Camino Francés 2018 – So Where Did I Stay?

There is one final post I want to write about before I move on to something new, and it is the issue of accommodation.

There is a wealth of accommodation on the Camino Francés. Every couple of kilometres you will find a town with a number of albergues, hostals, and hotels. The greatest distance between two towns is 17 kilometres but most pilgrims plan for this days in advance. For me, I had no issues with accommodation.  I mostly stayed in albergues, but there was the odd hostal I booked before leaving Dublin for the start and end of my Camino.

Puente la Reina – Hostal la Plaza
I booked a single room here shortly before leaving home as my flight would be arriving into Bilbao late. Hostal la Plaza is on the Camino and has a restaurant beside it. The price is reasonable and the staff are very friendly. A handy tip: if you think you are going to be late – call the hostal and let them know. You may not have a room to go to when you arrive.

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Estella – Agora Hostal 
The standard of albergues on the Camino Frances is getting better and better and those providing their time are giving something extra special back. The Agora Hostal is something special. The outside of the hostel looks less than remarkable but inside is clean, and welcoming. In the hands of Adrianna and Alphonso, I am told that this is my home for the night. Breakfast is included. The beds are comfortable. It isn’t far from the Camino. Recommended.

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Los Arcos – Albergue Casa de la Abuela
I got into Los Arcos quite early so I was before the throngs of pilgrims. I was quite lucky as there was no room in any of the albergues in this town later in the day. That is the Camino Frances for you. I was the first in the door, only to be greeted by a sprawling pile of mochilas left from Jacotrans. Again, this is the nature of the beast. Casa de la Abuela is a fine albergue and had all I needed. The hospitalera offered to wash my clothes for a tiny fee and I accepted. I could have walked on to the next town, Torres del Rio, a further 12km. But I was in no hurry. I met my friends for a meal and drinks in the plaza later that evening.

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Viana – Albergue Izar
A short day from Los Arcos I decided on stopping in Viana. Mainly because I had not stayed here before but I would see my friends for the last time before they embarked on their Camino. The first albergue you encounter once you reach Viana is brightly coloured Albergue Izar. While not opened until 12 midday, I decided to walk up the grueling hill into the town for a cafe and snack and see who else I would find. While the albergue is away from all the action (ie the church, the main plaza), the owners are friendly and the facilities are great. I met a bunch of new pilgrims here before I decided on walking a long day to Ventosa.

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Ventosa – Albergue San Saturnino
A long day. And I was glad to arrive here. Ventosa used to be on the Camino Frances but over time, the powers that be have moved the arrows so now it is kind of left out in the cold. But it is not too far away. Just 1 km away from the trail is Albergue San Saturnino. There are two cafes in this town also. Stay long enough in your bed and you will be woken by classical music. It has all the facilities and I was glad to meet more pilgrim friends here.

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Santo Domingo de la Calzada – Albergue de la Cofradía del Santo
Super organised, well run and a great place in general. My second time there. The only thing I didn’t like was the walk up the stairs to the 2nd floor on arrival! But, with over 200 beds and 3 floors, you can be sure to find a bed in Santo Domingo. And then you can visit the chickens in the Cathedral afterward. Shout out to the hospitaleros also for doing a super job!

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Belorado – Albergue Cuatro Cantones
Nothing but good things to say about the albergue here in Belorado. There are more than one albergue in this small town but this one stands out. I have stayed here more than once and enjoyed my stay. Jana and her family have been looking after pilgrims for 15 years now. There is a restaurant attached to the albergue and there is no harm trying the food. Also, if the sun is out, the pool in the back is perfect. There is a yoga session also for those interested. Recommended.

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Atapuerca – Albergue El Peregrino
Chosen purely for convenience rather than comfort. Having stayed in this albergue 3 times before, I know a fair bit about it, including its weaknesses. That said, it is handy to stay there as it is just a mere 18 km to Burgos. Top tip: try El Palomar for the Pilgrim Menu.

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Burgos – Albergue de peregrinos Casa del Cubo y de los Lerma (municipal) – night one / Hostal Manjon – night two.
My Camino ended with a stay in the municipal in Burgos, with its 180 beds. While I have always enjoyed my stays here, I didn’t this time. I had a bad case of a head cold going home to Ireland and had little sleep here.

I had an extra day to hand before I made my way to Bilbao and back to Ireland. I checked into Hostal Manjon, a budget hostal about 5 minutes from the Cathedral. It was just ok but I managed to claw back some of the sleep I was owed.

