Is the Camino de Santiago Good for a Family Holiday?

Many people are walking the Camino as a family, taking their children or teenagers along with them. Walking the Camino with your kids as a family holiday is a great way to open their minds to another culture.  It will also allow you to create lifelong memories and spend some real quality time with your kids, without the distraction of technology.  If you decide to walk the Camino with your kids as a family holiday a  few practical steps should be taken to ensure everybody has a safe and fun experience. The first thing to note is that the Camino can be very physically demanding. While teenagers should be well able for the exertion required, younger children will find some of the ‘ways’ too challenging. In which case, Follow the Camino will help you choose a route appropriate to your family’s capabilities.

Before you set off, it might be a good idea to remind your children of the significance, religious and otherwise, that the Camino has for many walkers. It is also important to motivate your children at the beginning. Everyone finds the first few days hard and there can be a temptation to quit. But once they’ve gotten over their initial doubts they’ll start to really get into the swing of things.

Luggage Transfer

Kids on the Camino

Carrying a pack on the Camino can be gruelling for youngsters. Luckily, we offer a luggage transfer service which ensures your bags will always be waiting for you at your next hotel. This means you only have to pack a light bag to carry daily supplies. Carrying a scooter can allow your kids to have fun AND cover ground! Something to note is that the Camino is not about glamour. We recommend that parents and children leave their more fashionable clothes at home.

You can still bring something nice to wear for the night time, but try to buy clothes that you don’t care what happens to them and can afford to be thrown away. Young people love their jeans but these are not appropriate clothing for hiking. They’re not warm enough when it’s cold, they’re too warm when it’s hot, and they retain water like a sponge. Make sure your children have sturdy, comfortable footwear that has been broken in ahead of time – blisters are no fun.

Staying Sun Safe

Spain, as I’m sure you know, can get very hot and younger people may not have the experience to know when they need to rehydrate. Pack lots of water – there are fountains scattered along the way but you should have your own supplies as well – and make sure the kids drink at regular intervals. There is also very little shelter from the sun on some sections of the Camino, so ensure that your children wear hats and strong sun-block. Many families choose to walk the Camino in April or September when the weather is pleasant but not overly hot. So, we would suggest to go during mid-term breaks, as this is a preferred time to go for many families.

Distance Per Day

Young children, in particular can have low attention spans. It’s important to set them reasonable targets for the day (for example, say the group will walk six kilometres and then have lunch) to keep their motivation up. A pack of cards, reading material or something similar also helps to keep them happy during downtimes.

Which Route is Best for Your Family

There are several choices of routes and start points on the Camino so you can customise the walk to your exact needs. If you’re walking with young children, perhaps the section of the French Way from Arzua to Santiago de Compostela would suit you. This route gives you the chance to walk the final stretch of the Camino and, at 37 kilometres over four days, it shouldn’t be overly demanding for the little ones. The French Way is the most traditional route taking walkers through the green hilly landscapes of Galicia, eucalyptus wood-lands and typical rural villages. Teenagers may enjoy cycling the route but again the choice is yours. Click here to view our various route options available. You can also find them by clicking on the ”Camino Tours” tab at the top of the page.

Accommodation

Finding accommodation on the Camino route can be stressful enough as an individual walker, let alone when you have a family in tow. However, when you book the Camino through us, you can relax knowing you’re guaranteed specially selected accommodation that will suit your family’s needs. Usually, you will arrive at your lodgings in the afternoon, giving you and your family plenty of time to rest, have a refreshing shower, enjoy dinner or visit the local village. Your young ones should be tired enough to leave you to enjoy a couple of hours of “free time”. By carefully planning your Camino trip you can ensure that it will be fun, hassle-free and rewarding for the whole family.

Don’t just take our word for it however, here is a testimonial from a father who walked the first section of the Camino Frances with his 10 year old son and plans to do more:

“A spectacular trip. Thank you for setting this up on short notice — literally one of the best things I’ve ever done. Joaquin had an amazing time and we loved the journey, the people and of course the time together. He wants to finish before he is 18, so that means a few more trips.”

John and Joaquin Stubbs, USA

Feel free to check out our article on Planning Your Day Along The Camino Trail

If you have any more questions about any of our walking holidays or our services, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Le Puy Route – An insider’s guide to the second most popular Camino trail

The Le Puy Route is very popular with French and German pilgrims, running from the heart of France into the popular French Way. The route was first taken in 950AD, when the archbishop of the town walked to Santiago for the first time. It begins in Le Puy En Velay, an extremely beautiful city with a volcanic mountain at the centre. Atop that is a church, Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, which is dedicated to Saint James’ return to the town. Another one of the town’s popular attractions is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Puy, where pilgrims often visit to see the ebony statue of the Virgin Mary that was brought to the town in the middle ages. The town lies 130 kilometres south-west of Lyon, so it is easily accessible by plane or train.

