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My walk Llançá to Santa Cilia de Jaca March/April 2019

Camino(s) past & future
Aragon/Frances 08, Arles 10, Le Puy 12, Geneva 14, VdlP 15, Norte/Primitivo 15, VF 17, Levante 18,
As I have benefited immensely from other’s accounts of camino walks, I wish to add some notes about my recent walk: March 14th through April 6th, 2019, from Llançá to Santa Cilia de Jaca -- on the Cami Sant Jaume to Montserrat and the Camino Catalán from Montserrat to Santa Cilia de Jaca. I used Laurie’s GPS maps (though never did figure out how to get my blue location dot to materialize on her yellow path) and mostly followed her stages. It is a lovely walk, the first half quite different from the second half. I strongly prefer caminos with pilgrim albergues, which the first half really does not have – but both halves are generally well marked (except in towns along the Cami Sant Jaume), historically interesting, beautiful, and have few other pilgrim walkers – all of which are pluses for me in deciding where to walk. In fact, in the first half I met no other pilgrims or any other type of long distance walkers. Several town halls and small hotel owners told me I was the first of the season. In the second half, I saw eleven other pilgrims, but five were a young group of Russians walking together and I only saw them one night, one was a Frenchman walking the reverse direction on the Camino Ignaciano; the majority of nights I was either alone or with just one other pilgrim.
I always called one day in advance about accommodation. In the first half, staying at hostals or youth hostels, it just seemed reasonable to call and make a reservation. I prefer phoning to using booking.com and think the pilgrim prices are sometimes lower if calling, especially in the three youth hostels. All youth hostels and small hostals were friendly and welcoming. In the second half, I also called a day in advance, or more if a weekend was approaching, as I wanted to make sure the albergue municipal was open, and wanted to know the arrangements for getting the key. I think advance notice was appreciated. On the other hand, if I hadn’t called, it probably would have worked out fine in the early spring.

My personal preference is very simple, inexpensive, pilgrim accommodations. Others have different preferences. The Cami Sant Jaume was my first Spanish camino lacking pilgrim specific accommodation. I have thought about it since finishing, and think it is probably possible, with fluent Spanish and contacts, to walk that route more cheaply than I did. So if there are pilgrim walkers who are hesitating about walking from the northern coast (Llançá or El Port de la Selva) or from the French border (Col du Perthus) to Montserrat because of the cost, I think there might be possibilities for decreasing the cost. Staying in the Bonmati albergue 15 km beyond Girona (which gives preference to pilgrims) may be a source of information about other places. There may be a refugio in Cantonigrós, before L’Esquirol. There may be pilgrim specific accommodation in Artés. Contacting the Gerona pilgrim’s association may be helpful. Asking at each tourist office and each town hall along the way may open up possibilities. I didn’t know, and don’t know, and lacked the energy and Spanish to inquire. I hope someone in the future will more actively pursue cheaper options.

Resources for the Cami Sant Jaume: Mostly I used Laurie’s wikiloc maps, and information from her walk and others, from this website. I had torn the pertinent pages out of a French guidebook titled Le Chemin Catalan by JeanYves Grégoire, Rando editions, 2013, and found it helpful, primarily for the maps, and accommodation list. It deviates on one occasion from the official way-marked route. There is a guide which you can purchase in Barcelona written in Catalan which I did not purchase, as I don’t read Catalan well, and it had nothing on accommodation. Most of my accommodation ideas came from Laurie’s account. I did visit the office of the Friends of the Camino in Barcelona but perhaps because of my limited Spanish, did not learn anything I didn’t already know about the Cami Sant Jaume. I think the man I spoke with was not that familiar with that particular camino. I did not use the online guide produced by the Catalan government as I had difficulties figuring out how to print the odd shaped pages before I went, and found it hard to view online on my cell phone. I also didn’t find their sketch maps helpful. I think others have found this guide helpful though.

Resources for the Camino Catalán (from Montserrat via Huesca to Santa Cilia): The most important source of information on distances, accommodations, and other resources such as bars, stores and pharmacies is the 3 page online document compiled by the Associació d’Amics dels Pelegrins a Santiago -Barcelona from their website www.amicsdelspelegrins.org. All pilgrims I met had printed copies. It is accurate and very helpful. Always nice to know that there are no bars or stores in the next 3 little villages one will walk through. It is in Spanish but it doesn’t take much Spanish to read it. That reference, and Laurie’s GPS maps were enough. But I like resources, so I purchased a guidebook in Barcelona in Spanish which covers the two Catalan caminos starting in Montserrat – the one I did and the one going more directly west from Montserrat to Logrono via Lleida and Zaragoza. This guide is titled El Camino Catalán De Santiago Desde Montserrat by Joan Fiol Boada, 2010. I found the sketch maps helpful and the details on accommodation useful. I also used the Eroski Consumer App as a resource.
I walked Llançá to Montserrat (what I am calling the Cami Sant Jaume) in 10 stages, Montserrat to Santa Cilia de Jaca (what I am calling the Camino Catalán) in 11 stages. One could do it much more slowly. We all have our own styles and speeds of walking. Mine is slow but very steady and persistent, so for me, walking 40 km if the path is good and reasonably level, is enjoyable.

Here are my stages/accommodations/costs on the Cami Sant Jaume/Camino Catalán starting on the Costa Brava Coast at Llançá and ending in Santa Cilia de Jaca where the Camino Catalán joins the Camino Aragonés.

Llançá- start – Pensio Llançá. 21 euros
Llançá- Figueres 30 km. Hostal Figueres 20 euros
Figueres - Báscara 20 km. Pension Fluvia 25 euros
Báscara – Girona. 32 km. Alberg Cerveri youth hostal 11 euros
Girona - Amer. 28 km. Fonda Giralt. 29 euros
Amer – Sant Esteve d’en Bas. 25 km. Casa Rural mas Rubio (which is in Joanetes 2 km beyond Sant Esteve, off route) 25 euros
Sant Esteve d’en Bas – L’Esquirol 25 km. Hostal Collsacabra. 40 euros (which was a special pilgrim discount from 60 euros; other pilgrims have stayed there in the past for 20 euros.)
L’Esquirol – Vic – 20 km. Alberg Canonge Collell youth hostel 15 euros
Vic – Santa Maria d’Oló. 32 km (and this village is 2 km off route). Hostal Santa Maria d’Oló 25 euros
Santa Maria d’Oló – Manresa. 40 km. Alberg Del Carme youth hostel. 15 euros
Manresa – Monserrat. 28 km. Albergue of the Monastery. 6 euros
Monserrat – Jorba. 38km. Albergue juvenile y de peregrinos. 10 euros
Jorba – Cervera. 33 km. La Residencia de la Sagrada Familia (convent) 10 euros
Cervera – Linyola. 35 km. Apartamento turistico. 13 euros (35 euros shared among 3 pilgrims)
Linyola – Algerri – 30 km. Albergue Municipal. 5 euros
Algerri – Tamarite de Litera. 23 km. Albergue Municipal. Donativo.
Tamarite de Litera – Berbegal. 39 km. Albergue municipal. 10 euros
Berbegal – Pueyo de Fañanás. 28 km. Albergue Municipal. 10 euros
Pueyo de Fañanás - Huesca. 17 km. Albergue Municipal. 10 euros
Huesca – Sarsamarcuello. 40 km. Albergue Municipal. 5 euros
Sarsamarcuello – Ena. 25 km. Albergue Municipal. Donativo.
Ena – Arrés (10 past Santa Cilia on the Camino Aragonés). 35 km. Albergue municipal. Donativo

I started by flying into Barcelona, and then took the train to Llançá. I stayed at the Pensio Llançá which was simple and perfectly satisfactory. It is near the train station, the tourist office and the start of the camino trail up to Monasterio de Sant Pere de Rodes. I would have stayed at the youth hostal, but it was still closed the middle of March.

Day 1. Llançá to Figueres. 30 km. It is a magnificent first day with a good 600 m climb, an impressive monastery at the top, beautiful views of the coast, and then an equally stiff path down the other side and then, luckily, flat to Figueres. Between a 10 hour jet lag, my deconditioned state, my advancing years, and the heat wave that was sweeping all of Spain mid-March – I was not in great shape 30 km later entering Figueres – but the next morning was a new day and much easier. If I were doing it again, I would have taken the bicycle camino route down the mountain. I did cut off a km taking a short cut on the plains. (I like maps for many reasons.) Hostal Figueres in Figueres is very friendly and has a patio for washing and drying clothes, a very well-equipped kitchen and has a central location in the city. I had a dorm room to myself, as there were few people there.

