Tag Archives: albergue

We walked the Camino and all I got was this piece of paper.

We sure didn’t walk for the fame, the glory and definitely not fortune. That would be very un-Camino.

While I questioned my reasons for walking at times, I never questioned the desire to see it to the end. I cherish this simple piece of paper. Jonathan liked to point out that there is no Latin translation of Lindsay so he feels his compostela is better than mine. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t leave me by the roadside, means that he gets “an extra special place in heaven”. Oh, sweet husband. Whatevs, my awesomeness needs no documentation. This paper is a testament to never giving up and finishing what you start. I always can use the reminder.

It’s been fun to go through photos we took on the Camino. I realized taking pictures while you’re walking doesn’t result in very sharp photos, so there may be some blurry ones. I couldn’t stop. Jonathan wouldn’t let me out of fear I would never start back up again. I’ll have to get more descriptive on each, so I remember where they were taken, but that’s more time than I’m willing to devote at the moment. If you want to see a link to an abbreviated “best of” photos you can find them here.

I also put together a list of all the places we stayed. The pilgrim credentials were helpful since we got stamps at each place. I like to point out that my credentials wear the Camino well with the watermarked pages which I think happen to be symbolic of our rain-soaked Camino, aka “Rafting Trip 2012”.

Some people believe true pilgrims only stay in albergues and that somehow makes your pilgrimage more authentic. Kudos, if you are one of these pilgrims and choose to do it this way. This wasn’t our Way. We had some good stays and some not so good stays. In the end we were most successful with the private rooms in private albergues. I think the weather we endured could’ve earned us 5 star accommodations the entire way in my opinion. While I think it is important to experience the albergues, I think it’s more important to sleep well so you can make it through the next day successfully and maybe even enjoy some of it. Plus, with all the crazy things I had to do with my feet private rooms were more appropriate. I also think had it been nicer weather where you could spend more downtime outside, the albergue experience would’ve been dramatically different. We can count on one hand the number of times the weather allowed us outside at the end of the day to drink cervezas with pilgrims or enjoy a cafe con leche in the morning sun.

I won’t write descriptions for each (email me if you want more specific info), but this is where we stayed:

