I have mentioned before that I edit a digital magazine for Camino Society Ireland, Shamrocks and Shells. It gives me great joy giving back to the Camino and it keeps me out trouble! It is published every quarter and the whole aim is to showcase the Society’s events throughout that quarter. We also look to publish pilgrim experiences, book and film reviews and practical information. Anything that a future pilgrim might find useful.
At present, we have the start of growing list of pilgrim stories dating back to 2018 but we are always looking for more. Every pilgrim has a story to tell, no matter where you have walked. If you do plan on writing, your submission will not be published on this blog but on Shamrocks and Shells. If interested, you might send me an email here. Looking forward to hearing from you and Buen Camino!
This post will be slightly longer than the previous ones as I try to cram the towns beginning with “M” together into one post. Hopefully, the information provided will be of use to you. There are 9 in total from the province of Navarra right through to Galicia. Again, if you have stayed in any of the below towns, please comment and let me know of your experiences!
I had to search for my guidebook before I could write about this town. It is not one that springs to mind. Mañeru is a small village located between Puente la Reina and Ciraquai in the province of Navarra and you would be forgiven if you had forgotten about it. It has a population of just over 400 people. It is a Basque-speaking zone and on reaching this town, you will have 100 km walking completed from St Jean Pied de Port. I have not stayed here however, there is an albergue here if you did wish to stay the night (Gronze). On two occasions, I chose to stay in the larger Puente la Reina, one town previous, when I walked through Navarra in September 2014 and again in 2018.
Manjarín is a very unique place. It is mostly desolate and is situated between the Cruz de Ferro and El Acebo, high up in the Leon Mountains. At present, one of a few permanent inhabitants is Tomás, and according to him, he is one of the last Templar knights. In the mid-twentieth century, like many other mountain villages in Spain, Manjarín remained abandoned until 1993 when Tomás, mentioned above, took on the work of many other hospitaleros along the Camino de Santiago. He currently serves pilgrims during the whole year, even during winter, feeding and providing them a place to stay for the night. I would consider saying hello to him when you pass his refugio, even if you don’t plan on staying there.
After a good amount of road walking, arriving into Mansilla de las Mulas is something to look forward to. Having walked through Castilla y Leon on two occasions, I have stayed here once and loved it. Mansilla de las Mulas is a town in the province of Leon. It has a population of about 2000 inhabitants. The town lies on the River Esla and you will notice that on leaving the town. Mansilla is a walled town, just like Leon further on, and it is difficult not to notice these ruins on walking through the town. On arriving in Mansilla, you will see the monument of three worn-out pilgrims taking a rest. I took a rest with them in this picture..I’d say quite a few others did too. There is a wealth of albergues and pensions to choose from in Mansilla (Gronze). I found the Municipal albergue to be perfect. On leaving Mansilla, you are 19km away from Leon.
Melide is quite a large town in the province of A Coruna in Galicia. It has a population of 9,000 people and is one of the largest towns in Galicia. On reaching Melide, you will have 50km or 2-3 days left to reach Santiago. The history of this village is deeply linked with the pilgrimage to Santiago. Also during the last few centuries, like many villages in inner Galicia, it has suffered from a vast emigration. My only encounter with Melide was in 2011 when I walked from Sarria to Santiago. I stayed in the relatively plush surroundings of Hotel Carlos and had my pack transported for me. I walk a different kind of Camino nowadays, so Melide may shine a different light on me when I pass her next. For starters..there is so much history here (church of San Pedro and the cruciero of Melide – pictured). Melide is also famous for it’s pulpo, available at Casa Ezequiel. There are a vast array of albergues, pensions and hotels in Melide (Gronze).
Did you know that when you reach the 100 km marker on the Camino, you don’t actually have 100 km to walk? The true 100 km distance point is at a little Galician town called Mercadoiro. For such a tiny town, it has a well-recommended albergue (Gronze) that can act as an alternative to the more popular town of Portomarin.
