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Is Camino Frances a Rat Race in April/May?

2020 Camino Guides

Wandering Winter

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés 2020
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
 

Telboyo

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
I intend to leave the UK the day Before Brexit and walkMarch -April 2019 Camino Frances
I left SJPP 31 mar 2019, most of the the albergues were no more than half full, that may have been because people were holding back till the 1st April to walk over the top. It was like this all the way except for the day before good Friday we had to walk an extra 3 km to Astorga, normally we would not stay in a town at the end of a stage, because everything was full. We still managed to get a 4 man room in the big albergue in Astoria at 5pm. The following day the albergue in cacabelos that we wanted to stay had not opened for the season yet so we stayed in an albergue above a bar. Apart from that it was pretty easy going, no bed race so we walked until 4pm to 5 pm every day. Leaving most mornings 30 mins before first light.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I walked the full Frances in 2017 mid April til late May and it was a little dicey at times so we eventually started emailing the private albergues the "morning of" which worked quite well. I was with three other family members which I am sure added to the pressure we felt needing four beds.
 

SabineP

Camino = Empathy + Compassion.
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
Take into consideration also that May has alot of official holidays and Spaniards use the " puentes " long weekends to walk parts of the Camino.
Next year Easter is on the 12th of April so the week before , Semana Santa, might be busy on the Frances.

I walked the Frances in 2011 April/ May but I guess things changed rapidly since then. Never needed to make a reservation.


I hear from fellow pilgrims that lots of albergues, old and new, on the Frances particularly have Whatsapp so that makes communication easier also, if you feel the need for a reservation.

In general I prefer to stop in the in between stages ( note, not the stages in the Brierley guide ;) ).
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
On the Camino Frances, from after Easter, it can be a bit dicey on some days, at some places. The best strategy is to avoid arriving at the transportation nodes on Friday or Saturday.

There is usually always a surge of new pilgrims planning to start from these places the following morning. These place are significant in that they have good rail and or bus connections. Or, in the case of St. Jean Pied de Port, it is simply the beginning of the traditional 'full Frances" route.

Yes, I know that the ORIGINAL, original starting place was in another nearby French village, but SJPdP has been sending pilgrims up and over the Pyrenees on pilgrimage into Spain for some 1,000 years. Why stand in the way of this tradition? Besides, this is where most of the pilgrims start from anyway.

So, the initial accommodation crunch is felt here, mostly on Friday and Saturday evenings. I always advise people to book someplace to stay for he first TWO nights, then rested, and supplied, sart the third morning.

In my experience on the Frances, these places to avoid arriving on Friday day or Saturday, UNLESS YOU HAVE A CONFIRMED LODGING RESERVATION, include:

Saint Jean Pied de Port
Pamplona
Logroño
Burgos
Leon
Astorga
Sarria
Santiago

As you plan your own walking or biking stages, try to arrive on Thursday or Sunday at these places, especially if you are just showing up, hoping to find an albergue bed. You are trying to avoid the “pig in the python” syndrome created by the weekend surge in new pilgrim arrivals.

Basically, and this resembles surfing, you are trying to time your departure from one place, and arrival at another to “catch the perfect wave.” Walk in the troughs between the weekend waves and you have good surfing from place to place. Time it wrong, and you suffer a wipe-out... no beds... Keep the big, scary waves in front of you or behind you.

Also, NEVER end up at Santiago without a confirmed reservation, especially if arriving on a Friday, Saturday, or any day before a national holiday or major religious feast day.

You will read many one-accounts from pilgrims who claim to have never had a problem. Some of these accounts may be true. But the methodology above WORKS.

Hope this helps.
 
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Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
We walked the Frances in April/May in 2018 and 2019 without having reservations. We were usually last out of the albergues and last into them in the evenings, but always found the two beds we needed. Unless you are set in staying at a specific place, you should have no issues UNLESS you get caught in a “bubble” of pilgrims or arrive in larger cities on holidays.

Once you start walking, you’ll get a feel for how busy it is in your little moving section of the route and can plan appropriately (following t2andreo’s advice above). Most of the folks we walked with planned the day ahead or as they walked that morning so they could be more spontaneous with their stopping points. We did neither since the municipal and parochial places generally do not take reservations.
 

alhartman

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Hope so!
Camino gets busier each year, but there are also more places to stay. I left SJPdP 26 April 2005 and during the next month got the last bed twice and was in overflow 3-4 times. It really does not matter since you can always get something even if you have to taxi forward or back--and the difference between municipal at 8eu and a hostal at 28eu is not going to break most of us.
The weather will be wetter and cooler than JunJulAug. Plan to be well equipped for rain.
Best to go and deal with the few minor annoyances and unmet expectations--it can be a transformative 30 days!!
 

Nick B

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances - May/June 2018
Portugese - (2019)
Norte - (2020)
If you're walking solo you shouldn't have an issue, if you do just keep searching.
 

november_moon

Veteran Member
We walked in May a couple years ago and never had an issue finding space. We only reserved spots a handful of times along the way - mostly when we wanted to stay in private accommodations and a couple times when we got our packs transported. Mostly we just turned up places and found a bed. A couple times we didn't get our 1st choice spot and had to look for an alternative, but usually we found space at the first place we tried. Alternatives are available - we were flexible. We tended to finish walking about 2 or 3 in the afternoon. It seemed to me that the people who had trouble finding space were mostly those who didn't finish walking until later and found places full, or those who were specifically targeting the cheaper alberques, which I think tend to fill up faster.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Hmm, interesting question. A "Rat Race" dear old Wikipedia has that as: "A rat race is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. The phrase equates humans to rats attempting to earn a reward, such as cheese, in vain. The term is commonly associated with an exhausting, repetitive lifestyle that leaves no time for relaxation or enjoyment". I guess there are some for whom that accurately defines camino.