  1. St. Jean: Hotel Ramuntcho
  2. Roncevalles: Albergue (it’s huge, but not sure of the official name)
    The newly remodeled albergue is a must stay for any pilgrim. Just don’t expect the rest to be as nice. Bunk bed cubicles in groups of four. Hot showers. A little noisy, but nice.
  3. Zubiri: Zaldiko (Priv. Albergue)
  4. Cizur Menor: Albergue Roncal(Priv. Albergue)
    This is where magical Marabel lives. She runs this albergue and is a magician with feet. She showed me the best way to care for blisters which I’ll post on later. I’m glad we stayed here instead of Pamplona. On a nice day everyone was outside reading or doing laundry. Decent facilities but the highlight was the turtle pond.  
  5. Puente la Reina: Hotel Jakue
    Spent two days here to heal feet some. Worth it for the buffet alone. Nice stay. 
  6. Estella: Juvenil Oncineda (Muni. Albergue)
  7. Los Arcos: Casa de Abuela (Priv. Albergue)
    Great private room on the top floor. Nice kitchen. Near the church which is pretty incredible inside.
  8. Viana: Andres Muñoz (Muni. Albergue)
    Winner of the worst albergue we stayed in on the Camino. Bed bugs, gross laundry room, triple decker bunk beds, stuffy room, screaming neighbors, rude hospitalero.  
  9. Navarrete: (Priv. Albergue)
  10. Azofra: (Muni. Albergue)
    2 bed cubicles were a treat. Seemed newish. Co-ed bathroom. Laundry. During summer, the courtyard would be really nice with the fountain. Nice people running it.
  11. Castildelgado: Hostal El Chocolatero
  12. Villafranca: Hotel San Anton Abad
    Nice bathrooms. Private room through the bunk room which was a little awkward. Really nice pilgrim’s meal. The ladies running the place were so incredibly nice and accommodating. Geese outside.
  13. San Juan de Ortega: Alojamiento Rural-La Henera (Casa Rural)
  14. Burgos: Hotel Velada
    Where Martin Sheen stayed part of the time when filming The Way. Really great deal on a nice room. We had to do laundry here and they had it done in 2 hours!
  15. Hontanas: El Puntido (Priv. Albergue)
  16. Boadilla: En El Camino (Priv. Albergue)
    Family run operation. You can tell they enjoy what they do. Great family style dinner and breakfast. Again, in summer it would be nice with the little pool they had in the garden area.  
  17. Carrion de los Condes: Hostal la Corte
  18. Terradillos de los Templarios: Albergue de los Templarios (Priv. Albergue)
  19. Hermanillos de la Calzada: (Muni. Albergue)
  20. Mansilla de Las Mulas: El Postigo (Hostal)
  21. Leon: Hotel Paris
    Nicest room we stayed in on the Camino, after Hotel Compostela at the end. Slept great here. Good location too. 
  22. Villar de Mazarife: San Antonio de Padua (Priv. albergue)
  23. Astorga: La Peseta (Hotel)
  24. Foncebadon: Convento de Foncebadon (Priv. Albergue)
    This place was nice and clean. A little surly on the staff side but we ate the vegetarian meal at the wildly popular Monte Irago a couple doors up the hill. They were super nice there and the meal was amazing. Judith even got an hour massage for 20 euros! 
  25. Ponferrada: Hotel El Castillo
  26. Villafranca del Bierzo: Albergue de La Piedra (Priv. Albergue)
  27. La Faba: Parroquia de San Andres (Muni. Albergue)
    German run parish house. Nice man that was running it at the time. If the weather was nice, being outside would’ve helped. It was next door to a 15th century church. Worst beds though. And only 2 restrooms for 35+ pilgrims (women/men). Let’s just say we were happy that we were one of the first to arrive. After the muddy and wet day, there wasn’t any surface that didn’t have someone’s clothes hanging on it to dry. Lots of men’s bikini briefs and women’s granny panties. 
  28. Triacastela: Complexo Xacobeo (Priv. Albergue)
    Probably the best private room albergue. After a hellish day coming down O’Cebreiro this was a treat.  We had a private room on the top floor which had windows facing the hills and a small patio and spacious bathroom. Great restaurant too.
  29. Sarria: Albergue Ultreia
  30. Palas de Rei: Casa Benilde (Hotel)
  31. Arzua: Meson do Peregrino (Hostel)
  32. Arca/Pedrouzo: Albergue o’ Burgo (Network Hostel)
  33. Santiago: Hotel Compostela
    Great location and value for a nicer end hotel. The AC didn’t work in the first room we had and with the doors open we didn’t sleep with the partying going on until 5am. They upgraded us to another room with a private balcony which was even better. Only 5 minute walk to the Cathedral and steps from the historic district.  
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Seventh inning stretch.

Santiago de Compostela awaits us one week from today. We can’t wait either. Tonight we are sleeping at the German albergue in La Faba. Helmut, is the hospitalero here for three weeks and was a nice guy with his broken English. I think Jonathan and i are the only ones that aren’t German. I would guesstimate that over half of the pilgrims we have met have been German or Austrian. Who knew the Germans loved the Camino so much?

We are right next to this tiny church built in 1665. It was very dark inside but looks like it is still used regularly. The albergue holds 35 in one room and has one toilet and one shower each for men and the women. This should be interesting. We were one of the first to arrive and I got the first shower in the women’s bathroom thankfully. The sleeping room is spacious though and we are surrounded by trees listening to the rain come down. We’ve had a bad streak in regards to sleeping and tonight doesn’t leave me feeling optimistic either.
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It was a mostly easy walk today from Villafranca. Road walking on one side of a crash barrier most of the way. We walked through tiny hamlets where the sheep probably outnumbered the people. There are lots more cows, sheep, chickens and baby animals which make the day more entertaining. Some of the towns people must think we’re loons taking pictures of cows or baby chicks. They seem to roam wherever they want and the grass is thick and lush from all the rain so the living is easy.
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I do feel bad for the dogs and cats that sleep and live outside though. The dogs usually are limping and fur matted. They look cold and tired all the time. We saw three cats huddled together this morning who didn’t even flinch when we took their photo. “hola gatos!” Country living.

