Tag Archives: The Camino Frances

Writing from Logroño – Day 7

22-04-2018

We are always looking for way markers on the camino. Scallop shells, yellow painted arrows, sometimes concreted paths have bronze scallops or tiles and there’s the odd cairn. Some days arrows are lovingly created with rocks and adorned with flowers. We need these markers to help us find our way along the this path. The sweet path that’s winding it’s way through this romantic countryside. Way makers, hmm a nice take home from the camino to everyday life I think.

Days on the Camino – 7 (1 week)!

Kms – Today 27.8 kms. Our total is now around 173kms. I’m still blister free thankfully but I hobbled into town pretty darn smashed today. But after the standard shower, clothes wash and an afternoon to refuel and not move we’re planning an early start tomorrow. The heat rash thing on my feet is better today but I am managing some bites from last night 🙈. I’m allergic so I’m taking antihistamines straight away. Pharmacy’s are excellent here.

Starting point today – Los Arcos, Spain (the only city I’d say I’d never stop in again).

End of the day – Longroño, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 19

Total funds raised so far $5,980.00. 

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – A few years ago I was privileged to sit in the front row of a presentation from Morgan Koegal. As the time she was the dynamo leading the One Girl family. How she directed her passion and energy towards leading a meaningful life and standing for something profoundly changed me that day. I think it was she who woke a part of me that had been sleeping. The little girl who always wanted to stand up for those who needed a little more help. We adore you Morgan and send you all our love. Fran and Zoë. x x

Accommodation – After a tough night in Los Arcos, if you read yesterday’s post my suspicions were confirmed. We are now happily 30kms away and checked into an Albergue in Longoño. We’re sprawled on our beds not wearing pants because we don’t have to! We’re taking a recovery night in a twin room with our own private bathroom (oh the luxury) and there’s no one else walking in or snoring. €25 each.

Food highlight – Lunch 20kms into today, in the sun with my feet up on a bench. €1.70 – A chocolate milk, a fruity and a chocolate pastry! I’m eating way less on the camino, even with the exercise. We leave in the morning with a banana, an orange and an apple. At the 7km mark we need a coffee and a small snack and then by 15 – 20kms we need a lunch stop. We’re not really needing or looking for snacks during the day. I’d read about that happening to people. Loads of water 4-5 litre’s a day.

In a word(s) – Superbly smashed.

It’s been a big day today, one that started tiredly after a night with very little sleep. We all have those days don’t we when it takes a few hours to wake up!

We’ve been lucky with hostels. Each one we’ve literally walked up to and dropped our packs just as pilgrims have for hundreds of years. Each of them have had chairs and tables welcoming us to sit outside and we’ve been greeted by a friendly host ready to stamp our credentials and offer us a bed.

Yesterday after a long last 10 kms without towns or breaks we were ready to find our inn. Except we couldn’t. We walked into town looking for that familiar welcome and it didn’t arrive. Eventually we looked in the guide book to find an Albergue and with only two mentioned we passed up on the 70 bed dorm and opted for the smaller one.

No welcome table outside. After paying our money and removing our boots we walked through the reception area (a converted garage) to find an unloved outdoor terrace outside showers, toilets and then led to a dorm. It didn’t feel homely or cared for. I felt for true first time like a commodity. The pilgrim who pays, stays and leaves, no concern of the owner just €10 please.

I wonder why I didn’t just say no we can’t stay here … deep down I knew it wasn’t great. We just thought oh well we’ll make do this is going to happen every now and we accepted our situation.

It was a challenging night. I’m up for challenge as you well know! Basic yes, sleeping in dorms and sharing bathrooms but that doesn’t have to include hovels. Best I consider the way markers I need.

The scallop shells took us along the path from the Navarre region into La Rioja today. It feels like we walked out of the blooms in the Sth of France and into the vineyards and Olive groves of Tuscany.

It’s easy here on the Camino to find my path. I’m looking for the scallop shells and yellow arrows and now I’m also looking for welcoming chairs and tables, inn keepers who smile and I’ll also be looking at rooms if it doesn’t feel right. Maybe the lesson here is that life can be simpler with the right way markers.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from Larrasoaña – Day 3

Arriving, unpacking, showering, clothes washing, afternoons to write, ponder the day, share stories and relax, dinner, repack, breakfast, hiking … repeat! That about sums up my days so far on the Camino. Quite routined yet absolutely unpredictable.

Days on the Camino – 3

Kms – 28kms today = 57kms total (blister free).

Starting point today – Roncesvalles, Spain.