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Camino Frances 2018 – A 2nd day in Burgos, Burgos Cathedral and Home

September 20th & 21st, 2018 – Day 9 & 10
Burgos

It was an early morning. Truth be told I should have stayed in a private room and got a few hours more sleep. The albergue wanted everyone to leave before 8am. Poor me! So I got up, packed and had breakfast in the cafe across from the albergue. I was delighted to be joined by Jim who decided to take a day’s rest. He was having some foot problems and wanted to rest before tackling the meseta. I also met 2 Argentinian pilgrims – Marcos and Santiago. They had pretty good English but I encouraged them to speak Spanish to me so I can improve on that front.

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Jim, Marcos and Santiago, on no walking days

After breakfast, we all agreed to visit the Cathedral. Bringing your credential gets you a pilgrim rate, so that’s handy. Even though I’ve been in the Cathedral twice before, I am blown away by the work. It is always full with tourists so early morning is a good time. You get an audio tour too. The following image was posted on Instagram and has been shared by the Spanish tourist board.

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The rear of Burgos Cathedral

And some photos of the interior of the Cathedral…

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Afterward, I checked in to a Hostal that I had booked before arriving in Burgos. I left my bag there and walked back to the cafe outside the albergue. Jim was there and there was already a healthy queue forming with pilgrims for the albergue. The beat goes on. It was good to see some people that I met along the Way and I lost touch. We shared stories over a drink and swapped contact details.

Later that evening, I visited a friend who lives in Burgos and afterward I went back to the hostal to pack for the bus to Bilbao. My Camino was closing to an end but the many people I had met had weeks to go yet, I hoped to follow them to Santiago.

Until next year.

Camino Frances 2018 – Atapuerca to Burgos

September 19th, 2018 – Day 8
Atapuerca to Burgos, 18km

Another early morning. Most of the albergue was awake having their breakfast in some shape or form. Bruno, Jim, Karsten, Ben and Blanka were all eager to reach Burgos. But it was quite a cold morning. Fog had descended during the night and there was danger it would still be in the hills if we left too early. We had the stars to guide us so. Jim decided to hold back and walk with Ben so I walked on with Karsten, Bruno and Blanka. We would meet in Burgos, however.

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Leaving Atapauerca, we had a short climb ahead of us to get to the Matagrande. Onwards I went passing Villafria with no bar open for breakfast. The road was quiet and there was almost an eerie sense with the low fog and the stars out. We stopped for a bit when we reached the Sierra de Atapuerca and looked back at the climb we achieved. The sun was peeking over the horizon but it wasn’t ready to make an appearance just yet.

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There was plenty of chat among us and I was happy to learn that a friend of Bruno’s family had entered and contested the Rose of Tralee. So he was Irish in my books. I had his novel in my backpack and I was looking forward to diving into it headfirst once I returned home. We stopped at Cardenuela Riopico for some breakfast, however, Blanka decided her foot would feel better if she walked on and did not stop. We would meet again in Burgos. I witnessed my final sunrise on this Camino – it was magical, while having a croissant and cafe con leche. After a while, the 3 amigos, Bruno, Karsten and myself walked on to Burgos. The sun was up but there was still a chill in the air.

We still had a good 2 hours yet before we reached the albergue. There was much talk about an alternative route, to avoid the slog through the industrial area into Burgos. The alternative meant following the River Pico into the city – it is somewhat more scenic. This diversion is laid out on a sign at the side of the road and it gives pilgrims directions into Burgos. Most guidebooks would have this alternative listed.

We were in Burgos by midday and at the albergue shortly after. The albergue is close by the gothic cathedral standing tall in the main square. There is already a queue as we arrive and we sit in the cafe to wait. There is no hurry. This albergue has many beds! Soon, I see Jim and Ben and Blanka and I meet new faces. I decide to visit the Cathedral the following day as I have a day spare. All I have to do now is check-in and find somewhere to eat!

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Shortly, I saw Doug again. It’s amazing how the big cities bring everyone together again. Later that evening, Karsten, Doug and I went for a meal in Burgos. It was pretty filling. We went back to the cafe outside the albergue and chatted to our fellow pilgrims. It was sad not to be walking with them. But some would be taking a rest day so I would enjoy their company the following day before I travelled to Bilbao.

Camino Frances 2018 – Puente la Reina to Estella

September 12th, 2018 – Day 1
Puente la Reina to Estella, 22km

I was awake at 6am, which is late by my standards. I could hear the clacking of poles belonging to pilgrims passing the hostal so I decided it was as good a time to make a move. It was dark and still, save for the odd van passing through. I was ready to go! I had a good sleep. I was hoping to make it to Estella where I would meet my friends, L&R, who would start their own Camino the following day.

Underneath the arch, over the bridge and out of the town – Goodbye Puente la Reina. Such a fascinating town, rich in history. Queen Muniadona, wife of King Sancho III was the queen (Reina) who gave her name to the town and the bridge, also known as the Puente Románico. She built the six-arched Romanesque bridge over the River Arga for the use of pilgrims on their way to Santiago along the Camino de Santiago. And I was one of them.

