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2019 Camino Guides

Camino Francés again or del Norte?

Camino Yogini

Camino Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (Spring 2012); Norte Costa (Fall 2013); Del Ebro/Francés (Fall 2014); European Peace Walk (Spring 2016)
#1
Hi all,
I am blessed because I will be able to go on Camino again this fall. Last year at this time I was walking the Camino Francés. My question is about what route to take this time. I will start around September 26, to finish around November 6. I would prefer to go a couple of weeks earlier but can't because of work obligations.

I am pondering going from Irún to Santiago and continuing to Finisterre and possibly Muxia ( didn't have enough time to walk to Finisterre last year) or go on the same route as last year, again beginning at St Jean but finishing at Finisterre or Muxia.

My concern is I have heard that del Norte is more a trek and not as much a pilgrimage. I loved the community of other peregrinos, the magic, the miracles that happened on the Francés. Should I go and walk it again? If so, I will have expectations this time -- I can't see that I would be as open to whatever happens as I was the first time.

I would love to hear from those of you who have walked several Caminos. What were your expectations when you went again, and how did it all work out? (It obviously did since some if you have gone many, many times!)

Graciás y Buen Camino!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#2
Camino Yogini said:
...

I would love to hear from those of you who have walked several Caminos. What were your expectations when you went again, and how did it all work out? (It obviously did since some if you have gone many, many times!)

Graciás y Buen Camino!
Camino Yogini,

Be sure to check out these earlier Forum threads regarding pilgrims' varied expectations and the inevitable shock if and when impossible expectations meet camino realities

miscellaneous-topics/topic14403.html
and
miscellaneous-topics/topic14374.html

As for myself in 2004 I only hoped to endure. Successfully walking alone from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela despite age and difficulties proved that I could. Ever since each time I begin again I hope that I shall... "Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas/ the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing." Blaise Pascal, Les Pensées

Margaret Meredith
 
#3
Aren't you lucky to be able to return!

The fewer the expectations the beter. Do expect to walk, eat, wash your clothes and sleep. The rest is and remains a mystery and that is exactly what keeps me going back for more :) !

No matter if you return to do the same route, or step out into the complete unknown it will be different.

Enjoy the planning.
 

fraluchi

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
One every year since 2007
#4
Camino Yogini said:
I would love to hear from those of you who have walked several Caminos. What were your expectations when you went again, and how did it all work out? (It obviously did since some if you have gone many, many times!)
Apart from having walked various caminos to Santiago, we more often repeated the Francés in Spain. One cannot expect anything, except perhaps the cost for board and lodging. The Camino was always one year older, and so were we. Both with changes. The weather played its parts, though in Galicia it usually worked out being rainy. (which is not news :roll:)
We dropped "expectations" the second time walking. One "lives" the Camino, and as in life, there always are surprises, unforeseen circumstances. My wife calls it "playing by ear" :wink: We got addicted because of the many interesting people we met, some of them remain in touch with us. There were only positive surprises (except for the rain and mud). That's why we'll return :D
 

Camino Yogini

Camino Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (Spring 2012); Norte Costa (Fall 2013); Del Ebro/Francés (Fall 2014); European Peace Walk (Spring 2016)
#5
Thanks to everyone for your answers.

Thanks, Margaret, for these threads, especially the second one. I hadn't read them before. Such wonderfully articulate answers! Thanks also for the Pascal quote. I haven't heard it in a while and it so perfectly describes my Camino!

Thanks, LTfit. That was me last year -- I had no expectations and that was perfect. But now I expect the same perfection! I shouldn't limit myself that way. Perfection comes in many forms.

fraluchi, thank you for pointing out that we are different and the Camino will be different as well. Too true. It's like us never stepping into the same stream twice.

I am eased that I could walk the Francés again and not be disappointed. But there's my other question: I read somewhere (possibly on this forum) that the Norte is more like a hike and not as much a spiritual pilgrimage. Is that others' experience as well?

Ultreia!
Helen
 
Camino(s) past & future
.
#6
Camino Yogini said:
I read somewhere (possibly on this forum) that the Norte is more like a hike and not as much a spiritual pilgrimage. Is that others' experience as well?
Hmmm, I may be guilty of having said something along those lines.
It's a hard one. Certainly the Frances is unique. It's more self-consciously a pilgrimmage route with all the signs of spiritual presence - alongside all the trappings of those who exploit it for commercial purposes. And somehow it often seems to reflect the presence of those who wear their camino on their sleeves; making little shrines, writing poems and leaving messages on the paths - and graffiti.
But the Norte still has its own myths, heritage, churches, chapels, monasteries and albergues and many of the other characteristics of authentic pilgrimmage. It's just a bit of a double-edged sword - if the idea of the spectacular coast draws you to the Norte you have to accept that it also draws the rest of the world there and so provides the requisite opportunities for tourism, meaning its way can oft times seem over-laid, buried beneath all of that commercial endeavour.