End of the day – Larrosoaña, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 17

Total funds raised so far $5,295.00 If you’d like to contribute you can do so here. Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy  from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – Today I stepped for my friend Ian! We met some 15 years or so ago sitting in the immigration office in The Netherlands. We can have years without contact but always when our paths and cities collide we eat and we laugh. He has been so supportive of this trek, providing hours of PR work and life support (as required ;)). Since moving to The Netherlands he has been one of my closest confidants and biggest believers even though he lives in France. I love you my dear friend.

Accommodation – The albergue San Nicolás in Larrasoaña is a family run pilgrim hostel. It’s €12 per night, we added a pilgrim dinner here for €11 for the 3 courses. The rooms are female only which is nice.

Food highlight – It definitely wasn’t the breakfast – toasted baguettes that were so toasted I’d call them croutons! We stopped for a lunch break in Zubiri after the first 20kms – a tuna and olive empanada pie highlight hands down👌🏼👌🏼.

In a word(s) – settling in.

The Roncesvalles albergue runs like a well oiled machine. Not quite out of the mountains it sits at an altitude of 950m and is populated by 30 inhabitants! With the help of the Dutch friends of the camino who volunteer at this old monetary, pilgrims are orderly organised in from 2 and out by 8. Wake up music plays through the 200 room dorm speakers at 6.30am.

This morning we tried the pre-ordered breakfast. We had a long day of hiking ahead. We ordered it simply because of the ‘habit’ of sitting down to breakfast while on a holiday and because it was available. Note to future pilgrims walk a little on your way and you’ll find a better cafe and supermarket.

We soon realised that on the Camino sitting down to breakfast is a quick affair. Walking is what we get up to do, however you do you camino. While I carry my pack some opt to forward theirs on with transport to their next accommodation and this gentleman opts for a trolley for his bigger pack! I prefer to carry mine so we can decide on the day or during the walk where we will stop, but I have a time luxury, a strong(ish) back and my age helps.

I also like the idea that it feels like a day’s work! Good old fashioned hard work. Moving my body beyond its comfort zone and making it stronger. There was a time when we all would have moved and carried heavy things. That’s what I’m telling myself ;)

There was a lot of one foot in front of the other today and the ever present friendliness on the trail. I think walking your own pace is important and your own way … but sometimes when you meet someone who’s pace matches and the conversation is good and it works it’s awesome.

I think we’re beginning to build our Camino family. Tonight we caught up with the sprightly one (Carol) and said goodbye as we plan to go further tomorrow. It struck me over dinner as I spoke with Manuel (7th Camino) with his Spanish and my non Spanish how completely surreal this environment is. You know how kids love school camp? I think this is like that and as adults we’ve forgotten how fun school camp was!!

While the routine of how we start and finish the day each step, each climb, each corner brings something new. As we trekked away the snow topped mountains and through the rolling hills of the Navarra region we met the spring. We walked through farms, towns, plains, across rivers as we followed the Camino arrows into the realization that these days with their uniqueness will form something spectacular.

We’re going to try something new tomorrow. We’re opting for an early start with fruit (from the supermarket) to snack as we walk … we’ll stop for coffee at the first town.

The simplicity living with what you need in a pack and this minimal routine provides an ease to make these tweaks. The tweaks that improve the flow of the day, days that lead to weeks, weeks that will form the month – the walk. Each of us here will tweak different things but we will all arrive home tweaked for the better – how could we not.

Buen Camino

Fran x

Day minus 5 until Mi Camino to Santiago De Compostella. Some basics.

A few of you have asked for updates along the way and a map to visualise the route (Jolanda/Lisa/April this is for you with your morning coffee x). I will try to update daily here and a photo on my IG account if  like me hiking/travel photos and stories are your jam. It’s quite something that so many of you want to join this trek in spirit. I hope this inspires many of you to take your own camino one day ;). And if armchair travel is one of your favourite things then this is for you (dad x).

Days on the Camino – 0 (5 or so days away)

Kms – 0

Starting point today – Still in The Netherlands

End of the day – As above

Accommodation – Home

Food – Getting ready to detox from winter comfort eating and maybe coffee ???

In a word – Ready

Buen Camino – You will see this in my messages with fellow pilgrims. It’s Spanish translation is ‘Good Path’ and is shared between pilgrims to express kind wishes, good luck and happy travelling.

Ultreya – A Spanish word that comes from the Latin meaning ‘onward’ and is also shared between pilgrims. Its meaning is a bit deeper – to go further, beyond.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 12

Total funds raised so far $3,620.00 If you’d like to contribute you can do so here. Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress. 

