Camino Francés 2017

Between April 11 and May 31, 2017, Bay Area friends Cathy Seitchik Diaz and David Stewart are on their third Camino. This page will include Cathy’s practical tips, route details, albergue/hotels, observations, and highlights of the walk. About Cathy.

Camino Francés Days/Stages

Pre-Camino rest day: St. Jean Pied de Port
Day 1: St. Jean to Orisson
Day 2: Orisson to Burguete
Day 3: Burguete to Zubiri
Day 4: Zubiri to Pamplona
Day 5: Pamplona to Puente la Reina
Day 6: Puente la Reina to Estella
Day 7: Estella to Los Arcos
Day 8: Los Arcos to Viana
Day 9: Viana to Navarrete
Day 10: Navarrete to Azofra
Day 11:  Azofra to Grañon
Day 12: Grañon to Tosantos

Continue to Days 13 – 23, Tosantos to León.

Travel Days: Sun/Mon 4/9 & 4/10

We are headed back to the Camino Francés for our 3rd time.
– We like the Infrastructure
– We like the Abundant Alberques & Cafes
– We, well probably I, like that there are MORE people on the Camino Frances (CF), than the other 12 Camino paths.
– Last year, being our #2 year, we enjoyed the familiar, and also the new and different. We like the combination of BOTH, familiar & new.
– And, I like the length of it.
We left our house at 9am on SUNDAY, for the San Francisco Airport, and then flew…..
– SF to NY to Paris to Biarritz and then were greeted by Jonathan, our Shuttle Driver from Express Bourricot. We were joined by 5 other Pilgrims, also, just arriving.
1-8 people €89-€19 euros
5+ people – €19 euros each
– It was the BEST route to date, as far as getting directly to St Jean, in one fell swoop. Albeit, we arrived on MONDAY at 7:30pm, 25.5 hours later, plus, a 9 hour time change. We were EXHAUSTED, but/and VERY happy!!
– The hour+ drive from Biarritz to St Jean was similar to San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Beautiful mountainous green hills, and curvy roads, arriving to St Jean, a quaint mountain town with cobblestone streets and only pedestrians, no (minimal) cars.
– We, like HUNDREDS of other Pilgrims, went to the Pilgrim’s Office to get our Camino Credential (Passport). This is where many begin their Camino to Santiago de Compostela.

Double click to see larger images.

Pre-Camino rest day in St Jean -4/11 Tues

– What a delightful day!! We walked all over and around St Jean Pied to Port, France. It is an old 1500s French historical town, in the Foothills of the Pyrenees that we plan to Walk over and cross, tomorrow and Thursday.
– There are French Tourists; Families and precious children, walking around a 1500+ year-old Citadel/Fort and through the cobblestone streets.
– There are dozens and dozens of new arrivals with their backpacks on, talking with excitement and wonder (or is it SCARED) of beginning this ancient old 780 kilometer Pilgrimage across Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago where the remains of St James, the Apostle resides.
– I met my first Aussie Camino friend, Julie, from Darwin, Australia. We met on the Australian Facebook Forum and realized we were both Walking to Orisson, for our FIRST day on Wednesday, April 12th.
– We went to get something to eat and sat next to 6 Canadians from Niagara Falls, Ontario. They are also excited, along with worried, concerned and curious on how this is going to ALL transpire.
– No one knows. We ALL come with the intent to Walk. Some to Santiago, and maybe beyond to Finisterre. Others with less time, Walk to Burgos or Leon, and plan on returning at a later date. Many need to stop for some reason or another; injury, family needs, time runs out, etc.
– Tomorrow we start UP a STEEP incline for the first 1/4 of the Walk over the Pyrenees. The next day is the last 1/4 to the top of the Pyrenees and also the final 1/2 of the Walk down to the bottom, to a small town called Roncesvalles. More will be explained in the next two days.
– It is 11:30pm and our alarm is set for 6am. Time to go.

DAY 1: 4/12/17-Wednesday

Cities: St Jean to Orisson
Walked: 7:45-10:45am; 3 hrs
3 hours- 2300′ incline: UP!!
Miles today: 5

I didn’t sleep at all last night. Crazy!! But I rested. David figured it was because of the Time Change, 9 hours different from California. Anyway, I prayed and thought how glad I was that our first day to “Orisson” was only 5 miles, 3 hours, albeit a 2300 feet STEEP incline straight UP!!