The last 3km into La Faba were steep and through mud. The rain was coming down and made it that much more challenging. Many people carried on to the remaining 4km to O’Cebreiro which was more of the challenging climb. I’m glad we split it up. Tomorrow we will be rested for the toughest part and will be “muy fuerte” (stronger). Maybe the rain will let up some. I won’t hold my breath.

We will be at the top early for coffee at least. We figured out Jonathan walked the Dragonte route (in green) last time which looked like a roller coaster of hilly fun. We took the flatter route. They are continually improving routes and alternatives so we didn’t have to suffer that mess today. Such a relief.
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Tomorrow we land in Tricastella where Jonathan “gave mass” the last Camino. Shouldn’t be too bad except
for a steep decline at the end. After that the walking is pretty easy. My feet are doing great. Still mutant looking, but mobile at least!

Leaving Villafranca early.
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Someone told me that there is a Japanese pilgrim that makes and leaves behind origami everywhere he stays. This was one of the most impressive ones.
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Not sure what “the human condition is too legit” means but we like the continued MC Hammer references on the Camino. Too legit to quit!
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Rock me like a hurricane.

We had our first day without being rained on at any point during the walk. Hooray! Of course that meant that we’d have to contend with gale force winds instead. Six glorious hours of wind at our side or head on. We call it the Jonathan Effect where the wind is never at your back regardless of the direction you walk. I couldn’t walk a straight line at all. And at times the gusts were so strong that if I held out my pole loosely the wind blew it parallel to the ground. It was fierce. And not in a Project Runway awesome sort of fierce.

I have repeated to myself many times in the last week my high school graduation motto:

If you walk only on sunny days, you will never reach your destination.

This is true for pretty much everything in life right?

The silver lining is that my feet are toughening up some. They look atrocious but thanks to some cushier socks donated by my Camino expert husband and several changes and stops throughout the day I am getting on a little better. There still is one problem child but it’s healing.

We even made it some longer distances than we had planned thanks to flatter terrain and less rain. We stayed in Azofra at this muni albergue that had little cubicles or private rooms for two. Imagine what it would look like in a sleeper car on a train and it was kind of like that. Nice facilities and even free washer and dryer. I had to tell this Spaniard three times gratis!. He was so excited as he was always handwashing something when I saw him.

Had it been over 45 degrees we could’ve enjoyed the nice courtyard and fountain. I’ll have to insert names and links to these places later. Most are in the John Brierly guidebook recommended previously.

From Azofra we thought I’d only make it to grañon but I pushed on another 5k to Castildelgado thanks to some sun and good paths. It was our biggest day I think–29k roughly. Our feet were pretty tired. We stayed at a truck stop hostel with own bathroom. El Chocolatero was the name and i think I was one of three women in that tiny town. It was clean at least.

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After a good rest we pushed on today to Villafranca. We planned this so we’d have a light day into San Juan de Ortega which is in the mountains and at the highest point take us to 1100 meters. Snow has been falling at 800 meters recently. The weather says rain and cold but clearing in the middle of the day tomorrow–so we’re hoping for the best. Only 12 k so we’ll finish early and rest in a Casa rural. Options are slim at the top but we didn’t want to get stuck in a storm without hot water and exhausted after a big climb.

So we’re staying in Villafranca tonight at Hotel San Antón Abad–in the albergue. We got a private room and bath for 43 euros. This place is pretty nice though. The hotel rooms looked actually kind of fancy. We had a nice lunch in the restaurant too. We were happy to not be eating bocadillos like we did yesterday for lunch and dinner since nothing was open and we couldn’t stay up past 9pm to eat with the locals.

Camino Tip for Future Pilgrims:
Bring a ziplock bag of almonds/cranberries or other good protein snack that will hold up. It’s saved me many times from Long stretches without cafes or stores open. Or buy fruit when available.

