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Roncesvalles... is just not for me

amancio

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Arag, Ingles, VdlP, Leban-Vadin, Fisterra, Invierno, LePuy
#1
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
 

Houlet

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2014
Via de la Plata 2015
Camino Sanabres 2015
Camino Norde 2017
#3
No, I enjoyed my stay there, wakened in the morning by a group of hospitaleros singing "Morning has Broken" accompanied by a guitar. Having worked as a hospitalero as well, from 06:00 to 22:00 I can see both sides of the story.
 
Camino(s) past & future
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#4
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
Short answer:
I find Roncesvalles a mystical and wonderful place. I've stayed there twice and sometimes I think of going back and staying there for a few days, without camino walking.

Longer answer:
It's perhaps 15 or more years ago that I first read about the welcome and stay at the Roncesvalles albergue which was then still run by the monks or clergy living there. It was described in such a negative manner that I knew I would need to walk on to Burguete ...

The Roncesvalles albergue is now run by a Dutch association that has a long term contract for managing the current albergue which has been modernised. They run an establishment that caters for more than 200 pilgrims daily during "the season"; they sometimes have to deal with 300+ pilgrims on busy days. This cannot be easy. There are sometimes complaints about abrasive manners of these hosts and also about their lack of Spanish language skills but overwhelmingly, they are praised for the voluntary work they do.

Personally, I was put off by the fact that I had arrived in Spain, in a place like Roncesvalles with its magnificent history, and was greeted in English with a hard Dutch accent ... I never stayed in the albergue, though, I just went there to collect a stamp. And I know now that I can get it at the hotel, too.

PS: Now that I think a bit more about my short stays in the foyer of the Roncesvalles albergue ... it did not strike me as a haven of peace. :cool:
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#6
To each his own but
without a doubt for me it has always been and shall be Roncesvalles where I have had ten exhausted but memorable stops during past caminos. Staying there one sensed history in the continuous monastic tradition of welcome to all.

January 2009 I walked 18 k in 5 hours through strong wind, heavy rain, sleet and eventually dense snow up the Valcarlos road to the almost mythic monastery ! Saw few people and no other pilgrims; I was the only one staying in the old winter albergue.

The monk who stamped my Credential invited me to the evening benediction for pilgrims. It was lovely. The service was held in the ancient Romanesque church (wonderfully heated!!) in front of the magnificent silver sculpture of the Virgin. Three monks assisted and asked me to stand with them at the altar. ...In retrospect how special it was that snowy night to be the single pilgrim where crowds have stood throughout time. ...
 
Camino(s) past & future
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#7
Hi Amancio
It sounds like these people have lost the flexibility to be informally generous that is often so wonderful on the camino. But I can understand why, given where they are working. Roncesvalles hospitalering must be a tough gig - often huge numbers turning up and swamping a small place. It's the first night for most pilgrims, who won't yet have learnt 'the rules', and some will be so dog-tired they may react emotionally when they can't understand how to get what they need.
After a while it must be hard for hospitaleros there to see each person as an individual. You probably quickly learn that applying the regulations to the letter is the only way to keep surviving the deluge of pilgims, whether you want to be like that or not.
Cheers, tom
 
Camino(s) past & future
Roncesvalles-SdC Apr-Jun 2015
Roncesvalles-Sarria Sep-Oct 2017
(2019: Planning to return!)
#8
I find Roncesvalles a mystical and wonderful place. I've stayed there twice and sometimes I think of going back and staying there for a few days, without camino walking.
Exactly how I feel! I have started from Roncesvalles twice - and fully intend to do so again. The first was almost accidental - all plans were in place to start from St Jean, until a couple of weeks before departure we realised that due to recent injuries and surgery neither my mother nor I were in any state to take on that walk, even stopping overnight in Valcarlos. So the fateful words were spoken: "Well, we could just start from Roncesvalles..." I immediately felt like a weight had lifted, and knew this was the right decision. So we went to Roncesvalles (via St Jean, which is lovely), and attended the beautiful pilgrim's mass, stayed overnight and set off on a cool, misty April morning. It felt like the perfect place to start. When it came to planning our second Camino we never seriously considered starting anywhere else. Although at a very different and much busier time of year (early September) it was wonderful again. And we're now looking at next year for number three, wonder where to start from this time...

Admittedly we didn't stay at the albergue. We have stayed at both Hotel Roncesvalles and at La Posada, and received warm and friendly welcome at each. But so did others I've spoken to who stayed at the albergue. It's often just luck and timing - two bad experiences ten years apart for @amancio would be understandably off-putting, but probably just that - unlucky timing. Don't give up on Roncesvalles!
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
#9
I don't recall that the Dutch association was running the albergue ten years ago. I thought it was still being run by the brothers.
 
Camino(s) past & future
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#10
I don't recall that the Dutch association was running the albergue ten years ago. I thought it was still being run by the brothers.
From their website: Sinds 2003 heeft het Klooster/'La Colegiata' de opvang van pelgrims grotendeels uit handen gegeven en ons, leden van het NGSJ gevraagd als vrijwilliger 'hospitalero'/gastheer of gastvrouw, op te treden.

So the Dutch association has provided hospitaleros for the Roncesvalles albergue for fifteen years now.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
#11
While I sypathise with some of your experiences @amancio I'm not sure I agree with your conclusions, apart that is with those on the pilgrim meals which I've found to have been of low quality in a fly infested dining room on both my visits.

Firstly on the matter of closing time, I don't really see why, unless it was an emegency, your desire to speak to your family was more important than the rules, or more to the point, a volunteer hospitalero's (to my mind real heros of the camino) right, after a long day, to finish work and maybe have a little time to themselves before the whole thing starts again less than 8 hours later. Sorry but this just seems like selfishness on your part to me.

