This second installment of the “Towns Along the Way” series brings us to “B”. There are a wealth of towns starting with “B” so I might as well start by talking about them. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has stayed in any of the below towns. What have your experiences been? Good, bad, indifferent?
One of the first villages you will arrive at on leaving Sarria. In fact, it is 3 km from Sarria. It is situated in the province of Lugo and with a population of less than 50, you know you are in Galicia as most of the surrounding area is green. I last passed through here in 2011 and can vividly remember the large oak tree. The village has a number of albergues (www.gronze.com) which you may choose instead of the “mayhem” of Sarria. I hope to visit these parts again in the near future so my memory is refreshed.
Aha..now I could go on for quite a while about this particular town. It is in one of my favourite parts of the Spain, La Rioja. Why you may ask? Well, each time I have stayed here or passed through I have been treated exceptionally well. The town itself is located 50km to the west of Burgos and has a population of over 2,000 people. It is also situated close to the Oca Mountains and if the weather is poor, it is not uncommon to see some people take the bus direct to Burgos. Belorado is a well kept town known for its murals. There is a large town plaza, a market and plenty of places to eat. If you look at the ground you will see a hand print and autograph of a number of celebrities, including Martin Sheen. There are plenty of accommodation here also (www.gronze.com). Cuatro Cantones stands out, having stayed there in 2013, 2014 and 2018. Jana and her family will take good care of you. I have also stayed in Casa Waslala in 2015 and would recommend it here if you are starting your Camino from Belorado.
Bercianos del Real Camino (map)
Another example of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town along the Camino. Bercianos is a small town about 10km west of Sahagun and it has a population of roughly 200 people. While it is small, it has great character and I have enjoyed my time here. The terrain in this part of Spain is pretty basic, it has to be said, but my time here, I will always remember. If you do opt to stay here, ensure you stay in the Parochial albergue run by a voluntary order (www.gronze.com). It is large, you will be fed well and all you need to do is sing a song from your own country. Rest assured that Bono will never feel threatened after my singing of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking for”!!.
Biduedo, or O Viduedo as Galicians call it, is a tiny village about 7kms from Triacastela. It is a typical rural community with close to 30 people living there. It does it’s best to serve the peregrinos passing through by having a number of private albergues (www.gronze.com) and there are a number of bars to stop at for a few minutes to rest the weary legs. One might find this town the perfect place to stay during the busy times of the Summer months.
Boadilla del Camino (map)
Another pilgrim’s favourite and an end stage in Brierley’s guide book. Some pilgrims choose Fromista however I have always ended my day in Boadilla del Camino. And this is down to the albergue – En el Camino! It’s a favourite of mine and I have stayed here the three times I walked the meseta. Boadilla is situated about 60 km to the west of Burgos and is in the meseta plain, Spain’s high central plateau. The town has a population of about 175 people and lives mainly on agriculture. However in recent years, it depends more on the Camino with more albergues and bars opening to support the increasing numbers. There are quite a few albergues and hostals here (www.gronze.com). “En El Camino” is owned by Eduardo and his family. The garden alone was enough to tempt me to stay first of all, back in 2013. Here, you are provided with dinner and snacks and breakfast the following morning. On leaving the next morning, you may even spot some fishermen look for the first catch of the day along the Canal de Castilla.
You will encounter Boente as you walk from Palas de Rei to Arzua in Galicia. It is another small town with a population of less than 50 people and is fairly close to Arzua. It is highly likely that you will not remember much about Boente by the time you reach Santiago. This is perfectly natural however, as at this stage you will have 50 km left to walk and you will be trying to think of ways of how to slow time down! Should you wish to stay here and not in Arzua, there are a number of albergues (www.gronze.com).
Quite possibly my favourite city on the Camino Frances. Burgos is one of the largest cities that you will encounter before reaching Santiago. It has a population of over 200,000 people and is in the autonomous community of Castille y Leon. It is a fairly large city and there is a good distance to walk before you at it’s heart – the Cathedral. The Cathedral was declared a world heritage site in 1984 by UNESCO and I strongly encourage you to visit it no matter how weary the feet are! Many people choose to take a rest day on reaching Burgos to visit the sites and recover and that is what I did in 2018. There is a wealth of accommodation as you would expect in a major city (www.gronze.com) however I have stayed in the cheap-as-pie municipal albergue beside the Cathedral. For €5 you can’t go wrong. Leaving Burgos brings you to the meseta, which kind of puts people off walking the next 100 km. I am baffled by this myself. The meseta has always been my favourite slice.
El Burgo Ranero (map)
Situated some 8 km from Bercianos de Real Camino and 18 km from Sahagun, El Burgo Ranero is a small town located in the province of Leon. It holds a population of over 850 people and the Camino goes straight down it’s main road. I have stopped here on two occasions for a quick cafe con leche, preferring to stay in Bercianos and Sahagun however I did stop here in 2017 and stay in in the municipal albergue. There are a number of albergues here should you wish to stay (www.gronze.com). On leaving El Burgo Ranero, the path is on the whole uninspiring until you reach the large city of Leon, some 35 km away. In May of 2015, I met two Irish ladies here who spoke in Irish. It was a shame I couldn’t join them in their conversation however!
From the end of the meseta, we travel back 400km eastward to the town of Burguete. It is located in Navarre and is the first town you will encounter on leaving Roncesvalles. Many people call it by it’s proper Basque name “Auritz”. Ernest Hemingway lodged in Burguete in 1924 and 1925 for a fishing trip to the Irati River, and describes it in his novel The Sun Also Rises.
The town has a number of albergues (www.gronze.com) but many people choose to stop here for breakfast before moving on to Zubiri or Larrasoana. It is one of the more picturesque towns along the Way, with white facades and red window shutters a feature for many Basque houses.
Join me soon for the next installment featuring towns beginning with the letter “C”.