I’ve never eaten so much bread, tortilla, or jamón. Quite a reversal from being gluten free and dairy free for two years. I think I can make up for it in 6 weeks.

Now it’s siesta and I’m resting the feet–the usual. Jonathan is wandering about a little later looking for some goods for tomorrow. You know it’s cold when even he is thinking about buying gloves and wearing multiple layers.

Since I’ve slowed us down some with my feet and because of weather, we are losing some of our extra days we had at the end of the Camino. We plan to take a day off on Friday and will spend two nights at a hotel in Burgos. This is a fancier version of the Camino since we’re not spending every night in the albergues. I have no problem with this because I think we’ve had to do what works for us. I need to tend to my feet which can be a lengthy and disgusting process and didn’t really find it comfortable to do so in some of the albergues. With the weather being so shunworthy, the people haven’t been too terribly social either unfortunately. We’ve met some good people but often you lose them in a day or two because of different pacing and stops.

I’m hoping this changes the second half of the Camino. It would be nice to socialize a bit more in a communal setting like being outside. We will see. We clearly aren’t in control here and as a fellow pilgrim says, “we go where the universe wants us to go”.

Here’s to sunnier days and happy feet.
Buen Camino!

Some photos of our habitacion privado in Villafranca (fanciest bathroom yet!):

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How does this thing work?

We’ve been fortunate to hear a lot of positive feedback and words of encouragement that we’ll carry with us over the duration of this walk. Thank you, we are most appreciative. One of the many questions we keep hearing is “So…how does one walk across Spain?”. It’s definitely on the more rustic side of adventures, but not too bad seeing how we’ll be staying in places with bathrooms and beds. Unfortunately, we won’t have security detail to carry our bags for us and will be walking the full route unlike Jenna Bush who walked in 2004.

Aside from the obvious “put one foot in front of the other, repeat” method, the path and walking schedule seems pretty structured, but flexible and easy to follow. I’ll be sure to update from the road, but from what I understand this is what a typical day will look like for us:

530 – 600am: Get woken up by the early risers in the albergues (pilgrim hostels).
Become early riser.
630-ish: Hit the road and walk for a couple hours
830-ish: Stop for breakfast/cafe con leche
900-12: Walk
Noon: lunch
1300: Walk until final destination or siesta
Afternoon/Evening: Attend pilgrim’s mass, eat with others and rest.
Some albergues provide a basic meal with your stay, other times we’ll eat out.

Repeat.

Rick Steves has a quick little video about the camino you can watch here.

Ideally, we want to arrive earlier in the day in the town where we will be staying. That way we have more options with the albergues and can spend the rest of the day relaxing or doing laundry. Some days will require more walking than others and vice versa. The forums are pretty good about listing out the best places to stay and ones to avoid. Some of them will have as few as 6 beds and others with as many as 100. Usually bunk beds. It varies a lot. The fewer the better obviously, and over time you can identify the snorers and try to go to the other side of the room. Since there are a lot of senior walkers, you are supposed to give them priority and offer them lower bunks. Jonathan said sometimes these places have a couple private bedrooms and those usually go to the sick or loud snorers. I don’t reckon this will be a completely restful type of adventure, but we’ll be ok. We plan on staying a night in a hotel or nice B&B every now and then or as needed so we can catch up on rest, and clean up.

What can you bring?

How does a girl pack for 6 weeks away, knowing your joints will feel each ounce you add? I think this is going to be a challenge. I’ve asked a few of my friends if they’d be interested in being my Spanish sherpa, but still no takers. We’re just putting the pieces together. I bought a pack, hiking shoes, and some clothing and rain gear and am testing things out. I discovered that toe socks may help prevent blisters and thankfully no one will see them. Not to be confused with the toe shoes which still freak me out. I probably will have about 3 outfits will all interchangeable pieces depending on the weather. I will definitely not be among the latest fashion trends this spring, but as my mother always says “it’s not about how you look, but how warm/comfortable you are.”

In addition, we carry a sleeping bag, a mat, shoes and other necessities in our packs. My goal is to keep it under 20 lbs.

I’ll have a follow up post with the items that make the cut.

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