Tag Archives: Accommodation

Vía de la Plata Albergues Quick Guide


Note: I updated this on June 22, 2011, after my own Vía de la Plata walk.

When I walked the Camino Francés, I got a list of albergues at the pilgrim office in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. It included basic information on the albergue facilities, and amenities in the town.

I had a guidebook as well, of course, but it was nice to have something to glance at quickly to figure out where I might stay that evening.

I couldn’t find anything like that on the Vía de la Plata, so I created one myself … and thought I would share it with you.

It’s based on information from Mundicamino, the Eroski Consumer site, the Camino Guide, and my own experiences. I also got some distances from the Godesalco Camino Planner. When two sites contradicted each other (and another didn’t weigh in), I put in a question mark, two numbers with a slash in between, or in the case of distance, a range.

It’s four pages, and includes the Vía de la Plata from Sevilla to Astorga, and the Camino Sanabrés from Graja de Moruela (soon after Zamora) to Santiago de Compostela.

Disclaimer

I’m sure this is nowhere near one hundred percent accurate, and it really shouldn’t be used without a guidebook—it doesn’t give any route instructions. Also, some of the albergueslisted may be closed—at least for part of the year.

I’d appreciate any updates you want to send me, but since I’m now back from the Vía de la Plata, it’s unlikely to stay completely up-to-date.

A Few Explanations

I suspect that often when there’s a question mark under “Heating,” the albergue in question has a very basic form of heating.

Under “Price,” “WB” means with breakfast and “HB” means half-board, (bed, breakfast and dinner).

“Hours” sometimes seems to represent the hours you can check in, and sometimes just the times when the albergue is open. I’m not sure of the difference myself.

“Reservations” means that reservations are accepted. It often means the accommodation isn’t solely for pilgrims.

Places with a restaurant or bar might not offer evening meals (since not all bars serve meals).

Stores may only have very sporadic opening hours—some are only available a few days a week—and bakeries may be located in grocery stores.

Internet isn’t widely available in albergues, but it’s often provided in libraries or other public buildings for very specific hours.

The Downloads (PDFs)

Vía de la Plata Albergues Quick Guide – Letter size

Vía de la Plata Albergues Quick Guide – A4 size


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 1:19 pm
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This Week in Pilgrimage: New Albergues and More


[View from a Bar in Finisterre]

Photo of the Week
View from a bar in Finisterre, after my braver companions went swimming in the November-cold water.
Submit your photo for Photo of the Week.

The usual disclaimer: I’ve done the best I can to ensure accuracy, but a lot of this information comes from Spanish sites and my Spanish is, alas, far from perfect. This week, some information also comes from Italian and Norwegian sites, where I’ve had to rely completely on Google Translate.

As usual, get in touch if I’ve missed anything. Or for any other reason, really. I’d love to hear from you!