So much depends on what you bring to your camino and what you decide to make of it. And I'd just want to stress one thing - for me an important element has so far been not knowing exactly where I'd be or what that situation would look like at the end of each day. And it's that uncertainty and need to trust in the camino that makes it less of a hike and more of an act of faith. You may miss out on that by repeating a route you've already walked.
Have you considered the Via de la Plata? - flat endless miles of next-to-nothing under an oceanous sky, in deep Spain. Can be very powerful.
Just back from the pub, so I may need to edit this later!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte March/April (2013)
#7
I will start by saying that I have not walked the Camino Frances. In fact, the only route I have walked is the Camino del Norte, from which I have just returned. My experience on the Norte surpassed all of my expectations. The rugged coastline was even more beautiful than I could have imagined and the people, both pilgrim and local, were incredible. The Camino del Norte is certainly a hike, but I think if you're looking for a spiritual pilgrimage it can certainly be both.

What Tom says about tourism is true. Many of the cities on the coast cater mostly to tourists, especially as the fishing industry declines. Interestingly (and I don't want to offend anyone here), I found the biggest hub of tourism to be Santiago de Compostela! Tourist shops all around the cathedral and a little tourist train that drives people right up to the cathedral steps. It was very different from what I expected. When I say different I don't mean that in a bad way, but a prime example is the pilgrim's office. When I went in to get my Compostela I found an office full of young women filling out Compostelas while listening to loud American pop music which I was rather amused by. In my head I think I had pictured some old man or woman sitting behind an old wooden desk carefully examining all of your stamps on your credential before finally issuing a Compostela. See? Expectations right out the window :) I think the surprises are the best part of the camino!

I started the Norte on March 24th and was pleasantly surprised at the number of pilgrims leaving from Irun the same day as me. As it turned out, the high number of pilgrims was due to the fact that it was Semana Santa and several Spanish people had the entire week off and many walk the Camino during that week. On the Camino del Norte there are no races for beds in albergues. Perhaps if you were going during the height of peregrino season you might have to plan for some alternate lodging in the really small albergues (like Cadavedo), but I never once had a problem getting a bed and never once had to stay in an albergue alone. Prior to my departure I had visions of myself walking alone along a lonely coastline and spending nights all by myself in empty albergues. Fortunately this was not the case at all. I met many, many wonderful people (including Tom :D ). Part of what I really enjoyed about this route is that you can (if you want) walk all day by yourself and still spend the evenings with other pilgrims. I really enjoy walking with others but I also enjoy heading off at my own pace and stopping whenever and wherever I like.

For me, the Camino del Norte was incredible. I originally heard about the Camino Frances and thought I would do that route. However when I started researching the Camino Frances I learned about the Camino del Norte, and once I heard it followed the coast, my mind was made up! I would urge anyone and everyone to experience this route. It certainly has its own magic, and honestly, each and every day of my camino was incredible. Some days I was just walking along with a big creepy grin plastered across my face. I have posted some of my pictures on my Flickr page which you can find here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aubretia/c ... 404700858/
Unfortunately, I haven't had time to finish uploading or describing the photos yet, but hopefully I'll get to that soon. If you have any questions about the Norte feel free to send me a message, but do it quick while it's still fresh in my memory. Kidding. I think I'll remember this trip for a long time to come.
Aubrey
 

Alan Pearce

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones 2008, del Norte 2009, VdlP 2011, Ingles 2014, Camino de Madri 2015, Frances 2017
#8
Hi Camino Yogini

Like you I walked the camino Frances first, and had the best-est time. Then I walked the del Norte, and I greatly missed the larger numbers of fellow pilgrims that I would have met had I walked the Frances again. And as you are going later in the year than many do, there will be fewer pilgrims than in the "peak season", when I went. Also the del Norte is tougher physically than the Frances, especially the section from Irun to Bilbao, with lots of ups and downs.

Having said all of that, I found the del Norte just as enjoyable in it's own way, and certainly just as meaningful a pilgrimage. Arriving in SdC was just as big a thrill, and I have memories of the del Norte that I will cherish along side the memories of the Frances.