Day 2. Figueres to Báscara. 20 km (but for me 30 km) An easy day but I added 10 km by taking the wrong path out of the village of Pontos. I am not the first who made this mistake. When you approach the center of this tiny village and hit the t-intersection, don’t just blindly turn right following yellow dashes. Look left and you will see a camino arrow. That is your camino. Instead I followed yellow dashes down past the old lavanderia on the right, and across a stream and through the woods and hills for many miles. I even checked google maps and noticed it said I was due west of Pontos, instead of due south, and thought to myself, that google maps must be malfunctioning because of poor internet connectivity. But it was a lovely walk, and resulted in a nice long conversation at a farm with a family who straightened me out, and then I met a woman gathering wild asparagus, so it was fine. It’s humbling making a rather stupid mistake, but we have all done that. Hostal Fluvia in Báscara is run by a family of very nice women who go out of their way to make pilgrims feel welcome. When I asked for a “take-out” café con leche to take to my room for the morning, as I was planning to walk before their bar opened, she understood instantly. She offered an electric kettle and instant coffee if I wanted it hot, but I prefer room temperature “real” coffee in the morning.

Day 3. Báscara to Girona. 32 km. The bakery in Báscara was on the camino route and open at first light, so I had a fresh roll as I left town. Fields and woods. Undulating. A walk along the River Ter. A longish walk once you get to the edge of the town of Girona to the center of town. Remember the Cami Sant Jaume is not way-marked in most all towns, but heading for the center of town and the cathedral is not hard. I liked the youth hostel in Girona a lot. It was centrally located. The staff were very helpful and reviewed maps with me. This was especially helpful as the tourist office was closed the hours I was in town. There weren’t many folks staying at the youth hostel so I had a huge 8 bunkbed room to myself, with private bath. There are drying lines on the patio of the top floor, and the radiator was on at night to finish off the drying process.

Day 4. Girona to Amer. 28 km. It isn’t hard to find the camino leaving Girona, as it follows the Via Verdi, across the river. I had a city map which helped, and Laurie’s GPS Wikiloc map. The Via Verdi (the old railway bed) or Carrilet is simple to follow but I found the frequent bicyclists zipping by distracting and was happy to be rid of it after 2 full days. While in Girona I puzzled over which route to take to get to Vic. My French guidebook described an alternate route to Vic which involved turning west at El Pasteral, just before Amer, and heading to Vilanova de Sau. This was a significantly shorter route, but accommodation at Vilanova de Sau was expensive. It would be a convenient way to visit the Monasterio Sant Pere Casserres, if one were interested. I thought it would be a pretty walk, along roads in the forest up to a dam, and then along the Sau reservoir to the touristy town of Vilanova de Sau. But I was unsure, so took the “official” Cami Sant Jaume which heads further north. I stayed in a lovely hostal in Amer, the Fonda Giralt. I had a late lunch at 3:30 which was delicious with a Catalan soup, and tender lamb, and Crema Catalan for dessert. I felt quite pampered.
(Let me note that there is an albergue 15 km after Girona in the village of Bonmati which gives preference to pilgrims. The location didn’t fit my travel plan and the reported cost (15 euros) is more than the youth hostel in Girona. Perhaps it would have been a good source of information about this route, however, for pilgrims interested in low costs and more pilgrim like accommodations.)

Day 5. Amer to the area around Sant Esteve d’en Bas. 25 km. This second day along the Via Verde is much prettier, and down-right beautiful by the time it enters the valley of d’en Bas. The heat wave in Spain had finally moderated and I was at higher elevation, so the walking was very pleasant. There is a “turistico” albergue in Sant Esteve d’en Bas, which in March is only open on weekends. So that was not an option. I could have walked on to the town of Olot, which has hostals, but didn’t want to walk that far off trail. So I called the first Casa Rural on my list, and was offered a 25 euro bed. It turned out to be 2 km beyond Sant Esteve d’en Bas (off camino) but was a lovely 17th century farmhouse which I stayed in alone. The kitchen was not available to me, but there was fruit, biscuits, a coffee machine, milk in the refrigerator and a lovely old dining room to eat my picnic dinner and then breakfast the next day. It was a quiet place with lovely old architecture and furnishings.

Day 6. San Esteve d’en Bas to L’Esquirol. 25 km. This is a beautiful walk. First through the flat d’en Bas valley and then up a sometimes steep wooded path to a high plateau of meadows and farms, followed by a slight downhill to L’Esquirol. There are several possible paths. The best one is the one labeled Cami Ral (Real in Catalan). According to my local source – it is the prettier, easier and more direct Cami Sant Jaume. Way-marking is not great until you are on the right path up. Then once at the top, I thought the way-marking was again not great, though actually never went off-path. It is more that the yellow arrows are very infrequent, so you must have faith. I stopped at a manor farm after walking many km in what I felt was the wrong direction, and inquired about the path, only to be told I was on the right route. The first bar of the day is in Cantronigrós where I had a huge café con leche and bocadillo and rest. I heard from a hospitalero a week later that Cantronigrós has a refugio for pilgrims – and I would have stayed there if I had known. I don’t know if this information is accurate. Instead I walked on down to L’Esquirol where the only hostal in town charges pilgrims 40 euros for a perfectly satisfactory room, no different from any number of other hostals on this route which charge 25. The woman working in the first little grocery store on the camino as you enter L’Esquirol had bicycled the camino from L’Esquirol to Santiago and it was fun to talk with her.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Aragon/Frances 08, Arles 10, Le Puy 12, Geneva 14, VdlP 15, Norte/Primitivo 15, VF 17, Levante 18,
Continuing....
Day 7. L’Esquirol to Vic. 20km. This was a short day, mostly downhill on huge flattish stone landscapes, to Vic. Signage out of town was not great. Thank you again Laurie for your Wikiloc map which told me which street would get me to the start of the camino at the edge of town. Rhoda de Ter was a bustling town, good for coffee and a snack. It was market day, and the café nearest the market was packed. The Vic youth hostel was spacious and not many folks were there. I ended up spending an extra night there which gave me time to visit the Museu de l’Art de la Pell (leather museum) which I enjoyed immensely, and the Museu Episcopal Vic – which ranks up there as one of the best museums I have ever visited anywhere. It helps if you are interested in religious art. Vic is a university town and interesting.
Day 8. Vic to Santa Maria d’Oló. 32 km. Lots of forest roads today, initially flattish, and then up and up and up to L’Estany, 400 m higher, which has coffee, food and a beautiful romanesqe church which was closed. Then more elevation gain, and it was heat wave time again, and then undulating forest roads. Because there aren’t many options of places to stay, unless you want a short day to L’Estany where I don’t know of inexpensive accommodation, the option I chose was the same as Laurie’s choice: two km off route, straight down into a valley and then up a little hill to the town of Santa Maria d’Oló where the Hostal Santa Maria d’Oló is happy to provide a room. They also offer an 8am 2 km ride back up to the camino, which I accepted, though 8 am is late for me. I just really did not want to do the 2 km steep uphill walk in the morning on an anticipated long day.
Day 9. Santa Maria d’Oló to Manresa. 42 km. More forest roads today to Artés. (A note to others seeking pilgrim centered accommodation: My French guidebook says there is a pilgrim place to stay in Artés in the Residencia Patronat de la Calidad. 4 beds 10E. In the home for retired persons. c/Hospital 15. Call 2 days in advance. 938 305 306 or 679 168 289. Might be worth pursuing.) I walked the last 4 km into Artés with a local woman who was out walking for exercise. She was eager to practice her English, and even though her slow pace was hard for me, I slowed for her, and enjoyed our Spanish/English attempts. She loaded me with fruit and water once we reached her house, and told me the correct route out of town, which was very helpful. The next town was Navarcles which delighted me because it was the first town on this camino where the yellow arrows carried me right through town. 10 more km to Manresa, where again, the yellow arrows directed me across the garden plots at the edge of town, then up to a ridge, where the startling cinema/big box stores/fast food complex confronts you, then through lovely old residential areas and then down into the old town where the yellow arrows stop. But by then you can see the basilica and know the Albergue Del Carme youth hostel is nearby. The little streets nearby are full of Arabic and the only grocery store open Sunday evening was one with sesame sweets and North African flat bread. Some pilgrims have suggested bypassing Manresa and there is a camino sign showing this option of going directly to Montserrat. I rather enjoyed Manresa and the Albergue Del Carme youth hostel was fine. There were a lot of extra steps into my room and that day, after 42 km, I didn’t look favorably on those steps. But it was quiet, I had a room to myself, and the staff were kind.
Day 10. Manresa-Montserrat. 27 km. A day of more asphalt than I really like, slow and steadily upward to Montserrat. There was a fair amount of traffic zipping down the curvy highway as I approached Montserrat. It did not feel extremely dangerous, but was not much fun. Of course the views are spectacular so that helped. There were signs for a pilgrim refugio in Castellgali, the last town before Montserrat, so that is another option that could be pursued. Montserrat is odd. A spectacular setting. Hordes of tourists, who then, come 5pm, mostly disappear back down to Barcelona leaving the place to a few locals. Evening vespers with the famous boys’ choir was quite moving in the Basilica. The albergue was a fine place to sleep, though lacked a social area or real kitchen. But I heard the next day from the hospitalero in Jorba that Montserrat was opening a “new” albergue for pilgrims the very next day. We were a large bunch of pilgrims the night I stayed in Montserrat, 7 of us, very unusual for March we were told, and as a group decided to eat the 10 euro pilgrim dinner at the hotel, which was fine. The tourist oriented stores of Montserrat do have a tiny area selling canned goods, microwavable dinners and bread, cheese, sausage, so it’s possible to fix one’s own pilgrim dinner with the one small microwave (no utensils, plates, bowls) if one doesn’t want the hotel option. Or one can eat an early dinner before everything closes down at 6pm along with the hordes of tourists. The Centro de Coordinación Pastoral (the office which gives pilgrims access to the albergue) is open 9:30am-1pm, and 4pm-6pm.

