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Free breakfast at the Parador

Healthful

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Siempre
My story is that a friend and I had the free breakfast at the Parador. We were shown into a kind of back room and given the very basic breakfast, and no staff ever returned. My reaction was not one of annoyance or dissatisfaction. On the contrary, I felt like it was a very respectful, humbling, time-honored thing. I can't say the mood was somber--but it was kind of sobering in that it felt very much like a feeling of history. My companion and I did not speak much. I think it was all sinking in--the end of the walk, a last meal together and a free one at that, and again the history or time-honored tradition of this free meal in a little spartan room near the kitchen.

I didn't think we were being ignored or treated wrongly. On the contrary, they simply served us and trusted us enough to eat the free meal and take our leave.

P.s. Sorry for referring to a past thread. I just wanted to share a nice Camino experience. Thanks.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
@Healthful, just curious: In what year did you have a free breakfast at the Santiago Parador? I’m asking because what they offer for free, how you qualify for that offer and where they serve free meals in particular has considerably changed over the years. And by “over the years” I mean the years from 1970 onwards.
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
@Kathar1na I was wondering the same about the date of the experience @Healthful describes. At the end of my first Camino in 1990 I was one of those who had the opportunity to take up the offer at the time of 3 meals per day for 3 days for up to 10 pilgrims each day. Not that difficult to do at the time because there were often days even in summer when fewer than 10 pilgrims received Compostelas. Very generous. The food itself was OK but served with no great enthusiasm in a dark room deep in the bowels of the service areas of the Parador. As it turned out I was the only pilgrim who took up the offer of lunch on the day I went to the Parador. A gloomy experience which I decided not to repeat after my first meal. Many more attractive options in Santiago.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
I too have never heard of the free breakfast but what do I know? I had the free lunch last time and it was a great experience. The waiters weren't the friendliest but who cared?? We had a great time. The table had 4 Koreans, 2 Brits, and me. There were 3 young Italians who had cut in line and even though one of the Brits and myself tried to prevent it the guards at the Pilgrim Office and then the volunteer still let them go through. They showed up at the lunch mumbled something to the table, which was probably not very flattering and walked out. They were quickly forgotten and we had a wonderful time and let the waiters a nice tip.
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I had a free dinner there in Nov 2016. First 10 pilgrims with credential in hand, waiting at the front side entrance with the carriage, at 7pm were escorted in, led to staff kitchen where trays were loaded up, you then carried your tray down a flight of stairs to a dining room. It was a typical peregrino menu, filling but not especially good.

At that time they were still doing it three times a day for whoever got there first. The pilgrim office wasn't involved.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
I was wondering the same about the date of the experience @Healthful describes. At the end of my first Camino in 1990 I was one of those who had the opportunity to take up the offer at the time of 3 meals per day for 3 days for up to 10 pilgrims each day.
How did you know about it? What sparked my curiosity was the fact that I recently read (or tried to read as it is in Spanish) a report by two young students from Madrid who walked from Roncesvalles to Santiago in the summer of 1976. A bit similar to your experience, upon arrival they had to answer some questions by a priest from the Santiago Cathedral and it was he who told them that they were entitled (orig: teníamos derecho) to eat and have dinner (comer y cenar) at the Parador during three days. 1976 was a Holy Year. They also write that he told them about their right to stay for three nights in a Franciscan convent but it's not clear to me whether this is in addition to three nights at the Parador or not.

Apparently, during the Holy Year 1976 a grand total of 243 pilgrims were registered by the Santiago Cathedral (meaning they arrived as foot pilgrims after a substantial long walk - not sure whether they all started in Roncesvalles or further away).
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
David Gitlitz reports that he and his students were housed and fed for free for three days in 1974 at the Parador, according to "tradition and Fernando and Isabel's charter". They were put in a dormitory-like room with bunk beds and "encouraged not to lounge with the paying guests". He continues to say in his book that "with the rebirth of the mass pilgrimage, these traditions are no longer possible to uphold".

For anyone joining this thread: these days, the Pilgrims Office offers tickets for one meal to the first ten pilgrims arriving each day to collect their Compostela.

I'm keen to hear of the experience of others. And I hope we can agree to abstain from mere opinions on who should eat there under the present arrangements and who shouldn't.
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
How did you know about it?
Not sure how I first heard about it. I think it was mentioned in the UK's Confraternity of St James guide to the Camino Frances - a fairly small pamphlet which was essentially a supplement to the Valina guidebook listing places with refugios and a few other bits of useful information. Unfortunately I lost my copy of it sometime ago so I cannot check that out.
 

