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Observations on the Aragones, May-June 2018

rappahannock_rev

Anglican Catholic Priest
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes, Burgos & SdeC 77 (by train); Frances 12, 15 & 17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes, Aragones 18
#1
I did it. I'm glad I did it. I'm proud I did it. But once was enough - I won't do it again!

1. What you’ve been told is true. The Aragones experience is not comparable to the Frances experience. It’s different on all kinds of levels.

2. For instance: unless you’re intent upon pushing west to SdeC and securing another compostela, you can pretty much forget about the whole “sello” thing…. Sure, you can get stamps, but nobody seems much to care about them…. On the CA it’s really not about the stamps….

3. Do not assume that because you’ve done the CF that you can nonchalantly do the CA. The CA is far more physically demanding than the CF. A lot of tough ups-and-downs, longer stages, fewer rest stops, fewer bed-for-the-night options…. You really do need to anticipate food/water/cash concerns in ways that you don’t need to do on the CF.

4. The CA needs some major upgrades – in more than one place it’s embarrassingly, even dangerously, neglected. And there really are far fewer peregrinos! It’s much, much lonelier – until you finally arrive at Puente la Reina Gares, where the sight of all those CF peregrinos marching down the Calle Mayor will take your breath away.

5. For that reason I would not advise walking the CA alone. I’d hate to have fallen and broken something on one of the more remote CA stages…. God knows how I’d have managed to get help!

6. Pray for fair weather. Rain creates some very yucky, mucky, boggy stages on the CA. Trust me! My shoes were terminal well before walk’s end…. And forget doing it at the height of summer. Wouldn’t be prudent.

7. Starting at the Somport would seem to me to be silly and artificial. I started at Lourdes and would recommend starting either there or at Oloron. (There’s a nice pilgrim office in Lourdes….) But don’t omit the crossing of the mountains entirely – some of the most magnificent scenery I’ve ever enjoyed!

8. As far as ‘attractions’ go, the Canfranc Station is overrated, the Jaca Cathedral & Diocesan Museum underrated - for a small museum, it’s world class! Detours to San Juan de la Pena, Leyre and Xavier Castle were absolutely worth it! They absolutely made the trip! I skipped the detour to the Lumbier Gorge but wish I hadn’t….

9. Sorry France – but the food and wine was/is better and cheaper in Spain! No contest! Best tapas I’ve ever encountered in Spain were quite unexpectedly found in Villanua, north of Jaca.

10. From Puente it was/is a cheap-and-easy bus ride to Pamplona, which was as wonderful as it always is – it's my favorite place on earth. And, my o my, after the CA was I ready for the fleshpots of Pamplona!

Pax. Fr J+
 
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frida1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April 11-May 11 2014
#3
I agree the report is pretty accurate; I have very fond memories of this beautiful camino from May 2017. My partner and I started in Montpellier, France. By far, for us, the toughest part was the first 10 days out of Montpelier. The Pyrenees seemed easy after that; and the walk very beautiful.

My perception was that the Aragon's from Oloron was not physically harder to walk, but difficult in the logistical ways Rappahannock describes. I took a shine to Canfranc, but maybe not everyone would. Jean de la Pena and the Spanish villages on the way are beautiful, but very empty.

The only real disagreement I have is the food. Spain better than France? Never! I enjoy Spanish food, but not only was it a lot harder to come across, it lacks the finesse and variety of the French food we had. And absolutely, no comparison in the bakeries. Of course, all that is a matter of personal opinion.

I just hope more people enjoy this lovely camino. Thanks for the report.
 

NorthernLight

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
#4
I walked this trail alone and liked it for the solitude.

After Jaca, I noticed that the trail mostly paralleled a road, and I did sometimes opt for the road (not much traffic), rather than the trail, which goes along the side of the hills, through trees and scrub, with the attendant need to watch your footing all the time.

There were about 8 pilgrims at the alburgues at night, and when I failed to appear at the municipal one evening, the others noticed and made sure I had arrived (I'd gone to a private one that night in hopes of a better meal - which I got).

You do need to be more careful, and plan to carry more water & snacks. The gorge was gorgeous.
 

