Camino Thoughts

Leslie & Anna Camino

How Walking the Camino de Santiago Changed My Life

I first walked the Camino de Santiago in 2004 on the Camino Frances route.  I found it quite difficult back then to find information before I went so I had little idea what lay ahead.  In hindsight that was maybe good for me, if I had seen some of the images of where people sleep at night and the stories about sharing I would likely have chosen something else that summer.

Camino family

What is a Camino Family?

I reflected in a previous story, that the Camino is a place where magic happens, something I have not experienced anywhere else, there is strange ‘need’ to return that I cannot explain, a longing for something … the places, the experiences, and the people. You have no doubt read about pilgrims who return again and again, to walk their previous route or other routes on the Camino – why do we return, what is it that we seek?

Mountain view

Best Cold Weather Sleeping Bags

Unlike many outdoor activities, in most places, you can camp all year round – as long as you have the right winter backpacking gear.

If you don’t want to read all my reviews or if you are just in a hurry, the best cold weather sleeping bag on this list is undoubtedly the Outdoor Vitals Summit Sleeping Bag.

While many enjoy camping in the summer, heading out hiking during the cooler months can be just as rewarding. With winter camping there are fewer bugs; you won’t get overheated while hiking and nothing beats waking up to gorgeous autumn leaves and a warm cup of coffee. If camping in the cold sounds like your thing, don’t head out without the proper gear. Here’s a round-up of the best cold weather sleeping bags on the market to stop you freezing at night.

Scotland

Making Time for the Camino de Santiago

I have been thinking, dreaming, and planning for this for nearly 20 years. I first read about the pilgrimage to Santiago Compostela in a 14th century biography, The Book of Margery Kempe. Margery, a quirky English mystic, took several pilgrimages over the years, including Rome, and Jerusalem. The medieval and ancient concept of pilgrimage fascinated me.

Jakobsweg

How to Prevent and Deal with Blisters on Your Feet

Blisters are every hiker’s worst nightmare, and not just because they can be very painful. If you roll your ankle or your back gives out, it feels like a proper injury, and you’re more than justified in packing up and going home. Blisters on the other hand always feel like something that you can walk just one more mile with.

The problem with this way of thinking is that all it does is make the issue worse. by never addressing the root causes, and ploughing on regardless. If you want to be able to get the most out of your walking holiday, you’re going to need to give some serious thought to how you plan to protect your feet. A little time and effort now could save you miles of walking in pain. Certainly worth it when you think about it, isn’t it?

Sunset

Top Ten Things About Camino de Santiago

The other pilgrims I met is my number one on the Camino, all Camino routes. I feel I was blessed. I don’t like crowds, however, I do in general like talking, and listening to other people. I, being an English speaker, was amazed at the number of people that spoke English when it was their second and third language – I felt quite ignorant as the result of this – I can get a coffee in a few languages – but cannot communicate in any bar English.

How to Remove a Tick Head after the Body is Gone

When you’re enjoying a great walk in the hills or countryside, it probably feels like nothing can bring down your mood. The sun is shining, your legs are feeling great, and those new hiking boots have certainly cured your blisters. But then you notice a sharp pain in your leg, you look down, and see that you’ve fallen victim to a tick bite. They might seem like tiny innocuous little pests, but they certainly pack a punch. The venom they boast can cause all sorts of nasty complications (including partial paralysis and life-threatening fever), so you need to make sure you know what to do. Take a look at the following wise words and you’ll be well prepared should the worst happen.

Cruz

Cruz de Ferro: A Spiritual Experience

People who’ve already walked the Camino de Santiago know that there’s one thing that should absolutely not be missed — the Cruz de Ferro. Also known as the Iron Cross, it is set on a gently sloping hill that also happens to be the highest point of the French Way.

The views offered from up top are incredible indeed, and the legends behind it are enough to spark the imagination of any history buff who’s looking for their next adventure. But most of all, the respectful peace of this spot is spiritually uplifting even for the non-religious, and travelers who long to see something unique that reflects much of the Camino spirit should definitely make a stop here.