Highlights 

Camino Le PuyThe beauty of the Le Puy Route is that you’re crossing France, not only from north to south, but from east to west. You’re passing through several regions with different people and many different features. On this walking route you’ll cross paths with the people who live in the Pyrenees, and the people that live in the small villages along the route. When you are walking the Le Puy route you are going to cross Auvergne, which is the centre of France, the Midi Pyrénnées and the Aquitaine regions. Every 12 to 20 kilometres, there is a beautiful village. Villages are small castle towns, often with rivers and surrounded by beautiful countryside. The towns on the walk are filled with character and often contain old historical monuments and shrines

One of the towns on the Puy route is Conques, a conclave town, where cardinals once convened to choose popes. In the section between Lectoure and Aire-sur-L’Adour (on the fifth stage of the walk), the farms are famous for their wines and brandy, particularly Armagnac and foie gras. On the last leg of the journey, Aire-sur-l’Adour is a beautiful, rustic, medieval market town, centred around a 12th-century cathedral.

Accommodation and Food

It’s worth noting that the accommodations on this route are generally smaller than on the other routes. There are a lot of guesthouses, usually with just two rooms for people to stay in. The owners are very friendly and courteous to pilgrims and will sometimes even offer their own beds to guests. When you begin on the French Way, there are more hotels and larger accommodations. Generally, the type of accommodation you will be staying in depends on the size of the city or town. If you’re looking for food, the best places to eat are around Caroux, which is found a bit north of Toulouse. Try the confit duck: it’s a slowly cooked meal, generally served with sauteéd potatoes and salad.

Travelling Le Puy  

Via PodiensisIf people want to drive to Le Puy En Velay, we offer a service where we collect the person’s car and bring it to them when they’re finished their walk. Often, French and German people want to drive to their starting point. The route can be quite hard on the legs because you have to go up and down quite a bit. It’s not that easy, but it has the most beauty-wise. In all, the journey takes about 33 days, covering about 750 kilometres. If you want to do it more quickly, cycling along a slightly modified route can cut the journey time in half. Once you’ve finished walking the Le Puy route, the trail joins up with the French Way, beginning at the Saint Jean Pied de Port in the Basque country.

 

If you this article on Le Puy Route, then feel free to check out our article on The Most Beautiful Villages of France.

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

A Different Road – Experiencing the Camino in Another Way

For many, walking the Camino is all about ambling slowly amongst the wonderful scenery, clearing your head, leaving behind the commotion of modern life. Perhaps even discovering yourself along the way. Others want a little bit more adventure in their journey and luckily that desire is well catered for too. If you find the pace of walking too slow, then a bike might be your answer. On our Follow The Camino Bike Trails, you can bring your own bike or a bike and accessories can be provided for you as part of your package. For an authentic mountain bike riding experience, you can cycle on the walking trail and really get a feel for the rough terrain. Alternatively, for a less physically demanding and smoother ride, you can choose to cycle on the nearby road. When cycling the Camino, the strain of going uphill is well worth it for the exhilaration and reward of cruising back down.

Another completely different approach is to saddle up! Some people love to travel the Camino on Horseback, and we will provide a fully equipped horse for the journey. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert rider, you only need to have basic experience of trail riding. Travelling on horseback allows you to cover a lot of ground. You will travel around 30km per day. As you are on horseback you will benefit from an elevated vantage point from which you can admire the Iberian scenery. There is a number of scheduled rest stops along the way with watering facilities for your horse and places to get a bite to eat.

You can also visit the various places and monuments of interest. Your hotel/guesthouse should have on-site facilities to host the animal. In the odd case where this is not possible, we will arrange for your horse to stay in nearby stables and we will bring you to your accommodation. Horseback Trails are usually done in groups of five or six, accompanied by two English speaking guides – one rider and one driver to carry equipment. This is available for certain sections of the French Way and Portuguese Way.

Another option is the donkey walk, which is available on the Le Puy Route. Traditionally, Pilgrims walking the Camino would have a donkey in tow to carry luggage and provide companionship. It’s an enjoyable and practical way to experience the Camino de Santiago. Even just walking the Camino can be highly adventurous. The Aragonese Way, for example, is a demanding but rewarding trail. It starts at the steppes of the Pyrenees before reaching the Navarra Mountains and joining the Camino Frances in Puente de la Reina. Expect some incredible views. Follow the Camino has created a user-friendly grading system for all routes, ranging from Easy to Moderate to Challenging. Using this grading system makes it possible to satisfy your desire for adventure without compromising safety and comfort. Assess your own capabilities, find the right fit for you and your Camino experience will be unforgettable.

Have a look at our advice for Packing Your Bag for the Camino here

For more details on our Camino de Santiago tours or our services, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Take Advantage of Booking Your Holidays Early- What to Look For

Now is is the perfect time to start planning, booking and preparing physically for your holidays on the Camino de Santiago tours. Of course planning, organising, selecting and managing is what we do as a tour operator. We enjoy knowing our hard work pays off and you have a great holiday. So, if we do all the hard work for you planning, why do you need to organise yourself in advance?

Cheaper Flights and Great Early Booking Discounts 

Biking the Camino

As you know the earlier you buy your flights the cheaper they will be. At the moment, all the major airlines are having Spring break discount. In which case, this is the ideal time to grab yourself a bargain especially if you are coming from far away.

