Albarino Wine on the Camino

Albarino Grape

Albarino wine is made from the Albarino Grape or Alvarinho Grape, which is a type of green grape that is found in both the region of Galicia in Spain and Minho in Portugal.  It is best known for being the grape used to produce the Rias Baixas DO wine from the Atlantic coastal region of Galicia.  In Portugal it is the grape of choice in the Vinho Verde region to make the Vinho Verde white wine.

albarino wine grapesOne theory on the origin of this grape is linked with the Camino de Santiago.  It is believed that the grape was brought to the region by German pilgrims from the Rhine on route to Santiago de Compostela.  The name perpetuates this origin as “Alba-Rino” means “the white from the Rhine”.  Another theory is that the grape was brought to the region from Burgundy by Cistercian monks, who often established vineyards where they built their churches.  Trust the French!

The albarino grape produces a unique white wine.  It has a high acidity and can produce either a light white wine or a fuller style depending on the aging process used.  When you walk the Camino you will have many opportunities to try this wine and if you do you will note that it has a very unique and interesting smell, similar to peach and apricot.  The close proximity of where the albarino grape is grown to the Atlantic Ocean can also often be tasted on the wine itself through a slight salinity.  This makes it a perfect wine to pair with seafood.  In Portugal the wine from the albarino grape is bottled with some carbon dioxide giving a light sparkling sensation and thus distinguishing it from the Spanish wine.  So if you perfer a slight fizz to your wine then the Portuguese Albarino may be more to your liking.

A versatile grape, albarino is often fermented in stainless steel to facilitate early drinking.  However it also responds well to different fermentation techniques such as malolactic or barrel fermentation and longer maturation which results in wines of wonderful complexity and aging ability.  The Albarino grape is also influenced by the soil in which it is grown.  A more mineral-driven and structured wine is yielded when grown in highly acidic, granitic earth. Whereas when it is grown in sandy soil the Albariño grape gives a softer, rounder wine.

If you are ending your Camino in Santiago then you will be walking through Galicia which is the region of albarino wine.  No matter which Camino route you are walking you will get ample opportunity to try Albarino wine as it is very popular throughout the north of Spain and Portugal.  There is three distinct wine regions in this north western area of Spain and Portugal that use the albarino grape to different extents.  The Rias Baixas on the coast, to the south across the border in Portugal is Minho and to the east of both these regions is Ribeiro in Spain.

Rias Baixas

Albarinho Wine Rias-Baixas-MapThe vineyards producing the Riax Baixas are located in the province of Pontevedra, which is one of the main towns to stop in on the Camino Portuguese.  In this region the albarino grape makes up ninety percent of the grapes produced in this region.  Almost 100% of the wine produced here also carries the the Denomination of Origin (DO) designation.  The varietal composition for a wine to be labeled Rias Baixas must be at least 70% Albarino.

Within Rias Baixas there are five sub-zones that all contribute their own distinct quality to the wine.  This natural effect coupled with each vineyard’s own unique style of wine making provides a wide variety of different tastes to wine made from the albarino grape.  It is said the best wines of the Rias Baixas come from the sub-zone Val do Salnes, which is known as the birthplace of the albarino grape.  Located on the Atlantic coast this is the wettest and coolest zone and is just north-west of Pontevedra.  Here grapes grow on the gentle slopes and valley floor of the Umia River.  Just south then of Pontevedra is Soutomaior which is the smallest sub-zone, nestled in the hills of of the Rías de Vigo.  The Condado do Tea and O Rosal then are both located on the Spanish side of the Minho river.  Condado do Tea is to the west of Tui and the furthest from the Atlantic resulting in a more earthy wine.  O Rosal then is to the west of Tui where you will find the vines planted on terraced slopes.  The final sub-zone, Ribera do Ulla is the furthest north, the only inland zone and the most recent, having only been registered in 2000.

Whilst walking the Camino Portuguese route through Spain you will have ample opportunity in this area to try Albarino wine.  If you are walking the Coastal Surf & Turf what better place to sample the albarino wine of the O Rosal sub-zone than A Guarda.  This fishing village provides a picturesque setting to not only sample the wine but enjoy some seafood that goes so well with the wine.  If you are walking the inland, traditional Camino Portuguese then in Tui which is the starting point for section 5 of the Camino Portuguese, you should sample wine from both the O Rosal and Conadado do Tea sub-zones.

Moving north along the Camino Portuguese from Vigo to Pontevedra you will pass by the sub-zone of Soutomaior.  In Arcade be sure to stop and perhaps try a glass of the locally produced Noelia Bebelia.  If you would like to visit a winery and see how this wine is made then why not book an extra night to stay in Pontevedra and visit one of the most famous wineries of the Val do Salnes sub-zone, Bodegas Martín Códax.  In Padron you will be passing through the Riberia do Ulla sub-zone.  Here you should take advantage of the opportunity to sample the locally produced Pazo Arretén.  This fresh and elegant wine makes a great accompaniment to the popular tapas dish of fried green peppers, Pimientos de Padron.

If however you haven’t walked the Camino Portugues this time and are in Santiago de Compostela why not take a boat tour of the Rias Baixas to get a taster for the area and of the wine.

Minho

Albarino Wine vineyardThe “Vinho Regional” Minho is another name for the DOC Vinho Verde.  This area stretches from the River Minho in the north, bordering Spain, to the city of Porto and then inland as far as south the river Douro.  Vinho Verde is the biggest Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) of Portugal.  Similar to the Rias Baixas, there are sub-zones within this large region.  There are nine regions and they are named after rivers or towns of the vicinity.  They are from the north  Monção/Melgaço; Lima; Basto; Cávado; Ave; Amarante; Baião; Sousa and Paiva.  The alvarinho grape, as it is known in Portugal, is predominantly used in wine from the Monção/Melgaço sub-zone.  Wines from the town of Monção are viewed as the best Vinho Verde.  They are also the only wines exempt from the Vinho Verde production laws stipulating a maximum alcohol volume of 11.5%, and in fact often reach closer to 13%.

Walking the Camino de Santiago along the inland Portuguese route you will pass by the alvarinho vineyards of São Julião.  Which are located between Rubiaes and Valenca.  Stopping in Fontoura why not try a glass of the locally produced Quinta Edmun Do Val Reserva Alvarinho.  It is also possible if you have the time to visit this winery, Edmun do Val.  The Monção/Melgaço region is just off the Camino Portuguese but you could always book an extra night in Valenca where you could take a potential trip out to one of the many vineyards of Monção/Melgaço.  If you don’t have time for a trip to one of the vineyards then be sure to ask if you stop in Valenca to try one of the local alvarinho wines.

Ribeiro

Albarino Wine on the CaminoThe Ribeiro region is located east of the Rias Baixas in the province of Ourense and is one of the longest established wine growing areas in Spain.  The Ribeiro wine was also one of the first products in Spain to be awarded the Designation of Origin.  Wine making was introduced by the Romans and then cultivated by the Cistercian monks during the middle ages.  To this day it is one of the primary sources of income and employment for the region.  Vineyards of all sizes are everywhere in this region.  From large commercial bodegas to small holdings that only produce locally for family and friends.  In this regions the albarino grape is only one of the principal grapes used.  The other varieties are Torrontes, Treixadura, Godello and Loureiro.  Due to the use of other grapes the wines from this region are less acidic than those from Minho or the Rias Baixas.

Whilst walking the Via de la Plata when you get to Ourense or if you start your walk to Santiago from here, you might want to book an extra night so that you can perhaps visit some of the vineyards of the region.  If you don’t have time then be sure to ask to try some of this local produce which pairs well with not only shellfish and fish but mild cheeses, cured sausages and meats.  What a gastronomic treat for your Camino journey.

If you have any more questions about our Camino de Santiago tours, please feel free to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Sources:

http://www.wine-searcher.com/grape-1008-albarino-alvarinho

http://www.winesofportugal.com/en/food-and-wine/grape-varieties/white/alvarinho/

http://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-rias+baixas

How Halloween is Celebrated in Spain

 

Halloween in Spain, particularly in the north of Spain, is nothing like the commercialised spectacle that takes place in the USA.

In fact it is more of a traditional festival closely related to the religious holiday of All Saints Day, honouring the dead and celebrating the perpetuation of life.  Halloween in Spain is a three-day celebration starting on the October 31st with Dia de las Brujas (Day of the Witches), followed on the 1st of November with Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day) and then finishing on the 2nd of November with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Also, Spaniards and Mexicans often go to see the play of “Don Juan Tenorio” one week before, of which the main topic revolves around death. 

Halloween in Spain Pumpkin

Halloween is widely celebrated in the north, more than any other area of Spain.  Here, the celtic tradition of halloween still has an influence to this day. In Galicia, which is known for its rich folklore and ghostly legends, on the 31st of October they celebrate Noite dos Calacús (Night of the Pumpkins) with the rest of the world then. Festivities on this night include carving pumpkins, throwing a costume party or even lighting a bonfire. In some cities, people walk around, some holding candles, in the memory of the dead. Kids will also go trick-or-treating but this isn’t as popular.

Halloween in Spain QueimadaOne of the many hightlights of the celebration is the special tradition for Halloween in Galicia, the Queimada. It is a punch drink unique to the area, which is made from the Galician spirit aguardiente and flavoured with unground coffee beans, sugar, and lemon rind or orange peels. Dating back to the 11th century, the queimada is traditionally prepared within a pumpkin and consumed after reciting a spell known as the esconxuro. Many people now, though, prepare this drink in a specially designed clay pot that comes with cups to drink from. The best time to do this performance is during the night after dinner. The tradition of the preparation ritual includes theatrically chanting spells to wardoff the bad spirits that lie in wait for men and women to try to curse them. The drink is set alight to burn slowly as more brandy is added. The spell is then recited whilst holding up a ladle of the burning liquid and then pouring it slowly back into the container as many times as it takes for the full spell to be completed. Because the caremelised sugar produces a pretty blue flame, it is popular amongs tourists. With this drink made of fire, “Devil-be-gone”!

Halloween in Spain Huesos de SantoFor Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day) which is celebrated on the 1st November the tradition in northern Spain is that locals would prepare pastries called Huesos de Santo (Bones of the Holy). This is a traditional delicacies that is a roll made out of egg yolks, stuffed with marzipan. On this day families will take these treats with them when they visit their loved ones’ graves.

 

Halloween in Spain – Esconxuro Spell

Halloween in Spain - Esconxuro Spell

Halloween in Spain – Santa Compaña

Galicia is known for its ghostly folklores. One such mystical belief is that of Santa Compaña, the procession of the dead.  This particular procession is led by a local living person who will be carrying a cross or a cauldron of holy water or both and is followed by the souls of several of the dead holding lit candles. The legends mention of the souls on a horseback followed by a sniffer dog. These souls can only be seen, it is said, by some; those who were wrongly anointed with the Oil of the Dead instead of holy water at their baptism or those with the ability to see spirits. The scent of melting wax however can be easily smelled on the night breeze as the procession passes, warning of its presence.

Halloween in Spain Santa CompanaThe living leader of the procession is compelled by a mysterious curse to go out and lead this procession but will have no recollection of this the next day. The procession will go from midnight to daybreak when the leader will return to their bed with no memory of what they have done the next morning. They do however feel very tired as though they got no sleep the previous night. The only way to be freed of the curse is if the leader comes across another person during their nightly procession who they can give the cross or cauldron to along with the curse.  If the curse is not passed onto another person within weeks the leader will become pale, sickly and thin with death the end result and will see the curse pass onto another local unknowingly.

It is possible though, should you come across the Santa Compaña that you can avoid getting the curse by drawing a circle around them or lie flat on the ground whilst the procession passes.  Other ways to avoid the curse is to tie a black cat in the middle of the processions path and run away.  Alternatively if you have nothing to draw a circle with or no black cat conveniently to hand, you can make hand symbols to ward off the Santa Compaña.  With both hands you can give the horn gesture by keeping up your index and little finger whilst folding down your other fingers. The other hand gesture you can make is the Fig sign, by closing your fist and putting your thumb between your index and middle finger.  Like the Banshee in Ireland, the purpose of the Santa Compaña is to visit the homes of those who have a death due in the near future.