Camino Bits and Pieces

  • Puente Castro, a suburb of León, just opened a welcome and interpretive centre for pilgrims: El Museo de las Tres Culturas (The Museum of Three Cultures). The centre focuses on local history: Roman, Christian, and especially Jewish. Located in the Church of San Pedro, it’s described as a place for pilgrims to get information before entering León, rest and learn. The centre is currently hosting an exhibition called (in English) “One Camino, Three Cultures: The Puzzle of History in León.”
  • This information is from a week ago, so the situation I’m about to describe may have cleared up by now. If I understand this correctly, last year a disturbed Slovenian pilgrim tried to kill Tomás of Manjarin’s dogs. This same man reappeared last week on the Camino. He’s about 30 years old, has blond hair (possibly with brown highlights—I don’t understand that part) and has a blue backpack. Tomás wants anyone who sees the man to call him (Tomás) on his cell phone: 609 938 642.
  • Camino associations responsible for the Camino de Levante (southeast variant) want to make the route into a GR path. (The GR routes are seriously long-distance European footpaths.) They figure this would enhance the route, which would become the GR-239, and make it better known to hikers. It also seems that the route would become better way marked as a GR route.
  • According to a Diario de León article, representatives of pilgrim associations in Spain are afraid that in the last few years the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela has become increasingly about travelling the last 100 kilometres. The Burgos association says this trend (which isn’t general yet) “doesn’t fit with the spirit of the route.” The average distance walked by pilgrims dropped from 444 kilometres in 2008 to 435 kilometres in 2009 and 422 kilometres (the lowest of the decade) in 2010. I believe this is part of a continuing disagreement between the pilgrim associations and governments the associations say are trying to turn the Camino into a tourist fad, but I have an incomplete grasp of the Spanish language, and no grasp at all of Spanish politics, so please don’t quote me on that.
  • The Camino Mozárabe, which begins in Granada (or Málaga) and ends in Mérida, where it meets up with the Vía de la Plata, was recently promoted at the Feria Internacional de Turismo Madrid (International Tourism Fair of Madrid) in a presentation that aimed to promote rural tourism. I’m not entirely sure what this means for the route, except that it may well get more popular—and, we can only hope, develop some albergues.
  • A new albergue is due to open this summer in Medina de Rioseco, north of Valladolid on the Camino de Madrid. The Convent of Santa Clara, located at the pilgrim entrance to the town, is currently converting one of its buildings into an albergue that will hold 18 pilgrims. (Via Rebekah Scott.)
  • The city council of Otero de Bodas is turning an old forge into a small albergue with room for two pilgrims. The nearby Camino Sanabrés (from Zamora to Santiago) doesn’t actually pass through Otero de Bodas, but town councillor David Ferrero Rodríguez said pilgrims, particularly cyclists, often pass through when they follow Highway 631—and the town could eventually be on an alternative Camino route. The renovations should be completed by the end of January.
  • In airport news, EasyJet has just joined RyanAir in offering international flights to and from the Santiago airport. It now has flights between Santiago and Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Representatives of the Xunta de Galicia met recently with the mayor of Le Puy-en-Velay. They decided to work together to create a network of the regions that the Camino de Santiago passes through, “in order to maintain a common tourism policy and to organize a coherent proposal from the two points of the Camino.” I don’t actually know what this means. I suspect I wouldn’t really understand it if it were originally in English—sounds like opaque government-speak to me.
  • Santiago, Spain and Tanabe, Japan are making a joint effort to promote their respective tourist routes: the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and the Japanese Kumano Kodo, both World Heritage Sites. The website www.Spiritual-Pilgrimages.net, which has pretty pictures but not a lot of useful content, is part of the effort.
  • Pablo Mosquera-Costoya, a Camino pilgrim and mixologist from A Coruña, developed a new cocktail in honour of the Holy Year. You can read the story—and get the recipe—on the Savoir Faire website. (Via Sil.)
  • The library in the new City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela has just begun a series of sessions “that is presented as a dialogue between literature and the fine arts.” Each of the twelve sessions will be about a single author—nine from Galicia, and three “guests.” Each will open with a talk about the author by an expert, followed by “a performance related to the spirit of the author being honoured,” and appetizers. This free series started on January 15, and will run until June 25.
  • The Camino Documentary recently shared a video clip that has various experts talking about medieval pilgrim motivations.

Other Pilgrimage Routes

  • Caravaca de la Cruz, which is a Holy City because it has the Vera Cruz or True Cross (which apparently contains wood from Jesus’s cross), hopes to become a “centre of pilgrimage in southern Spain.” Walking-wise, nine (or five, or eight, or ten—there doesn’t seem to be any clear agreement) routes collectively called the Caminos de la Vera Cruz lead to the city.
  • The Cammina Francigena organization (which seems to be related to the Slow Movement), has mapped out accommodations on the Via Francigena along a GPS route. (Via Sylvia Nilsen.)
  • A wreath was placed (I’m not sure by whom) on Archbishop Øystein Erlendsson’s statue at the Nidaros cathedral on Wednesday to mark the 850th anniversary of his return home to Nidaros (now Trondheim) to become archbishop. Erlendsson was the architect who designed the Nidaros cathedral, where pilgrims go to visit Saint Olav’s shrine. According to the article, “he was the most significant archbishop in the Middle Ages and was held to be a saint after his death (January 26, 1188).”

Pilgrim Roads

I spoke with pilgrim author Brandon Wilson earlier this week about the Templar Trail to Jerusalem, and will be posting an audio interview and article based on that conversation next week.

Also, Ian Brodrick recently traversed the Saint Bernard Pass (on the Via Francigena), and will be reporting on the pass in winter. It sounds like it’s not a journey for the inexperienced.