Ah..Molinaseca, one of my favourite towns. After a rough 6-8 hours walk up and over the Leon Mountains, Molinaseca is a small oasis. At the entrance, you will see the shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows. The medieval pilgrims bridge, which has been recently restored, crosses the River Meruelo and you are then left at the start of Calle Real. The buildings in Molinaseca are typical of those in the El Bierzo region of Leon. It has a population of just under 800 people. I have stayed in this town twice, preferring it to Ponferrada, 8 kms further on. It is not rare to see pilgrims lying down by the river and soaking up the atmosphere. Some may even take a swim. I would gladly stay there again. I have only good memories of walking from Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca and staying there. There are many albergues and hostels in Molinaseca (Gronze) also. The main albergues are located on the main road as you leave the town, Albergue Santamarina being well recommended. Now, you have 220 km until Santiago – not long to go!
Moratinos is a small town in the province of Palencia. It has a population of just under 100 people and is situated in the meseta, just between Terradillos de los Templarios and Sahagun. When you enter the town, you will be greeted by a number of “bodegas”, or wine cellars, dug into a hill. There are a number of albergues and pensions here also (Gronze). I haven’t stayed here myself, but I would recommend Albergue Hospital San Bruno as they serve an amazing breakfast!
Another town that you can walk through very quickly. I walked through Morgade back in June 2011 and have yet to pass through it again. In a few years I will. How and ever, Morgade is situated in Galicia between Sarria and Portomarin. It is very typical of hamlets along the Camino in Galicia. This part of Spain is covered in green, just like here in Ireland. You are walking through farmland, in essence. It tends to rain a lot, so be prepared for inclement weather. I remember stopping here briefly in Casa Morgade for a cafe con leche and a sello. It was so welcome at the time as the walk from Sarria to Barbedelo is tough but worthwhile. If you are starting out your Camino in Sarria, it’s probably a little too early to stop for the day, but you should consider if your Camino starts earlier.
Murias is situated just under 5 kms after Astorga in the province of Leon. It is a beautiful village with it’s building constructed in the style of the La Maragatería. The parish church of San Esteban dates back to the eighteenth century. Just over 100 people live here. I have passed through this village on two occasions – 2012 and 2015. The problem with staying in Astorga and starting out early (like I do!) is that nothing is open when I pass through it. Murias was home to one of the most talked about cafes on the Camino Frances – Meson El Llar. Run by Pilar, El Llar is unfortunately closed but was very popular with pilgrims. There are a number of albergues and hostals here to consider also (Gronze).
Yet another small town with just over 200 people living there. It is situated between Castrojeriz and Boadilla del Camino in Palencia and is the first town you will encounter after climbing the rugged Alto de Mostalares. You are on the Meseta plain now. Your feet will thank you if you stop here for a rest. I have passed through this town on a number of occasions and stopped for a bite to eat before stopping in Boadilla del Camino for the night. The town has plenty of albergues (Gronze) and all in all, from my time passing through, it looks like a pleasant place. In 2013, before entering the village, I was greeted by a BBC filming crew who were recording a series about Pilgrimages across the world. While I was asked a number of questions, there were no cameras used. Shame….I could have been famous! 🙂
The last town in Leon you will pass and the last town before arriving at O Cebreiro. Laguna de Castilla or La Laguna is home to just over 30 people and is pretty rural. There is also a great albergue there – La Escuela (Gronze). This albergue is probably overlooked as most people want to reach the top of the hill and O Cebreiro.
While technically not on the Camino itself, it is listed as an end-stage town in Brierley’s guidebook, causing a bit of confusion. To access Larrasoaña, you cross a gothic bridge aptly named “Puente de los Bandidos“.
It is situated in Navarra between Zubiri and Pamplona and is home to over 130 people. The town has plenty of albergues (Gronze) and many people walk from Roncesvalles and stay the night there. I chose to stay in Zubiri a few kilometres before, in September 2014. The Dutch volunteers in Roncesvalles placed a notice in the albergue that bed bugs were found in the main municipal in Larrasoaña, causing a little bit of panic. However, when I reached Larrasoaña a number of days later, it was discovered that they were in the middle of their fiesta. I didn’t cross the bridge to enter the town that day, but chose to walk on.
When you reach Lavacolla, you will know that you don’t have far to go to Santiago. Home to just under 200 people, it is also home to Santiago airport. Watch out for the planes flying overhead as you pass through this suburb. It is in fact 10km away from the cathedral. Should you wish to stay here, there are a number of hostales (Gronze) although personally, I would be eager to reach my destination! Lavacolla is also where medieval pilgrims used to wash before arriving at Santiago.