What follows is the Camino Catalán, via Huesca, to Santa Cilia de Jaca:
Day 11. Montserrat to Jorba. 38 km. I puzzled over the route out of Montserrat and even asked at the tourist office as it wasn’t clear to me. I ended up taking the highway. No traffic of course at dawn and it was lovely. I think there is a trail option as well. The way-marking may have been excellent for the trail, but I didn’t see it. A fair amount of pavement, and then some lovely trails. I stopped for a coffee and snack in Castelloli (Bar Cal Betes on the right) walked the interminable length of Igualada (needing Laurie’s map to find the correct route leading out of town) and walked on to the village of Jorba. I didn’t mind the industrial area approach to Igualada, and the exit through residential areas had interesting modern architecture. It was the middle portion of city that I found challenging, probably because I lost the yellow arrows and just headed west. Walking to Jorba is further than most pilgrims walk (it is not the Eroski app stage), which meant I never saw the other 6 pilgrims of Montserrat again. I met a French pilgrim walking the Camino Ignaciano pilgrimage route (which is the reverse of the Camino Catalan in this section) at the municipal albergue in Jorba. Jorba was a quiet village and the albergue was fine. The hospitalero was available after 6pm but as this was a long day for me, I didn’t have to wait long. He and the French pilgrim went out for dinner together somewhere; I went to bed.
Day 12. Jorba to Cervera. 33 km. Much of today paralled the A2, and the din of traffic, particularly trucks, was intrusive. I had heard of a particularly nice sello available in the village of Pallerols from Teresa, Pl Iglesia, 2, but no one was home. It is a mostly flat day. I was surprised how quickly the Montserrat escarpments faded away. The end of the day was a steep quick climb up to Cervera, an old university town with delightful maze of little streets, stairs and tunnels. If not staying in Cervera, there is the option of bypassing the climb and town. Actually as you exit Sant Pere dels Arquells , 6.7 km before Cervera, there is a choice of 3 routes. The junction is at a fountain/shrine topped by a statue of St. Peter, just at the edge of the village. To the right is the N11 bicycle route which is probably the fastest and most boring walk. To the left is a path which I was told was best if one wanted to bypass Cervera and go straight on to Tarrega. The middle path, which I chose, went up up up into the hills, then down, down down, then up up up, then down down down on paths which looked more like goat paths. Then I ran out of yellow arrows (though maybe I just missed the crucial one) and headed in the right direction for Cervera, which being on a hill, is visible for some distance. I eventually crossed some fields into the village of Vergós and then walked the N11 into town, feeling I had taken a very long, though quite pretty, route. I stayed at the convent, La Residencia de la Sagrada Familia and felt warmly welcomed by the elderly nuns. They have a great outdoor spot for drying laundry. I enjoyed their simply cooked dinner in a very cold dining room.
Day 13. Cervera to Linyola. 35 km. In Tarrega the camino splits, one going straight west to Lleida and Zaragoza and Logrono, the other (mine) angling northwest to Huesca and on towards Jaca. There is a great “self-service” pastry shop/café on the right just 3 blocks before turning off the main Rambla street in Tarrega to the right onto the Huesca route. There is a rather fancy frutería opposite on the left. I recommend the café. It felt wonderful to finally be on “my” camino, the one heading for Huesca, away from the highway noise. Flattish land with cereal crops, some flooded with irrigation water. Almond trees in bloom. Having been raised in the Midwest, I treasure flat landscapes with huge skies, so liked these few days of flat walking with wide expanses. It reminded me a bit of the early parts of the Camino Levante which I also found beautiful. In Linyola I had meant to sleep in el señor Josep Caba’s refugio, unheated and with no blankets, but I met 2 other pilgrims in the streets in Linyola who asked me to share the cost of the 3 bed apartamento turistico. So that is what I did.

Day 14. Linyola to Algerri. 30 km. Coffee breaks in Balaguer (interesting old part of town) and then again in Castello de Farfanya in the bar run by the local social. More fruit trees in bloom, irrigation systems and green fields. The albergue in Algerri is above the hogar de los jubilados and has a very welcoming hospitalero who in a very organized fashion reviews the resources of the town (google earth views of location of pharmacy, shop, bars), and reviewed the route for the next several days including every possible intersection where one could go astray. The albergue had a good kitchen (refrigerator not plugged in though), a patio for drying clothes, radiators to finish off the task, and a very noisy motor or some other mechanical noise maker connected to maybe the water system. The second bedroom is much quieter than the first. Two of us had a nice dinner at the restaurant at the gas station.

Day 15. Algerri to Tamarite de Litera. 23 km. I like having a hot coffee before I start walking and the restaurant at the gas station was open at 7am as promised. Mostly a flat easy walking day. The underground irrigation systems along the way make gurgling, rushing, noises. Just after Alfarrás one passes under an old aqueduct and enters Aragón. The donativo albergue of Tamarite de Litera is located in a municipal building formerly used as a residence for students. There is an area upstairs used as a mosque now. The first floor albergue has 3 rooms with bunks, each with a heater. The showers were fabulous. There is no kitchen or central area, but it was fine. There were 3 of us, and we each had a room.