At 6am our alarm went off and we promptly got out of bed, packed up and went downstairs for a 7am breakfast hosted by Alain, our Host/Hospitalero. We were joined by Neieida from Pamplona, Spain, Missy from Laguna Beach, CA, Mary Ellen from Portland Oregon, Jane from Virginia, Yosef from the Netherlands, Rodney: San Paolo, Brazil. We all introduced ourselves, ate homemade bread, drank fresh coffee with warm milk, etc, while telling each other our Camino plans and desires before we bid farewell, saying, “Buen Camino.”

It took us 3 hours to Walk straight UP for 5 miles. We rested when needed and then Walked on, head down, step by step. There were dozens and dozens of Pilgrims leaving between 7am and 8:30am. There were people scattered in front of us, behind us and next to us. It was delightful as we spoke to each other, asking where we were from, etc.

Orisson is 1/4th of the Walk up over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles. Only 40-50 people can stay in Orisson. Dozens & Dozens continue on the 12 miles and 5 hours to Roncesvalles. Some even Walk further.

We arrived at about 11am. The Deck and Cafe were filled with Pilgrims getting something to eat before heading on to Roncesvalles or staying the night.

At about 2pm Pantixika, the same young woman that greeted us the past 2 Caminos showed me to our beds. Orisson has 4-5 rooms of BunkBeds for 6 people each. Imagine my surprise when she gave us a room with only 2 single beds “just for “us.”

Between arriving and 6:30pm dinner we all shower, hand wash clothes, talk to each other, stretch, rest, read, sitting on the deck having a beer, cafe, bite to eat etc. Last year during our 50 Day Camino we met people from 40 different countries. They all chat and get to know each other during the course of our daily walk, our afternoons in the Albergues/Hostals, out shopping, in churches and cathedrals, etc.

In 3 days David and I (well, more “I”) have met numerous people from each one of these countries. Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany. Holland, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Spain, United States.

In the afternoon, all 40+ of us, were talking and getting to know each other as we waited for our 6:30pm group dinner. The 6:30pm group dinner was delicious homemade Soup, Pork Cutlets, Beans/Carrots, French Bread, Red Wine, Water and delicious Almond Pie. All 40 of us introduced ourselves one by one, laughed, talked and went off to bed, or watch the stars come out.

DAY 2: 4/13/17-Thursday

Cities: Orisson to Roncesvalles to Burguete
Walked: 7:30-3:30pm – 30 min stop
8 hours- 2550′ incline: UP!!/Down
Miles today: 12
-TOTAL Miles: 17

6am: Awake & Packed Up
7am: Coffee/Milk – Bread/Jam
– Photo with happy Jean Jacques; owner of Orisson
7:45am: David & headed up the hill, towards the Pyrenees Peak of Leporder. ALL 40+ of us left for Roncesvalles; btw 7:30-8:30am. During the next 8 hours we saw many of our Orisson Camino/Pilgrim friends, on & off, as some slowed down and others sped up. Plus dozens of others that Walked straight up from Orisson and sped past everyone. As each passed, I said, “Buen Camino.” And to many others, I spoke with them for awhile until one of us slowed down, stopped or sped up. This is how it goes for the 780 kilometers – 450 miles, as we Walk to Santiago.

The weather was amazingly beautiful; sunny, clear, not hot, not even windy as in the past 2 years. Walking the same rounded gives us a calmness as of our awareness of difficulty, length and do-ability. It took us 7+ hours to get to Roncesvalles this year, as David’s knee pain that began a few weeks before the Camino, began to hurt and slow his down.

At 2:30pm-ish we stopped at the BIG New Roncesvalles Alberque to rest, figure out what to do about David’s knee pain, and decide if to Walk 2 more miles to Burguete. We saw a number of familiar faces arriving, exhausted and happy!!

We headed out to Burguete. It is a pretty, tree lined, flat path. We stayed in a Hostal that Hemingway used to frequent.

Hostel Burguete, where Hemingway spent his vacations.

Hostel Burguete, where Hemingway spent his vacations.

Sadly WIFI was sketchy at best, therefore I was now another day behind on Posting an update.

David realized his knee couldn’t walk to tomorrow. We made arrangements for him to take a taxi in the morning, while I walked to the next town, Zubiri. Poor david!!