Another town within a stone’s throw of Santiago, 60km in fact. It is located between Palas de Rei and Melide and has a population of just over 60 people. There are no listed albergues or hostales in this hamlet so Melide is the next town, 5km further on, should you wish to find somewhere to stay.
Further back on the Camino, Lédigos is located between Carrion de los Condes and Terradillos de los Templarios. It is in Palencia and is home to barely 6o people. It is so small that you can pass through it within minutes.
In 2013, I walked through it, but in May 2015, I stayed in El Palomar albergue. At that time, there was one albergue but now there are two (Gronze). Lédigos is very much a rustic town so if you are looking to stay somewhere that is not an albergue, then Terradillos would be the place.
Back in Galicia, Lestedo is situated just outside Palas de Rei. You will have just over 70 kms to walk when you reach here. It is home to just under 50 people and has a few albergues to choose from (Gronze). My tip – keep walking to Palas de Rei as you will have a greater selection of facilities there.
Ligonde is another hamlet in Galicia, situated between Portmarin and Palas de Rei. You will have just under 80 kms left to Santiago when you arrive here. Not that far to go! It has a number of albergues that are popular (Gronze). This is another town I passed through, the last time I walked in Galicia in 2011.
The final town in Galicia for this post is Liñares. It is the first hamlet after O Cebreiro (3km afterward). It has a population of just over 60 people and has one casa rural to its name (Gronze). It’s not noted as a Camino town but as it is on the Camino, it was best to mention it!
Linzoáin (or Lintzoain) is situated in Navarra, between Roncesvalles and Zubiri. It is home to just over 60 people. While based on the Camino, it does not have any albergues nor does not have any facilities.
Lorca (or Lorka in Basque) is also based in Navarra, close to Estella. It has a population of just under 150 people and has a number of albergues (Gronze). I have stopped off here for a cafe con leche in 2014 and again in 2018. The stage from Puente la Reina to Estella hugs the main road so the stop off here provides some light relief. The albergues have received some good reviews so I will pencil in a stop the next time I walk through this area.
León is the capital of the province of the same name and one of the most important cities on the Camino. It is situated between Sahagun, to the east, and Ponferrada, to the east. It is also the place where the Camino del Salvador starts. Over 131,680 people call this city home. It was originally founded as a Roman city, and their walls still stand to this day (below). I passed through in 2013 and witnessed a celebration of this Roman heritage. Actors celebrated the past by role-playing combat, just outside the large Cathedral de Santa Maria.
León’s historical and architectural heritage make it a destination of both domestic and international tourism. Some of the city’s most prominent historical buildings are the Cathedral (below), the finest example of French-style classic Gothic architecture in Spain, the Basilica de San Isidoro, one of the most important Romanesque churches in Spain and the Hostal de San Marcos.
One of my greatest memories of León is from 2013. I had finished my Camino for that year and was due to travel back home to Ireland the following day. I had said my goodbyes to my fellow peregrinos who were staying in the main albergue. I was downbeat. I decided to visit the Cathedral. While inside, I spent a good 30 minutes listening to a choir sing. They lifted my spirits. I later learned that they were also pilgrims who were travelling on to Santiago. That memory will stick with me.
On reaching León, you will have over 300km to walk before arriving at Santiago de Compostela. Many pilgrims use León as a starting point to Santiago and gain their compostela. Here you can find plenty of albergues and hostales, as with all major cities (Gronze). In 2012 and 2013, I stayed in the very comfortable Posada Regia and in 2015, I rested my weary head and feet in Leon Hostel, which is just beside the Cathedral.
If you have a few hours to spare after your walk into León, talk a walk around the small streets and plazas and soak up the atmosphere. This video shows you some of this fine city.
Logroño is the capital of the La Rioja province in northern Spain. The population of the city is just over 150,000 and is the largest city you will walk through after leaving Pamplona 3 to 4 days earlier. The city is the centre of trade in Riojan wine. You should arrive in Logroño in 7 or 8 days if you follow Brierley’s guide.
Walking into Logroño is far from attactive as the Camino hugs the main road. Some choose to by-pass the city as a result and walk to Navarrete. You will spot the large green “Comunidad de La Rioja” sign before you enter the city and later on the “Puente de Piedra” bridge over the Ebro river. Logroño awaits you at this stage.