Day 16. Tamarite de Litera to Berbegal. 40 km. Monzón is 21.6 km and has a municipal albergue at the sports complex, but we were told it was closed every Sunday so I did not call them. Also I wanted to walk more than 21.6 km. But later I met 2 Dutch pilgrims who had stayed there that Sunday, so it was not closed. They had to email their request and send photos of their passports by email to make their reservation. They reported it was a nice place to stay, and sometimes used by visiting sports teams. The walk to Berbegal was another day of irrigated fields and blooming fruit trees. My first day of seeing storks on church towers and electrical poles. I just stopped for a long time to watch their ungainly flying silhouettes and to listen to the clicking noises of the young from their huge nests. In the village of Ilche, there is a social local, near the end of the town on the right, where I was invited in for water, bathroom access and good conversation. This was also the village, 5 km before Berbegal, where a local woman suggested a scenic “shortcut” to Berbegal – so I tried to follow her directions and of course it was much much longer, and in fact, the road turned into a path which ended so my route involved going cross-country across fields, and wild stony areas, but I always knew where I was relative to Berbegal, so it turned out to be rather fun. The route just below Berbegal involves a stretch of Via Romano, but is so overgrown that I concluded most pilgrims walk the road. I walked the path. Berbegal is on a hill and the albergue is near the entrance to the village. We ate at the one bar/restaurant as the one store was closed Sunday evening. A pleasant albergue.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Aragon/Frances 08, Arles 10, Le Puy 12, Geneva 14, VdlP 15, Norte/Primitivo 15, VF 17, Levante 18,
Continuing....
Day 7. L’Esquirol to Vic. 20km. This was a short day, mostly downhill on huge flattish stone landscapes, to Vic. Signage out of town was not great. Thank you again Laurie for your Wikiloc map which told me which street would get me to the start of the camino at the edge of town. Rhoda de Ter was a bustling town, good for coffee and a snack. It was market day, and the café nearest the market was packed. The Vic youth hostel was spacious and not many folks were there. I ended up spending an extra night there which gave me time to visit the Museu de l’Art de la Pell (leather museum) which I enjoyed immensely, and the Museu Episcopal Vic – which ranks up there as one of the best museums I have ever visited anywhere. It helps if you are interested in religious art. Vic is a university town and interesting.
Day 8. Vic to Santa Maria d’Oló. 32 km. Lots of forest roads today, initially flattish, and then up and up and up to L’Estany, 400 m higher, which has coffee, food and a beautiful romanesqe church which was closed. Then more elevation gain, and it was heat wave time again, and then undulating forest roads. Because there aren’t many options of places to stay, unless you want a short day to L’Estany where I don’t know of inexpensive accommodation, the option I chose was the same as Laurie’s choice: two km off route, straight down into a valley and then up a little hill to the town of Santa Maria d’Oló where the Hostal Santa Maria d’Oló is happy to provide a room. They also offer an 8am 2 km ride back up to the camino, which I accepted, though 8 am is late for me. I just really did not want to do the 2 km steep uphill walk in the morning on an anticipated long day.
Day 9. Santa Maria d’Oló to Manresa. 42 km. More forest roads today to Artés. (A note to others seeking pilgrim centered accommodation: My French guidebook says there is a pilgrim place to stay in Artés in the Residencia Patronat de la Calidad. 4 beds 10E. In the home for retired persons. c/Hospital 15. Call 2 days in advance. 938 305 306 or 679 168 289. Might be worth pursuing.) I walked the last 4 km into Artés with a local woman who was out walking for exercise. She was eager to practice her English, and even though her slow pace was hard for me, I slowed for her, and enjoyed our Spanish/English attempts. She loaded me with fruit and water once we reached her house, and told me the correct route out of town, which was very helpful. The next town was Navarcles which delighted me because it was the first town on this camino where the yellow arrows carried me right through town. 10 more km to Manresa, where again, the yellow arrows directed me across the garden plots at the edge of town, then up to a ridge, where the startling cinema/big box stores/fast food complex confronts you, then through lovely old residential areas and then down into the old town where the yellow arrows stop. But by then you can see the basilica and know the Albergue Del Carme youth hostel is nearby. The little streets nearby are full of Arabic and the only grocery store open Sunday evening was one with sesame sweets and North African flat bread. Some pilgrims have suggested bypassing Manresa and there is a camino sign showing this option of going directly to Montserrat. I rather enjoyed Manresa and the Albergue Del Carme youth hostel was fine. There were a lot of extra steps into my room and that day, after 42 km, I didn’t look favorably on those steps. But it was quiet, I had a room to myself, and the staff were kind.
Day 10. Manresa-Montserrat. 27 km. A day of more asphalt than I really like, slow and steadily upward to Montserrat. There was a fair amount of traffic zipping down the curvy highway as I approached Montserrat. It did not feel extremely dangerous, but was not much fun. Of course the views are spectacular so that helped. There were signs for a pilgrim refugio in Castellgali, the last town before Montserrat, so that is another option that could be pursued. Montserrat is odd. A spectacular setting. Hordes of tourists, who then, come 5pm, mostly disappear back down to Barcelona leaving the place to a few locals. Evening vespers with the famous boys’ choir was quite moving in the Basilica. The albergue was a fine place to sleep, though lacked a social area or real kitchen. But I heard the next day from the hospitalero in Jorba that Montserrat was opening a “new” albergue for pilgrims the very next day. We were a large bunch of pilgrims the night I stayed in Montserrat, 7 of us, very unusual for March we were told, and as a group decided to eat the 10 euro pilgrim dinner at the hotel, which was fine. The tourist oriented stores of Montserrat do have a tiny area selling canned goods, microwavable dinners and bread, cheese, sausage, so it’s possible to fix one’s own pilgrim dinner with the one small microwave (no utensils, plates, bowls) if one doesn’t want the hotel option. Or one can eat an early dinner before everything closes down at 6pm along with the hordes of tourists. The Centro de Coordinación Pastoral (the office which gives pilgrims access to the albergue) is open 9:30am-1pm, and 4pm-6pm.

What follows is the Camino Catalán, via Huesca, to Santa Cilia de Jaca:
Day 11. Montserrat to Jorba. 38 km. I puzzled over the route out of Montserrat and even asked at the tourist office as it wasn’t clear to me. I ended up taking the highway. No traffic of course at dawn and it was lovely. I think there is a trail option as well. The way-marking may have been excellent for the trail, but I didn’t see it. A fair amount of pavement, and then some lovely trails. I stopped for a coffee and snack in Castelloli (Bar Cal Betes on the right) walked the interminable length of Igualada (needing Laurie’s map to find the correct route leading out of town) and walked on to the village of Jorba. I didn’t mind the industrial area approach to Igualada, and the exit through residential areas had interesting modern architecture. It was the middle portion of city that I found challenging, probably because I lost the yellow arrows and just headed west. Walking to Jorba is further than most pilgrims walk (it is not the Eroski app stage), which meant I never saw the other 6 pilgrims of Montserrat again. I met a French pilgrim walking the Camino Ignaciano pilgrimage route (which is the reverse of the Camino Catalan in this section) at the municipal albergue in Jorba. Jorba was a quiet village and the albergue was fine. The hospitalero was available after 6pm but as this was a long day for me, I didn’t have to wait long. He and the French pilgrim went out for dinner together somewhere; I went to bed.
Day 12. Jorba to Cervera. 33 km. Much of today paralled the A2, and the din of traffic, particularly trucks, was intrusive. I had heard of a particularly nice sello available in the village of Pallerols from Teresa, Pl Iglesia, 2, but no one was home. It is a mostly flat day. I was surprised how quickly the Montserrat escarpments faded away. The end of the day was a steep quick climb up to Cervera, an old university town with delightful maze of little streets, stairs and tunnels. If not staying in Cervera, there is the option of bypassing the climb and town. Actually as you exit Sant Pere dels Arquells , 6.7 km before Cervera, there is a choice of 3 routes. The junction is at a fountain/shrine topped by a statue of St. Peter, just at the edge of the village. To the right is the N11 bicycle route which is probably the fastest and most boring walk. To the left is a path which I was told was best if one wanted to bypass Cervera and go straight on to Tarrega. The middle path, which I chose, went up up up into the hills, then down, down down, then up up up, then down down down on paths which looked more like goat paths. Then I ran out of yellow arrows (though maybe I just missed the crucial one) and headed in the right direction for Cervera, which being on a hill, is visible for some distance. I eventually crossed some fields into the village of Vergós and then walked the N11 into town, feeling I had taken a very long, though quite pretty, route. I stayed at the convent, La Residencia de la Sagrada Familia and felt warmly welcomed by the elderly nuns. They have a great outdoor spot for drying laundry. I enjoyed their simply cooked dinner in a very cold dining room.
Day 13. Cervera to Linyola. 35 km. In Tarrega the camino splits, one going straight west to Lleida and Zaragoza and Logrono, the other (mine) angling northwest to Huesca and on towards Jaca. There is a great “self-service” pastry shop/café on the right just 3 blocks before turning off the main Rambla street in Tarrega to the right onto the Huesca route. There is a rather fancy frutería opposite on the left. I recommend the café. It felt wonderful to finally be on “my” camino, the one heading for Huesca, away from the highway noise. Flattish land with cereal crops, some flooded with irrigation water. Almond trees in bloom. Having been raised in the Midwest, I treasure flat landscapes with huge skies, so liked these few days of flat walking with wide expanses. It reminded me a bit of the early parts of the Camino Levante which I also found beautiful. In Linyola I had meant to sleep in el señor Josep Caba’s refugio, unheated and with no blankets, but I met 2 other pilgrims in the streets in Linyola who asked me to share the cost of the 3 bed apartamento turistico. So that is what I did.

Day 14. Linyola to Algerri. 30 km. Coffee breaks in Balaguer (interesting old part of town) and then again in Castello de Farfanya in the bar run by the local social. More fruit trees in bloom, irrigation systems and green fields. The albergue in Algerri is above the hogar de los jubilados and has a very welcoming hospitalero who in a very organized fashion reviews the resources of the town (google earth views of location of pharmacy, shop, bars), and reviewed the route for the next several days including every possible intersection where one could go astray. The albergue had a good kitchen (refrigerator not plugged in though), a patio for drying clothes, radiators to finish off the task, and a very noisy motor or some other mechanical noise maker connected to maybe the water system. The second bedroom is much quieter than the first. Two of us had a nice dinner at the restaurant at the gas station.

