A bit of the Camino de Santiago..

Old Jul 26th, 2010, 05:20 AM
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Hi Lin...

Loved reading about your time on the Camino. Mom and I did a very short walk with a tour group we were with back in May. We spent a few hours walking on the Camino and ended (our bus picked us up) in the cute town of Puenta de la Reina. We loved our relatively short walk of several hours and the section we walked had lovely scenery. The fact we had perfect weather that day helped too!

P.S...we met you at the Atlanta GTG back in February.
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 10:05 AM
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I'm a camino walker with a pretty high level of addiction. I'm really looking forward to hearing Lin's perspective on the experience.

Just a few comments now --

The Camino from Roncesvalles to Santiago (Camino Frances) is only one of many different options, but it's the trail that most people are referring to when they use the term "Camino." But there are many other well-marked paths all through Spain that all wind up in Santiago and all have some historical basis as having been used during medieval times or earlier (I just walked a camino that originated with the Romans). There's a good schematic map of Spain here that shows some of the more popular caminos, and if you read Spanish, there's a ton of information. http://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/

And this site lists about 20 Caminos and also has an English version. http://www.mundicamino.com/

Ivar, who has just posted here, runs what is by far the best and most active online Camino forum in English, http://www.caminodesantiago.me/board/ And he also has a very pilgrim friendly business that provides a lot of services to pilgrims from all over, it's called the Camino Travel Center I think.

So sorry you didn't get the compostela, lin. I arrived in Santiago this year on June 15, at around 1 in the afternoon, and there were four people in line!

Looking forward to reading a lot more! Laurie
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 03:19 PM
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Just unloaded bags from the car after an all day ride of getting back home.

Forgot to answer you, Aduchamp, that we did not have percebes this trip. My husband loves them.. I am neutral, and they are so expensive now I, personally, with such a large group, it would have been sticker-shocking had several people ordered them.

LCI.. hi! It was so nice meeting you on Atlanta. I am not familiar enough with the trail to know exactly what part that walk is on, but if you say it is beautiful scenery.. I believe you. A walk like that is such a treat.

Laurie, nice to have all these websites for when I go back without tagging along with our friends' family reunion! I can see how one can be addicted to it all. Your focus changes so much, and when you finally change into normal street clothes, sparkling clean blown dried hair, make-up,no your walking stick, boots, shorts or day pack.. it feels strange and distant to be a spectator as the plaza fills up in Santiago with those finishing the walk after you have showered and changed.

I will be back, and off season does appeal to me. I don't NEED to stay at the parador, again, but it was a lovely ending to this particularly special journey.

It took me a day or so to "wind down" and I even had tears in my eyes yesterday at our last special meal together. Looking around the table at our friends enjoying the presence of their married children, chatting with one of them about how wonderful her parents, now deceased, were to me when I first arrived in Spain and was the "girlfriend" of my husband. We also made new American friends.. friends of our Spanish friends.. so it was really a full emotional week, with our goodbyes just around the corner.

I obviously don't have my day by day report figured out. I hope I do get it somewhat organized soon, but my impressions were all good, and I can do nothing but encourage others to take a few hours, days or weeks, whatever you have, to participate in what has become a fascinating journey through history.

A few things I did wrong are easy to remedy.
1) I bought some hiking boots a couple years ago. I have worn them on and off and did wear them around the house all day the day before we left.

I think they are too short, as from the first day I was hitting my toes downhill and as a consequence I think I may lose my big toenail. I go to the podiatrist this week. I should have gone before the trip just to get everything in order foot-wise.

So this is newbie mistake number one. Like in skiing. Footwear must be perfect, and until you hike or ski alot, I think it is difficult to foresee what you need in a boot. I will do some investigating before I buy replacements.

2). We "forgot" ( didn't even think of it) to put sunscreen on the back of our legs and arms, especially near the sock line and behind the knees. Wow. One gets burned quickly from behind. Our faces and front of body were perfectly protected, but we did a bad job the FIRST day on the behind!