But did you know that we offer better rates for early bookings?

All year round if you book your holiday at least 2 months in advance we will give you a 3% discount. Now as a special offer if you make the reservation and pay in full before the end of 2012 for a holiday in 2013 you will receive 5% discount. Just ask your Customer Service team member for this discount.

The Best Rooms go to our Early Bookers

Because we start reserving your accommodation as soon as you book with us, by booking several months in advance you are guaranteed more flexibility (custom itineraries, greater options with regards to swimming pools, baths, single rooms, dedicated team member to advise you) and better rooms / hotels standards. We spend a lot of time selecting the best hotels along the way. That being said, as we provide on a first come-first served basis and the hotel rooms are limited, the best rooms go to the early birds.

Time to prepare mentally and physically 

Walking the Camino

Walking the Camino routes is a uniquelphysical challenge. Someone who plays sport on a regular basis may struggle walking all day. While a person who’s less physically fit may find the endurance test quite manageable – if they’ve prepared well. You don’t need to be the kind of person who can run a four-minute mile. However, you do need to have your body and mind prepared for long walks of roughly 25 kilometres per day.

 “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” – Charlotte Brontë

Walking the Camino can be done solo or with your friends. Everybody’s journey along the Camino is unique and personal. For some people, the Camino is a path they want to walk alone in order to reflect. Others people walk the Camino as it is a great opportunity to meet people and socialise. And for others, it is the perfect time to catch up and spend quality time with their friends. If your ideal Camino journey is with a group of your closest friends then you will need to give them time. The earlier you give them the itinerary, departure dates and prices, the better the chance of convincing them to go.

Also, we have great rates for groups of 6 or more and we can organise custom packages to suit your requirements so give us a call

+353 1 687 2144

or email info@followthecamino.com for advice and a free quote.

Take a look at How We Select Your Accommodation here

The French Way – Umberto Di Venosa offers an insider’s guide to the popular Camino trail

The French Way is the most popular and well-organised route on El Camino de Santiago. Starting at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees, the route crosses over to Roncesvalles in Spain. From here, it goes through Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, Sahagún, León and Sarria on the way to Santiago de Compostela. About 80% of those on El Camino walk this way. So, no matter what time of year you’re going there, you’re going to have some people around. The reason it’s called the French Way is less about France (you’ll cross into Spain within a day’s walk of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port) than the route’s history. It was originally a trading route used by French salesman in medieval times. It’s also got some interesting history. The horizontal line from Santiago to Pamplona – and over to Barcelona, moving away from the route – once separated the Catholics from the Moors, who had been fought back to this line by the French.

Where to eat
I have been on the French Way four or five times; sometimes walking, sometimes running, and I’ve even cycled half of it. One thing I know for sure is that whenever people are walking the Camino, on the French Way you will not have to worry too much about food. In the towns and villages, you can have a menú de día (menu of the day) for between €8 and €12. That’s a three-course meal that’s nice and homemade, nothing fancy but very good. Usually, you get free wine as well. Along the way, there are other smaller restaurants or bars where you can stop for a bocadillo (sandwich) or a bit of tortilla, a kind of omelette made with potatoes. Logroño is a good town to go for genuine tapas: a ‘bite’ with a drink. It can get very busy at night, and it’s a lot good fun. And then there’s León, a beautiful town with a nice cathedral, where, for just €1 or €2, you get one drink and one tapas.

Favourite restaurant along the french way - Tapas

My favourite restaurant on the French Way is in a guesthouse called Casa de Acivro, in the town of Rua (O Pino). The cook, Natxo, made some razorfish. I’d never eaten razorfish in my life, but the guy cooked them so I couldn’t refuse – and they were excellent. I’ve tried to make them at home myself twice since, but it was a disaster. Next time I want to eat them, I’ll have to go there.

When you get to Santiago you should stick around Rua do Franco, the main pedestrian street. A Taverna do Bispo (right in the middle of this street, on the left-hand side when you are coming from the cathedral) is a nice place with gorgeous food. Porta Faxeira is a higher-end restaurant where you can get a T-bone steak of 1 kilo for about €25 to €30 – and the meat is gorgeous. You should aim to go there for about 9 or 10 o’clock: any earlier and it will be empty. In all of the restaurants, people usually have their meals from around 9 o’clock. By the time you’re fed, and after the day’s journey, everyone gets sleepy – the nightlife gets quiet after 1.00 or 2.00 am. You’ve been walking the whole day, so you should be tired. If you’re not tired, drink more wine! If you do want to go out at night, just wander around the different bars and tapas bars. There is Paradiso disco on Rua do Villar, but this was not the best spot to go out.

What to see
El Camino
is an adventure. Though there are some nice cathedrals, smaller churches and chapels to see along the way, it’s the people you meet that make it. Everyone’s following the same route. So, you’re going to find yourself next to a man or woman at some stage, asking, ‘How are you doing? Where did you start?’

