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Should we give recommendations on the forum?

DoughnutANZ

Ka whati te tai ka kai te tōreapango
Time of past OR future Camino
2019, 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, 2027 & 2028.
During my Camino Frances in 2019 two albergues stood out for me as being particularly special, well above the rest for being pilgrim focussed and particularly pleasant to stay at.

Since then, I have recommended both albergues to anyone who would listen.

Last week I went back to one of them during my free time between activities because I wanted to talk to one of the staff members there.

In 2019 I remember walking into the albergue dog tired, sore from a combination of my arthritis and the effort of the trail, hot and sweaty.

I was greeted with a warm smile, given a chair to sit on to rest and offered the sweetest tasting plain cold water to quench my thirst and told to rest a while because registration could wait until I had recovered some of my energy.

This pilgrim focus combined with the fabulous resources available at this parochial albergue (real beds, a maximum of four people in a room and often only two or wonder of wonders a room to myself, a shower and a bath in the room, a shared evening meal and an opportunity to reflect on my pilgrimage with fellow pilgrims) easily made this a stand out place for a pilgrim like me to stay.

This time, in 2023, I was not tired, not sore and only a little bit sweaty because I had just got off the train.

I was greeted (by someone new) who scowled at me as I entered, immediately told to take my boots off and to leave my hiking pole at the door and would I please hurry up and hand over my credential and passport because the person was busy and by the way, here are the rules if you want to stay here and would you sit on that seat over there and wait because there is another pilgrim behind you and I don't want to have to separately tell both of you the same thing and so you should wait until I can deal with you both together. Oh, you can help yourself to that lukewarm jug of water over there while you wait if you like, or not, up to you.

Same fabulous facilities, same shared meal although this time almost no pilgrims came to it whereas last time it was a struggle to fit us in the room.

A fellow pilgrim who I had befriended on the Camino Madrid was staying there on my recommendation and after dinner we sat down together to chat and he asked me "why did you recommend this place, you said that it was fabulous and pilgrim focussed. I wouldn't recommend this place to anyone, it is so officious".

At that, I had to apologise and say, this is not how it was last time.

++++++++++

What happened? In 2019 I was there in the middle of a huge wave of pilgrims and they had half the staff helping. This year, I was there during a lull in pilgrim numbers. Yes they were about half full but they had twice as many staff helping this year.

Was I just lucky in 2019 and happened to arrive at a time when the staff were relaxed and welcoming? I don't think so because in 2019 I talked to other pilgrims staying there and universally, everyone had a similar experience to me.

Apart from my friend and three of his friends who he had convinced to stay there on my recommendation who also wondered why I recommended this officious establishment there was no one to talk to because unlike in 2019 when pilgrims had freely mingled, this time everyone else staying there seemed to want to keep to themselves.

It looked like this new staff member was the source of this officiousness. Not only was he officious but he also made demeaning comments about the food that I brought to the shared dinner and aspects of my background, in public.

Maybe, part of the difference was also me.

Someone else made a comment on another unrelated thread about how sweet the water tastes when you arrive at a destination tired and hot.

Perhaps in 2019 I arrived without much expectation and I was delighted with how I was treated. This time, I arrived with very high expectations and I was very disappointed with my treatment.

Perhaps the guy this year had just had a bad day or a bad month or something. Perhaps I was very lucky in 2019? Maybe.

From his demeaning comments I suspect something had made him sour. Perhaps it was time for him to have a break from pilgrims for a while?

I know that a couple of experienced people on the forum say that if they go back and rewalk a Camino they try not to stay in the same places but then others say that they often repeat the nice places.

Perhaps it was a combination of things and I was just unlucky with this particular place but now I am reluctant to go back to my other top albergue from 2019.

The issue of differing standards and expectations also comes up in restaurant recommendations. I used to carefully copy down lots of other people's recommendations and put them onto my Google Maps account (see my screenshot below) but after several disappointments I am starting to think that I need to find my own great spots to eat that match my style.

What do other people think?

Have you been disappointed with others recommendations?

Have you been disappointed with your own recommendations?

Do you think that we should try to discourage the giving of recommendations so that we don't build expectations?

Screenshot_20230619-223139.png

BTW, I have deliberately not named the albergue. If you are experienced enough to guess it then please don't name it because then we set reverse expectations.

