags.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Casa Banderas

Day 29 San Mamede to Vilacha 23 km
Today I am staying at another favourite albergue, Casa Banderas.
Gordon Bell, a South African, owns and operates it with his partner Ana Marie. Gordon walked the Camino the first time in 2003, then in 2004, then twice in 2005, as he decided he wanted to operate an albergue, so he walked the second time between Sarria and Santiago, and found this place in Vilacha. It was a tumble down ruin, and had been empty for 30 years, but what sold it to Gordon was the staircase to the second floor. When I met him in 2007, he was mired in red tape and rubble. He had to live elsewhere for the first month of repair, then he was able to sleep in the kitchen.He had help from his sons and family, and lots of Camino friends, and finally he was able to open it for the 2012 season. He is open from April to October, and on duty 24/7, with help from Anne-Marie. It is lovely to sit in the salon, around the fire, and chat or read or catch up on emails.
They ate with us, and the meal was great: pea soup, as it was a cold rainy day, curried chicken on rice, and ice cream for dessert, with lots of hot bread and wine.
Breakfast was the best yet: soft boiled egg ( a first) yogurt, rice cakes for me with butter ( another first) and peach jam, plus coffee. A great set up for a great day.
Gordon says the Camino is busier than ever. He estimates that 1000 people walk by his door every day.
His bathroom is unique - a shower with jets. Another unique experience here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to stay cool and warm and dry on the Camino

Day 28, Fonfria to San Mamede 25 km

Today´s blog subject came up for me as we walked home last night in the snow. This morning there was snow along the trail, and the trees on the mountain looked frosted. So it has been cold enough to snow, and hot enough to blister my ears.
This information applies mostly to women, whose body temperature I understand. Today Paddy walked in shorts, and John in a t shirt. I needed more.

I like merino wool. It is light, dries quickly, wicks well and doesn´t leave me feeling clammy, as technical clothing does. It doesn´t hold body odor, as it has natural antibacterial qualities, and can be worn several days in a row without washing.

Let´s start at the bottom. I wear merino socks - I like Keen, as they are marked left and right, and so the fit is great.
I wear Keen shoes. They are waterproof in snow, sleet, rain mud and water, as long as it doesn´t wash over the top.
I sleep in part merino leggings, and if it is cold in the morning, I leave them on under my pants. I have 2 pair: a nylon pair that has bottoms that zip off. This is great for really hot days, and I can just wash the dusty or muddy bottoms and they dry quickly. For colder or wet weather I wear an old pair of MEC water resistant pants. I find that the waterproof ones don´t breathe. These pants work well, and if the rain lets up, they dry in the wind.
I would like some merino underwear, but meanwhile I am wearing light cotton and bamboo Elita underwear.
For tops, I have 2 short sleeved and 2 long sleeved merino. I shower and put on the one I will wear for the next 24 hours; I sleep in it, and don´t have to change in the morning.
I would like a merino tank top for very hot days, as the one I brought is cotton, and too heavy when wet.
I have a light long sleeved shirt for sun protection and a bit of warmth in the evening, but it is polyester, and I want to replace it.
My hoodie is a fleece merino. I love it, and last night it was so cold I slept in it.
On top for cold and rain, I wear a waterproof light jacket from MEC, with armpit zippers if it is hot. It is perfect.
I was wearing a baseball type cap - hence the blistered ears. I got an ugly big cotton hat which shades my neck and ears.
I have several scarves which keep my neck warm when it is cool, and buff for the cold.
So I am prepared for all weathers.

This is what the views looked like today.

Countryside on the Camino de Santiago walking trail, Spain

Monday, May 19, 2014

Illness, Injuries and Mishaps on the Camino

Day 26 Cacabelos to Ruitelan 27 km
Day 27 Ruitelan 690m to La Faba 927 m to O Cebreiro 1300 m to Alto de Poio 1337m to Fonfria 22 km

Church in Fonfria

Cacabelos to Ruitelan was a fairly easy day. We took the lower route, so most of the time we had a road on the right side, but were protected by a cement wall, and the Valcarce river on the other side, though it crossed back and forth many times as it wandered. We stayed in another favourite albergue ( Thanks, Natalie, for introducing me to it) in Ruitelan. They are very welcoming, and waken us at 6 am with Ave Maria! The dinner was delicious, and the chef asked if we had any food limitations, so I was great with that.
This morning, after a lovely breakfast, we started the climb to O Cebreiro. It was challenging, but very beautiful - much greener and vaster than our last climb up the mountains of Irago out of Rabanal. We arrived just before the rain and snow started.

