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Posts from the ‘essentials’ Category

Planning

Planimagesning your first Camino can be seen as daunting but that is as far from the truth. I remember picking up Brierley’s guide in 2011 and deciding that I wanted to return. If it wasn’t for the reassuring words of my friend Garry from Donostia in Spain, I’m not sure I would have taken those steps. Since then, I have walked 4 sections of the Camino Frances. As a result, I want to give back. In fact, clearskiescamino.com is about giving back and I get a great thrill out of it. I have created a page called Planning above. In it, there are links to some posts I have written. I hope to add to it in the near future myself.

However..I would like you to help me help you. What I would like to do is write a post or give my opinion about a particular aspect or subject that you have a query on. All you have to do is email me on clearskiescamino@gmail.com and I will do my best to help you out.

Traveling to the Camino de Santiago

When you decide where you want to begin your Camino de Santiago, whether it be St Jean Pied de Port or Sarria, the next step is finding out how you get there. This piece will give you information on how to do such a thing. Bear in mind that all information I give is as of September 2015.

For people living in the US, Canada or Australia, the costs for flights can be expensive, up to $1000 at peak times. As we in Ireland, live that bit nearer, there are alot more options and as a result, the price for a flight can be low if you book it in advance. I tend to book my flights around Christmas time if I am walking a May Camino. Prices tend to increase after that.

downloadIf you are travelling from Ireland, both Aer Lingus and Ryanair travel to a number of airports in Spain and France. Aer Lingus travel to Santiago, Bilbao and Madrid while Ryanair serve Biarritz, Madrid, and Santiago. They also serve Santander during the summer months.

StartingPoints

Should you wish to start your Camino from St Jean Pied de Port, the easiest option is to fly into Biarritz with Ryanair. From Biarritz, you must catch a shuttle bus or a taxi from the airport to Bayonne Gare, then get the train to St Jean Pied de Port. There are usually four trains a day taking about 1h20m. The cost for a one-way ticket is about 10€. The shuttle bus leaves the airport regularly. The French Train company TER SCNF provides the rail service to St Jean Pied de Port. It is probably best to leave booking your train tickets until you reach Bayonne in case of delays.

Should your Camino start in Pamplona or Logrono, the best option is to fly into Bilbao with Aer Lingus, From Bilbao Airport, you can catch the incredibly handy Bizkaibus feeder bus to the city’s Termibus. From there, there are many buses travelling to all parts of Spain, Pamplona and Logrono being two. La Union Burundesa travel from Bilbao to both cities in under three hours and I have had no problems with the service. You can also fly into Madrid with Ryanair and catch a train to either city with Spain’s national train service, Renfe. So if you are looking to get there quicker, and enjoy the sights as they zoom by, this may be a better option. Prices for buses tend to be cheaper than trains however.

If you wish to start a little closer to Santiago in either Burgos, Leon or Ponferrada, probably the best bet is flying into Madrid with Ryanair. From Madrid’s Chamartin train station, there are regular trains to all cities. You can also get frequest buses at Madrid;s Avenida de America bus station. ALSA is the national bus company of Spain.

Madrid

And finally for those wishing to start in Sarria, Aer Lingus fly into Santiago airport. From the bus station in the city, Monbus brings passengers to Lugo and from Lugo, you must get a connecting bus to Sarria. As Sarria is the most popular starting point, I find it strange that there is no direct bus there but nevertheless.