Halloween in Spain – San Sebastian Horror & Fantasy Film Festival

San Sebastian Horror & Fantasy Film FestivalA more lighted hearted take on the festivities of Halloween is the San Sebastian Horror & Fantasy Film Festival.  This festival has been running from 1990 and as the name suggests this is no ordinary film festival.  It an enormous horror and fantasy fiesta that is packed with performances, music, street shows and exhibitions.

Find out more on their website: http://www.sansebastianhorrorfestival.eus/2016/index.php?lang=en

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queimada_(drink)

Camino; El Camino; Camino de Santiago; The Way

Camino – when most people ‘google’ this word they are looking to find out about the Camino de Santiago.  This pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela is also sometimes referred to as El Camino or The Way.  Whatever you want to call it this ancient pilgrimage is a growingly popular route for people of allwalks of life.

Definition of Camino Camino de Santiago

Camino, like many words when translated from Spanish has a number of meanings in English.  The main meaning is as a track, path or road.  It also can mean a literal way, route or journey.  Figuratively it means path or course.

El Camino, Camino de Santiago and The Way all refer to a specific path that is the Way to the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela.  This piligrimage walk has been walked for centuries by millions of pilgrims and over this time various routes to Santaigo have developed.

Camino de Santiago Routes and Stages

The Camino has 8 main routes to Santiago de Compostela.  The most popular route is the Camino Frances (63% 2016) which starts in St Jean Pied de Port crosses the Pyrenees and northern Spain to Santiago.  This route we have broken into 8 manageable stages as unfortunately not everyone has the luxury of getting the time to complete this route in one go.

The next most popular route is the Camino Portuguese (19% 2016) which starts in Lisbon and winds its way up through Portugal before crossing the border into Spain and onto Santiago.  This route we have broken into 5 manageable stages.  We have also got the alternative Portuguese Coastal Route should you wish to experience some of the beautiful coast of Portugal and Spain before heading inland to Santiago.

The other routes then in no particular order are the Camino del Norte (6% 2016) which stretches along the northern coast from San Sebastian to Oviedo, passing by Santander and Bilbao.  This route we have broken into 4 manageable stages.  To continue onto Santiago you would then follow the Camino Primitivo or Original Way (4% 2016) which goes from Oviedo through the Galician countryside to Santiago.  This route we have broken into 2 manageable sections.  Traversing the Galician countryside also is the Camino Ingles or English Way (3% 2016) from either A Coruna or Ferrol to Santiago in 1 section.

The longest route through Spain is the Via de la Plata (3% 2016).  This route goes from Seville in the south of Spain and makes its way up the western side of Spain through Salamanca to Santiago.  This route we have broken into 10 manageable sections.  In Spain the other main route then is the only one that starts in Santiago, the Camino Finisterre – Muxia.  This route takes you to what was once known as the end of the world and you can just stop in Finisterre or you can continue on to Muxia if you haven’t had enough walking!

The final main route then is in France, the Via Podiensis also called Le Puy Route.  This route goes from Le Puy en Vale to St Jean Pied de Port where pilgrims can then join the Camino Frances.  This route we have broken into 6 manageable sections.

How long is the Camino de Santiago? Walking the Camino

The Camino has various routes and these are all different lengths as you can imagine.  There is also often differences in the distances between guide books as there is no set kms for any of the routes.  Whilst walking you may also find some of the routes at different stages may have diversions that will either lengthen or shorten the walk.

Traditionally a pilgrim would start their pilgrimage at home so the distance would be vast and greatly varying!  A thing to remember however, when you set out to do the Camino de Santiago is that it is not about covering as many kilometers as possible but more about taking time to rest, letting your mind relax and appreciating the scenery along the Way.  On the Camino there is a great sense of camaraderie and so taking time to talk with other pilgrims and even stopping to talk with local people is a special part of this trip.

We do however provide kilometers and how many days you would need to complete a trip to assist people with booking their Camino journey.  The Camino Frances is 776kms and takes approximately 35 days to complete.  When doing the full Camino Frances people often like to book in a rest day or two to rest their feet and enjoy some of the beautiful towns along the way and this is something we can assist you with.  The more rest days you book in the longer your trip will be but also possibly, the more enjoyable!

For the 8 sections that we have broken the Camino Frances into the kms are as follows:
St Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona 69kms; Pamplona to Logrono 95kms; Logrono to Burgos 123kms; Burgos to Sahagun 123kms; Sahagun to Leon 55kms; Leon to Ponferrada 101kms; Ponferrada to Sarria 96kms and finally Sarria to Santiago 115kms.

The following table has the total kms information for the other routes:

Camino Route Total
Camino Portuguese 598kms
Portuguese Coastal Route 171kms
Camino del Norte 466kms
Camino Primitivo 315kms
Camino Ingles 119kms
Via de la Plata 991kms
Camino Finisterre 90kms
Via Podiensis 752kms

If you would like to take on the Camino and are not sure which route to do why not get in touch with our expert Camino consultants who will be able to speak with you and advise you on which route and section may be best for you.

Feel free to call us on

+353 1 687 2144

or email info@followthecamino.com to arrange a time to chat.

8 Scenic Towns Along the Camino Frances

Camino Frances, or the French Way, is one of the most popular pilgrimage routes of the Way of St. James since the ancient times. While walking the French Way, you will come across several tranquil villages, discover scenic landscapes and have a great chance to socialize with fellow pilgrims and locals. Besides experiencing the rustic charm of medieval towns, you will be awed by the majestic range of mountains such as Pyrenees and Leon, the famous vineyards of La Rioja, the rolling green hills of Galicia and large plateaus of Meseta.

If you are planning to enjoy some of the rugged beauty of Spain, here are the eight scenic towns along the Camino Frances that you must visit.

1. Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

St Jean Pied de PortLying next to River Nive at the Pyrenean foothills, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a commune bustling with spirited energy and well-preserved beauty. The walled city is the most common starting point for the Camino Frances. When you are at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, don’t forget to pay a visit to the traditional French Market that is in full swing on Mondays. Others spots to see include Rue de la Citadelle, a 17th century fortress sitting atop the hill offering amazing views, the Gothic church of Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pon, the original city gate of Porte d’Espagne, and the stone bridges over the River Nive from where you can enjoy the panoramas of the whole town. After sightseeing the renowned landmarks, take a stroll through the cobbled streets of the town, indulge in local dishes and enjoy the serenity of the place.

2. Puente La Reina

Puente la ReinaThe medieval town of Puente La Reina, also referred to as the “bridge of the Queen” or the “crossroads of the ways”, is sandwiched between Pamplona and Estella on the Way of St. James pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. The highlight of Puente La Reina is the six-arched Romanesque bridge sitting over River Arga. It was built by Queen Muniadona, wife of King Sancho III, who also named the town after herself. Other architectural wonders include Church of the Crucifix and Church of Santiago that are located on the Pilgrim’s trail. Travelers and pilgrims who are seeking a quiet shelter will find Puente La Reina an ideal destination.

3. Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Santo Domingo de la CalzadaLying on the banks of the Oja River at the foothills of the Sierra de la Demanda and Yuso, Santo Domingo de la Calzada is a municipality in La Rioja. It is named after Dominic de la Calzada, a saint, who was the founder of the city. He built a hotel, hospital, and bridge to provide pilgrims with shelter and care. Today the city is renowned for its wines, gastronomy and architectural gems that include the magnificent Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Pilgrims’ Hospital.

4. Sahagún

SahagunFeaturing artistic heritage, remarkable ruins and Mudéjar architecture, Sahagún is a Leonese city along the Camino. The historic city is peppered with architecture influenced by Christian and Muslim cultures. You will find several churches, monasteries, and their ruins in Sahagun. It won’t be wrong to assume that Sahagún is a wonderland for architects and history enthusiasts. The quiet streets are lined with wooden and brick houses that offer one a glimpse of the medieval times. Grab a Spanish pastry from a bakery and walk through the gates of Monasterio de San Facundo, make a stop at Iglesia de la Trinidad and check out the repainted Iglesia de San Juan.

5. Mansilla de las Mulas

Mansilla de las MulasMansilla de las Mulas is an ancient walled city in the province of León lying on the banks of the river Esla. Hundreds of centuries have passed but the city has managed to retain its splendor and traditions. Even today, it gleams of Jacobean culture and generous hospitality. Mansilla is a festive city where celebrations take place throughout the year. The festivities of Santiago that go on for a whole week in July is a spiritual as well as a visual treat.  It features medieval festivities, markets, theatrical shows, and dramatic knight duels. Another famous event that takes place is the tomato fair. It is celebrated on the second last Sunday of August. The tomato fight is the highlight of the affair.

6. Astorga

AstorgaIf you wish to time travel in Spain, Astorga is a great place to check out. Boasting Roman ruins and modernist buildings, Astorga is a fascinating amalgam of medieval times and urbanization. Just one stroll through the charming streets of the walled city will leave you awe-inspired. From preserved churches, museums and cathedrals to parks, amphitheaters and sculptures, the town is bursting with splendid landmarks. The Roman Ruins Route is a must-see guided tour. You can appreciate the ancient ruins that include murals, water tanks and sewers of the past. The tour also include a visit to the Roman Museum. If you have a sweet-tooth and a little love for history, a trip to the Chocolate Museum is guaranteed to be fun.

7. Sarria

SarriaSarria is the last section of the Camino Frances. Pilgrims often walk the final hundred kilometers from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. The city is renowned for its artistic heritage, Gothic structures, recreational activities and gastronomy. Besides the famous landmarks, Sarria has a quiet ambiance that provides pilgrims a chance to relish their spiritual tour in peace. When you stop over, visit the Convent of a Madalena, Ponte de Áspera, a Roman style bridge from 12th century and Church of Saint Mariña. For a little fun, you can enjoy hiking, trekking, horseback riding and fishing on the banks of the river Sarria.

8. Melide, A Coruña

MelideMelide is a small town in Galicia and a popular stopover for pilgrims on the Camino. The Galician town features narrow gravel roads, stony walls, foot bridges, farmlands, and ancient chapels. When you arrive at Melide, you will be greeted by a peaceful atmosphere, amazing cuisine, and superb buildings. Visit Saint Roque Chapel, Sancti Spiritus Church, and St Anthony’s Chapel for a look into the past and peace of mind. Like other Spanish cities, festivals and feasts happen throughout the year. On every Sunday, a fruit and cheese market take place which is a heaven for foodies. If you dare, try the specialty of Melide, ‘Pulpo á Feira’, which is a boiled octopus!

Saint James Day | Patron Saint of Spain and Pilgrims

h2>Saint James Background

Saint JamesSaint James was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus.  He was the son of Zebedee and the brother of John the Apostle.  James is also known as Saint James the Greater to distinguish him from the other apostle James, son of Alphaeus.  He is called the Greater as it is believed he was taller than James, son of Alphaeus.  Another explanation for why he was called James the Greater is that he was closer to Jesus than James, son of Alphaeus, who was thus known as James the Less.

James was among the first to be called to the discipleship of Jesus alongside his younger brother John.  During his time with Jesus, James and his brother John were known for their fiery temperament.  This is demonstrated in Luke 9:54, when a Samaritan village refused to receive Jesus, they asked Jesus “wouldst thou have us bid fire come down from heaven, and consume them?”.  Jesus rebuked them and reminded them that the “Son of Man has come to save men’s lives, not to destroy them.”   James though was also one of those closest to Jesus and along with Peter and John where the only apostles to witness his transfiguration.

After Christ’s death James worked to spread the word of Christ across Israel and Spain.  Whilst in Spain, according to tradition, James had an apparition of the Virgin Mary in Zaragoza and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar was built in veneration of this.  In 44AD he returned to Jerusalem where Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, had him arrested and beheaded him with a sword.  It is believed that he was the first apostle to be martyred for his faith as his is the only execution recorded in the New Testament.