The most common injury is a blister. I  have seen some huge blisters, and multiples on the same foot! I have a small one, which is not bothering me. I keep it covered, and it is shrinking. Some advice suggests piercing and draining, and sometimes using a needle and thread and keeping the thread in. There is a danger of infection with this practice. Someone else cut the top off completely. There is a bandaid here called Compeed, and it is used extensively. You leave it on till it falls off, and it seems to dry the blister.
I use vaseline to keep the skin flexible, and prevent rubbing. Some people swear by double socks. You need to do what works for you.
Shin Splints and Tendonitis are also common among the pilgrims. Ibuprofen is jokingly refered to as Vitamin I here, and a lot of people take it. They also us Voltaren, which is ibuprofen in a cream for aches and pains, which come from the added weight of the backpack. I have not heard of many people falling, though it happens.
We also knew 2 men who had tooth problems. One collapsed - he seemed to faint momentarily - and went to the hospital to be checked out. He only stayed a few hours, and took a bus to Leon to see a dentist. After 2 days off he was back on the road.
The second pilgrim found a piece of his tooth in his mouth. He took a taxi to Leon and had it glued back in immediately, for free. 
Pilgrims either tough it out, send the backpack by a transport company ( costs about 7€ per trip) take a day off, or take the bus.  We had met 2 pilgrims in Orrison who had to go home, their tendonitis and blisters were so bad.

Tom, a pilgrim we met who does not stay in albergues, say there is a lot of albergue cough going around. Wendy had a cough for a while, but there is not much coughing in the night by anyone.
There also is a stomach bug along the Camino. It may be food related, or a viris. We have heard of several people laid up for a day with this. There was a pilgrim in bed when we arrived yesterday in Ruitelan, and he was up and out today after a day´s rest. We are walking parallel to a retired doctor at the moment, and he checked him out.
I felt a little rough today with stomach issues, and was glad I had already decided to send my backpack up the mountain, as I did in 2012. I had a rest when I got in ( I usually don´t) and feel fine now, and looking forward to supper, which will include Caldo Gallego, which I make at home and love.


Losing things, leaving them behind is a common occurence. We left something in Cacabelos, and the hospitalero in Ruitelan called the albergue, who arranged for Jacotrans to bring it here. We appreciate such cooperation, which often happens here. Spain seems to appreciate pilgrims.

The Camino is like real life. Stuff happens, and pilgrimage goes on.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Getting lost on the Camino

Day 25 Molinaseca to Cacabelos - 23 km

Did you wonder if it is possible to get lost on the Camino? Well, it happened to us today.

Usually the Camino is well marked. There are many yellow arrows pointing the way, plus more official signs of different sorts. But the styles and the frequency seem to vary with the terrain and the province and municipality that you are in. Right now we are in Castille y Leon, and the provice of El Bierzo - for just one more day, and the signs in El Bierzo and Ponferrada, where we got lost, are abysmal.

El Bierzo is famous as a garden, and yesterday we had fresh cherries and strawberries, picked in the neighbourhood. Stores were handing them out for tasting, and they were delicious. The roses are massive, and everything, including the hedges, are giant. There are grape vines growing everywhere, including the ditches. So I guess they are focused on a different kind of tourism, and we pilgrims don´t get the signage we need.

Getting lost - that is, no yellow arrows or signs - worried us, but I thought we were headed in the right direction. We went north then west out of Ponferrada, instead of west then north, and after asking about 6 locals and trying to puzzle out their answers, we found ourselves once more surrounded by pilgrims.

We also took the wrong exit out of another town, and walked on the road for a while, but at that time we had not yet lost our Brierly guide, so we puzzled it out sooner.
Last night we photographed the maps for the rest of the way from a borrowed Brierly guide, so we shouldn´t go too far off track in the future.

So, usually you can trust the signs.
Other pilgrims can help.
Locals want to help.
Keep the sun at your back.
Keep checking your guidebook.

We can recommend the John Brierly guidebook
and the Confraternity of St James book

Meanwhile, here is what today´s walk looked like much of the time we weren´t wandering the roads.

Friday, May 16, 2014

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous!

Day 24 - Rabanal to Molineseca - 26 very hard kms

Rabanal 1149 m 
We had a great start to the day - Becky and Inez, the hopitaleras at Rabanal sang Happy Birthday to Wendy as she entered the kitchen for breakfast, where the coffee was self serve - a first! 2 cups of cafe con leche to fuel us for the day, plus my oatmeal.

We climbed 6 km to Foncebadon 1495 m where Lenore, Paul and Lilly will be hospitaleras in June. It was closed, so we couldn´t peek in, as it didn´t open until noon. The first pilgrim hospice was built here in the 12th century, by a hermit named Gaucelmo.

We climbed 2 km to the Cruz de Ferro 1504 m, where I left a stone for myself, and 2 as requested by Judi and Peggy, and something from Robert. The cross was originally erected to guide the pilgrims across the mountain. It was rather emotional for me.