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Leaving Puente la Reina

Leaving town, I struck up a conversation with Doug from Canada. He commented on the size of my backpack and I explained that this was not my first time on the Camino. A pack of 7kg is more than enough, in my opinion. The road out of Puente la Reina is a tricky one and needs concentration. There are many ascents also. This was my St. Jean Pied de Port unfortunately as I embarrassed myself after a minute by stopping exhausted. Doug had walked through the Pyrenees. He walked on, enjoying this moment.

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Looking back following my climb from Puente la Reina

I caught up eventually, and we passed through Maneru. Cirauqui is just another few kilometres in the distance and there was no rain forecast. Towns in Navarra have a habit of placing themselves on hills. I’m not sure if it is to make it difficult for pilgrims to walk through them. Joking aside, I have always liked Navarra. Its rolling hills seem to go on forever and the people living there are the best. A cafe con leche y una tostada later in Cirauqui, myself and Doug left this little town and marched on.

After Cirauqui, we arrived at the famed and fabled Roman bridge that have been serving pilgrims for hundreds of years. Some work was undertaken on it since I was here last but you really need to watch your step while crossing it.

 

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Lorca (or Lorka) would be our next town. The trail is made of loose stone and it is very easy to lose your step and fall if you are not paying attention. That is exactly what happened to me! A fun day so far! I was a little bruised but I was on my way again. There is not much happening in Lorca, apart from the fact that it has 2 albergues and a cafe. We stopped for a rest. I had been looking for a walking pole since Puente la Reina and I picked up one here. It stayed with me until Burgos.

Doug had decided to stop in the following town, Villatuerta, for some lunch, so we said our goodbyes and I marched on to Estella. Little did I know we would meet the following day.

It wasn’t long before I was in Estella. It was before noon but the sun was out. “Where was that farmacia?” I stopped at the excellent Agora Hostel for the night. I cannot stay enough about Adrianna and Alfonso and the service they provide. If you are in Estella and are looking to stay somewhere, just go there! I also met Guilhermo from Barcelona, someone who I would meet on and off until Burgos. A gentlesoul.

I would later meet my friends, L&R, for drinks and tapas in the Plaza Mayor until it was time to prepare for the next day. All three of us agreed to meet in Los Arcos the following day.

 

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Camino Frances 2018 – Day 0 – Dublin to Puente la Reina

September 11th, 2018 – Day 0
Dublin to Puente la Reina via Bilbao

Another Camino in 2018…another chance to walk with others in Spain. I made the decision to return once I stepped into the Praza da Obradoiro in Santiago in May.  It just made sense. I booked flights to and from Bilbao, Spain, packed my pack and set out.

 

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The road to Puente la Reina is long and I didn’t arrive until late in the evening. The flight with Aer Lingus was fine and it left me in Bilbao at 3pm with still much travel to do. From the airport, one must catch the A3247 Biskaibus shuttlebus to Termibus in the city centre, which costs just €3.00. From there, I traveled on a Cuadrabus to Logroño, which took the bones of 90 minutes. On arrival in Logroño, I didn’t have long for a connecting La Estellesa which left me in the centre of Puente la Reina.

I wasn’t alone, mind you. A couple from Clare made the trip from Dublin and were traveling to Estella to start their Camino. They had walked from St. Jean to Estella last year. I enjoyed their company until we said our goodbyes at Estella. There were many others on the Logroño bus. The scenery from Bilbao to Logroño is beyond amazing. The bus chugs through valleys, giving you a first-hand view of the spectacular mountain scenery. The second trip was a little bit longer but it was fun to be driving alongside the Camino – passing towns I will meet in the next few days. Siesta had kicked in but we did pass the odd town with the next Lionel Messi working out how to score the winning goal in the 2028 World Cup.

Just after 8pm, I arrived in the Calle Mayor of Puente la Mayor. The streets were bustling with Spanish conversation and wine. Spanish dinner time. I took a walk to the Puente Románico before doubling back to my booked hostel, “Hostal la Plaza”. I had my first pilgrim meal while watching Spain play some football on TV. Sleep was in order, the next day (although short) had a number of steep climbs. Adelante!

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11 days to Puente la Reina

So while I have the time to write, I may as well post something.

I am 11 days out from yet another Camino and I am as good as ready. These five months since I returned from Santiago have flown by but I have been so busy. These few weeks have come around at just the right time. It will give me the time to slow down and, I suppose, unclutter everything from this head of mine. I have a few decisions to make so I hope the Camino can help me out and I will have a few answers when I return.

I am in zero rush to get to Puente la Reina as my bus to Logrono is 3 hours after the flight arrives. Once I arrive there, I have another bus trip on La Estellesa to Puente la Reina. I don’t know why La Union canceled their service there. I remember it being advertised the last time I was in Bilbao in 2015.

