We’re happy to say, hand on heart, that we have walked more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) from France across northern Spain—including some extra recommended side trips to see unique and fun things.
We took a couple of pictures on our first day and our last day, but Julie and I decided to not “curate” our Camino with photos or blog about our experiences. We would be very happy to personally share our adventure with you over a cup of coffee, glass of wine or beverage of your choice.
As we walked for 36 days, we were surprised and delighted over and over again. In fact, this was the highlight of the Camino: each day brought us something new and unexpected. We fell in love with Northern Spain: the landscape, the people living there, and the people walking on the Camino. A special shout out to Jason Erwin from Australia who walked many miles with us and became a very good friend.
In light of our 36 days on the road, we have decided to list 36 things that we will remember, treasure, and enjoy about our Camino de Santiago.
Glen and Julie’s Camino Surprise and Delights
- Walking. Believe it or not, the walking wasn’t laborious. We loved the daily routine of walking long distances. They say you can “walk yourself fit” on the Camino…it’s true.
- Talking. Chatting with interesting and wonderful people from all over the world, what’s not to love, right?
- Stopping. Each day we would walk for a few hours and then stop and get a cup of coffee at a small village café; walk a few hours more and stop for a beer with lemon…very civilized indeed.
- Sellos (Pilgrim Stamps). Pilgrims are required to collect these in a special pilgrim passport to mark your progress on the journey and receive a special certificate.
- Pilgrim Dinners. Three courses of home-cooked food and a bottle of wine for about $10.
- Storks. We were completely caught off guard by all of the storks and their huge nests.
- Poppies. Beautiful splashes of red in the green wheat fields.
- Crunching Gravel. The crunch of the gravel underneath our feet became a musical rhythm.
- Architecture. Roman, Medieval, Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, Neoclassical, modern… jaw dropping and amazing.
- Church Bells. The clocks of medieval life. They still ring out the hour; helpful and we didn’t wear a watch.
- Statues and Monuments. Reminders and tributes to others that have gone before us…some of them endured incredible things, some of them achieved incredible things.
- Vineyards. Small vineyards scattered throughout, producing great wine. We’ll struggle when we have to pay more than $4 a bottle when we return home.
- Roses. Roses are everywhere: wild, cultivated – in all colors. We stopped to smell them.
- Museums. Incredible works of art, yet often uncrowded. In Leon, they locked us inside their museum and let us wander around. We had it to ourselves.
- Hemingway. Earnest Hemingway lived in the Navarra area of Spain and wrote a number of his books in Pamplona’s famed Café Iruna. We ate there and stayed on the street where they run the bulls.
- Symbols. Ancient and mysterious symbols and figures carved into churches and stone monuments. Curious and enchanting.
- The Holy Grail. It’s in a monastery in Leon. Who knew? We saw it. Pretty cool.
- Fuentes. Fountains along the way with cold and safe water to drink. They are a real lifesaver. In one town, there was even a “wine fountain” connected to a winery.
- Crazy Legends. The cathedral in Santo Domingo de Calzada has live chickens kept inside. Ask us about the crazy story.
- Charming Hotels. Small hotels full of character with owners that go out of their way to be gracious and welcoming. We’d stay at these over a larger chain hotel any day.
- Cathedrals. Whether you’re religious or not, these are gothic wonders to behold…Burgos, Leon, Santiago. You should see them.
- Celtic Spain. Galicia is a region with bagpipes and Celtic customs. Eat the octopus (pulpo) when you are there…very delicious.
- Mountains. We began by hiking across the Pyrenees, but it seemed like we were surrounded by mountains most of the way to Santiago.
- Meseta. Dusty, dry, and fields of wheat for as far as your eye can see. Beautiful in their own way.
- Small Villages. Charming little farm villages spring up out of nowhere when you turn a corner of the trail.
- Breakfast. Coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, toast, meat, cheese, and more. Waking up hungry is a treat!
- Templars. The Templars were the builders of octagonal chapels, odd little churches, huge castles and the first international banking system.
- Trees. Olive, Cherry, Almond, Eucalyptus, and Poplar with white fuzzy pollen.
- Animals (all sorts). Trout swimming in the streams, snails and slugs on the trail; mice, horses, donkeys, cows, goat and sheep in the fields, and dogs and cats in the villages. We enjoyed all of the creatures.
- Town Squares. Sitting out in the town square in the evening…we watch families eat, socialize, children play…in one big community.
- Bird Song. We would often stand and watch the birds sing to one another. Little beaks fluttering and making amazing sounds.
- Local Foods. Each town seemed to have its’ own special dish of cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables…and we loved eating every yummy bit of it.
- Hawks. They look majestic as they swoop and soar high in the wind; looking for a small animal below. Circle of life.
- Sketching and Journaling. Every day, Julie journaled and I drew a sketch of something that caught our attention.
- Ancient Paths. Well worn, trod upon for nearly a thousand years. We added our footsteps too.
- Chacos. Julie stopped wearing her boots early on and switched to Chacos. Her feet felt better and she finished the rest of the walk in her sandles.
One extra for good measure:
- Saying Buen Camino. There’s a greeting that one peregrino (pilgrim) says to another, “Buen Camino!” We loved saying and it, and really loved getting it from the locals.
So, wherever you are on your life journey…Buen Camino!