There are plenty of places to stay (Gronze) also. There are over 50 “taperías” located near the town centre. The traditional tapas restaurants often serve only one tapa, meaning one serving, or media ración (half portion), a small plate of tapas. Calle de Laurel, known as “the path of the elephants” is the main street where restaurants and tapas bars offer some of the best pinchos and tapas in northern Spain. Calle Portales is the main street in the old town, where people like to walk and sit in the terraces to eat a meal or drink wine. Finally, make sure you visit the Co-catedral de Santa María de la Redonda close to Calle Portales. It is also in the old town and was designated a protected building in 1931. The cathedral, while not as large as Leon or Burgos, is a fine work of art.
Los Arcos (meaning The Arches in English) is a town in Navarra, much smaller than Logroño, with over 1,000 inhabitants. It is situated between Estella and Logroño. It has a number of albergues, all of which have received good reviews (Gronze). The town has a large main plaza which always seems to be filled with pilgrims. The church of Santa Maria is worth a visit for its exquisite design. I managed to stay in Los Arcos in September 2018 on my way to Burgos. The albergue Casa de la Abuela is one of the best and I loved my time there.
And with B over, we are on to the 3rd chapter…. There are loads of towns beginning with C, it must be a Spanish thing! I have only stayed in two of these towns myself, so this may be the perfect chance for me to learn something about them, as well as pass on some information to you! And as always, if you have any feedback about these places, please feel free to share it in the comments below.
The first town you encounter on leaving Pamplona is Cizur Menor (or Zizur Menor locally). It is approximately 5km away from Pamplona and is also located beside its sister town, Cizur Mayor, which is just off the Camino Frances. It holds a population of roughly 2400 people. It has a number of albergues (www.gronze.com) and should you wish to avoid Pamplona altogether, staying there would be wise. I haven’t stayed here myself but passed through early one morning on the way to Puente la Reina. While on my way through, there was a fiesta ongoing however, it is a quiet town with all the amenities you will need.
The town of Ciruena is unique. Not only does it lie slightly off the Camino but before reaching the town itself, you are greeted by hundreds of empty houses, so it is eerie to say the least. These houses were built to accommodate members of the local golf club. Ciruena itself has a population of 131 people and strangely enough has two albergues (www.gronze.com), both of which have received positive reviews. I have previously chosen not to stay here, opting to stay in the town previous to it (Azofra in 2015) and the town following it (Santo Domingo de la Calzada in 2013 and 2018). I have met some people who have enjoyed their time here, however.
Another blink and you’ll miss it town on the Camino. It is located 20 km from Ciruena and in the province of Burgos. At this point, you are 560 km from Santiago and just becoming used to being a pilgrim. Castildelgado offers little to the pilgrim but should you wish to call it a day, there is a pension (www.gronze.com). I must say that Albergue Bideluze is very active on social media during the high season!
Castildelgado is located between Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Belorado and lies beside the busy N-120 motorway.
Cardeñuela Riopico is a town located in the province of Burgos. It is actually 13km from the city itself and has a population of just over 100 people. You will encounter this little town as you leave either San Juan de Ortega, Ages or Atapuerca making your way to Burgos. I have previously chosen to stay in Atapuera and had breakfast in the either of the albergues here, whichever was open! There are three albergues here (www.gronze.com). A further 2km on down the road from Cardenuela is it’s sister town Orbaneja Riopico.
The ruins of San Anton is not so much a town but rather a place. They are located on the outskirts of Castrojeriz. The Convento de San Anton was built in in the 14th Century, and was originally the King’s Palace. It was later turned into a hospital for passing pilgrims on their way to Santiago. Since 2002, the tradition of offering shelter to pilgrims holds as volunteers maintain a donotivo / refugio in the ruins (www.gronze.com).
I haven’t stopped by during my previous Caminos as it has not been open, unfortunately, but one day I would like to stay here.