Another 2 km to Manjarin 1451 m, an abandoned village with a simple refuge ( no running water or electricity) run by Tomas, who calls himself the last Templar knight. He isn´t there right now - he is away, recuperating, but other volunteers are running it for him.

Shortly after, we pass the hightest point on the whole Camino 1517 m!

7 km downhill to El Acebo 1145 m. where we had lunch. The descent to Molineseca 744 m was the most difficult descent we have done. The base is rock, mostly slate, strewn with stones and more rocks, with the occasional stream running through it, and very steep. It took us about 4 hours of hard work descending, and we were beat when we arrived at the albergue. But there must be a celebratory dinner, so off we will go.

Last night´s dinner in Rabanal, after a lovely verspers service, was one of the best we have had, and the company - 2 Canadian couples, and one woman from Alaska, was superb too.

The next 2 days will be mostly flat, through a river valley, then another mountain to climb. A pilgrim´s work is never done.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

In Rabanal again

Day23 Astorga to Rabanal, 21 km

I awoke excited. As I left Astorga, almost every step, every vista, was familiar. We stopped at Albergue Las Aguedas in Murias de Rechivaldos, and sat in their dining room and had breakfast, family style, as I had in 2012, and the hospitalero was the same one who had tried to help  me with my backpack then.  Then along the familiar path to the Cowboy Bar in El Ganzo, where we had a cafe con leche. Then 6 more kms along a gently sloping upward, stone strewn path to Rabanal. There was Father Pius, working in the garden. He had made great progress, and there were benches and tables for passing pilgrims. I introduced myself. He didn´t remember me, but we saved jam jars for him and he gave me a jar of elderberry preserves when I left in 2012. 
Then into the Refugio, with only one person ahead of me, as it was only noon. The gardeners, who come out from England to plant and do maintanence each spring were there, and just leaving to do the same job in Miraz. The herb garden is wonderful. I went to sign in and was greeted by Julie, who is the contact person for the hospitaleras. She is finishing her 2 week stint tomorrow and returning to England tomorrow. We had spoken on the phone, but never met. They now provide cotton pillowcases, made by Alison Raju, and wash the used ones every day. When I was here we gave out disposables.
I settled in, showered and did a big laundry, as they have a spinner, and the clothes dry in the garden in an hour. It was safe to wash the walking pants and both pairs of socks!
I checked out menus at Antonio´s and Gasparo´s, and Gasparo still has a better menu - maybe it is the chocolate mousse that calls me!
I went over to see Isabel at El Pilar albergue. It was quiet, as I think many pilgrims are going on to Foncebadon, which is 6 more steep kms. I think the town is hurting.
But for me it feels like my home away from home. I look forward to vespers with Gregorian chanting, and then dinner, and a wonderful sleep before tackling the mountain tomorrow.

Refugio Gaucelmo in Rabanal

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sleeping arrangements, the alternatives

Day 22, Villavante to Astorga, 21 km

Today was another easy day, and we were checked into the municipal here in Astorga by noon. We did our chores, then went out to soak up the sunshine, and meet up with people we hadn´t seen in a while. We had the best meal yet on the Camino- cauliflower soup with a poached egg in it, and turkey with grilled vegetables, and for dessert, a baked apple!

I thought my blog on albergues might frighten some of you off, so I asked Pat Concessi to do a guest blog on her Camino, and sleeping arrangements. Here it is.

Darlene asked me to write a guest blog about the alternative accomodation, for pilgrims who might be scared off by stories of the albergues. This is based on my experience walking the Camino from St Jean to Finnesterre with my husband Wayne.

We started our Camino from St Jean Pied de Port on April 14, 2013. The first night we stayed in the albergue in Roncesvalles, and it was lovely. The second night we stayed in the municipal albergue in Larrasoana, and it was not so good, with 27 people in the room. The constant snoring let us know we would be happier in our own room, so we continued our Camino staying in Casa Rurals and hotels.

Casa Rurals are the equivalent of bed and breakfasts in North America. They have 3-7 rooms, and the owner/manager lives on the site. We stayed in some very charming rooms. Old buildings with stone walls inside and out provided some excellent soundproofing! We always had our own bathrooms, including a shower. All the bedding is provided, so you could walk without a sleeping bag, but I wouldn´t. Breakfast was normally provided, and was usually tostada with jam and cafe con leche, and sometimes tortilla was offered. Plenty to get our day started! Casa Rurals cost between €35 and € 55, and are priced per room, whereas albergues are priced per bed. So with two of us in the room, the price was reasonable.

