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First timer questions (transportation and planning)

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MichelleWT

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (July/August 2019)
Hello friends,

This would be my first time on Camino. My 15 year old daughter and I fly to London from NYC the third week of July and end in Paris last week of August. We have about 23 days on the Camino. We are interested in making friends, visiting museums and churches, and we are also foodies :) (she is vegan). I enjoy slow travel and also had issues with my lower back recently. There are several questions for now I'd appreciate your feedback:
1. I am planning to start in Leon -- Santiago -- Finisterre, is 21 days enough for a slower walking pace?
2. Before we start walking, I am thinking visiting a few big cities before Leon. Other than Burgos, do we have time for another city, maybe Pamplona?
3. I plan to take no more than one day of traveling from London to Spain. If we take the train, would we be able to enjoy some scenary along the way? Or we should take the bus? Which website do you recommend to book the transportation? How early do we need to book for a lower fair?
4. We plan to spend 2 or 3 days in Barcelona before heading back to Paris and my daughter will spend her 16th birthday in one of the art museum in Paris. What would you suggest in terms of transportation from Santiago to Barcelona then to Paris?

I just typed a lot of questions. Any input would be appreciated.

Michelle
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
www.rome2rio.com will help you with transport. You might even find a cheap flight which saves you time (and oftentimes money)
May I suggest you hold your plans loosely? I hear you want to get from Leon to Finisterre slowly......while that is completely doable, it would not be a bad idea to accept the possibility that Santiago might be a good place to stop, then if it happens that way you are not disappointed!
You could do your walking first and then see how much time you have left for fitting in Pamplona. Burgos and Barcelona. One of the things I love about the camino is the flexibility and so I always try to factor in as much as possible (which is done simply by reducing set-in-concrete plans and allowing time for spontaneity)
 

MichelleWT

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (July/August 2019)
Thanks for the suggestions! I also like the flexibility Camino offers. Does that suggest that we don't need to book the buses in advance? Would you get a cheaper fair if reserve the bus/train ticket a few days earlier?
 

scruffy1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Holy Year from Pamplona 2010, SJPP 2011, Lisbon 2012, Le Puy 2013, Vezelay (partial watch this space!) 2014; 2015 Toulouse-Puenta la Reina (Arles)
London hasn't seen a summer in years, it will be cool. The Camino in July August is very hot a-n-d high season for pilgrims - there will be plenty meaning thought and planning concerning lodging will be required. The guidebooks offer many options, Booking.com may add a few more, try not to stop in the recommended guide book stages most will be packed but rather just before or after. To enjoy Finistera you will need a day to get there and a return the following morning. Bus/train from SdC to Barcelona (right at 900k) to Paris (1000K) that is many many hours on a train and while there are some direct others will require a change in Madrid, Barcelona to Paris is 7 hours +- forget about the bus. This may put crimp into your itinerary but distance is distance.Consider a plane, one of the El Cheapo airlines, even should it require going through A Coruña you will save hours and hours. I like Pamplona but if you want museums come from Paris through Biarritz an elegant seaside resort but go on to Bilbao for the Gehry Museum (no need to go in) and the nearby Basque museum (do go in), Bilbao to Leon is easy on a train or a bus.
 
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André Walker

Never loosing my way: always standing on it
Camino(s) past & future
Holland-St.Jean, Frances, Del Norte, VdlP.
Hi Michelle,

Indeed, a lot of questions.

Local bus or train tickets have a fixed price. So there's no need to book in advance. Only when you travel on long distance high speed trains or long distance bus lines fairs vary. But it's also worth checking out the lowprice airlines (Ryanair, Easyjet, Vueling and others). When travelling from Santiago-Barcelona or Barcelona-Paris odds are that they're cheaper than taking the train. Long distance buses will be the cheapest, but obviously, will take a lot of time to get where you want.

So you like to walk slow. Depending on how slow exactly, Leon-Finisterre in 21 days can surely be done. Most pilgrims walk from Santiago to Finisterre in 3 days. But then it'll be over 30 km. per day. But you can do it in 4 (with 1 day of 27 km.) or 5 days if you want. Let's say 4 days. That leaves you 17 days to walk from Léon to Santiago. Which can be done at an average daily distance of 19 km.

