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Walking The Camino de Santiago

Discussion in 'Spain & Portugal' started by Kathy (Trekcapri), Mar 26, 2016.

  1. I booked my tickets (flying into Paris and out of Barcelona) for Spain. On September 21, 2016, starting in the small French town of Saint Jean Pied de Port, I plan to walk 500 miles through four of Spain’s 15 regions to Santiago de Compostela. The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage that people from all walks of life and from all around the world have been making for more than a thousand years. The reason for people doing the Camino varies from spiritual/religious to self discovery and/or to have an adventure. There are several different routes, but I will be taking the more popular Camino Frances route made famous by the movie, “The Way” (love this movie), which stars Martin Sheen and was produced by his actor/director son, Emilio Estevez.

    I have been planning this trip for nearly 3 years and I am so happy that I am finally doing it. This is an interesting trip to plan because on one hand it is the kind of trip where one is encouraged to do little to no planning. Go with the flow, move with the wind and see where it takes you kind of thinking. But I like having a plan and knowing where I’ll be sleeping, what I’ll be doing and how I’ll be getting there (I think this will be a Camino lesson to let go). This trip scares and excites me at the same time. But since I am officially retiring after 32 years working with the City of Los Angeles, in July and for the first time in my adult life, I can live my life without deadlines or schedules. So in a sense this trip comes at the most perfect time in my life. Take a trip, go on an adventure and have absolutely no restrictions, no deadlines (other than I have to return after 3 months ;) ).

    I will spend 3 wonderful months in Spain (but I can also travel outside of Spain as well, if that’s where the wind takes me). After my Camino, I plan on making my way back (by plane or train this time) to Barcelona (my fly out City). Inspired by one of my favorite travelers, Shannon, I want to spend some time in this part of Spain. Heck, I may even take a tourist rest day and go to this festival (off the Camino trail) that Shannon mentioned to me.

    I wanted to post here, first to see if there is anyone who has walked the Camino de Santiago (and/or who plan on it)? And if so, any sound advice like the best towns for rest days along the Camino Frances? Any recommendations for towns to visit near and or around Barcelona that I can base myself in for a few days here and a few days there. How about possible apartment locations in either Barcelona and/or surrounding towns? Should I take a cheap flight to a nearby country for a few days? I’m traveling light, so I can hop on one of the low fare airlines to let’s say Budapest, Slovenia, Poland…..Or I can just concentrate myself in Spain (not that hard to do because I love Spain). It might take me 6 weeks to do the Camino, leaving me about 6 weeks to travel by backpack (another bucket list dream to fulfill).

    I fly into Paris and will need a hotel maybe a little close to the Montparnasse train station. Any recommendations? Any thoughts on what to do with one night in Paris. I was thinking about watching the sunset on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, then maybe dinner in the Latin Quarter. It’ll have to be an early night due to the long travel day the next morning.

    Ideal way to get from Paris to SJPDP? I’m thinking of using the SNCF site to book a train ticket from Paris – Bayonne – SJPDP It’s a long train day but it would get me to town at about 1900 hours. Any thoughts? In this travel day, do you think I’d have time to stop in the town of Lourdes? I’m thinking probably not, but thought I would ask.

    I’ve been studying the Stages of the Camino Frances Route and I have a a general snapshot of the towns that I’ll be passing through based upon my guidebooks (Pamplona, Puente La Reina, Los Arcos, Logrono, Najera, Burgos, Leon, ….etc.). Are there any towns along this route that maybe I should definitely plan a rest day to explore a bit more before moving on?

    I have read so many books and I will share more on my reading list recommendations. I do have a google map that maybe if I know how I can embed here. There is a lot of information out there. I’ll stay in my first Refugio in Orisson for the first stage and have already booked my “bed”. But I have also booked a room at Roncesvalles Hotel because I’m afraid I may take too long on the Pyrenees and wanted to be certain I’ll have a bed. After that, I’ll have to wing it. I’m a slow walker so I may try to book ahead as I go along. I know not very pilgrim like of me but I would feel better to know that I’ll have a bed. Any hostels, hotels, casa rural along the Camino Frances Route recommendations would also be appreciated.

    Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to sharing what I’m learning and will post more about my trip. I am so excited for this trip and can't wait to share my Camino experience and any lessons learned.
    katie_xie, artnbarb and Pauline like this.
  2. Pauline

    Pauline Forums Admin

    Dorset, UK
    This is an amazing thing to do! I know you have been planning it for a few years and I think it was worth waiting until after you retired, so you have the time you need.

