Background to my trip
I have heard about the Camino Frances for many years, but didn't realise until lately how many options there were and all the different terrane. The symbol of the Camino is the shell, this is because of the many lines coming from the shell, signifying all the different paths the pilgrims took to get to Santiago (where St. James' remains are thought to be buried, under the cathedral).
The French Way seems to be the most popular for Irish people to do. This starts in the Pyrenees and ends in Santiago. Myself and my father joined from Sarria, which is 112 Km to Santiago.
I can't tell you why I have always wanted to do this, I suppose it's one of those things! My father and I started walking together a couple of years ago and we talked about doing it for a while and then we finally decided to book it!
I had called in to a travel agent- O'Leary Travel in Wexford one day to inquire and a girl I knew from school - Maura Doran was working there and the rest as they say is history. The booking of it was very simple. Michael Granger was the name of the man she booked it all with and he gave full itinerary, tips for breaking up your day, where to eat and your bags were transferred seamlessly to your next hotel/pension waiting for your arrival.
Packing and your Day Bag
I brought carry on luggage and my backpack. So had to be quite strict on what I had, and that meant prioritising the walking clothes (comfort over style!) the nicest thing when you are finished a days walking will be a shower and put on your flip flops.
Not only is what you pack essential, it's how you pack them is crucial.
You would need to be getting out and walking and being generally active before you go. You don't need to be super fit but you want to be able to enjoy it without too much discomfort/aches.
The part I did wasn't too hilly but there were a few stiff climbs along the way. The part that I found the most difficult was definitely the down hills. My feet were starting to burn each time we went down hill and I was starting to dread it.....then along came the most lovely Canadian couple (who are from Saskatoon, where my father and monther lived for 18 months a few years ago!!) anyhoo....the man was used to skiing and they went about showing me how to put what they do into practice for coming down hill...I was all set:
That's the thing about the Camino, you can get chatting to people from all around the world or just walk alongside them in silence. You will hear "buen camino" and it is a lovely expression of good will to all who do it and it transcends all languages.
It is important also to keep an ear out for cyclists, they don't always use their bells but a great many of them do it also. Where there is one there are usually a few more....!
Remember when walking you are always following the yellow arrows, sometime the shells are pointing in the opposite direction but you are following the arrows.
I didn't use walking poles so I don't have any advice on this. I never felt I needed them, but a lot of people use them.......
A few phrases...
When you are walking along you will be aware that you are walking through little towns and villages and it is not the big resorts that you might be used to on the family holidays, where most people speak English! Have a few phrases, especially how you might like your tea or coffee.
My father being a Barry's tea lover, brought his own teabags....this was fine until we had to order hot water, you might think that was fairly simple but it wasn't, so out the phrase book came! We learnt that hot water was "agua caliente" and life was back to being simple again...I even ordered my coffee as "cafe con leche", I still never convinced dad to do the ordrering!!
Arrival to Santiago de Compestela
Finally, when you arrive, I would recommend you go get your certificate/compostela (if you would like to receive it) that day. This has all changed recently enough.
When you go to get your certificate, you need to get a number first and there are only a certain amount of numbers given out daily.
This was my journey on the Camino, so far. I hope you enjoy reading about it. If you are planning on taking a trip like mine I hope you find it helpful. I chatted to friends of mine, before I went and I soaked up all the information and advice they gave me, and I hope I have done the same for someone else out there.
I think it's like anything, don't put it off too long, if it is something you really want to do.
Buen Camino x
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