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Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes, Aragonese May-June 2018
#7
After having done many other Caminos to note the waymarking on this route. Few signs. The signage on the French side was difficult to see, on the Spanish a bit better, but nothing like the San Salvador, Primitivo or the Portuguese.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Aragones, Camino Frances, Finisterre (2018)
#8
So glad the CA spoke to you like it did to me! For those who come after, the Lumbier Gorge is phenomenal and worth the walk. You can actually keep on that trail and walk to Pamplona, actually!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2016, Mansill de las Mulas to Finisterre 2017
#9
I am looking at the Aragones for late September, I like that it is a total change from the Frances. A question for those who have walked the Aragones in the past year or two: How did you handle the side trip to San Juan de la Pena? Walk all the way? Bus? Taxi? Overnight somewhere? I am thinking specifically about the descent leaving the monastery which sounds brutal. Did you go through the interpretation centers or just concentrate on the monastery?
 

rappahannock_rev

Anglican Catholic Priest
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes, Burgos & SdeC 77 (by train); Frances 12, 15 & 17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes, Aragones 18
#10
I am looking at the Aragones for late September, I like that it is a total change from the Frances. A question for those who have walked the Aragones in the past year or two: How did you handle the side trip to San Juan de la Pena? Walk all the way? Bus? Taxi? Overnight somewhere? I am thinking specifically about the descent leaving the monastery which sounds brutal. Did you go through the interpretation centers or just concentrate on the monastery?
My friends and I walked from Jaca up to picturesque Santa Cruz de la Seros -- lovely walk!-- where we treated ourselves to rooms for the night in a wonderful inn.... We arranged for the town taxi driver to run us up to the mountain top the next morning, give us enough time to explore, and then return us to Santa Cruz.... Worked well.

We did not walk down from the monastery -- people we respected had told us that it was difficult and slow, and we wanted to walk on from Santa Cruz and get to Puente la Reina de Jaca before day's end.

But I honestly found the walk from Santa Cruz down to the valley floor pretty darn tough in its own right! The marked way took us over tricky wet up-and-down goat trails that were obviously modern, not medieval -- chosen, I'm certain, for the purpose of keeping us off the paved road. If I were to go back I'd be tempted to stick to the road....
 
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fraluchi

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
One every year since 2007
#11
... How did you handle the side trip to San Juan de la Pena? Walk all the way? Bus? Taxi? ...
We took the tourist bus leaving Jaca to San Juan de la Peña, visited the Monastery and then walked back to Santa Cruz de la Seros, down the extremely steep (and at places dangerous) slope and eventually until Arrès through the valley.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
#13
I am looking at the Aragones for late September, I like that it is a total change from the Frances. A question for those who have walked the Aragones in the past year or two: How did you handle the side trip to San Juan de la Pena? Walk all the way? Bus? Taxi? Overnight somewhere? I am thinking specifically about the descent leaving the monastery which sounds brutal. Did you go through the interpretation centers or just concentrate on the monastery?
@Sparrow in Texas
I booked the tourist bus in the tourist office in Jaca and took it up to the top to the interpretation centre, which I did not find very interesting. The bus waited for us to drive us down the hill to the old monastery. After we spent some time there, it drove to the bottom of the hill, let off at the trail at the bottom those of us who were walking on to spend the night at Santa Cilia, and took the others back to Jaca.
 

fransw

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2012; Le Puy - Conques 2014;Camino Aragonese Oloron Ste Marie - Puenta la Reina 2018
#14
I did it. I'm glad I did it. I'm proud I did it. But once was enough - I won't do it again!

1. What you’ve been told is true. The Aragones experience is not comparable to the Frances experience. It’s different on all kinds of levels.

2. For instance: unless you’re intent upon pushing west to SdeC and securing another compostela, you can pretty much forget about the whole “sello” thing…. Sure, you can get stamps, but nobody seems much to care about them…. On the CA it’s really not about the stamps….

3. Do not assume that because you’ve done the CF that you can nonchalantly do the CA. The CA is far more physically demanding than the CF. A lot of tough ups-and-downs, longer stages, fewer rest stops, fewer bed-for-the-night options…. You really do need to anticipate food/water/cash concerns in ways that you don’t need to do on the CF.

4. The CA needs some major upgrades – in more than one place it’s embarrassingly, even dangerously, neglected. And there really are far fewer peregrinos! It’s much, much lonelier – until you finally arrive at Puente la Reina Gares, where the sight of all those CF peregrinos marching down the Calle Mayor will take your breath away.

5. For that reason I would not advise walking the CA alone. I’d hate to have fallen and broken something on one of the more remote CA stages…. God knows how I’d have managed to get help!

6. Pray for fair weather. Rain creates some very yucky, mucky, boggy stages on the CA. Trust me! My shoes were terminal well before walk’s end…. And forget doing it at the height of summer. Wouldn’t be prudent.

