Friday Faves: Camino blogs by Pauline & Pablo

Happy (almost) 4th of July! I skipped last week so today’s Friday Favorites highlights Camino bloggers Pauline of Pauline Flew Away and Pablo of Set Meravelles.

While Pauline’s incredible journey through Spain ends soon, her entertaining stories of the Camino endure. I love  her ability to make friends quickly and express the Camino Camaraderie as evidenced in  Not Ours to Keep.

Barcelona, Mexico, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and USA!

Barcelona, Mexico, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and USA!

“I’ve spent the last three weeks of the Camino being an adopted daughter to a retired Swiss man, who never had a child of his own, and confiding in a new big sister, an Australian yogi who sold all her things to travel the world. These were just two, among the many incredible people, who touched my life during the Camino, and for whom I will forever be grateful for.”

I was a little worried about her choices when I read On Getting into Cars with Strangers, which was quite hilarious!

My “please dont kill me” smile

“Now, I may get into cars with strangers, but I’m not about to hop into the back of a freezer truck, which conveniently was soundproof and locked from the outside.

I stood my ground and asked him to retrieve my backpack for me, because I was too tired for this man’s bullshit. And, I really don’t have the time to be kidnapped.”

Perhaps the most telling of Pauline’s bubbly personality is the guest post by her brother’s girlfriend. In her words: “She’s an energetic, ambitious superhuman and I’m here to tell you about the Pauline Travel Experience.”
This is a great read: Guest Post: The Pauline Travel Experience by Jessica C.

Pauline is feisty, fearless and fabulous!  I look forward to seeing where her adventures take her next.

Which Way?

Which Way?

I am so glad Pablo over at Set Meravelles got his Camino mojo back! I stumbled upon this post, Camino de Santiago Etapa 9. Bilbao-Ortuella, where he talks about leaving Bilbao after two years to continue his Camino.

Pablo has been to almost every province in Spain. Sometimes he posts about previous trips like Cádiz and some relaxing Sherry for not such a high tarifa, which brought back memories of a trip we took in 2008. Not only does he write about the nitty gritty details of backpack travel, he includes lots of interesting facts and historical background as well.

I appreciate that he takes time to translate into Spanish, such as his latest post Oñati.

“This weekend, I took a break from the Camino de Santiago to work on my Basque Bucket List. I was itching to explore a new town without having to worry about time and how much walking I could get in.

Este fin de semana, he descansado del Camino de Santiago para tachar cosas de mi Bucket List de euskadi. Quería explorar un pueblo sin preocuparme de cuanto tiempo iba a tardar a caminar hasta el próximo pueblo.”

¡Qué bueno! These translations help me brush up on my own Spanish skills, which unfortunately are rusty from lack of use.

He is a big fan of Austin Powers, so if you see Pablo in the Basque region or somewhere else in Spain, say “yeah, baby, yeah!”

If you have a Camino blog that you’d like to have featured on The Camino Provides, email me at

Planning Part 5: Hospitaleros, Volunteers of the Camino

Hospitaleros: Welcoming Pilgrims on the Camino

Learning about the customs of the Camino will allow you to enrich your journey. One that is particularly fascinating is that of the hospitaleros, or volunteers of the Camino. Generally speaking, those responsible for albergues look for volunteers who have walked the Camino and who have taken a hospitalero training course.  Their most important duty is to serve as host to a steady stream of pilgrims.1 Most speak Spanish and multiple languages and can answer questions about the region or route ahead. Most are trained in first aid or know where to get emergency medical care. The common thread that these hospitaleros share is their gratitude for the Camino experience and their desire to give back by serving as a volunteer.

Americans Pilgrims on the Camino Hospitalero logoAccording to the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) website, “Those who have gone on from walking the Camino to serving as hospitaleros say that this experience is in every sense a Camino of its own…. Many walkers on the Camino carry a strong sense of being part of a stream, a stream of humanity or even a flow of history, moving ever westward. As an hospitalero you become a rock in that stream. The rock stays in place and a drop of water hesitates briefly and then moves on, leaving the rock to interact with the next drop and the next and the next. You provide the resting place where fellow pilgrims can stop and renew themselves in body, mind and spirit.”