Day 15. Algerri to Tamarite de Litera. 23 km. I like having a hot coffee before I start walking and the restaurant at the gas station was open at 7am as promised. Mostly a flat easy walking day. The underground irrigation systems along the way make gurgling, rushing, noises. Just after Alfarrás one passes under an old aqueduct and enters Aragón. The donativo albergue of Tamarite de Litera is located in a municipal building formerly used as a residence for students. There is an area upstairs used as a mosque now. The first floor albergue has 3 rooms with bunks, each with a heater. The showers were fabulous. There is no kitchen or central area, but it was fine. There were 3 of us, and we each had a room.

Day 16. Tamarite de Litera to Berbegal. 40 km. Monzón is 21.6 km and has a municipal albergue at the sports complex, but we were told it was closed every Sunday so I did not call them. Also I wanted to walk more than 21.6 km. But later I met 2 Dutch pilgrims who had stayed there that Sunday, so it was not closed. They had to email their request and send photos of their passports by email to make their reservation. They reported it was a nice place to stay, and sometimes used by visiting sports teams. The walk to Berbegal was another day of irrigated fields and blooming fruit trees. My first day of seeing storks on church towers and electrical poles. I just stopped for a long time to watch their ungainly flying silhouettes and to listen to the clicking noises of the young from their huge nests. In the village of Ilche, there is a social local, near the end of the town on the right, where I was invited in for water, bathroom access and good conversation. This was also the village, 5 km before Berbegal, where a local woman suggested a scenic “shortcut” to Berbegal – so I tried to follow her directions and of course it was much much longer, and in fact, the road turned into a path which ended so my route involved going cross-country across fields, and wild stony areas, but I always knew where I was relative to Berbegal, so it turned out to be rather fun. The route just below Berbegal involves a stretch of Via Romano, but is so overgrown that I concluded most pilgrims walk the road. I walked the path. Berbegal is on a hill and the albergue is near the entrance to the village. We ate at the one bar/restaurant as the one store was closed Sunday evening. A pleasant albergue.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Aragon/Frances 08, Arles 10, Le Puy 12, Geneva 14, VdlP 15, Norte/Primitivo 15, VF 17, Levante 18,
Continuing…..
Day 17. Berbegal to Pueyo de Fañanás. 28 km. The bar opened at 7 am so a hot coffee was possible in the morning. The morning was initially beautiful – looking out across the flat plains under a dense and then wispy layer of fog, then following the packed earth path between fields for the first 7km to Pertusa. The second part was asphalt, less kind on the feet. The bar in Antillón in the local social was friendly and warm and then up to a ridge which I walked level for many kms. As others have pointed out, a spring time walk here is great for wild flowers, and in particular the tiny yellow daffodils. I did lose the trail once down in flat country again, off that ridge, but it was probably from lacking faith. There were very few yellow arrows and at one point I decided I needed to turn right to angle up to where I knew the next village would be. It was a premature right turn and when my path petered out, I had to turn left and go cross country across fields that were more stones than earth, until I ran into my correct path and then turned right. My advice is - follow the direction of the last arrow even if that last arrow was 5 km previous. Pueyo de Fañanás is a small village with a very nice municipal albergue where the local woman who manages the albergue may cook you dinner if you like. There was a well equipped kitchen in the albergue – just no local tienda to buy supplies. We had a great dinner which included potatoes and garlic from her garden.

Day 18. Pueyo de Fañanás to Huesca. 17km. This was intentionally a short day so I could enjoy the big city of Huesca. A lovely walk with great views of mountains to the right and left prior to a steep descent to the plain of Huesca. The municipal albergue, built in 2011 is near the entrance into town and is fine. The volunteer hospitalero, Andres, is a pilgrim himself, and was kind and helpful. There is a washing machine which takes about 2 hours to do one load, a well equipped kitchen with staples, and a Mercadona supermarket 4 minutes walk away. The albergue is sandwiched between several apartment buildings with a children’s playground right behind the albergue, so you can watch the neighborhood kids play as you hang up your clothes on the line to dry. The San Pedro el Viejo church was open and quite beautiful. The Church/basilica of San Lorenzo was closed.

Day 19. Huesca to Sarsamarcuello. 40 km. This camino becomes more beautiful every day. The exit to Huesca is well marked and is fairly flat the first 20 km to Bolea (where one could stop for the day in the municipal albergue). I had my first coffee in Chimillas, 6.8 km after Huesca, in the bar in the center of town. There are 2 huge fincas before Bolea – very impressive. Mostly I was relieved that their dogs did not bother me. After Bolea, the camino enters the hills with lots of ups, and a few downs. Loarre has an interesting church. A visit costs 2 E, if the church is open. This is the village to stock up on food if proceeding on to Sarsamarcuello which does not have a store or bar. The store is just uphill from the central plaza and has produce in a back room if you just ask. I got detailed advice from the nice store owner and several customers about what I should buy to cook dinner in Sarsamarcuello, and how I should cook the raw chorizos. All very helpful, as I knew I would be cooking for 2, the other being a Spanish pilgrim with whom I had been walking the same stages. I even got a full report of every item he had purchased in that little store an hour earlier, which helped in planning our dinner. Don’t forget to look high up to the cliffs on the right to see the Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña. And the Castillo Loarre (of the Kingdom of Heaven movie fame). The Sarsamarcuello albergue was fine with an adequate kitchen downstairs to cook our dinner, and one heater upstairs which helped to dry our clothes. The hospitalero is friendly and young.

Day 20. Sarsamarcuello to Ena – 26 km. Another glorious day, though very cold and very windy at the high elevations. The path out of Sarsamarcuello is a short steep rocky climb to an untraveled road, and then the way is gently climbing, actually, always climbing to the ruins of the Castillo and Iglesia de la Virgen de Marcuello. It was cold enough for a few snowflakes. Spectacular walking and views of mountains, ridges, clefts in ridges. Then down through a cleft into the village of Estación de Santa Maria y la Peña where the train station is, and a bar where if you just continue being pleasant and smiling, you might get the woman working the bar to smile just a little. She agreed to fix me a bocadillo, for which I was extremely grateful, and then excused herself to go buy the bread for it. There is a bakery which might be open. Actually the door was open and I had to bang on the inner door and call for 5 minutes to get someone to come sell me something. And although there was no bread, there were a few cans of mussels, and tuna so I was able to buy food for dinner that night. My Spanish pilgrim friend, always preceding me, couldn’t get anyone to appear to serve him. I was carrying less food, so was more persistent. The paths after Estación de Santa Maria y la Peña were beautiful. The terrain was different – almost like the bad lands of South Dakota. Glorious glorious day. Ena is a tiny village with no services, other than a municipal albergue which was not locked. In fact there was no key, and no hospitalero with whom to check in. The albergue had a register book and a donation box. We did not find the social local where reportedly one can buy beverages, but did not look hard. About 210 pilgrims had signed the register in 2018, and less than 20 in the first 3 months of 2019. There was no heater, but there was a fireplace, so we gathered wood and a neighbor gave us a box of matches to get a fire going. The kitchen is extremely well equipped, with brand new cutlery and a new set of pots and pans, but the only staple was salt, so one really does have to bring all food from at least Santa Maria y la Peña, and if the bakery/store in Santa Maria is not open, then from Loarre or Bolea the day before.

Day 21. Ena to Arrés (via Santa Celia de Jaca). 35km. This turned out to be a very cold wet day with snow at the higher elevations, but was spectacular. Mostly small roads up to the village of Botaya (no bar, no tienda). The albergue juvenile was not open for the season yet. Then on up the road, then a path to the left, climbing, sometimes steeply over rocks and in the snow to the flat spot at the top where the Monasterio Nuevo de San Juan de la Peña is located. It looked deserted in that snowy landscape with misty clouds swirling. Elevation about 1200 m. I could see the footsteps in the snow of the Spanish pilgrim. It turned out he found the new monastery open so visited the museum though he never saw any people, including the museum attendant from whom he should have bought an entrance ticket. I found it closed. The path down to the old Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña, was very steep and slippery in the snow and ice, so I took the asphalt road the one km down to the 10th century monastery, partially carved into the cliffs. That I found open, and was the sole visitor at that time. I actually wavered, as it was very cold, still snowing, and the ticket taker assured me it was even colder inside – but of course, I visited it. It had been on my list of things to do ever since I had walked the Camino Aragonés eleven years previously and learned of it. And it was only fitting to start this camino with a visit to the Monasterio Sant Pere de Rodes the first day, and a visit to the Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña, the last day. It is a magical place and worth a visit. After the visit, I took the asphalt road (7 km) down to Santa Cruz de la Serós, instead of the path (4 km) for safety reasons, given slippery snow and knowing how steep that path down would be. Santa Cruz has warm bars with some food, very welcome. There is also an interesting church, where a guide offers information and a nice sello. The path after Santa Cruz de la Serós to the next village is scenic and then on down into the valley of the Rio Aragón to Santa Cilia de Jaca. Santa Cilia usually has an open bar/tienda and panaderia but everything was closed that afternoon. This is the end of the Camino Catalán, as Santa Cilia de Jaca is on the Camino Aragonés, where you turn left and head southwest to join the Camino Frances four days later at Puente la Reina. Santa Cilia has an albergue. I had stayed there eleven years earlier. The note on the door said it had been closed in March (and November) but was open in April. I choose to walk 10 km further to the village of Arrés, where the small albergue municipal still is donativo and is still staffed by 2 volunteer hospitaleras who cooked a great meal. Arrés is a special place for me, and a fitting end for my camino. I lacked time to continue with the Camino Aragonés (and I’m not sure I really wanted to, having walked it previously and given the larger number of pilgrims on that route.)