3) Tried a bit too much the first day, but felt like I had to keep up with the group at least the first 10kms. I finally accepted reality, stayed at a café t regain some strength , will power and then continued on my own for two villages until I called it quits.

One of the pleasantries along the trail is almost each and every person when they pass you will say "buen camino!", which basically is "have a good walk".. . Making toasts we were always saying "Buen Ca!", the abbreviation.

Foreigners seem to say "hola" when they pass.

A few very interesting people I saw along the way.

A barefoot walker, gingerly doing the last kms as though he were in great pain. We decided he must be fulfilling some kind of personal penitence as his boots were hanging off his backpack.

A young, cheerful French woman leading her donkey BACK to France. Oh my. We had not even arrived at the Monto do Gozo, and this woman was already on her way back.... and to FRANCE. (The wimp and others here realize how strong some people are).

I kept seeing an American family along the way.. parents and two teenage girls laden with the works.. backpack and sleeping apparatus. I finally crossed paths directly with the father and youngest daughter and walked part way together. He is a writer from New Haven Conn, and we finally met up with the wife and other daughter at a café along the trial. We had a nice chat.

I smiled when I saw two young japanese wearing identical T-shirts with their photo on it and "just married" across the bottom of the picture. I congratulated them as they passed and they politely said thank you. I think they were in the parador, too, but without their hats, sunglasses and T-shirts I can't be sure!

A group of vivacious( of course) Italians who seemed to have no reservations along the trail the day we saw them as they were getting quite desperate and were relaying this unfortunate news of "completo" on their cell phones to the laggers, telling them they were moving on to try to find someplace.

Then there are the lame and exhausted at some of the guest houses/cafés along the way-..waiting to heal, taking a day or two off, or who knows what. People hobbling around restlessly, .. I was wondering what their next step was to be.

I hope to have some order in the rest soon!
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 04:25 PM
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P.S. the people I was discussing their deceased parents with was one of the SISTERS of our friends.. not any of our friends' married children. I didn't check my sentences too well for clarity!
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 04:29 PM
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Thanks for sharing your trip. What a wonderful reward, having pulpo at the end of your journey!
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 04:50 PM
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We had pulpo in the middle, the next day AND the end!! Outside of Santiago it was VERY inexpensive as it seems is most everything in comparison!
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 08:05 PM
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Forgot to answer you, Aduchamp, that we did not have percebes this trip. My husband loves them.. I am neutral, and they are so expensive now I, personally, with such a large group, it would have been sticker-shocking had several people ordered them.
_____________

No problem. Your excitement about the Camino is obvious from 4,000 miles away.
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 08:07 PM
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Hi again,

I have enjoyed so much reading about your adventure, thank you!And thanks for the tip about the shoes. Were they too small? I hope your toenail is fine!

I tried pulpo last year in Santiago. I don't know why it took me so long to do it because I loved it! It was pulpo a la feria.
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 11:41 PM
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On this mornings TV news they said that there has been an increase of 50% more pilgrims this year over the last Xacobeo. Far too many for me.

pulpo a la feria..... means Octous of the market...so unless you eat it outside at a market and have seen it being cooked in the copper vessel you have never had the real pulpo a la feria.

PS (off topic) I saw JMJ at Docklands London way back in the 80s. But it was not free.
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Old Jul 27th, 2010, 03:12 AM
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We went to a carnival in Santiago where there was a tent and a long tables and all they were making was pulpo and potatoes. The wine, however, could have been used in Abu Ghraib.

That I assume would qualify as pulpo a la feria.
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Old Jul 27th, 2010, 09:36 AM
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Adu..yes...shame about the wine as Galicia can produce some excellent wines even the home made non production stuff.

A Carnival or THE Carnaval ( Entroido) or just a fiesta?
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Old Jul 27th, 2010, 02:17 PM
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This is the fourth time I have tried to write this. We are having power overloads here in Valencia it seems.