7. Starting at the Somport would seem to me to be silly and artificial. I started at Lourdes and would recommend starting either there or at Oloron. (There’s a nice pilgrim office in Lourdes….) But don’t omit the crossing of the mountains entirely – some of the most magnificent scenery I’ve ever enjoyed!

8. As far as ‘attractions’ go, the Canfranc Station is overrated, the Jaca Cathedral & Diocesan Museum underrated - for a small museum, it’s world class! Detours to San Juan de la Pena, Leyre and Xavier Castle were absolutely worth it! They absolutely made the trip! I skipped the detour to the Lumbier Gorge but wish I hadn’t….

9. Sorry France – but the food and wine was/is better and cheaper in Spain! No contest! Best tapas I’ve ever encountered in Spain were quite unexpectedly found in Villanua, north of Jaca.

10. From Puente it was/is a cheap-and-easy bus ride to Pamplona, which was as wonderful as it always is – it's my favorite place on earth. And, my o my, after the CA was I ready for Pamplona!

Pax. Fr J+
I do agree with your comments. I walked last May from Oloron on in bad weather conditions trough the Valley of the Aspe. I was walking alone and , yes, it was dangerous for a solo walker at some spots.
It was, as you said, a very lonely experience. There were many days I did not see a single pilgrim! So, there were beautiful landscapes and I liked the Monastery of San Juan de la Pena BUT I would not walk again this Way. It is tough and very lonely for a solo walker!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
#15
I walked this route from Oloron Ste Marie, starting in mid September of 2016, through the Vallee d'Aspe in wet weather to Somport, and on to Puente la Reina and Santiago. There were a few challenges, but I never felt unsafe and I found the setting of the Aragones to be very beautiful. I much prefer it over the VdlP. There were others in all the albergues, but I walked alone each day. I will walk it again some day, if I can. It is the perfect camino for someone who is, by preference, a solitary mountain walker.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Aragones, Camino Frances, Finisterre (2018)
#16
We walked from Jaca to the new monastery, stayed the night at the parador there (surprisingly affordable), then walked down to Arres (a true jewel of the Camino for a number of small but important reasons). Actually, we got snowed in at the top so we spent TWO nights at the hotel! Rough life...

I found both the new and the old monastery sites worth a visit, so plan your time accordingly. It’s 8.5km via the road from Santa Cruz to the new site and that’s at a constant uphill climb. RT of 17km just for that section makes it a good one-day side trip from SC but a tough go to walk Jaca-SantaCruz-SJdlP-Santa Cilia.
 
#17
We walked from Jaca to the new monastery, stayed the night at the parador there (surprisingly affordable), then walked down to Arres (a true jewel of the Camino for a number of small but important reasons). Actually, we got snowed in at the top so we spent TWO nights at the hotel! Rough life...

I found both the new and the old monastery sites worth a visit, so plan your time accordingly. It’s 8.5km via the road from Santa Cruz to the new site and that’s at a constant uphill climb. RT of 17km just for that section makes it a good one-day side trip from SC but a tough go to walk Jaca-SantaCruz-SJdlP-Santa Cilia.

And one more little thing about the visit to San Juan de la Peña. A little further on behind the new monastery/hotel, there is a beautiful viewing point called Balcón de los Pirineos. Great place for a picnic or a rest.

Vacajoe, I agree with you about Arres -- beautiful town, but extra special albergue. There may not be a lot of albergues on the Aragonés, but they are there right when you need them, well spaced and not a bad one in the bunch. Arres and Ruesta rank high on my all time favorites list!
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Aragones, Camino Frances, Finisterre (2018)
#18
Both of those albergues were our favorites of our 46 day Camino! Due to snow in mid-April, we were the only occupants of the hotel in the “new” monastery - so that was also an experience (a bit like “The Shining” actually...)

I highly recommend making it up that hill to see both the old and new sites and spending enough time there to enjoy it. As a bonus, the area has rare barking deer that come out in the evenings! 775851F8-5649-4610-8DC3-5032B496DDC4.jpeg
 
