February 24, 2018
This time in 2013 Anita and I were doing a lot of hiking to prepare ourselves for our Camino Santiago hike across Northern Spain: our favourite trip of all time.
I know many of you are preparing for your own pilgrimage. I am therefore re-posting our own experience. You will find much detailed information and lovely photos of our own experience plus places to stay along the route and iconic things to see and stories.
Sincerely hope that this helps!
Our Camino Frances with more info:
Mon Apr 22, 2013: In transit from Toronto to Paris
Tue Apr 23: In transit from Paris to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
The plan:CDG to Paris Gare du Nord every 5 to 7 minutes; takes ~25 min; TGV 8537 dep Paris Montparnasse 12h27 arr Bayonne 17h32; TER 67331 dep Bayonne 18:07 arr Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port 19:33 Note: We missed our train from Montparnasse by buying the wrong ticket from the airport. Human help is sadly absent or too far away in Paris stations and we let a local buy our tickets for us. Our ticket didn’t let us on the subway at Montparnasse – the right one should have. For these tricky situations take the time to find an information kiosk. Don’t panic. We caught a later train to Bayonne (more money) and took a taxi from there to SJPdP for € 110!!
Stayed at Hotel Itzalpea 5 Place du Trinquet, SJPdP Tel 33559370366 email@example.com (€78/nt)
Wed Ap 24: SJPdP
Got our Carnets de Pèlerin (Passports), bought hiking poles at La Boutique du Pèlerin, walked around St. Jean to check the way out of town, ate a lunch by the river, walked up above the town to the citadelle and ate dinner for the second time at Chez Dédé. Yum.
Stay at Private Refugio Orisson – Half Board 32 € (yes, that’s thirty-two monopolistic euros per person) firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 34681497956
Sat Apr 27: Visit Roncesvalles; Taxi to Pamplona
Roncesvalles: Visited the Real Collegiata de Santa María (see above photos), Capilla de Sancti Spiritus, Capilla de Santiago, Battle of Roncesvalles Monument, the Silo of Charlemagne and the Museo.Ate lunch at nearby Casa Sabina, whose chef is also responsible for the kitchen at H. Roncesvalles.
Taxied (€55) to Pamplona, skipping one stage – Zubiri.
Book Early the Hostal Navarra Nr bus stn Db-€60 Calle Tudela 9, tel 948-225-164 There was no room when we called the day before. We stayed at Pension Arrieta (€ 40) 34-948-228-459, which has two nearby locations. The wifi is in the building with no elevator. Felt like we were disturbing the family whenever we went back there to ask questions or use the Internet, but they were nice and polite.We visited the cathedral: Choir contains “Mary of the Adopted Child; Mary is original but child is not; Tomb of Chas III in nave ooh aah.Ate supper at the Bar La Granja for € 33. A local bride-to-be, dressed in toilet paper and accompanied by friends, was one of the customers.
Went to Rincón del Caballo Blanco for a great ramparts view. Then high mass at noon at the Catedral. After we were guided to the corral which is the beginning of the Encierro – the running of the bulls by a Basque man and his wife who saw us looking at maps after Mass. He had done 6 Caminos and pointed out the shrine to San Fermin in the wall and recommended the place where we ate the best pintxos of our whole trip: Café Bar Gaucho on Espoz y Mina, 7. Don’t expect to be served in English, so know how to say “allergic to shellfish,” or whatever it is you can’t eat, and you’ll be in tastebud (and visual) heaven. We walked the Rick Steves bull route: bull corral > Museum of Navarre > shrine to San Fermin on Cuesta de S. Domingo à City Hall > C. Mercaderes > C. La Estafeta > Ultramarinos Beatriz > Kukuxumusu > BullringMissed the Encierro Monument and Hemingway’s room in Hotel Perla. Took a photo with Ernest at his Hemingway Corner in Café Iruña, where we ate a pretty decent meal as well. Lots of locals and tourists eat here in style.
Mon April 29: Pamplona to Óbanos
Got the 10:00 bus (La Estellesa.com) from Pamplona to Óbanos. The bus stops about 1.5 km outside the town, so we walked in. Stayed at the private Refugio Usda in Óbanos Tel 34-676-560-927 Walked in the late afternoon to the octagonal Templar Eunate Church a church of the soil. It was closed but worth visiting and was the reason we stayed in Óbanos. Romanesque with Visigoth & Moorish influences. Epic and elegiac poetry in its conception. Refugio de Santa María adjacent to it had recently closed for good, methinks.
Walked 3.5 km from Óbanos to Puente La Reina whose remarkable 6-arch bridge unites the main roads leading down from France and is thus the technical beginning of the Camino Frances – Michener alerted me to this place in his wonderful book, Iberia, that describes his 40 year love affair with Spain.