DAY 8: 4/19/17-Wednesday

Cities: LOS ARCOS to Sansol to Torres Del Rio to VIANA
Walked: 7:30am-11:am
– 11 miles & 4 hours
– 300/400 incline -UPS!!/DOWNS!
To Date: 94.5 miles & 44 Hours

Sleeping in Dorm Rooms
This is my 3rd time coming to Walk the Camino.
– April 2015: David and I slept in a DormRoom/Bunkbed for the first 4 nights; Orisson, Roncesvalles, Zubiri & Pamplona. From Puente de la Reina on David realized he could look for Private Room accommodations. Being a self proclaimed “loaner” being in a Private Room was/is much more desirable to him.
– Now that David is in León recuperating, I am staying in Dorm Rooms. My favorite are Rooms with 4 Bunkbeds or less.
-Last night there was me, 2 Canadians, 3 South Koreans.
The 3 South Koreans had alarms going off at 5am. This is the norm for them. Then it was like a tornado of movement, sounds and ?!?! It was hysterical to me.
I figured I might as well get up, and so did the Canadian man. The Canadian woman tried to go back to sleep. None of us were angry. Just amazed and curious. Crazy!!!
If someone REALLY needs to get a certain amount of hours of sleep at night, on The Camino in DormRooms, they are going to be gravely disappointed.

I left my Albergue at 7am. The light was spectacular!!

I love John Brierley’s Camino Guide. In 2015 I only had the book. In 2016 and now, I also have iBook’s online version. I looooooveeeee it. This was today’s – 11 miles & 4 hours
– 300/400 incline -UPS!!/DOWNS!

I have been asked why I/we keep returning to the Camino year after year.
I have pondered……
Others return to their Mountain Cabin, visit College Friends, go to their Summer House, go on a yearly Cruise, etc year after year. Those are VERY nice things to do. What I like is walking, and moving my body, plus, seeing & experiencing new and different, along with, old and familiar. I love people, and people of all ages, and nationalities. I love the oldness I get to experience in many of these medieval towns & cities. I love the green, the landscape beauty all around me as I walk. I love moving forward towards a common goal.

I have also been asked “Why” I/we keep returning to the Camino “Frances,” instead of El Norte, Portuguese, etc, as we are on the Camino Frances for our 3rd time.
– We like the Infrastructure
– We like the Abundant Alberques & Cafes
– I like the people, and on the CF, there are MORE people than the other paths.
– Last year we enjoyed the familiar, and also the new and different. We like the combination of comfortably familiar & the variety of things new.
– I like the lenght of it; 50 days.
– AND…..
Each day as we Walk, Walk annnnnd Walk, I don’t keep thinking, “Are we THERE yet?” as I did in Year One. Now I just relax into a 10, 12, 14+ mile Walk from town to town. I hope to return Year after Year.
Now I just remind myself, “It’s okay. There is NO RUSH!! I have plenty of time to get to the place I plan to spend the night. And once there I have VERY LITTLE I “need” or “have to” DO. There is a FREEDOM in that, in this. At the end of the day, I have the rare feeling of, “I have done enough!”

Many of my Pilgrim friends that I have mentioned in the last 7 days Walked 10 Kilometers further than me today to “Logroño.” This is where our first group will begin to separate out and move ahead. Many Pilgrims want to or need to be in Santiago between May 15-20. I plan to get there about May 24. So for now on, they need to Walk 25-30 Kilometers a day. I like to walk 18-22 Kilometers a day. When I ask a Pilgrim what date they want/need to be in Santiago, I am aware of if I might see them again off and on.

After 1.5 hours of walking, I stopped in Sansol, the first town out of Viana. I needed to use the bathroom so first I asked about a Cafe con Leche, and then the Baño. I always buy something; fruit or a drink, if I need to use the bathroom.

The owner, Asier, was soooooo nice to me. He taught me more how to use my new “old school” mobile phone. He helped me leave an “outgoing message” in case David or an Alberque calls me.

He explained to me how 15 years ago the Camino Confraternity re-routed many of the paths to go thru the towns; GOOD for the Pilgrims. GOOD for the town’s businesses.

Candy & Sue from last night’s Albergue came in while I was there. They were struggling to unlock the door of the Albergue last night and I let them in, as they were giggling. They are friends since childhood, reuniting to walk together.

At 9:30am as I was leaving Sansol I saw Hannah from Denmark and also the Scout Group from last night. Hannah and I walked and talked for awhile, until she stopped to take photos of the beautiful landscape.

At 10:30am I came upon a French mom & dad, and an adult sister & brother. They are Walking for 7 days together. I had the joy and pleasure of walking with Fred (son) and Stan (dad) the last hour into Viana.

In Viana I went to the Correo Office and sent ahead 3 kilos. My pack is 4 to 5 kilos now. VERY reasonable!! It only cost €12.

The Albergue had many rooms. My room had 4 BunkBeds but we only had 6 women. It was great!! Julie from Australia, Momie from Scotland, Sue from Korea, Denise from Germany, Linda from Sweden. It was a sweet and GREAT group.

The French Parents, Daughter & Son were staying there. Plus, Diana from Holland.

I had dinner at the Albergue with Jim from London, Hank from the Netherlands, Virginia & Brian from Austin and Conrad from Holland and Linda from Sweden.