    I think once you start walking, you will figure out your pace and be able to book ahead each day. We have not done anything like this, but we have done a lot of walking and have walked the 100 mile Cotswold Way twice. The first time we did it, we did shorter walking days and I really enjoyed that. The second time we did longer walking days and I was very tired out after each day. Maybe if we had been spending the night along the trail and walking every day I would have broke through my limitations. Or maybe I am suited to five hours of walking each day.

    I can't express how much I like walking. Even though I always walk with Steve, much of the time we walk in silence. I like the time to think, the rhythm of walking, the good exercise you get doing the climbs, the feel of the sun and wind. I also like meeting and talking to other walkers. It is like we are all part of the same club - we have a lot in common and usually exchange information on the route and other walks.

    It might be difficult after doing such a walk to hop on a plane and visit another country. Maybe you should plan for a week or two in one place after the walk, so you can process the whole experience (and have a very long bath).

    I am having problems with Google Maps on the forums because Google keeps changing its URLs. If you post the link to your map it might display the map, and if it doesn't they I can edit your post and see if I can get it to display. I would love to see the map. And your list of books for research.
    Kathy (Trekcapri) and artnbarb like this.
  3. artnbarb

    artnbarb 500+ Posts

    I too love to walk, and would love to do this trek. I don't know that it will ever happen for me, but I wish you the best and hope you will update us once you're back home. I'd love to know how no-planning versus plan-ahead worked out for you, how your thoughts changed along the way, and whether it was all you thought it would be. (I'm betting yes, but possibly in ways you didn't expect!) Safe travels!
    Kathy (Trekcapri) likes this.
  4. Hi Pauline, I'm becoming a big fan of walking too and I think I will have lots of time for life reflections and more. I think the Camino life will provide that community/club feeling of shared interest and expereinces. I think you are right. I will probably decide on staying put in Spain and take the time to process and take that very long private bath. :)

    I will add the link to my map. If it doesn't embed, I think having the link would be cool. I'm working on adding interesting "must sees" in some of the towns I'll be passing on the map so I can share the information. I'll work on my reading list and will post the books here with my rating. I do have my favorites. Thanks so much Pauline.
    Pauline likes this.
  5. Hi Barb, thanks so much for your comments and best wishes. I would love to share my experiences with you and the Slow Europe commmunity. I'm interested to know how the no planning versus plan ahead will work out too. I think the idea of taking one step at a time and not knowing what is ahead will be my biggest challenge. That and bunk beds. But I also think it will be a humbling experience for me and I'm so looking forward to opening myself up to all the lessons to be learned and to meeting the people along the way. I so agree with you. I think there will be many things things that will happen that I didn't expect and I'm looking forward to discovering what they will be. Thanks so much for your best wishes. I will definitely be posting live here as I make my way across Northern Spain.
    Pauline and artnbarb like this.
  6. Kathy, I think it's wonderful you're getting ready to do this, and I will be following along! I think your timing, beginning in late September, is ideal, though I wonder what the weather will be like near the end. What are you figuring... about a month?

    To book your train tickets for France, use www.capitainetrain.com. This is a very easy site to use (much easier than SNCF) and you'll get the same exact fares as SNCF.

    We've done nine long-distance walks in Europe. The longest was almost 200 miles, the Coast to Coast walk in England, which we've done twice. I've been dreaming of walking the Camino for several years... have bought several books and guidebooks. Our thought has been to walk a less popular route, the Arles route, and actually start in our little village of Bonnieux in Provence. (It would be about a week's walk to Arles, and there's actually a Camino marked trail coming through the Luberon that meets up with the Camino Arles.)

    I know I would like the walking part and the interaction with other walkers. I also like the idea of it being a pilgrimage, recognizing that can be very different for each person. I don't like the idea of sleeping in big dorm rooms filled with other people... but who know? (As you say, perhaps that's part of the learning experience.) I guess I would want to have some reservations made in advance and occasionally to splurge for a private room and shower.

    On one of our walks in France a few years ago, we met quite a few French people who had walked the Camino. They said that in the warmer months, the Camino was really crowded. People were getting up at 4:00 in the morning to start walking so they could get a room at the next hostel. They said that if you left at a normal time, you might not get a bed and would have to sleep outdoors or walk several miles onto the next place. (I wouldn't like that.) But I suspect you'll miss some of that starting near the end of September.

    The main reason we haven't pursued this is that we really want to put priority on our tour business for now. We're only allowed to be in Europe a certain number of days (9o out of 180 days), and our first priority would be to use that time in the warmer months for our tours. One idea I have is to start walking it in stages vs. doing it all at one time, perhaps in two week increments, maybe at a time of year like March or October. I just hope that when we have the time to do this walk that we're still physically able.