It was also the title of a (not very good) Jerry Zucker film about a race to win $2 million. Which is obviously totally unlike camino unless the value of a compostella has seriously inflated since my last acquisition.

If anyone is worried about competition for scarce beds then there has been some sound advice given above. I'm just a little perturbed that the purpose of camino is equated so much with the journey - comfy bed, wow Albergue, best bar / tapa / communal cultural exchange - that just getting to Santiago in comfort occupies more of our attention than just getting to Santiago.

I know, I know, the journey, the camino, the Road, the Way. But its either a walk or a pilgrimage.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
But Tinky, my only fear is having to sleep outdoors...is that so bad? I don't have to have the fluff of sheets, a warm bed (I layer my clothes if need be to sleep), a perfect meal, or yada, yada. This coming spring two newbies are tagging along and after five caminos and telling people how much I love walking, I don't want them to be disappointed, so my new stress is to worry about their comfort level...not mine. Keep me off a park bench and I am easy to please...just sayin'. Oh, and I use cheap shampoo for hair, body and clothing on camino...no fancy stuff for me.
But am I on a walk or a pilgrimage...I'm still trying to decide.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Chrissy, I honestly and sincerely (am I ever less 😉) do not think that could occur on the modern Francés without effort. It is certain that there are hotspots where the available accommodations cannot always cope with demand but sensible planning can navigate those hazards.
As for your newly adventurous friends - just tell them it’s traditional to spend a night in a church porch or a derelict building and then take them to San Anton and try and time your arrival for sunset 😉

meanwhile Pilgrim is as Pilgrim does 😎
 

Rick M

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
April ('16,'18, '19, '20)
You have received some good advice, but there is room for a little more. Try and stay "Off" the Brierly stages. Most first timers swallow the guide book whole, and plan so many days with so many end points as specified in the rule book. Everyone does it the first time, and its both nonsense and a mistake. If you are in a bulge, you can bet that the bed race will move on to the next Brierly town tomorrow. By going a little further, or stopping short, you often will find a much more relaxed albergue situation.

Buen Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Hola - Re the St Jean "rat race". From my limited experience the first 4/5 days from St Jean to Pamplona can be more than a bit crowded as the choices of accommodation are somewhat limited.
Once you leave Pamplona you can adjust the length of your days to suit your experiences and choices. Again from what I experienced there were no real problems until Saria. But even then a little early preparation overcame any problems. Cheers
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
As I understand it, the central section generally (that many people "skip") and particularly the meseta (taken broadly, between some point after Logroño and some point before Astorga) is at its most crowded in May and September, as that is when most of those walking "the whole way" between SJPP and Santiago will be hiking.

The "start" between SJPP and Logroño (used to be Pamplona) and the "end" progressively moreso from about Astorga onwards, but most especially after Sarria, will be crowded at different periods. And there are some particular places, Burgos, Léon, Rabanal, Sarria all spring to mind, that are particularly crowded generally as bike pilgrims, "the whole Camino" pilgrims, those ending their latest stage and those starting their next one, and others will all tend to converge there at the same time, all needing somewhere to sleep.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
With the new system for issuing Compostelas there is now a sense of urgency and a race to arrive in Santiago. 😕
 

Jomas

Member
Camino(s) past & future
C.F. april-may 2018

C.F. (undecided) 2020
Hi to all!
I also walked along the French route in April and May (2018) and I never had any big problems finding a bed for the night. Valuable suggestions of pilgrims here in the chat when they say that a little planning is necessary: if you have given yourself a distance to travel and when you arrive the private albergues (in some places there are no public ones) have already collected reservations to fill the beds, it is possible that you have to walk for other kilometers and hope that the succesives are not already "sold out".
👋
 
Camino(s) past & future
Spring 2016: Camino Frances, Finisterre and Muxia
April 2019: Frances, Salvador, Primitivo
I walked in April/May 2019, starting from SJPP April 11. There was a bottleneck from Zubiri to Pamplona and it was pretty stressful Semana Santa and the beginning of the week following Easter.

But there are ways around the stress -- I knew of no one who had to sleep outdoors or who walked beyond their comfort levels. Hospitaleros are most often quite happy to find a bed for you, even if it's off the Camino. You can taxi to the location (often they will call a cab) and then back to where you left off the next morning. And you may find other pilgrims who have ingenious solutions to these problems.

Be prepared to spend a bit extra on some occasions (maybe a casa rurale instead of albergue) and occasional taxi.

But as they say, the Camino provides -- but does not promise a stress-free adventure.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
With the new system for issuing Compostelas there is now a sense of urgency and a race to arrive in Santiago. 😕
Please allow me to clarify just a little. The “haste” is NOT to arrive at Santiago in fewer days.

Rather, the “haste” is to go to the office as early in the morning after opening. There is usually, but especially from Easter until 1 November, a queue of folks waiting for the doors to open, at 08:00 or 09:00, depending on the time of year.

The reason for this is simple. Under the “new” QR Ticket number system, they know how many pilgrims they can process all day. Thus, they only permit the ticket issuing kiosks to issue that maximum number. The kiosks are then turned off and later arrivals are told to return tomorrow.