The requirements and training info are listed on the APOC Hospitalero page.

During the research for my essay, I was fortunate to be able to attend a Blessing of the Pilgrims Ceremony for Northern Californians who are planning to walk the Camino this year. I didn’t know what to expect because I thought I would be the only newbie there. I also thought it would be overly religious as it was held at a church community space. To my surprise, there were many of us Camino “virgins” there and it was an open and lively atmosphere.  The variety of dishes in the potluck brunch was outstanding and everything was delicious. Wine, of course, helped break the ice and there was plenty of it.  I got a big dose of hospitalero hospitality that day, and I loved it. Everyone really made me feel welcome. Below are photos from the gathering.

Blessing of the Pilgrims Ceremony

Northern California Chapter’s 4th Annual Pilgrim’s Blessing and Potluck in Pleasant Hill, CA on March 28, 2015

We were welcomed by friendly greeters who gave nametags, blank for newbies and with arrow symbols for those who had already walked the Camino. They encouraged me to ask any questions of these arrow-badged people, so I did. I met a few pilgrims who are passionate about the Camino and decided to serve as hospitaleros. One of them is a woman who arrived in Spain without a map and forgot her pin number on her ATM card so she couldn’t get cash for a few days. She lived off the kindness of strangers, as pilgrims have done through the centuries. This year she attended a hospitalero training and returned to Spain to volunteer at the albergue that provided her with free shelter in her time of need.

After lunch, there were presentations and Q & A's about the Camino

After a delicious lunch, there were presentations, stories, songs and Q & As about the Camino

Another woman I met is a high school Spanish teacher who embodies the spirit of hospitality in her life. She didn’t pre-arrange her hospitalero experience—she just walked until she found a place that was willing to let her stay and volunteer. Although she is fluent in Spanish, she learned a few phrases in French, German and Italian, such as “Boots go here. Backpacks go there. Here are the showers. Lights out at 10.”

These stories and the many more that I’ve heard since then are inspiring to me. In the spirit of the hospitaleros, I am already thinking of ways that I can give back while I am on my Camino, such as offering evening yoga sessions and morning Sun Salutations to fellow pilgrims. I believe that a good stretch will keep joints and muscles in good shape for all that walking.  So yes, the Camino provides, but it takes many dedicated volunteers to do so. Gracias hospitaleros!

Peregrinos, what was your experience with hospitaleros?  Digame in the comments below.

PS. Here are two videos that highlight the Hospitalero experience:
El CAMINO DE SANTIAGO “Hospitaleros Welcome” (in Spanish with English Subtitles, 10 min.)

Hospitaleros (in Spanish, 24 min.)

If you know of other hospitalero videos or resources that should be included on The Camino Provides, please email me at

Up next, training and packing for the Camino – Part 6 of this series.


Hospitaleros American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC).

100 Spanish Photos Blog

“there’s the wine – delicious, cheap, and omnipresent”

Happy Friday everyone! I found a great blog that is incredibly fun to follow for us Caminoholics.  Writer Xina Marie Uhl just returned from her Camino in May and is now going through her photos and releasing them on her blog Journey Taker: travel and writing.