As to the friendliness, or lack thereof and beaurocracy. I fear that's just the nature of the beast in a very large albergue. A lot of inexperienced pilgrims leave their kit all over the place in the hallway at Roencesvalles and it would be easy pickings for someone just walking in to take a lot of valuable things. I don't know if that's the reason for their form for the toilet rule but I struggle to think they have it just for fun.

As for the church, I guess "seeing the light" comes at a price these days ;)

Rob.
 
Camino(s) past & future
walked Camino Frances 2012, future June 26 2016 / Burgos to Santiago July 2017 future Camino Fran
#12
Sorry to read your experience in Roncesvalles ,for myself I've stayed twice probably more grateful now I'm sitting in the comfort of home surroundings in Scotland. The numbers of pilgrims passing daily must be daunting for the new and regular volunteers .As a pilgrim who doesn't speak French or Spanish and pointed my way across the Camino it would be frustrating for many who dealt with this pilgrim, hopefully if I have a chance to do the camino in April 2019 I'll have a bit more gratitude . Ultreia.
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#13
Dutch people can be quite blunt.
That is quite a blunt statement. ;) We prefer 'direct' or 'efficient'. We like to get to the point, and quickly please.
Another thing is that I think most native English speakers actually over-estimate the Dutch grasp of the English language. True, most of us speak English well, but that is mostly on a technical level. We might be proficient in English idiom and grammar, but on a cultural level we're not always accurate. When you can't think or dream in a language, you are basically translating, and nuance is one of the first victims in that process. And I won't even mention double entendres, suppositions and innuendo.
Simple example: when I ask an Englishman how he is, he will say "Not bad" if he is feeling good. When he is feeling a little poorly, he will probably say "I'm okay". With an American, 'Fantastic!' will mean he feels good, and when he says 'I'm good, thanks', he will be feeling poorly. You can see why this might be confusing. For us, good is good and bad is bad.
On the other hand: the upside of the 'directness' of us Dutchies is that you can easily tell us that we are blunt. We will most probably laugh and appreciate the feedback.
 
Camino(s) past & future
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#15
The fact that hospitaleros in Roncesvalles don't know Spanish has been an issue, no matter how wonderful or blunt or whatever they are. So much so that the Cabildo decided a few years ago to make sure that a local Spanish employee is present - at least at the check-in counter I think.
 
Camino(s) past & future
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#18
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes". That was the straw that broke the camel's back.
I thought a bit about this and, you know, I'm actually with you on this. I've put quite a few 1 € coins into grey boxes in churches along the Camino Frances so it's nothing unusual. But it was usually to put the spotlight on a retablo or a specific painting and I was grateful for being able to see details I could not see otherwise and at that moment in time I was interested in the artwork or iconography as such. But I don't recall anything like this in the Church of Roncesvalles so if it's just to illuminate the building ... ?
 
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Camino(s) past & future
St Jean to Burgos 2017
St Jean to Fisterra 2018
St Jean to Fisterra 2020 or Chemin Piemont
#19
I kinda understand where the OP is coming from. The joy of Camino for me is solitary walking and the albergue experience is just something I have to put up with every day. Roncesvalles and Santo Domingo have my least fave big albergues, mainly because they feel a tad industrial.

On the other hand, lots of folks dig em. That's the beauty of Camino!
 

Niels

camino mi privio
Camino(s) past & future
Ca. del Norte and Ca. Primotivo in 2016 + Santiago to Muxia; Ca. Frances and Ruta Dragonte in 2018.
#20
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
I did have a nice stay at the albergue a couple of months ago, and when asking for a tour of the museum, we were told, that we could ask the preacher. And there - right after the pilgrims mass - the preacher offered present pilgrims to have a free tour of the surrounding places of the church: the chapter house, the crypt etc. I sure felt received in Roncesvalles and will remain forever grateful for that beautiful experience. ...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles 2015/2016/2017/2018
Camino Portugues (Sept. 2018)
#21
With 200+ people every day sleeping in the albergue the hospitaleros have to be quite strict about closing time. If we give one pilgrim a finger, 10 other pilgrims take the whole hand .... People are often quite creative in coming up with excuses why they need to get in after curfew-time. For many pilgrims this is their first night in an albergue, and unfortunately we, hospitaleros at Roncesvalles, are the ones who have to teach people the way of life in an albergue.
At 10 pm we switch off all the lights and many, many people in the dormitories are sleeping already by that time. If other people enter the dormitories after 10 pm, making noise while preparing their beds and using the bathrooms and toilets, it is all very disturbing for the people who are sleeping.

About the form you had to fill in for using the toilet: you don't have to fill in a form for the toilet, but maybe you also wanted a stamp in your credential? We must ask everybody to fill in the form for statistics reasons: the Gobierno (gouvernment) of Navarra keeps records of how many people ask for a stamp, which country they are from and what is their reason of walking a Camino. You do not have to fill in 'all your personal data', if people refuse to fill in their real name (or write down a fake name) it's OK.
Only the people who actually sleep in the albergue have to fill in their true name, as we check this with their passport. This passport check and passport scan is for safety reasons, on the orders of the police and obligated since the big terrorist attack in Barcelona in 2017.

I hope I have been able to relieve your frustration a bit; most of the time there is a reason why the hospitaleros do things the way they do. We certainly do not want to be rude; rule #1 in our handbook is to be a good host, to make pilgrims feel welcome!
 

Jodean

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
22 Sept. to 21 Oct. 2015, Pamplona to Santiago
6-23.04 Porto to Santiago 2018
17.09-30.09 CF 2018
#22
When I staggered up that ramp, they immediately came forward to help me. Getting water, helping with my pack, being very caring and welcoming. They even carried my pack to my bed. Laundry, washed, dried, & folded for 3.50 was a deal. Dinner was ok, nothing outstanding except for the soup, but it wasn't the worst pilgrim meal.
There was no wake-up songs, but there were phone alarms going off.

Would certainly stay here again. Beds were comfy, staff was very friendly and kind.

