Camino de Santiago Archives | Caitlin Brehm
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Camino de Santiago

Start of the Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago Day Zero: Getting to Roncesvalles

Start of the Camino de Santiago

I’ve been doing a lot of wanderlusting lately. My life this past year and half has been an adventure. We packed up our life in Chicago and shipped it off in a PODS unit to Portland, Oregon (where I had never been before) save for our backpacks filled with a minimal amount of items to get us through the next month in Spain on the Camino de Santiago.

I wrote some blog posts leading up to our trip, a couple during the trip, and a handful more after returning to the States. But since Alex proposed to me at the end of the Camino de Santiago, so began the flurry of wedding planning and settling into our new life in Portland, so for the next year-plus of my life, I was consumed with wedding planning, unpacking, and finding my place in my new home.

But I’m starting to feel that pull for adventure again. The Camino de Santiago was one of the most amazing experiences of my life (heck, I even got a tattoo to commemorate the trip), and yet my blog is strangely lacking in detail of this amazing journey. So, over a year and a half later, I’m going to pick back up this story and fill in the details.READ MORE

Arriving in Santiago and Saying Yes

We had stopped short the day before, just 10km from the final destination. We could have pushed on, but we wanted to slow down after what felt like racing the hordes of tourists each day who started at the 100km mark, the bare minimum, for the sake of receiving the Compostella. We wanted to savor another beer together, a final Menú Peregrino, the last steps as a group so that although we began this journey as complete strangers, we would be arriving in Santiago together with a friendship that dug deeper (in only a month) than any of us could have imagined.READ MORE

The Last 100Km

There are few rules when it comes to walking the Camino de Santiago. You can walk it, you can run it, you can bike it, and you can even ride a horse. You can stay in a fancy hotel one night if you get sick of the albergues. You can start your walk from San Jean Pied de Port, you can start from Russia, or you can do small weekend trips to do pieces at a time. You can do it alone at your own pace or organize a group and have a structured plan. You can walk the Camino Frances, the Camino del Norte, or the Camino Portugues. You can walk with a backpack, a stick, some hardcore hiking shoes, or you can wear a ball-gown and flip flops ( though I wouldn’t recommend it ).READ MORE

Cruz de Ferro

Camino de Santiago Cruz de Ferro

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile. It’s been three months since this day, since I began fabricating how I would describe it, how  I could possibly capture it all in words. Obviously the entire Camino is an experience that I think is beyond any possible explanation, but this day in particular is the one that stands out in my mind each time I think back with pangs in my heart I can only attribute as homesickness because this is the day I absolutely knew and felt throughout my entire being that the Camino had changed me.

We woke up early again, before the sunrise. There was a hint of light on the horizon, but otherwise we dressed and packed our belongings as shadows in the grey pre-dawn, careful not to wake the other pilgrims, envious as we were of their continued sleep. The morning air appeared in clouds of breath by our mouths and we shivered and waited outside the albergue for our friends to lace up their boots, grab their walking sticks, and shake on jackets meant for rain rather than cold. The first steps of the day were creaky and prickly as we let out gasps of routine pain while maneuvering around blisters new and calloused and struggled through sore muscles not yet affected by the morning’s ibuprofen breakfast.

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Vegetarian on the Camino de Santiago

Oh España, land of jamón ibérico (ham), morcilla (black blood pudding), pulpo (octopus), and chorizo (sausage). For us vegetarians, decoding the meat-centric menu can be a nightmare (especially if you don’t speak the language), and worrying about not having anything to eat on an exciting trip like the Camino (más pan por favor?) is the last thing any of us wants to worry about.

Our meat-eating friends will be dining on bocadillos (sandwiches) with freshly sliced meat, eating tapas without worrying about what that mysterious ingredient is, and the menu del día or pilgrim’s menu without having to figure out how to ask the restaurant owner (en Español) about substitutions and risk being the annoying tourist everyone hates. So now we ask ourselves the question we get asked all the time:

You’re a vegetarian in Spain, what the heck are you going to eat?

Oh dearest salad-loving friends, fear not, I know the answers to your leafy questions. Spain is a paradise of fresh meat for those who enjoy it, but it is also full of some UH-MAZING vegetarian options as well! The good news is, as the Camino de Santiago becomes more popular, so too do the number of vegetarian pilgrims who walk it. Many restaurant and albergue owners understand the needs of vegetarians and offer items or special menus if you just ask (keep in mind, sometimes fish is considered vegetarian, so if that’s not your style, make sure you say you don’t eat fish: no como pescado). Here’s what to ask for at restaurants + what you can look for in grocery stores/street vendors which will keep you full and energized on the Camino (yes, I also have a mother who constantly worries about protein deficiency, I know what’s up):

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Santa Clara

Camino de Santiago

During yesterday’s walk, just past the city of Sahagún, the Camino path splits in two directions, both about the same length, and meeting just one day later. Our group decided to split at this point, some of us going the older, “Roman” way, and my half going the “modern” way (though I’m not sure “modern” is the correct word).

Our way was lined with trees almost the entire stretch which provided a glorious shade we are barely treated to on the Meseta. Our final sleeping place that night was in the small town, Bercianos. After consulting the guidebooks, we determined that the town actually had two albergues, both donation-based, but one, Albergue Santa Clara, had only opened in 2011 (and therefore wasn’t in many of the guidebooks yet), so we figured it was probably nicer since it was newer. After walking through the entire town and only finding the other albergue (which didn’t open for another hour), we asked directions and were lead to a slightly shabby looking building with a small courtyard.READ MORE

Ana Maria

Camino de Santiago

I walked for a short stretch of the Camino with an Italian pilgrim lately. We spoke of religion and reasons why people decide to embark on the Camino, or what they hope to gain from it, and he said to me that if anything, the Camino has restored his faith in humanity. I could not agree more.READ MORE

The Scallop Shell

Scallop Shell Camino de Santiago

Camino Shell Camino de Santiago

You might see them painted on signs, hanging from pilgrims’ backpacks and walking sticks, or even carved into buildings as if they were adorning  giant sandcastles. The scallop shell has become a symbol of the Camino de Santiago and it’s impossible to walk The Way without seeing it.

The scallop shell was originally a symbol of our man, Saint James, who was a fisherman before he abandoned his life to become one of the twelve apostles. Legend has it that when his body was cast to sea after he was martyred, and the boat washed up on the shores of Galicia, a horse and rider went into the sea to retrieve him. When they emerged from the water, they were covered in scallop shells (there are several versions of this legend, but either way, someone is covered in scallop shells).READ MORE

Santo Domingo

Camino de Santiago

This morning the 5:20am alarm didn’t sound as harsh, our boots gave less resistance as we slipped them over our feet, and the first few steps from Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada came more easily because we knew that compared to yesterday’s dreadfully long walk, today would be nothing (20km vs 30km, or 12.5 miles vs 18).READ MORE