I love meeting and visiting with such interesting and Camino kindred spirit people.

I am a HAPPY Pilgrim.

DAY 9: 4/20/17-Thursday

Cities: Viana to Pantano to Navarrete
Walked: 7:30am-1pm
– 14 miles & 5.5 hours
– 450′ incline – Up/Down
To Date: 108.5 miles

Sleeping in a Dorm Room with ALL women, I sleep soooooo soundly. Better than at home. A very curious and interesting phenomenon.

Sometimes I feel like a turtle with my backpack snugly against my back. (Now my backpack is 5 kilos since I emptied out, and sent forward 3 kilos yesterday) I tuck my poles away and walk briskly when it is flat. It is fun!! And crazy to think I am walking ACROSS a country, one day at a time.

Today I walked off and on by myself and with …….
– Momie from Scotland
– Linda from Sweden
– Conrad from Holland
Conrad told me all about
A Walk in England; Hadrian’s Wall
2000 year old Roman Walls
120 Kilometers -7 days

Since my first Camino Frances in April 2015, I have a running list of awesome Walks in MANY different places of the world.

At the same time I now want to visit my friends in Scotland, Holland, Australia again, etc. Oh, sooooo many places go and people to see and visit and Walk & Bike with.

When I walk into or through big cities, for example, Logroño today, I often ask for directions. We don’t need to speak Spanish. Just say with a questioning voice and the people will point. …..
El Camino?
El Catedral?
I ask older people because they are VERY in touch with “the Camino.”

Today I stayed in Navarette, in Casa del Peregrino, where David & I have stayed the past 2 years; April 2015 & 2016. Angel, the owner & hospitelero and I were HAPPY to see each other again. Recently he had messaged me a photo of himself in front of the Cathedral de Santiago, completing his 3rd Camino!! His English is better and better each year. His mama y papa were there this time to greet Pilgrims as they arrived. So sweet and loving!! They kept saying, “This is your house. Do you want something to drink?” Angel even gave me a little present of a shell necklace and pin. I will wear them with love.

A few Pilgrim friends were at the same Albergue and MANY more were in town at the Bar Deportivo with a large outside patio, right below the church. Begoña & Antonio, the owners make EXCELLENT Tapas!!

– Aussie -Penélope, daughter Giselle
– Aussie -Helen and daughter Alex
– Sweden -Linda & Camino friends
– Holland -Diane with friends
And MANY more!!!
Navarette is a REALLY nice town for Pilgrims to hangout and visit, all together. Similar to Los Arcos.

After going to the Supermercado to get food for my Lettuce Wraps, etc, I walked with Momie to the same Farmacia Shellie and I went to last year. Mary, the daughter of the husband and wife owners was soooooo kind and helpful. I find the people in the Farmacias to be excellent. They are often Pharmacists and always VERY experienced with a Pilgrim’s needs. Plus, speak enough English to help. I suggest to speak SLOWLY, enunciating and separating EACH word CLEARLY.
– I use simple basic English and NO slang.

Buen Camino to YOU all!!
PS: If you have a question or comment, FB Message me. I have 272+ emails and I don’t get to them as fast.

DAY 10: 4/21/17-Friday

Cities: “Navarrete” to Ventosa to Najera to “Azofra”
Walked: 7:30am-2pm
14 Miles & 6.5 Hours
500′ incline: Up/Flat -Sunny
To Date: 132.5 Miles

I only have a single Silk Sleep Sack, while others have Sleeping Bags. I use it with 1-2 Blankets that are supplied at the Private Alberques. It is the size of a pear, and light!! I have been asked if a Sleeping Bag is necessary. I am fine with the Silk Sleep Sack, because I do not want to carry a Sleeping Bag. If I am cold, i wear all of my clothes and my light jacket.

I said goodbye to 35 year old Linda from Sweden as she needed to start walking more Kilometers a day, than me, to get to Santiago by May 15. I don’t expect to get there till May 24-ish.

While packing up in the dinning kitchen area a man and wife from New Hampshire looked at me and said, “Is your last name Diaz?” This was a couple my age (64), Doug and Kay from New Hampshire. He recognized me once I put on my hat, from the APOC Forum I have been Posting on. -American Pilgrims on the Camino. This my 2nd “On the Camino” APOC connection. It thrills me. I love APOC, for all the information we can glean and for all the support & love everyone shares.

My loooong time girlfriend said, “You are a happy adventurer.”
I wrote back saying…..
“YES, you are right!! I am a HAPPY traveler!!” I don’t think of myself as an “adventurer” but I guess maybe I am.