There is no bus station in Puente la Reina; we took ages hunting for one before we realized this. There is a bar on the main road where one must catch the bus to Estella (€ 1.93 fare). When/if I figure out its name I’ll add it to this section. If you can help me, let me know. We never got a map of the place as we weren’t there that long and the T/I wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Nice bridge, but a town that punches way above its weight in the confusion/size ratio. St. Peters church, the main one I wanted to see, was closed. At Estella, the “Toledo of the North,” as one resident put it we stayed in Pensión San Andrés. Very central and OK. The woman who runs it seemed reserved but put out a lovely setting of three plates and wine glasses and cloth napkins in the lounge for us when we told her we were expecting to entertain a guest after dinner. I love this place. So many beautiful things to see.
Wed May 1: Visit Estella
Among the things we visited in Estella are The Virgin of El Puy – “magic star,” exquisite church (1930’s); Santa Maria Jus del Castillo was a synagogue in 1262.; Palace of the kings of Navarra has a statue of Roland jousting with a Moor on its facade; door of the Church of San Miguel has a stone panel of the 3 Marys and the King Herod capital; History: Estrella was Carlist; Requetés rose up between 1830-1876 and later supported Franco; an “ornery little town” – Michener p. 859
Bus 07:40 to Santo Domingo de la Calzata arr: 9:20 on PLM bus lines (€ 5.31; Tel: 902144174) Skipped 3 stages: Los Arcos, Logroño and Nájera. Visited Santo Domingo’s Parador (orig. the pilgrim hospital) and the catedral with tomb of S. Domingo The Catedral houses a hen and a rooster in honour of the miracle attributed to this saint. A cool, crazy story!
Ate some very ordinary calories at Meson del Abuelo near the cathedral
Fri May 3: Burgos Visit
Gothic Catedral de Santa María: (open 9h30 – 19h30): (1936 plaque to Franco), Capilla de Santa Tecla, Escalera Dorada, Tomb of El Cid, Capilla del Condestable; Ate our most creative and very delicious meal in Spain at El Rincón del Cid on Plaza de Mío Cid Tel: 947209396Walked to Monasterio de las Huelgas before supper. Came back along the river. It was closed when we arrived, but we knew that. It houses the Tombs of Eleanor and Alfonso VIII, Capilla de Santiago. Highly recommend staying 2 nights here!
Alsa bus: Burgos à León 06:35 (€ 15.31) Skipped 7 stages: Hornillos, Castrojeriz (:, Frómista, Carrión, Terradillos, El Burgo Ranero, and Mansilla. Saw the beautiful glass of the Catedral: Plaza Mayor; nightlife; Plaza de Santa María del Camino, Casa Botines (Gaudí)Stayed at the Parador 34-987-237-300 (€ 90.90) Total bill with dinner and breakfast for two: € 204.11 A splurge, perhaps, but we enjoyed our time there.
Bused León to Puente Órbigo: Alsa bus Leon à Empalme Puente Órbigo at 10:40. The long Roman bridge was Defended for 30 days by knight Suero de Quiñones 10h40 Ate lunch at Órbigo, then walked 15 km from Puente to Astorga My first dizzy spell occurred after the very hot showers in the great Municipal Refugio there.
Early Taxi to Foncebadón – € 30. A 2 km walk to Cruz de Ferro. Continued walking another 20.5 km to Molinaseca. Ate “lunch” in Acebo at La Posada del Peregrino. Listened to a shepherd calling his sheep (“Allez! Allez!”) in a beautiful valley, then watched his huge, sandy yellow dog quietly watch us when our path descended and passed near them. This was my favorite walk of the whole camino. Despite being challenged by the terrain, my thoughts were absorbed by the beauty and solitude of the place. A feeling of gratefulness that modern society had not reached, had not spoiled, this place dominated my mood. We arrived in Molinaseca at 19:17. Stayed at Hotel El Palacio by the beautiful Roman bridge, the first place we saw when we arrived.
Visited Molinaseca: I hunted down and eventually found the House of Doña Urraca, who would become Queen of Spain, near the Puente de Peregrinos. Taxied from Molinaseca to Villafranca with Taxi Luis – email@example.com Tel: 671708070 Brief stop to shoot the Templar Castle in Ponferrada (Michener p 882) V
Arrived at around noon in Villafranca del Bierzo – The Puerta del Perdón at the Church of Santiago was a must see. Villafranca and this simple little church are called “Little Santiago” because pilgrims in ancient times who couldn’t finish due to illness were granted the same indulgences as those who finished. Stayed at Micro Hostal La Puerta del Perdón, tel: 987540614 Room: El Bierzo € 55. Ermínio & Pilár are very nice. Tourist Information in town scored 1 out of 2 in accuracy. A beautiful town to walk around in. History: Sir John Moore’s retreat from the Peninsular War between Napoleon and Spain with undisciplined, starving and drunken soldiers who abandoned their own women and children and raided all resources to feed themselves. Moore died on January, 6, 1809. Book on this: Corunna, by Christopher Hibbert. (M p 884-890)
Visited the Church of Santiago It opened at 10:00 and I delivered a precious package there – Martha’s Lady of Guadalupe. Susanna, who opened the church, placed it on her desk at the door. Then we took the Alsa Bus 12h20 arr Lugo 13h30 – € 10.56 NOTE!!! You get on the bus at the Bar La Charola but must buy your tickets in downtown Villafranca; Then Monbus dep Lugo Bus Station at 13h45 arr Sarria probably by 14h15 (~30km) € 3.80. Sarria is the start of the first stage that you must walk if you want to earn a Compostela. Walked to Monasterio da Madalena, the Municipal Refugio Tel: 982533568
Thu May 9: Sarria to Portomarin
Walked 22.4 km Not many fountains. Take plenty of water. I did, but got dehydrated because the cold, rainy weather fooled my system. Second, and last, dizzy spell on the long, wide steps entering Portomarín
12.8 km to Ventas. Stayed at O Cruceiro refugio and pensión, where we upgraded to a private room with bath. Met Ania and Olivier with whom we have become fast friends.