Festival along the Camino

If you want some extra excitement, you could time your arrival at Pamplona to coincide with the Running of the Bulls, which take place every year from July 6 for one week. If you want to do this, you will have book in advance, because it’s madness – but it’s great fun as well. You will see the Celtic village of O Cebreiro and its slate stone-built houses before you reach Sarria, and further along the route is Portomarín, where you will get the best view on the way. I’ve been to Portomarín several times, once cycling and once walking, and the arrival at the town is my favourite part of the French Way.

You have to cross a very long bridge to get here – it must be 200 or 300 metres – and then you have a stairway leading you into the village. As you arrive, you’ll get a wonderful view of a big Celtic river village, which was submerged by a man-made reservoir in the 1960s. It was then reconstructed, stone-by-stone, from beside the River Miño to higher ground. For relative novices – and for more experienced travellers who want to take their time – it’s easy to see the attraction of the French Way. The route is well organised but can get over crowded, and has many great places to stay and eat – even before you consider the huge variety of people you’ll meet along the way. In other words, it’s popular with good reason.

Take a look at our review of the French Way here

Feel free to contact us at info@followthecamino.com for more information on Camino de Santiago tours or our services.

Camino De Santiago Budget

For many, walking the Camino is ideal for ‘getting away from it all’. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can head off on the journey with an empty wallet. Here are some tips on managing your budget on the Camino.

 

Budgeting

Mercado de Abastos

How much money you’ll need for the Camino will depend on the length of your trip and how extravagant, or frugal, you plan to be. Most people suggest budgeting about €20-40 per day. Of course, you could survive on less, and you could certainly spend more (champagne and lobster for lunch anyone?) but €20-40 would be an average daily budget.

Accommodation is something you have to factor in. Municipal albergues cost between €3 and €10 per night. There are some donativos which simply ask for a small donation for your stay, while private rooms cost €40 a night for a pension and up to €90 for a 3 star (5 star Paradores would go up to €280 per night!). So if you are staying in hotels, you should budget separately for that. Trekking all day will work up an appetite. Luckily food in Iberia is generally reasonably priced. To get you going in the morning, a coffee and a pastry/ toast for breakfast costs usually under €2. For your main meal, A menú del día at a cafe/restaurant costs between €8-14 euro. Normally, this includes a soup or salad, a main course, and dessert usually with wine included – all for one price. It’s probably the most economical way to eat out in Spain. If you’re looking for mid-day snacks, shops are relatively easy on the pocket too.

Gear

Regarding gear, shops in Spain may be slightly cheaper but not by much. In which case, I would recommend bringing most of your gear from home. You don’t want to be shopping over there, rushing with less choice and advice (they may not speak your language). You will be using cash mostly rather than credit or debit cards as a number of places do not take them. It can be impractical to pay €4 by credit card for a bocadillo (sandwich) and soda. ATMs, where you can use a debit card to obtain cash, are relatively frequent on the Camino route. But they can be quite sparse on certain stretches. Try not to take out small amounts frequently. You are usually charged by transaction rather than as a percentage of the money withdrawn.

ATM/ Credit Cards and Insurance

Camino Frances Bike

You’re also better off taking out enough to last you a few days. Just in case you are unable to find an ATM during that time. Many walkers carry cash in pouches around their neck or in a money belt. Withdrawing €100 to €150 at a time should bring you a long way. Banks typically charge less for making transactions on debit cards than on credit cards. But many walkers choose to bring a credit card as well in case of emergencies. Alternatively, if you need to have money wired to you, all the larger towns on the Camino routes are listed with the Western Union. Most debit cards these days can be used internationally. A plus or a cirrus symbol on the back of your card usually indicates this. However, it is always worth checking with your bank.

If you are travelling from outside the EU, especially from the USA, you should notify your card-issuing companies of your plans before leaving. Sometimes, as a security measure, cards are automatically blocked when they are used in a country outside their origin. Pre-notifying your card provider should prevent this from happening. Many people walking the Camino who come from outside the Eurozone, swear by travel prepaid cards. After lodging cash onto them, they can be used just like a regular debit card but with some distinct advantages. The point of sale usage fees and ATM fees are low. You can load and monitor your card online and they usually ensure the best exchange rate. There are a number of ways to save money but skimping on medical and travel insurance should not be one of them.

Check the links here and here for insurance providers. Insurance is inexpensive and provides great peace of mind. If you are looking to cut down the cost of your trip you should check out the discounts we offer here. Discounts include an early bird special for a booking made two or more months in advance and a loyalty discount for return customers. The Camino is about relaxation and enjoyment, and money troubles don’t fit into either of those categories. But if you prepare and budget well, and are sufficiently covered in case of emergencies, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

If you have any more questions about saving money on the Camino, the Camino de Santiago tours or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

How do we select your accommodation?

Usually, you will arrive at your hotel in the late afternoon. This allows you time to avail of the services of comfortable, centrally located accommodation. We select your accommodation based on a number of criteria – location, comfort, services, price and character. We always try to book accommodation that is both on/near the Camino routes. Another factor is if it’s close to the historical quarter or centre of the town/city. Our relationship with suppliers is such that 80% of our customers are confirmed accommodation in our first choice. However, if our first choice is not available, we will use another accommodation of the same standard and price. We are determined in our motto: to provide our customers with the best available accommodation while walking the Camino.