Camino(s) past & future
Caminos Frances (x4), Finisterre, Aragon, Via de la Plata, Portuguese 2011 -2015. Hospitalero 2015
#19
I walked the Aragones from Oloron to Santiago in Sept 2012, and found the albergues about 70% full - say about 25 pilgrims per day. I joined a camino family of 4 so it was never lonely for me. I found that the hardest part was the ascent up to the Somport Pass, due mainly because I lost my bearings and had to push through a rough and incorrect path. I agree that Arres is beautiful, both the village, albergue and the volunteer hospitalero. I found the route flashes (in France) and arrows (in Spain) to be adequate although nothing like the Frances.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 13
VdlP 14
LePuy 15
Invierno DosFaros CP 16
The 88, Japan 17
Sicily. Arles-Santiago Fall 18
#20
Thanks everyone for all this very good information! We will be walking this portion as part of our "Camino For Alzheimer's Awareness" this fall. We will be starting in Lodève (just out of Montpellier) September 21st on World Alzheimer's Day to raise awareness for this terrible, incurable disease. We will be looking for and writing about the parallels between a long distance walking journey and the much longer and more difficult journey experienced by those who live with this disease and their supporters. After we reach Logrono my spouse will return to Canada and I plan to walk onwards, direction west. I have to finish by November 19th when I will have to depart the Schengen Zone. I expect to reach Santiago if all goes well, but the journey is definitely the purpose with Santiago simply a way point. I will be blogging daily about the walk and the parallels and also posting photos as I have on each of my walks. I have created a special purpose blog for this Camino: caminoforalzheimers.blogspot.ca I will be posting about this journey here and on the Confraternity's Facebook group page in September just before we depart. Thanks for listening:cool: Geoff
 

amancio

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Aragon, Ingles, VdlP, Leban-Vadin, Fisterra, Invierno
#21
I am sorry to hear your experience was so awful; I must say I enjoyed every step of it when I went there; the magnificent Pyrinees, the stunning Canfranc station (getting off that train on early evening feels like travelling in time) with all its stories of spies, the only part of Spain where Hitler had troops (Gestapo), the smugglers, the Jews escaping France... All very moving. The delightful walk down river Aragon, the city of Jaca, magical Arrés, the incredible story of desserted town Ruesta, the amazing gorge of Lumbier early in the morning all by myself, Eunate... so many reasons!

And all that joy, for me, was over when I reached Puente la Reina and the mad crowd of pilgrims. Time to go back home!

We both see the same landscape, but the sensations and feelings are completely different!

I will surely return to this Camino. Definitely.
 

amancio

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Aragon, Ingles, VdlP, Leban-Vadin, Fisterra, Invierno
#24
Actually, if you are interested in the historical time when Hitler's troops were acting on Spanish soil, you will love the documentary titled "El rey de Canfranc" (The king of Canfranc), a moving real story about a French officer who helped thousands of Jews to escape Nazi occupied France through Canfranc. To not miss it!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2016, Mansill de las Mulas to Finisterre 2017
#25
Here is my next question on planning: How would any of you plan the route to include the Javier castle, Leyre monestery, the foz de Lumbier and Sanguesa? Adding in all of these marvelous side trips, one could easily spend 2 weeks on the Aragones when so many walk it in only 6 days.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Aragones, Camino Frances, Finisterre (2018)
#26
Only six days means NOT seeing everything on the CA - it would be impossible. IF you started at San Juan de la Pena, you probably could do the spots listed, but that’s only a portion of the CA.
 

caminka

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
see signature
#27
Here is my next question on planning: How would any of you plan the route to include the Javier castle, Leyre monestery, the foz de Lumbier and Sanguesa? Adding in all of these marvelous side trips, one could easily spend 2 weeks on the Aragones when so many walk it in only 6 days.
based on my experience, I would walk like this:
- jaca - san juan de la pena - santa cruz de la seros (casa rural)
- santa cruz de la seros - artieda (albergue)
- artieda - leyre (hostal or monastery)
- leyre - javier - sanguesa (small albergue, so it pays off to arrive early)
- sanguesa - lumbier - izco or monreal (both albergues)

there is a moderately priced hostal at leyre monastery. and if you are very lucky, the monks have a tiny room with one bunk and two mattresses, hobbit-size table and chairs, and a bathroom. in 2012 it came with a dinner and an interesting conversation.

research well if there are alternative routes from artieda to leyre (a gravel road paralleling the motorway?), to avoid the never ending winding main road. there was only one (very welcome) campside in 2012.
 

oursonpolaire

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
#28
@caminka : I walked the north shore of the Embalse de Yesa in (was it 2009?? 2011??) and there was only one 2km stretch parallel to the main road-- I well recall standing alongside a helpful shepherd working it out for me with his GPS. In early June this year I planned to walk it again but events (long story omitted) caused me cut this stage out of my itinerary-- however, it so happened that the Jaca-Pamplona bus went along most of the highway and I saw how the 2km stretch was covered by water and, what was worse, the water had risen over the hot springs at Tiermas by the side of the lake, a disappointment to all hot-springs and mud-bathing pilgrims everywhere.