Our adventure from Valencia began with an overnight in Madrid visiting some friends. Then the next day we continued on to the walled town of Urueña for a bite to eat before our long drive up to Villafranca del Bierzo.

http://www.ayto-uruena.es/ go to "Presentación Monumental" to see some pics.

As we wandered around this small town admiring the old walls and churches, we noticed a music camp taking place. There were groups of three or four young students practicing their recitals on every shaded corner. We had lunch at an outdoor table under some trees with a quartet playing Vivaldi in the background.

Who could have planned such a soothing lunch? We really missed them when their leader came and they hustled off for lunch themselves, gathering their instruments and music. We have stopped here before but never were serenaded like this!

Next tourist stop was Astorga, another important historic town you may never have heard of. There are a number of interesting buildings here to admire. We visited the bishop's palace that Gaudi had intervened in at some point. We also bought some disappointing famous, traditional little cakes at one of the numerous shops.

http://www.ayuntamientodeastorga.com/index.htm

Another coffee and finally really on our way! I can't wait to meet up with our friends. We haven't seen them for two years.

Medina del Campo is also a another nice small town to stop and admire architecture/castles, etc. if you go by there.

In Villafranca we stayed this time at a small renovated stone house hotel near our friends' house. This place is right on calle del agua, which is the pilgrim's entrance to Villafranca, and also an exit for motorised vehicles. It can be a bit noisy ( our room gave onto the street side) so I would not stay here again in summer where you like to have the windows open. The rooms were nice and plenty of hot water. Breakfast not included.. 58E, which I found steep for what it was, as cute as it was and all. But actually, their tourist season is so short, I can't blame them for asking that price.

After socializing with the group, we all retired. The next day, anxious to start the walk, we all had breakfast together and were given a blue envelope with the yellow arrow on it our friend had prepared.

Inside were copies of each stage of the walk were were going to accomplish. We took a long look at today's route. The general opinion was to drive up to O'Cebrerio and start there as most everyone had done this steep part of this stage several times over from Villafranca to O'C. So our route started at O'Cebreiro this time.

We bought our passports and got our first stamp at the church. Fortunately no one was there waiting when we first arrived to do this, but you can imagine once other pilgrims started arriving only wanting the stamp, and there was this group of 16 people getting the passport ... patience is a virtue of the pilgrims.

Then off we went walking. This beginning felt like a real adventure to me. I had no idea what was ahead. Was I going to hold up for 22 kms? I was honestly a bit anxious and dubious about my capabilities but was going to give it a try!

O'Cebreiro, a village with original celtic homes called Pallozas, is a lovely starting point if you are in the area. The town itself offers some of the most spectacular scenery of this part of the route, in my opinion. From here on in we will cross valley after valley, but always be going to a lower altitude, although there are many long, steep climbs.

One can see for miles, and you wonder what this was like without the luxuries, the food availability,etc. .. it is true that the "way" was not marked through little towns, but rather little towns or groups of entrepeneurs in houses sprouted up to service the pilgrims along the way.

http://www.galice.net/Que_ver_esp/qu...n_cebreiro.htm

We walked and hiked and walked and walked, and after several kms. I was wondering what I got myself into. About 10-12 kms into the walk I decided I needed a longer break than the rest and made the decision to continue later on my own once I recuperated.

This was not as much "fun" or social as I had imagined or been led to believe by my husband. This group was hardly stopping, it seemed, and certainly we weren't having these pleasant "downtimes" I had heard about that had forged such memories in my husband's mind. We all had stopped for a drink and to eat our bocadillo. I had arrived the last, and let everyone go ahead.

After resting awhile i decided to trudge along and go as far as I felt I could without injuring myself for the entire vacation. I walked to two more villages and then let them know where I was going to wait for them until they finished.