Castrojeriz is a town located in the province of Burgos and is a popular stop along the Camino. The town is based at the foot of a hill and your first view will be the ruins of a castle, which was a lookout in times of battle. The town was built along one main road which circles the hill. There are more than 1,000 people there. As it is a popular stop along the Way, there is plenty of accommodation (www.gronze.com). I haven’t stayed here myself, choosing to stay in Hontanas. I have however stopped here for breakfast. I would recommend Hostel El Manzano. You should stock up with refreshments before leaving this town as you have the difficult Alto de Mostalares to climb. Enjoy it – you have arrived at the meseta!
Cacabelos is a village in the El Bierzo region of Leon. You will pass it as you walk to Villafranca del Bierzo, usually within your last 10 days. It is a moderate size town with good facilities and a good selection of accommodation (www.gronze.com). There are over 5000 people living in Cacabelos. Many choose to by-pass here and stay in Villafranca, including me, this is one for the future. The refugio (pictured) has been renovated from an old church and is a bit special, I hear.
Quite a few people may not know the name of this town. Rather than placing a name on it, they will be able to describe how they feel about arriving there!! I say this as Calzadilla de la Cueza is the first stop after a grueling 17 km walk from Carrion de los Condes. It may well be the best thing you will see all day, depending on the weather.
This little town may not be much but after walking 17km, it has everything you need. I have walked road three times and have always stopped here for refreshments. There is also accommodation also should you choose to stay (www.gronze.com) .
On leaving Sahagun, there are 2 options to take; the tradational French route or the old Roman way. The French route leads you to El Burgo Ranero and to Mansilla de las Mulas, while on the Roman road you may be alone. The only town on this route is Calzadilla de los Hermanillos before you reach Mansilla de las Mulas. Quite a lot of people choose the first option. Calzadilla is a small town, and it has a population of just over 80. Being a town on the Camino, there are albergues (www.gronze.com). The advantage of walking this route is you can divert back to the other if you find it too solitary.
Carrion de los Condes (or Carrion as many peregrinos prefer to call it) is a large town prior to Calzadilla, mentioned above. It is a little over halfway to Santiago (410km) and by all means, is one of the major Camino towns. It has a population of over 2,000 people and has a wealth of accommodation (www.gronze.com). I have stayed in Carrion a number of times including during the feast of Corpus Christi (start of June). It is a tradition on this day throughout Spain to layer their roads with flower petals of all different colours and make a great design. All the albergues are run by religious orders, so there can be a tendency to get swept away by their routine which is not a bad thing. I chose to stay in Villalcazar de Sirga, the town preceeding Carrion, in May 2015, but there is no doubt I will return to Carrion in the future.
Not quite the highest point on the Camino, but it is not far off. O Cebreiro is the first village in Galicia and a welcome relief after a 1300m high climb from Villafranca. I just about made it in 2012. Seeing it for the first time reminded me of home…the music, the food, the buildings, it had a real Celtic feel to it and it just didn’t look like anything else on the Camino. The views are amazing. There is plenty of accommodation (www.gronze.com) with the main albergue holding up over 100 beds. I stayed in the fabulous Hotel Celta Venta back in 2012. On leaving this village you have 165 km left and are on the homeward stretch. Enjoy the descent!
Our next post will be on Towns beginning with D, can you think of any?
As soon as your Camino begins and you start your walk early in the morning, there will be sounds that will be become part of your day, whether they are welcome or not. Some will make you smile, some will annoy, all are part and parcel of the Camino experience. I’ve decided to run down a few:
1. Buen Camino – Every pilgrim you meet while on the Camino will greet you with the phrase “Buen Camino”. No matter who the person is, their status, or where he or she is from, their first words will be “Buen Camino”. It means ‘Have a good way’. It is a simple welcome and you hear it only on the Camino. In Portugal, the phrase “Bom Caminho” is usually used. It is a great way to start off a conversation and meet people.
2. Crickets chirping – Now this is something you don’t hear in Ireland or the UK for that matter. The natter of crickets and other various insects during the day. If you listen closely during a warm day usually in the Meseta region or in rural Spain, you will hear them. This video was taken just after Hospital de Orbigo on the Camino Frances in 2012. I remember it being a particularly hot day.
3. A busy cafe – You wake up and are looking for your first cafe con leche of the day. The nearest cafe is busy serving peregrinos from albergues and hostels nearby. All you can see are cups, saucers, and spoons being placed in front of a row of half awake pilgrims. There is conversation all around. The coffee machine kicks into gear. After your first cup of cafe con leche and a tostada, you are awake and are ready to take on the world…until you reach the next cafe, that is!
