I have now successfully completed my Camino, and here is the final set of practical notes.
Out of León, I took the left option, i.e. the complementary longer route that does not follow the highway. I found it interesting and relaxing, in particular the first section, where there are a few kilometres of almost-wilderness. The second part of this stage is then the last encounter with the meseta - kilometres and kilometres in a straight line. Importantly, the towns on the way all had drinking water. It is a long 36 km to Hospital de Órbigo, but this can be compensated by walking only to Astorga the next day.
Astorga. I visited the Roman Museum, the Cathedral (and the annexed museum) as well as the Gaudí Palace Museum. In fact, I found Astorga to be quite a highlight of my Camino due to everything that there was to see. Also, I can recommend Las Termas restaurant for cocido maragato - not cheap at 24 euros, but the food is good, the restaurant beautiful and professionally run, and the hosts were friendly.
Climb towards Cruz de Fierro. I have heard this from several people, and I can confirm: even though on paper there is quite an ascent after Astorga, it is a very soft and easy climb. As opposed to the day after, when the descent towards Ponferrada has several treacherous streches - steep, with loose stones. I walked the whole Camino Francés, and in terms of difficulty, this day was the most demanding.
Then I have nothing particular to say about the Bierzo and the Valcarce valley. Only perhaps that I had expected that walking behind the concrete barrier next to an old highway (after Villafranca del Bierzo) would be stressful, but it was the exact opposite: there is very little traffic and the barrier allowed me to relax.
Climb to O Cebreiro. Not easy, but very beautiful. I arrived in O Cebreiro at 12.00 on a Saturday (in November), and to my surprise and frustration no place was serving food, even though many were open. It was a bizarre situation, and I also felt that the daytrippers who began arriving at that time were also confused. I had snacks (extremely important always to carry something!) and I found an open shop in the next village, Liñares.
Similarly, I passed through Sarria on a Sunday. Even though this is a common starting point for many, it looked deserted. There was nowhere to eat, other than one small supermarket which was open until 14.00 I think. I also found it a challenge to have my credencial stamped there, and in the end I waited for the end of mass at the Merced and asked. Even after Sarria, when I finally started seeing more pilgrims, I found most places shut, unless I was by coincidence following a standard stage. I did this once, between Palas de Rei and Arzúa, and as if by magic, the wayside bars were open, there was a gentleman stamping credentials at San Xulian... a sample of a completely different Camino!
D'Gusta café in Portomarín was a life-saver for me, after weird experiences in O Cebreiro and Sarria the previous mornings. It serves good coffee and decent breakfasts, and most importantly, it was open when I needed it. Similarly, A Nosa Terra restaurant in Palas de Rei, and Ezequiel in Arzúa. They were both running at full capacity, filled with hungry pilgrims.
Let me also just mention the castro at Castromaior. Just 100 metres off the Camino, it is an atmospheric site, perfect for a break.
Now, Santiago. The pilgrims office, as you know, now operates a qr-code and ticket system. When I went there, at 11.30 on 18 November, there was NO ONE. I got my compostela in two minutes. This may be partly because I walked only from Lavacolla on the last day, but having spent most of the afternoon in the city and having seen most pilgrims at some point, I would say it never got very busy.
I visited the Museum of Pilgrimage, which is well-presented and informative, with information also in English. On the other hand, I was disappointed by the Museum of the Galician People. Not only are the texts only in Galician (I was told at the ticket counter that there was an app I could download with information in English - but then the app is geoblocked and I could not download it on my phone), but also the exhibition is quite shallow - a collection of objects from the past century without any critical examination. (I could understand enough of the panels to make this observation.)
I think my Camino was quite special, because of the time of the year in which it took place. I knew there would be less people, but I did not expect to spend most days completely alone. I adapted to this quite well, and in fact I liked it, but it is something to keep in mind if you are planning to go at a similar time.
I found it very important to carry equipment of a wide range of weather conditions. I had rain on three days (one downpour only), frost in the morning on about half the days, strong wind on one day on the Meseta (extremely cold!), and on maybe about five days I had hot afternoons when protecting my head from the sun became important. I did not have snow, but it was very obvious to me that it was a real possibility. Having said that, I can hardly imagine better walking weather than 10-15 degrees and clear skies. I had this 80 % of the time. Wonderful!
There are, at this time, much fewer services than what guidebooks will tell you (speaking mostly on high season). In addition, many water fountains are broken. Whenever I got sloppy and didn't make sure I was carrying enough supplies, I paid for it.
Albergues vs. private rooms. I thought long and hard about this, and in the end my conclusion is: 'albergues only if necessary'. First, private rooms are comparatively cheap (even under 30 euros for a room with a private bathroom, but mostly around 40-50). Second, my expectations in relation to social life at albergues were not met. Most people rest in the afternoon, and on a few occasions I found myself feeling uncomfortable that I had to make noise arranging my stuff - at like 5 in the afternoon... There were a few occasions when the communal spirit did develop, but the chances of that are pretty low. Third, in November it is still dark at 8 am, so the rule that albergues need to be vacated by 8 am means that you are kicked out into the cold night, for which there is absolutely no need. Fourth, since nothing dries outside at this time of the year, people wash their clothes by hand and then hang them on radiators and basically all around the room, leading to unpleasant humidity and bad odour. Fifth, not only are anti-covid measures largely ignored, I also at some point detected an unpleasant vaguely negationist/anti-vax undercurrent in the albergues.
I write this in some detail because before I started, I thought that staying in albergues was going to be an important part of my experience. I was going to give up the comfort that I am used to, and force myself to be more social. In the end, this expectation was not met.
This is it. I relied on this forum quite a bit in preparation of my Camino, and I am very grateful to all those who contribute. I hope my experience will be useful to those starting after me. I will be monitoring this thread for a while, and try to respond to any questions if I can.