Once you have one of these QR coded numbered ‘chits’ you can leave the premises to do other things. It is possible to check the progress towards your number remotely, using the internet. If they issued you a numbered ticket from a kiosk, you WILL be seen sometime that day.

Basically, you configure your smartphone to scan and search the internet for a scanned QR code. This brings up the “now serving” snapshot.

If you do this remote scan and if the variance between your number and the now being seen number is 40 or less, wrap up what you are doing and proceed directly to the pilgrim office.

However, if the variance in 20 or less, drop what you are doing and RUSH to the pilgrim office.

The queue can advance in jolts and spurts without warning. So be alert.

If you do not show up at the counter when your number is called, you LOSE YOUR PLACE. When this was first rolled out last August, they immediately had a problem with slackers who thought they could drop in later, at their convenience. So, office management adopted a no excuses policy.

With the ability to check the queue status remotely, or the option to hang out in the designated, air conditioned, with Wi-Fi and ample charging points, waiting area, there really is no excuse for not being there when your number is called.

So, the point about making haste is to plan enough end-time at Santiago to be there at least two early morning office opening cycles. This means a two-night stay at Santiago, and a no-nonsense plan to be in queue well before the posted opening time the first morning after your arrival.

The days of walking in off the Frances at 11:00, queuing to get your Compostela, making the noon Pilgrim Mass, then catching and afternoon bus, train or plane out of Santiago are GONE FOR GOOD. Get over it.

What works presently, and at least into the near future, is to arrive on Day 1. Attend a Pilgrim Mass, do the pilgrim arrival rituals. Have cold beer and some vino.

On Day 2, be on queue early the next morning to obtain as low a QR number ticket as possible. You need to consider that, on a really busy day, they might issue 1,000 or more QR tickets by 10:00 am, and decide to turn the kiosks off.

Consider that they need to reserve processing capacity for group pilgrim arrivals. These folks do NOT get individual QR number tickets.

Day 3 is needed in case you do not get on queue early enough on Day 2, and cannot get serviced that day. Forewarned is forearmed.

BTW, when I am next at the office, likely after my April-May 2020 Camino, I plan to discuss creation of a formal “solo sello” location (or locations), where pilgrims who only want official evidence of having reached the Cathedral and ended a Camino can obtain the stamps, immediately and FREE. An increasing number of pilgrims, having been through the process are now opting to only ask for the official sellos. Hope springs eternal.

Parenthetically, I will be returning to work as a volunteer for my sixth consecutive year in 2029. I was present when they were designing and testing this system last May. I was there the day they decided to turn it on...with NO BETA TEST.

I advised against using this system, unless it was coupled with advance data submission over the web, with QR code generation, identical to an airline boarding pass. That combined process would / could support a back room semi-automated custom printed Compostelas and Distance Certificates, for those who prefer this OPTION.

But, being a volunteer, in the end I just smile, say yes, and get on with what I am told to do.

I continue to believe this is needed to cope with the crush coming in 2021. BUT, I still advise that the current system should be retained for those who desire to wait for their certificates.

I hope this helps.
 
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c0484

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
I always walk the Camino Frances from late April through almost all of May. I never have a problem finding a bed when I stop.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Great information, Tom...you always help!
May I ask, can we pick up the tickets for others in our family or must each person stand in line for themselves?
 

Hurry Krishna

Indian on the Way
Camino(s) past & future
2009 (from Sarria), 2014 from St Jean Pied de Port, 2016 from Porto, 2018 from Le Puy to Santiago.
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
We walked into Santiago on 12 April 2014, having started in early March in SJPdP. It was not overcrowded at all. But that was 5 years ago.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2017
I walked April/May 2017, and did not have an issue with accommodations (I did make reservations for SJPdP, Roncesvalles, and later Santiago). I was never in a hurry. I averaged around 20km per day—some days shorter, some longer. The keys for me were (1) getting an early start; I was on the trail at or slightly before sunrise, (2) going in between the Brierly stages, and (3) showing up at my intended destination in the early-mid afternoon. This allowed me to check in, shower, and explore the town before having dinner. Sleep came easily...and early.
 

Terry W

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
August 2017
April 2018
April 2019
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
I have walked the Camino three times now Aug, 2017 April 2018 and April2019. It is getting busier. I think only once did I see some one that could not get a bed in the town we were all in and had to move onto the next town or village with all the stress that that brings with it. However there is an elephant in the room that I am going to raise. Last time 2019 April my daughter and I encountered a group of people from a highly Catholic country ( As I am Catholic also). There were twenty five of them all traveling on mass pardon the pun. Along the walk they had layed down on the roads and paths their own direction markers. This I thought was a little in contrast to the trust you need to show on the Camino. Then try getting at the kitchen to make your evening meal. We ended up eating out. I also walked into a town to find a sign on the municipal albergue, saying sold out. this was at 12.30 pm I am very suspicious that this large party may have been getting preferential treatment.
I do not know. This is not meant to sound like sour grapes or a rant but I know it affected not only my daughter and I but others. In the end we walked on buy two more villages to get out of sinc with them.
I think the Camino is for every one but it is changing.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Try and stay "Off" the Brierly stages. Most first timers swallow the guide book whole, and plan so many days with so many end points as specified in the rule book. Everyone does it the first time, and its both nonsense and a mistake. If you are in a bulge, you can bet that the bed race will move on to the next Brierly town tomorrow.
I wonder how true this really is? The great majority of pilgrims are from non-English speaking countries and my impression is that most of those use other guides in their own languages. Being an English language forum I think we tend to credit the Blessed JB with rather more impact on the Caminos than is really the case.
 