Alan

Be brave. Life is joyous.
 

evanlow

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances06
Primitivo07
Plata08
Norte12
Levante(14-15)
Vasco16
Mozarabe(16-17)
Madrid17
Portuguese18
#9
Hi Camino Yogini,

Every Camino is different, and as mentioned, every year even for the same Camino is different. That said, there are some element of truth in the differences, tougher del Norte, more powerful flat via de la Plata, all other routes except Camino Frances has a lot less people walking.

While the experience are difference, there are many things in common. The people, the friendship with the pilgrims, the fact that you still have to walk every day and do your own laundry.

While many would not like to influence your decision, I say why not experience another route? If you are able to do it again, I assume there will be more caminos for you in the future. The Camino Frances will always be there for you should you decide to walk again. Meantime, experience a totally difference place every day during your camino.
 

unadara

Active Member
#10
The Norte was my second Camino pilgrimage and in all ways was a pilgrimage. it was wonderful. It was tough, distances were longer, alberques quieter, there were many people though in Apr/May struggling through the mud and rain with me, some days a few, some days many. The spiritual was missing some days and other days hit me on the back of the head with a hammer! Lots of advice here from others too.
 

Camino Yogini

Camino Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (Spring 2012); Norte Costa (Fall 2013); Del Ebro/Francés (Fall 2014); European Peace Walk (Spring 2016)
#11
Wow. Thanks for all the great comments and advice. Very helpful, all of you. Tom, Aubrey, Alan, Evan, Una -- you've convinced me that, despite the "touristy" elements, del Norte would still be a powerful, spiritual experience. So, I could, with an easy heart, choose to walk it.

But Alan, you brought up a good point -- there won't be many people walking in the late fall when I'll be there. While I'm fine with walking by myself, I do want to meet other peregrinos. That's really important. Are there any statistics as to how many people are walking along del Norte between late September/early November?

While I would rather know what I'm going to do beforehand, I could theoretically not decide until just before I depart for Spain. I will be flying to London for a conference on September 23-24. Since airfare to Europe is so expensive from Canada, my plan was to book cheap flights from London to Spain. Is that reasonable? If so, to get to Irún, should I look for a flight to San Sabastian or Bilbao or somewhere else? And if from St Jean, where should I embark? I started in Paris last year.

Thank you all again!
Helen
 

MKalcolm M

Solvitur ambulando - It is solved by walking
Camino(s) past & future
north route spring 2013
#12
I walked the North in May/June and found it an amazing experience. I have not walked the Frances and so can't compare it, but the North was very much a pilgrimage as well as a long walk. The route was very muddy and rainy and several pilgrims left to go and walk the Frances instead, but I'm very glad I stuck it out and stayed on the North. People who had walked the Frances complained of the distances between alberges and the lack of regular cafes, but I got used to carrying enough food for lunch with me, and planning ahead for the next days walk. I always got a bed in an alberge when it was needed, and met some lovely people along the way. There was a great camaraderie among the pilgrims, with whom I made some great friends and several of us formed an informal group who walked a lot of the way together, and one of whom I fell completely in love with. If you practice doing some long walks with a fair bit of up and down in them before you go, then the route shouldn't be too arduous for you. Walking along through the woods, the long beaches and through the mountains gave plenty of time and opportunity for reflection and it was very much a spiritual experience, in which I got many insights and understandings which have been invaluable. Equally pleasant was the fun had sharing a drink or two with other pilgrims and there were some gloriously drunken times which were tremendous fun.

To get to Irun from London, you can fly with Ryanair from Stanstead to Biaritz, take a local bus from the airport to the large town near the Spanish border for 4 euro then the local train for three stops and it takes you to central Irun where the pilgrims alberge is only about five minutes walk. The tourist information at the the the airport in Biaritz will give you all the details. The yellow arrows start right outside the alberge, and lead all the way to Santiago. The earlier you can book your flight the better, as it gets more expensive the closer it is to departure. I booked a few weeks in advance and so flew for 28 euro, the same flight was nearly 200 euro the week before departure. At Biaritz you can also get a local bus to the start of the Frances, so you can leave making your mind up until the last minute. There were about 20 pilgrims on my flight, and only 2 of us went to do the Norte, but the alberge had many people in it and there was no shortage of company along the way.

If money and time allowed I would pack my mochilla and do it all again tomorrow.

Buen camino!