12.0 km to Palas. Stayed at Pensión Vilariño. € 42. Maybe the most welcoming place in Palas de Rei. Tel: 34-982380152. At the pulpo restaurant the server Hotel showed less than no interest in us, so we walked out and ate again at our charming pension. Soccer was on TV. The owner’s son, Adrian, well-traveled, gracious and intelligent, is a Barcelona fan.
Sun May 12: Palas de Rei to Melide
Mon May 13: Melide to Arzúa
11.8 km to Arzúa. Ate lunch in beautiful Ribadiso at the Meson Rural Rivadiso on the way to Arzúa. Then we walked on and ate a great supper in Arzúa. The Church of Santiago there was lovely inside, and had Santiago Matamoros in the retablo. Bought famous local cheese wine, bread at the grocery store there. Stayed at Pensión Rúa – recommended by María. It was quite OK.
16.3 km. Stayed at the charming private refugio at Santa Irene – El Pino € 13 pp (Only 15 beds) Canned peach and pear for dessert did not impress, but the fireplace in the lounge and the ambiance did. Chatted with two French pilgrims for a while. One, a doctor named Serge, instantly diagnosed my dizzy spells as the result of dehydration. Serge insisted we need a litre of water every 3 hours and that cold, wet days are dangerous b/c one is never thirsty. Vanessa from Australia taught me to use “Forget this network” to re-enter a wifi address. I learned a lot here from Serge and Vanessa.
13.8 km Stayed at Casa de Amancio (Casa Rurál) (€ 40) Tel: 981897086 A superb room with a little kitchen place. Meals were great. Only snag, it was up a set of outside stairs, but we were quite capable after our camino training. This was the only Casa Rurál we stayed at. Vowed to try more next time. Vilamaior is tiny but only 9 km from Santiago.
Thu May 16: Vilamaior à Santiago
Fri May 17: Visit Santiago
Booked Excursión to Finisterre and Muxía for Saturday; toured cathedral w audioguides; dinner at O Lagar on Rua Franco. Watched Nadal play Ferrer on TV.
Sat May 18: Visit Santiago
Tour of Fisterra and Muxía: Excursión Costa da Norte Tel: 981766545 (bookable at T/I office on Rua Vilar) Departs 09:00 & returns ~ 18:30 € 40pp Well worth it; Dinner w Ania and Olivier at Café Manolo, the pilgrims’ favorite restaurant with great choice, in Plaza de Cervantes
Pentecost; We sat between the organs this time. Wow, the sound! The botafumeiro swung again. Dinner again at Café Manolo
Mon May 20: Santiago to Bilbao
Alsa Bus dep 08:30 arr 20:45 € 51.75pp; The tickets can be purchased T/I office on Rua Vilar for a € 5 surcharge. (Saves a trip from the centre to the bus station.) Stayed at Hotel Sirimiri, Plaza de la Encarnación 3, right near the Old Quarter. Excellent value at € 64 per night.Tel: 944330759 Ate a late supper at a forgettable place in the Old Quarter.
Tue May 21: Visit Bilbao
Streetcar to the Guggenheim from very near our hotel: € 1.40. Our visit to the Guggenheim was mind-bending; ate a wonderful lunch at the exquisite Café Iruña; Paseo Ate pinxtos at Sarkue (€ 1 after 19:00 on Mon – Wed).
Wed May 22: Visit Bilbao
Paseo; Muséo de las Bellas Artes (it was free that day, and well worth a visit. ) Then we walked to the Alhóndiga – a fascinating avant-garde cultural centre in a beautiful old building – we ate a good lunch there at the Hóla Bar. Looked at the Teatro from outside (closed) and decided against the Fado concert that evening. Then a siesta followed by pinxtos at Sarkue again.
The 8 hour wait in FRA was the main cause of our excruciating 24 hour trip home. Arriving at BIO at 04:20 almost an hour before it opened was no help either.
Our 32 day trip cost us about $8300 if I include the $1200 we spent on gear. It is one of our favorites of all time.