Marc S.

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2012-2018 Frances, Norte, Salvador, Aragones, Portuguese, Via Regia, Elisabethpfad, Jakibspaad.
I wonder how true this really is? The great majority of pilgrims are from non-English speaking countries and my impression is that most of those use other guides in their own languages. Being an English language forum I think we tend to credit the Blessed JB with rather more impact on the Caminos than is really the case.
Good point ! Your impression seems right, at least I never met a Dutch, German or French pilgrim with a Brierley guide.

In addition, I just checked my Dutch guidebook (which is a translation from the German Rother guide) and compared this with the Brierley stages. (well I think they are the Brierly stages, as they are referred to as "Brierley's route" on https://trekopedia.com/camino-brierley). I found out that app. 50 % of the Brierly stages are the same as the German/Dutch stages, which means the other 50 % is not. But well, I have never met anyone in real life who felt compelled to walk the stages as prescribed in any guidebook.
 
Camino(s) past & future
French route (04,05,06,18) Portugues (07) VDLP (09,10,11) Aragon (4,13) Levante (16) Ebro (19)
But Tinky, my only fear is having to sleep outdoors...is that so bad? I don't have to have the fluff of sheets, a warm bed (I layer my clothes if need be to sleep), a perfect meal, or yada, yada. This coming spring two newbies are tagging along and after five caminos and telling people how much I love walking, I don't want them to be disappointed, so my new stress is to worry about their comfort level...not mine. Keep me off a park bench and I am easy to please...just sayin'. Oh, and I use cheap shampoo for hair, body and clothing on camino...no fancy stuff for me.
But am I on a walk or a pilgrimage...I'm still trying to decide.
Every year has its own characteristic vibe but after 13 caminos over 15 years I can not recall once having to sleep outside.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
I have never thought of walking the Camino (no matter how busy it was with pilgrims) as a "rat race", or any of the other terms such as grind. To use those terms would mean it is something one has to do, not wants to do, and if they have to do it they are miserable in the process. If I ever found one of my Camino walks to enter into the rat race or grind zone, I'd simply leave. Go home, or do something else.
There is no accurate way to predict how busy any given day, anywhere on the Camino Frances (most popular) will be. That is impossible. If one wants to walk it during the peak months (April-early October) one simply has to live with the fact it might be very busy then, and to simply not worry about it, or maybe just stay home.
I have mentioned this before on here, and that is if one is really concerned about not finding a bed in an albergue one can simply carry a versatile sleep system and a good ground pad in the unlikely event one spends the night on a church porch, etc. Sure it is a bit of extra bulk in the pack, but it can give piece of mind, and some nights outside when it is cool and clear is quite lovely. Everyone should sleep under the stars on the ground at least once in their life.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
Great information, Tom...you always help!
May I ask, can we pick up the tickets for others in our family or must each person stand in line for themselves?
I think it is still one each. A staff person or volunteer usually works at the kiosks, answering questions, assisting pilgrims to understand the system, and enforcing the one to a live person “house rule.”

Befote I left last August I helped management on the correct wording for instruction signs in all eight or nine supported languages, on how to configure Android and Apple smartphones to scan QR codes remotely. I did the web research to obtain and print out the correct instructions, in English. We worked together on phrasing and word use to make the instructions easy to follow.

Just as background... last August, they turned this system on, on a Friday morning last. By the following week, persons unknown were trying to “scalp” (sell) these QR numbered tickets on the street outside.

Most were just discarded tickets, already used earlier that day and no longer valid. But, it was observed that occasionally someone would get into the pilgrim office campus, past security, and to try to take multiple tickets directly from the kiosk. Staff put an immediate stop to this.

Hope this answers the question.
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I think it is still one each. A staff person or volunteer usually works at the kiosks, answering questions, assisting pilgrims to understand the system, and enforcing the one to a live person “house rule.”

Befote I left last August I helped management on the correct wording for instruction signs in all eight or nine supported languages, on how to configure Android and Apple smartphones to scan QR code’s remotely. I did the web research to obtain and print out the correct instructions, in English. We worked together on phrasing and word use to make the instructions easy to follow.

Just as background... last August, they turned this system on, on a Friday morning last. By the following week, persons unknown were trying to “scalp” (sell) these QR numbered tickets on the street outside.

Most were just discarded tickets, already used earlier that day and no longer valid. But, it was observed that occasionally someone would get into the pilgrim office campus, past security, and to try to take multiple tickets directly from the kiosk. Staff put an immediate stop to this.

Hope this answers the question.
I figured it was probably a "no no", but just wanted to be sure. Thanks for your answer.
 

Lindsay53

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances April / May 19
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
I walked the Frances from SJPDP to Santiago and on to Muxia, starting 14 April 2019 and finishing 21 May. I didn't book ahead or plan any stops, staying mostly in municipal albergues. I had little trouble finding a bed in most places, the hardest being in Zubiri where I tried 3 different albergues before finding a bed. Some places were full, others half empty. In one place there were only 3 pilgrims. I did not use the Brierly guide and walked about 20-25ks per day, stopping where fancy took me. No 'rat race' that I noticed, however I did meet a few people who had to walk on to the next town or pay for a hotel after arriving late in the afternoon.
 

Wandering Winter

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés 2020
Hmm, interesting question. A "Rat Race" dear old Wikipedia has that as: "A rat race is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. The phrase equates humans to rats attempting to earn a reward, such as cheese, in vain. The term is commonly associated with an exhausting, repetitive lifestyle that leaves no time for relaxation or enjoyment". I guess there are some for whom that accurately defines camino.