Normally I don’t enjoy traveling “by myself.” The 2 times I tried it, I walked and biked in Luca, Italy/Tuscany and Nosara, Costa Rica -and cried from “aloneness.” But Walking the Camino is different. I can be “on my own” a lot but “I do not feel alone.” If I do not connect with anyone during my day walking, which is rare, I for sure can/will connect with people once I get to the Albergue, Plaza & Cafes, etc. We are NOT ALONE, as we Walk across Spain “on our own.”

At 7:30am I started out with my 60 year old Camino friend from Scotland, Momie. We met the first night in Orisson 10 days ago.

Within 15 minutes we parted and I met 2 french women my age. They are Walking the Camino in sections each year. There husbands drive and meet them each night.

At 9am I found myself happily walking into Ventosa, a nice Cafe with an awesome bathroom. I purchased my Apple, and then asked if I could use the bathroom.

At the Cafe ……
I met 40 year old, Malikee from Dublin, who now lives in NY, and does a lot of work in Philadelphia, where I grew up. He is walking the Camino with 2 friends from Spain & Denmark, a piece at a time over the course of 3 years. He said, “Children, Wife, Work don’t allow ALL at once.” This method is VERY European. I enjoy each persons stories, plans and experiences.

EVERY time I stop it is like a Reunion and Surprise to see who is there or who is walking in.
– I re-met a Holland couple my age, that I had met 2 days ago in Los Arcos: Lynn & Anton. They have 2 weeks to walk. They will stop in Burgos on Wednesday 4/26. That is the same Date I probably will be in Burgos. The only reason I know this is because I have in my Notes on my iPhone; where we walked to in 2015 & 2016; EVERY day’s Start/Stop, Miles, etc.
If you would like a copy, FB Message me.

Over the past 2 Caminos, David has done an AMAZING job of counting out the distances in Kilometers that are in our John Brierley Camino guide book, and than translating them into miles. We are most comfortable Walking 12-14 miles and 8 miles on a few “rest days.” So I pretty much know which towns/distances I feel BEST walking to. Again….
“IF you WOULD LIKE this LIST, FB Message me.

AT the Cafe, OR walking up to it I got to see …..
– Aussie mom -Helen and daughter Alex
– Holland -Diana
– Scottish -Momie.
– Austin, Texas -Virginia & Brian

I am walking in the Rioja Wine Region, “the Napa Valley” of Spain. This might be how I can convince my daughter-in-laws to join me with their hubbies, my sons. People say it is DELICIOUS Wine.
– Becca? Emma? My treat!!
You and Granddaddy David can Taxi, eat Tapas, Drink GREAT Wine and Marshall, Derrick and grandchildren can Walk with me or Taxi.

Food on the Camino
I have been asked about Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Kosher.
– I eat Vegetables, Meat & Dairy.
– I buy most of my Food in Supermercados/Fruterias.
– I eat pretty much the same thing every day and I am happy & fine.
I think ALL preferences can be accommodated if one is willing to buy their own food and eat it as is, or cook something when a kitchen is available.
My food/eating looks like this…….
– Tea or Coffee; maybe
– Yogurt; sometimes
– Muesli; sometimes
– Apple/Tangerine: Walking
– Pears
– Carrots
– Romaine Lettuce
– Turkey Slices
– Cheese Sliced
– Trail Mix or Nuts
– Agua con Gas
– Vegetable Soup w/ Oatmeal to thicken it & canned Clams or any Protein

Occasionally I will opt to join others and have a Pilgrim’s Meal. Which is €10-12 euros for a 3 course meal.
1.- Salad or Pasta or Soup
2. Pork or Chicken or Pasta w/ Papas
3. Yogurt or Apple/Orange or Pie

By 11am I found myself walking with Virginia & Brian, that I met 2 nights ago in Viana. They are a newly retired couple from Austin, Texas.
We talked about the the Camino, our travels; past & future. I love chatting with Camino people, fellow Pilgrims. We are such Kindred Spirits.
They told me about “Wayo Tanzania Walking Safari.” They said they saw Herds of the Big 5 animals and the Little 5.
David and I plan to go to Africa, his last & 7th Continent to visit!!

I had my first Camino Farmacia experience for “myself.”
The Pharmacy Techs Pharmacists TOTALLY know how to help us Pilgrims!! Also……
If anyone uses the “squatty potty,” while Walking the Camino, FB Message me. I have some ideas, for adaptations.

