My Camino de Santiago

Old Aug 13th, 2012, 08:37 PM
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Thank you oopsy. Keep us posted about your plans for 2014. My calendar is also marked for about the same date (even though my DH doesn't know it!).

3 days in Santiago-

This was the fifth time we've been to the city, so we have seen most of the “must sees”. Of course, it doesn't matter how many times you visit, the Cathedral is the biggest draw. The next morning we went to Pilgrims’ Mass at noon. We had already seen the Botafumeiro hanging over the altar , so we were pretty much sure it would swing during mass. We got there about 11:15 and already the first 4-5 rows of the pews on the side were occupied. This is the best spot to seat to see the Botafumeiro swing. Actually, the left side pews is the best. So we took our seats and waited for Mass to start, in the meantime taking it all in. I don’t get tired of being inside this magnificent Cathedral. The swinging of the Botafumeiro takes place at the end of mass. It’s a great spectacle!

As mentioned above, we stayed at the Hotel Altair. Great service, modern rooms, super clean. Unfortunately, we had cigarette smoke coming into our room through the ducts. The following morning we reported it and were moved to another room, problem fixed. Breakfast was lovely, everything from fruit, fresh orange juice, tostadas, croissant, tarta de santiago, yogurt, etc. My only complaint about the hotel is that there is some traffic on the street next to it, and if you want to sleep with the windows open it could bother you. Even though they have A/C, there was no cold air coming out of it (probably because the temps outside at night were in the 50s). The problem is that if you close the windows it was somewhat stuffy.

Weather was not our friend those 3 days. It was cloudy, a bit rainy and much colder that I expected. However, if there’s a city that looks lovely when wet, that’s Santiago. Among what we did was visit the Mercado de Abastos, shopping for Sargadelos (ceramic), and walk around town. For dinner, we went to Bierzo Enxebre , La Bodeguilla de San Roque and Restaurante San Clemente. All were excellent, the latter the most expensive one, the other two very reasonable.

After dinner, we would always go to the Pazo de Raxoi, on the Plaza del Obradoiro, to watch the tuna singing under the arches, so much fun! And then, of course, just stare at the Cathedral bathed in light, with those imposing spires jutting against the dark sky.

I know I’ll find a way to get back to Santiago, I always do! I can’t really say enough about the experience of walking there. It’s not like it’s always a beautiful walk, as you sometimes walk next to roads and/or hear traffic zipping by. But that really doesn't detract from what happens in between and, of course, the destination! I highly recommend it!!

¡Buen Camino to all!
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Old Aug 16th, 2012, 04:59 AM
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I'm getting excited to do this. I've scheduled September 4 as my get in shape start date. Barb and I have emailed each other.

Questions:

- How important is it to know Spanish (the walk will be the last 100 KM)? Or...should I get my mind in shape as well as my body?

- Any suggestions on boots, packs, etc. How long did it take you to break in your boots?

- How heavy were your packs?

- What did you pack that you never needed and could have left home?
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Old Aug 16th, 2012, 05:47 AM
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Hi, Adrienne,
How exciting that you will be walking a Camino. Some quick answers to your questions:

-- Spanish is not essential for the last 100 kms on the Camino Frances. As English has really become the universal language, we benefit from the fact that the Camino has more non-Spaniards than Spaniards (though from Sarria onwards I think the proportion changes, many Spaniards start there -- but in any event,you'll find English prevalent)

-- The boots vs. shoes decision, and the subsequent search for the perfect fit of whichever one you choose, is extremely personal. Don't let others' choices influence yours, because your feet are different. If you are lucky to be near one, get yourself to a local REI. Try on a million different pairs, but make sure you do it in the late afternoon after a long day with a lot of activity, so that your feet will have swelled. 8 hours of walking beforehand would be perfect but that's probably unrealistic. Try shoes on with hiking socks. Then get an extra 1/2 size bigger to account for the fact that you'll have the extra weight on your back and probably will have your feet swell even more. I prefer boots, others prefer trailwalkers. Ill-fitting shoes are the number one source of blisters, and boots/shoes that are too big are just as bad as those that are too small.

-- Keep your pack weight to an absolute minimum. I usually am in the 15 pound range, without food and water. Get a small pack with good support. One change of clothes, minimal toiletries, lightweight sleeping bag (about a pound),rain gear, minimal first aid, that's really all you need. I think that the biggest "mistake" camino newbies make is to over-pack. Be ruthless. Anything that you forget and really need is readily available in the many towns along the way.

How exciting for you. Lots of questions have been asked and answered on this forum: http://www.caminodesantiago.me/board/ And the search function is excellent (click on "Check if your question has been asked before"). And you can of course join and ask your own questions.