And Kiwi is right: it would probably be the wisest to first walk the Camino and then spend a couple of days to see other cities. Chances are you might want to spend a bit of time in Santiago to check out this city (worthwile!!). And along the Camino: Léon (cathedral, old town), Astorga (Gaudí), Samos (the monastery) and a lot of lovely small villages. And you take the pressure away from walking the Camino with a tight schedule.

I wish you and your daughter a good Camino with lots of joy and meeting people from all over the world.
 

Lirsy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo, Norte, Francés, Volunteer Hospitalero.
Nice that you intend to visit museums, churches, to try some local food,.... There are so many pilgrims with the idea of just walking!!:confused:

In my opinion, getting in touch with the local culture is an essential part of the Camino.

I do not know how you plan to go to Spain. To Madrid? If so, I would probably spend a few days visiting Madrid and the surrounding cities (Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, ...) and from there I would take the train to León. The Madrid-León train is a medium speed train so you will not see much through the windows ... but the whole road from Madrid to León is a highway ... the same ... you will not see much through the windows (I would go by train).

Bus and train prices are basically fixed. Anyway, it would be good to book a few days in advance just to be sure that you can find a ticket. You will be in the Camino during the summer .... lots of people traveling from everywhere to everywhere!!;) Just think that Spain has like 45 millions inhabitants and like 85 million turists, and most of then in summer!

From Santiago to Barcelona .... Hummm ... Most probably I would go by plane.

Buen Camino!!
 

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
Hello!

Re: London to Spain.

Bus - you could but very few people do for a reason - it's a 24+ bus trip and you'll mostly see motorway but it is usually the cheapest way to go (although not by very much).
Train - if you're travelling in 3/4 weeks you will have missed the cheap tickets. You'll need to change from the Eurostar in Paris (it's not hard but would be more relaxing if you were spending a day/night in Paris) and then change again to get to Spain. There are sleeper trains from Paris which are an adventure (in a nice way) but it's an awful lot of travelling and you tend to end up needing to change in somewhere like Toulouse station very early in the morning.
Plane - definitely the easiest. I've done an early evening flight from London to Madrid, stayed overnight near station, high speed train to Leon in the morning. That's pretty easy/relaxing and the overnight stop means no stress about missing a train if things get delayed. Flying Stansted to Biarritz is also dead easy/cheap but then it will be a trek to Leon. If art is important then Southend to Bilao and then the train might work well. I've never flown to A Coruna simply because the flights tend to be a bit more expensive. Not sure if you are stopping in London but the cheap flights to Spain go out of regional airports and it can take a very long time to get to them from Heathrow/Gatwick - not such an issue if you are going to Madrid.


If I was doing a food/cultural/travel camino. I might do something like London to Biarritz (maybe working in a stop at the famous cake/tea shop), stay in Bayonne (try the famous hot chocolate, try the ham, visit the cathedral, etc) get train to SJDP (do the pilgrim thing at the pilgrim centre, it's special and exciting, have French food and the Irouleguy wine). Then walk over the mountain spending the extra night at Orison/then onto Roncesvalles (again I think there's something special about the modern ritual of this). Then I think you can get a bus to Pamplona and a flying visit, train to Burgos (it's the Cathedral that's the main draw), I love Leon because there is so much history to see and some lovely places to eat. Then maybe get the bus out of Leon and start at Astorga?
 

Aussiemum3

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
French
Hello!

Re: London to Spain.

Bus - you could but very few people do for a reason - it's a 24+ bus trip and you'll mostly see motorway but it is usually the cheapest way to go (although not by very much).
Train - if you're travelling in 3/4 weeks you will have missed the cheap tickets. You'll need to change from the Eurostar in Paris (it's not hard but would be more relaxing if you were spending a day/night in Paris) and then change again to get to Spain. There are sleeper trains from Paris which are an adventure (in a nice way) but it's an awful lot of travelling and you tend to end up needing to change in somewhere like Toulouse station very early in the morning.
Plane - definitely the easiest. I've done an early evening flight from London to Madrid, stayed overnight near station, high speed train to Leon in the morning. That's pretty easy/relaxing and the overnight stop means no stress about missing a train if things get delayed. Flying Stansted to Biarritz is also dead easy/cheap but then it will be a trek to Leon. If art is important then Southend to Bilao and then the train might work well. I've never flown to A Coruna simply because the flights tend to be a bit more expensive. Not sure if you are stopping in London but the cheap flights to Spain go out of regional airports and it can take a very long time to get to them from Heathrow/Gatwick - not such an issue if you are going to Madrid.


If I was doing a food/cultural/travel camino. I might do something like London to Biarritz (maybe working in a stop at the famous cake/tea shop), stay in Bayonne (try the famous hot chocolate, try the ham, visit the cathedral, etc) get train to SJDP (do the pilgrim thing at the pilgrim centre, it's special and exciting, have French food and the Irouleguy wine). Then walk over the mountain spending the extra night at Orison/then onto Roncesvalles (again I think there's something special about the modern ritual of this). Then I think you can get a bus to Pamplona and a flying visit, train to Burgos (it's the Cathedral that's the main draw), I love Leon because there is so much history to see and some lovely places to eat. Then maybe get the bus out of Leon and start at Astorga?

I live your idea of the Camino, we were going to start in Leon and walk to Santiago, but now I'm thinking your way sounds really good. I might reconsider our journey.
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
Keeping a vegan diet in the Camino can be challenging. especially far from the big cities. You will spend many nights in little villages where there are just one or two restaurants -if any- with limited menu options. And in Spain, even salads could be "spiced" with beacon. So, I recommend that a) if you don't speak Spanish, carry a card with the translation of your dietary specifications; b) consider albergues and hostals with a kitchen available for pilgrims.
 

ShaLaw

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, fall of 2015
The only thing I would add to the sage advice already given, is that it may be challenging to find food for a vegan diet. It can be hard to find any fruits and veggies at all, in fact. The diet I remember consisted largely of a lot of pork, eggs, tuna, and Spanish tortilla that has eggs in it, etc. You may find that you need to plan for this in advance, so I would advise staying in the municipal albergue when you can as they usually have kitchen facilities that you can cook your own meals in.
Also, as far as what cities you would like to visit, I would suggest that you be very flexible about where these take place. You will likely need some rest days, and these are determined by how tired/sore your bodies are. For example, we took a rest day in Logrono because I felt like I was coming down with something, and when my partner felt the same in Leon, we took another rest day there.

Buen Camino!!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Caminos Frances (x4), Finisterre, Aragon, Via de la Plata, Portuguese 2011 -2015. Hospitalero 2015
Some years ago I flew by Vueling Airlines Santiago from SDC to Barcelona and after a few days onto to Paris. It was half the bus or train fares and of course much faster.I have just checked with rome2rio and same flights are running, and fare depends on dates. Vueling is the cheap domestic airline, but comfortable and no tricky extras. The bus trip was overnight then
 

MichelleWT

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (July/August 2019)
Thank you everyone for your ideas and information. Helen, I really like your suggestions. Biarritz and Bayonne look amazing! They deserve a couple of days each. But then I am not sure if we have enough time to do the rest. We only have 40 days total including a few days in London, Barcelona, and Paris. I guess it only gives us reason to return! A lot of homework to do for now! It seems most of you recommend flying. That make sense since it would allow us more time to explore. Would you book the flight from Santiago to Barcelona now or wait until we start to walk so we are more certain when we will leave Santiago?
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
Our first camino was part of a trip the same length as yours. We had one crazy week in Paris followed by three weeks in Spain, then a crazy week in London and a week on a canal boat.
Some people say you should just focus on being a Pilgrim and not a tourist on any given trip but this worked well for us. TBH we felt uncomfortable with the label Pilgrim at first but came to accept it and now love it (some of the family have returned multiple times now) Because we were travelling with a six year old we walked short stages and had lots of time to wander round villages and pick blackberries - this was special and we remember villages from that all more distinctly than the ones we have walked through or arrived at late on subsequent trips.
All that to say there are lots of ways to walk!
 

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