At 2pm I arrived to the ALBERGUE in Azofra, a small town just past Najera ……
I met new Camino Friends:
– Eugene & Gretchen another newly retired couple from Mendocino, CA.
– Maddy a 25 year old from Philadelphia, Germany, and now Chicago
Plus reunited with old Camino Friends:
– Helen & Alex: Australians
– Penelope & Giselle: Australians
– Momie: Scotland
– Virginia & Brian: Austin, Texas
– Diana: Holland

The Albergue had 3 long picnic tables as a dining room and a big kitchen. I made a delicious Pot of Veggie Soup with canned Calms and Oatmeal to thicken it. My newest Camino invention.

Many of us sat around the tables making plans for our next days Walks, discussing Distance, Accommodations, etc. Plus, blisters, foot pain, and about our families.

Most went down the street to a Bar/Cafe to get Pilgrim’s meal. I ate my delicious thick flavorful Vegetable Clam Soup invention. I shared it with Eugene & Gretchen from California.

I am a HAPPY Pilgrim.
Buen Camino to YOU all!!

DAY 11: 4/22/17 Saturday

Cities: “Azofra” to Cirueña (Golf Community) to Santo Domingo to “Grañon”
Walked: 7am-1pm
6 Hours & 14 Miles
-600′ incline:slight up/down
– Sunny
144.5 -TOTAL Miles

My sister asked a few days ago how I feel Walking “on my own,” alone, because she knows I feel lonely when I “travel alone.” But this is different than “regular travel.” I do not “feel alone.” I actually feel “independent” -strong and happy.

I used to prefer to walk with other Pilgrims, and I would search them out. Now I actually really like having hours on my own. At the same time, if I come upon a Pilgrim or one comes up behind me, I am HAPPY to chat and get to know them!!

I learn so much; about them, their travels, other Walks, Walking Safaris, their Camino experiences, etc. It is FUN for me.

David is still in Leon recuperating with our awesome Fisioterapia, Roberto Simo
David & I spoke today on our handy dandy “old school” Móvil Phone that we bought at the “Orange Móvil Phone Store.” It only cost €40 euros for the Phone & 250 minutes of Calling in Spain. We can Re-Charge it with Minutes at Supermercados, Tobacco Stores, etc. We can use it when we Travel to other Counties, just by Changing the SIM Card. This works GREAT for me, with my iPhone for EVERYthing else.

David will take a Bus to “Burgos” as I plan to be Walking into Burgos on Tuesday. He, even a self proclaimed “loaner,” is bored sitting around in Leon for the past 7+ days. He has walked around the Old City numerous times, as well as been to the Cathedral, Museums and Basilica, etc. And reading TONS!!

He will bus from town to town or walk some and taxi if needed, as I continue to Walk. He said he would rather do that, than go home. He would only go home if he thought he needed surgery. Yea, “We” will be “On the Camino” again.

I have been asked, “What ages of people Walk the Camino?” This is what I have seen & experienced in 2015, 2016 and now 2017. There are ……
– 18-28+ years old, in between, school, work and other life requirements.
– 30-45 year olds, NEEDing the Camino to help them in life, and taking 14-30+ days to get away and sort it out.
– 18-80+ year olds, that Walk 1-2-3 weeks whenever they can make the time. Typical of many Europeans, but also Americans, etc.
– 55-80+ year olds, Retired and with Time to choose.

At 8:30am on the top of a hill I met Bernhard from Germany, a man my age, resting on a cement stump. I had seen him in the Alberque last night but we hadn’t talked.
I did my typical, “Hello or Hola”
– Where are you from?
– Where will you Walk to today?
– My name is Cathy.
– Where did you start the Camino?
– Do you Plan to Walk to Santiago?
We had a sweet 5 minute conversation about those things, his past Caminos, our experiences of Walking to Roncesvalles; thru the STEEP Rocky Woods or down the Path. We both did the STEEP Rocky Woods the first Camino. We both walked to the RIGHT down the Path; much more doable our 2nd Camino!! He said he planned on Walking through Santo Domingo, where many/most Pilgrims choose to stay, and continuing on for 4 more Kilometers to the small town of Grañon, and where I also plan to sleep. We bid each other farewell with the traditional; “Buen Camino” and a big SMILE!!

I love chatting with Pilgrims!! The commonality we all feel about the Camino experience is heartfelt and special. I believe it is this “Kindred Spirit Camino Community Experience” (and other things) that keeps us Pilgrims returning, while our family and friends look at us with curiosity and confusion.

Today I Walked through the small town of Cirueña. It seems to be a community grown out of a big beautiful Golf Course. Maybe a weekend Resort area for local Spaniards.