Also, I very much get the need for rules, especially in the very big albergues. I have no issue with rules and often prefer them to be policed for everyone's comfort.
 
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€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
I pay attention to the views of those who I know have more experience than I, and/or who often post common-sense for the common good. I’d pay attention to their recommendations, good or bad.

The danger is the opposite. We have had in the past had significantly negative reviews - often based on a one-off experience - and they have usually thereafter been edited or deleted. It’s not clear whether the posters were truly familiar with the general Camino experience, or not. Provenance is key.

In my opinion, if the comments are part of an ongoing contextualised narrative, they’re fine. If not, then there are more appropriate places to post reviews and the volunteer moderators here have enough calls on their time than to manage reviews.

I regard your opinions on catering as highly as my own. That’s a compliment if it’s not clear.
 
If you ask a pilgrim what made a particular albergue good or bad they will nearly always give the same answer ´the hospitalero/a. But hospitaleros change, in the case of donativos run by HosVol, FICS or CSJ, every half month. Businesses change hands, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse with the result that a recommendation or otherwise could be out of date by the time someone comes to act on it. But that doesn´t mean we shouldn´t mention a place we liked or disliked. It is up the reader to decide whether or not to act on a recommendation and most of us have been disappointed or pleasantly surprised enough times to be wary of relying on recommendations too much, ´caveat emptor´ as they say (well two thousands years ago they used to). As moderators we try to spot as quickly as possible then delete anything that is obviously misleading or partial, e.g. getting back at a proprietor you didn´t get on with or promoting your own business (rule 3). However, I doubt if changing the rules would prevent that happening so would not lighten our workload very much, thanks for the thought though.

Another point is that a lot of apps and websites e.g. Gronze, Tripadviser carry recommendations so it would serve little purpose for the forum to try and ban them.

My feeling is that we should continue to allow recommendations but with the proviso that at least some context is given and negative recommendations avoided as much as possible in favour of making a complaint in the libro de reclamaciones, if it was that bad.

Let´s see what the consensus is.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
It's always hard making recommendations, as there are so many 'variables' or things that can change.

Be it accommodation, places to eat.......

Ownership changes (an Albergue is for sale on the Forum)
Management changes
Staff change
The environment changes (economy, pilgrim volumes, competition)
and maybe most of all, those with whom we share the experience change. (good and bad)

Others who are there, can have a huge positive or negative impact on our experience.

We live in a World of feedback and reviews. So hopefully we are all savvy enough to read a few reviews and also read 'between the lines'.

On my last Camino I mainly used Gronze to select accommodation.
Where there was more than one option, I would read the reviews.

I think we can all recognise the 'flavour' of reviews.
The couple of stand out negative reviews where a guest was obviously just having a bad day.
The reviewer who clearly had unrealistic expectations.....

As an illustration of how reviews can backfire........
I was given a recommendation for one of the best restaurants in Santiago.
People here rave about it.

Without doubt it was the worst meal of our whole Camino.
As I recall, it was basically a slab of meat that had been boiled up with some vegetables and served as it was.

We later found out the chef was off sick and the owner was doing the cooking !! :oops:

But overall I think it's useful to provide reviews and recommendations.
We just need to manage our expectations in case things have changed......
and don't shoot the messenger ;)
 
Hola @DoughnutANZ etal,
Giving a recommendation for an accommodation venue is always going to be based on how you experienced that venue. If you were lucky and had a great experience then of course your "rose coloured" glasses are going to come into play. If on the other hand you had a poor experience then your views may be totally in opposite.
May I suggest that if you offer a recommendation you add the proviso that it was based on that particular hospitalero who may or may not be there one/two/three or four years later. Even privately operated venues can change management which totally affects the recommendation.
Thanks for your post Dough. Cheers
 
We have had in the past had significantly negative reviews - often based on a one-off experience . . .

On my last Camino, I was having lunch with a mixed group of veterans and first timers. One of the first timers asked about an albergue further down the Camino. One of the veterans exclaimed, "That place is horrible! I will never stay there again! Worst experience of my life on the Camino!"

Curious about their experience, I had the following conversation with that person:

"Bedbugs?"
"No, the beds were comfortable."

"Was the food bad?"
"No, one of the best meals I have ever had on the Camino."

"Were the people running the place rude to you?"
"No, they were quite nice."

"Was the place too cold or too hot?"
"No, the temperature was fine."

"Were the showers lacking hot water?"
"No, the showers were fine."

"Was it expensive?"
"No, the price was right in line with other albergues."

"Well, if there were no bed bugs, the food was really good, the people working there were nice, the temperature was perfect, there was hot water, and the price was fair, why would you never stay there again?"
"The guy next to me snored all night."
 
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The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Giving recomendations in good faith ... nothing wrong with that. Subjectivity and changes from day to day makes it tricky. I never recommend restaurants for that reason...

I do however think that the information we relay is like giving google reviews ... after a while the best places should have a good rep.

FWIW some people do seem to have unrealistic expectations and as others mention above.... staff and times change.
 
I pay attention to the views of those who I know have more experience than I, and/or who often post common-sense for the common good. I’d pay attention to their recommendations, good or bad.

The danger is the opposite. We have had in the past had significantly negative reviews - often based on a one-off experience - and they have usually thereafter been edited or deleted. It’s not clear whether the posters were truly familiar with the general Camino experience, or not. Provenance is key.

In my opinion, if the comments are part of an ongoing contextualised narrative, they’re fine. If not, then there are more appropriate places to post reviews and the volunteer moderators here have enough calls on their time than to manage reviews.

I regard your opinions on catering as highly as my own. That’s a compliment if it’s not clear.
Thank you Henry's owner for your positive and useful contribution to this discussion and also for the compliment.
 
If you ask a pilgrim what made a particular albergue good or bad they will nearly always give the same answer ´the hospitalero/a. But hospitaleros change, in the case of donativos run by HosVol, FICS or CSJ, every half month. Businesses change hands, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse with the result that a recommendation or otherwise could be out of date by the time someone comes to act on it. But that doesn´t mean we shouldn´t mention a place we liked or disliked. It is up the reader to decide whether or not to act on a recommendation and most of us have been disappointed or pleasantly surprised enough times to be wary of relying on recommendations too much, ´caveat emptor´ as they say (well two thousands years ago they used to). As moderators we try to spot as quickly as possible then delete anything that is obviously misleading or partial, e.g. getting back at a proprietor you didn´t get on with or promoting your own business (rule 3). However, I doubt if changing the rules would prevent that happening so would not lighten our workload very much, thanks for the thought though.

Another point is that a lot of apps and websites e.g. Gronze, Tripadviser carry recommendations so it would serve little purpose for the forum to try and ban them.

My feeling is that we should continue to allow recommendations but with the proviso that at least some context is given and negative recommendations avoided as much as possible in favour of making a complaint in the libro de reclamaciones, if it was that bad.

Let´s see what the consensus is.
Thank you, good stuff here. I agree, bad reviews should be used sparingly. I regularly review places on Google Maps and I rarely give a bad review, especially if a small business is involved because I am conscious that someone's livelihood may be affected by my review.

I try to separate myself and my feelings from the situation and try to be objective and only really make negative comments when something like food safety or something similar is involved.

This case has shown me how much my own expectations colour my views.

With some trepidation I went and looked at the Gronze comments on my other top spot and found one that was very critical. Interestingly, most of the factual information presented in the negative review was correct.

The owner of the small private albergue does cram multiple bunks into tiny rooms but also provides extensive common space so that pilgrims have somewhere to be, at ease, and interact outside of the bedrooms.

Yes there are only two bathrooms available to multiple pilgrims but they are well thought out with great facilities. Places to safely hang clothes and towels, space for big people like me to move, free shower gel and hair shampoo and spotlessly clean.

Yes the shared meal was made with cheap ingredients but it didn't cost pilgrims much to partake in it and it was cooked with skill and love so that it provided a tasty, nutritious meal. No meal needs expensive ingredients to make it great.

The negative review made no mention of the warm smile and personalised greeting of everyone that I saw enter this albergue, nor the information provided for pilgrims in multiple languages or the comfortable, shady seats outside in the square with close access to the drink fridge with about the cheapest prices I had seen for awhile.

I was relieved enough that it is possible that this special place in 2019 might still be special today.

Another point is that a lot of apps and websites e.g. Gronze, Tripadviser carry recommendations so it would serve little purpose for the forum to try and ban them.

Of course this is correct and I am a regular Google Maps reviewer myself.