It was also the title of a (not very good) Jerry Zucker film about a race to win $2 million. Which is obviously totally unlike camino unless the value of a compostella has seriously inflated since my last acquisition.

If anyone is worried about competition for scarce beds then there has been some sound advice given above. I'm just a little perturbed that the purpose of camino is equated so much with the journey - comfy bed, wow Albergue, best bar / tapa / communal cultural exchange - that just getting to Santiago in comfort occupies more of our attention than just getting to Santiago.

I know, I know, the journey, the camino, the Road, the Way. But its either a walk or a pilgrimage.
Thank you for your response however it is not very helpful. These are genuine questions people ask for help so you quoting definitions does not help. Everyone wants a bed at the end of a long walk, I'm sure you aren't sleeping outdoors on a nightly basis.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
But well, I have never met anyone in real life who felt compelled to walk the stages as prescribed in any guidebook.
I have. After I walked my 2016 Camino I wrote an article on "5 lessons from the Camino" for the staff newsletter where I work. I later met someone who works there and had read the newsletter. She told me that it wasn't until she had read the article that shen realized that she didn't have to walk the Brierley stages and could adjust them to her needs. If she had known that, she said, she might not have had to cut her Camino short in Leon due to back issues.

So it is always good advice to give.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
@David Tallan Me too. I have met several people who felt that they had to walk "the right way" strictly according to the book. Perhaps because of inexperience and a lack of confidence in making their own plans. And one woman who asked "Are you allowed to do that?" when she heard I was not carrying Brierley's book and walking his stages :rolleyes:
 

JudyJane

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017 May or August
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
All was okay. But last 100k too many people compared to previous 400k.
 

november_moon

Veteran Member
I met quite a few people who were following the stages of whatever guide they had - and quite a few more that started off following the stages, but realized part way through that they didn't have to. I do think a lot has to do with inexperience - the Camino is the first long walk that a lot of people do and many people who walk the Camino have never really travelled before, so it's a doubly new experience for them.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2017
I met quite a few people who were following the stages of whatever guide they had - and quite a few more that started off following the stages, but realized part way through that they didn't have to. I do think a lot has to do with inexperience - the Camino is the first long walk that a lot of people do and many people who walk the Camino have never really travelled before, so it's a doubly new experience for them.
A good reason to join a forum, such as Ivar's, in order to learn from others as much as possible before getting on that airplane to France. But, no matter how well prepared we think we may be, the unexpected always has a way of showing up...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2017), Primitivo (2019)
Thank you for your response however it is not very helpful. These are genuine questions people ask for help so you quoting definitions does not help. Everyone wants a bed at the end of a long walk, I'm sure you aren't sleeping outdoors on a nightly basis.
Incredibly, I do not see any mention that 2020 is a Holy Year, and, consequently, you can expect MANY more pilgrims on the Camino. Look at past holy years and you will see a remarkable spike in numbers for those years. Proceed with caution
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Thank you for your response however it is not very helpful. These are genuine questions people ask for help so you quoting definitions does not help. Everyone wants a bed at the end of a long walk, I'm sure you aren't sleeping outdoors on a nightly basis.
You didn’t ask for help and I wasn’t trying to be helpful. You asked for advice and I offered some: change your perspective. Camino is not a “rat-race” it’s a pilgrimage. And sometimes it doesn’t work out quite like we’d like it to.
As you ask I’ve slept in church porches and Paradors and most every accommodations in between.
 

Finisterre

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria 2001,
Porto 2006,
Valenca 2008,
Finisterre 2010,
SJdPP 2012,
Tui 2014.

No plans to return, yet.
is being young and fit a good reason to get a bed?

just wondering
 

Amused212

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2019
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
A slight twist to this question: I will be returning to finish the Camino Frances which I started this year. In 2020 will start in Leon in early May. I am not particularly worried about finding a bed, but am wondering what the "crowd" size will be at this time of the year from Leon to Santiago. Also wonder what the weather will be like - no one has a crystal ball on this but, generally, any ideas?
 

zrexer

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014, 15,16 & 19 Camino Frances
2017 Camino Portuguese
2018 Camino Primitivo
The popularity of Camino's shows no sign of abating or slowing down at all. Particularly the Frances route.
I walked late March early April this year and I was kind of stunned how many people were walking as compared to my first walk in 2014.
So even the so called Camino 'shoulder season' is busier now.
That said, alot of excellent advice has been given in prior posts.
All things being equal, early spring and later in the fall still are less busy than from mid May to mid September.
Other routes are getting busier as well. It is what it is.
A little planning and perseverance will see you through.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
2000 I walked 300km of the Camino Frances.
2020 I plan to walk the whole 800km.
You have received some good advice, but there is room for a little more. Try and stay "Off" the Brierly stages. Most first timers swallow the guide book whole, and plan so many days with so many end points as specified in the rule book. Everyone does it the first time, and its both nonsense and a mistake. If you are in a bulge, you can bet that the bed race will move on to the next Brierly town tomorrow. By going a little further, or stopping short, you often will find a much more relaxed albergue situation.

Buen Camino
Hi Rick M. I am a newbie planning to do the Camino Frances June/July 2020 (it's the only time I can get off work). I have just purchased the Brierly book and was planning to follow the stages suggested in the book. Are you suggesting that's it's best to stop short every day/go a little further than the stages in the book? Is there another guide book with different stages?
I am a 43 year old female planning to walk the Camino alone and my three main concerns are blisters, bed bugs and not finding a bed for the night.
 