  7. artnbarb

    artnbarb 500+ Posts

    That's the tricky part, isn't it?!
    Kathy (Trekcapri) likes this.
  8. Hi Kathy, thanks so much for your comments. Yes, I think late September is the best time for me. Not too hot and for someone who suffers from allergies and asthma, Spring was not an option. Thanks for the link to get my train tickets. I will give them a try. I think I’m leaning toward taking the train from Paris to Bayonne to SJPDP. After some research, I have booked a hotel near the Montparnasse train station in Paris called the Tim Hotel . It's only for one night, so I'm sure it will be okay. I’m bringing my travel phone so I hope to book ahead when possible, since I’m a slow walker.

    Although I’ve done some hikes (some long day long hikes), this will be the first long distance walk. I’m not sure how my body will hold up which is why I hope to do shorter legs and with some rest days in between. I think I will love the local culture, the beautiful landscape and meeting other pilgrims and the locals along the way. And for Pauline, I know I’ll get to photograph a few Camino cows, sheep, cats and dogs along the way. I’m hoping the crowds won’t be too bad late September/October. I’m trying to aim for a 6 week Camino (as I would like to go all the way to Finistere). Hopefully, I’ll avoid any snow in Galacia toward the end. But we’ll see.

    I’ve read of other routes in France and have seen photos. I think the Arles route would be a beautiful Camino route to walk and how wonderful that the Arles route starts in your little village in Bonnieux.

    The minimum that one needs to walk is 100 miles (starting in Sarria) to receive the Compostela and so 3 years ago I planned to start in Astorga to do part of the Camino. I, too, wanted to do it sooner than later because of the same reasons. But life happened and plans had to change and I had to put it off. It’s funny how timing is everything and maybe 3 years ago wasn’t the right time for me. Of course, back then I was still very disappointed and felt like I was never going to fulfill my dreams. But now, 3 years later here I am and it feels like a much better time for me to do my Camino. I think doing it in stages is a great plan. In many of the books I’ve read, a lot of people do their Camino in stages spanning several years. There is a saying that I've read in many of the books and that is that "everyone must walk their own Camino" and that there is no one way to do it.

    I’m with you about the dorms. I suppose that is part of the Camino experience, but I’m still going to try to get a private room every now and then just so I can get some sleep. :D
    artnbarb likes this.
  9. Pauline and artnbarb like this.
  10. I wanted to also share my Google Reads . I'm surprised that I have 43 books. I haven't read all of them yet, but for those that I have, I've rated them (they are in my Camino de Santiago Shelf). I think I've mentioned this on a previouos thread, but my favorites (all 5 star ratings) so far has been"

    Interesting Reads:
    I'm Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago byHape Kerkeling
    Grandma's on the Camino: Reflections on a 48- Day Walking Pilgrimage to Santiago by Mary O'Hara Wyman
    Sunrises to Santigago: Searching for Purpose on the Camino de Santiago by Gabriel Shirm
    Behind the Albergue Door: Inspiration Agony Adventure on the Camino de Santiago by Dean Johnston
    Women of the Way: Embracing the Camino by Jane V. Blanchard

    I'm currently listening to the audio book "The Pilgrimage" by Paul Coelho

    Guidebooks & Pratical Tip Reads:
    And lastly, I just found out that one of my favorite guide book has finally come out (03/31/16) with a Kindle version (which I bought on Amazon). I can now leave the hard copy at home to try to keep my backpack weight down. The book is called "A Village to Village Guide to Hiking the Camino de Santiago" by Anna Dintaman. The other famous guide book is A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago by John Brierley and the newest 13th Edition, published in 2016 recently came out as well (Hard Copy). This version is much lighter and smaller than the previous version that I already had. The maps and information has been updated. I was going to take both guide books but now that the Village to Village Guide has a kindle version I'll only need to take one guide book. If this book came in a Kindle Version too, I'd leave this hard copy book at home as well. It is not available in a Kindle version.

    I also like the "Practical Tips for Walking "The Way," The Camino de Santiago de Compostela by Elinor LeBaron and "Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago: What you need to know beforehand, what you need to take, and what you can leave at home" by S. Yates.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
    Pauline and artnbarb like this.
  11. Hi, I'm having lots of fun planning my Camino as well as Post Camino trip. While exploring nearby towns from Barcelona to visit, I stumbled upon a small Country in the Eastern Pyrenees called Andorra. HERE's a video I found interesting about Andorra. I'm wondering if anyone has heard of this country? I have never heard of this place before in any of my past trip planning research. I just may be crazy enough to attempt a visit.
  12. veronicafrance

    veronicafrance 10+ Posts

    Andorra's tourist tag line is "A country made for shopping". That's almost all you need to know about it. It's a tax haven, so its function is to provide cheap booze, cigarettes, and electrical goods to hordes of visitors from France and Spain. Apart from skiing, that's pretty much the only reason anyone goes there. So would I recommend it? No :)
  13. Hi Veronica, thanks so much for your comments and feedback. I'm not a big shopper and haven't skiied in years so I think Andorra is not the place for me.

