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.

Camino Frances 2017 – Day 11 & 12 – Astorga to Santiago de Compostela and home

Camino 2017 – Day 11 & 12 – Astorga to Santiago de Compostela and home – September 15th & 16th
A bus trip to my 2nd home…and then back to Dublin.

My final two days in Spain contain little to no walking unfortunately. A quick caveat. September 15th: my Camino this year is over and alls that is left is to return home. My blisters were fading, I had caught up on sleep and I had finished checking into albergues for one more year. Bittersweet was the word. That said, I have a good sleep in Maria de Siervas albergue and I have much to look forward to. I get up early and stroll over to Astorga’s bus station. My bus arrives at 7.30am for the trip to Santiago de Compostela. An early morning, but not Camino early!

The bus station is located behind the Cathedral in Astorga. Everything is sleeping as I make my way there. The station is just opening but I have a super breakfast in the cafe right beside it. Cafe with toast…now we are slowing making our way back to normality! The trip to Santiago is over 5 hours by bus as we take a detour to A Coruna and south to our destination. I spent most of the trip looking out the window and thinking of next year’s Camino. Where will I go? Will I go alone? At what time of the year? Will this be the last time I wander on the Camino Frances? Arriving at A Coruna was a highlight also. I hope to walk from here in the next few years. From what I saw, it’s a beautiful town. Next stop, Santiago.

The weather had deteriorated on arriving in Galicia. You’re always going to get rain once you reach this part of the world. Just like in Ireland, their Celtic cousin. The clouds rolled in and arriving in Santiago, I wore my rain jacket for the first time since arriving in Spain. I was glad to bring it. I arrived into the Estación de Autobuses around 2pm and took the local bus to Praza Galicia. A quick 10 minute walk brought me to Hospederia San Martin Pinario and to my pilgrim room. Luxury for €23. It wasn’t long before I was walking the streets of Santiago. I seem to know this town so well. I paid a visit to the Terra Nova Pilgrim House on Rúa Nova and had a chat with the volunteers. Unfortunately, I missed Faith and Nate, who look after the Pilgrim House so brilliantly. Maybe next year. Café Casino is still well intact, I paid a visit and had a quick café con leche. I made my way to Praza do Obradoiro and just sit. I sit and stare. There are many doing the same, lost in their thoughts. I look at the Cathedral, covered in scaffolding but with a heart beating away inside. I listen to the music while pilgrims enter the Praza. It’s a busy square with many tourist groups. It’s hard to think so I head back to the Hospederia and write my journal for the day. Later that evening, I had some food in O Gato Negro and return to have an early night.

While in Astorga, I received a text from author and veteran pilgrim JohnnieWalker, asking if I would meet him while in Santiago. We agreed to do so on the Saturday, the day I leave. I awake at 8am and make way for breakfast in the Hospederia. I love the breakfast they put on here…you receive a mixture of everything, fruits, cereals, breads, toast, juices. I had a healthy breakfast, let’s just say. Afterward I had packed and checked out, I made my way to Iglesia de San Agustin, a Jesuit church, where Johnnie would be on organ duty for Mass at 12 o clock. I sat at the back and listened on. “Palchabel’s Canon in D Major” rang throughout the iglesia as the congregation grew larger. The Mass was entirely in Spanish and I was lost in places but the music quickly brought me home. I hear “Down by the Sally Gardens” and as the Mass ended, the music took a more Irish feel. Johnny played Amhran na bhFiann, the Irish national anthem, as bemused Mass-goers left the church. We shook hands afterwards. It was great to finally meet after being in Santiago so often over the years. I could barely hold my laughter in, after hearing the final piece of music.

We went for a cafe and some tapas before I collected my bag and headed for the airport. The Aer Lingus flight was full, mostly with returning pilgrims, and the journey was quick. I was home within 2 hours. The many questions I had before I left were mostly answered. It’s good to return to simplicity for a few weeks, and I enjoyed my time walking the meseta. I had many memories and my friends were in my mind as they continued their Caminos to Santiago.

However, I had one question left on arriving back in Dublin….”Where will my next Camino be?”

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Your Stories, Your Camino – Bozidar & Marjanca from Slovenia

During my recent Camino, I received an email from Bozidar & Marjanca who wished to tell their story about their Camino. Thank you for getting in touch!

I don’t remember when I first heard about Camino de Santiago – but since then, I very much wished to walk the Way. My dream came true in the summer of 2013, when my wife and I walked from León to Santiago de Compostela. The following year we walked from Saint Jean Pied de Port to León. We returned in 2016 and walked to the end of the world, to Cape Finisterre. Those summers still hold the most beautiful memories for us.

Before we left for our first Camino, we thought we were prepared, because we walked on many trails and hills around our home town, but on the Way we got blisters, as many others did. It was easier to handle them as the way leads you through beautiful landscapes, many beautiful villages and cities with rich history. However, the Camino sometimes takes you through industrial suburbs and abandoned villages, and of course sometimes blisters and muscles also hurt more. Many people say that Camino is a lot like life: it not only includes happiness and beautiful things, but also pain and tough times. There are many opportunities for conversation along the Way, but also time for silence and reflection.

During the walk we can recall already forgotten events, beautiful moments as well as sad memories. On the other hand, we started thinking about plans for the future. Many people also say that Camino does not only purify the body while walking but also the soul. As a result, our feelings were not only wonderful when we arrived at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela – at the same time we were sad, because the journey was over… and we realise that the best thing we can do after our Camino is that we try to continue our Camino each day of our lives.