I have been asked about “My Hair” on The Camino because it is Long & Curly. I, like most women, think about these things as I/we plan our Camino, our supplies, etc. It doesn’t matter if we have long/short, curly/straight hair. I met Diana from Holland on Day 3 walking to Zubiri. The topic of our Hair and Walking the Camino came up. She said she had to Let Go of bringing a Blow Dryer for her Hair every day. She said, therefore her FIRST and most important purchase was her Hat. I have seen her Off and On over the last 8 days, and ALWAYS with her cute Hat!! Picture perfect.
I can RELATE!!
I look for a Hat that is …
– Big enough to fit ALL my hair in, when I get warm, usually by 8:30am.
– Good Sun Coverage.
– Decent enough for Photos. And as you can notice, MOST photos are with my Hat on, to hide wrinkles, sun spots, etc.
And about the thick long CURLS!!
– I go to Rogelia Munoz my AWESOME Hair Dresser in Watsonville, CA and she Wash & Blow Dries my hair before my Camino. Since my hair is so thick & dry, I can go an embarrassingly long time without washing it. But in a few days you will see photos of bushy curls, when my not tucked/quished into my Hat.

I was talking with some Pilgrims today about the unique experience of seeing the town or city you/I plan to stay in, and the LENGTH & TIME it takes to get INTO & THRU the City to the Old Medieval sections with the Cathedral or Church and the Albergues, Hostals, Pensiones. It can take 1-2-3 hours depending on the City.

In 2015, I used to think and say over and over, “Are we there yet?”
In 2016 & now -2017, I have a “sense” and “familiarity” of where I am and where I will stop, so there is a calmness in the “knowing” and it is more of “just a Walk” into the City. Albeit, after 14 miles my Legs & Hips might be wondering, “Are we there yet?”

At 10:30am, after 2.5 hours Walking alone…..
– I saw newly retired Virginia & Brian from Austin, Texas, walking into Santo Domingo.
– And there at the entrance to the Old Medieval area, I saw 25 year old Maddy from last night.

Maddy and I walked into the center of the Medieval area and we went into the iconic Cathedral of Santo Domingo together. As we were leaving up appeared Momie. She went to a GREAT Pilgrim Store -Planeta Agua, and bought GOOD Salomon Hiking Shoes, a Hat with better Sun coverage and a waist money/documents belt. 👍

At 11:30am I bid them both “Buen Camino” and I walked on to Grañon, while Maddy stopped at a Bar/Cafe for a Tortilla con Papas -Potato Omelette & Momie took a Taxi to let her feet heal from Blisters. I had 2 large Red Bell Peppers & an Apple to eat as I Walked.

All in all, I walked the 6 hours from Azofra to Grañon (past Santo Domingo) by myself, minus a few minutes with Virginia & Brian entering SD, and with Maddy & Momie while in SD.

In Grañon I met new Pilgrim friends…..
– Zbzeslaw -30 yrs: Poland
– Sara -30 yrs: Huntsville, Alabama
– José Manuel – 40 yrs: Spain
– Bernhard -70 yrs -Germany
– Felicia -40 yrs -Germany
In Grañon I got to see again ……
– Darlene from 4+ nights ago
– Momie from every day since #1
– Hannah: Denmark from days ago
– Jim -25 yrs London -2 nights ago
– Hank -18 yrs Netherlands -2 night
We are ALWAYS sooooooo HAPPY to re-see each other & check in on how we have been.

I am a very HAPPY Pilgrim!!

Day 12: 4/23/17-Sunday

Cities: “Grañon” to Redecilla Del Camino to Castillo Del Gando to Viloria de la Rioja to Villamayor Del Rio to Belorado to “Tosantos”
Los Arancones: Jessica/Carlos
Walked: 7:30am-1pm: 15 cafe
5.5 Hours & 14 Miles
-450’incline: Up/Down -Sunny
TOTAL Miles: 156

At 6am Momie, Maddy and I got up. We were in a sweet room with 2 BunkBeds, 4 beds, but only the 3 of us in the room. The rest of this sweet new Alberque in Grañon had 2 other rooms with 3 BunkBeds in them. Manu & Sara are the owners. They proudly told me about their own Camino experience. As soon as Momi and I walked in when it opened at 1:30pm, Sara said with pride, “I am a Pilgrim.” The Cost of our Bed was €10 euros. She offered us to choose if we wanted to have a Homemade Dinner for €7 euros and Breakfast for €3 euros. I told her I only eat Meat, Fruit, Vegetables; no Wheat or anything Milled, even if Gluten Free. Nor Wine, and not any Sweeteners; Sugar, Honey, etc. She told me the Menu and said I can have many Bowls of the Potato Vegetable Chorizo Soup & Salad and skip the Pasta, Bread & Wine.
The dinner was DELICIOUS and enjoyable to sit, eat and talk with 6 Pilgrims from 6 different countries.
– Francoise: France
– Peter: England
– Sara: Alabama
– Momie: Scotland
– Hellen: Australia
– Alex: Aussie
– Cathy: California
The languages we used were English and some Spanish. English is the most used language on the Camino by most nationalities.