Camino route

Inspiration to Walk the Camino de Santiago

The Camino forum was an amazing resource for me when researching the Camino de Santiago. I did the full Camino Frances as well as the Camino del Norte in 2013 with my guitar. In May of 2014, I did 4 days of the Camino de Madrid to Segovia and I’ll be doing the Camino Primitivo route this July.

Santiago arrow

Is It Safe Walking the Camino de Santiago Alone?

One of the most common questions I am asked – is it safe to walk the Camino de Santiago alone?  This became a question being asked more again recently when someone went missing on the Camino. However my opinion remains unchanged – yes, it is safe to walk the Camino de Santiago alone. I would think it safer than most local walking routes in most countries; safer than walking home from Dublin or any large city on a Friday or Saturday night.

Shell stones

Hiking the Camino for Charity

Have you thought about it?  

I know there are many pilgrims or future pilgrims out there that have had this idea. 

Is it possible?

Is it easy?

I’ve done it and I want to share my experience with you.  All the in’s and out’s.  All the up’s and down’s.  All the pro’s and con’s.  And my strategy to raise money also.   I hope this will help those who are thinking about walking the Camino for charity, because I know there are a lot of you out there, and I know that it is worth it. 

Pyrenees

Reasons to Walk the Camino de Santiago

You have to be fairly motivated to walk the Camino de Santiago from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain – as it is 800km.  Usually 800km with your rucksack on your back containing everything you need for a month.  Sleeping in hostels with strangers, communal showers, and no privacy.

Leslie & Anna Camino

Finding Love on the Camino de Santiago

Love was the last thing I expected to find on the Camino de Santiago. But I did and twelve years later our son is nearly three years old. Therefore I thought this would be a good time for this post.
I set out expecting a journey with few people, and I expected those few to be a bit odd, or older religious types – well it was a pilgrimage, not your usual holiday. Expectations are interesting phenomena, I don’t know about you, but my expectations of future events are usually completely wrong.

Women at Camino

Najera to Santo Domingo Commando on the Camino

11th August 2017 – The title of this blog post came about as one of us, whom shall remain nameless, wore ill-fitting shorts which became very uncomfortable as the kilometers clocked up.  Today the only comfort gained would be from wearing a skirt and going commando. So for any ladies reading this a walking skirt could be a useful addition to your Camino attire.  Your dignity will be kept intact while your nether regions can breathe.  However, just be careful the skirt is of a decent length, as you don’t want to be arrested for flashing.

Molina

Memories of the Camino de Santiago

If I could for a moment, bring you on a journey to Santa Catalina de Samoza. It is on the French Way of the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain to the body of St. James. It is Monday, June 16th, 2014. It is hot; while I walk carefully along the dusty trail with tensor bands on my knees and walking sticks in my hands I spy with my little eye a church steeple.

sunflowers

A Pilgrims View of Santiago de Compostela

It was where I was heading, as was everyone else on this pilgrimage across northern Spain. Each city was different, Leon is a pleasure, Burgos has a dreadful 9km walk through the industrial part of the city. Pamplona was too early to take much notice of, I was only walking a few days and my legs were sore, my feet had blisters, and my rucksack was far too heavy. Before leaving Pamplona I made sure my backpack was lighter.

Cirauqui Villamajor de Monjardin 26 Fuente de Irache

Transitioning from Camino Life to Real Life

After a couple Camino’s and seeing dozens of pilgrims having a hard time with the Camino Blues, I think it is worth a writing an article about.  I am certainly no professional, but someone who has experienced the transition back to “The Real World” after the Camino twice.

Aubrac

Le Puy to Saint Jean Pied de Port

This section, on the Le Puy Camino, took us to the wind swept plains of the Aubrac. Cold, I got frostbite on my nose which took weeks to heal but no snow and so we were able to cross through one of the worst marked sections. Thankfully we had a GPS and a thermos.

Camino Frances

Camino de Santiago Frances Overview

On July 8th of this year, I set out from St Jean Pied du Port to walk the infamous Camino Frances. I had a return ticket booked for five weeks later and I dreamed of finishing my walk at the Atlantic Ocean in Finisterre. As I packed my bag before my departure I was excited for the unknown. I was excited for the physical and mental challenges that lay ahead of me.