Healthful

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Siempre
@Healthful, just curious: In what year did you have a free breakfast at the Santiago Parador? I’m asking because what they offer for free, how you qualify for that offer and where they serve free meals in particular has considerably changed over the years. And by “over the years” I mean the years from 1970 onwards.
@Kathar1na It was in October, 2014. To qualify, my friend and I arrived very early with our Compostela in the area with the carriage as described by NorthernLight, (thinking there would be a line, but it was just us).

I hadn't heard about it previously. My Spanish friend told me about it the night before.

If memory serves it was fairly cold coffee, bread and butter and jam...and I want to say churros. The food was nothing special, but it was free. It was the experience of being led through the kitchen area and sitting in what seemed like a mini dining room or break room for the kitchen staff that was special.

Thanks for your questions.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Sept 16/ 2016. Leon to Santiago . Sept/2019 SJPDP to Santiago.
My story is that a friend and I had the free breakfast at the Parador. We were shown into a kind of back room and given the very basic breakfast, and no staff ever returned. My reaction was not one of annoyance or dissatisfaction. On the contrary, I felt like it was a very respectful, humbling, time-honored thing. I can't say the mood was somber--but it was kind of sobering in that it felt very much like a feeling of history. My companion and I did not speak much. I think it was all sinking in--the end of the walk, a last meal together and a free one at that, and again the history or time-honored tradition of this free meal in a little spartan room near the kitchen.

I didn't think we were being ignored or treated wrongly. On the contrary, they simply served us and trusted us enough to eat the free meal and take our leave.

P.s. Sorry for referring to a past thread. I just wanted to share a nice Camino experience. Thanks.
In our opinion, we feel that you should be grateful and give thanks. Ian and Helen.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
In our opinion, we feel that you should be grateful and give thanks. Ian and Helen.
It would be a pity if this thread were to be closed, too. I'm quite interested in hearing about the traditions of the Camino de Santiago. I take it that you, @Ian and Helen Miller, could also enjoy this tradition of the Santiago Parador? Was it recently or some time in the past? Were there many other pilgrims with you or were you just a few or on your own?
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
I dug up a newspaper photo of the free meal at the Parador in 2003. Only 7 pilgrims turned up on the day of the report. In those days, pilgrims used to get their food on a tray which you see in the photo. I understand it was the same food that the hotel staff had. The room was somewhere in the "bowels" of the Parador. The article says that the whole thing is based on an agreement between the hotel and the Pilgrims Office and signed by a cardinal of the Cathedral.

As far as I know, these days the pilgrims chosen for the day have their free meal in one of the hotel restaurants. Is that right?

Comida 2003.jpg
 
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Becky 59

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (May 2018)
Camino Ingles (Aug 2019)
My husband daughter and I were fortunate to get tickets for free lunch this August. Yes we were in a lower room, but all 10 pilgrims were seated at a long table together. We were served family style, and passed platters up and down the table to each other. There were carafes of wine as well. We had all met that morning while waiting for the pilgrim office to open, and it felt like a family reunion having met them earlier. A Camino Family for the day! (It didn’t hurt that my daughter was sitting across the table from the hottest guy she had met the whole trip!) It is a wonderful memory from our Camino!
 

henrythedog

Loved and fed by David
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, (Madrid 2019 partial - retired hurt!) (more planned)
It would be a pity if this thread were to be closed, too. I'm quite interested in hearing about the traditions of the Camino de Santiago. I take it that you, @Ian and Helen Miller, could also enjoy this tradition of the Santiago Parador? Was it recently or some time in the past? Were there many other pilgrims with you or were you just a few or on your own?
Yes, threads are being closed rather quickly these days. Sometimes it takes time for the more interesting points to develop.
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
But being from the USA, I was constantly enamored on the CF with all things "old" or traditional or historic, including this experience.
When I was a theology student I lived in a postgraduate residence which included a 12th century barrel vaulted cellar as the dining room. A long refectory table. Very atmospheric setting and a fascinating collection of fellow students from a wide range of disciplines and nationalities. Which made eating there a pleasure. Over the course of an academic year I put on more than 20 pounds in weight :cool:
 
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Healthful

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Siempre
I dug up a newspaper photo of the free meal at the Parador in 2003. Only 7 pilgrims turned up on the day of the report. In those days, pilgrims used to get their food on a tray which you see in the photo. I understand it was the same food that the hotel staff had. The room was somewhere in the "bowels" of the Parador. The article says that the whole thing is based on an agreement between the hotel and the Pilgrims Office and signed by a cardinal of the Cathedral.