4. Albergue life – Once you check into an albergue, you meet people from all over the world. Definitely a good thing. But you get to sleep with those same people. This could be a bad thing! So if you are a light sleeper, dorms may not be for you. The pilgrim’s lullaby is one of the charms of the Camino and you either take it or leave it. It takes time to get used to. It’s a good idea to buy the best foam earplugs to ensure a good nights sleep.
5. Church bells – Along the Camino, there are many churches open in various towns. Typically, church bells ring on the hour every hour. Each night I have stayed in Hontanas, I have been woken by the bells of the village church that ring on the hour every hour even during the night.
6. New pilgrims post-Sarria – If your Camino is due to start before Sarria, you will notice a considerable difference when you arrive there. Sarria is the last town you must start on the French Way in order to obtain a Compostela. In the summer months, schools and youth groups walk from Sarria and often you will hear them sing songs, and have radios playing while walking. So the last 110km is a different experience to that before it.
7. The sound of friendships being formed – Walking a Camino is the easiest way to meet people from anywhere around the world. Occupation, status, class is meaningless and what counts is how we treat each other over the few weeks we are on the trail. From the moment you set out, it is next to impossible to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. A conversation leads to laughter and that leads to being accepted into a Camino family, where everyone looks out for each other. When the time comes, email addresses are shared and we go our separate ways.
8. The Sound of silence – No, I’m not going to bring out my guitar and play the Simon and Garfunkel classic, but what I will say is I love walking in silence. There are many ways in Spain where you can walk virtually alone. Or you can walk the Camino Frances off-season? I prefer to start walking very early. You can’t beat walking before the sun rises, stopping to watch it rise over the horizon.
10. Bagpipes in Santiago – You have made it! You walk under the archway and into the Praza da Obradoiro with a soundtrack of bagpipes eternally playing. Who cares if they have been playing since the morning, in your mind it is music to celebrate your arrival to Santiago.
11. And a few others? Here are a few others I may have missed, in this video:
Just before I start, I must point out that this post is not for everyone. When it comes to phones or technology in general on the Camino, there are different types of pilgrim. There is the pilgrim who leaves his or her phone at home and wants to get the full Camino experience. There is the pilgrim who leaves his or her phone off whilst walking and uses it at the end of the day. And then there is the tech joy pilgrim. I am somewhere in the middle of the latter two. I usually have my Phone with me and use it as a Camera and a browser in wifi areas. However, there are more and more Camino related phone apps created with the pilgrim in mind. They have been developed with up-to-date information on the route and on albergues. Here are some of the best I have used while on the Camino. I own an Android phone so unfortunately, I can’t provide links for Apple devices. Here are just a few I have tried while in Spain.
Buen Camino has sold thousands of guides of the Way of St James and continues to make available to pilgrims all the information required to complete the Way: maps, profiles, all types of accommodation and points of interest. You will find a profile of the route and maps, GPS of all types of accommodation and points of interest.
You can download the Camino de Baztán, Camino Francés, Camino Aragonés, Camino del Norte, Camino Portugués from Tui, the Camino Primitivo, and the Route extension to Fisterra-Muxia.
An incredibly easy app to use. Download it and through wifi, download the maps that you need, whether it be Galicia or La Rioja or the whole of Spain. Then you will have offline maps on your phone before you go and save on mobile data. You also have the ability to create bookmarks which is handy. It is also very useful if you are walking a quieter route.
The Eroski Consumer guide shares all the secrets of the Way, exact kilometres of each route and stage, updated pictures, monuments and all the detailed description of the itinerary so you know at all times how to organize, what to see and what to do. In the app you will find all the information the French Way (from Somport and Saint Jean Pied de Port), Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, Camino de San Salvador, Basque Way of Interior, Road Baztanese, Portuguese Way, English Way, Way Catalan by San Juan de la Peña, Via de la Plata, Camino Sanabrés and to Fisterra and Muxía.
Along with the printed selection of guidebooks, there are a wide number of apps to choose from. There are apps for a number of routes. That said, I prefer the guidebook in this case and do tend to carry the WP guide with me when on Camino. But it is entirely your choice. The guidebooks can be bought at www.wisepilgrim.com.
