I am delighted to have sent my first newsletter to my small but proud band of readers this morning. This newsletter is sent at the end of each month. I have written it with a personal touch, something that has been lacking in my general posts on the blog. If you wish to receive these emails or if are not a frequent visitor to the blog, you are more than welcome to join my email list below.
At the start of this Covid crisis, I promised myself I would write more. This hasn’t been going to plan exactly. I have tried and I usually have an idea or two to put into a post each week. This week I have nothing. It’s just a shame I wasn’t in Spain this year – you can only talk about memories for so long. Maybe it is down to watching so much news? So much negativity can get you in a bad place. I know this is not what you want to hear in Camino blog but I’m going to be a little more positive.
A friend of mine is walking into Santiago on Monday after walking from Tomar in Portugal. I’m super excited for him but curious as to how he will be greeted in Santiago. Today, just three pilgrims received a compostela and it has been a while since one from Ireland received a compostela.
Next week, restrictions are being eased here in Ireland, so I can walk outside my 5k zone. I can now walk anywhere inside of Dublin and from the 18th of December, I can walk anywhere in Ireland. The walks I can take now! If I am to walk in Portugal in April, I need to start long walks as it has been a while.
December 16th is my birthday and on the day I usually walk from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth Harbour (photo of walk here). It is close to 24 km and mostly flat and all along the coast. I’m going to doing this for charity and any money raised will be going to Epilepsy Ireland. More of this later.
Clearskies Camino Podcast
The podcast is on pause until after Christmas. I have two episodes I need to edit and those will be uploaded in the coming weeks. I will be back then in the new year. I am looking forward to a new refreshed format. I have always said I am doing the podcast for myself and it depends on time constraints. If you have contacted me in the meantime, I will be in contact after Christmas when life (hopefully) gets back to normal.
Happy weekend. Another video from the Portugués Camino. I’m always looking forward to a safe return.
Until then, we can keep dreaming.
I first walked the Camino Francés in 2011 and I have been venturing back and forth each year to walk a section of this great way. Whether it be in La Rioja, Navarra or across the plains of the Meseta, this pilgrim has enjoyed the companionship of other pilgrims, the sights and most importantly, the albergues. This is where you meet other pilgrims, reminisce, and make plans for the days ahead.
Before I left for Spain each year, I would read through dozens of Camino blogs and posts on the Camino forum. There would always be recommendations for a good albergue, and naturally enough, I would make a note in my journal…just in case, I was to stop off at said town or village. However, if I had stayed at an albergue previously in a town, I would tend to stay there again…take for example Cuatro Cantones in Belorado or En El Camino in Boadilla del Camino, but more than likely I would be surprised by a hidden gem. And while some pilgrims love the donativo / municipal albergues, some pilgrims might not like something as basic and prefer paying a little more. And who are we to judge!
So after 9 years walking the Camino Francés, here are some of my favourites..
- Albergue En El Camino – Boadilla del Camino
I discovered Eduardo’s little heaven back in 2012 while browsing one of the many Camino forums. I must admit I didn’t think much of the outside but when I saw the inside…wow! I saw the pool and the brightly designed art and made a note that I would at least drop in for a cafe con leche the following year. The following June, I was walking from Logrono and had met up with four other pilgrims in Belorado. We were walking long days..I suppose were used to it. We walked from Hontanas on this day and I made the suggestion to check out ‘En El Camino’, which is at the back of the village. I suppose we would have chosen another albergue if I hadn’t made the suggestion. Once we entered, we were greeted by Eduardo and he would bring our packs to our bunks without asking for pay. I hadn’t come across this before.
After such a long stage and a very warm day, it is just the albergue I needed to be at. It has everything you need. I felt increasingly at home as the evening went on. It has a great bar and his family work so hard. The communal meal topped it off also. Every time I re-walk the Meseta, I ensure I stop at Eduardo’s place. He has built up such a cult-like status as well, I’m sure pretty well everyone knows him at this stage!
Top tip: After such a long day, buy yourself a drink and enjoy the surroundings. The communal meal is there to get to know other pilgrims. Make sure you take part in it.
2. Albergue parroquial Santa María – Carrion de los Condes
I have to explain myself when some pilgrims are unsure which albergue I mean. This is “the one with the singing nuns”. And while, it has singing nuns, it has so much more. I arrived in Carrion de los Condes for the first time in 2013 a little lost and a little sore. I had lost my Camino family so I was unsure where they were staying. I knew they were ahead of me. I must have been looking around for 20 minutes when I saw Franco – an Italian pilgrim and good friend, waving at me to join the long queue at this albergue. This isn’t even the most popular albergue in this town but pilgrims leave the most fulfulled.
Apart from the singing, the nuns provide a communal meal which you are not required to attend. There is also a blessing in the church next door which is voluntary. In 2013, I was hurting so I was glad to have some food and just rest. The nuns didn’t mind you not attending their ceremonies if you did not wish. I had a greater appreciation for volunteers on the Camino once leaving this albergue.