As far as I know, these days the pilgrims chosen for the day have their free meal in one of the hotel restaurants. Is that right?

View attachment 64578
That's the room! Thanks for sharing that!

P.s. I'm pretty sure those are the same frames hanging on the walls when I was there, eleven years later!
 
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NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
That looks like the same dining room and same tray as in Nov 2017. They gave us a couple of bottles of good wine too.

I assume that the PO wasn't involved as we were outside of the busy pilgrimage season.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
You don't need good food to make a memorable meal. This thread has led me to remember a wonderful Christmas dinner I had when there were only three occupants left in the college dormitories. Dinner was spaghetti and meatballs where the sauce was tomato ketchup and the meatballs were half bread and a quarter apiece meat and minced pickles in lieu of onions. Desert was cookies posted from Germany. There was good company and food (terrible except for those yummy cookies) and I can't ever remember thinking that better food would have made a better meal.
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
I dug up a newspaper photo of the free meal at the Parador in 2003. Only 7 pilgrims turned up on the day of the report. In those days, pilgrims used to get their food on a tray which you see in the photo. I understand it was the same food that the hotel staff had. The room was somewhere in the "bowels" of the Parador. The article says that the whole thing is based on an agreement between the hotel and the Pilgrims Office and signed by a cardinal of the Cathedral.

As far as I know, these days the pilgrims chosen for the day have their free meal in one of the hotel restaurants. Is that right?

View attachment 64578
According to Rick Steve's Spain Travel Book 2019, the tradition stills continues but in a dining room near the kitchen.
Originally, the Pilgrim was given a cloak to mask their odor. When that didn't work, the Pilgrims were moved to a lower dining room near the staff kitchen. Perhaps this picture is the same one. 🙂
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
According to Rick Steve's Spain Travel Book 2019, the tradition stills continues but in a dining room near the kitchen.
Originally, the Pilgrim was given a cloak to mask their odor. When that didn't work, the Pilgrims were moved to a lower dining room near the staff kitchen. Perhaps this picture is the same one. 🙂
Never heard that ... and I must admit it doesn't actually make much sense to me ... 🤔. I would love to know the primary source for that.
 
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Karl Oz

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
Portuguese
Aragones
Sanabres
Piamonte
Elizabethpfad
Threads will never be closed if people adhere to the rules, respect each others opinions even if they don't agree with them and try not to be holier than thou.
I especially welcome the holier-than-thou reminder.
(In my humble opinion...)
 

KricketN

"More Cowbell"
Camino(s) past & future
Walked Central Portugese(2018)
Walked Coastal/Central Portugese (2019)
David Gitlitz reports that he and his students were housed and fed for free for three days in 1974 at the Parador, according to "tradition and Fernando and Isabel's charter". They were put in a dormitory-like room with bunk beds and "encouraged not to lounge with the paying guests". He continues to say in his book that "with the rebirth of the mass pilgrimage, these traditions are no longer possible to uphold".

For anyone joining this thread: these days, the Pilgrims Office offers tickets for one meal to the first ten pilgrims arriving each day to collect their Compostela.

I'm keen to hear of the experience of others. And I hope we can agree to abstain from mere opinions on who should eat there under the present arrangements and who shouldn't.
I walked the CP my first camino May 2018.
I was in line with one other person who had just walked his 14th. I first heard of the meal ticket when the volunteer at the PO offered it to me. I was surprised, and grateful, it was a very kind gift for my heart. As with many pilgrims we walk with a somewhat heavy heart.

I believe the lunch was at one. It was in the restaurant to the left of the main hotel entryway. It is on the way to the stairs that you go down and turn right, to get to the PO. We sat at a table set up for 10 people. The restaurant had patrons arrive that appeared to be business types and others. It was a very lovely meal. Soup, bread, wine, water, a main dish,desert, coffee. I don't remember exactly. It appeared it was the menu of the day. It was interesting to hear other people share their camino adventures.

I walked this June with my husband. We stayed at the same place I had stayed last year, Hortas PR. I wanted to eat with him at the same restaurant also. We did not do it by ticket. We paid for the menu of the day. It seemed to be the same type of meal I had experienced before and in the same restaurant we had been served as pilgrims. It was full of people. Families who seemed to be on vacation.

We also ate lunch one day at the Hospedaria as I had done last year. Didn't get to stay there it was booked. While there I believe I saw T2andreo, Ivar and the person who had given me my compostelo this year. They had a table of many. That's just an aside.

So to answer, I first heard about it when given my ticket, and it was in one of the restaurants regular customers dine.


David Gitlitz reports that he and his students were housed and fed for free for three days in 1974 at the Parador, according to "tradition and Fernando and Isabel's charter". They were put in a dormitory-like room with bunk beds and "encouraged not to lounge with the paying guests". He continues to say in his book that "with the rebirth of the mass pilgrimage, these traditions are no longer possible to uphold".
David Gitlitz reports that he and his students were housed and fed for free for three days in 1974 at the Parador, according to "tradition and Fernando and Isabel's charter". They were put in a dormitory-like room with bunk beds and "encouraged not to lounge with the paying guests". He continues to say in his book that "with the rebirth of the mass pilgrimage, these traditions are no longer possible to uphold".

For anyone joining this thread: these days, the Pilgrims Office offers tickets for one meal to the first ten pilgrims arriving each day to collect their Compostela.

I'm keen to hear of the experience of others. And I hope we can agree to abstain from mere opinions on who should eat there under the present arrangements and who shouldn't.

For anyone joining this thread: these days, the Pilgrims Office offers tickets for one meal to the first ten pilgrims arriving each day to collect their Compostela.

I'm keen to hear of the experience of others. And I hope we can agree to abstain from mere opinions on who should eat there under the present arrangements and who shouldn't.
I'll
David Gitlitz reports that he and his students were housed and fed for free for three days in 1974 at the Parador, according to "tradition and Fernando and Isabel's charter". They were put in a dormitory-like room with bunk beds and "encouraged not to lounge with the paying guests". He continues to say in his book that "with the rebirth of the mass pilgrimage, these traditions are no longer possible to uphold".

For anyone joining this thread: these days, the Pilgrims Office offers tickets for one meal to the first ten pilgrims arriving each day to collect their Compostela.

I'm keen to hear of the experience of others. And I hope we can agree to abstain from mere opinions on who should eat there under the present arrangements and who shouldn't.
David Gitlitz reports that he and his students were housed and fed for free for three days in 1974 at the Parador, according to "tradition and Fernando and Isabel's charter". They were put in a dormitory-like room with bunk beds and "encouraged not to lounge with the paying guests". He continues to say in his book that "with the rebirth of the mass pilgrimage, these traditions are no longer possible to uphold".

For anyone joining this thread: these days, the Pilgrims Office offers tickets for one meal to the first ten pilgrims arriving each day to collect their Compostela.

I'm keen to hear of the experience of others. And I hope we can agree to abstain from mere opinions on who should eat there under the present arrangements and who shouldn't.
David Gitlitz reports that he and his students were housed and fed for free for three days in 1974 at the Parador, according to "tradition and Fernando and Isabel's charter". They were put in a dormitory-like room with bunk beds and "encouraged not to lounge with the paying guests". He continues to say in his book that "with the rebirth of the mass pilgrimage, these traditions are no longer possible to uphold".

For anyone joining this thread: these days, the Pilgrims Office offers tickets for one meal to the first ten pilgrims arriving each day to collect their Compostela.

I'm keen to hear of the experience of others. And I hope we can agree to abstain from mere opinions on who should eat there under the present arrangements and who shouldn't.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
Never heard that ... and I must admit it doesn't actually make much sense to me ... 🤔. I would love to know the primary source for that.
The reason I said this, and I now wonder whether everyone is even aware of it, is this: the Santiago Parador was not always a luxury hotel or even a hotel. It was built to serve as: a pilgrims albergue; an orphanage for foundlings; a hospital. I had a quick look at the original layout.The pilgrim quarters were on the ground floor, immediately to the left when you enter through the main entrance. There was a purpose built refectory (dining room) next to their quarters (where they could stay for three days).

All this is gone now and these rooms have been converted to be part of the hotel area. I understand that there is a guided tour (or self-guided tour?) of the Parador where all this is explained. Did anyone ever take this tour? Also, there are 79 plaques with explanations inside and along this tour. Are these in Spanish only or also in English?
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
So next time you are in Santiago and want to try to feel the presence of pilgrims of yore go to the bar or the café of the Parador 😊. In the drawing below, number 76 denotes the antiqua peregrineria/former pilgrims' quarters and number 78 denotes the refectorio de los romeros/pilgrims' refectory. The hospital part for sick people was elsewhere in the vast building. One of the plaques makes this claim: The pilgrims were often set upon by bandits, attacked by wild animals or became imbroiled in bloody brawls with other walkers. The Hospital provided cures for their wounds.

Map Parador.png
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
Both Spanish and English
Great. I'd like to do this tour next time I'm in Santiago. I know I could have waited to find out then but it's just good to know in advance. ☺
 

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