Walking alone without any pressure from myself allowed me to finally enjoy the trail. I told myself I wasn't competing with anyone or for anything. I was going to enjoy several days of walking and get as far as I felt like. I would give it some effort but I was not going to put myself beyond into pure exhaustion.

Once my mind was set on how I was going to approach this, the rest just happened. I walked, and talked, stopped, met up with the group.. enjoyed walking bits with some and bits with others.. but often by myself, as did many of the others.

The group would change into groups of two or three.. then one then four.. then a stop for lunch and wait for the other 13. The rhythm developed and the following days were how I had imagined it all. Relaxed and fulfilling.

After a few hours one starts to see everything else that makes up the trail. Not only the trail and the flow of pilgrims..the salute "buen camino", each walking at a different pace, but the flowers, (hydrangeas are abundant), trees ( chestnuts and oak) the smells of stabled animals and plastic covered fermenting bales of hay or wheat.

At times you share the path with a herd of beautiful but determined cows going home to be milked. You come upon a fruit stand along the trail with no house or attendant in sight. Prices are written in front of each item and a money can is there for you to settle your debt. Fresh raspberries were the conversation on day 2 and three.

Occasionally residents walk out of their homes and watch the parade go by. It passes quietly except for the clicking of the walking sticks against the compacted dirt or at times pavement.

A few more observations tomorrow! Good night!
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 03:03 AM
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I forgot to add that in Villafranca we had a really nice meal outside in a garden at a place called "la Pedrera" on calle La Pedrera. It's just before you hit the parador area on a little side street.

Villafranca had one internet place I found in a pub down off the larger, new plaza area. I didn't keep a card.. sorry. but ask someone young and they will give you the name. It was not easy to find computers most places, and when you did, there was a line of people waiting to use them. However, free wifi seemed to be available in a few of the trail cafés as well as more readily available in the larger towns at cafeterias.

A cute place we stopped to rest and snack, that also has rooms and takes reservations, on the trail at km 95 is the Bodeguiña at Mercadoiro. (34) 982 545359.
www.mercadoiro.com

I read some mixed reviews later on the webpage Laurie gave us in this post, but we thought the place was adorable on the outside. They had a huge grassy knoll people were resting on in the shade and the place was just kind of funky and charming.. I did not take a look at the rooms.. I know they have 2 doubles with a bathroom for 35E/night in summer. Bunkbeds with shared bath are 9, I believe.

A number to call to transport suitcases and mochilas for 3E to your next stop is 982 5450 43. All the places seemed to have info about this on their message boards.

A website in Spanish for this purpose.

http://www.xacotrans.com/XACOTRANS/S...XACOTRANS.html

Basically you call them before 10.30 pm the night before or between 7.30 and 8.30 the morning of. Leave your case with 3E on top with your name and clearly identified name and address of next reserved lodging. It will be waiting for you there before 1.30 that day. This company has an insurance policy for your bag except for what is in the exterior pockets.

Now back to walking.

Day 2 was my favorite day. We started in Barbadelo and from there it was what I imagined the Camino would be. Rolling fields separated by medieval stone walls about 2 feet high to mark the perimeter of plots of land and /or to keep the cows in place. The trail flowed through forests and along these walls and gave me the experience I was hoping for. It was a true pleasure the entire way as well as I can recall. The trees, flowers and farmland odors accompanied us most of the route.

There are other parts of the Santiago trail that follow the road for small or larger distances. When there are trees nearby it is not so bad but at some points you are walking under the oppressive sun and feeling cars and trucks wizz by. The trail also goes past a few industrial parks which is not interesting either. I did skip some of these places, and I can ask my host for their exact location, but I am sure it is well defined in a guide book or one of these popular blogs.
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 04:53 AM
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Thanks Lin for all the useful info and great read!
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 06:33 AM
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Great post...
At the momnet Galicia has an Orange alter for the high temps. So I would hate to be walking the Camino. In fact I hate working outside at the moment.
http://www.meteoalarm.eu/index2.php?...ES&day=0&lang=