It is not unusual to pay for lights in a church. I see this in Germany in many towns.
 
#23
I don't recall that the Dutch association was running the albergue ten years ago. I thought it was still being run by the brothers.
The Dutch Camino Confraternity has been responsible for supplying hospitaleros/as since 2002. Many changes have occurred in the Camino over these past 15+ years, including the attitude of pilgrims. I would give them a bit of slack. I personally would not want to deal with hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims a day!

I am a member of the Confraternity and am also a hospitalera, but due to the shear numbers coming through Roncesvalles, I have never felt called to volunteer there.

The Dutch can be blunt but you at least know where you stand;)
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
#24
I have been twice in the Roncesvalles albergue. The first time I had an almost cheering reception. I had the distinct feeling that the Dutch hospitaleros had to restraint themselves for not hugging me.:) I discovered later why: it was the first day of the new premises, and I was the fourth pilgrim to arrive.
I came back two years ago and discovered that the reception was less spontaneous -which was to be expected, bcs you have to organize a system to process such a large number of people. After my arrival, I came down the stairs to ask I don't remember what (the laundry?) and the answer was short (you may call "efficient") but polite. Anyway, I don't expect to be particularly pampered...And I am used (from my Mexican perspective) to Spaniard's bluntness.
The only aspect that I find slightly odd is that the albergue sells tickets for a specific restaurant -I suppose it has some kind of agreement. And to be true, the Casa Sabina dinner is not particularly memorable -but hey, I don't mind, I enjoy the company.
Last time I went to pilgrim's Mass. After that, we were treated to a guided visit of the church by the dean of the community -it was great. It was October, so we were only 20 persons, and I suppose this is not possible in the peak season.
And Roncesvalles, well, is a special place. I would like to return some day in a more "touristy mode", to walk around and enjoy the forest and the sight of old buildings.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#25
Looking at this from the perspective of the pilgrim who is in bed at ten and looking forward to some sleep, I’m actually pleased that they are sticklers for the 10 pm lights-out and doors-locked rule.

While I’m not crazy about the massive albergue in Roncesvalles, that’s because of the size, not the hospitaleros running the place. I found them to be friendly. And on the Dutch, I find them to be some of the nicest people in the world.
 

Paladina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Cycled caminos francés, Finisterre, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles et al (2018)
#26
I love the building, and I appreciate the valuable service that the overburdened hospitaleros provide to hordes of tired and sometimes fractious pilgrims, but the staff themselves seem overwhelmed by the enormity of the service, and the welcome is perfunctory. It was my second least favourite albergue on my first Camino. Ah well, by not staying there again I will at least make more room for those who are enchanted with the place.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles 2015/2016/2017/2018
Camino Portugues (Sept. 2018)
#28
The only aspect that I find slightly odd is that the albergue sells tickets for a specific restaurant -I suppose it has some kind of agreement. And to be true, the Casa Sabina dinner is not particularly memorable -but hey, I don't mind, I enjoy the company.
You can choose between three restaurants: Casa Sabina, La Posada and the restaurant in the hotel.
Most of the time we do not ask people which restaurant they prefer, because upon arrival they do not even know where the restaurants are, but if you have a favourite restaurant you can ask for a ticket for that particular restaurant. All restaurants/hotels belong to the Colegiata; the quality of the food depends on the cook. One year Casa Sabina is better, the other year La Posada is better. For us hospitaleros it is every year a surprise which restaurant is better ;-)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
#29
You can choose between three restaurants: Casa Sabina, La Posada and the restaurant in the hotel.
Most of the time we do not ask people which restaurant they prefer, because upon arrival they do not even know where the restaurants are, but if you have a favourite restaurant you can ask for a ticket for that particular restaurant. All restaurants/hotels belong to the Colegiata; the quality of the food depends on the cook. One year Casa Sabina is better, the other year La Posada is better. For us hospitaleros it is every year a surprise which restaurant is better ;-)

Thanks, that's really useful info. We clearly need a "what restaurant is best right now" thread.
 
Camino(s) past & future
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#30
Thanks, that's really useful info. We clearly need a "what restaurant is best right now" thread.
The restaurant of the Hotel Roncesvalles! I think the albergue hospitaleros sell only tickets for Casa Sabina and La Posada but you are free to go to the Hotel Roncesvalles in the evening because they do not only cater for hotel guests. I'm not sure about whether their breakfast buffet is open to external visitors, I somehow doubt it as it is served in a fairly small area. I really loved it. :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
#31
I guess I'm with the majority in loving Roncesvalles.
I've found them to be very efficient, very friendly, and very helpful.
In all the years I've been walking, I've found ONE grouchy hospitalero, who was probably tired after a long day of dealing with pilgrims.

I appreciate the 10 pm rule!
Just think if 20 pilgrims or 30 all had a phone call to make at 9:59? Nope.
If you want that type of freedom, there are plenty of private places you can stay.

And as far as using the toilets, I'm GLAD they asked you to fill out paperwork.
Theft is becoming more common on the Camino, and I want to know who is in the space with my belongings. There are restaurants and bars in Roncesvalles where you can go without paperwork.

Just my 2 cents.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles 2015/2016/2017/2018
Camino Portugues (Sept. 2018)
#33
The restaurant of the Hotel Roncesvalles! I think the albergue hospitaleros sell only tickets for Casa Sabina and La Posada but you are free to go to the Hotel Roncesvalles in the evening because they do not only cater for hotel guests. I'm not sure about whether their breakfast buffet is open to external visitors, I somehow doubt it. I really loved it. :)
No, we also sell tickets for the pilgrim's dinner and for the breakfast in the hotel. As for the breakfast it depends on which breakfast you choose: there are tickets for the € 3,50 breakfast at Casa Sabina and at the hotel, and tickets for the € 5,00 breakfast at La Posada. So it's all up to you!
 