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SabineP

Camino = Empathy + Compassion.
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
Hi Rick M. I am a newbie planning to do the Camino Frances June/July 2020 (it's the only time I can get off work). I have just purchased the Brierly book and was planning to follow the stages suggested in the book. Are you suggesting that's it's best to stop short every day/go a little further than the stages in the book? Is there another guide book with different stages?
I am a 43 year old female planning to walk the Camino alone and my three main concerns are blisters, bed bugs and not finding a bed for the night.

Just follow your own pace, don't bother with Brierley.
Some days you might be able to walk 30k . Another day you might want to stop after ten k. and smell the roses.

Some other interesting links for planning.



TheWisepilgrim app.
 
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Doughnut NZ

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2019)
I walked the Frances from SJPDP to Santiago and on to Muxia, starting 14 April 2019 and finishing 21 May. I didn't book ahead or plan any stops, staying mostly in municipal albergues. I had little trouble finding a bed in most places, the hardest being in Zubiri where I tried 3 different albergues before finding a bed. Some places were full, others half empty. In one place there were only 3 pilgrims. I did not use the Brierly guide and walked about 20-25ks per day, stopping where fancy took me. No 'rat race' that I noticed, however I did meet a few people who had to walk on to the next town or pay for a hotel after arriving late in the afternoon.
I started on 14th April 2019. I took two days to cross the Pyrenees (returning to SJPdP via transport) and arrived in Roncesvalles at 12:50. I queued for 35 minutes and got a bed, those arriving after 2pm did not get a bed and walked on tired and in the rain. I left late the next morning and got the second to last bed in Zubiri. There was flooding along the trail.

The discussion in the Alberque that night was that Pamplona was fully booked the next day (Saturday) because of a soccer game and pilgrims. I needed to be in Pamplona on the Monday morning for personal reasons and so I stopped at the very delightful Zabaldika on Saturday night where I had no problems getting a bed and apparently missed the extreme flooding that closed part of the trail into Pamplona. On Sunday I did the short walk into Pamplona and was first in line for a bed at the very nice, very Germanic, German Alberque in Pamplona.

I left Pamplona around 11 am on Monday, after completing my business, and walked to Uterga where I had no problem getting a bed. The next night I got the last bed and the trail was crowded but after a few days the crowds thinned as people spread out. I was walking around 27-28 klms per day at this point. The only other times that I had a problem was at weekends that coincided with a larger town/city and O Cebreiro where a lot of Spanish people seem to start, but I always eventually found a bed.

I anticipated problems in Sarria and booked ahead and so I don't know if it would have been a problem or not. Funnily, I didn't book ahead between Sarria and Santiago and had no problems finding a bed, even though it was crowded on the trail. I think that I stayed in towns that were not the established break points.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2000 I walked 300km of the Camino Frances.
2020 I plan to walk the whole 800km.
Just follow your own pace, don't bother with Brierley.
Some days you might be able to walk 30k . Another day you might want to stop after ten k. and smell the roses.

Some other interesting links for planning.



TheWisepilgrim app.
Thank you for these links. I will check them out now.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2000 I walked 300km of the Camino Frances.
2020 I plan to walk the whole 800km.
I started on 14th April 2019. I took two days to cross the Pyrenees (returning to SJPdP via transport) and arrived in Roncesvalles at 12:50. I queued for 35 minutes and got a bed, those arriving after 2pm did not get a bed and walked on tired and in the rain. I left late the next morning and got the second to last bed in Zubiri. There was flooding along the trail.

The discussion in the Alberque that night was that Pamplona was fully booked the next day (Saturday) because of a soccer game and pilgrims. I needed to be in Pamplona on the Monday morning for personal reasons and so I stopped at the very delightful Zabaldika on Saturday night where I had no problems getting a bed and apparently missed the extreme flooding that closed part of the trail into Pamplona. On Sunday I did the short walk into Pamplona and was first in line for a bed at the very nice, very Germanic, German Alberque in Pamplona.

I left Pamplona around 11 am on Monday, after completing my business, and walked to Uterga where I had no problem getting a bed. The next night I got the last bed and the trail was crowded but after a few days the crowds thinned as people spread out. I was walking around 27-28 klms per day at this point. The only other times that I had a problem was at weekends that coincided with a larger town/city and O Cebreiro where a lot of Spanish people seem to start, but I always eventually found a bed.

I anticipated problems in Sarria and booked ahead and so I don't know if it would have been a problem or not. Funnily, I didn't book ahead between Sarria and Santiago and had no problems finding a bed, even though it was crowded on the trail. I think that I stayed in towns that were not the established break points.
How far in advance so you book your accommodation? Do you have to pay when you book? What happens if you plan and book a week in advance but something happens and you don't reach your accommodation in time?
 

Doughnut NZ

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2019)
SJPdP, I booked first night a couple of months in advance, second night I used AirBnB and booked the day before. Everything else if I did reserve then I booked the day before but 90% I just walked and took my chances. When reserving the next day, I did that by phone and was never asked to pay in advance or for a credit card. On one occasion when I had a reservation and got injured and could not make it to the town I phoned and told them so they could give the bed to someone else.

There were stories of people who were making several reservations for the same day then choosing which one to use on the day and not advising the ones that they didn't use. As a result, many Alberques won't now keep a reservation after 3 pm unless you phone them on the day and tell them where you are and when you will arrive.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
How far in advance so you book your accommodation?
Before I start the Camino I usually book my first night or maybe two ahead. When I book ahead while I'm on the Camino it's usually just a day ahead. Sometimes when I stop for breakfast or lunch I'll book something, especially if I've decided on a long day of walking. Other times I just "wing it" and show up and look for a bed.
Do you have to pay when you book?
I often use Booking.com. You need to check the cancellation policy for each property. I also email or call the properties directly. They usually don't require any advance payment.
What happens if you plan and book a week in advance but something happens and you don't reach your accommodation in time?
This is why I don't book more than a day ahead, so that I can remain flexible.
 
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Rick M

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
April ('16,'18, '19, '20)
Hi Rick M. I am a newbie planning to do the Camino Frances June/July 2020 (it's the only time I can get off work). I have just purchased the Brierly book and was planning to follow the stages suggested in the book. Are you suggesting that's it's best to stop short every day/go a little further than the stages in the book? Is there another guide book with different stages?
I am a 43 year old female planning to walk the Camino alone and my three main concerns are blisters, bed bugs and not finding a bed for the night.
As others have said, its best to walk at your own pace without doing too much planning. That includes not planning to actively avoid the Brierly stages.....until that makes sense. If you are in a "pilgrim bubble" and are having trouble finding lodging, getting off the Brierly stages has worked for me before. As an aside, go through your packing list, and throw out your worries. They are heavy, and do not wind up being very useful. Having done this a few times, I would use the following method:

Book SJPP, Roncesvalles, Zubiri, and Pamplona before you leave. Unless you are thinking shorter stages (like Orrison) these stages are fairly fixed and you will do them with everyone else. You can book these any time before you go. After Pamplona, the crowd starts to string out and diffuse a little bit. You may need or want an off day in Pamplona, discovering that three days in a row of mountain walking with a pack is pretty tiring. I don't take any off days, I find they feel weird. Instead, I will walk a short day of about 10 K when I need one, and then resume my pace. You won't know what your natural Camino pace is until you are there. For me its 25K a day. Many do 20 or less, and a few hardy souls consistently do more than 30K.

You can't predict the weather, injuries, people you meet and like (or dislike!), and how your body adjusts to the time zone, food, water, sleep deprivation, etc. Don't plan too far ahead. After Pamplona, I judge how I'm feeling and book the next day or two. The next day, I book another, and play by ear booking the next day as I go. You can't book a municipal albergue ahead of time - walk up and see if they have space. Most private albergues will take you at your word and book you over the phone or via email. I have never met a hospitalero or barman who would not phone an albergue for you if language was a problem. Hostels, Hotels, Casa Rurals and the like can be done via booking.com. I use all of these options, depending on how things go.

Worry about blisters, that one is for real. Train, and train some more, and look after your feet. Don't worry about not getting a bed. The people who live on the Camino do this every day. When a place is full, they will send you to one that isn't. They know where it is, they had lunch with the owner a few hours ago. When a town is full, they will send you to the next town....they know the albergue operators there too. I arrived in one full town and the hospitalero offered to have his aunt pick us up and take us to her casa rural about 8K off the Camino. I have also taken taxis to alternate lodging a few times when I was tired or the weather was awful. Trust in the Camino to provide, it will. They do this every day, and know how to find you to a bed.

Buen Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
2000 I walked 300km of the Camino Frances.
2020 I plan to walk the whole 800km.
As others have said, its best to walk at your own pace without doing too much planning. That includes not planning to actively avoid the Brierly stages.....until that makes sense. If you are in a "pilgrim bubble" and are having trouble finding lodging, getting off the Brierly stages has worked for me before. As an aside, go through your packing list, and throw out your worries. They are heavy, and do not wind up being very useful. Having done this a few times, I would use the following method:

Book SJPP, Roncesvalles, Zubiri, and Pamplona before you leave. Unless you are thinking shorter stages (like Orrison) these stages are fairly fixed and you will do them with everyone else. You can book these any time before you go. After Pamplona, the crowd starts to string out and diffuse a little bit. You may need or want an off day in Pamplona, discovering that three days in a row of mountain walking with a pack is pretty tiring. I don't take any off days, I find they feel weird. Instead, I will walk a short day of about 10 K when I need one, and then resume my pace. You won't know what your natural Camino pace is until you are there. For me its 25K a day. Many do 20 or less, and a few hardy souls consistently do more than 30K.

You can't predict the weather, injuries, people you meet and like (or dislike!), and how your body adjusts to the time zone, food, water, sleep deprivation, etc. Don't plan too far ahead. After Pamplona, I judge how I'm feeling and book the next day or two. The next day, I book another, and play by ear booking the next day as I go. You can't book a municipal albergue ahead of time - walk up and see if they have space. Most private albergues will take you at your word and book you over the phone or via email. I have never met a hospitalero or barman who would not phone an albergue for you if language was a problem. Hostels, Hotels, Casa Rurals and the like can be done via booking.com. I use all of these options, depending on how things go.

Worry about blisters, that one is for real. Train, and train some more, and look after your feet. Don't worry about not getting a bed. The people who live on the Camino do this every day. When a place is full, they will send you to one that isn't. They know where it is, they had lunch with the owner a few hours ago. When a town is full, they will send you to the next town....they know the albergue operators there too. I arrived in one full town and the hospitalero offered to have his aunt pick us up and take us to her casa rural about 8K off the Camino. I have also taken taxis to alternate lodging a few times when I was tired or the weather was awful. Trust in the Camino to provide, it will. They do this every day, and know how to find you to a bed.

Buen Camino
What a helpful reply Rick M. Thank you so SO much! What you have written makes so much sense now from the research that I have done and I will take on board everything you advised.
 

Dodger

Lone Walker, Camino Frances 2018
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2018
Intending Camino Portugese 2020
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
I started my walk April 9th, finished mid May 2018, never book ahead. Never had any trouble finding a bed, sometimes stayed at the end of a stage sometimes not. I averaged 24kms a day and stopped walking by about 1400 each day.
 

Finisterre

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria 2001,
Porto 2006,
Valenca 2008,
Finisterre 2010,
SJdPP 2012,
Tui 2014.

No plans to return, yet.
This makes no sense?
I will expand with another question. Is being slow and old a good reason to not join a lifetime pilgrimage because there may be a shortage of beds? I hope you see where I am going with this. On mass transit it is common to give up your seat to pregnant women, the disabled, the elderly.

I think bringing a competitive edge to service availability on pilgrimage routes, where the use of limited spaces by the strongest, may lead to the halt and the lame being forced to sleep in parks and church doorways, or worse, miss out on life chances for fear of failure.

I am not questioning your need for pilgrimage. And I understand you are worried about sleeping rough. Your opener is about making the best of your time, and that is the right attitude. If you end up pushing yourself, competing, I think you end up losing the joy.


Edited for good manners
 
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Nick B

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances - May/June 2018
Portugese - (2019)
Norte - (2020)
I started May 13, 2018, booked Roncesvalles and winged everything else. Stopped just short(5kms) of Pamplona due to tiredness, nice Albergue where myself and a couple of English girls had the place to ourselves. Had to walk up the hill at Puente de Reina for a bed but after that no real issues but was walking solo.

Agree with the idea of booking Roncesvalles, Zubiri and Pamplona and then stop where ever you feel like staying put or meeting with other pilgrims.
 

NYSE

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances & Camino Finisterre/Muxia April 2019
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
I left SJPP April 1, 2019 and never found a bed difficult to find. I will say I knocked off no later than 3pm daily. Most alberges I stayed at did fill up by the end of the day.
 

John H.

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF - 2017
CP Central - 2017
CP Coastal - 2018
CF - [hopefully again someday]
I didn't find it to be a rat race. I left SjPdP on April 14/17. Since this was just before the Easter holiday weekend, the first few nights were fairly busy at the ALbergues. But, once I was beyond Pamplona after day 3 the pilgrims were quite spread-out. No matter what time of year you go, the easiest way to avoid the crowds at the Albergues is to choose night stops that are in between the places suggested on the 1-page trail and elevation guide they hand out at the Pilgrim Office in SjPdP. Just go and have a wonderful experience.
 

ellen8387

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Plan Mid April 2019
Hi All,

I am just looking for advice from people that walked the Camino Frances in April/May of 2019.
Did you find there was a race to get to destinations in order to secure a bed or was there generally beds available? Im young and fit and have no problem walking at a fast pace but I would rather not have to rush so that i can make the most of the camino.

I appreciate any advice.
I walked starting April 6th to May 15th and it was mainly fine. We did start about midway to book a bed the night before as a couple people I started to walk with were sending their bags ahead and since we needed to plan our stop for the day anyhow it made sense to stay where the bags were headed. I think the later in the month the more challenging it gets. That being said there was still a bit of snow and so we were not able to walk over the Pyrenees and had to talk the alternate route. I suppose every year will be different and if I were to go again I would choose early April again.
 

Bill905

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2019)
From the pre-Camino research I had done, it indicated that April would be a good month to walk, because albergue beds are more available, despite the weather being changeable. I left SJPP March 26, 2019 and reached Santiago April 26, 2019 - I walked with 1 other pilgrim, and we never had any issues finding an albergue with a bed. A good guide will also list the operating dates for the albergues, as well as amenities available. We generally tried to find an albergue that had laundry services - we encountered lots of precipitation! Another contributor (t2andreo) advises to have a Plan B, and I recommend that as well. Get a good recent guide book that lists albergues along the trail so you can have a choice. Sometimes we stopped earlier than we had planned, sometimes we completed a few more kilometres, always due to weather. Be flexible.

Research weather conditions and be prepared. We had sun, rain, sleet, snow, and several days of 20 km/hr headwinds along the route. Our Camino was wet, muddy, and slippery. You would be wise to carry extra socks, a warm hat, and gloves or mittens, and lots of tissues for your runny nose! Locals' comments ranged from "This year (2019) is wetter and colder than normal" to "Well, it is spring after all, what did you expect?" I also recommend a rain jacket and separate pants, rather than a poncho. I had a poncho that was difficult in the wind, and did not protect my lower legs from rain. By Astorga I had finally had enough and bought a rain jacket and ditched the poncho. Much easier walking!

Here is an interesting tidbit. As you approach Fromista, there is a canal with a ferry for pilgrims, and it costs 2 Euros for a pleasant boat ride of a few kilometres. However, the only day it does not run is Tuesday. Guess which day we arrived there? ;-(
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2017), Primitivo (2019)
Caveat about April, which is otherwise ideal; Easter and the many caminants who have vacation time around that holiday DRASTICALLY change the bedrace
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
What's the new system?
On arriving at the pilgrim office you now take a numbered ticket and enter a queue system. You can then leave the office, check online to see when your turn is near and return to the office to receive your Compostela. However the total number of tickets being issued per day is limited to the number the office are able to process. In busy times this summer and autumn it was occasionally impossible to receive a ticket after noon or 1pm and anyone arriving at the office after that had to return the next day simply to enter the queue.
 

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