My last day I walked “backwards” north on the Camino Aragonés to Jaca, 25 km, slept in the municipal albergue (13 euros now), visited a small and very impressive museum accessed through the cathedral, watched a Sunday morning run/walk for colon cancer awareness complete with bagpipe band, and found transportation to Madrid to fly home, via the app blablacar, which I heartily recommend.

I find I like each camino I walk better than the one before, so I may not be very discriminating. But still, these three weeks were quite special. Gorgeous scenery at least as majestic as the Camino Primitivo, and rivaling the Camino San Salvador, great history, art, architecture, good municipal albergues in the second half, and few pilgrims. For me, a very fine walk. I hope this modest account will encourage others to walk these caminos, and with attention to posting additional information about more pilgrim oriented accommodation on the Cami Sant Jaume portion.
 

martini

Pilgrim
Camino(s) past & future
portugal way, french way, muxia way- past
Aragones way, catalan way, piamonte way- future
Continuing…..
Day 17. Berbegal to Pueyo de Fañanás. 28 km. The bar opened at 7 am so a hot coffee was possible in the morning. The morning was initially beautiful – looking out across the flat plains under a dense and then wispy layer of fog, then following the packed earth path between fields for the first 7km to Pertusa. The second part was asphalt, less kind on the feet. The bar in Antillón in the local social was friendly and warm and then up to a ridge which I walked level for many kms. As others have pointed out, a spring time walk here is great for wild flowers, and in particular the tiny yellow daffodils. I did lose the trail once down in flat country again, off that ridge, but it was probably from lacking faith. There were very few yellow arrows and at one point I decided I needed to turn right to angle up to where I knew the next village would be. It was a premature right turn and when my path petered out, I had to turn left and go cross country across fields that were more stones than earth, until I ran into my correct path and then turned right. My advice is - follow the direction of the last arrow even if that last arrow was 5 km previous. Pueyo de Fañanás is a small village with a very nice municipal albergue where the local woman who manages the albergue may cook you dinner if you like. There was a well equipped kitchen in the albergue – just no local tienda to buy supplies. We had a great dinner which included potatoes and garlic from her garden.

Day 18. Pueyo de Fañanás to Huesca. 17km. This was intentionally a short day so I could enjoy the big city of Huesca. A lovely walk with great views of mountains to the right and left prior to a steep descent to the plain of Huesca. The municipal albergue, built in 2011 is near the entrance into town and is fine. The volunteer hospitalero, Andres, is a pilgrim himself, and was kind and helpful. There is a washing machine which takes about 2 hours to do one load, a well equipped kitchen with staples, and a Mercadona supermarket 4 minutes walk away. The albergue is sandwiched between several apartment buildings with a children’s playground right behind the albergue, so you can watch the neighborhood kids play as you hang up your clothes on the line to dry. The San Pedro el Viejo church was open and quite beautiful. The Church/basilica of San Lorenzo was closed.

Day 19. Huesca to Sarsamarcuello. 40 km. This camino becomes more beautiful every day. The exit to Huesca is well marked and is fairly flat the first 20 km to Bolea (where one could stop for the day in the municipal albergue). I had my first coffee in Chimillas, 6.8 km after Huesca, in the bar in the center of town. There are 2 huge fincas before Bolea – very impressive. Mostly I was relieved that their dogs did not bother me. After Bolea, the camino enters the hills with lots of ups, and a few downs. Loarre has an interesting church. A visit costs 2 E, if the church is open. This is the village to stock up on food if proceeding on to Sarsamarcuello which does not have a store or bar. The store is just uphill from the central plaza and has produce in a back room if you just ask. I got detailed advice from the nice store owner and several customers about what I should buy to cook dinner in Sarsamarcuello, and how I should cook the raw chorizos. All very helpful, as I knew I would be cooking for 2, the other being a Spanish pilgrim with whom I had been walking the same stages. I even got a full report of every item he had purchased in that little store an hour earlier, which helped in planning our dinner. Don’t forget to look high up to the cliffs on the right to see the Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña. And the Castillo Loarre (of the Kingdom of Heaven movie fame). The Sarsamarcuello albergue was fine with an adequate kitchen downstairs to cook our dinner, and one heater upstairs which helped to dry our clothes. The hospitalero is friendly and young.

Day 20. Sarsamarcuello to Ena – 26 km. Another glorious day, though very cold and very windy at the high elevations. The path out of Sarsamarcuello is a short steep rocky climb to an untraveled road, and then the way is gently climbing, actually, always climbing to the ruins of the Castillo and Iglesia de la Virgen de Marcuello. It was cold enough for a few snowflakes. Spectacular walking and views of mountains, ridges, clefts in ridges. Then down through a cleft into the village of Estación de Santa Maria y la Peña where the train station is, and a bar where if you just continue being pleasant and smiling, you might get the woman working the bar to smile just a little. She agreed to fix me a bocadillo, for which I was extremely grateful, and then excused herself to go buy the bread for it. There is a bakery which might be open. Actually the door was open and I had to bang on the inner door and call for 5 minutes to get someone to come sell me something. And although there was no bread, there were a few cans of mussels, and tuna so I was able to buy food for dinner that night. My Spanish pilgrim friend, always preceding me, couldn’t get anyone to appear to serve him. I was carrying less food, so was more persistent. The paths after Estación de Santa Maria y la Peña were beautiful. The terrain was different – almost like the bad lands of South Dakota. Glorious glorious day. Ena is a tiny village with no services, other than a municipal albergue which was not locked. In fact there was no key, and no hospitalero with whom to check in. The albergue had a register book and a donation box. We did not find the social local where reportedly one can buy beverages, but did not look hard. About 210 pilgrims had signed the register in 2018, and less than 20 in the first 3 months of 2019. There was no heater, but there was a fireplace, so we gathered wood and a neighbor gave us a box of matches to get a fire going. The kitchen is extremely well equipped, with brand new cutlery and a new set of pots and pans, but the only staple was salt, so one really does have to bring all food from at least Santa Maria y la Peña, and if the bakery/store in Santa Maria is not open, then from Loarre or Bolea the day before.

Day 21. Ena to Arrés (via Santa Celia de Jaca). 35km. This turned out to be a very cold wet day with snow at the higher elevations, but was spectacular. Mostly small roads up to the village of Botaya (no bar, no tienda). The albergue juvenile was not open for the season yet. Then on up the road, then a path to the left, climbing, sometimes steeply over rocks and in the snow to the flat spot at the top where the Monasterio Nuevo de San Juan de la Peña is located. It looked deserted in that snowy landscape with misty clouds swirling. Elevation about 1200 m. I could see the footsteps in the snow of the Spanish pilgrim. It turned out he found the new monastery open so visited the museum though he never saw any people, including the museum attendant from whom he should have bought an entrance ticket. I found it closed. The path down to the old Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña, was very steep and slippery in the snow and ice, so I took the asphalt road the one km down to the 10th century monastery, partially carved into the cliffs. That I found open, and was the sole visitor at that time. I actually wavered, as it was very cold, still snowing, and the ticket taker assured me it was even colder inside – but of course, I visited it. It had been on my list of things to do ever since I had walked the Camino Aragonés eleven years previously and learned of it. And it was only fitting to start this camino with a visit to the Monasterio Sant Pere de Rodes the first day, and a visit to the Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña, the last day. It is a magical place and worth a visit. After the visit, I took the asphalt road (7 km) down to Santa Cruz de la Serós, instead of the path (4 km) for safety reasons, given slippery snow and knowing how steep that path down would be. Santa Cruz has warm bars with some food, very welcome. There is also an interesting church, where a guide offers information and a nice sello. The path after Santa Cruz de la Serós to the next village is scenic and then on down into the valley of the Rio Aragón to Santa Cilia de Jaca. Santa Cilia usually has an open bar/tienda and panaderia but everything was closed that afternoon. This is the end of the Camino Catalán, as Santa Cilia de Jaca is on the Camino Aragonés, where you turn left and head southwest to join the Camino Frances four days later at Puente la Reina. Santa Cilia has an albergue. I had stayed there eleven years earlier. The note on the door said it had been closed in March (and November) but was open in April. I choose to walk 10 km further to the village of Arrés, where the small albergue municipal still is donativo and is still staffed by 2 volunteer hospitaleras who cooked a great meal. Arrés is a special place for me, and a fitting end for my camino. I lacked time to continue with the Camino Aragonés (and I’m not sure I really wanted to, having walked it previously and given the larger number of pilgrims on that route.)

