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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Has anyone here done the pilgrimage in whole or in part?

Specifically I am speaking of the route from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Would love to hear your experiences.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I would love to hear all about your pilgrimage Yally, as I imagine many others would as well. I've often thought we should have a travel sub-forum on VB for people to share all of the interesting places they've visited, give advice to those who are setting out on their own trips, what to expect, where to stay, how to do it on a budget, etc. I guess my first question is: did you walk the Camino as a veg*n and was it difficult to find food?
 

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Sorry to take so long to reply! The camino was one of the best things I've ever done in my life and I feel like I have a lot to say about it, but I can never remember what it all is! There's something really wonderful about just having to worry about walking to your next bed and how to fuel that walk. You'll meet tons of interesting people, see so much of the Spanish countryside, some of it is like going back in time the places are so rural. Eagles flying over medieval towns, brilliant.

So when I went I was a new vegetarian, but I still ate dairy and eggs. I pretty much lived on cheese and bread (Spanish bread is terrible by the way, I've just got back from Madrid and it's still really the worst bread ever), cola caos and maxibons (hot chocolate and ice cream basically). But most albergues have cooking facilities so you should be ok. Plenty of shops around so you can get hold of pasta, veg etc. in every new place, as long as you remember the shops close at weird times (they're usually closed at lunchtime and unlikely to be open on a Sunday). Lots of restaurants along the way too, be careful to be really specific about what you don't eat. Everyone has heard the stories about going to a place and asking for no meat and being given something with meat floating around because a little bit doesn't count. Those are true stories.

As long as you're ok accepting Catholic hospitality and happy to sleep in a dorm of 10-50 people, doing it on a budget is easy. Albergues (hostels) are heavily subsidized so you shouldn't be paying more than 3-10 euro a night, some of them are even free. They vary massively in quality and this rarely reflected in the price, some of the best ones were the free ones. They don't all have hot showers and some are just mattresses on a floor, others are pretty swanky. They're the best place to meet people. A few are ran by awesome guitar playing nuns. When you arrive you'll need to get your credencial del peregrino, which you'll present at every albergue for a stamp. You need it to get into the albergues, but it makes a great souvenir too and it shows all the distances between towns along the way. I would recommend saving some money to stay in private hostels once you get to Galicia. This was by far my favourite part of the route, it was green, wet mountains, so earthy and beautiful, a great change after the monotonous desert of Castilla and Lyon BUT the albergues are TERRIBLE. They're cold, they have bed bugs, the bunk beds have creepy ghost children grafitti in them, the showers are cold and I'm pretty sure I stayed in one where there were no doors on the showers in unisex bathrooms.

Pack as light as you can, you need to carry your stuff for miles a day, most people end up dumping so much stuff along the way because they can't carry it. But make sure you bring decent waterproofs. Wear decent shoes. I managed to sprain my foot on a rock on one of the first days because my shoes weren't sturdy enough and I'd start everyday limping painfully for an hour or so every morning. I ended up buying new shoes en route. I would recommend starting out early, around 5, no later than 6, for one it gets way too hot to walk come afternoon and also it's a busy time when the albergues fill up early. You want to arrive in time to find a bed for the night! The only exception is if you want to visit the wine fountain (a fountain with free wine!), I missed out on this because it doesn't open til 8 or 9am


Don't worry about getting lost, there are yellow arrows along the entire camino, when I got home I felt lost without the arrows to follow.

Expect to meet a lot of French people who will speak French at you. The greeting to fellow pilgrims is 'buen camino!'

Ummm...that is about as much as I can babble out right now, any questions, do ask
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yally, thank you so much for giving your personal account of the Camino!

From what I understand the Albergues are sometimes difficult but nonethless a necessary part of the walk if you want to do it properly, and I don't want to miss that. Do you think that 3000 dollars U.S. will be enough to complete the walk, not including airfare? If I fly into Paris, is there train service to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port if I want to take the route over the Pyrenees?

Thanks again,

Jim
 

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That sounds like plenty! I started in Pamplona, so I didn't cover as much ground as you're planning, but I got by on £600 (or less, I'm pretty sure that's an overestimate) for a month so you should be pretty comfortable with that much. I sublet my room during that time too so it really wasnt a big spend. The albergues (except the ones in Galicia
) really weren't so bad, a lot were pretty good. As long as you have ear plugs to block out any snorers. Not all of them have blankets though so I'd recommend taking a lightweight sleeping bag. I didn't, I only took one of those cotton bed liner type things and I was cold a lot of nights.

It looks like you get the train from Paris to Bayonne or Biarritz, then you can change for a train to Saint Jean
 

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That sounds wonderful. I have been thinking about going to South America. I made some feeble attempts to learn Spanish for my recent Puerto Rico trip with my family (brother's wedding). But I need to try harder to learn.....
 
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