Walking the Camino—Part One

Alternate Route from Saint Jean Pied de Port

There are two main routes leading from St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, the popular first day’s walk. Because of rain and overcast weather, we chose the easier route that goes by Valcarlos—a lovely town with several good accommodation options. We stayed the night to give us an easier and shorter first day on the Camino.

Basque Farmhouse in Navarre, Spain

The main Route de Napoleon is recommended as the most scenic route, which offers fantastic views on a clear day. Since the weather was overcast with very little visability, we were not disappointed with the quiet walk and beautiful farmlands along our trail. Although we walked on some roads for part of the day, they were minor farm roads with hardly any traffic. We also had some pleasant paths that led us through small verdant valleys and up gentle hills.

Heading up the trail to Valcarlos

We had a pleasant 6 mile walk for our first day on the Camino. This gave us time for a leisurely lunch in town and an opportunity to shop a bit for snacks.

A 20 minute walk on the highway

We left very early the next day so that we could avoid traffic on the main road out of Valcarlos. We had read that this was a dangerous part of the Camino. However, we only spent 20 minutes on this road and there was little traffic that morning. The drivers were very kind and gave us plenty of room, too.

Returning to the main route

It didn’t take long to get back onto a pleasant trail that led us up into the Pyrenees to join the more popular route into Roncesvalles. This is a popular stopping point for many pilgrims because it has a large hostel. It also has a few nice options for a lunch stop.

Roncesvalles Hostel

The food along the Camino was always good and the prices were great. Most restaurants offer a Pilgrim’s plate at a special price. We especially enjoyed the tapas, called pinxtos in Northern Spain. Since dinner time is usually much later in Spain, we opted for the pinxtos, which were available for lunches and early evening “happy hour” times.

Church in Auriz

After a fun lunch in town, we were able to go beyond Roncesvalles to the town of Espinal—a comfortable 9.5 mile walk. Since the town is very small, we were glad that our hotel provided dinner. Be sure to consult your Camino Guidebook before choosing a town to stay in. Many of the towns along the route are so small that you may not even find a grocery store. However, most towns have a few restaurants that cater to us pilgrims.

 

 

About msraaka

I am an artist, writer and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there and other countries in Europe. We love to travel, but especially to stay in one area and get a better sense of place. I love learning languages, so I continue to study Italian, French and Spanish so I can communicate a bit more with the locals. Even learning the basic greetings can make a big difference.
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4 Responses to Walking the Camino—Part One

  1. Sheila says:

    Love this Martie, your pictures are great, I’m super impressed. My grandson and his Dad did the entire 500 miles 3 years ago (piqued my interest not the 500 part). They were sweltering in parts as it was summer…..

  2. Sandy Evans says:

    Hi msraaka!

    I am reading our blog(s) about Walking the Camino. Love the story and love the photos! I have a question about something you wrote….just need clarification….

    “We left very early the next day so that we could avoid traffic on the main road out of Valcarlos. We had read that this was a dangerous part of the Camino. However, we only spent 20 minutes on this road and there was little traffic that morning. The drivers were very kind and gave us plenty of room, too.”

    To what are your referring that you heard was dangerous? The traffic, or crime, or…? Sounds like it may have been the traffic due to blind spots on curved roads? Or too much traffic? Very curious.

    Thanks,

    Sandy Evans 🙂

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • msraaka says:

      The concern was walking on a main road with traffic. However, in the early morning, it was quite calm. We never heard of any crimes on the Camino. It always felt very safe—even in the large city of Palermo.

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