The Camino Frances can be addictive. No, let me rephrase that. It can be difficult to get used to other routes if you are so used to one particular route. I remember last year saying I would not walk the Camino Frances again, and here I am.

I have 6 days in the office before I leave for Spain and sunnier climes (I hope). I have been keeping tabs on the weather and it looks promising. I might ditch the rain trousers!

Adelante!

 

 

 

Camino Francés 2017 – So Where Did I Stay?

I stayed in mostly albergues, but there was the odd hostal I booked before leaving Dublin. Some I enjoyed, some I didn’t.

Burgos – Hostal Evolución
I booked a single room here shortly before leaving home as I would be arriving late in Burgos. Hostal Evolución is central, it is clean however given the choice, I would stay in the main albergue in Calle Fernan Gonzalez. It’s a pilgrimage, after all.

Hontanas – Albergue El Puntido
There was never any doubt that I would stay in Hontanas after my first day’s walking. It’s a beautiful town. I’ve been here before twice preferring to stay in the municipal albergue at the end of the town. I preferred a change this time. Not only is El Puntido an albergue, but it boasts a restaurant, a bar and a tiny tienda at the back. Hontanas is not short of places to stay but El Puntido must be one of the better albergues on the Camino.

Boadilla del Camino – Albergue En El Camino
I can’t speak highly enough about En El Camino. Eduardo and his family will always be in my heart. I’ve been here three times and if you haven’t stopped off in En El Camino, I’d encourage you to do so. The pool is one of the many reasons I stay here!

Carrión de los Condes – Albergue Parroquial Santa Maria del Camino
When I arrived in Carrión de los Condes, I text a friend and she asked me “Is that the one with the singing nuns?”. Well, yes is the answer to that question but on the day I arrived, the nuns were on sabbatical leave. In their place were volunteers who made us all feel at home. I won’t say anymore, but if you do wish to stay in Carrión de los Condes, make sure you stop by Albergue Santa Maria. Staying there is an experience you won’t forget.

Terradillos de los Templarios – Hostel Los Templarios
I stayed in this albergue simply because I enjoyed my stay in 2013. Hostel Los Templarios is ultra-modern with a great restaurant. The perimeter fencing is like nothing you see on the Camino, however.

El Burgo Ranero – Albergue de peregrinos Domenico Laffi
Domenico Laffi is a donativo albergue. Myself and June arrived before midday after walking 30km. While it does not open it’s doors until 1pm, the volunteers decided to open at 12. I don’t go out of my way to stay in donativo albergues, preferring private ones instead, but the volunteers were super and more. It is pretty popular also, filling up quickly.

Arcahueja – Albergue La Torre
Calling Arcahueja a town is a stretch..maybe a village, as it contains nothing but a church, a shop, a playground and Albergue La Torre. It is 7km from Leon and if I had the energy, I would have walked on. That said, the owners here were very welcoming and the facilities are modern. I had a great night with new pilgrims friends with maybe a few too many drinks.

León – Hostal Madriguera
Booked before I left Dublin, Madriguera is an ultra-modern hostel 5 mins from the Cathedral. It is super modern and very pilgrim friendly. There are bunks as well as private rooms. There is a well equipped kitchen and a tv room to just chill, but there is enough to León to keep you occupied. If you are looking to stay out past the curfew in albergues, I would recommend here.

Villavante – Albergue Santa Lucía
If you walk the alternative route after Leon, Villavante is the next town after Vilar de Mazarife. I’ve been here before, in 2015, and loved it, so I decided to stop off again. Make sure you say hello to Coco, it’s mascot parrot.

Santibáñez de Valdeiglesias – Albergue Camino Francés
12 km from Astorga, Albergue Camino Francés is in a tiny village. It is attached to a bar and it seems to be run by a family. They were constantly run off their feet but very friendly at the same time. Prices were pretty good, but if you are looking for extra special service, this might not be for you. I was quite happy to stay there however.

Astorga – Albergue de peregrinos Siervas de María
One of the better albergues on the Camino, it has good facilities, it is clean, and you receive super treatment by the volunteers. You don’t have many crammed in a room. I love the terrace over looking Astorga, where you can eat and chill.

Santiago de Compostela – Hospedería San Martín Pinario
I have always stayed here when in Santiago, but if you wish to do the same, make sure you book in advance. A renovated building, which belonged to the cathedral, it is now a hotel. Rooms generally cost €50, however, the 4th floor provides pilgrim accommodation for €23 bed and breakfast. Be sure to e-mail reservas@sanmartinpinario.eu asking for a pilgrim room. You can find cheaper accommodation in Santiago, but none are as close to the Cathedral as this one.