If you are interested there are web-cams covering Galicia:
http://www.crtvg.es/camweb/index.asp?id=14&mn=LUG
Link on the left of the live stream gives more views of the Camino
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 06:50 AM
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This is such a coincidence as I just finished this morning reading my neighbour's book on the Camino. He walked 700 kilometers, starting in Pamplona three years' ago at 68 years old. A Journey of Days by Guy Thatcher. Maybe I can do it like you. Thanks for this.
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 06:50 AM
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I'll skip along to the last days as more or less we had the same schedule. Breakfast together, gather now the 27 walkers.. drive to where we left off last time. ( We were such a large group we slept off trail for all the nights. 2 in Sarriá and three around Mellide towards Arzua. )

We would then see if everyone was feeling well and walking the whole route or not. We would make arrangements around which km to meet for our major stop. Then we depended on cell phones to do some impromptu stops when one of the leaders would find an exceptionally pleasant shady area. Just give the marker number and directions.

One of these wonderful places was at marker number 16.5km. Just at that marker, go right off the trail to a huge shady grassy area. There is even a firepit there someone has made. Lots of stones/trunks to sit on and a tree trunk to lean against. A great picnic area.

We would also advise each other if someone had decided to stop and where he /she was waiting. It was usually at a café along the trail, or that person was told to go forward to the next place as it was accessible to the main road and would facilitate being picked up later.

Some culinary,shopping and sleeping tidbits:

I saw this neat place along the way and wrote down the name. "CAsa Rural Fogar de Lecer". It is in an ideal location and I will definitely try to stay here if I am with fewer people.

http://fogardelecer.blogspot.com/2009/02/arzua.html

and a website in English in general http://camino.xacobeo.es/en

We had great Pulpo in Melide.. at a famous place on the main road called Pulpería Ezequiel. It has long wooden tables and benches. Our huge group walked in and within moments all 27 were seated and waiting for the bottles of Ribeira to appear. They also had fresh delicious salads and delicious wine. We ate for 13E/person. I believe each bottle of wine was 3E.

Arzúa has great little shops. We got our blue with the yellow arrow T-shirts there. 6 Euros Some shops sold them for 8 and 10. So check around. We all donned them the last day for our last kms. as a group walking up to Monto do Gozo and then into Santiago.

Earlier we also had delicious pulpo in Portmarin at a small pension /guest house with a terrace with a view of the Miño river. Casa Perez, I think it is called. We had hoped to stay in the hotel that is just across the bridge but a tour group has taken it over. So we had kept our pazo reservations and just had dinner in Portomarin.

Crossing the bridge and walking up into Portomarin is another stretch not to be forgotten. Portomarin is quite the lively place in the summer with all the pilgrims. A friend went there one fall and it was practically deserted.

Casa de Amancio is a welcome sight after the uphill 2km trek to Vilamayor at the end of the next to last day of the Camino. We had drinks and snacks there.They also have some motel style rooms that open onto the cafés garden. From here it is a mere 8.5 kms. to the Cathedral in Santiago.

http://www.casadeamancio.com/

18-23kms/day are just too much for me if there is a lot of up and down. I can do 12..15.. and lots more if the terrain is more level. But I enjoyed everything I did, and am happy to have taken the leap to accompany my husband on this journey. We walked together more at the end as everyone was slowing down a bit.. and the the closer to Santiago we got, the less we wanted it to finish.

I hope others who do not consider themselves walkers or hikers will be encouraged to tackle and enjoy a section of the Camino somewhere it exists, be it Spain or any other country where it can be found.
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 07:49 AM
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lin,

I am astonished that a group of 27 people managed to do this together. From OCebreiro to Santiago must be at least 100 miles, no? I have never walked with more than one other person, and can't imagine undertaking this. Kudos to whoever put it all together.