One of our favourites: Casa Acivro – Rustic Guest House
With its rustic design in the heart of nature, Casa Acivro will delight you with its comfortable lodgings and warm, welcoming atmosphere. Relax and enjoy the swimming pool and excellent restaurant serving regional cuisine.

Accommodation CaminoWhat do our customers think of our accommodation choices?
Would love to thank you for the wonderful arrangement that you have done for my group. They all loved the hotels and the meals that you arranged! It was marvellous! – Thomas (Organiser Group of 16)

I just wanted to let you know that your service was exceptional, excellent, awesome, thoughtful and every accommodation was more than I expected, the food outstanding. We had the time of our lives. .. Thank You for making this vacation the best ever – Acacia

I am back home after enjoying tremendously walking the First Section of the French Way. Overall, the organisation and details were outstanding with excellent hotelchoices. Again, Follow the Camino is EXCELLENCE in one word! – Maria

We have just returned from the Camino. The organisation was excellent..We also liked the accommodation and were quite impressed with the choice of the hotels, especially where cleanliness is concerned – Winston

Want to tell you how very very much we enjoyed walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela… We were surprised at how nice the hotels were – they were almost all much better than we expected – nice comfortable rooms, lovely surroundings, great food. One of our favourites on the Camino was the Casa de Acivro in Rua – Nancy and Cliff

Everything went very smoothly on the trip The accommodation was a very good choice. I especially loved the lovely chalet at Casa de Acivro… Overall a fabulous experience and I would recommend your company to anybody interested in doing the Camino – Geraldine

Check out some testimonials from Follow The Camino customers here
If you have any more questions about accommodation, walking the Camino routes, the Camino de Santiago tours or our services, then please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Planning Your Day Along The Camino Trail

Each walker makes his or her own path while walking the Camino trail. Each path depends on their experience, fitness, and how much time they have. However, there are certain parts of a day’s walk that every Camino trekker should keep in mind. A full day walking the Camino de Santiago should start with a nutritious and energy-rich breakfast between 6 am and 8 am. Breakfast can’t be too filling because walking on a full stomach presents difficulties along the way. Cereal and something on the side such as small portions of fruit is a good option. Most of the time in Spain, though, breakfast in hotels is served no earlier than 7:30 am. Hence, people start walking with only a fruit for breakfast, for example. Later on, they stop around 8:00 in a bar or cafeteria on the way.

Start of Your Day 

Resting on the Camino

The typical breakfast will be tea, coffee or Cola Cao (hot chocolate drink) with a big croissant or churros pronounced “T’shooross” (doughnuts sticks). Be mindful when asking for a hot chocolate, as the end of the drink has quite a heavy chocolate melt/liquid pastry. After eating, around seven hours of solid walking – with a few rest stops along the way – will bring you to mid-afternoon. So, a typical day walk would look like this (starting time may vary):
• 8h30 – start of the walk
• 10h30 – break (20m)
• 13h00 – lunch break (1h00)
• 16h00 – end of the walk.

Whether you plan to take these stops village-by-village or at random points on the road is up to you. However, you should always use your Camino Guide Android app or your map as a guide. Plotting out your various rest points before you set out is advisable. This will encourage you to stick to your schedule. It’s also worth remembering that stages along each Camino route vary in difficulty.

This information can also be used to plan ahead. Try to allow for more breaks where the gradient is steeper (on the St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles leg or going up to O’Cebreiro) or where the terrain is rougher. The type of terrain or your partners’ fitness may have an effect on the number of stops taken. It applies to whether you’re travelling by bike, donkey, or with other people. At this point, you will more than likely be ready for a siesta. On arrival at the Refugio, you can take an hour or two to take a nap. You can also tend to any burns, blisters, or scrapes picked up during the day’s exertions.

Afternoon/ Later in the Day Food and Drink along the Camino Trail

After resting up, the remainder of the day should be spent picking up supplies for your next journey. Shops in Spain often open late (20h00). Local business people are conscious of pilgrims needs. So, there’s no rush or need to worry about running out of time before the shops close. Plenty of sleep is needed, so hitting the hay early (around 21h00 or 22h00) is highly recommended. Public hostels usually shut down the light at 22h00 anyway. Make sure you have your torchlight with you if you have embarked on social journeys with your new Australian, Irish, and Korean friends! To read more about food and drink along the Camino trail, check out our blog posts here.

Allowing for a certain amount of flexibility in your schedule is also important. Fatigue can overcome you so remaining comfortable with your pace is essential. Regarding your day-to-day activities, keep in mind that your schedule is three hours behind much of Spain. A 10h00 start, afternoon siesta and dinner late at night are common. However, to allow for a comfortable journey, it’s advisable to be quite disciplined with your day. In that way, when there’s something special you need to see or take a break for, you can enjoy it to the full. You won’t have to compromise your walk on the Camino route.

Upon arrival in Santiago, keep in mind that depending on the time of year, there are often fiestas.

Also, to help you while walking the Camino, take a look at Learning Basic Spanish Before the Camino.

If you have any more questions about the Camino de Santiago tours or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Helping you celebrate the feast of St James

The feast of St. James falls on July 25th

Saint James’ feast has become a day of national celebrations all over Spain. Not only is he the patron saint of Spain, but also one of the 12 Apostles. So, wherever you are in Spain on the 25th of July, you might have a chance to spot some extraordinary processions and celebrations. On Holy years or Jubilee years, which occur each time the 25th of July falls on a Sunday, celebrations around the country are even bigger than usual. If you’re walking the Camino in the future, you will need to plan ahead for the next occurrence in 2021. However, there are no greater celebrations than in Santiago de Compostela. The Apostle’s remains are said to be buried there. Should you be in Santiago on the Feast Day of any year you will be able to admire the secular processions, special pilgrim mass, bullfights and the world famous La Fachada fireworks display.


Other events around Galicia and the Basque Country

Just ask the local tourist office of the town in which you are staying for details of what will be going on for the Feast on July 25th or see Fiestas.net

Most towns would organise:

– Special church services to honour the life and work of Saint James
– Exhibitions of artwork by artists born or living in or near Santiago de Compostela
– Theatre productions and street shows
– Modern and traditional music concerts, including bagpipe performances
– Traditional dance events held outside

Can’t make it to Spain for the Feast Day?
Traditionally, those who could not make the pilgrimage to St. James’s shrine on the 25th of July would eat oysters or scallops on that day. They would also gather up seashells, bits of broken coloured glass, pretty stones, and flowers in order to build little grottoes. If you can’t make it, why not honour this lovely tradition instead?

Take a look at what we know about St. James here

If you have any more questions about the other festivals on the pilgrimage routes, the Camino de Santiago tours or anything else, contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Fiestas and Folklore Throughout the Year in Santiago de Compostela

After walking the Camino why not treat yourself to some of the festivities. Santiago is one of the most famous places of pilgrimage worldwide.  Many of its traditional festivities are of religiouscharacter. So, while you walk the Camino, here are a few of the festivals that take place on the Camino which you can visit throughout the year:

Festivals of SantiagoSemana Santa 

Semana Santa takes place during Easter week and is celebrated in most major Spanish towns with spectacular processions.

Feria del Ganado

Next up is Feria del Ganado in May, which lasts for 10 days. Apart from the performances by traditional folklore groups, it is also a culinary festival, giving everyone a great opportunity to try all the incredible famous dishes of the regional cuisine.

Fuego del Apostol 

Festivals of Santiago

If you are in Santiago at the end of July, then you will not want to miss the Festival of the Apostle. On July 24th, the “Fuego del Apostol” hosts an impressive fireworks display, which is held in front of the Obradoiro-door of the cathedral. The next day, during mass, a huge incense font (the “botafumeiro”) that is fixed to the ceiling of the cathedral with a rope is swung through the nave. You can watch a video of the Botafumeiro in action here

Festival of Classical Music

Lastly, in August and September, there is the important Festival of Classical Music which has numerous concerts for everyone to see.

Remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel (Follow The Camino) for more videos on festivals, the city of Santiago, our Camino routes and much more!

Check out our review of the Top Festivals on the Camino de Santiago here

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

Love the Camino in 2013 with the Heming-Way!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all our readers!
Walking a Camino is an inner journey you may want to compliment with great books! I enjoy reading “The Sun Also Rises” from Hemingway. Not only it is a brilliantly written book, but it is also set in one of my favourite Camino routes. The first part of the French way, starting from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Pamplona, crossing the Pyrenees. Ernest Hemingway wrote the book in Pamplona and lived, fished and enjoyed the area very much. So why not trying this great walk and Follow the Heming-Way. If you plan to arrive for the second week of July, you will also enjoy the world-famous San Fermin seven-day Festival. We have all of the details on how to join the festivities here. Hemingway was fond of fish. One of his favourite dishes in Pamplona was Bacalao Ajoerrero. Try our Bacaloa de Pamplona recipe. We have several events planned in Ireland and the USA this month so check your agenda and join us!

Walking the Camino is a great experience and to make it even more enjoyable, we are launching the First ever SOS DOC CAMINO! column, written by our new partner Cappagh Orthopaedics Hospital. Each month you will get some precious health advice for walking the Camino and enjoy the Camino injury-free. This month learn about the health benefits of walking and I will give you some tips on preparing for the Camino. By the way, if you have any tips you want to share, send them to us or ask our Doctor Camino for any questions. Planning the Camino for our clients means a lot to us, as it means a lot to our clients. Responsible Camino – you will see what we do for the Camino Community and for Charities. This time, we need your help: name the Charity of your choice in your region and if we share their values, we will give them €100 on your behalf!

Enjoy the read and ¡Buen Camino!

Umberto ‘Camino’ di Venosa Follow the Camino, Leading the Way since 2006.

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

Focus on the Torta de Santiago

There are multiple delicious and famous dishes that will you come across while walking the Camino. One such dish is the Tarta de Santiago. It is a Galician almond cake and one of the most typical Camino specialities. Pilgrims have been enjoying Tartas since the Middle Ages where it was appreciated for its sustenance and durability. The cake could be kept for up to 3 months without perishing as it is Gluten-free.

History Saint James Day Cake

Saint James is the patron saint of Spain. His remains are located at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela July 25th is the fest day of Saint James, celebrated nationally in Spain. The pilgrimage to Santiago is one of the most famous voyages in the world. This trek has been popular since around 1100 A.D. For more on the history of the Camino de Santiago, read here.

The top of the pie is usually decorated with powdered sugar, masked by an imprint of the Cross of Saint James which gives the pastry its name. Want your own?

Recipe

Easy – Prep 15min – Cook 45min

  – 5 eggs
– 215g caster sugar
– 300g ground almond
– Icing sugar, to dust
  – 1 tbsp. finely grated lemon rind
– 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
–  2 tbsp. lemon juice

Baking Instructions for your own Torta:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Use an electric mixer to whisk eggs and sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale.
  3. Add ground almond, lemon rind and cinnamon; use a metal spoon to gently fold until just combined.
  4. Grease and line base of a 20cm Springform pan with baking paper
  5. Pour into prepared pan
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre of it comes out clean.
  7. Cool in pan for 15 minutes.
  8. Brush top with lemon juice.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Dust with icing sugar to serve

This cake is best enjoyed with good company. We also suggest washing it down with a great cafe Americano or Espresso!

Wine Pairing: try Spanish Sweet Sherry

Check out our review of Tapas, Drinks and Gastronomy in Santiago de Compostela here

If you have any questions about Spanish food recipes, the Camino de Santiago tours or our services, then please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

6 Most Beautiful French Villages on the Camino

Dotted along the Le Puy Route of the Camino de Santiago lie some of the most beautiful villages in France – many of which have been shortlisted again and again in the prestigious selection of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France”.

Full of rich heritage, stunning architecture, and striking scenery, these villages are worth the long walk and deserve exploration once you arrive after a days trek.

1. Auvillar

Most Beautiful French Villages on the Camino - Auvillar

The village of Auvillar is a hilltop settlement, built mainly of local red brick. Auvillar enjoys an imposing view over the Garonne Valley is revealed through one of the three gateways that cuts through its fortifications and leads to the square where a circular corn exchange can be admired – the only one of its kind in Southwest France. The people of Auvillar (‘Auvillarais’) are well known for their hospitality and are more than happy to welcome pilgrims and visitors.

It is known that Auvillar was the site of an ancient community and was possibly rebuilt in Roman times. For centuries, Auvillar has been a magnet for artists and creative types walking the Camino. During the 12th century, Macabrun, a poet and musician, was born and lived in Auvillar. Later a number of Occitan poets lived there.

More recently, the elaborately decorated ceramics of Auvillar were another important part of a long tradition.  A remarkable collection of ceramics made in Auvillar during the 18th and 19th centuries is to be found in the Auvillar Museum of Art. Today, Auvillar visited by artists looking to be inspired! Painters in particular like to spend time quietly appreciating the calm and serenity of the village.

2. Cahors

Most Beautiful French Villages on the Camino - Cahors

The enchanting old town of Cahors is truly one of the Camino’s finest gems. The heyday for this glorious old town was in the 14th century when a local boy named Jacques Dueze, became Pope John XXII and set up his seat at the papal palace in Avignon. It was also under this Pope’s powerful influence that architecture flourished. Notably, the city’s signature building, the wonderful Pont de Valentré, was built at this time – which is said to be the most photographed building in France.

With its ancient quarters and medieval bridge, cobbled streets, secret gardens and leafy boulevards, wonderful cafes, restaurants and relaxed street life. It has it all.

Top tip – while you in the town make sure to sample some of the famous Black Wine of Cahors! An undiscovered French red wine, revered by Popes and Princes. Why black? Cahors red wines are reputedly the darkest in the world; they are also some of the strongest and richest and will keep for years!

3. Lauzerte

Most Beautiful French Villages on the Camino - Lauzerte

Lauzerte has been listed since April 1990 as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”. Perched above the valleys and hills of Quercy Blanc, this fortified village was founded in the 12th-century by the Count of Toulouse. It is located on the “via Podiensis”, one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Many traces of its historical and religious past still remain intact, including the main square and its cobblestones, stone-built or half-timbered houses, and the pilgrim’s garden.

One of the must-dos in Lauzerte is to visit Church of Saint Barthélémy. Located in the heart of Lauzerte, the church will make for a great visit.

It is also recommended to take a guided tour of the village, so you can immerse your self in the rich heritage of this historic village. Feeling thirsty? Make sure you stop at a restaurant and try the Coteaux du Quercy wines, which are the local speciality!

4. Montcuq

Most Beautiful French Villages on the Camino - Montcuq

The town of Montcuq, is a vibrant agricultural community famed for its gourmet treats such as meringues and waffles. Lying in the beautiful Quercy countryside, Montcuq is a town that has considerable charm, with its old stone buildings, a 13th-century tower and dungeon, and traditional street market. Like many towns in south-west France, Montcuq was caught up in the Cathar tragedy, having its strongholds violated and its defenders massacred on more than one occasion. The town, whose history also dates back to Roman times, has been taken by the English and ransacked by the Huguenots, giving it a turbulent and interesting past! Montcuq still has an old tower and dungeon, marking its place in history.

Montcuq has a super street market every Sunday morning which is definitely worth a visit – nothing beats a leisurely stroll through the streets, browsing the colourful goods on offer and becoming acquainted with the locals. A town with a Sunday market has an added advantage too, as in rural France it is unusual to find shops that are open on Sunday! Buy some fresh fruit or bread to put in your back pack for the days walk.

5. Lectoure

Most Beautiful French Villages on the Camino - Lectoure

The town of Lectoure itself is essentially calm, with its buildings being gorgeous examples of old Gascon architecture, built in the distinctive pale stone of the region.

A lively and warm atmosphere awaits you in the town centre, which offers a good selection of shops, restaurants and cafes. Located in the region of Gascony, Lectoure has a proud gastronomic tradition. In Lectoure, you will find plenty of bars and restaurants offering Gascon hospitality and cuisine at its very best. Local specialities include duck, Foie Gras and, of course, Armagnac. It may not be the best place to be if you are on a strict diet, but if you enjoy excellent French cuisine then Lectoure is superb.

The town of Lectoure has been officially designated a town of art and history by the French minister for Culture and Communication. Once an important military town in Gallo-Roman times, Lectoure was a strongly fortified town, and if you look hard enough you can find parts of the ramparts still existing today!

To satisfy history buffs, the town also offers some interesting museums including an archaeological museum and a museum of religious art.

6. Moissac

Most Beautiful French Villages on the Camino - Moissac

Moissac has become something of a household name for it’s magnificent landmark the Abbey Church of St-Pierre. This is a masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture and the model for hundreds of churches and buildings elsewhere.

Indeed, the fact that it has survived countless wars is something of a miracle. During the French Revolution, it was used as a gunpowder factory and billet for soldiers, who damaged many of the sculptures. In the 1830’s it was set for demolition to make way for a railway line but thankfully, was saved. In 1998, the site was named a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, to save it from any further damage.

If you have any more questions about the history of the Camino, walking the Camino, the Camino de Santiago tours or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@followthecamino.com

Training for the Camino de Santiago

The Camino is a unique physical challenge. Someone who plays sport on a regular basis may struggle walking all day. Whereas a person who’s less physically fit may find the endurance test quite manageable – if they’ve prepared well. You don’t need to be the kind of person who can run a four-minute mile. However, you do need to have your body and your mind prepared for the kind of long walks of roughly 25 kilometres per day this is why we highly recommend training for the Camino.

How to Prepare Camino de Santiago

If you’re a novice to long-distance walking, you should start training for the Camino with some short road walks. Build up to five kilometres per day as soon as you feel comfortable. Add another kilometre per day or two each week. It’s obviously impractical to do 25 kilometres per day regularly. Taking necessary rest stops, you’d need to spend all day at it, and most of us have better things to do! However, try taking a weekend or two prior to going on your Camino experience, so you know what those tough first days will be like while walking the Camino.

Many people start out walking on flat, even ground. This is a nice way to ease yourself into things. However, if you can, it’s worth preparing for the uneven terrain. Start with a staircase of about 30 steps, going up and down for perhaps an hour a day. If you’re lucky enough to live near hilly terrain, incorporate some hill walking into your schedule. This is particularly important for the downhill part of the Camino de Santiago – while uphill walking takes more energy, your muscles will be stretched more by rough descents.

Equipment/ Gear Horses Camino

It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the equipment you’ll be taking. Wearing brand new boots on the Camino de Santiago, for example, is a horrible idea. You need to break in a good pair of (low) hiking boots well in advance as you do your training for the Camino. Also, get used to carrying your backpack fully laden, unless you plan on using our luggage transfer service. Even if you are, it’s good to attune yourself so that walking with the essential kit for the day doesn’t come as a shock.

Aside from preparing your muscles for the endurance test of the Camino de Santiago, doing this kind of training also lets you prepare practically too. Some hikers, for example, swear by covering their feet with Vaseline under their socks to prevent blisters. If you’re walking long distances regularly, you can work out whether this helps you, or whether you find it a bit uncomfortable. If you take a few full days of walking 25 kilometres, you’ll also be able to figure out how much water you need on a day-to-day basis, and what kind of rest you need. Becoming more familiar with your body, and what it’s capable of doing, will only aid you. Depending on the duration of your Camino, whether you are going for five walking days or 30+, the body will react differently over time. On the Camino, you may be surprised by the fact that the pain goes up! Indeed, the first thing to hurt will be feet (blisters) and after a week, the knees. After 2 weeks, you may experience pain in your hips and then back. Good equipment, packing, and rest is needed to manage this.

When it comes to walking the Camino itself, veteran walkers will tell you that the first five days are the hardest. It’s very true: the human body is remarkable and will adapt itself well to a demanding environment. Investing some time in training as you get ready for the Camino will help a great deal.

Feel free to contact us at info@followthecamino.com for information on the Camino de Santiago tours or our services.