Camino(s) past & future
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#34
No, we also sell tickets for the pilgrim's dinner and for the breakfast in the hotel. As for the breakfast it depends on which breakfast you choose: there are tickets for the € 3,50 breakfast at Casa Sabina and at the hotel, and tickets for the € 5,00 breakfast at La Posada. So it's all up to you!
That's certainly good to know as I understand that breakfast in Roncesvalles is or used to be a miserable affair for many pilgrims. And a ticket for 3,50 € at the Hotel Roncesvalles sounds like a super affair as hotel guests have to pay 10 € for their Desayuno Buffet, according to their prices on their current website.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#35
No, we also sell tickets for the pilgrim's dinner and for the breakfast in the hotel. As for the breakfast it depends on which breakfast you choose: there are tickets for the € 3,50 breakfast at Casa Sabina and at the hotel, and tickets for the € 5,00 breakfast at La Posada. So it's all up to you!
This is good information. Thanks for the insights.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles 2015/2016/2017/2018
Camino Portugues (Sept. 2018)
#36
That's certainly good to know as I understand that breakfast in Roncesvalles is or used to be a miserable affair for many pilgrims. And a ticket for 3,50 € sounds like a super affair as guests at the Hotel Roncesvalles have to pay 10 € for their Desayuno Buffet, according to their prices on their current website.
The pilgrims breakfast is NOT the buffet breakfast! If I remember well, it consists of coffee/tea, orange juice, some slices toasted bread and some jam.
The buffet breakfast is in another room, with a variety of choice (fruit, yoghurt, sweets, cheese, ham, eggs etc.)
As all breakfasts only serve as from 7 am, we always advise pilgrims who want to leave early (and most of them want to leave early) to take only a coffee and a snack or sandwich from the vending machines, walk half an hour and then take a coffee/breakfast in a bar in Burguete or Espinal.
 

amancio

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Arag, Ingles, VdlP, Leban-Vadin, Fisterra, Invierno, LePuy
#38
Well, thanks a lot for other different points of view, I am glad to see I am the one missing the joys of such a historical place, I understand not everybody needs to share my views, of course. To me, it has been one anticlimax after another and I felt I needed to share it. I cannot recall any other place in all my caminos where people have been so consistently unfriendly to me, sorry!

I will give it another chance some time, hopefully!
 

amancio

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Arag, Ingles, VdlP, Leban-Vadin, Fisterra, Invierno, LePuy
#39
And as far as using the toilets, I'm GLAD they asked you to fill out paperwork
haha! come on, Annie, honestly, you cannot be serious!!! I just went to the toilette in Casa Sabina, had a cool beer, and moved on. No paperwork. No hassle. There is only another town where I have been treated rudely, in Redecilla del Camino, for the rest of towns I have walked through in my caminos (hundreds), I can only have kind words.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#42
In nearby Burguete there is only one church, next to it is a small plaza and at the back of the plaza a GREAT cafe/bar which is open early every morning and very pilgrim friendly. Within their complex is the local fronton court.
I have always stopped here on my way down from Roncesvalles usually before dawn in late winter starlight If is still dark as you leave Roncesvalles be sure to wear or carry your head torch.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#43
In nearby Burguete there is only one church, next to it is a small plaza and at the back of the plaza a GREAT cafe/bar which is open early every morning and very pilgrim friendly. Within their complex is the local fronton court.
I have always stopped here on my way down from Roncesvalles usually before dawn in late winter starlight If is still dark as you leave Roncesvalles be sure to wear or carry your head torch.
This is great to know. I’ll be that pilgrim walking in the “late winter starlight” this coming February. I will have my head torch.
 

J F Gregory

Portugal Central - October 2019
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (March-April,2016) finished, (October 2019) Portuguese Central Route.
#44
We stayed there in early March and found the staff very helpful and engaged with other pilgrims during dinner which lasted all evening. And yes a Euro to turn on the light in the church. It would cost an enormous amount to leave the lights on all day. I found this in several churches.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
#45
haha! come on, Annie, honestly, you cannot be serious!!! I just went to the toilette in Casa Sabina, had a cool beer, and moved on. No paperwork. No hassle. There is only another town where I have been treated rudely, in Redecilla del Camino, for the rest of towns I have walked through in my caminos (hundreds), I can only have kind words.
Yup. I'm serious.
Roncesvalles albergue is too large to let people just go in and out without registering.
I probably wouldn't let you come into my own house without knowing who you were and showing i.d. so why should they? Too many incidents of theft.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2005,2008,2010,2015.camino Portuguese 2007 .primativo2012.camino Norte 2009.sjpdp to finisterre and muxia 2007. Le Puy to jpdp 2006. Via francigena vercelli to Lucca 2014. Lucca to Rome 2016.
#46
and thanks a lot to you too, @Ianinam! Looking forward to giving it another go!
Yes Amancio
Defiantly give it another go

I find Roncesvelles to be a mystical magical place and I love the excitement of everyone just starting off on the Camino...its infectious really

15 years ago on our first CF we stayed in the old albergue and from what I remember it was run by the Dutch folk
They were so kind and even washed our clothes for a few euros and we were woken with Gregorian chant

I won't mention the breakfast at The Sabina hotel....a cake and a cup of coffee ...but we didn't know any better back then so had it!
Since then, we've just walked on to the next village
Maybe things have changed now though, but even so,...food then was the least of our problems!

Next time we stayed at The Posada....luxury

Then when I walked with my daughter....who had never walked a step, let alone over the Pyrenees, I had to stay at the Posada again as she was on her knees by the time we got there!
They were very kind

That Camino cost me a fortune as she couldn't hack the albergues
And now, as I remember...HER rucksack was transported each day and I carried mine
What is it with some of these kids!!

In 2016, we had booked the hotel Roncessvelles
Their kindness there was something else once we realised that my husband wasn't well and we had to book a flight home the day after

We only booked the breakfast...which was wonderful because we weren't walking anywhere that day

So from my experience there , it was kindness all the way

However if and when we do the CF again, we will start in Pamploma as that day over the Pyrenees just brings back some bad memories for me !