It's very interesting for me to read the reactions of a "newbie" (I think "wimp" is the WRONG word). I'll bet your experience is pretty typical, in that after a few days you found your own rhythm and ideal distances, and for people who have never done something like this, that suggests that flexibility going into it is a very good thing (not for you, of course, with the family reunion being more important than the actual walking).

What I mean is that the number of accommodations on the Camino Frances is such that except for the most crowded times, you can plan your day's destination one or two days in advance after you are able to judge for yourself how far you are likely to want to walk. (the exception to that is probably the stretch from Sarria to Santiago, the 100 km minimum walk for getting a compostela. But even there, I have walked numerous times, never with any reservations and frequently not knowing where I was going to stop walking at the end of the day).

When people ask me about my Caminos, the first question they inevitably ask is -- Who did you go with? When I tell them that it was either with one friend, my husband, or by myself, they say, no I mean what company did you go with. Many people from the US (don't mean to generalize here, it's just my experience) have a hard time believing that a 60 year old woman would just head out to Spain, put a backpack on her back and start walking. But it's easy, accommodations are plentiful, and the experience of "doing it on your own" is going to be profoundly different than doing it with a tour group. I don't want to seem like I'm lecturing here, but if this Camino appeals to you, consider going on your own. If you don't want to try the pilgrim accommodations (hostal like places with varying degrees of comfort and cleanliness but very inexpensive and many won't take reservations), you can reserve your night stays along the way through a company like Ivar's Camino Travel Center. From all accounts, this business provides all sorts of excellent service to all types of pilgrims. http://www.caminotravelcenter.com/

You will meet tons of wonderful people (and some jerks, too, but hey that's part of the experience) and help is never far away if you need it. Most people are walking alone or with one or two others, so groups and camaraderie form quickly.

Just one last personal anecdote -- when my son was 19, he had royally messed up his first year of college. That summer, he got in his head that he wanted to do the camino, and he did. Just took off from Roncesvalles with a backpack. When people asked me whether I was worried, I could honestly tell them it was the safest environment I could ever imagine for my wayward son. It worked magic on him, I can report 6 years later.

Sorry, don't mean to preach here, but I second lincasanova's encouragement to consider giving this a try, even if it means pushing the envelope on your comfort zone. I have never met anyone who started the Camino and then stopped because he or she was overwhelmed by the challenges of accommodation, meeting people or not knowing Spanish. Physical injuries end lots of Caminos, but not the kind of things that seem to be a barrier for lots of Americans.

So, lincasanova, are you going to do it again?
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 08:24 AM
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The pillar of this group gets together to do parts of the camino almost any weekend their kids visit. It makes a nice excursion and the have a day or two out in the country and really enjoy it.

This year, being Jacobeo, all the cousins and sisters, etc. came, we were invited and an American family from Philadelphia joined one of the relatives for the adventure.

Of course I will go again!. It gets under your skin and I am looking forward to another few days up there at any time off season and when it is cooler. To go alone or with my daughter or kids would seem so simple after all the logistics we were provided with a large group. I would stay ON the trail next time most if not all days.

I will definitely be back as it provides almost everything we like while on vacation. Good food, interesting sights, some healthy exercise and an occasional superb accomodation.

This is perhaps the single person's best place and easiest place to be when you don't know where to go. One would not be lonely if he wanted company. You will meet so many different people and have as much or little conversation as you wish.

Reservations in the summer is the way to go .. I can't imagine walking for 20kms and not being sure I had a place to rest my head that night.

We stopped at a sweet, remodeled farmhouse that was run by a French fellow and his wife from Murcia, Spain.

They met on the trail. They fell in love WITH the trail. They THEY fell in love on the trail, got married and are now back here and have invested in a pilgrim's retreat that still has some odds and ends to wrap up.

Just another nice story about what this can do to people! .
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Old Aug 6th, 2010, 04:27 AM
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Hi Lin! I'm tagging to read over the weekend, looking forward to it.

mari,
who got a Compostela the reaaaally wimpy way walking with a tour group.
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