Saint James and Spain

Saint James Battle of ClavijoAfter James was beheaded his remains where taken by his disciples to Spain.  It is said that they set sail on a boat at night with no rudder or steersman and trusted in God that they would arrive with the assistance of the Angles.  They landed at Padrón on the coast and took his body inland to be buried at what is now known as Santiago de Compostela.   His remains led there undisturbed until they were discovered by a shepherd in the 9th Century.  King Alfonso II made the first pilgrimage to the relics and afterwards provided protection along the route for those making the pilgrimage to visit the relics of Saint James, and so began the Camino de Santiago.

This is not the only connection of Saint James to Spain.  Spanish legend has it that during the legendary Battle of Clavijo Saint James appeared to fight for the Christians against the Moor invaders.  From this came the traditional battle cry of the Spanish armies during medieval time’s ¡Santiago, y cierra, España! During the 12th century the military Order of Santiago or The Order of St James of the Sword was founded.  Initially they were established to fight the Moorish invaders and protect the pilgrims of St James’ Way.  It survives today as a religious order of honour.

There have been doubts over the authenticity of the relics of Saint James.  There is a conflicting belief that his relics where in fact taken and kept in a church in Toulouse in France.  It is not entirely improbable that his relics would have been divided between two churches.  However a strong endorsement of the relics at Santiago was in the Bull of Pope Leo XIII in 1884.

Saint James Feast Day

st james day on the camino de santiago

Saint James is the patron saint of not only Galicia but the whole of Spain.  He is also the patron of pilgrims.  His feast day is celebrated on the 25th July and for the Camino de Santiago this is a very special day and one you would want to be in Santiago for.

In Santiago de Compostela the celebrations begin 10 days before July 25th and there is a noticeable increase in the number of pilgrims arriving in the city during this period.  During the 10 days leading up to July 25th there are exhibitions, theatre performances, street theatre and concerts each day to celebrate the feastday of Saint James.  Throughout the area regional dances and bagpipes will be seen and heard along with many other open-air celebrations.

On July 24th the real festivities begin, that night there is a unique and unmatched light show on the front of the cathedral.  This is a truly modern sight to behold that if you can be therefore you should not miss.  Every year it is different, so you will know that you are watching something new if you happen to catch it.

As this is a religious celebration there are also many special services in churches to honour the life and work of Saint James throughout Spain.  At the Cathedral de Santiago there is a special service on the feast day, the 25th July.  At this service the church officials will swing the Botafumeiro, which is a sight to behold.  The Botafumeiro in the Cathedral is a very large incense burner that takes 8 people to swing and is one of the largest in the world.   As the Botafumeiro swings it will fill the Cathedral with its smoke and sweet aroma.  Timing your Camino with the festivals celebrating Saint James’ Day can make for an unforgettable experience.

Check out our video clip on The Arrival of St. James here for more information on the Saint.

If you have any questions on the Camino de Santiago tours, then please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Sources:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08279b.html

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=59

http://www.santiago-compostela.net/

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/347

http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/spain/santiago-apostle  

Follow the Camino celebrate 10 years with new logo

2017 sees us ringing in our 10th year of business with a new look logo.  We hope you love it as much as we do.  They say a change is as good as a break so we’ve gone for a re-brand because we’ve have no intention of taking the break.  With walking holidays on the Camino de Santiago growing ever more popular there’s no rest for the best.  It rings true that we are in business the last 10 years for a reason.  Our service is often copied but never equalled.  We are very aware that a pilgrimage is something more than a holiday so we take great pride in helping you walk the journey of your lifetime knowing that you’ll take those fond memories of your Camino with you forever meaning you’ll hold us dear in your hearts also.

New logo

LogoTaking inspiration from The Wizard of Oz we bring you the Yellow Brick Road in our new logo.  Just like The Emerald City of Oz;  Santiago de Compostela is  a magical place where one goes to find the answers to ones own questions and just like Dorothy, the Lion, the Tinman and Scarecrow you may take the pilgrimage to find something deep in your heart, gain the courage to make a change in your life or indeed clear out your brain of clutter to have a clear trail of thought again.

To celebrate our 10th year as top Camino specialists we are giving away a prize every month this year.  Keep your eyes on our newsletters each month for your chance to win.

Our services include:

 Luggage Transfer

This allows you to walk or cycle lightly with a day-pack only (bottle of water, rain gear, maps and phone), and enjoy the view without the pain.

Authentic accommodation and local food

Our accommodation is selected based on a number of criteria, including location, comfort, services, price and character. We always try to book accommodation that is both on or near the Camino and also close to the historical quarter or centre of the town/city.

Certified Camino guides

We only use the best and most knowledgeable Camino de Santiago guides to send along with our groups.  All our guides are bi-lingual (English-Spanish), very pleasant and there to enhance your Camino experience.  They know a lot of secret places and might even show you some places of the Way that you would never find by yourself

Pilgrim and Holiday Pack

  • 1 credential / pilgrim passport per person
  • 1 luggage tag per person
  • By soft copy/email you will receive:
  • General information on the Camino
  • Walking notes
  • Maps
  • Hotel Vouchers

24/7 customer service

In case of emergency, we will give you access to a phone number that you can use 24/7 while on your walking holiday. And we are always available.

Airport & private transfers

Avoid complications and spend more time on the Camino with our airport transfers. No need to run to the bus stop, change buses, have the correct currency and no time wasted waiting for a slow coach or a delayed train. We organise your airport and private transfers from where you arrive to wherever your starting point is. You will be greeted at the airport arrival terminal by a friendly and dedicated driver and you will be driven to your starting point.

Groups: Charities, Schools & Clubs

We have built different packages for each of our services and each type of group, so tell us which type of group you have and what your needs are and we will tailor-make an itinerary for you

Our Values & Promise

Our Mission is to excel in the delivery of our services of Camino-related tours and packages through innovation, knowledge of the field and outstanding customer service. Our vision is to become the #1 Tour Operator and service provider in the world along the Camino de Santiago.

Our promise to our customers

Your satisfaction is our priority: Your comfort is of the utmost importance to us; we carefully select the best accommodation, the most delicious meals and plan to help you get the most from your holiday.

Semana Santa Sevilla

Semana Santa, or Holy Week in english, in Sevilla is one of the city’s biggest festivals that is held each year. Although Semana Santa is celebrated all over Spain on the week running up to Easter, the celebration has been carried out by the brotherhood and fraternities since the late Middle Ages in Sevilla. And so, compared to other regions of Spain, you can see why the most glamourous form of the parade takes place here in this historical city of Sevilla.

The weeklong festival is a series of processions of pasos (floats) depicting not only scenes from the sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary which are related to the crucifixion of Christ but they also have images of the Virgin Mary grieving for her son. These pasos are made from wood, wax and wire and are carried around the city for up to 14 hours and the events depicted on them are almost life-like and often very artistic that fascinates the onlookers. The gigantic figures carvced from wood and such are all from the bible personalities: Jesus, the Virgin Mary and saints etc. There are over 60 such pasos that are made and cared for by religious brotherhoods. Each religious brotherhood has their own route from their church to the main Cathedral and back to their church. Pasos weigh around a metric ton and has to be carried by from 24 to 54 men. These men who carry the pasos on their necks are called costaleros, literally meaning “sack men” and they are chosen from the brotherhood. Costaleros hide under the flatform curtain which makes the guiding men look as if he was walking alone. The ones under the curtain have to rely on the guide’s voice. The costaleros parading through the narrow streets of Seville, although unseen but surely known, withstand the body of the gigantic pasos which is a fascinating sight to see and a shame to miss if you are ever in Spain during Easter even if you are just passing through.

Semana Santa Sevilla CelebrationsAs the Holy Week heavily relies, no pun intended, on the Catholic religious brotherhood, it has become a practice to pass down the tradition through families. But the membership is still open to the Catholic community. Even then, it is not an easy task as you have understood and some members wait up to 15 years to join this ceremony. And, indeed, only such dedication can bring out the best performance and a strong team that can make the events come to life.

Walking in front of the pasos, you will see members of the brotherhoods dressed in penitential robes with capirotes which are tall, pointed hoods with eye-holes. The capirotes are worn so the faithful could repent in anonymity and not be recognised as self-confessed sinners. They can sometimes be barefoot and have chains and shackles around their ankle as penance and their uniform colour vary depending on the organisation. it is not a secret that their robe resembles that of the extremest group “KKK” (Ku Klux Klan), but these groups have nothing to do with each other and would be a mistake to compare them in any other ways. Coming behind these men will usually be children dressed in vestments and behind them comes the actual pasos which in turn is followed by a band if there is one.  Another group of penitents then follow but they do not wear the pointed hoods and usually are carrying wooden crosses. There can be up to three of these processions for one religious brotherhood which means for one religious brotherhood their procession could have anywhere from a few hundred to 3,000 participants. These processions are held every day from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. The biggest day however is on the eve of Holy Thursday when the procession will start out so that it will arrive at the Cathedral on the dawn of Good Friday.

Festival signifies many things and some of it being the symbol of unity and shared identity for the Spanish people. The Catholics pray and chant together and can get very emotional.

Aside from the parade, a definite must try in regards to Easter food are torrijas and pestinos, for people in search of something other than chocolate bunnies and eggs, although that is the popular option too. Torrijas is similar to french toast and the “divine” bread is often dry or left-over bread, soaked in milk or wine, coated in egg then fried. people add all sorts of flavours such as cinnamon nowadays. They taste delightful. And if you would like to learn the history of this humble bread, it dates back to the 15th century when it was first invented by nuns. The bread was especially popular in taverns at the beginning of the 20th century. Pestinos, on the other hand, is a bit different. They were brought by the Moors and was eaten during the Ramadan originally. It is folded dough, deep fried in olive oil and glazed with honey or sugar. Sevillanos, the people of the Seville, love their Easter treats and is said to be even considered rude to not bring them if you are visiting family or friends.

If you plan on walking part of the Via de la Plata then why not do this at Easter so that you can see these wonderful processions that are full of colour. This will be a busy time in Sevilla so make sure to plan this well ahead so that we can secure for you the best accommodation available. As the parade is not tied to any specific dates but to a cosmic phenominon, you can estimate so that your travel is between the March 22th and April 25th. If you attend the procession be sure to respect that this is a holy procession and so dress appropriately. Many locals will dress in their best as if they were attending mass.

Find out more here on the walk from Sevilla to Monesterio, the first section of the long Via de la Plata.

Easter Torrijas – A Classic Easter Treat in Spain

Spain is known for its festivals and with all these festivals food has a major association.  Easter is no different and for this celebration the classic dish is Easter Torrijas.

Torrijas are the Spanish version of French Toast.  Originating from the 15th Century this ancient recipe is a great way to use up stale bread and transform it into a delicious dessert.  Like any dessert home-made is the best but if you are on the Camino you can get these treats in many bars, restaurants and pastry shops around Easter or perhaps even throughout the year.  Be careful not to overindulge in these highly addictive sweet treats as they are high in calories so be sure to walk them off!

Easter Torrijas – Recipe

There are many versions of this recipe depending on where you are in Spain.  A popular choice in some areas is to replace the milk for sweet wine, where in other areas they will slather the fried bread in syrup.

IngredientsIngredients for Torrijas

  • 1 bread loaf (for best results pick a bread with tight crumbs and let it go stale)
  •  1 liter whole milk
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 3/4 litre of olive oil for frying
  • Sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

Instructions

1. Cut the bread into 1 inch slices and arrange them in a shallow dish with room to also hold the milk.  For the most creamy result cut the bread the night before to let each slice fully dry out.
2. Put the milk in a saucepan with the sugar and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off the moment it starts to boil and leave to infuse for 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
3. Remove the cinnamon and pour the milk mixture on the bread and let soak for one hour.  Check on the mixture to ensure it is fully soaked in, if necessary add more milk.
4. Beat the eggs in a bowl large enough to hold at least one slice of bread.
5. Heat the oil to medium in a large frying pan so you can fry several torrijas at the one time. With a large spatula carefully transfer the soaked slices one by one into the egg to coat both sides, then carefully place the slices into the hot oil.
6. Fry for 3-4 of minutes on each side, until brown.
7. Remove the torrijas and place on a dish lined with a paper towel and thoroughly sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Do not pile them on top of each other whilst warm.