My last day I walked “backwards” north on the Camino Aragonés to Jaca, 25 km, slept in the municipal albergue (13 euros now), visited a small and very impressive museum accessed through the cathedral, watched a Sunday morning run/walk for colon cancer awareness complete with bagpipe band, and found transportation to Madrid to fly home, via the app blablacar, which I heartily recommend.

I find I like each camino I walk better than the one before, so I may not be very discriminating. But still, these three weeks were quite special. Gorgeous scenery at least as majestic as the Camino Primitivo, and rivaling the Camino San Salvador, great history, art, architecture, good municipal albergues in the second half, and few pilgrims. For me, a very fine walk. I hope this modest account will encourage others to walk these caminos, and with attention to posting additional information about more pilgrim oriented accommodation on the Cami Sant Jaume portion.
Thank You very very much for this!
 

lindam

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Via de La Plata, Portuguese, Camino Ingles, Fisterra, Muxia, Catalan and Aragones, Norte
Thank you so much for posting this very comprehensive report. Certainly, I will use it for future Camino planning.
 
Camino(s) past & future
French route (04,05,06) Portugues (07) VDLP (09,10,11) Aragon (0413) Levante (16) French (18)
Continuing....
Day 7. L’Esquirol to Vic. 20km. This was a short day, mostly downhill on huge flattish stone landscapes, to Vic. Signage out of town was not great. Thank you again Laurie for your Wikiloc map which told me which street would get me to the start of the camino at the edge of town. Rhoda de Ter was a bustling town, good for coffee and a snack. It was market day, and the café nearest the market was packed. The Vic youth hostel was spacious and not many folks were there. I ended up spending an extra night there which gave me time to visit the Museu de l’Art de la Pell (leather museum) which I enjoyed immensely, and the Museu Episcopal Vic – which ranks up there as one of the best museums I have ever visited anywhere. It helps if you are interested in religious art. Vic is a university town and interesting.
Day 8. Vic to Santa Maria d’Oló. 32 km. Lots of forest roads today, initially flattish, and then up and up and up to L’Estany, 400 m higher, which has coffee, food and a beautiful romanesqe church which was closed. Then more elevation gain, and it was heat wave time again, and then undulating forest roads. Because there aren’t many options of places to stay, unless you want a short day to L’Estany where I don’t know of inexpensive accommodation, the option I chose was the same as Laurie’s choice: two km off route, straight down into a valley and then up a little hill to the town of Santa Maria d’Oló where the Hostal Santa Maria d’Oló is happy to provide a room. They also offer an 8am 2 km ride back up to the camino, which I accepted, though 8 am is late for me. I just really did not want to do the 2 km steep uphill walk in the morning on an anticipated long day.
Day 9. Santa Maria d’Oló to Manresa. 42 km. More forest roads today to Artés. (A note to others seeking pilgrim centered accommodation: My French guidebook says there is a pilgrim place to stay in Artés in the Residencia Patronat de la Calidad. 4 beds 10E. In the home for retired persons. c/Hospital 15. Call 2 days in advance. 938 305 306 or 679 168 289. Might be worth pursuing.) I walked the last 4 km into Artés with a local woman who was out walking for exercise. She was eager to practice her English, and even though her slow pace was hard for me, I slowed for her, and enjoyed our Spanish/English attempts. She loaded me with fruit and water once we reached her house, and told me the correct route out of town, which was very helpful. The next town was Navarcles which delighted me because it was the first town on this camino where the yellow arrows carried me right through town. 10 more km to Manresa, where again, the yellow arrows directed me across the garden plots at the edge of town, then up to a ridge, where the startling cinema/big box stores/fast food complex confronts you, then through lovely old residential areas and then down into the old town where the yellow arrows stop. But by then you can see the basilica and know the Albergue Del Carme youth hostel is nearby. The little streets nearby are full of Arabic and the only grocery store open Sunday evening was one with sesame sweets and North African flat bread. Some pilgrims have suggested bypassing Manresa and there is a camino sign showing this option of going directly to Montserrat. I rather enjoyed Manresa and the Albergue Del Carme youth hostel was fine. There were a lot of extra steps into my room and that day, after 42 km, I didn’t look favorably on those steps. But it was quiet, I had a room to myself, and the staff were kind.
Day 10. Manresa-Montserrat. 27 km. A day of more asphalt than I really like, slow and steadily upward to Montserrat. There was a fair amount of traffic zipping down the curvy highway as I approached Montserrat. It did not feel extremely dangerous, but was not much fun. Of course the views are spectacular so that helped. There were signs for a pilgrim refugio in Castellgali, the last town before Montserrat, so that is another option that could be pursued. Montserrat is odd. A spectacular setting. Hordes of tourists, who then, come 5pm, mostly disappear back down to Barcelona leaving the place to a few locals. Evening vespers with the famous boys’ choir was quite moving in the Basilica. The albergue was a fine place to sleep, though lacked a social area or real kitchen. But I heard the next day from the hospitalero in Jorba that Montserrat was opening a “new” albergue for pilgrims the very next day. We were a large bunch of pilgrims the night I stayed in Montserrat, 7 of us, very unusual for March we were told, and as a group decided to eat the 10 euro pilgrim dinner at the hotel, which was fine. The tourist oriented stores of Montserrat do have a tiny area selling canned goods, microwavable dinners and bread, cheese, sausage, so it’s possible to fix one’s own pilgrim dinner with the one small microwave (no utensils, plates, bowls) if one doesn’t want the hotel option. Or one can eat an early dinner before everything closes down at 6pm along with the hordes of tourists. The Centro de Coordinación Pastoral (the office which gives pilgrims access to the albergue) is open 9:30am-1pm, and 4pm-6pm.