Camino Companion is a guide for your Camino on the French Way. It lists more than 1,300 important waypoints (with 1,360 photographs) from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Muxia. The free demo covers the 42-mile (68-km) segment from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Pamplona. In-app purchases include: – The 557-mile/896-km Camino Frances from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Muxia. The guidebook lists every waypoint in order by distance along the trail and how far away you are from each waypoint. The guidebook also includes a detailed town guide for major resupply points, towns, and services along the Camino de Santiago.
Another handy app that will help you find something on the Camino. CaminoTool helps you find what you need whilst ensuring the best quality and service: accommodation, restaurants, food, bars, pharmacies, podiatrists, dentists, hospitals, souvenir shops, footwear, excursions, taxis, bookshops.
miCamino – my Camino de Santiago Mobile (download)
Through miCamino you will discover the different routes that make up the Camino de Santiago. You will learn information from 5 different routes ranging from accommodation to GPS. The app connects with all major social networks too so you can share your experience.
Viscarret, or to give it it’s full name Viscarret-Guerendiain is situated in northern eastern Navarra and has a population of just under 100 people. It is 31km from Pamplona. For a town so small and not being a traditional end of stage town, there are a number of options for places to stay (Gronze). The always popular Corazon Puro has unfortunately closed since March 2017. Next stop is Zubiri – where many rest for the night.
For a town of just over 400 residents, during peak Camino season, the population nearly doubles. It is an important stop on your road to Santiago. Most guidebooks list Zubiri as an end stage. In 2014, there were 3 known albergues here, however with increased demand, a number of new albergues and pensions have opened since I have been here last (Gronze). I really enjoyed my stay in Albergue Zaldiko, especially after the difficult descent from the Alto de Erro. Zubiri is Basque for “by the bridge” and one of the town’s features is the Puente de la Rabia over the River Arga. Walking under the bridge was meant to have healing qualities in medieval times. The next day brings you to Pamplona, your first major city on the French Way.
Zariquiegui not only wins you 200 points in Scrabble, but it is the last town before you make the ascent to Alto de Perdón. You can read a post I wrote dedicated to this particular Alto here. A sleepy village of less than 50 residents, Zariquiegui has the one albergue (Gronze). In 2014, I had stayed in Pamplona and found this town as a perfect place for a second breakfast. Walking to Puente la Reina can be tough as not only are you gradually climb from Pamplona, you also have the demanding descent from the Alto de Perdón.
Another few days to catch up on sleep, but it’s not so bad. I’m just home from a very successful Spanish morning organised by Camino Society Ireland. I’ve left my knowledge of the Spanish language fall by the wayside a number of years ago. I have become fearful of making mistakes and to be honest, making mistakes is all part of learning any language. However, since the opportunity arose to dust down my skills and possibly improve them, I grabbed it with both hands.
I need to be taught in Spanish and that is exactly what our “profesora excelente” is doing. Hopefully, I will have less of the fear and more of the patience, to be speaking it before the lessons end. Who knows?
Next May is Camino #8, but who’s counting? Next I travel to Vigo and start walking a little further down in A Guarda on the Portuguese Coastal route. I should be in Santiago within 8-9 days as we are taking our time. I say “we”, as I am walking with my brother. I wonder if I will have the patience, and whether I will walk into Santiago with him. Keep an eye on this blog to find out, folks. He bought his backpack, a Lowe Alpine 35litre, and a few other essentials in the last few weeks, and our walks start soon. We are both constantly looking forward to the start date on May 6th and me being the “Camino expert” is being asked many a question. The real test will be taking the packs out for 2 consecutive days.
I walk into Santiago for the first time since June 2011. I’m not sure how to feel about this, and am hoping we get time to walk to the Coast. The Camino has been calling me big time since I returned from Astorga in September. I am getting more involved with the local Camino Society..and I enjoy it. For any other reason, I would be filled with trepidation.