 

Easter Torrijas

Enjoy warm or cold – Buen provecho

nbsp;

Guided or Self Guided on the Camino de Santiago?

What is the difference between a guided and self-guided tour on the Camino?

Guided Tour – this tour is on a set date, visiting set locations and includes a bilingual guide.  We have prearranged dates for our guided tours but if you have a group and want a guide we can also provide this.

Self-Guided Tour – this tour can be started on any date you wish, and be customised to walk the distances you want, stopping in locations to suit you.  There is no bilingual guide on this tour but you do get walking notes and hotel vouchers so you know where you are going each day.

Why go on a guided tour?

Guide on the Camino de SantiagoGoing on a guided walking tour with Follow the Camino takes all the hassle away from planning and worrying about not meeting people, getting lost and missing out on important historical sites.  Our experienced and friendly guide will be with you every step of the way.  They will share with you  their love of walking the Camino.  The stories of the pilgrims that have passed before you and ensure you have the best experience along the way.  On our guided tours you can still walk at your own pace, and alone when you wish, but you have the added security of knowing your guide is there for you, as well as other members of your group.

More than a culturally and physically rewarding journey, our guided tour is a magnificent human adventure and great value for money.  Depending on the guided tour you go on they include everything that our self-guided tours provide along with potentially an extra night in a stop along the Way; airport transfers (where applicable) and specially organised group dinners every evening.

Typical Day on a Guided Tour

A typical day on the Camino de Santiago starts with a continental breakfast between 6am and 8am.  Around 8:30 am the group will meet at the reception of the hotel to start walking for a couple of hours before stopping for a mid-morning coffee and a snack.

Your guide will accompany you every step of the way making sure everything is okay, showing you the highlights and answering your questions.  All our guides know the region like the back of their hand and speak fluent Spanish, so feel free to ask about them about the history of the region, some Spanish words, which food to order or tips on how not to get blisters!

An average day will be between 5 and 7 hours’ walking with 2 to 3 breaks including a one hour lunch break. So you should arrive around 3 to 4pm, just in time for a short siesta.

Guided group on the Camion de SantiagoWe will leave you time to relax, visit the town or simply enjoy the hotel’s facilities before finishing the day with a glass of ‘vino tinto’ and a taste of the local gastronomy at the evening dinner.

To see what guided tours we have currently available check out our Guided Tour page:

Camino Guided Tours

 

Why go on a self-guided tour?

Self-guided means we will organise everything and give you all the material you need to complete your pilgrimage in comfort, but you won’t have a dedicated guide to lead you.  This option appeals to pilgrims who want more solitude or independence, or when the dates of the guided groups are not convenient.

The biggest advantage of going self-guided is the flexibility.  We can tailor-make your Camino journey just for you.  You can stay the night in the locations that you want and also upgrade your accommodation.  You can have your booking on either a half-board or bed & breakfast basis giving you the flexibility to explore the larger towns which will have more dining options.  If you need a transfer to get you to your starting point or from the end to an airport we can assist with this.  We also can book additional day tours or nights along the Way for you, so you will get a truly unique Camino experience.  Going self-guided means you get to chose when you start and when you finish your trip all with the guidance and expertise of our Camino Planners.

Check out our Camino Tours to find out all the different options we have available for you:

Camino Tours

Camino de Santiago Accommodation

Camino de Santiago accommodation varies from hostels with bunk beds to really nice private rooms in hotels with your own private bathroom.   There are plenty of options along the route in regards to what comfort level you are looking and price you can afford.

Traditionally pilgrims would have stayed in hospitals set up by various religious orders specifically to deal with pilgrims.   This accommodation would have been very basic and pilgrims would have made a donation to the religious order in line with what they could afford.  It is still possible to stay in some of these places but they are much fewer than would have been in their heyday.

Hotel Accommodation

Camino Accommodation BedroomOur first choice of accommodation for our clients is hotels.  When selecting the hotels we use we take into consideration their location to the Camino, the level of comfort and service they provide as well as their price and character.  This has enabled us to pick what we consider some of the best accommodation along the Camino de Santiago.  As the Camino goes through the heart of the towns it passes through, our first choice of accommodation will always be in the historical quarter or centre of the town, so after a days walking it will be easy for you to find your accommodation.

Casa Brandariz Rural GuestHouseThe beginning and end of each section is generally in larger towns where we book hotels of a 3* standard.  In smaller towns, villages or hamlets we book hotels or guesthouses of a 2* standard.  It must be noted that our selection also depends on the local infrastructure in the smaller towns and villages where they may not have any rated accommodation and thus we would book you into a carefully selected non-rated guesthouse.  Our standards however do not drop, these guesthouses are generally family run establishments that will provide you with a genuine local experience.

For any clients looking to upgrade their accommodation to 4/5* hotels or Paradors we can also assist you with this ensuring that you get the quality of accommodation you are looking whilst also being close to or on the Camino.

Budget  Accommodation

Camino de Santiago Budget AccommodationWe understand that not everyone can afford or is looking for hotels so we have a budget option available.  For our budget option we will select private hostel and albergues as well as perhaps some hotels in the larger towns.  Even though this is our budget option we will always try to book you a private room with a private bathroom.  However as this is budget accommodation depending on the location and local infrastructure this may not be possible and on some occasions you may need to share a bathroom, or be in a small dorm room with other pilgrims.

Hostel Accommodation

Hostel AccommodationFor the client looking what many see as the traditional accommodation of the Camino; hostels, we can also book these.  Hostels on the Camino will consist of a large room with multiple bunk beds and shared bathroom facilities.  Although you can just book into a hostel on the day, when you book through us you have the peace of mind that you have a bed waiting for you and that you won’t turn up at a hostel only to find out that they are full and you need to keep walking to the next hostel.

How to get and stay motivated to walk

“Walking is man’s best medicine”  Hippocrates

We all know being active is good for us.  Walking is also one of the most accessible forms of exercise.  Getting up and going for a walk though can be difficult, particularly in the winter months.  If it’s cold or wet out, or we have had a long day in work we may just want to veg in front of the tv!  When you don’t feel like going for a walk this is usually the best time to go for a walk.  Getting out and walking, even if just for half an hour, is good for our overall well being.

Saying and doing though are two very different things.  So to help get you motivated and keep you motivated check out our tips below:

New Walking Shoes and Clothes

Walking shoes and clothesWith new walking shoes and clothes this is the one time that you won’t have to keep your new things for a special occasion!  Get them on and get out there to show them off.  Test them out to make sure if they are waterproof, that they really are.  If they are meant to keep you warm, that they do!  Walking shoes will get more comfortable the more you wear them so get out there andbreak them in.  Dress for the weather and you can walk in any season.

Walking Apps/Gadgets

Walking apps and gadgetsFrom fitbits to apps on your phone there are many different apps and gadgets you can get to help keep track of your steps.  Many of these apps and gadgets also will tell you how long you have been walking, calories you’ve burned as well as even map your walk!  They can be a real eyeopener to how much you are moving, you may be doing more or less than you think.  These apps are also great for keeping track of your progress, allowing you to easily see that you can complete a walk in a quicker time or even just to simply make sure that you get your 10,000 steps a day in.

Join a Walking Group

Walking groupNot everyone can stay motivated when they are just going out to walk on their own.  Many people enjoy the sociable aspect of being part of a walking group.  It’s a great way to meet like minded people whilst being active.  The accountability that comes with joining a group will help to keep you motivated to go on the walk as you will not want to miss out on the fun or let the people organising the walk down.  It you are new to an area it can also be a great way to both meet new friends and get to know your area better.

Get a Walking Friend

Walk with a friendJoining a group may not suit everyone.  It can be difficult to ensure you are free at the designated time of the walk or you may prefer to get out more regularly.  So why not get a friend to walk with you.  It’s a great way to catch up with a friend, before you know it the time will have flown by not to mention all the steps.  Walking with a friend also means you can organise when to walk that suits both your schedules or perhaps even have a few friends that you walk with at different times during the week.

Pick a Time

SunriseDeciding to go for a walk is easy.  Actually going for the walk can sometimes not be so easy.  We all live busy lives so it’s best to pick a time that works with your schedule.  Pick a time that you know you can stick too, such as before work in the morning or after dinner in the evening.  Even better on your lunch break get out for a 20 minute/half hour stroll.  Not only will you get your steps in for the day you will come back fresher to the office and ready to tackle the afternoon.  The weekends can also be a great time to get out for a good long walk.  Go on a Saturday or Sunday morning then after treat yourself to a tasty brunch.  What more motivation do you need!

Listen to Music

listen to musicThe best way to make the time fly if you are out walking on your own is to listen to music.  Put on an album you haven’t listened too in a while and have a trip down memory lane whilst you walk.  Or why not make up a playlist of your favourite songs that lasts at least 30 minutes or longer.  In no time you will have got through your playlist and got your steps in.  There really is nothing like out walking listening to your favourite songs to put you in a good mood.  You can even pick songs with different rhythms and match you walking speed to the songs – walk faster during more up tempo songs and then take a relaxed pace during slower songs. You can also listen to our new playlist to fully enjoy your walk!

” Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time” Steven Wright

Choose Different Routes

Choose different routesWalking the same route can get monotonous and boring which will de-motivate you to walk.  So every so often mix it up.  Try a different route or if you normally do a loop walk try doing it in the opposite direction to the direction you normally go.  Get out in nature as much as you can.  Walk in parks, visit forests and seaside locations.  With the seasons these walks will always be changing so you won’t get bored.  Walking different routes can also be a great way to discover new things where you live.  Check out new neighbourhoods and who knows what hidden gems your might discover.


Register for a Challenge or Book a Walking Holiday

Walk the CaminoIf you have a goal to work towards it is always easier to keep yourself motivated.  So why not register yourself for a challenge like a Charity Marathon, many of which have participants who walk the route.  Or go one further and book yourself a walking holiday.  What better way is there to really explore a new place than walking.  A growing number of people are challenging themselves to walk the Camino, be this for a week or the full way of one of the Camino routes.  When you have a goal like a challenge you know you need to prepare.  If you are thinking of walking the Camino we have a training plan that will make sure you are fit for the walk.  Check it out here: Camino Training Plan

Step to it …

So what are you waiting for.  Get out there and start your walking journey.  Who knows where it might take you someday and who you might meet along the way.  Walking is the easiest form of exercise and has many benefits for both the body and mind.  Start small if you haven’t done much walking before.  A 30 minute stroll is a good start, then when that gets comfortable try going for longer or walking it faster.  If you are using a walking app or gadget it’s easy to keep track of your progress which will also help to keep you motivated.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking” Friedrich Nietzsche

Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage Statistics 2016

Total Compostela’s 2016 – Record Numbers!

2016 was a Holy Year and as predicted the number of pilgrims completing the Camino de Santiago increased.  In 2016, 277,913 pilgrims received Compostela’s in Santiago, this is up from 262,458 in 2015.  However this number does not take into account those who didn’t make it as far as Santiago which would be a considerably larger.  Althought 2017 is not a Holy Year it is likely that the number of pilgirms walking the Camino with continue to grow.  Will we break the record again?

2016 Pilgrimage Statistics

2016 Pilgrimage Statistics

Oviedo and the Camino de Santiago

Oviedo the beginning of the Camino

Map Oviedo SpainOviedo, the capital of the Principality of Asturias in northern Spain, is both the beginning of the Camino Primitivo, the oldest Camino route, and the end of the Camino del Norte.  It was from Oviedo that King Alfonso II (791-842) set out to verify the remains of Saint James.  Thus the pilgrimage route from Oviedo to Santiago was the original route taken by many pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.

King Alfonso II promoted Oviedo as the city to pass through for pilgrims on their way to Santiago.  To encourage pilgrims to come through Oviedo he built the Cathedral of San Salvador.  Here he housed the relics of the Martyrs of Cordoba as well as the Holy Shroud, which is said to have covered Jesus’ face on his descent to his burial.  The importance of Oviedo to the Camino de Santiago can be summed up in the following saying “he who goes to Santiago but not to Salvador, visits the servant but not the Lord”.