We all have bad days I guess.......EVEN PILGRIMS!!!!!!!! Ha Ha , But I do think that a 10pm bed time is a good thing as most of us will be awake at an unearthly hour with all the noises of the plastic bags !! .....and the alarm clocks....and the phones

I only know one Dutch person and she is a pet.
We met in 2009 on the VDLP and we are still communicating
She often works in Roncesvelles too as a volunteer

Anyway Amancio do try Roncesvelles again
Best wishes
Annette
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#48
Some pilgrims really do cut quite the bella figura.

2004 at Roncesvalles after attending evening mass and participating in the traditional pilgrims’ blessing I went to eat. Other diners at my table were 8 extremely well dressed and coiffed Italian camera men who worked for RTI and one young fellow from Brazil. We shared the pilgrims’ menu and talked in French about our plans.
All of us stayed in the then one room 80 bunk albergue installed in a buttressed Gothic barn without windows, it boasted a new ventilation system and superb tiled hot-water showers and toilets in the newly excavated basement – a great example of architectural adaptive reuse! (Now this albergue is only used for overflow.)

To my surprise the Italians who were bedded near me all went to shower wearing thick terry robes. It was hard to imagine these carried in any knapsack since they would be bulky and heavy. Next morning we all were awakened at 6:30 to pack in the flickering light of 80 flashlights. Outside I discovered the Italians’ secret. At a RTI van parked nearby they stowed their night packs and picked up others and their hefty cameras for the day!
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#49
To my surprise the Italians who were bedded near me all went to shower wearing thick terry robes. It was hard to imagine these carried in any knapsack since they would be bulky and heavy.
It must be an Italian thing. I met a young Italian on the descent to Aosta from the Grand Saint Bernard pass carrying a huge pack which he said weighed 17kg. When we shared a room the next night he pulled 2kg of dried rice and a thick terry robe out of it. In Italy in August? The next day he cut short his walk due to knee troubles.
 

Aurigny

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, 2016; Português Central, 2017; Port. Interior, 2017; Primitivo, 2018; Port. Coastal, 2018.
#50
For me Roncesvalles is a little too short a journey for my first day (I aim to be in Pamplona by the end of day two). I like to continue to Espinal, an easy walk about 6 km further on, which has one of the nicer private albergues on the entire route (if you get there early, there are two actual beds available in each of the dormitories, at no extra cost). I've attended the pilgrim's Mass and blessing at the abbey, which was very nice. But I can imagine that the albergue experience there might be somewhat...industrial.
 
Camino(s) past & future
portugal way, french way, muxia way- past
Aragones way, catalan way, piamonte way- future
#54
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
Shit hapens.
 
Camino(s) past & future
September 2-October 7 (2013)
May 5-28 (2015)
#55
Dutch people can be quite blunt. But I like them. I do remember the monster dormitory, but I gather this is gone now.
The "monster dormitory" that sleeps about 110 people in one room was the overflow albergue when I last went through, and because the newer and modern albergue at the church was full, I remember climbing into the top bunk in the old albergue in utter darkness at about 10:01 pm!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles 2015/2016/2017/2018
Camino Portugues (Sept. 2018)
#56
The old albergue (Itzandegia) is closeda few years ago.
Nowadays there are 183 beds in the new albergue (Aterpea) and in the overflow (the winter albergue) 34 beds.
 
D

Deleted member 12253

Guest
#58
Roncesvalles my favourite albergue of all caminos. I only stopped there 12 times in last 7 yrs and 2 weeks time will be there again god willing. Tip about food get there early and the Menu del Dai to die for. Same prize as the fish and chips pilgrims menu in evening. Buen camino all
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
#61
Last time, when I left Roncesvalles, there was a pretty long queue of walkers waiting for the breakfast, in the yard, in a cold morning.
As mentioned, have a coffee in the vending machine (hey, it is caffeine, after all!) and go to nearby Burguete bar. I liked the confusion, the excited talk, the nervous last checking (again) of backpacks, the hasty departures...
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#62
In 2001, I arrived there with my mom in tow on my first camino. We had bottom bunks facing each other. We would stare at one another open-mouthed as pilgrims arrived.

Being American we were shocked to realize men would be bunking in same room.

On my latest camino 2014, I was there during winter. The room was toasty.

I have gone to sleep listening to groups singing. I have enjoyed Mass. And, I enjoyed the hot soup and hated the fish I did not eat, do not like fish.

When I again walk CF, Roncesvalles will be on the menu.

You mentioned camino being anti-climatic.
Hope by Santiago you are a bit more fulfilled.

May rest of your camino be a buen camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean 2017.
#63
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
Hola @ amancio.
Yes it really is a "to each her/his own" situation. I arrived in Roncesvalles from Valcarlos it was raining. I was tired/wet/hot & cold at the same time. I met some fellow pilgrims who had arrived earlier (by taxi!) who advised that no one was being admitted until 14.00/2.00 PM and only by numerical order. It was now just after 13.00 so had a quick lunch stop. Found out that two of girls needed the clinic in Burguete and were taking a taxi, I decided to share with them and took the taxi to Espinal. By 14.00 I had showered, in warm & dry closes, had my wet gear drying and was enjoying a beer (or two). So yes Roncesvalles is a place I can take or leave.
 
Last edited:

Walking Lover

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CdS from Leon to Santiago, June 16, 2016 to June 30, 2016.
#64
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
Stayed in the hotel next door; wonderful.
 

Dave

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Via Podiensis 2015
#65
I was in Roncesvalles in late July this year. It was the last day of my group's walk on the GR-65. My students and I had a meeting in the dining area shortly before bedtime. After that, I ran into one of the hospitaleros in the bathroom. He had seen us meeting and wanted to learn about our experience. I told him about my students, their impressions on walking from Le Puy as high schoolers, what they had overcome along the way and how they were feeling as it came to an end. He was full of praise, for me, for the kids, for young people making the pilgrimage at this point in their lives. As he walked away, a thought crossed his mind. He asked me when we would be leaving in the morning. I told him our bus was coming to pick us up and drive us to Bayonne shortly after 6am. He told me that he would be waiting for us.

The next morning, we shuffled down the dark hallway on the ground floor, shortly before they turned on the house lights. Sure enough, our hospitalero was there. We huddled around him and I introduced him to the group. He looked at the students and commended them on what they had done, on their decision to devote such a large part of their summer to such a momentous pursuit. He said that, through their journey, they had been in God's hands, they had immersed themselves in a world of beauty and connection, they had ignited a light within that would shine brightly for them as they moved forward through life. And, he called on them to be a light unto others as they returned home, bringing back the lessons of the way. As he did so, he gave each of us one small candle from the church. So ended our pilgrimage, as we walked out to the bus.

I like Roncesvalles.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
#66
I had no expectations at all of Roncesvalles, if anything the images of the first night spent by Martin Sheen in the movie. The only thing I felt difficult was the long wait in line to be processed, it was hot and my friend nearly fainted. We had flown for 2 days to get there, and hadn't any dinner the night before, were sleep deprived and reeling from the heat difference between NZ and Spain.
But we found ourselves in a room with nice cubicles, no bunks, nice bathrooms. They did our laundry, and we had a lovely communal meal. And were only too happy to be in bed and asleep by 10pm. Being rookies, we didnt book either, I would do so now.
I thought it was a pleasant end to the first day, and walked the next morning in the cool to Burgette for breakfast.
The next morning I was already awake when the lights came on, and I was pleased to find that wasn't a normal thing in albergues.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#67
Then, the Dutch of Roncesvalles must be happy living in Navarra where the people are also very direct. But they definetely would often get angry living in Galicia where the locals are the least direct of Spain (and probably of Europe).
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles 2015/2016/2017/2018
Camino Portugues (Sept. 2018)
#71
Then, the Dutch of Roncesvalles must be happy living in Navarra where the people are also very direct. But they definetely would often get angry living in Galicia where the locals are the least direct of Spain (and probably of Europe).
The hospitaleros do not live in Spain. Except one hospitalera who lives in Spain, we all travel from the Netherlands for our yearly two-weeks job.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#72
The hospitaleros do not live in Spain. Except one hospitalera who lives in Spain, we all travel from the Netherlands for our yearly two-weeks job.
Please, all Dutch hospitaleros: your contribution to the Camino experience is priceless. Thank you. Same message to every hospitalera/o!
I speak from experience, is that cheating?!
 

Dancing Rain

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Salvado (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
#73
We arrived exhausted, I couldn’t think and could barely put my words together. We were gently guided.

There were overflow cabins, I was grateful for a bed. The church was packed, I felt deeply blessed.

It was the beginning of Sept & very cold! Each day was a new mystery, full of experiences
 

Traa

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
I want to walk Camino in Sept/Oct 2017
#74
I hate having gripes etc but when I stayed in the Alberge here I didn't like it. They were pretty cold, unfriendly and rude. I decided not to join the early 5-6am rush out the door in the morning. Check out was 8and plenty enough time for me to head off. The volenteers woke us at 6am(lights on, singing) I stayed in my bunk and at 10 to 7 I was approched by a volenteer. He told me It was late and I needed to get up and out. I was quite stunned?! I paid for a bed not to be told when to get up and start walking, that was entirely up to me. I'm a grown woman in my 30s!!!!!! Cheers dudes but totally out of order and rude, didnt experience this in any other Alberge from SJPDP to Finisterre!!
 

Trude

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francais 2013 Finnestere, Muxia 2013, 2017
Norte 2014, Francais, 2015, 2016, VDLP 2017
#77
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
There are some wonderful volunteers and some not so friendly volunteers, having done the job I will say it is hard but never so hard as to not be friendly and help wherever I could. It’s usually only a 2 week gig.
 

Pierre Julian

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Ingles, VdP, San Salvador, Aragonese, sections of Northern, Portuguese, Mozarabic.
#78
I've been there twice, first time I ended up walking on to Zubiri as I found it unfriendly and unwelcoming and just decided I'd had such a wonderful day I didn't want to spoil it. The second time I was with friends who couldn't walk any further and we stayed there, but again, I found the hospitaleros unfriendly. I think part of the problem is that most people start there or St Jean, so they haven't got into the Camino spirit yet, there's not so much camaraderie or a sense of people to turn to. Those who have just done their first day of walking from St Jean are totally exhausted, dehydrated and probably quite anxious and wondering whether they've made a big mistake, if they'll get a bed etc. New pilgrims often don't really understand how the albergue system works. Being shunted into queues, shouted at because you don't know to take off your back pack or boots the moment you walk in the door, is not pleasant. I don't mind paying for lighting, but it's an odd church and better in the dark - so you can't see the interior modern renovations. Something just doesn't look quite right about that church.
 

leichecerca

Can’t stay away
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Finisterre: May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2017
#79
I hate having gripes etc but when I stayed in the Alberge here I didn't like it. They were pretty cold, unfriendly and rude. I decided not to join the early 5-6am rush out the door in the morning. Check out was 8and plenty enough time for me to head off. The volenteers woke us at 6am(lights on, singing) I stayed in my bunk and at 10 to 7 I was approched by a volenteer. He told me It was late and I needed to get up and out. I was quite stunned?! I paid for a bed not to be told when to get up and start walking, that was entirely up to me. I'm a grown woman in my 30s!!!!!! Cheers dudes but totally out of order and rude, didnt experience this in any other Alberge from SJPDP to Finisterre!!
Similar experience. They were definitely less friendly than other hospitaleros. On my 2nd camino I’d had a hellish & exhausting snowy trek from SJPP the day before. Got a good night’s sleep & at 7:45am I was fully dressed & just putting the finishing touches on my pack when the hospitalero came by and told me it was time to leave, I pointed to my watch and said I had 15 more minutes! He gave me a disapproving look and gestures to hurry up. I didn’t appreciate getting the bum’s rush. Maybe understandable if I was still in my jammies, but I was clearly just about ready to leave. I left feeling resentful and irritated, and guilty even though I had done nothing wrong. It took a while to shake off the bad vibe.

Later I reflected on how much negativity was generated during that very brief encounter. He was just doing his job, and I appreciate the hard work of hospitaleros, but his attitude made all the difference. I took it as a lesson to stay positive and remember how big an impact we can all have on our fellow travelers. It doesn’t take much to lift or deflate someone’s spirit.

Another Camino gift wrapped in strange packaging!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis, Fall 2016
#80
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
I did not care for Roncesvalles, either. Non plus over the entire experience.
 

Debora

Beautiful Burgos
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to Santiago May (2016)
#82
May 2016: Stopped 1st night at Roncesvalles - it was my least favorite experience on the Camino. I will NEVER stop in Roncesvalles on any future Caminos. Zurbiri was one of my most favorite. So, next time I will stop at Orisson and then try to make it to Zurbiri (or at least the town past Roncesvalles!).
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2018
CNorte 2018
#83
I arrived at Roncesvalles after struggling through the Pryreness this May 2018 - my first Camino, Before we started, my gf n I had agreed that we would stay in hotels and not hostel. Rude awakening, all hostels were full and we had to stay at the Alburgue. Albeit the snoring, I had the best wake up call in my entire life when a Dutch Hospitaleros sang to wake us up. I was sitting on my bunk bed with smile ear to ear - an experience that I never forgot and still stay warm in my heart.
 

Herndon

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April/May 2016
Portuguese September 2017
Ingles September 2017
#84
Everything has to do with expectations...I did my first Camino in April 2016 and my expectations were formed by watching the "The Way" and reading the Brierly guide book...I told myself that if I didn't enjoy it I could always leave...hiking out of SJPD to Roncesvalles was challenging but doable...I was amazed at the number of people who were not physically prepared and those that carried a lot of stuff...During the steep decline approaching Roncesvalles I came across a woman from Canada who had fallen and cut her face...there were two young woman who were sharing her pack to help her down...they finally accepted my offer to carry it...as we approached the monastery she asked for her pack back...as I waited in line to inprocess a medical team escorted her in and I heard them tell her they would get her to a doctor for treatment, so even though the line for beds seemed to take forever, I was impressed with how quickly they took care of her...I was exhausted, and the warm shower felt awesome...dinner was a typical Pilgrim meal, but since I was new to this it tasted great...in my cubicle of four bunks there was a German woman, A French man, a Korean woman and me...the German spoke only German, the Frenchman spoke only French, the Korean was studying French in Paris and also spoke a little English...I had studied German in school and had lived in Korea for 5 years, but being a typical American I was not proficient in either. The conversation prior to bedtime would flow from the German to me to the Korean to the Frenchman....probably about ten minutes of content that took 45 minutes to complete...to me it was magical...throw in the laundry that was done for me for a couple of Euros that was delivered to my bunk and I have nothing to say but good things about Roncesvalles...on another day who knows? I kept my expectations in check throughout the Camino...that doesn't me I didn't have bad days, or "didn't feel it" on certain days...In the next couple of days I would find my "family" and fit in...If I do it again, Roncesvalles will be a stop...probably can't top my experience the first time, but you never know...
 

Carol_Anne

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Donkey123
#85
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
Hiya,
I was there a couple weeks ago, and found it to be clean, efficient, and organized. Most of the volunteers were warm, a few were impersonal. I didn't love the sign posted by the guy on the computer that basically said, "dont talk to me, I am working ". I loved the set up, it seemed to minimize sound travel- or I was just exhausted. I did NOT like the sudden, very bright morning lights. Brutal. The dinner spots were fine, though I was told that dinner was outside, and had to figure out that it meant it was at one of two restaurants nearby. I enjoyed the table, and the food was typical pilgrim style. Ultimately, it worked. Pilgrim mass was lovely, more welcoming than the hostel. Overflow was accommodated.
Best,
Carol
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#87
Oh, and the food?
To me, it's all about the same, having eaten at all of them.
Pilgrim food.
If I want something different, I taxi into the next village.
Although.............
The Menu del Dia at Casa Sabina was one of the best meals we had ;)
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances [08 ]Portuguese [09 ]Le Puy[10] Norte[ 11] Madrid [12] Figeac - Pamplona [13] Mont Saint Michel - Bordeaux / St Palais - Pamplona [14] Moissac -Burgos [15] , Norte to Oviedo and then Primitivo [16]
Le Puy to Moissac and Dax to Santo Domingo
#89
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
Valcarlos is true Basque , friendly people who go out of their way , lovely accommodation away from the crowds and then the beautiful village of Burguete.
Ten yrs ago we did Ronscavelles no longer .......and we don't recommend it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Hice el camino francés hace 20 años (1999). Ahora quiero cruzar el del norte. (2019)
#90
Does anybody else find Roncesvalles one of the unfriendliest places in the whole Camino, or it is only me?
10 years ago, when I first got there, it was nearly snowing and my phone got wet, was not able to contact my family, and then some pilgrim lent me a mobile so that I could quickly ring. It was approximately 9:59 pm, and the albergue was closing at 10:00. I was standing by the main door trying to ring when a Dutch volunteer approached me and told me the albergue was closing at 10:00. I explained him the situation, I just needed a few seconds, say hi, I am fine, and I would be finished. But the Dutch volunteer was standing holding the entrance door, with a massive frown on his face, staring at his wristwatch just inches from his angry face as if counting the seconds for closing.
So, I was not able to ring my family because he was determined to close the albergue whatsoever.
From that moment on, and after having an awful meal in the only bar there, I decided Roncesvalles was not for me.
10 years later, 2 weeks ago, I went back to Roncesvalles, this time I was walking from SJPP. I needed to use the toilette, so I went to the albergue, and the receptionist told me I needed to fill out a form with all my personal data in order to use the toilettes. I was not very impressed and left on the spot (fill out a form to use the toilette????).
I then decided to go see the old church, and the first thing you see is: "Insert a 1 euro coin to light up the church for 8 minutes".