February 19th sees the start of a new series on Irish TV called Camino na Saile (or Camino by Sea in English). It will be shown on our Irish language TV channel over the course of 3 weeks. It documents the journey of 5 men who sailed from the south of Ireland to A Coruna over the course of 4 years. For 800 years, people have sailed from Ireland to A Coruña in Northern Spain and walked to Santiago de Compostela from there. These men have done their own version of this historical voyage in a Naomhóg (or a currach) they built themselves in this Modern day Celtic Odyssey. Stage 1 of the journey follows the crew on a journey across the Irish Sea and the English Channel to reach Brittany in Northern France.
Now I understand that the majority of my readers live outside of Ireland, and will be unable to watch it, however you can do so online on www.tg4.ie/en/player/homeor via the Mobdro smartphone app. If you download the app at www.mobdro.com on your phone and search for TG4, you will have no problems viewing the series.
It starts at 8.30pm GMT on the 19th of February and continues each Sunday after that. Happy watching!
When you travel to Spain, you may encounter something that is known as tapas. This may be entirely new to you, if you haven’t been there before, so it’s best if I describe them to you. Tapas are a wide variety of snacks in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives or cheese) or hot (such as beef, squid, or pulpo). Tapas is all about sharing, and tapas are usually from between €1 – €2 each. Sometimes, you pay for a beer or for another drink and you get a complimentary dish for free. That’s why tapas are so popular in Spain. It is very common to see people moving from bar to bar ordering a drink and receiving a tapa.There are many Tapas trails in major cities in Spain, including Pamplona, Logrono and Madrid. The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation, because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them.They are also often eaten standing up.
Some of the more common Spanish tapas include:
Aceitunas: olives, sometimes with a filling of anchovies
Albóndigas: meatballs with sauce
Calamares: rings of battered squid
Chopitos: battered and fried tiny squid
Chorizo al vino: chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine
Croquetas: a common sight in bar counters and homes across Spain, served as a tapa, a light lunch, or a dinner along with a salad
Empanadillas: large or small turnovers filled with meats and vegetables
Gambas: prawns in salsa negra (peppercorn sauce)
Patatas bravas or papas bravas: fried potato dices (sometimes parboiled and then fried, or simply boiled) served with salsa brava a spicy tomato sauce.
Pimientos de Padrón: small green peppers originally from Padrón (a municipality in the province of A Coruña) that are fried in olive oil or served raw, most are mild, but a few in each batch are quite spicy.
Pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus) or polbo á feira (octopus in the trade fair style) in Galicia, is cooked in boiling water, and served hot in olive or vegetable oil. The octopus pieces are seasoned with substantial amounts of paprika, giving it its recognisable red color, and sea salt for texture and flavour.
Tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette) or tortilla española: a type of omelet containing fried chunks of potatoes and sometimes onion
In select bars in Spain, it is common to order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal.
In Spain, dinner is usually served between 9 and 12pm, while Spaniards finish work between 5 and 6pm. Therefore, food is only available in the form of tapas in the time between finishing work and having dinner. This is one of the downfalls of being a pilgrim!
Sometimes, especially in northern Spain, they are also called pinchos (pintxos in Basque) because many of them have a pincho or toothpick through them. The toothpick is used to keep whatever the snack is made of from falling off the slice of bread and to keep track of the number of tapas the customer has eaten. Differently priced tapas have different shapes or have toothpicks of different sizes.
If you are walking the Camino Frances, I’d encourage you to seek out some Pulpo in Melide, Galicia. It is one of the most common tapa in Spain and was voted one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Spanish Gastronomy’ in 2016. You can read up more about Pulpo here.
Clearskies Camino was born on returning from my second Camino de Santiago in June 2012. I had been writing a journal and had taken the odd photo while on the Camino Frances that it just made sense to write my thoughts online. 2012 became 2013 and my hobby became something more. Writing had never been part of my life but I guess the Camino gave me the inspiration to put finger to keyboard. The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage but in my eyes, it is also a challenge. It is a great way of meeting people and a great way of getting away from the hustle and bustle of modern-day life. There are many Caminos to Santiago from all across Europe, but my experiences have mainly been on Camino Frances; an ancient trail covering 800 kilometres across Spain starting in St Jean Pied de Port in the foothills of France and ending in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Clearskies Camino is everything Camino – I love writing and talking about the various Caminos to Santiago and if you are one of the many people who have walked these routes, you may well feel the same. I hope my talking about my times on the Camino helps you as you plan for yours. Feel free to browse and “like” any of my posts and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment.