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Jewels of the Camino


Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
We met a delightful Irish girl on the camino who, for various physical reasons, could not carry a heavy pack and who chose not to sleep in the albergues. She started at St Jean Pied de Port and walked to Santiago staying at small hostals or pensions having her luggage transported from place to place by taxi. Some people seemed to disapprove of this kind of pilgrimage but I am of the opinion that where you sleep or what you carry has no bearing whatsoever on your spiritual status as a pilgrim. She walked the same paths, through the same villages and towns and visited the same churches and cathedrals and monuments. She walked the camino and has a Compostela to prove it.
The camino has many levels - something for everybody. It is a physical journey and a spiritual journey. It offers religion and science, art and architecture, history and legend, fauna and flora, music, literature and much more. For me its richest blessings are the pilgrims who walk it and the people who care for them. I do feel that staying only in hotels deprives one of experiencing the wonderful camaraderie and social interaction pilgrims have with hospitaleros and other pilgrims which you only find in the pilgrim refuges. Sure, you can chat to fellow pilgrims on the road and at café bars but it is usually at the end of the day when most pilgrims are relaxing that you meet and befriend so many different people and have the most amazing encounters.
After arriving at a refuge most pilgrims attend to their daily chores of washing clothes, finding food and preparing for the next day. This is never done in isolation, but by patiently waiting your turn at the washtub, chatting with the people around you or sharing your food. Everyone shares, not only food and wine but information, medication, blister products. You break bread every day. Friendships are formed. Distrust among pilgrims disappears. One keeps meeting the same pilgrims in different refuges and if separated for a few days, familiar faces are greeted like long-lost relatives.
The scenes around a modern albergue can’t be too different from a medieval hospice. Pilgrims relaxing together in a meadow sharing food and wine, tending to each other’s feet or massaging aching shoulders. An ethic develops where those pilgrims who need to be alone are left alone and those who need a shoulder are treated with empathy and compassion. Pilgrims develop an open mind and a culture of acceptance, compassion and caring rarely seen amongst strangers. And, many hospitaleros display these same attributes.
In Villamayor de Monjardin the hospitalero took one look at my raw heels and insisted on treating them from her first aid box. In Granon, we had to sing for our supper and had a special blessing before bedtime. In Tosantos, after dinner we climbed into the attic to find a delightful makeshift chapel where we were asked to take a piece of paper out of a box containing the requests for prayers written by other pilgrims. Mine was written by a woman who asked that we pray for her son who had been diagnosed with a kidney disease. In Logrono we could take a prayer from a box (written by children) to present at the altar of St James in Santiago. In Bercianos we all had to watch the sunset over a hill before we were allowed back in to the refuge for our communal meal. At Arroyo San Bol, a young Italian Rastafarian chef cooked us the most amazing meal. At Villafranca del Bierzo, Jesus Jato performed his healing Reiki on pilgrims who were in pain and at Manjarin, a young man with a Mohawk hairstyle and studs in his face cooked us lunch and dinner in between gently caring for a mother cat and her kittens.
These are the jewels of the camino and my most precious memories are not of a soaring cathedral or of stunning stained glass but of the kindness of strangers, the astounding generosity of the Spanish people and the many humble refuges that brought us all together.
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Camino Frances, Roncesvalles to Santiago, May/June (2006)
Camino VdlP, Seville to Caceres, May (2009)
Dear Sillydoll,
Thank-you for this lovely post,I think you have mirrored the thoughts of many pilgrims within
it's contents.It certainly reminded me of some of the great experiences I gleaned from my Camino.All best,Les

Liv Marit

Hi, Sillydoll.

Now it's a little bit over a year since I arrived in Santiago after my pilgrimage. Today, I suddenly felt an urge and a strong longing back to the Camino. Whenever I closed my eyes, I wanted to be back there on the track. I opened the pages of this forum, opened your post, and you took me right back. Thank you for pointing out some of the most important things about a pilgrimage in such a good way.

To all pilgrims who is walking or has their plans made - buen and safe camino. Ad since we are all a part of the same big picture, I feel like I am there with you, like all other pilgrims who has ever walked the way of the stars.

Love from Liv in sunny Norway. :D


New Member
Thank you Sillydoll. In amongst all the reading of guidebooks and worrying over packing lists as the date approaches, your comments have brought me back to the 'still small voices' of the experience that I'm looking forward to. I don't know what it will be like: it's all new. But I trust your posts.


brendan nolan

Active Member
Hi Sillydoll,
Many thanks for your reflections on the Jewels of the Camino. I've walked a kilometer or two on pilgrimage and your thoughts are so true , inspiring and something for us to treasure. In fact I'm going to print them out and show them to friends. :D
Just had a difficult few days and your words have lifted me and reminded me what pilgrimage is about and what are the real values in life. :)
I hope you don't mind this comment; why do you call yourself 'Sillydoll' when clearly you are are not!
Best wishes,
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Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
Hello Brendan,
Thanks for your kind words - don't you just love this Forum? It is like a cyber-albergue, where peregrinos-past, present and future - share, debate, console and encourage each other. Even those who haven't yet walked el camino are part of the peregrino family - they are yet to take the first steps but their souls are on their way and all the other souls are there to guide them!
My name is Silvia. My friends call me Sil, sometimes diminutized even further to Silly. My husband used to call me Doll (that was way back in the 60's) and, sometimes he would call me Silly-doll. There was usually more to it:
"Silly, doll... won't you make me a cup of tea - hold this hammer - scratch my back?" So when I had to choose an email name Sillydoll just seemed to fit.
PS: My brother's first child (now grown up) couldn't say Silvia and used to call me Sifilus - which was NOT a name I encouraged!


Active Member
what a beautiful and heart touching post Sil. Thank you! Yes, this is why we do the camino, for the people we come in contact with and the experiences that accompany them. Otherwise it would be easier to take a car to see the cathedrals etc along the way. The people who touch our lives are the ones we will remember in old age, not the things we've bought or the amount of money we have. thank you again for reminding us! Jane

Rose Louise


The guidance you give and kindness you show to other members of this forum is unparalleled. Saw this little quote and thought it appropriate.

"What we do with every day is what matters most".

We give thanks to you for brightening the days of so many.

brendan nolan

Active Member
Hi Sil,
Thanks for info on name! Re cyber-albergue, agree, a great place for helping peregrinos/as wherever they are on their pilgrimage.
sillydoll said:
Some people seemed to disapprove
I often wonder why some pilgrims spend so much time 'disapproving' of others, especially when they don't know their story.
'Pilgrimage' is an attitude of mind towards life, which may also involve, for some people at a particular time in their life, a physical journey such as the route to Santiago. Many people, (not able to make a long physical pilgrimage), set out every day on pilgrimage, it is the way they live from day to day; open to others and to what the day may bring and dealing with both in a generous spirit.
In 2005 I met a Belgian pilgrim in an electric wheelchair who crossed the Pyrenees but, (and a smile is allowed!), she had to get the French Fire Brigade out because the electrics failed in the storm! She did get to Santiago, but how do the 'disapproving ' ones deal with how she travelled or where she stayed.
It seems to me, sadly, that the critics are on a bigger pilgrimage than they realised and haven't come to terms with a major aspect of pilgrimage, 'vulnerability' and what that may involve for each pilgrim.
sillydoll said:
And, many hospitaleros display these same attributes
Thanks for the plug for the hospitaleros!! Worked in Refugio Gaucelmo at Rabanal last 2 weeks of May this year and going again end of June next year. It's often called the 'English' refugio and is run by the CSJ; they usually ask that the volunteer hospitaleros/as have done some of the pilgrimage and therefore they hopefully are able to appreciate the needs of pilgrims.
PEI-les said:
Everyone shares
sillydoll said:
You break bread every day
The immensity of the significance of this cannot be overstated.
Just though I'd add twopenneth worth!
Best wishes,
sillydoll wrote:Some people seemed to disapprove............Thank you Brendon for honestly expressing the feeling of the many pragmatic pilgrims who are prepared to use the many facilities on the Camino but are not prepared to suffer the indignity of finding no room at the inn after a hard day's walk. Thanks goodness that this forum run by Ivar is not being dominated by "purists" like some other where the moderator has to put a stop to bitter and pedantic exchanges. Sil, you are the jewel in my eye: so practical; ever ready to share your experience; so perceptive and a true modern pilgrim. I am indeed glad that you had your better half doing the last part of the Camino ... and returning home in time to see the RWC remaining in the South Hemisphere.
Grandpa Joe
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brendan nolan said:
I often wonder why some pilgrims spend so much time 'disapproving' of others
probably because they do that in the rest of their life :) There is no shortage of people wanting to tell you how you should behave, and how their credo is the only correct one.
brendan nolan said:
'Pilgrimage' is an attitude of mind towards life
One of the things I like about the concept of pilgrimage, like many of the more interesting things in life, is that it can be interpreted at a number of different levels, historical, cultural, metaphoric, physical, spiritual . . . One thing I regret about 'The Camino' now as opposed to 20 years ago, when there were few pilgrims and no rules, is that it's become rather formulaic, bound up in spurious 'rules' about what 'pilgrims' should do and how they should think, how they should start at a particular point, follow a particular route, overnight in particular places, etc, etc. If people enjoy this or find it meaningful, that's fine by me, but it seems to me to be missing the larger picture.

I suppose this mirrors the development of the Church, where the spontaneity and enthusiasm of the early Church was gradually replaced by dogma and ritual.


Greetings,I havn´t had access to this group for a while but today I got lucky. I am currently in Arca do Pinos and the plan is to reach Santiago tomorrow.I will post more about my experiences and once I get home and have more time and access to the net but I just wanted to say that I have grown a little weary about the Albergue versus hotel or pensiones debate that I have come accross on the camino.
I have stayed mainly in hotels over the last 30 days but have stayed in afew albergues and have been walking with various people who have stayed mostly in albergues and therefore have visited many.
I really can´t see the difference I have mixed with many people on the way, and in bars after a hard day and at dinner etc. I speak spanish and have therefore also had the opportunity to talk to many locals on the street , bars etc sometime well after the lights out in albergues. I have come accross many many great fantastic people but also many who are not so friendly and seem to using albergiues as a way of having a cheap holiday.
Samos for instance I saw very few people who were staying at the monastry the day I was there actaully paying the 3 euros to visit the Monastary or at the Pilgrims blessing. I´m not overly religious but the monastry was something to see and the 3 euros is very little to assist in the upkeep of such a wonderfull monument.
All in all I guess what I´m saying is that I think that people who are having an opinion about how people are doing their Camino are perhaps not concentrating enough on their own.
Regarding the carrying bags issue, who really cares how someone chooses to do it. I have carried my pack (too heavy I must admit) but hey if others wish to transport it good luck to them at least they are doing what they can.

I met a woman doing only 10kms a day over 5 hours because of severe tendonitis and she was still smiling. I felt her effort was far greater than my 35kms days with 14 kilos.

Hopefully I havn´t offended anyone.
Buen Camino a todos


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