Short History of Oviedo

The Kingdom of Asturias  began in 720 when Pelagius revolted against the Muslim occupiers of Spain at this time.  Oviedo was founded in 762 and has no Visigothic or Roman foundations.  Until this point the area was largely uninhabited and so was mostly ignored by the Moorish invaders.  In 794 the Moors sacked and pillaged Oviedo but King Alphonse II of Asturias rebuilt the buildings that were destroyed and made it the capital of his kingdom.

Oviedo King Alphonse IIIt was in 814 that King Alphonse II made the first pilgrimage to Santiago to verify the remains of Saint James.  During the reign of King Alphonse II construction of the city of Oviedo increased and continued with his successor Ramiro I (842-850).  In 850 Ordoño I came to power and was the first king to advance southwards into Arab territory.  His reign was short lived and upon his death his son Alphonse III came to power.  During his reign the Emir Muhammad I, as a diplomatic gift, sent the body of the Cordoban martyr Eulogius to Oviedo, supposedly along with his manuscripts.  Alphonse III continued his predecessors building of the city of Ovideo.  Towards the end of his life Alphonse III was overthrown by his sons and when he died in Zamora his body was returned to Oviedo.  It was after this period that the royal court moved to Leon and Oviedo began to lose its importance within the kingdom.

During the 12th Century, Bishop Pelayo de Oviedo, fabricated many Royal Charters.  These forgeries were not for his enjoyment but rather to enable him to gain the independence of his see from the archbishop of Toledo or Santiago, as well as promoting Oviedo as a pilgrim destination.  Over the centuries the medieval city of Oviedo grew and at the beginning of the 17th Century an Arts College was founded and increased Oviedo’s urban expansion.  The 18th Century seen regional nobility building palaces, the 19th Century then seen industrial expansion and by the 20th Century administrative and commercial development was pushing Oviedo forward.

In the 1930’s Spain was deeply divided between Nationalists and Republicans.  Oviedo was directly affected by this unstable period.  In 1934 the Asturian miners’ strike resulted in Oviedo being captured by the miners who were armed with dynamite.  General Franco sent in the army who overpowered the rebels after heavy fighting and many casualties.  Only 2 years later Oviedo played host to one of the memorable events during the Spanish Civil War, the Siege of Oviedo.  This siege lasted for 3 months until the rebels were relieved by the Nationalist forces just as they were making their last stand against the Popular Front.

In 1985 Oviedo was registered as a World Heritage City and today its economy is dependent on Oviedo’s position as the administrative centre of the region.  The Camino de Santiago stills brings pilgrims to Oviedo either as a starting point on the Camino Primitivo or the finishing stop for the Camino del Norte.

Oviedo – Things to do

There is no shortage of things to do and places to visit in Oviedo.  Thanks to the compact size of its historical centre which has been pedestrianised along with how clean and green the city is, Oviedo is a pleasure to walk around.  So should you be starting, ending or passing through on your Camino journey you will not be disappointed.

Built Heritage

Oviedo CathedralOviedo has a plethora of churches, palaces and plazas for you to visit and admire.  Most importantly for pilgrims is the Cathedral of San Salvador.  Originally built in 781 the Cathedral has been enlarged and rebuilt over the centuries to give its present day form.  Within the Cathedral a must visit for pilgrims is the chapel, Cámara Santa. This chapel houses holy relics such as the Holy Chest, the Cross of los Ángeles and the Cross of la Victoria.  Mass is held daily in the Cathedral should you wish to attend and you can find our more information on the times of worship on the Cathedral’s website: Cathedral Oviedo – Worship Schedule.

 

Oviedo churches

 

Wandering around Oviedo you will come across many chapels but one visually spectacular church to visit is Iglesia de San Juan el Real.  In 1923 General Franco was married at this very chapel.  A short 10 minute drive outside of the city centre and a worthwhile visit is the Santa María del Naranco and the nearby San Miguel de Lillo.

 

 

 

Oviedo Plaza de TrascorralesBack in the city due to thecompact layout it is very easy to meander from one square to the next taking in many sights along the way.  Near the Cathedral is the Fine Art Museum located in the former Velarde Palace as well as the Archaeological Museum located in the former convent of San Vicente. The Plaza de Trascorrales is a colourful square to visit and where you will see one of the many quirky statues that you will find throughout the city.

Oviedo Campo San Francisco Park

 

To see more of these statues why not take a stroll through the Campo de San Francisco park.  Set in what was once the orchard of the Convent you will enjoy strolling through shaded paths discovering monuments and arches as well as potentially spotting one of the peacocks that call this park home.

 

Oviedo and Woody Allen

 

If you are a film buff or Woody Allen fan then be sure to get your photo with his statue that is just across from the park.  If you have watched his film, Vicky Christina Barcelona, you may also recognise some of the places from the movie as it was partly filmed in Oviedo.  As a treat you might even like to book a stay for your night in Oviedo in the 5* Hotel Reconquista which was in the movie and is also a former hospice from the 18th century.  For a random trivia fact, Woody Allen won the prestigious Prince of Asturias award in 2002 which is hosted in Oviedo.

 

Oviedo’s most famous athlete is Fernando Alonso, world champion Formula 1 driver.  So if F1 is more your speed then why not visit his museum, Fernando Alonso Museum, where you can see not only some of his helmets and overalls but also the cars he has driven and a special focus on his trophy collection.

Festivals

Throughout the year there are a number of festivals in Oviedo all with their own charm and allure.  In February there is a huge 2 day festival, Antroxu.  On the first day of this festival it is an opportunity for children to get dressed up for a costume contest along with street performances and music.  The second day then is the turn of adults to partake in a costume contest followed by the further celebrations and fireworks.  This festival even has it own menu that is served in most restaurants, Antroxu of Oviedo.  This consists of a stew with cabbages, beans, potatoes and sausages.  For dessert there is ‘frixuelos‘ which is a crepe filled with cream, chocolate or jam.

Oviedo FestivalsAt Easter there does be many processions through the streets of Oviedo from all the various religious brotherhoods in the city.  On Good Friday in the Cathedral you can view the Sudarium of Oviedo.  During the Feast of the Ascension the agricultural aspects of the region are celebrated.  During this festival many restaurants also have a special menu consisting of a vegetable stew of white beans and arbeyos to start, ‘Carne gobernada‘ (beef in white wine) for a main and finally for dessert cheesecake with cherries on top.

Closely following these celebrations is La Balesquida 0 Martes De Campo, held on the first Tuesday after Pentecost.  This celebration dates back to the 13th Century and involves a procession of the Virgin from the church of San Tirso to Capilla de la Balesquida follow by the distribution of ‘bollu preñau‘ (a bread bun stuffed with sausage) along with other food offerings, wine and cider to taste.

In May Oviedo celebrates La Preba on the 22nd.  This one day festival is when all the cider houses of the city celebrate the first tasting of the cider for the season.  This tasting is free to the public along the street which becomes known as ‘Cider Boulevard’.

On the night of June 23rd Oviedo is La Foguera de San Xuan.  On this night bonfires are lit around the city, the largest of which is in Cathedral Square where a traditional Asturian dance is performed around the bonfire.

The largest festival and most important in Oviedo is the Feast of San Mateo, who is the patron saint of the city.  This popular week long festival, held the third week in September, includes free performances and concerts as well as a fireworks display.  The highlight of the week though is the Parade of Americas which celebrates the many Asturians who left for the new world.

On October 19th, Oviedo commemorates the victory of the locals over the Carlist Army in the 1830s with El Desarme, Disarmaments Day.  The special menu for this commemoration consists of cod with chickpeas and spinach, tripe and rice pudding.

Finally then in December they hold the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos de Oriente. A traditional Twelfth Night parade, where the Three Wise Men of the East parade through the main streets of the city before reaching the Cathedral Square, where they make their offering to the Baby Jesus.

So throughout the year there is plenty of opportunities in Oviedo to enjoy one of its many festivals either at the end of your Camino or when you start.

Gastronomy

Asturias is located between the Bay of Biscay and the mountains of Picos de Europa.  Thanks to this location the region boasts both green pastures for grazing and fertile land for growing, as well as on the coast one of the richest fishing areas in the world.  Fine food is synonymous with the region and it is known to be the area with the best meat, dairy, vegetables and fish in Spain.  A meat dish to try is carne gobernada’ a dish of beet slowly stewed in white wine and vegetables.  For fish ‘pixin’ anglerfish is the base for many dishes with it being cooked in cider sauce or added to a bean stew fabada con pixin.  For dessert there are many options but recommended dishes are Arroz con leche’ a cold rice pudding with milk and cinnamon; frixuelos‘ a crepe like dish filled traditionally with an apple compote or carbayones‘ a traditional dessert of puff pastry stuffed with an almond paste.

Oviedo GastronomyIn Oviedo, as it may be obvious by now, food plays a major role in life with even festivals having special menus for that occasion.  Oviedo takes its food that seriously that it has a Pinchos competition in May.  For this competition over 100 establishments compete to be the Ovetense Top Winner.  So that people can enjoy all the various dishes a ‘gastromap’ is published of all the participating establishments and where they are located, the food available and prices.

There are two main ‘gastro-routes’ in Oviedo the Wine Route and Gourmet District.  The Wine Route is the pedestrianised streets of Campoamor and Manuel Pedregal.  These streets are filled with wine bars and throughout the year they have various events happening.  The Gourmet District came about as an initiative of a local group of hospitality providers to promote the quality of products, creativity and both traditional and modern cuisine in one district.  Throughout the year many events are held and so for any foodie is a must stop when in Oviedo.

Sidra

Oviedo EspichaThe emblematic drink of the Asturias region is sidra, cider.  In Oviedo a whole street, Calle Gascona, is dedicated to this traditional drink and dishes that accompany it.  Throughout the year they have various events to celebrate this drink and the food that accompanies it.  On Thursday’s if you wander into any of the cider houses you may be lucky enough to hear the singing of traditional songs.  Calle Gascona is not just about cider however they also work to promote Asturian cheeses.  To help wash down the cider why not try when here the Cabrales blue cheese or the smooth Vidiago or the stronger Gamonedo cheese atop a cracker.

If you are a fan of Cider and have time in Oviedo then you might even like to go one step further and go on a tour of one of the many cider factories in the region or perhaps pop on the train for the short journey to Nava to visit their Cider Museum.  When at one of the factories on the outskirts of Oviedo you many be lucky enough to be there when they are having the traditional festive gathering espicha.  These informal gatherings have a relaxed and fun atmosphere.  Watch locals pour the cider from a height into glasses and sample the food that is laid out on large table in the middle of the room for everyone to enjoy.

Oviedo has much to offer pilgrims on the Camino so if passing through, starting or finishing your Camino here I think you will agree that this is one place you could easily stay for an extra night or two.  Why not get in touch to arrange your Camino with a stop in Oviedo by contacting us on info@followthecamino.com.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oviedo

http://catedraldeoviedo.com/en/

http://www.spain.info/en/que-quieres/ciudades-pueblos/otros-destinos/oviedo.html

http://www.turismoviedo.es/

6 Reasons Why You Should Take Time Off For the Camino

Time off work is widely seen as an important aspect of a healthy work-life balance.  Successful entrepreneurs, executives and self-employed business owners know that the key to their success is working on the right things.  Time off work is an investment of your time in yourself that will positively impact on your work life.  Walking the Camino can be the perfect opportunity to release you from the stresses of your everyday life and reconnect with yourself.

Here are our top 6 reasons why should take time off work to walk the Camino:

smell the roses1.  Time off to relax is as important as work

If you never take time off to unplug both your body and your mind will become fed up, you will be miserable, stressed and demotivated.  After all you can only beat a stick for so long before it will break.