Malcolm
 
#13
Helen, you can fly into Biarritz whether you decide to go to Irún or to St Jean as it is convenient to both. Expectations are tricky things and it's never easy to leave them behind but a pilgrimage is bound to be different each time you go because you learn a lot about yourself along the way. That means that you are starting from a different baseline each time you depart.

It's almost guaranteed that you are going to enjoy whichever route you decide to do. Go with your instincts. It's always tempting to try to repeat a fantastic experience and, for the first week of my Le Puy pilgrimage, I was inclined to head back to the Camino Frances. That's how long it took for me to give myself over to the new experience and it turned out to be an extraordinary one.

If you wish to walk the del Norte but are concerned about numbers, you could always start out and then head to the Frances if you find there are not enough pilgrims.
 
Camino(s) past & future
future 2013
#14
Hello....I chose to do the Norte in the beginning of June this year because I was concerned about the huge numbers of people on the Francaise and because I consider myself fit despite my 63 years. It proved to be difficult on so many fronts that I headed southto the Francaise at Bilbao. Indeed there were fewer people...most days I never saw another pilgrim after I left the Albergue...I was looking forward to the challenge and indeed it was challenging because of steep climbs up from sea level and down again sometimes several times a day....over rocky and muddy terrane. IN early June ...there was rain most days and it was particularly cold rain....I was never able to dry my boots after the first day....and the mud was so deep in some areas that it came up to my ankles... walking in this for long periods was exhausting. Any of these factors alone would have been OK...but all together it was not enjoyable ....so I dropped down to the Francaise to find a totally different experience.Consider that in September the Norte will probably be cold and wet with far fewer travelers and many of the Albergues and cafes for perigrinos I assume will not be open. All of that said...it is always a prsonal choice and a choice of how to greet each moment on the way no matter what you are given....so I believe that there is great learning and adventure no matter which way you go. Do consider that there are other ways to approach the Francaise that could also provide a different experience. Buen Comino....arsha
 

Erman

New Member
#15
For me, the Camino del Norte was incredible. I originally heard about the Camino Frances and thought I would do that route. However when I started researching the Camino Frances I learned about the Camino del Norte, and once I heard it followed the coast, my mind was made up! I would urge anyone and everyone to experience this route. It certainly has its own magic, and honestly, each and every day of my camino was incredible. Some days I was just walking along with a big creepy grin plastered across my face. I have posted some of my pictures on my Flickr page which you can find here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aubretia/c ... 404700858/
Unfortunately, I haven't had time to finish uploading or describing the photos yet, but hopefully I'll get to that soon. If you have any questions about the Norte feel free to send me a message, but do it quick while it's still fresh in my memory. Kidding. I think I'll remember this trip for a long time to come.
Aubrey
gee, thanks for the photos.. you just made my first Camino experience a toss up whether to choose Norte or Frances. That is absolutely beautiful scenery. please do me a favor and upload the rest of your photos. Viva el Cristo Rey and Buen Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (9/2012)
#16
I walked the Camino del Norte last September. Yes is was less crowded until we joined with the Camino Frances towards the end. We chose the north route because of our love for the sea and knew we would experience many beautiful sights along the coast. The level of spirituality IMO is not which route one chooses, but the frame of mind one brings with them to the trek. What is your purpose, your outlook, your goal? The bottom line for me would be that life is short and given the opportunity to walk to Santiago again I would take a different route for the sake of new experiences & new sights.
 

Camino Yogini

Camino Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (Spring 2012); Norte Costa (Fall 2013); Del Ebro/Francés (Fall 2014); European Peace Walk (Spring 2016)
#17
Hola peregrinos,
Some will have seen my update on another thread. I haven't been on the forum these past few weeks as I was trying to get my "daily bread" work done before taking almost seven weeks off. But here's what I decided. I will walk del Norte, then join Primitivo just before Oviedo. When it joins up with Francés at Melide, there will be pleasure in experiencing something familiar (including the pulpo)!

But now it's time to go through security and board my flight to get me to Irún. Blessings to all of you!

Helen
 

Sedona2012

Bobbie Surber
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances st Jean to Santiago (Sept/Oct 2012) Finisterre Oct 2012
Part -Portugues (Oct. 2012)
Camino del Norte June-July 2013
Part of Camino Vezelay July 2013
Leon to Santiago October 2015
#19
Buen Camino! I loved the Norte and hope to walk it again in the future.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Camino Inglés 2018

Now: http://egeria.house/
#20
Just my opinion, that time of the year I would chose the Camino Frances over any other camino. Whatever you decide - Buen Camino! SY
 

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