I left a bit before 7:30am. Momi, Maddy and others were still readying to leave, while a few had already left.

Today was Sunday so NO Supermercados, Fruterías, Farmacias, Stores are open. But I did notice that as I walked through the 5 small Towns, a few Bars/Cafes were open to serve the Pilgrims Walking by.

As a Pilgrim was passing me, I asked him, “Where are you from?” He said, “Czech Republic.” I said, “My name is -Seitchik.” He looked at me inquisitively and then he re-said it with his Czech pronunciation. I smiled and said, “Yes!” I said, “My great grandparents are from this area.” He said, “No English.” I asked, “Español?” He shook his head, “No.” I smiled and said, “Okay, Buen Camino,” and he walked ahead.

At 10:30am as I was Walking into Belorado, where David and I stayed the last 2 years I saw 2 German Pilgrim friends (40 & 70 yrs old) taking a rest on a stomp, with a bit of a snack. They were friends I met yesterday.

Then as I was entering the 1st Belorado Alberque, I saw retired Jeff from yesterday. We chatted for awhile. I told him I was there to say HOLA to Pilar, the woman that helped us in 2015 & 2016. I had another Card to give her, to invite her to visit us in the United States. Since I was early, Pilar wasn’t at work yet. I left the card and a note saying, “I will be back next year.”

Jeff and I walked to Tosantos, the next town, together. It made the last 2 hours go SO fast!!

I couldn’t find the Alberque. A 4 foot high grandmother came out of her house and showed me where it was. I find the elderly locals very caring and helpful to Pilgrims.

After walking 5.5 hours, at 1pm I walked into my nice small Albergue; 1 room with 8 Bunkbeds.
Bathrooms and a Cafe/Bar for Locals and Pilgrims & 2 beautiful Gardens with Tables, Chairs & Umbrellas for shade.
– Sue from Taiwan
– 6; 20-60 yr olds from Korea
– Bernhard & Felicia from yesterday
– Francoise from last night
– Scottish 30 year old
– My developing Camino Family;
Momie, Helen, Alex, Maddy

Plus, visiting from the Municipal Albergue: Leticia & Marcio from Brazil.

Maddy, Momie and I walked up to a Medieval Hermitage built into the mountain. Each Camino, I experience new and interesting things.

The Alberque owners are a couple in their early 40s and just adorable!! They started the Albergue 2 years ago. They are soooooo attentive and sweet!! They made is a DELICIOUS dinner with……
– BOTTLES of Wine & Water.
-Soup or Salad
-Chicken or Pork or Meatballs
with Salad & French Fries
-Yogurt or Flan or Chocolate Puddin
-Coffee – Tea – Liquor

We were 13 eating together! Talking together, sharing Camino plans and experiences together. My love of Koreans, Germans, Australians, etc GROWS every Camino. At dinner there were people from ….
– 5 Korea, 3 Germany, 2 Scotland, 1 U.S., 1 Franch, 2 Australia.

I am definitely in my HAPPY place.

Continue to Days 13 – 23, Tosantos to León.

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About Cathy

I met Cathy in spring 2015 when I first started learning about the Camino de Santiago. She is truly passionate about it and loves to share tips and advice. Her detailed posts on her Facebook timeline showed a glimpse of what pilgrim life really entails—from camaraderie to injuries. I had the opportunity to interview her on a hike in Santa Cruz (see Pilgrim Interview: Cathy Seitchik Diaz.) In November 2015, Cathy and David came up to Oakland for a NorCal Chapter event, A Walk in the Redwoods. In January 2016, she and I organized the Santa Cruz Coastal Hike. She even wrote a guest post, Walking the Camino as a Couple for the February “Camino Love” feature. Needless to say, Cathy is a great peregrina (female pilgrim) friend and a trusted source of pilgrim knowledge. Since she is the official route reporter for Camino Francés 2017, her updates will be documented here for you to enjoy as well as to refer to when getting ready for your own Camino.

Cathy was interviewed on the Camino Podcast for the series about Camino Francés. You can listen to Episode 15 below. In this episode, conversations center on the first six stages of Camino Francés. The episode starts with Cathy Diaz reflecting on the first part of her pilgrimage—St. Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona/Cizur Menor. Rebecca Gallo picks it up from there and talks about the stretch leading to Los Arcos.