Have a great weekend!


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 12:09 pm
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Gîtes d’étapes: Budget Accommodation on the Chemin du Puy


[A gîte d'étape]

A bed in a gîte communal in a historic building in Saint Côme d'Olt . (There were other beds in the room.)

Gîtes d’étapes in France are hostels for hikers or walkers. I’m writing about the ones along the Chemin du Puy (GR-65) because those are the ones I’m familiar with. I’d imagine the gîtes on other routes are relatively similar.

If you’re used to Camino albergues in Spain, you’ll find gîtes downright luxurious. If you’re used to five-star hotels … gîtes are a few steps down from that. They always have dorm rooms, and some have private rooms at a higher cost.

Gîtes vary quite widely. Some have bunk beds for dozens of people in a single dorm (although in my experience this was the exception rather than the rule), while others have four—or occasionally even two!—single beds. Most have kitchens you can use, and some provide meals. When I was there in 2008, they generally cost 7 to 15 € per person per night.

They all (in my experience) provide blankets, but they don’t have top sheets, so if you don’t have a sleeping bag, you’ll at least need a sleeping bag liner. Also, if you’re travelling in colder weather, you’ll probably want a sleeping bag because there might not be enough blankets to keep you warm.

There are gîtes at regular intervals along the Chemin du Puy. The only problem with the spacing is that sometimes you have to choose between walking around 15 kilometres and walking 25 or more kilometres. And if you’re not in great shape to start out with, 25 kilometres feels like a seriously long way when you have to traverse steep slopes.

Unlike most albergues in Spain, you don’t have to leave French gîtes by 8 a.m. or so. If there is a check-out deadline, it’s around 10 a.m. or later. Most people seemed to leave around 8 a.m. anyway, though, at least in fall when I was walking.

When I walked the Chemin du Puy two years ago, few gîtes had Internet access. In cities, you can always find Internet cafés, although they may not be close by. In Conques, the tourist information office has a few Internet stations. In smaller places, you’re probably out of luck if you want to get on-line.

There are two main types of gîtes: municipal (gîtes communaux—singular: communal) and private (gîtes privés).

[Laundry outside a gîte d'étape]

My laundry hanging outside the same gîte pictured above, in Saint Côme d'Olt.

Municipal Gîtes

Municipal gîtes are generally cheaper than their private counterparts. They tend to be—but aren’t necessarily—more bare-bones than the private gîtes. Some are in gorgeous historic buildings, while others are more basic.

Often you can let yourself in, and a local person stops by to collect your money, although occasionally you have to find someone to let you in.

Municipal gîtes don’t usually offer food, although some in villages without grocery stores have a small selection of food you can purchase.

Private Gîtes

These are usually more expensive, and tend to feel a little more luxurious. All the ones I stayed in were in nice buildings.

[A private gîte]

A dorm room in a private gîte, the Gîte Dubarry, on a farm between Nogaro and Aire-sur-L'Adour. The building wasn't much to look at from the outside, but the owners were restoring it beautifully inside, with carvings and stained glass. I fell completely in love with it.

Usually the hospitalier(e) (I don’t think there’s an exact English equivalent for this—it literally seems to mean the person who offers you hospitality, like hospitalero/a in Spanish) lives in the building. They almost always offer food: breakfast and a multi-course dinner. Demi-pension, or half-board, includes both meals and a bed. When I was on the Chemin two years ago, this cost around 30 €.

In my experience, breakfast was pretty bare-bones, with coffee and tea, white bread, butter, a variety of jams, and sometimes yogurt. Sometimes the hospitalier(e) left it out, so you could serve yourself when you woke up. I thought dinner was always wonderful—though some (non-French) walkers complained about it being too rich.

I stayed at a few places where the hospitalier(e)s were really devoted to the Chemin/Camino, with Camino books and pictures or statues of Saint James. In two cases, they even had a little pilgrim talk/service, which I couldn’t really understand because my French isn’t that good.

Gîtes are great places to meet other walkers, and in some cases, local people.

The best source of up-to-date information about gîtes and other accommodation on the Chemin du Puy and some other routes are the Miam Miam Dodo guidebooks. The books on the routes from Le Puy and Arles are available from the Confraternity of Saint James bookshop, under “Books from Other Publishers.”


Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 10:55 am
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