There are many buses that serve along the camino and you can find plenty of information in each town’s tourist office. Here are some of the bus services:

              • Conda connects SJPdP and Pamplona
              • La Estellesa connects Pamplona to Logroño, including Puente la Reina
              • Autobus La Union connects Bilbao to Pamplona, Longrono, Belorado and Santo Domingo
              • Autobuses Jiminez connects Logroño to Burgos.
              • ALSA connects Burgos to Santiago via Lugo departing from the camino at Pedrafita do Cebreiro.
              • Pedrafita do Cebreiro is serviced by a daily bus to Sarria via Triacastela.
              • Monbus connects Sarria to Santiago via Monforte de Lemos and connects to Empresa Freire in Lugo.
              • Empresa Portomarin provides service from Portomarin to Sarria and Lugo.
              • Empresa Freire connects Lugo to Santiago via Santiago airport, and provides service to villages along the camino from Palas de Rei to Santiago.
              • ALSA (In particular Madrid and Barcelona to Pamplona, San Sebastian, Burgos and others. Pamplona to SJPdP (international). Good coverage over most of the Camino Frances)
              • Bilman Bus (Cantabria, La Rioja, Navarra, Valencia, Murcia)

I hope this information proves useful to you, but please feel free to comment if you have any questions.

Is Spanish needed on the Camino de Santiago?

Hola y un saludo a todos!!

1

I have been asked a number of times by people who wish to walk the Camino if they need to learn or understand the Spanish language beforehand. Hopefully, this post will lend a hand. On my first trip in 2011, the only knowledge of the language I had was from back in secondary school. I could barely say hello and goodbye, let alone ask for the time or ask for directions. So when I was in Spain, I felt I was missing out on something. One of the guys I was walking with was a language teacher and I was reliant on her when I was out and about. So when I came back from that Camino, I promised myself I would start to learn the language.

Now compared to any other language, Spanish is relatively easy. It is one of the most widely spoken languages also; most of South America speak it and you will almost certainly find someone in the States who knows a word or two. I wanted to learn it for the Camino however, not to travel to those countries. That said, you can get by without knowing a word. The Camino is like a microcosm of the world in general. People from all countries do their best to communicate in their own languages, and it’s often difficult to understand each other. Most people choose to speak in “simple English” and if you are walking for 30 days, you “could” return home with your friends and family finding it hard to understand you!!

So at the start of 2012, I signed up to do an evening course in basic Spanish. It is one option available to you should you wish to delve in. I got to learn the simple stuff, without learning grammar, verbs or getting into conversations. I was fairly happy at the end of the ten weeks so I signed up for the conversational level Spanish. Now I found this a little tougher. The whole premise of this course was to immerse you in the language. No English was allowed and we were kind of made to make mistakes in Spanish no matter how bad they were. It was tough going but I came out with alot more knowledge than I had.

Fast forward to now…I can understand a Spanish conversation and can speak but at a slow enough speed. I am delighted I made the decision to learn. It is sad that most people in Ireland only speak one language, but if you go to Spain, they speak three or Holland, they speak four.

There are plenty of resources out there available to you should you wish to learn from scratch and here are just a few:

  1. Duolingo.com – You can sign up for free and learn from scratch. The userface is very attractive and there are great incentives that make you come back each day. I’m currently topping up my Spanish there, whilst re-learning Irish.
  2. Lightspeed Spanish – Another fabulous website that offers tutorials for all levels, from absolute beginners to advanced speakers. Gordon and Cynthia provide podcasts and YouTube videos and last year published a book which I have bought “Victor’s Adventures in Spain”.
  3. Coffee Break Spanish – Another site that provides podcasts. I found this very helpful but don’t let their Scottish accents put you off 🙂
  4. Mi Vida Loca – Not so much geared to those walking the Camino but a great place to start out if you want to learn Spanish. “My crazy life” is an online drama that includes you. It is fully interactive and gives you great vocabulary. I still go back to it to refresh.
  5. Camino Lingo – I don’t own this book, but it has been recommended on the Camino Forum. A basic, all-you-need book providing vocabulary to use while on the Camino.

There are also many many websites that send you daily emails with vocab and phrases. They certainly help.

But with regards to the Camino, Spanish is not essential but it helps to know the basics. I certainly get a great thrill speaking to locals and I try my best to speak as much of the language as I can. It is worth pointing out, that if you are interested in volunteering as a hospitalero, you need to have a good level of Spanish. Maybe, in my 60s I will reach that level 🙂

Buen Camino, peregrinos y buena suerte!