To be honest, I really did not know what to expect. Friends, colleagues and different internet blogs gave me an insight into what they experienced but for me I set off on a very wet and cloudy day across the Pyrenees not knowing what The Way would bring.

Le Puy Camino

Women Walking Alone on the Camino de Santiago

I have written before about walking the Camino de Santiago alone, but I didn’t specifically address the topic of being a woman and walking alone.  This topic has become news after an American woman, Denise Thiem, went missing in April of 2015.  She apparently left Astorga and was never seen again.  There are no actual sightings of her having left Astorga, and I truly hope that she turns up alive and well at some point.

Landscape in Spain on Camino

17 Best Camino de Santiago Blogs

There are many hundreds of Camino blogs started every year as pilgrims keep a diary of their planning, travel, and journey. Most of these are entertaining; they are written for friends and family to read. These are not on the list below. How much did things cost, what was the best way to get somewhere, links to travel planning websites, what was open, what was changed compared to the guidebook – detail helps others that are going to walk the route.

Villa in Spain

Camino de Santiago – Hermit or Not?

I met Mathias a day or so before Pamplona. He looked very strange with his dreadlocks, tiny rucksack and guitar. He almost had the homeless look about him, but he was young, perhaps mid-twenties.

We talked and I found out he was German, but had not lived there for several years. He had left, moving to Spain to work in a tourist resort, something that he ended up hating. So he became a hermit – that was the short story that I got, I am sure there was more.

Line of metal pilgrims

Camino Flashback from Ireland

I decided to go ahead and walk the Camino de Santiago for many reasons, not for a particular one. Like in life you do things not for one single reason, all the facts are interconnected, you can’t divide them and put them under the microscope for better understanding. They are all part of one and unique and inexplicable system of energies that we sometimes think we have under control, but in reality, they control us. 

Train station house

First Fears at St Jean Pied de Port

This is the view that most pilgrims first get of St Jean Pied de Port as they get off the train. I remember it quite clearly, I was wondering what was ahead of me. I had not read much about the Camino before heading off there for a month, my flat mate and college friend had been my sole source of information.

Gorilla

Camino Pilgrims Should Be ‘Entrepreneurial’

“You want to be as entrepreneurial as possible,” I advise aspiring pilgrims. And I often get quizzical looks with this advice. Entrepreneurial? What in the world is he talking about?

Let me say right away that this has absolutely nothing to do with anything so crass as actual pursuit of money (Given that I’m American, I thought that was a necessary disclosure!). No, what I’m referring to is a pilgrim’s actual mindset. Because the question I receive time and again is, ‘Who do you decide to hike with’? And for those of you who have read my Camino narrative, The Best Way, you are aware that I consider the astoundingly diverse cast of characters that populate the Camino de Santiago–especially the Camino Frances–to be the greatest part of the entire Camino experience.

Woman walking the Camino

Buen Camino‏ to the Camino Frances

The hotel attendant walked me down a very long, wide, immense stone hallway and showed me to my room. It was just what I needed! A small, cell-like room with a small bed, nightstand with no lamp, simple desk with a simple chair, high ceilings and a huge window on one of the stone walls. The bathroom had an old fashioned toilet with the water tank hanging from the ceiling with a chain to pull for flushing. The door was old and worn and shower curtain was flimsy, but I was grateful to have my own room and I was glad to have a refuge away from the teeming crowds on the streets outside.

Cazorla Rob

Walking in the Microclimates of Spain

When someone says, “Spain”, the typical images that comes to mind for a lot of people is of sun, beaches and bullfighting. The more adventurous, of course, know that Spain has so much more to offer. Especially in terms of mountains, countryside in general and culturally. The architecture, history, food and wine  of  Spain are fabulous. And it is nearly always possible to eat local recipes and wine which is great.

shoe sculpture

Walking into Santiago de Compostela

I walked into Santiago de Compostela, the same way that thousands of pilgrims have done before me. The biggest surprise was being there so quickly on the day I arrived. We walked through Monte del Gozo, only stopping for lunch, and continued down into the city. We had made plans to meet with another pilgrim and they had sent us a text message telling us where they were staying.