Studies in Europe suggest that 50–60 % of all lost working days can be attributed to work-related stress. In the US 83% of workers say they’re stressed about their jobs and nearly 50% say work-related stress is interfering with their sleep.  With so many people reporting work related stress getting away from it all will improve not only your own mental health but allow you to see things more clearly and return refreshed, focused and perhaps even with new insights.  Walking the Camino de Santiago is a unique opportunity to unplug from your daily life and simply walk.  Enjoy the leisurely pace of the Camino as well as the freshly prepared local food and feel your tensions slip away.

 

2. Time off to recharge to take on the worldTime to recharge

For most businesses autumn is one of their busiest times of years.  If you don’t take a break over the summer months or the quiet months running up to your busy time of year, then you run the risk of burning out before the end of the race.  If you take time off during your quiet period you will return recharged which will positively impact you and your company’s future productivity.

A more practical benefit of taking time off during a quiet period is that you are less likely to miss out on any important decisions.  Although walking every day on the Camino will physically tire you and ensure a good night’s sleep.  It will also give you that vital time to let your mind wander and work through any sub-conscious niggles you might have and allow you the time to let go of them, freeing your mind for new challenges.

 

Time off to get fit3. Time off to get fit

Walking on average 20km (13 miles) each day on the Camino de Santiago will improve your physical health.  This gentle exercise every day accompanied by freshly prepared food will help rejuvenate you from within.  What could be more stress relieving than walking in the beautiful Spanish Countryside?   Getting into the great outdoors has been shown to improve self-confidence and with that Vitamin D hit (through Sunscreen of course) your mood is sure to improve.  You will return a fit and happy self-confident person, ready to take on the world.

 

4. Time off to learn something new Richard Branson quote

Taking time off work can also be a productive time where you learn something new.  Download a book or some business literature you have been meaning to read.  Catch up on blog posts and videos on areas that you are interested in, connected or not to your work.  After a day’s walking time relaxing with a book or listening to an inspiring story can help you put your own issues and thoughts into perspective.  Also being in Spain or Portugal will give you a chance to try some new food, learn first-hand about their culture and perhaps even test out your Spanish or Portuguese language skills.

 

Off hiking5. Time off to grow

As executives, entrepreneurs and self-employed business owners your job is to make decisions.  You want to be working ON your business not IN it.  For this to happen you need to have time for strategic pondering and this is best achieved when you step back to see the bigger picture.  After all big ideas ripen slowly.  Walking the Camino will give you the opportunity to escape from daily distractions allowing you time for reflection.

When seeking a direction or vision for your career path it won’t come at once and the Camino will allow you the time to gather all those little thoughts into a holistic picture for you to work towards.  Inspiration may even come from those you meet along the Way.  Who knows what pearl of wisdom someone may impart to you that suddenly will put everything in a new light.

6. Time off to realise that life goes on You will never know

Stepping away from your business or office doesn’t mean it will all come crumbling down.  In fact it will give your employees a chance to step up and take on extra responsibilities.  This can then also be something that they can continue doing when you return if they do it well thus freeing some of your time for other business or personal needs.

 

 

 

Now that you know you why you should go check out our 5 Steps to get you ready to leave work for the Camino:

5 Steps

 


[1] Healthy Workplace – Campaign Guide http://eguides.osha.europa.eu/stress/IE-EN/

[2]The American Workplace Is Broken. Here’s How We Can Start Fixing It. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/american-workplace-broken-stress_us_566b3152e4b011b83a6b42bd

[3] The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise from the US National Library of Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16416750

History of the Camino del Norte – Northern Way

The Camino del Norte is one of the oldest ways that people would have walked to Santiago de Compostela. After the discovery of the remains of St James in Santiago during the 9th Century, King Alfonso II ruler of the Kingdom of Asturias was the first to make the pilgrimage to the relics of St James. During the Middle Ages the French Way became increasingly more dangerous as the Moorish armies pushed their way north. The Camino del Norte thus provided a safer route through Christian Kingdoms for pilgrims to reach Santiago de Compostela.

Assisting with establishing this northern coastal route to Santiago de Compostela for pilgrims was the fact that King Alfonso II established Oviedo as the capital of his kingdom. Thus any pilgrims travelling from the south west of France or those who arrived into one of the many ports along the northern coast would have made their way to Oviedo before joining the Camino Primitvo (Original Way) to reach Santiago de Compostela and the relics of St James. From a geographical and practical viewpoint many pilgrims recognised that following the coast to Oviedo was a much easier route than trying to traverse the Cantabrian Mountains, and thus why this route is also known as the “Ruta de la Costa”.

With the Reconquest of Spain in the 11th Century the French Way became less dangerous and thus began to grow in popularity for pilgrims coming from France. During the 12th Century after the death of King Alfonso III the royal court moved to Leon from Oviedo and slowly over the years Oviedo’s importance waned and this also impacted on the number of pilgrims taking this route to Santiago. Bishop Pelayo of Oviedo even tried to promote the church of Oviedo as a pilgrim destination by falsifying records but to little avail.

In the late Middle Ages the Black Death affected Europe from the 14th Century and due to the Reformation and subsequent political unrest in Europe in the 16th Century less pilgrims travelled to Santiago and thus the all the routes became much quieter. More recently the Camino and all the various routes are gaining in popularity again. The French Way is undoubtedly the best known and most walked but the Camino del Norte is also growing in popularity for those that have already completed the French Way and are looking to try a different route to Santiago.

The Route

Map Camino del Norte

Traditionally the Camino del Norte would have started in Irun which sits on the Spanish border opposite the French town of Hendaye. The route initially follows the rugged coast of the Bay of Bisacy, then the green and rocky cliff tops and sandy beaches of the Asturias coast to Ribadeo, in Galicia. At Ribadeo pilgrims would have had to take a boat from Castropol to Ribadeo or walk further inland and cross the river at a more convenient spot before heading for Lugo and then Santiago de Compostela.

There are many variants along this traditional route that allowed the pilgrim to cross over the Cantabrian Mountains to follow the French Way. From Torrelavega you could take the Ruta de Campoo to Carrion de los Condes. In Oviedo you have the option of continuing on the Camino Real to join the French Way at Leon or the Camino Primitivo via Lugo and then joining the French Way at Palas de Rey. The Camino del Norte package that we provide is from San Sebastian to Oviedo which gives you a real taste of this coastal and hilly Basque region. If you wish to continue onto Santiago de Compostela you have the option of going on the Camino de Santiago Primitivo, which takes you to Lugo and then has you joining the French Way at Melide.

Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe Chapel

Le Puy and Getting to The Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel

Le Puy is a town in the Haute-Loire department in south-central France near the Loire river.  It plays host to the starting point of one of the four main Camino de Santiago routes the Via Podiensis or Le Puy Route.  It is a relatively small town with a population of around 20,000 people and is known for its Cathedral a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Cathedral is one of the oldest Marian sanctuaries in Europe and here you can visit the statue of the Black Virgin.  Pilgrims can attend a pilgrim mass and get their walking sticks blessed here before setting out on their Camino journey.  Le Puy is also know for green lentils that are native to the region and its lace making.  However one of the most popular sites to visit is The Chapel of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe. The chapel is located on top of a volcano in the town and is a must see if you are beginning your Camino in Le Puy.

History of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel

Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe chapelThe Chapel of Saint-Michel was built in 962 by Bishop Godescalc and the deacon Trianus.  Built on top of a volcanic rock needle that for centuries was regarded as a sacred place.  In prehistoric times there was a dolmen and then during the time of the Romans the rock was dedicated to Mercury.  When the area was Christianised it was dedicated to Saint-Michel.  During the 12th century, the chapel was enlarged with two side chapels, a bell tower, and much more.  Minor restorations were made through the centuries to bring it back to its former glory.  In 1850 when plaster was removed from inside the chapel the discovered the original 10th and 12th Century frescos that they then restored.  Then in 1955, archaeologists found a collection of sacred objects in the altar which are now displayed behind an iron gate for visitors to look at. The items displayed include an 11th-century wooden crucifix, likely belonging to a pilgrim and a metal Byzantine cross.  Throughout the chapel’s history it has and to this day attracts many pilgrims because of its location in the starting town for the Camino de Santiago.

What to see when visiting Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel

Carved work - Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe chapelBefore heading up the hill to see the Chapel of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe, it is worth to take a look at the Chapel of St. Clair.  This octagonal chapel has a doorway with the phases of the moon carved into it.  After seeing this chapel most people will then make the climb to the top of the 268 stone steps to reach the Chapel of Saint-Michel.  Once you reach the top there are beautiful views of the town all around the chapel. This is a great opportunity to take out your phone or camera and take a picture of the stunning French landscape.  The exterior of the chapel shows fine examples of the masonry joining the natural rock.  You can also see an Islamic influence in the multi-coloured stone work and arches which are ornately decorated with religious reliefs.   After admiring the exterior, you can enter the chapel and enjoy architecture from as far back as the 10th century.  The interior is very atmospheric and reflects how the building was built on this unusual foundation.  Many frescos can be found within the chapel although not all of these are in very good condition but you can make out the subject of the frescos clearly.  If you plan on starting to walk the Camino in Le Puy, why not come a day early and see this quaint but historically powerful city.

Statue of the Virgin Mary in Le Puy

Statue Notre Dame de FranceOne of the main sights seen by followers of the Via Podiensis/Le Puy route of the Camino de Santiago is the pink iron statue of the Virgin Mary, Notre-Dame de France that overlooks the town of Le Puy.  It sits on top of a 2,500-foot high hill and is constructed of iron from hundreds of melted Russian cannons taken in the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855).  The statue was designed by Jean-Marie Bonnassieux a French sculptor who also has work at the Louvre in Paris.  Pilgrims walking the Camino will climb to the top of the hill to get a closer look at the statue and enjoy the stunning views of the city. It has been said that this is one of the most breath-taking sights in theregion and is a great way to start the long trek to Santiago de Compostela.

Significance and Construction

The statue was built using the plans of French sculptor Jean-Marie Bonnassieux, between 1856 and 1860. After it was constructed it became the tallest statue in the world until it was dethroned by the Statue of Liberty in 1886. The statue was constructed with the use of melted down Russian cannons donated to the town by Napoleon III. The cannons were taken during the Siege of Sevastopol between 1854-1855. They were then presented to the town in front of 120,000 people during September of 1860, making it one of the most unique and interesting statues in the region.  Many pilgrims walking the Camino may not be aware of the history of the statue of the Virgin Mary in Le Puy.  Knowing a bit about the history of the statue makes seeing it all that more special.  It was recently fully restored in 2012 making the statue look like new for the pilgrims of today. This towering statue and base are recorded as historical monuments making this a must see for Camino travellers along the Via Podiensis Route.

Note that to visit the these sites there is an admission charge but you can buy a combined ticket for access to the Cathedral, Saint Michel Chapel and the statue of the Virgin Mary which will save you some money.

Find out more about the Via Podiensis route from Le Puy en Velay to St Jean Pied de Port.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com for more information on the Camino de Santiago tours or our services.

Sources:

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/le-puy-st-michael-chapel

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/saint-michel-d-aiguilhe-st-michael-of-the-needle

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/08/saint-michel-d-on-volcanic-plug.html

Fatima 2017 – 100th Year Anniversary

Fatima ChildrenIt has been 100 years since the Blessed Virgin Mary graced three children with her presence and Fatima 2017 is what this is all about. For this special anniversary, we have created a day trip from Lisbon and Porto to Fatima. Many people will have heard of Fatima but do you know the actual story?

The story behind Fatima begins in 1916 when young shepherds, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta met the Angel of Portugal. Francisco and Jacinta were siblings and Lucia was their cousin. The first three apparitions were to prepare for the visitation of the Immaculate Virgin Mary the following year.

The 1st Apparition of Fatima

The first apparition was on the 13th of May 1917 when the world was shredding itself to pieces in the First World War. On that fateful day, the children were pasturing their sheep on a field their families owned, Cova da Iria. Seeing a bright light in the clear sky, the children thought to themselves a storm must have been coming and ran to find a shelter. However, they saw the bright light again over a nearby holm oak tree but this time a lady dressed in white was enshrined within. The beautiful lady told them that she came from Heaven and would come to see them on the 13th of each month for the next 6 months at the same time and the same place. Meanwhile, they were told to say the rosary every day to bring peace to the world and put an end to the ruthless war.