Buen camino, the planning is so much fun, isn't it?
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Old Aug 16th, 2012, 05:52 AM
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How important is it to know Spanish (the walk will be the last 100 KM)? Or...should I get my mind in shape as well as my body?

It is always helpful to know Spanish. Most of the pilgrims do not speak English. My SIL used to conduct conversation in Italian and she does not spreak Italian.

Any suggestions on boots, packs, etc. How long did it take you to break in your boots?

It is not the time to break them in, as much as it getting a pair that are comfortable. Long before your Camino, you should buy the boots that you think are the best and when you walk to get into shape see if they are the right boots.

How heavy were your packs?

My wife's pack was twenty pounds.

What did you pack that you never needed and could have left home?

My wife met a Spaniard woman along the way who is now a friend. She was told not to bring anything because if she needed something an American will have it. She was wearing horrible shoes that caused pain and my SIL leant her second pair until they got into a town where the Spanish woman could buy a pair.
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Old Aug 16th, 2012, 06:17 AM
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Great answers! I will learn some Spanish. I'm going to get audios from the library and I've already arranged with someone at work to help me out a bit to learn the language. Instead of work on my white board I have the days of the week and "no trabajo los Domingos." This is more about an excuse to learn a new skill and keep the mind sharp and having something to do at work to keep the boredom at bay.

I'm not good at choosing comfy shoes. I do know that I want ankle support since I'm clutzy and always tripping over my feet. There is an REI about 30 minutes from home. I did have a pair of hiking boots once but they killed my shins so I'm nervous about getting the right ones. But I'm sure boots have come a long way since my last pair.

I think a 20 lb pack is too much for me unless I get to a gym. Plus I'm only walking a week and not a month so will need less. I was thinking of 10 to 12 lbs. Barb mentioned sending luggage to Santiago since she's going on after the walk and I might go on too. A week in Europe is never enough for me. I thought about going to Provence and eating myself silly - LOL.
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Old Aug 16th, 2012, 07:24 AM
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Hi Adrienne, Kudos to you and Barb for starting the planning!

Regarding the shoes... I first bought a pair of regular (not boots) Keen hiking shoes. Even though I tried them with hiking socks, once I started using them for hiking I found that my foot "rolled" sideways. I then bought a pair of Merrells "mid" boot :
http://www.zappos.com/merrell-moab-m...of-bungee-cord

They hugged my ankle and gave me excellent support. I started using them about 3 months before the trip and I was doing long walks at least 3 times a week.

I think Laurie's recommendation of going to REI is excellent. They have a policy that you can return anything for whatever reason, even if used. I wish I had bought my Keen's there because I would have been able to return them!

Regarding Spanish... I think that although not necessary, it would be to your advantage to learn some basic Spanish, specially as it relates to asking for things at a cafe, restaurant, hotel, etc.

And finally, regarding the weight of the backpack, etc... If you're staying at hotels/pensiones (not albergues) you also have the option of having your luggage moved by a company like Jacotrans or taxi , and you carry just a small day pack.

I agree, once you go all the way there, a week is too short. I recommend that if you have never been to Santiago and/or Galicia you stay at least a couple of nights in Santiago and also travel a bit around Galicia or continue to other points in Northern Spain. However, going to Provence sounds good too!
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Old Aug 17th, 2012, 04:44 AM
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And if you find that you are enjoying the walking, you could just keep on walking 3-5 days to Finisterre and/or Muxia. It's a nice way to end the camino, too.
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 08:42 AM
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Laurie - have you been to Muxia? Does it look as it did in the movie "The Way?"

BTW - I'm signing up for some Spanish classes. There's an adult ed class starting in my town in October and a friend wants to take the class too so we'll motivate each other.
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 09:57 AM
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I so want to do this. Thanks for such a good trip report that makes it a possiblity.
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 10:03 AM
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Bookmarking!
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 10:57 AM
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cruiseluv...

Just have to say I've really enjoyed reading this trip report. Frankly, I only started reading it because my good friend Barb had told me she was planning to walk the Camino next year! But now I am beginning to be inspired to do this walk at some point in future years.

adrienne...

You will have a great time with Barb. She is a wonderfully funny person who knows how to enjoy herself. But do try to get yourself fit so you get the most from the walk.

I first came across Barb in her delightful TR of her time in Rome and Sorrento with the Divas. We then found we were going to be in Croatia - specifically Dubrovnik - at the same time in 2007, and eventually met up in person in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina.

We have managed to meet up every year since, in Dubrovnik, Paris, Barcelona and the Cotswolds. I am very sad that this year personal circumstances mean I am unable to get to meet up with Barb on her travels in Portugal and Italy. But I shall definitely get to wherever Barb goes after her Camino in 2013!