The gasolinera half-way along is much expanded from what it had been, and coffee etc might now be available. Otherwise there is no relief, toilets included, between Artieda and Leyre, on a 30km long stretch. This is unfortunate as it is most scenic, and both Leyre and Yesa are worth the visit, and Javier can easily be included if one is dipping down to Sanguesa.

PS-- Here is a post which I put up on a related thread with details from my 2009 walk: I've done the walk north of the Embalse de Yesa in 2009 and, aside from a small gas station with water and chocolate bars at the intersection of the A-137 with the N-240, there was Nothing At All between Berdun and Yesa (34km), although there were a few campings about 4-5km east of Yesa where I suppose I might have found succour. Almost all of the walk is alongside the N-240 with not much manoeuvering space for the pilgrim. The ruined town of Tiermas is a paradise for Spanish photographers but, for the pilgrim, the lakeside hot springs just to the east would be much more agreeable. If you don't mind making it a 38km walk, there is a sideroad from the Navarrese frontier which takes you up to the Monasterio de Leyre- perhaps if I can hitch a ride up the sideroad....
 
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caminka

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
see signature
#29
I saw no sign of any old routes in 2012, never mind the baths. they were all under water (and I thought it wasn't even that high). I started in arrés but that was a very long and very hot day of about 40km, with the climb at the end up to the monastery. (that would be reduced to a managable distance if starting in artieda.) absolutely worth it, though.

I don't remember passing a petrol station but I obviously must have. there was no more campside under tiermas, but there was one shortly before the climb to leyre.

I hope that when the motorway is finished, there will be a shorter (if less tranquil) way along its gravel 'sidekicks'.
 

Karl Oz

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
Portuguese
Piamonte
Aragones
Elizabethpfad
#30
I did it. I'm glad I did it. I'm proud I did it. But once was enough - I won't do it again!

1. What you’ve been told is true. The Aragones experience is not comparable to the Frances experience. It’s different on all kinds of levels.

2. For instance: unless you’re intent upon pushing west to SdeC and securing another compostela, you can pretty much forget about the whole “sello” thing…. Sure, you can get stamps, but nobody seems much to care about them…. On the CA it’s really not about the stamps….

3. Do not assume that because you’ve done the CF that you can nonchalantly do the CA. The CA is far more physically demanding than the CF. A lot of tough ups-and-downs, longer stages, fewer rest stops, fewer bed-for-the-night options…. You really do need to anticipate food/water/cash concerns in ways that you don’t need to do on the CF.

4. The CA needs some major upgrades – in more than one place it’s embarrassingly, even dangerously, neglected. And there really are far fewer peregrinos! It’s much, much lonelier – until you finally arrive at Puente la Reina Gares, where the sight of all those CF peregrinos marching down the Calle Mayor will take your breath away.

5. For that reason I would not advise walking the CA alone. I’d hate to have fallen and broken something on one of the more remote CA stages…. God knows how I’d have managed to get help!

6. Pray for fair weather. Rain creates some very yucky, mucky, boggy stages on the CA. Trust me! My shoes were terminal well before walk’s end…. And forget doing it at the height of summer. Wouldn’t be prudent.

7. Starting at the Somport would seem to me to be silly and artificial. I started at Lourdes and would recommend starting either there or at Oloron. (There’s a nice pilgrim office in Lourdes….) But don’t omit the crossing of the mountains entirely – some of the most magnificent scenery I’ve ever enjoyed!

8. As far as ‘attractions’ go, the Canfranc Station is overrated, the Jaca Cathedral & Diocesan Museum underrated - for a small museum, it’s world class! Detours to San Juan de la Pena, Leyre and Xavier Castle were absolutely worth it! They absolutely made the trip! I skipped the detour to the Lumbier Gorge but wish I hadn’t….

9. Sorry France – but the food and wine was/is better and cheaper in Spain! No contest! Best tapas I’ve ever encountered in Spain were quite unexpectedly found in Villanua, north of Jaca.

10. From Puente it was/is a cheap-and-easy bus ride to Pamplona, which was as wonderful as it always is – it's my favorite place on earth. And, my o my, after the CA was I ready for Pamplona!

Pax. Fr J+
Hi Revley,

I just finished the CA in mid-July and just about everything you said resonates with me. I am recovering from jet-lag and a bug I picked-up just before I left last week, but when I am better I will post an account with my own reflections of walking this camino.
 

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