Initially, the children promised to each other that they would keep this between themselves. But, Jacinta the youngest, couldn’t contain her excitement and told the rest of her family. Word soon spread and the town of Aljustrel and Fatima learned of what the children saw.  As they waited for the next visit, it was apparent that they had more detractors than believers. None the less, when the 13th of June came around, at the site of the apparition there was a small crowd present for the children.

The 2nd Apparition of Fatima

Fatima Apparition

During the second apparition, she informed the visionary children that she was going to take the two siblings to Heaven and directed Lucia, who was staying, to learn how to read and write. However, the crowd was not sure what they had witnessed for they did not see the angel. The children’s mothers did not share their belief either. In fact, a parish priest gave a warning that it might be a demonic apparition and people began to be fearful.

The 3rd and 4th Apparition of Fatima

The third apparition on the 13th of July is the one shrouded in most mystery. During this particular apparition, the children received three separate secrets each and they guarded their secret this time with their life. It was only after Sister Lucia wrote her third memoir that it was revealed in 1941. On that day, the angel showed them a vision of Hell and she predicted the outcome of the WWI and where humanities were leading soon, including the prosecution of the church. Government officials and clergy tried to get in on the children’s secret.

The Mayor even kidnapped the children and have been threatened, however, none of these had any effect on them. Because of the incident, they were not able to go to the Cova on August 13 when the next apparition was to take place. The crowd that waited for the apparition, which is said to be the largest to date, witnessed some external signs that convinced many. It was therefore not until the 19th of August that the children had their fourth vision from Our Lady. On this visit, Our Lady promised to the children that she would perform a miracle so that everyone would believe them.

The 5th Apparition of Fatima

By the 13th of September, word had spread far and wide that more than 30,000 people were at the Cova to bear witness.  This time the angel revealed about the final visit that Our Lord, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mt Carmel and Saint Joseph with the child Jesus were going to honour them with their visit.

The 6th Apparition of Fatima

Fatima The Miracle of the SunThe sky was covered in dark clouds and the ground was soaked through as it had heavily rained the night before. Over 70,000 people turned up despite the bad weather. It was only on this final apparition that the children found out the angel’s identity – she was Our Lady of the Rosary. She requested that they built a chapel in her honour and that they should continue saying their rosary.

Then the miracle happened. Our Lady rose afloat to the east and put her palms up to which the sun shone through thick clouds where a spinning silver disc appeared. This time the crowd did see the miracle and later this event was named the Miracle of the Sun. The children as promised saw Saint Joseph and the child Jesus, Our Lord and Our Lady of Sorrows. Also, Our Lady appeared as Our Lady of Carmel which signifies her entrance to Carmelites later in her life.

After the Apparitions of Fatima

Fatima St Lucia and Pope John Paul IIJust as the angel informed, Francisco and Jacinta followed her to Heaven shortly after, before Lucia. The summer following the apparitions both Francisco and Jacinta contracted influenza and passed away two months away from each other. Both Jacinta and Francisco’s bodies were eventually laid to rest at the Sanctuary at the Cova da Iria, now a famous place for the religious people all over the world.  In 2000, Francisco and Jacinta were beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Lucia, as predicted by Our Lady, continued her journey of devotion to Our Lady alone. Lucia was admitted at the age of 14 to the Sisters of St Dorothy boarding school in Vilar and there she learned to read and write. In 1925, she became a postulant of the convent of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Tuy. She was granted the name Sister Mary of the Sorrowful Mother after completing her perpetual vows in October 1934. Years later in Coimbra in 1946, she joined the Carmelites at the St Teresa Convent where she took the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart.

Sister Lucia wrote two books. The memoirs had answers to many questions about the apparitions of Fatima. In 2005, on the 13th of February, she passed away at the age of 97. Her burial place is at the convent in Coimbra until a place is ready for her at the Basilica in Fatima.

2017 – 100 Year Anniversay

2017 will see the 100 year anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady. So if you are walking the Camino Portuguese, why not take the opportunity to take a detour to Fatima or make time when you are in Coimbra to visit the Museum at the Carmelita. We have day trips available to Fatima from both Lisbon and Porto.

It has also been confirmed that the Pope will visit Portugal in 2017. Currently, his schedule has him in Fatima on the 13th of May, in Lisbon the day before and Braga the day after.  So if you are looking to go on the Camino Portuguese in May, keep this in mind.

Contact us HERE to book your pilgrimage to Fatima today.

The Roman Walls of Lugo – Camino Primitivo

The Roman Walls of Lugo (Muralla Romana) are a defining feature of the city of Lugo.  Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, the Roman walls of Lugo are considered to be ‘the finest surviving example of late Roman military fortifications’.  When walking the Camino Primitivo you will enter the historical centre of Lugo through the Puerta de San Pedro gate of the walls and leave via the gate of Porto Santiago which is directly opposite the Cathedral in Lugo.

History of the Roman Walls of Lugo

Roman Walls of LugoConstruction of the wall began in 265AD and was not completed until 310AD.  During this period, much of Roman Hispania was under threat from foreign invasion.  It is believed however that the wall was built to defend the city from revolts by local tribes, rather than foreign invaders.

Despite the imposing nature of the Roman Wall, it was breached on many occasions.  In the fifth century, the Germanic Suevi invaded the city.  Then in 457, it was invaded by the Visigoths, who captured and settled the town. When the Moors invaded Spain, Lugo was ravaged in 714 but was recaptured by Alfonso I of Asturias in 755.  Over 200 years later, the town was once again invaded, this time by the Normans in 968.  The town was not restored until the following century.

Today the Roman walls of Lugo are a main attraction to the town for tourists as well as those walking the Camino de Santiago.

The Construction of the Roman Walls of Lugo

Roman Walls of Lugo

When originally built, the wall was part of a defensive complex that also comprised a moat and intervallum.  Only the walls, however, survive today. It is not clear what the rationale for the design was as its unusual rectangular floor plan meant some important residential areas were left outside the walls while empty ground was enclosed.  Enclosing some 34.4 hectares the wall has a perimeter of almost one and a half miles (2kms).  The height of the wall ranges from 8 to 12 meters and is on average 4.2 meters thick.

The wall reflects not just the local material that was available but also the craftsmanship, tradition, and style of building prevalent at that time.  The walls were strategically built with Roman mortar consisting of locally available gravel stone, mud, and possibly a small quantity of lime.  Over time, some additions and repairs have been made but for the most part, the walls are of the original Roman construction. These walls are one of the last remaining complete and best-preserved examples of Roman military architecture.

Originally, there were only five gates but due to urban growth and the requirement for access to the city, there are now ten gates.  The wall is made up of many curved turrets and two towers.  Access today is via staircases and once there, you are welcomed with sweeping views over the city.  It also becomes clear that the walkway has been raised over the centuries as it is now an exposed walk.  Originally, for defensive purposes, the walkway would have been much lower. Framed on the outer side of the walls by pleasant grass lawns and illuminated at night by spotlights, this can be a romantic place for a stroll under the stars with your other half.

The walls are currently in good hands as Lugo City Council now manages them (since 1992). The creation of a Master Plan for the Conservation and Restoration of the Roman Walls of Lugo in 1992 ensured the future plans for research techniques as well as restoration techniques. In 1997, the Special Plan for the Protection and Internal Reform of the Fortified Enceinte of the Town of Lugo was created to address the growing urban atmosphere of the historic town. This impacted the protection of the walls by regulating building heights, addressing traffic matters, and creating more open spaces around the walls. Restoration and reconstruction work is still continuing today per the 1992 plan. All restoration and maintenance work on the Roman Walls is strictly done according to the Advance Integral Plan for the Conservation and Restoration of the Walls of Lugo to ensure the authenticity and protection of the walls.

If you found the Roman Wall of Lugo interesting, then check out our post on the Roman town of Ponte de Lima, a town that is older than Portugal.

If you have any questions on the Camino de Santiago tours, then please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Sources:

http://www.spain.info/en_US/que-quieres/arte/monumentos/lugo/murallas_de_lugo.html

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/987

http://www.lugoturismo.com/quevisitar/cultural/?idioma=i&pag=muralla

http://www.historvius.com/lugo-roman-walls-1108/

 http://www.galiciaguide.com/Lugo-wall-06.html

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – The Contemporary Wonder of Spain

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is one of the largest museums in Spain that belongs to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. It is one of those rare works of contemporary architecture that dazzle the world with its modern styling and intricate structure. It is located in Bilbao, an industrial port city encircled by verdant mountains in Basque Country, in northern Spain. The museum is standing right next to the banks of Nervión River that flows through Bilbao down to the Cantabrian Sea. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao features exhibits and works of artists from all over the world.
The glittering titanium-clad museum of modern art is designed by Frank Gehry, an award-winning Canadian-American architect. Other than the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Gehry is known for a number of renowned architectural designs including Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris.
The construction took place from 1993 to September, 1997. On 18th October 1997, the former of king of Spain, King Juan Carlos I, inaugurated the museum. When it was first introduced, its design awed the critics as well as the public. The museum’s modish architecture was openly admired. In the 2010 World Architecture Survey, the museum was said to be one of most notable architectural works completed since 1980.

The Offbeat Architecture of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao that Fascinates the World

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

One would say that the artistic contents and exhibits of the museum are not as impressive as the structure of the building itself. To be honest, it won’t be wrong. People from all over the globe usually pay a visit to the museum to witness the avant-garde structure that they have heard so much about. Once you see the place from your own eyes, you will admit that the hype is not for nothing.
In 1997, when the mercurial museum was opened to the public, it instantly became a hit. The iconic building has been called ‘a meteorite’, ‘a fantastic dream ship’, ‘a posy of fish scales’ and even ‘the masterpiece of the 20th century’. It is said to be one of the most remarkable buildings designed in the style of deconstructivism. When Frank Gehry was chosen by Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation as the architect, Thomas Krens, its director, asked him to design the museum extraordinarily. Gehry surely exceeded their expectations. After its immediate and immense success, numerous similar buildings popped up all around the world.
The urban building is covered in glass, titanium, and limestone. The exterior structure feature random curves and hurls that catch and throw the lights while the interior is built around a huge, lighted atrium offering picturesque views of Bilbao’s river banks and the mountainous greenery of the Basque country. Genry has aptly nicknamed the atrium as ‘The Flower’ thanks to its unique shape. Most of the events take place in the atrium.
The building spans over an area of 32,500-square-meter (350,000 sq. ft.) along the Nervión River in the center of the city. About 11,000 m2 (120,000 sq. ft.) is solely devoted to exhibits and events. The exhibition area has nineteen galleries. Ten of these galleries enjoy a classic orthogonal plan with limestone finishes in the exterior. The other nine galleries have irregular shapes with a swirling, titanium-clad exterior structure. The largest gallery has an approximate width of 30 meters wide and length of 130 meters.
You will be surprised to know that the museum was built on a strict time limit and budget. In an interview, Gehry said he ensured that he had an accurate estimate of the budget, and that no political and business interests made any interference during the project. Furthermore, he used his own software, Digital Project, to create detailed computer visualizations and teamed up with the individual building trades to cut down the costs.
One glance at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and you can clearly see the hard work and dedication Gehry and his team poured into the project.

The Conception – How Did the Stunning Museum Come to Be?

In 1991, the government of the Basque City approached the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and proposed that they were willing to fund a Guggenheim museum to be built in Bilbao’s rundown port area. The Basque government covered the construction cost of about US$100 million, created US$50 million acquisitions fund, paid a one-time fee of US$20 million to the Guggenheim and to funded the museum’s yearly budget of US$12 million. On the other hand, the Foundation agreed to manage the museum, arrange temporary events and display parts its permanent collection.
On 18 October 1997, King Juan Carlos I of Spain conducted the inauguration. The night before its official inaugural, a pre-opening show was conducted outside the building that featured an open-air light show and concerts. About 5,000 residents of Bilbao appeared at the event.