Good luck with the planning, I am already looking forward to the trip reports!
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 11:06 AM
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Hi, Adrienne,
I think I already posted this link, but my pictures from the Camino Primitivo this June have a few of Muxia at the very end. Yes, it looks just as dramatic as at the end of The Way! https://picasaweb.google.com/laurie....6Vk6OWv8um1QE#

You can either Walk Santiago-Finisterre-Muxia or Santiago-Muxia-Finisterre, a tough choice, but to me it seemed more fitting to end in Finisterre. Buen camino.
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 11:40 AM
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Oh - she's THAT Barb. I didn't put two and two together. How dumb of me. I shall have to go back and re-read that TR and have another laugh! I think that thread takes the record for the number of responses.

I narrowly missed going to Barcelona with someone like them. Fortunately we both decided that we had different travel styles and we would not travel together. I'm going and she is not.

Laurie - how did I miss your photos. Maybe I thought that you were referencing a prior walk. Who knows what my brain is doing - LOL I took a quick look and it is the same rocky coast. I'll look at them more thoroughly tonight.

I was just talking about you (actually emailing) to Barb and was telling her how helpful you were when I went to Portugal.

I have my scallop shell so I've made a start (although perhaps that's not enough of a start). julia_t - I'll need you to ride my butt in the coming months so I do get fit.

starrs - why don't you come along on the walk - there's plenty of time for you to get ready for it.
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 01:14 PM
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Julia, thanks for the kind words. I'll miss not seeing you this year, but look forward to next year, maybe the Algarve?
Adrienne it sounds like you dodged the bullet with your possible diva
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 01:29 PM
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Barb's TR of her Italy trip is a CLASSIC!

So happy to see people becoming interested in the Camino. I hope all of you come back and write about your plans so I can live vicariously through you!

Laurie, thanks for reposting that link to your pictures. Let me ask you : I suspect they're totally different but, which segment would you say it's more satisfying :Camino Primitivo from Oviedo to Lugo, or Santiago-Finisterre-Muxia?
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 04:01 PM
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Hi, cruiseluv,

Well, here's the thing. For most people, walking to Finisterre and/or Muxia is sort of a topping off, a winding down, 3 or 4 days to put the whole thing in perspective, brace yourself for having to stop walking (don't mean to be melodramatic here). It's about 90 kms Santiago to Finisterre or Muxia, then another 32 or so between Finisterre and Muxia. So that'd be about 4 days walking, though you could do the whole circle and end up back in Santiago, adding a few more days. I don't know anyone who has done it as a "stand alone" camino, which is not to say you couldn't, of course.

Oviedo to Lugo is about 240 (?). It is a beautiful, rural Asturian camino. Some of the places I stayed had no alternative to the albergue, though, but I think you could probably do what you did on the Frances with casas rurales picking you up. I walked that part of the Primitivo in 8 days, but you might prefer a slower pace. It's not always obvious how to break up some of the stages, though, since they are remote and have very little between the two ending poitns. There are some really pretty towns, and lots of off-road tracks through nice green tunnels. IMO, it is generally much prettier than Santiago -Finisterre or Muxia (which has a lot of eucalyptus trees and not as much original growth as the primitivo; also more road walking on Finisterre route).

I know a British couple who walked the Primitivo in shorter stages, they have a blog on their walk starting in Tineo (two or three days out of Oviedo): http://camino-primitivo-2012.blogspot.com/

And I want to echo cruiseluv's hope that you peregrinas will come back and let us know how things are going. I am now chained to my desk, and a vicarious Camino is the only kind I'm going to enjoy for a while.
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 05:30 PM
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Laurie - I looked at your photos. You went through some beautiful country. I loved the stone buildings.

You realize we're not going for over a year - October 2013.

I think Barb's Divas ought to come with us. Can you imagine then in refuggios? What a hoot. And I'll bring my own Diva along. LOL
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 07:53 PM
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Thank you Laurie. What you mention about not much between the beginning and end points at times in the Primitivo might be a problem. That's what I thought after looking at the info in the Mundicamino website. I would love that kind of scenery but don't know if it would be easy to organize.

I was giving some thought of walking to Finisterre as a way to get there. We went on a day trip in a tour some years ago and would love to go back. But what you say about more road walking there I'm not sure I like.

As another option, is there any other segment of the Camino Frances(at the most 200 Kms)where scenery is specially interesting? Thanks!
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Old Aug 20th, 2012, 11:15 PM
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What a wonderful TR! One of the best in carrying the readers along with you on almost every step. Thanks so much for sharing!

If Barb brings her divas along, we should all go along and see them in action!
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Old Aug 21st, 2012, 12:05 AM
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My wife constantly ran into a fellow who was riding his horse along the Camino. Obviously this presented its own issues. The problem with a dog is she will probably not get her Compostela because she must answer a question about why she made the pilgrimage.
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