The Spanish have a star rating system for their hotels, but we didn´t find much relationship between the number of stars and the quality and cleanliness of the rooms. I think maybe the stars relate to other aspects of the hotel like elevators and conference facilities. Not features that pilgrims care about! Hotel prices range from €45 to over €100 with the main factor being the size of the city. Hotels are more expensive in Santiago, so plan carefully. If your finances permit, you should stay in a Parador at least once. These are historic buildings converted to hotels, and managed by the Spanish government. We also stayed in a couple of lovely converted monasteries.

Neither Wayne nor I speak any Spanish (beyond ordering cafe con leche or bocadillos). Our approach was to talk to the owner/manager in the afternoon, and use our guidebook to show them the town we were walking to the next day, and ask for a recommendation. (Manana, habitation and pasado manana were helpful words). We always took their recommendations. Then we would ask them to call and make a reservation, which they were very willing to do. It is important to specify the time you will arrive, so that they don´t give your room away, thinking that you are not coming (rather than just a late starter and a slow walker). Being able to reserve ahead made a big difference to our Camino.We were able to walk at our own pace and enjoy the day.

How to explain your choice to other pilgrims:
  1. We are supporting the economy of Northern Spain
  2. We both snore, so we stay out of the albergues for your benefit!
  3. Everyone walks their own Camino, and yours is no less valid for staying in a private room.

Enjoy your Camino
Pat Concessi

Thanks Pat for this great information. She included pictures, but this computer won´t let me copy - I had to retype her info, so hope I got it correct.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How to walk 30 km on the Camino

Day 21 Leon to Villavante  30 km

How does a pilgrim walk 30 km with no damage to the body or soul?
Here is how we did it.
Up at 6, breakfast at the convent, (oats in hot milk, coffee with hot milk, and a rice cake with jam), and on the road by 6:45.
A cortado coffee at 4 km (less milk than a ccl)
A coffee con leche at 7 km.
At Villar de Mazariffe, at 20 km,we had lunch: rice and corn cakes with cheese, and orange, and another ccl.
We left there about 1 pm for a 9.5 km walk to a new albergue which is not in the Brierly book, so we knew it would still have space.  We arrived at 3:20. It helped that we talked most of the last 8 km with Guiseppe, a young Italian man with great English. It also helped that we were dressed properly - not too hot, and that Bob had warned us at the second coffee stop that fatigue in the afternoon is either being dressed too warmly, or not drinking enough, so we pushed the water. And I made it, with no injuries, and no fatigue.

So, the recovery:
This is a beautiful albergue, only opened one year, so it is bright and clean and spacious.
The hosts were welcoming, and we ordered our dinner immediately. No worries about where to eat.
Then I laid down on the floor and did ¨legs up the wall¨ for 20 minutes. It helps my body to transition from constant motion to stillness, and reduces the puffiness in my legs.
The shower was spectacular: unlimited hot water, and a skylight in the bathroom.
Laundry by hand, outside in a cement sink, then hang them up in the sunshine.
With all the tasks done, time to check my messages on the internet and post.
So, all the necessities are in place for a succesful 30 km walk.

Bed at 9:30, with a sleep mask so it doesn´t matter when the lights go off.
Up at 6 tomorrow, for an easy 21 km walk into Astorga.
And so it goes for the pilgrim. More wild lavender tomorrow, and some under the pillow tonight.

Monday, May 12, 2014

In Leon

Day 20 Mansilla de la Mulas to Leon 18 km

A very easy day today - we were in Leon, lined up to get into the Madres Benedictinas refuge in the Convento Santa Maria de las Carbajalas by 11. We saw a lot of friends in the line-up, and were very happy to be settled into the segregated (by sex) dorms at noon. After a shower and laundry we headed out to see the town.  It is the forth largest city on the route.
The Cathedral is spectacular, and the stained glass is as magnificent as anything anywhere in Europe, to quote the guidebook. We bought the tour and it was worth it to help us appreciate it´s history.

We had a late lunch, instead of a late dinner, and as we sat on the sidewalk and enjoyed out ensalada mixta, squid in it´s own ink and a bottle of wine, we were joined by Patrice and Brian from Victoria. We had a lovely chat with them while we finished the bottle of wine.
Quite a few people came by that we had met, including Mark, whose pictures I keep sharing on facebook, and Trudy, whom we met on our first evening in Orrison.
It was such a different day for us. The walk was easy, and only took us 4 hours. The weather is lovely for people watching, and it was a treat to encounter so many we had not seen for days.
We wandered around the old city and marvelled at all the Spanish  people out for a stroll. The smaller villages we go though seem so deserted, and we never seem to see any evidence of children, or their schools, but today we saw several groups of school children, visiting the city.
We plan to go to vespers tonight with the sisters, and be up at 6 tomorrow. They offer breakfast, so we will be fueled and on the road to San Martin del Camino by 7 am.