    In my ongoing research I learned of a small fishing village called Cadaques nearer to Barcelona to explore and have some post camino relax time. Apparently artists such as Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso has spent time here. I also learned of the Monsterrat Monastery. There is a TOT Monsterrat Combo Ticket which I can buy at the Plaza Espanya station. I may have up to 6 weeks (more or less depending on how my camino will take) to play around with. I love history, music, sunsets, landscapes, the ocean and a nice view from a cafe sipping a glass of delicious wine.

    I've edited my google map with these changes. I'm so thankful for everyone's comments.
  14. veronicafrance

    veronicafrance 10+ Posts

    The Costa Brava is just lovely. Not just Cadaques, but all the villages are delightful, and shouldn't be crowded when you are there. So you could certainly plan to spend time there relaxing; even in October/November the weather is mild. Montserrat is a bit of a Marmite thing -- I dislike it, but obviously a lot of people disagree with me as it's one of Catalunya's most popular tourist sites.
    Kathy (Trekcapri) likes this.
  15. Chris

    Chris 100+ Posts

    When I was in Catalonia with Shannon we drove to Montserrat in the late afternoon, just as the tourists were departing, in time for Vespers so we could hear the boys' choir, then we had dinner and spent the night in the very basic hotel. We were up and outdoors for the sunrise, which was spectacular, and we were in the car and on our way out just as the hordes were starting to arrive. It was a wonderful experience that I know I would have hated if I had been there during the day with the mobs.

    Shannon really knows how to plan these things!

    This photo was taken just after sunrise.

    Kathy (Trekcapri) likes this.
  16. Hi Veronica

    Thank you so much. From your comments and gtp, what I'm finding in my research, I'm learning that Costa Brava has a lot of wonderful places to see and experience. Thanks you for your feed back on Monsterrat and Cadaques...I saw photos of the harbor and sunsets in Cadaques and immediately wanted to hop on the plane. I'm looking forward to some nice relax time in Costa Brava. Nice to know that the weather will be mild too.
  17. HI Chris,

    Wow, what a gorgeous photo. Thanks so much for your comments. I remember reading about the boys choir and I think it would be cool to hear them. And then I saw your sunrise photo and now I want to stay the night so I can catch a sunset and also a sunrise. Yes, Shannon is awesome. If I wasn't still on the Camino making my way to Santiago, I would have loved to have taken her tour.

    It's so nice to have 6 weeks to play with as it gives me the time to see a lot of diverse places and to also enjoy having some wonderful relax time in these places too. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful photo.
  18. jonathan

    jonathan 100+ Posts

    Cadaqués has a strong Dali connection: he had a house in the next door village, and there's now a Dali museum there. I've already told my Cadaqués/name-dropping story over on ST a few years ago, but I thought I'd share it here, too: childhood memories of famous men!

    I've only been to Cadaqués once - it must have been some time in the mid 1960s, staying at the posh hotel (I forget its name) with my parents. We were there for a week or so: on at least a couple of nights, we saw Dali dining (by himself) on the far side of the dining room. One other night, during dinner, my mother froze, and whispered 'that voice - it's James Mason'. We turned around, discreetly, I hope - and there he was, a few tables away. (A quick google has just told me that he was filming there in 1964, which fits nicely)

    Hmmm, nobody takes me to hotels like that any more...
  19. Hi Jonathan, wonderful childhood story. Thanks so much for sharing it here on SlowEurope too. I love these fond travel memories stories.

    I read about about the Dali museum and I would like to see it during my visit to Cadaqués. I can see why it has been & maybe still is a great filming location. It's looks like a beautiful fishing village.
  20. ellen

    ellen 10+ Posts

    I'm just green with envy. I've been planning my own Camino for about three years and was up to 10 mile training walks three or four times a week, hoping to be in shape for a spring 2016 trek. Unfortunately life got in the way for me as well, providing full time care for my mother. A nursing home for four months simply would not work for us so I have to postpone my Camino and live vicariously through others for the foreseeable future.

    Kathy, are you going alone? Everything I've read encourages this from a spiritual standpoint but I'm a little uncomfortable about being out there all by myself. How are you dealing with that?

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