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Bozidar and Marjanca Rustja, Slovenia

2016 becomes 2017

Now that the Christmas festivities are over, it is time to bid farewell to 2016 and look forward to 2017. While I did enjoy my short jaunt on the Camino Fisterra in September, 2016 in general will not be missed. Also while I am writing this post, I hear that Carrie Fisher has just passed away. Sigh, may she rest in peace, along with the many other people who have been taken far too early. How and ever, closer to home, my broken wrist should shortly be healed fully and I hope to move into my new humble abode in the first quarter of the year. I say all this with two fingers crossed behind my back, while keeping hold of my collection of 4-leaf clovers!

But one thing that I’ve been quietly planning since September was a return to Spain and the Camino Frances. I can’t seem to pull myself away from it. My destination has been unclear however. One time, I wanted to walk the meseta, the next I wanted to try the Camino Ingles, and another I had wanted to try the Camino Portuguese from Porto. This is the downfall of only having two weeks to work with. I was really unsure of a starting point until November. But I’ve made up my scattered mind now and have decided to walk from the beautiful city Leon to Santiago de Compostela, 300 km over a period of roughly 14 days. I have chosen April 25th as my start date and have my flights and accommodation in Leon arranged. While I have walked from Leon a number of times, I haven’t walked beyond Sarria since 2011. I have chosen Leon as a starting point as I really enjoy the hills from Astorga to Molinaseca, especially on a warm day. I am also going to see if I can avoid the end stages in Brierley’s guidebook. The towns of Hospital de Orbigo, El Acebo, Cacabelos and Las Herrerías may be small but they are fab places to stay. Other times, I have passed them not giving them a thought.

So now is a great time to create the #caminodesantiago2017 hashtag and write how I’m getting on until April. Kit-wise, I have little to change which is a saving grace! I was also given a little action camera over Christmas which I fully intend to use. I have ordered a little clip that will attach it to my backpack strap so I can take plenty of random videos and photos.

And just to finish this post, I want to wish you all a happy New Year! Feliz Ano Nuevo!

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2016..

…it’s got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

two..oh..one..six..

..I haven’t got used to writing it yet, but at least we have got one extra day to try and complete all those New Year’s resolutions, eh?

Christmas was good but I’m happy to be out of silly season. There wasn’t much walking done however, as the weather was as Irish as you can get. However, I was one of the lucky ones as hundreds of homes around Ireland were destroyed due to flooding. The beautiful Lough Derg Way which I walked last year, and the towns surrounding it, is submerged in water. The weather in general has been unusual for this time of the year with tornadoes in America and extreme heat in Australia. I find it insane that some people still don’t believe in global warming.

Anyway, moving on…

product_thumbnailI’m really eager to receive a new purchase in the post next week. I love keeping an eye out for books (paperback or kindle) about the Camino and I have found one written by Luke Darracott. Luke walked the Camino a couple of years back and decided to write about it before going. He also video logged his journey. Once I receive it and read it, I will post a review. It can be bought online on lulu.com. I love the cover art, it’s very vibrant and it’s just like the Camino during the months of May and June.

 

And finishing up for now, I’ve decided on returning to Spain in September when I will walk from Ponferrada to the coast. I haven’t walked this section since 2012 so I’m eager to return. More on that later.

 

 

 

One month on..

It’s over a month since my last post and it’s well and truly time to update this thing, or at least say a few words to console it.  So what have I been doing with myself since…??

Well I am a month back from my Camino trek in June (pictures here and here. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and am looking to return to walk some part of the Way in the next year. I met some great people, and we continue to keep in touch. Let’s not forget all monies raised were donated to Aware. It is something I would encourage you all to do, even mark it down on your bucket list when you hit that territory! I had written up a long piece to be published but didn’t get round to finishing it, so I dropped it. I may come back to it soon.

I am back to the office after a two day break (Thursday and Friday) and enjoyed the rest. Didn’t do anything exciting, but it’s always good to wake up and not have something to do for the day. Not many holidays left, so will be conserving them until October or November. Not planning on a return to Spain until March or April. The real difficulty I have at the moment in relation to the Camino is I am finding it hard to find people to come along with me at that time. The folks I went with have expressed no interest to return and I am not too keen to venture off on my own. So maybe you Mr or Ms Reader, could help me somehow? 🙂

It was tough to get back to the swing of things after I got back. It took me a week or so to settle down, I just found it hard to focus as my mind was on the previous 10 days.

I started up this blog to post pictures, either from my iPhone or camera. I haven’t been doing that alot recently, but will do.

10 days

Well I received my itinerary this morning for my trip. I will be boarding a flight to Santiago on Saturday 4th and arriving there just before 1pm. I’m sure there will be others on board who will be taking part in the walk, and they will go about it at their own pace and speed. We awake at 7.30am each morning which is fine by me, but I’m sure the late nights we will have will change my opinion sharpish. It’s amazing the amount of good wishes and positive feedback I am getting for doing this from work, Facebook and on Twitter. Even two years ago I would never have thought of doing it and if it was not for my father working for Aware, I would never have heard of the Camino. I hope to take a good few pictures and eventually upload them. This will probably be the last post I make before then so over and out until I arrive back.