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – I’m giving this one to … each stage I will dedicate to someone who has been or has become a part of this journey.

Above is an image of the route I’ll be taking for those of you who asked and some stats I’ll be updating. My pack is packed (7.3kgs). I won’t post a ‘what I packed’ list until after … then I’ll know what I got right and what I got wrong! On that – it’ll be breathable hikey gear mostly from my mates at Wilderness Wear. Oh, one question: What do you think of a packing light summer dress? One for when we are having a day out in one of those awful Spanish towns … you know the ones awful-ly quaint. Or should I just stick it out and be a merino clad hiker type.

My route – The Camino Frances is also know as The Way of St James and begins in the French town of St Jean Pied de Port and weaves its way across to the northwest of Spain through rugged mountains, vineyards, medieval villages and vast open meadows to its end point, Santiago de Compostela. Stories of this legendary camino pilgrimage route date back to the 8th century. It is the most popular route with the best supported infrastructure into this medieval town where the remains of St James the apostle are reputedly entombed.

There are 8 main pilgrimage routes leading into Santiago de Compostela and the number of pilgrims who receive the Compostela is growing.  There has been a 15,000% increase over the past 30 years!

Here are some 2017 stats*

  • Women 49%
  • Men 51%
  • Walkers 93%
  • Cyclists 7%
  • The 30 – 60 age group makes up 55% of pilgrims, 28% are under 30 and 17% are over 60
  • 44.01% are Spanish
  • 60.04% of pilgrims walk the Camino Francés (the one I am walking)

*Statistics, including monthly breakdowns, can be found at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago.

Year Number of pilgrims
1987 2,095
1997 25,179
2007 114,026
2017 301,036 (summer is apparently CRAY-CRAY)

Traditionally, pilgrims took the route for religious reasons and now as writer Leslie Gilmour says ‘modern Pilgrimages seem to be a lot less about religion and more about peace, finding something in life, a time to think, and for some, a challenge.’

My journey started as that of a modern pilgrim the challenge, the adventure, a way to share travel combined with humility, the chance to be a voice for what matters and to show my kids that standing for something is important. While it is still ALL that I also feel that their is a spiritual aspect of the journey and time to go a little deeper waiting for me on the trail.

The scallop shell is iconically and anciently associated with the camino and there are many myths and legends as to why this is so. You can read more here. The shell is often painted on signs with a yellow arrow and leads the way towards Santiago de Compostela.  Medieval pilgrims attached their shell to their cloaks or hats and still today modern pilgrims attach shells to their packs. My husband painted a shell on a journal for me which is how I will be honouring this ancient tradition.

My credencial (Pilgrim Record) is packed! It was easily purchased online from the pilgrim office here in The Netherlands. Along my walk this passport will be stamped in the towns I stop in overnight. Once I arrive at the Cathedral in Santiago and my credencial is authenticated I will receive my  Compostela (a certificate written in Latin confirming the completion of the pilgrimage) . Walkers need to have walked at least the last 100kms into Santiago. So I’ll be good if I walk my 769kms ;).

The only book I will be taking is John Brierley’s Pilgrim’s guide book. Whoever wants to do it after me – I’ll send it to you (keastjrI’m thinking you ;)). I don’t plan to carry other books or a kindle. I’m travelling light, in both kgs and distraction. I want to be open to the experience and use this time to practice a bit of discipline and write my own daily words (if the day allows).

As you see I am quite into honouring tradition so I will be packing a small stone to leave at the cross Cruce de Ferro. This large Iron Cross is located between the towns of Foncebadón and Manjarín  where it is tradition to throw a stone. This stone is brought from the pilgrim’s place of origin and it’s thrown with his or her back to the cross to symbolize their journey. There are of course myths and legends in regards to this tradition and you can read more here

I expect my walk to take around 30 days and each day the distance will be around 20-30 kms, some longer, some shorter. If a rest day is needed I will take it. My sister will also be on the trail. What a special experience to be able to share with her.

Mostly I expect my accommodation to be ‘refugios’, low-cost / no-cost pilgrim-style accommodations that often serve pilgrim meals. I do plan every now and then to opt for a guest house.  My food will hopefully be as seasonal, from scratch and local as available. The whole adventure is an exercise in minimalist and sustainable travel, while of course fundraising to make a difference.

I am ready!

Please let me know if there is another stat or daily tidbit you would find interesting if you’re following along! While I write mostly for myself I hope to create a meaningful record here for future pilgrims or to look back on from my armchair.

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Buen Camino,

Fran xx