In 2017 I was back and arrived into Carrion de los Condes on market day. The queue was no more bigger than it was in 2013. In place of nuns, we had volunteers. The nuns were on sabbatical but it didn’t lessen the experience. They encouraged all pilgrims to get involved in preparing the communal meal, in giving the blessing etc. It was a special evening. One of the volunteers found out I was from Ireland and was eager to know more about this great country. He wanted to come walking here in the future so we swapped details. I will be back again if I walk through Carrion.
Top tip: Breakfast is served but you might want to buy some of your own if you want to leave early.
2. Albergue parroquial Casa Rectoral – Bercianos de Real Camino
I don’t know where to begin with this albergue. Do I talk about the building itself, barely standing? Or do I talk about the love and generosity from the volunteers at this smashing albergue? I must admit, I didn’t think much of this (then) run down town – deep in the Meseta-country. When I walked in June 2013, I was coming close to the end of my walk. It was in the high-30s and I was looking forward to reaching León. But I met the volunteers and I knew everything would be ok. This albergue is a classic pilgrim’s hostel, where you receive a traditional welcome from the volunteers. It is a luxury to spend the night here. More than advisable.
Something to be aware of however is the volunteers like pilgrim engagement. After communal dinner, you will be asked to sing a song from your country but do not be afraid. You will be given a lot of notice. The two above are basic albergues, but what they lack in features, they make up in heart. They are donativo albergues, and the volunteers ask for you to pay when you are leaving. It is a common mistake to pay the bare minimum (€5)..I usually pay a little more.
Top tip: Enjoy the sun setting at the end of the evening with the rest of the pilgrims.
4. Albergue de peregrinos Casa del Cubo y de los Lerma – Burgos
Another municipal albergue but not in a small town or village, this time in Burgos. This albergue is massive with over 150 beds but it has all the facilities. It won’t surprise you that some pilgrims take a breather from albergues in the large cities and book a room in a small hotel or pension. Nevertheless, the municipal albergue was always full when I stayed there in 2013, 2015 and in 2018.
Another reason to love this albergue is the location of a bar right across from it’s entrance. It is a great place to meet your fellow pilgrim friends or to have breakfast the next morning. Burgos, being a large city, has got pretty much everything you need. However, I do look forward to start walking once the evening arrives as this particular albergue lacks the intimacy of Bercianos de Real Camino or Carrion del Condes.
Top tip: If you are not feeling well or injured it is possible to stay an extra night, just ask the volunteers.
5. Ágora Hostel – Estella
If your budget can stretch this far for a private albergue, then go for it. Ágora Hostel is in Estella and I stayed there in 2018. You sleep in a capsule style bed with curtain. The owners are Alfonso and Adrienne and they were super helpful and friendly. I arrived way too early from Puente la Reina and they allowed to check in. You get a locker as well for any valuables. This was probably the most comfortable albergue I have stayed in.
There is plenty of space, it is clean and it is simple. Yes, it might be a little expensive at €20 but it is fine for the odd town. I was meeting Linda from SomewhereSlowly.com and it was handy not to have a curfew.
Top tip: Dinner is not served here, but there is plenty of great places in Estella – like Bar Pigor on Calle la Estrella.
- List of All Albergues on the Camino Francés (link to caminodesantiago.me)
- Accommodation I have stayed in on the French Way
- Albergueslot – Municipal albergues available on the French Way during Covid-19
- Happy with this, why not sign up to my mailing list?
I have been very lucky to have an employer who allows me to traipse across Spain or Portugal for two or three weeks at a time. It is not a full Camino, I get that, but I am quite happy to wait for a few more years. However, given the current climate, I am happy to be in this position. In Summer, on learning I was not walking to Santiago this year, I had quite the decision to make with what to do with my annual leave. Do I find a trail in Ireland to walk? Do I visit a long lost cousin? or do I just re-watch all the episodes of Beyond the Way and Don’t stop Walking with vino and tapas?
Well, due to current restrictions, I can’t do A or B (no matter how much I would like to find a long lost cousin), so C is a pretty good start! And there are plenty of opportunities to walk close to me. But most of all, I just want the time to let the mind rest and catch up on a few things I had let slip.
You can now receive monthly updates to your email by signing up to my mailing list. So if you want to keep in touch without visiting the site regularly, that might be a good option for you? An email will be sent at the end of the month.
Clearskies Camino Podcast
I have 11 episodes recorded – the last episode was recorded yesterday. I have no further interviews due to record. Now would be an ideal time to record a podcast or two, now that I am free. If you are in anyway interested in sharing your Camino story, please let me know. I will record a few solo podcasts during this time off but having guests on really adds to it. See below my last episode:
Continuing to give back…
I have renewed my membership with Camino Society Ireland. At present, we cannot meet until it is safe to do so. The Information Centre in Dublin is closed and has been since March. I look forward to return once it opens and when events are planned.
My 2021 Camino is still on track as I plan to walk in Portugal in April. I fly to Lisbon on the 10th of April and leave from Porto two weeks later. Where I take my first step, is one question I will leave closer to the starting date. I had hoped to walk from Porto, along the coast to Santiago, but I’m not sure about walking in Spain. Plan B would be to start in Tomar or Coimbra (my original plan) and walk to the border (Caminha) before turning back to Porto.
I’m sure it will be easier to call closer to the date.
So, how has your weekend been?