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as you say in English: I decided Roncesvalles was definitely not for me, and I walked onto Zubiri, an epic stage, far away from such unfriendly place.

Does anybody else find Roncesvalles an unwelcoming place?
Your experience at Roncesvalles was 180º from mine. I have this observation. You mentioned 'albergue' repeatedly. When I started my pilgrimage in 1999 at Roncesvalles, I stayed in the monastery, which I considered a 'refugio.' I arrived late, was signed in, received my 'credencial" and went to the church for night prayers, then bed in a large dormitory. Woke up and started my 21 day hike to Santiago. I checked in with a very kindly older man. Could your experience possibly have something to do with the flood of people inundating the traditional resources of the 'hospitalrios" with demands of service and attention? I only hope that things might return to the traditional behavior that I experienced 20 years ago because I am walking it again next year.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#91
Then you really should get out more ;):)
Have you had the Menu del Dia there this year?
Is the Dining Room off the bar area.
It was very good.

And Yes we do get out............a lot.

One of my Pet Peeves is that it's very hard to find good food along the CF. Bland Pilgrim Menus, Menu del Dia often little better. A La Carte..........very hit and miss. One of the so called 'best' restaurants in SDC was very disappointing.

Out of 50 days on the CF, I could probably count on one hand, maybe two, the meals I would recommend.
That was one of them. The Casa Sabina - Menu del Dia.

Of course the quality of the meals on any given day/month/year are totally down to the Chef who is there.....

This year those memorable meals were at:

  1. Roncesvalles - Casa Sabina (Menu del Dia)
  2. Zubiri - Roast Lamb & Sangria! (Oggi Berri?) The popular one on the corner
  3. Santo Domingo - Parador - A La Carte dinner
  4. Burgos - Hotel Azofra - Famous place on the way out of town - Roast Lamb
  5. Carrion - Monasterio De San Zoilo - A la Carte lunch or dinner.
  6. Vega de Valcarce - Las Rocas - Pilgrim Menu
  7. O'Cebreiro - Hotel O'Cebreiro - Menu del Dia
  8. Portomarin - O Mirador - A La Carte Lunch
We tend to eat our way across Spain. So yes, we do 'get out' ;)
(As my wife is a professionally trained cook, she is very picky about where we eat!)
 
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domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x4), Fisterra/Muxía(x2), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham,
C inglés. 2019? Who knows! ;-)
#93
I only hope that things might return to the traditional behavior that I experienced 20 years ago because I am walking it again next year.
My first Camino francés was only 6 years ago (2012) and indeed, I found very much has changed since! So, 20 years ago? Prepare yourself for a shock ;)
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#95
Have you had the Menu del Dia there this year?
It was very good.

And Yes we do get out............a lot.
I was pulling your leg ever so slightly :) I have eaten there. And I didn't think it was particularly good or especially bad. The last time I ate there I had trout which was quite pleasant. Given the vast numbers that night I would have been very surprised if they managed anything really memorable. Having said that I was quite glad to have any filling meal at all given the catering nightmare that September in Roncesvalles must be. The day before I arrived in Roncesvalles every albergue bed in Saint Jean Pied de Port was full. All but the most expensive hotel rooms were also full. 15 of us had been taken off the overcrowded SNCF train by station staff in late afternoon and sent by taxi to Saint Jean at SNCF's expense. An extraordinary experience when I recalled my first Camino Frances when 9 of us slept in Roncesvalles on a July evening. I was very pleased with the level of comfort in the new Roncesvalles albergue and had nothing but sympathy and admiration for the Dutch hospitaleros having to deal with the hordes of new arrivals - some of whom seemed to have very high expectations and a sense of entitlement I found alternately amusing and irritating.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#96
I was pulling your leg ever so slightly :)
No laughing matter! :oops:
I will have you know Sir, that food in our house is a very serious business :eek:

When I am walking a Camino on my own.............it is somewhat............less serious ;););)
 
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Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
#97
No laughing matter! :oops:
I will have you know Sir, that food in our house is a very serious business :eek:
Indeed. I stand corrected ;) You may be pleased to know that I have been taking the business of provisions very seriously and this very evening a friend told me that he has found a source of genuine unopened 1990s green foil packs of "Biscuits Brown" for our walk through mid-Wales next year. That should do away with any need for toilet paper or a trowel for the whole six days :cool:
 

Tony Bobcat

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2017
#98
I stayed at Roncesvalles last year, enjoyed my stay and the pilgrims meals. This year I continued to walk an extra 6.7km to Espinal, the albergue and the pilgrims meal was good. Espinal will be the stop for my next Camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
Indeed. I stand corrected ;) You may be pleased to know that I have been taking the business of provisions very seriously and this very evening a friend told me that he has found a source of genuine unopened 1990s green foil packs of "Biscuits Brown" for our walk through mid-Wales next year. That should do away with any need for toilet paper or a trowel for the whole six days :cool:
Ah. now you're talking. Whilst not a raving fan of 'Biscuits Brown'....
The Ultimate breakfast. Oatmeal blocks, dried apple flakes, water and condensed milk, warmed slowly over a Hexamine block stove in an Aluminium mess tin. Awesome porridge with just the right balance of metallic flavour and fuel aroma.... ;);)

Very hard to recreate.
Maybe eating a really bad pot noodle with a plastic spoon on a Gas Station forecourt? .....
 
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