What follows is the Camino Catalán, via Huesca, to Santa Cilia de Jaca:
Day 11. Montserrat to Jorba. 38 km. I puzzled over the route out of Montserrat and even asked at the tourist office as it wasn’t clear to me. I ended up taking the highway. No traffic of course at dawn and it was lovely. I think there is a trail option as well. The way-marking may have been excellent for the trail, but I didn’t see it. A fair amount of pavement, and then some lovely trails. I stopped for a coffee and snack in Castelloli (Bar Cal Betes on the right) walked the interminable length of Igualada (needing Laurie’s map to find the correct route leading out of town) and walked on to the village of Jorba. I didn’t mind the industrial area approach to Igualada, and the exit through residential areas had interesting modern architecture. It was the middle portion of city that I found challenging, probably because I lost the yellow arrows and just headed west. Walking to Jorba is further than most pilgrims walk (it is not the Eroski app stage), which meant I never saw the other 6 pilgrims of Montserrat again. I met a French pilgrim walking the Camino Ignaciano pilgrimage route (which is the reverse of the Camino Catalan in this section) at the municipal albergue in Jorba. Jorba was a quiet village and the albergue was fine. The hospitalero was available after 6pm but as this was a long day for me, I didn’t have to wait long. He and the French pilgrim went out for dinner together somewhere; I went to bed.
Day 12. Jorba to Cervera. 33 km. Much of today paralled the A2, and the din of traffic, particularly trucks, was intrusive. I had heard of a particularly nice sello available in the village of Pallerols from Teresa, Pl Iglesia, 2, but no one was home. It is a mostly flat day. I was surprised how quickly the Montserrat escarpments faded away. The end of the day was a steep quick climb up to Cervera, an old university town with delightful maze of little streets, stairs and tunnels. If not staying in Cervera, there is the option of bypassing the climb and town. Actually as you exit Sant Pere dels Arquells , 6.7 km before Cervera, there is a choice of 3 routes. The junction is at a fountain/shrine topped by a statue of St. Peter, just at the edge of the village. To the right is the N11 bicycle route which is probably the fastest and most boring walk. To the left is a path which I was told was best if one wanted to bypass Cervera and go straight on to Tarrega. The middle path, which I chose, went up up up into the hills, then down, down down, then up up up, then down down down on paths which looked more like goat paths. Then I ran out of yellow arrows (though maybe I just missed the crucial one) and headed in the right direction for Cervera, which being on a hill, is visible for some distance. I eventually crossed some fields into the village of Vergós and then walked the N11 into town, feeling I had taken a very long, though quite pretty, route. I stayed at the convent, La Residencia de la Sagrada Familia and felt warmly welcomed by the elderly nuns. They have a great outdoor spot for drying laundry. I enjoyed their simply cooked dinner in a very cold dining room.
Day 13. Cervera to Linyola. 35 km. In Tarrega the camino splits, one going straight west to Lleida and Zaragoza and Logrono, the other (mine) angling northwest to Huesca and on towards Jaca. There is a great “self-service” pastry shop/café on the right just 3 blocks before turning off the main Rambla street in Tarrega to the right onto the Huesca route. There is a rather fancy frutería opposite on the left. I recommend the café. It felt wonderful to finally be on “my” camino, the one heading for Huesca, away from the highway noise. Flattish land with cereal crops, some flooded with irrigation water. Almond trees in bloom. Having been raised in the Midwest, I treasure flat landscapes with huge skies, so liked these few days of flat walking with wide expanses. It reminded me a bit of the early parts of the Camino Levante which I also found beautiful. In Linyola I had meant to sleep in el señor Josep Caba’s refugio, unheated and with no blankets, but I met 2 other pilgrims in the streets in Linyola who asked me to share the cost of the 3 bed apartamento turistico. So that is what I did.

Day 14. Linyola to Algerri. 30 km. Coffee breaks in Balaguer (interesting old part of town) and then again in Castello de Farfanya in the bar run by the local social. More fruit trees in bloom, irrigation systems and green fields. The albergue in Algerri is above the hogar de los jubilados and has a very welcoming hospitalero who in a very organized fashion reviews the resources of the town (google earth views of location of pharmacy, shop, bars), and reviewed the route for the next several days including every possible intersection where one could go astray. The albergue had a good kitchen (refrigerator not plugged in though), a patio for drying clothes, radiators to finish off the task, and a very noisy motor or some other mechanical noise maker connected to maybe the water system. The second bedroom is much quieter than the first. Two of us had a nice dinner at the restaurant at the gas station.

Day 15. Algerri to Tamarite de Litera. 23 km. I like having a hot coffee before I start walking and the restaurant at the gas station was open at 7am as promised. Mostly a flat easy walking day. The underground irrigation systems along the way make gurgling, rushing, noises. Just after Alfarrás one passes under an old aqueduct and enters Aragón. The donativo albergue of Tamarite de Litera is located in a municipal building formerly used as a residence for students. There is an area upstairs used as a mosque now. The first floor albergue has 3 rooms with bunks, each with a heater. The showers were fabulous. There is no kitchen or central area, but it was fine. There were 3 of us, and we each had a room.

Day 16. Tamarite de Litera to Berbegal. 40 km. Monzón is 21.6 km and has a municipal albergue at the sports complex, but we were told it was closed every Sunday so I did not call them. Also I wanted to walk more than 21.6 km. But later I met 2 Dutch pilgrims who had stayed there that Sunday, so it was not closed. They had to email their request and send photos of their passports by email to make their reservation. They reported it was a nice place to stay, and sometimes used by visiting sports teams. The walk to Berbegal was another day of irrigated fields and blooming fruit trees. My first day of seeing storks on church towers and electrical poles. I just stopped for a long time to watch their ungainly flying silhouettes and to listen to the clicking noises of the young from their huge nests. In the village of Ilche, there is a social local, near the end of the town on the right, where I was invited in for water, bathroom access and good conversation. This was also the village, 5 km before Berbegal, where a local woman suggested a scenic “shortcut” to Berbegal – so I tried to follow her directions and of course it was much much longer, and in fact, the road turned into a path which ended so my route involved going cross-country across fields, and wild stony areas, but I always knew where I was relative to Berbegal, so it turned out to be rather fun. The route just below Berbegal involves a stretch of Via Romano, but is so overgrown that I concluded most pilgrims walk the road. I walked the path. Berbegal is on a hill and the albergue is near the entrance to the village. We ate at the one bar/restaurant as the one store was closed Sunday evening. A pleasant albergue.
Can you clarify for me what you are referring to when you say you uses Laurie's maps?
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Can you clarify for me what you are referring to when you say you uses Laurie's maps?
Hi, Jeff,
I am the Laurie referred to, and I assume @Sitkapilgrim is referring to my GPS tracks, which I somehow managed to record and post. You can find them on this thread — https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/my-cami-st-jaume-from-llançà-to-montserrat.36051/

It’s really a gorgeous walk, and the cities of Vic and Girona are great places to spend some time. And if by any chance you like romanesque, there is an abundance of romanesque churches along the way. If you have questions, there are several of us here on the forum who have walked this route, at least two or three more recently than I, so you can get recent information. Buen camino, Laurie
 
Camino(s) past & future
French route (04,05,06) Portugues (07) VDLP (09,10,11) Aragon (0413) Levante (16) French (18)
Hi, Jeff,
I am the Laurie referred to, and I assume @Sitkapilgrim is referring to my GPS tracks, which I somehow managed to record and post. You can find them on this thread — https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/my-cami-st-jaume-from-llançà-to-montserrat.36051/

It’s really a gorgeous walk, and the cities of Vic and Girona are great places to spend some time. And if by any chance you like romanesque, there is an abundance of romanesque churches along the way. If you have questions, there are several of us here on the forum who have walked this route, at least two or three more recently than I, so you can get recent information. Buen camino, Laurie
Thanks Laurie,
I am always surprised at the inter connectivity of the larger Camino community and the speed at which information travels. Sometimes I swear I will think of something and a relevant answer or link will post within a day or an hour. Anyway, currently I am healing a broken left foot that is in a cast that comes off this week. My itinerary has my wife and I in Montserrat on June 5 and the plan was to walk to Santa Cilla de Jaca. That may not happen this season but my wife thinks we should still go and perhaps suss out the situation so to speak anyway. I’m not one to sit around much and play at the vacation thing so this Camino will undoubtably have some different challenges in store. I’ll keep Vic and Girona in mind as possible places to visit. We where in Barcelona back in 03 prior to our first Camino out of Somport in 04 so we don’t know the region that well. I will check your link presently for a vicarious thrill. Cheers, Jeff
 
Camino(s) past & future
Aragon/Frances 08, Arles 10, Le Puy 12, Geneva 14, VdlP 15, Norte/Primitivo 15, VF 17, Levante 18,
Hi Jeff - Yes, Laurie is right. I’m referring to her maps. I downloaded the Wikilocs app on my phone. I searched for peregrina2000, her “name” and then downloaded the maps for all her stages before starting my walk. Being able to see her yellow path on the map was very helpful at times.

Actually from Montserrat to Santa Celia de Jaca - the trail is generally very well marked. But I love maps and would usually look at the map the night before to review the route. Maps were especially useful when figuring out how to traverse cities - Tarrega and Huesca come to mind.

I do hope you walk this route - I found it very beautiful, with many kind and friendly people along the route.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
And if by any chance you like romanesque, there is an abundance of romanesque churches along the way.
The national museum of Catalonia is supposed to have a great romanesque collection. I wish I had seen it before my camino (I still haven't). If you have some time in Barcelona before walking it should be worth a visit.

 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
The national museum of Catalonia is supposed to have a great romanesque collection. I wish I had seen it before my camino (I still haven't). If you have some time in Barcelona before walking it should be worth a visit.

Oh it is wonderful. The government decided to strip all the romanesque frescoes from the village churches, like the ones in Tahull and Boi (and put reproductions in their place). They brought them to the museum and have constructed a beautiful series of chapels for seeing them. As you might guess, the politics of taking treasures out of the villages is complicated, and I have been to some of these towns and heard what the residents think, but in any event they are now preserved and cared for and displayed magnificently! (And if you are an “educator” and have your id, you get in free — in fact, that’s true of a lot of museums particularly in Catalunya and Aragón).
 

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