Jakobsweg

Rabanal del Camino, Spain

The four of us (Bob, Rowena, Chard and me) have now completed more than half our tour of duty here in Rabanal.  We are scheduled for departure one week from today and are all a bit nostalgic about it.  We agree that the experience has been good for each of us and take great pleasure from the fact that the vast majority (maybe all) of the pilgrims passing through our doors have left us with smiles on their faces and warmth in their hearts.

Charlemagne set

The Charlemagne Chess Set

Charlemagne was King of the Franks and the first Holy Roman Emperor. Born in 742 AD, he was a medieval king renowned for his accomplishments and charisma. For forty-seven years, King Charlemagne ruled most of western and central Europe.

Scenery

Hooked on the Camino

I wonder if there if something that for many of us we do not get from our daily life.  I have met and talked to many people who have walked the Camino Frances more than once.  Walking the Camino Frances is a fairly big commitment in the way of time and money.

I got thinking on this yesterday while out hill walking in the Wicklow Hills.  I notice a Santiago de Compostela badge attached to one of the walkers back packs.  I asked, as I have a tendency to do.

Cycling the Camino

Cycling the Camino de Santiago

This is one of the best Camino videos I have seen, although I have not cycled the Camino de Santiago I would love to and as life has become busier it seems like this mode of travel will be used on my next Camino.  The problem I have is that I am not adept at changing tires or fixing punctures – my cycling here in Ireland is easy and not hard uphill or off road – the way I would prefer for the Camino.

Backpack

Foot Care on the Camino

The first time I walked the Camino I had no idea about foot care, I had never walked for more than a few days before and that had been when I was much younger. I walked a couple of long walks in my boots before heading off on the Camino and I got some blisters on the heals of both feet, they healed and left some hard skin around the heels, but I never though that would cause me a problem – it did – and a very bad one.

Two men sitting and resting

Camino Aragones

The Camino Aragon camino starts in Somport and joins the main French route at Puente la Reina.  I walked it in 2004 after I had walked the main French route, it was quiet and deserted, there was not many hostels but it was great; also it had a completely different feels to it compared to the Camino Frances.

Last night I got a mail from Jim at Wandering the World.  He has just arrived in Santiago and is heading back to Puenta la Raina to walk this route and asked for a list of Refugeos – Albergues.  I put it together, it could be out of date as it is three years since I walked this part.  I thought it might be an idea to share this.

Way of St James

The Main Hostel in Roncesvalles

Arriving in Roncesvalles the first thing to do is visit the pilgrim office, here you will pay your €5 for the night and be given a slip of paper to take across the road to the Albergue. At the hostel they have volunteers on the door who greet everyone – ask where you are from, etc, and tell you the rules of the house. The main one is that lights out are at 10pm, get used to it, this is a fairly normal time – additionally, often you will be locked out if you don’t get back in for that time.

Way of St James

Camino de Santiago – I have no idea what you hold for me

Friday 23rd of July 2004 I caught a plane to Paris from Dublin. It was summer, I was happy as I had just finished my first year of university. I was a mature student and loved the opportunity I had to study full time, something I had avoided when I was younger. I was setting out to walk along a route that I have never heard of till earlier that year. One of my flat mates, fellow students, and friend, went on and on about this trip he had done a couple of times. Once he had even walked from Amsterdam to Santiago, quite something.

Molinaseca Cacabelos

El Acebo on the Camino Frances

Today one year ago I was in El Acebo on the Camino Frances. I had had enough of sharing in a pilgrims hostel and had decided on a room to my self, (€20).

I had only walked 17km from Rabanal, I was tired and very sore. I had been taken from an albergue a few days before in an ambulance to hospital to discover that I had two hernias, one on each side. But I had decided to finish and I was taking some pain killers to keep me going. A bit mad when I look back at it.