When I browse through her 100 Spanish Photos (currently there are 61), I feel like I’m walking the Camino with her, but without the blisters or sore knees. One of my favorite posts is about the free wine fountains that I’ve heard about and cannot wait to try! In her words:

“What can you expect food-wise while walking the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain? Well, first there’s the wine – delicious, cheap, and omnipresent. In fact, there’s even a free wine fountain at the Monasterio de Irache. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment. FREE WINE ON THE CAMINO. It also includes a webcam so that you can tell your friends to look at you drinking free wine in Spain. You know, if you are mean like that.”

wine fountainfrom Food for the Soul – 35-41/100 Camino Photos  by

Planning Part 4: Camino history and symbolism

Camino history and symbolism

pilgrims-shellAs I mentioned in part 1 of this series, the Camino isn’t just for devout Catholics. The pilgrimage has been embarked on by followers of other religions, spirituality seekers, atheists and adventurers alike — and in recent years has attracted up to 275,000 people annually.  Whatever your background or type of spirituality you practice, I believe it is good to know a little about the history of a place to  understand its significance. In this post, I continue to share my research, along with some personal observations. I welcome your comments in the form below.

After you decide what route and when to take your journey, you will want to learn about the Camino symbolism and history. Of historic and practical significance is the scallop shell, which symbolizes the spirit of St. James. Saint James the Great was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles and was given the mission to spread the gospel of Jesus. He made a pilgrimage to Spain to spread the word. St James returned to Judea, where he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I (10 BC – 44 AD) in the year 44. 1
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Planning Part 3: Route Stage and Season

Choose your route stage and time of year

Once you have decided which route to take, you can choose what stage to begin on the selected route based on your fitness level and the amount of time you have.  There are 31 stages on the Camino Frances from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago. The first few stages cross the Pyrenees Mountains, with a steep and treacherous climb, starting from at 594 feet elevation in St. Jean to a peak of 4,719 feet at Collado de Lepoeder. 1 You may decide to tackle this rugged terrain for a week, then take a relaxing break in the seaside resort of San Sebastián. Perhaps you will skip the challenging crossing of the Pyrenees completely and begin the Camino Francés in Pamplona at Stage 4. There are as many unique itineraries as there are pilgrims, and the length and pace are up to each individual. If you rush through the journey on a tight timetable, you might miss some of the scenic beauty that northern Spain offers, or end the journey without time to contemplate your personal reasons for doing such a pilgrimage. Continue reading

Planning Part 2: Camino Routes

Planning your Camino route

The first step in the planning process is deciding where to go. Of the many different route options, which route will you take?  This map illustrates the 12 main waymarked routes, some of which are described in detail on my Route Reports page.

Camino Routes
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Why “The Camino Provides”

The Camino provides arrows to point you in the right direction

The Camino provides arrows to point you in the right direction

Why did I choose to name this blog The Camino Provides?

I have found in my research that all sources agree, the Camino provides everything that you could possibly need while on your pilgrimage. Whether you need solitude or friendship, water or wine, band-aids or backpacks, you can find it all on the Camino. In fact, there are many pharmacies,  accommodations and stores stocked with provisions along the different routes. Many rookies think they need to pack emergency items, but experienced pilgrims tell them “relax, the Camino will provide.”

The Camino also provides life changing transformations for many. Just take a look at what these pilgrims have to say about what the Camino provided for them. If you’d like to contribute your story, use the form below or email me with your text and photos.

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Hola mundo

Hello world.  This is a blog about something I am passionate about: the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain. While I haven’t walked it yet, there is a strong Camino calling in me that I have to answer to. I am currently in the research phase: exploring route options, meeting pilgrims at events, following Camino adventures on Facebook, attending talks, book signings and film screenings. As it turns out, there is a wealth of Camino information on the web, at my local library, and to my surprise, among my own network of friends.

During this early phase of my Camino journey, I’ll be posting what I learn about the Camino. I will share recommended readings, films, personal essays, links to useful videos, and highlights of Bay Area Pilgrim events. I’ve also added pilgrim interviews about what “the Camino provides,” which is a popular phrase.  Eventually when I walk the Camino, I will use this blog to post my daily travel journal.

A pilgrimage of this magnitude doesn’t start when one takes their first step on terra firma in Spain. The journey begins when the dream that has been seeded starts to grow and can no longer be ignored. I am just following my bliss. I look forward to sharing my Camino with you, and hearing about your bliss.

I Love Espana