Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Sunday, October 23, 2011

AnnieWalkers Camino Santiago Tour - FAQS

People are often curious about 
AnnieWalkersCamino trips.
Following are answers to some of the questions people most often ask. 

What do you mean by 'Best of Both'?
There are many different ways 
to undertake a pilgrimage to Santiago.  
You can go by car or other transport; 
you can walk parts of the way with a back-up vehicle 
and have your luggage transported between overnight stops. 
You can stay in 5 star hotels and Paradors, 
or you can stay in little inns or rural B&Bs. 
There is a chain of private pilgrim hostels along the routes 
and many traditional simple pilgrim shelters, 
some in ancient monasteries or converted churches.  

On our walk we will have the 'Best of Both' - 
some hotels and inns and some private rooms in a few pilgrim refuges
to give you a true sense of being a pilgrim.

Is this a religious tour?
Although this started essentially as a Catholic pilgrimage trail, 
the Camino has become a secular journey
and anyone can walk it -
Christians, Buddhists, agnostics and secular humanists. 
One can enjoy it just for the wonderful hike through stunning landscapes.  
The majority of the most important architectural monuments 
are churches, cathedrals and abbeys 
and we will do our best to visit these.  
Some offer the pilgrim a special blessings and others Gregorian Chants - 
all part of the rich tapestry of tradition 
that makes the Camino so special.

Which Camino do we walk?
We have chosen the most scenic sections 
of the Camino Frances, 
the Jacobean Route par excellence,
which is the one most people talk about, 
have written about 
and is the most historically supported of all the Camino Routes.  

Do I have to train for the walk?
You don’t have to be a super athlete
to walk the Camino 
but you should be fit enough to walk an average of 20km per day.  
If you are unable to walk up to 20km per day 
you will have to budget extra for bus and taxi transport.  
There are a few roller-coaster sections with many up and down hills. 
Start walking short distances at least three times a week,
building up to longer distances five times a week 
for a few months before you leave.  
You should be able to walk comfortably with a light backpack.  
Your group leader will always be in contact 
to make sure no-one is left behind.

What should I pack? 
A suggested packing list will be sent to you 
once you have registered with the tour. 

What is the accommodation like?
 Accommodation is in small 1 - 3 star hotels, inns,
pensiones, B&Bs, apartments and family owned rural houses.  
Ours is not a mega-bucks, 5-star luxury tour 
but we have sourced the best possible accommodation 
based on the location, the facilities they provide, 
comfort and hospitality.  And whats more, we have tried them all! 
What we have found is that it is better to stay in rustic, 
character-filled pensions in the old quarter of town rather
than in the more modern, smart establishments on the outskirts.  
Pensiones and hostales in Spain are spotlessly clean, 
are usually family owned and are, therefore, friendly places to stay.

Can I have a single room?
A limited number of single rooms can be booked, however, 
in a few small hamlets and villages this might mean 
being separated from the group for the night. 
The price of the walk is based on two people sharing a twin room.
A single supplement will be charged.

What about bathrooms?
The majority of rooms have en suite bathroom/showers. 
In one or two apartments, or family run B&Bs, bathrooms 
are shared by the group.

Do we stay in pilgrim refugios? 
As part of the 'Best of Both' you will spend a couple of nights 
in private pilgrim albergues but in private rooms (no dormitories).  
This will give you the opportunity to interact with other pilgrims. 

Casa Morgade
 Will I need a sleeping bag?
Those starting from St Jean will spend two nights
 in a hikers' Gitê which has basic rooms with shared bathrooms. 
Sleep liners or sleeping bags are required.  
Blankets and pillows are provided.  (The alternative is to stay
in a dormitory with bunk-beds for 18 pilgrims in an auberge, 
or in two-man tents in Orisson!) 

In the Hostal Jakue in Puente la Reina sleep liners are required 
or you can hire linen. Blankets and pillows are provided.

Where do we eat?
When staying in pilgrim refuges 
you can make a light breakfast in the refuge kitchen. 
 In some pensions breakfast is included.  
Pilgrims usually have a breakfast stop after an hour or so of walking. 
Lunch can be a picnic on the side of the road 
or in a café-bar or restaurant, 
and dinner could be a communal affair 
with pilgrims chipping in or a special pilgrim menu 
in a cafe-bar or restaurant.  
There are Menu del Peregrinos (pilgrims menus) offered 
all along the route.  
These usually consist of a three course meal for as little as €10 
which includes wine, water and bread.  
See my blog posts on food for more information.
The areas we walk through have wonderful regional dishes
that you should sample, 
especially the tapa - little snacks served in the bars.

What if I get blisters or can’t walk?
You have the option of taking a bus or hiring a taxi
to transport you and your pack between stages (at your own cost). 
If you need more than one day's rest 
you can use transport every day until you are able to start walking again.

Do we have to walk together?

You are free to walk at your own pace or with other group members. 
It is important that each member of the group 
have enough space to experience the spirituality of the landscape 
and this millennia-old pilgrimage trail. 

The AnnieWalkers group leader will also walk every day 
and will be in contact via mobile phone.  
You can walk with the leader if you choose. 
 If you prefer to sleep in, take more time in the villages and towns 
or wait for a museum or gallery to open, you are free to do so. 
We would like the the group to re-assemble
at the end of the day’s walking, 
once we have all checked into our accommodation, 
so that we can discuss the following day's itinerary.  
At the group meeting, usually around dinner, 
the leader will discuss the events of the day
and share details of the following day’s route,  
sights and accommodation.

What if I want to go off on my own to see a place 
or attraction off the Camino Route?

You will be free to travel wherever you wish 
and to leave the group as often as you wish. 
 If possible, the group leader will help you plan your side excursions.  
However, you will forfeit the accommodation and/or transport 
that has been booked for you on the Camino.

What do we do after we have checked in?

You can do your washing, 
have a siesta, sight-see or do some shopping.  
A list of interesting places to see is included in your daily itinerary.

What is the 'Credencial?'

The Credencial is a passport that allows you to stay 
in pilgrim accommodation on the Camino. 
We will help you obtain your Credencial 
when we arrive in St. Jean Pied du Port. 
You will receive a rubber stamp in the credencial at each overnight stop. 
You can also obtain stamps 
at café bars, churches, tourist offices and so forth.
When you get to Santiago,
you present the Credencial at the pilgrims office 
in order to qualify for the "Compostela."

What is the Compostela?

This is a certificate of completion 
based on a 14th century document in Latin 
which is given to pilgrims who walk the last 100 kilometers 
to Santiago and profess to have walked for a religious or spiritual reason.
If you do not profess to either, 
you will be given a different (but still very nice) certificate.

What happens when we get to Santiago?

It is great to walk into Santiago as a group
but if this is not possible we can all meet at a prearranged time 
for a photo-shoot.   
If we arrive before mid-day, 
we will visit the Cathedral to perform the ancient traditions
of hugging the saint, 
viewing his casket in the crypt below the altar 
and attending the beautiful pilgrims mass. 
If you are lucky you might see the Botafumeiro swing that day.  
We will go to the Pilgrims Office to collect the Compostela 
and then check into our accommodation.  
This is the last night that your guide will be with you 
in her official capacity.  
Of course, you could take her out for a drink, if you like, 
to celebrate your wonderful achievement!
The following day you will be free 
to wander around the city 
or you could take a bus or booked tour 
to Finisterre – The End of the World – 
a fitting end to your magical Camino - 
or you might continue with your holiday in Spain or Europe.
We hope you will join us
on the Camino Santiago de Compostela 
for The Best of Both!


If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

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