Notable Exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum

If you are into avant-garde structures and experimental art, you will have a great time here. The museum is renowned for its large-scale exhibitions that display works by contemporary artists from all over the world. It houses Guggenheim’s permanent collection as well as temporary installations. Previously, it has featured Richard Serra’s famous 100-meter-long (340 ft.) Snake, notable paintings by Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still, Daskalopoulos’ the Luminous Interval and David Hockney’s exhibition that lured 290,000 visitors to the museum.
Moreover, the museum is known for its ever-changing themes. For instance, one exhibition at a time would be completely dedicated to Russian art while at another time, it would be all about Chinese artwork. Two of the renowned permanent collections at the museum is Serra’s the Matter of Time and a series weathering steel sculptures.

Things to know before visiting the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

The ticket prices change according to the type of exhibition and season. Tourists can opt for free guided group tours in Spanish or go for requested private tours in English, French among other languages. The management offers PDA video guides for those with hearing impairments, free self-guided audio tours in several languages and children’s audio guide. The museum is wheelchair accessible.

Tourist Attraction and Pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago

Since its opening, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain. Millions of tourists have come since. The museum has even been featured in movies and music videos. When pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago pass through Camino del Norte (the Northern Way), they usually make a stop at Bilbao to explore the old-worldly city with an urban context.
The pilgrimage from San Sabastian to Santiago roughly takes about 6 weeks. The Northern Way of the Camino de Santiago begins in the Basque Country by the seaside known for its amazing seafood. Camino del Norte continues to run besides the coastline and on the way, pilgrims discover quaint fishing towns, a handful of sun-kissed beaches, rocky coves, historic spots, and superb seafood at every other eatery. Whether you are short on time or not, it is recommended that you make a stop at the inspiring Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
Even if you are not particularly interested in the art, do go and check the museum out. The building itself is such a visual treat that the trip is completely worth it.

 

Check out our article on the Top Festivals on the Camino de Santiago here

If you have any more questions about the Camino de Santiago tours or our services, then please feel free to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Sources:
http://www.guggenheim.org/
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/aragon-basque-country-and-navarra/bilbao/sights/museums-galleries/museo-guggenheim

Santander on the Camino del Norte

Santander – A Short History

Santander is an elegant city in the north of Spain and is the third major stop along the Camino del Norte.  Capital of the autonomous region of Cantabria, Santander is located on a wide bay overlooking the Cantabrian Sea backed by the Cantabrian Mountains.

Santander BayThe area around the Bay of Santander has been inhabited since Palaeolithic times.  During the Roman invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, Cantabria was one of the last regions to fall to the Romans and hence there is not as much Roman influence in this area as in other areas of Spain.  However, it is believed that Santander was the Roman colony of Portus Victoriae.  It was not until the 11th Century when the town really began to grow as it developed around San Emeterio abbey and it is from this Saint that Santander takes it name.

 

Santander Coat of ArmsThroughout its history Santander has had its ups and downs.  The Camino del Norte which passes through Santander also went through periods of popularity.  During the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula the Camino del Norte route became popular as it was a safer route to Santiago for pilgrims than the Camino Frances.  However during the Reconquista, Santander played an important role in naval battles and thus the Camino del Norte became less popular for pilgrims due to the dangers presented by this fighting.  Santander was rewarded by King Fernando III el Santo for its role in the battle of Seville and was granted its coat of arms depicting a golden tower, a chain over the Guadalquivir river and a ship.

After the Reconquista Santander became an important port for Castile, of which it was a part of during this period.  When the Black Plague hit Europe at theend of the 16th Century, Santander was decimated by the plague and sunk into a period of decline.  The Camino de Santiago also went through a period of decline during this period.  By the 18th Century things had begun to pick up again in Santander as the port once again gained importance, this time in regards to trade with the New World.  The importance of Santander at this time was affirmed by it officially becoming a city in 1755.

In 1893 Santander experienced the first of its major disasters in its history to date.  The Cabo Machichaco steamship whilst docked at the wharf  caught fire and then due to the contents on board suffered a dynamite explosion.  The explosion killed around 500 people, destroyed houses that were close to the dock and even damaged the Cathedral.

Santander Palace of MagdalenaBy the late 19th Century Santander had become a popular tourist destination as it was a favourite of King Alfonso XIII.  This resulted in the city growing and also contributed greatly to the architectural delights of the city.  At this time the Town Council wished to thank the Royal family for coming to Santander and so gifted them the Palace of La Magdalena as a summer residence.

In 1941 Santander suffered the second major disaster in its history to date.  A great fire swept through the city for two days resulting in thousands losing their homes.  Thankfully only one life was lost during this fire, that of a firefighter from Madrid who was killed in the line of duty.  The Medieval town centre of the city was destroyed during this fire and the Cathedral was also badly damaged and didn’t reopen until 1953.  Santander today is a bustling tourist destination for the Spanish and is starting to grow in popularity for other Europeans.  It also makes a wonderful place to stop on the Camino del Norte with many attractions to entice you to stay longer.

Santander – Things to do

Santander has a plethora of attractions for you to visit or places for you to relax.  Whether you are visiting for one day as you walk the Camino del Norte or you are staying for a few days at the beginning or end of your Camino walk, Santander will not disappoint.  Below is just a sample of some of the delights of this vibrant city.

Built Heritage

The most emblematic building in Santander and to which the popularity of tourism to the city is attributed is The Palace of La Magdalena.  Built originally for King Alfonso XIII and his wife Victoria as their summer residence the Palace is now the summer residence of the International University Menéndez Pelayo.  Located on the La Magdalena Peninsula the Palace and surrounding gardens where declared a Cultural Heritage site in 1982.

Santander CathedralOne of the oldest buildings in Santander is the Cathedral, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.  Built on the grounds of the Abbey of San Emeter much of the Cathedral was destroyed in the fire of 1941 but thanks to careful restoration and rebuilding the Cathedral re-opened in 1953.  This Gothic style Cathedral, that looks more like a fortress, holds the tomb of Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo, a local scholar.  When in the Cathedral be sure to also visit the crypt of “el Cristo” under the main chapel, where traces of the Roman era were discovered.

Parks and Beaches

Santander El Sardinero BeachSantander has many parks and beaches for you to relax in after walking along the Camino del Norte.  La Magdalena Park hosts the Palace and over looks the beach of the same name.  This park has some spectacular views both out to sea and over the Bay of Santander.  On the western side of the La Magdalena Peninsula is the most famous beach of Santander, El Sardinero.  A popular beach resort since the 19th Century this beach is divided in two by the Piquio Gardens.  These gardens were created in 1925 and provide a spectacular viewing point of the Palace as well as the beaches.

Another park that must be visited is the Pereda Gardens.  Built on land reclaimed from the sea this garden is located beside the Cathedral and across the road from the Plaza Porticada.  A wonderfully compact park area, it is a pleasure to wander around and admire the many different tree species planted here.

Cultural Activities

Santander is hub of cultural activity throughout the year.  With a number of art, history and maritime museums to visit as well as festivals celebrating saints and cultural events of music and dance there is something for everyone in Santander.  The summer months are the best time to catch a festival or event in Santander so if you are walking the Camino del Norte over the summer why not plan to be there for one of these festivals.

Santander Wave Bath FestivalVirgen del Mar (Our Lady of the Sea), celebrates the patron saint of Santander.  Held on Whit Monday it includes an open-air meal that is attended by thousands.    On June 24th the feast day of St John is celebrated with a huge bonfire on on the Second Beach of El Sardinero.  On the 16th July the feast of El Carmen, the protector of fishermen and sailors, is celebrated with a large procession, out door performances and a fireworks display.  In mid-July a quirky festival is the Wave Baths which sees the style of the 19th Century recreated with bathing huts, beach activities and even actors dressed in the style of the early 19th Century.  This is all in the run up to the Semana Grande, a week long festival during which St James’ day is celebrated.  On the 30th August La Semanuca celebrates the two patron saints of the city San Emeterio and San Celedonio.

If performing arts is more up your street then why not plan your Camion del Norte to be in Santander over the month of August.  Every year at this time the Santander International Festival is held with performances of dance, music, and theatre held in historical buildings.  This is truly a unique opportunity to enjoy a world class performance in an unconventional setting.

Nearby Attractions

Santander view from Mirador de Pena CabargaIf the idea of relaxing on the beach is not for you or you simply would prefer to explore the Cantabrian Mountains.  Then you have the choice of some fabulous natural parks to explore near Santander.  As these nature areas are outside of the city of Santander it might be worth hiring a car for the day so that you can visit one or two of these parks.  For a spectacular view over the Bay of Santander then you must go to the Peña Cabarga.  You will be able to spot this mountain top easily from Santander as there is a large tower monument to the navy and emigrants on the top.  Within the tower there is a dark chamber where you can see a panoramic view of the Santander and the surrounding area.  This is one of only a few built as tourist attraction in the world.

After experiencing this wonderful viewing point why not head back down from the mountains and out to the coast to the Oyambre Nature Reserve.  This nature park is only approximately 40/50 minutes west from Santander depending on which route you take by car.  The park combines the beauty of a coastal landscape of cliffs and beaches with wide meadows, small valleys and forests.  Whilst visiting this area be sure to also visit the Altamira Caves which are just outside the village of Santillana del Mar, a stop over on the third section of the Camino del Norte.  The Altamira Caves have been declared a World Heritage site and contain some of the most important cave paintings of Paleolithic times. 

If you are a fan of wildlife parks then you are in luck as just outside Santander is Cabárceno Nature Park .  This park is built in an old mining area of the Cantabrian Mountains.  It is also the largest park of its kind in Europe.  Here you will get to see exotic animals in a unique landscape.

Gastronomy

Spanish food is very much representative of the local produce of a given area in Spain.  In the city of Santander it is not surprising then due to its proximity to the coast that sea food has a big influence.  Meat though also features in many dishes due to the tradition of rearing livestock in the mountain regions behind Santander.  The city of Santander is awash with restaurants where you can sample local dishes but it is recommended that you make a reservation as even during the week many restaurants will be busy.

Food in SantanderOne seafood dish in particular to try in Santander is Rabas.  Known in other areas as ‘calamares’ in Santander the squid rings are prepared differently.  They are battered and cooked with lemon juice.  When visiting the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse why not sit back, relax, enjoy the view at the cafe bar and order up a “una de rabas” (a plate of rabas) washed down with a vermouth or glass of white wine.

If seafood isnt’ to your liking then you will also have plenty of meat options on any menu.   The ox steaks and heifer’s entrecotes (Porterhouse Steak) will certainly please any meat lover.  For a more traditional meat dish try the Cocido montañés, a rich and hearty bean stew.  Having been made in the Cantabrian Mountains since the 17th century, this hearty meal is now usually served as a starter course but can also be a main course at lunch time.

A visit to anywhere in Spain would not be complete with going for tapas, or as the call it in northern Spain Pinchos.  In the city of Santander they have their very own take on tapas.   Tortillas are stuffed with a wide variety of ingredients such astuna, prawns, ham and cheese, mushrooms or even Bolognese sauce and then coated with a very thin French omelette.  Although this style of tapas can be got in other cities in Spain, Cantabrian people swear it was born here.

For those with a sweet tooth you will not be disappointed.  Two dishes that are signature delicacies of Cantabria are Sobaos Pasiegos or Quesada Pasiega.  Sobas pasiegos is a sponge cake made of sugar,  butter, flour, eggs, a pinch of salt, lemon zest, and a spoon of rum or anise liquor.  Quesada pasiega is a creamy cheesecake made from milk, sugar, butter, wheat flour, egg, and flavored with lemon zest and cinnamon. It can be served hot or cold and is a traditional home made dish.

With so many activities and wonderful food to try in Santander … I think you will agree that it is worth staying a few extra days.  If you are going back home after this trip why not make your holiday extra special by taking a luxury cruise to Plymouth!  What better way to leave Santander than by sea, watching the Bay of Santander disappear over the horizon.

Sources

http://motherearthtravel.com/spain/santander/history.htm

http://www.tourspain.org/santander/

http://www.spain.info/en/que-quieres/ciudades-pueblos/otros-destinos/santander.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santander,_Spain#Heritage