The difference is that G Maps and other review sites have structured reviews and so, as someone else in this thread mentioned, over time and with enough reviews it can be reasonably obvious to differentiate the better places from the not so good.

I am not necessarily advocating for a structured review process on the forum, I don't think that is our "style" although another comment further down provides a pretty good start at structuring the review process.

I guess that ultimately this thread is me venting about how utterly disappointed I am that what was, in my opinion, a truely great albergue to stay at has become just another place to stay with some advantages and some disadvantages. This is such a waste.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
It's always hard making recommendations, as there are so many 'variables' or things that can change.

Be it accommodation, places to eat.......

Ownership changes (an Albergue is for sale on the Forum)
Management changes
Staff change
The environment changes (economy, pilgrim volumes, competition)
and maybe most of all, those with whom we share the experience change. (good and bad)

Others who are there, can have a huge positive or negative impact on our experience.

We live in a World of feedback and reviews. So hopefully we are all savvy enough to read a few reviews and also read 'between the lines'.

On my last Camino I mainly used Gronze to select accommodation.
Where there was more than one option, I would read the reviews.

I think we can all recognise the 'flavour' of reviews.
The couple of stand out negative reviews where a guest was obviously just having a bad day.
The reviewer who clearly had unrealistic expectations.....

As an illustration of how reviews can backfire........
I was given a recommendation for one of the best restaurants in Santiago.
People here rave about it.

Without doubt it was the worst meal of our whole Camino.
As I recall, it was basically a slab of meat that had been boiled up with some vegetables and served as it was.

We later found out the chef was off sick and the owner was doing the cooking !! :oops:

But overall I think it's useful to provide reviews and recommendations.
We just need to manage our expectations in case things have changed......
and don't shoot the messenger ;)
Wow @Robo great comments and great examples. Thank you. This is thought provoking and very useful.
 
On my last Camino, I was having lunch with a mixed group of veterans and first timers. One of the first timers asked about an albergue further down the Camino. One of the veterans exclaimed, "That place is horrible! I will never stay there again! Worst experience of my life on the Camino!"

Curious about their experience, I had the following conversation with that person:

"Bedbugs?"
"No, the beds were comfortable."

"Was the food bad?"
"No, one of the best meals I have ever had on the Camino."

"Were the people running the place rude to you?"
"No, they were quite nice."

"Was the place too cold or too hot?"
"No, the temperature was fine."

"Were the showers lacking hot water?"
"No, the showers were fine."

"Was it expensive?"
"No, the price was right in line with other albergues."

"Well, if there were no bed bugs, the food was really good, the people working there were nice, the temperature was perfect, there was hot water, and the price was fair, what was the problem that made it a 'horrible' place to stay?"
"The guy next to me snored all night."
Thanks @RobertS26 you have provided an excellent start to a structured review process AND you provided the perfect example of an unrealistic review.
 
Giving recomendations in good faith ... nothing wrong with that. Subjectivity and changes from day to day makes it tricky. I never recommend restaurants for that reason...

I do however think that the information we relay is like giving google reviews ... after a while the best places should have a good rep.

FWIW some people do seem to have unrealistic expectations and as others mention above.... staff and times change.
Thanks, great comment and very relevant. I agree, many of the negative reviews that I see seem to come from an entitled point of view.
 
Train for your next Camino (or keep the Camino spirit alive) on Santa Catalina Island
I do think reviews are a good thing and should absolutely not be "forbidden" in any kind. Once you open that box, there will soon follow a discussion on what's OK to write about and what not. Can we recommend backpacks? Specific brands? Shoes? Flight conncections? Even the pro and cons of different camino variants?
Might be a bit exaggated, but i hope it's understandable what I mean. For me, pretty much the main point of a discussion forum is to exchange experiences, opinions and... reviews.

Like pretty much everything in our modern world the problem lies within the bounds of sender, receiver and context. This is a thing I try to keep in mind when giving recommendations of any kind. For example, while my gear setup might be terrific for a fit-ish and young-ish person, it might not work for someone not in that criteria. I might have had a great night at albergue X or a very bad meal at restaurant Z, but again, maybe what i like to eat or what qualities i cherish in an albergue is different from just the next guy. Or, as has been said already by others, maybe it was just "the moment" that made it special. Or i was lucky that the cook had a very good day.

It does however get interesting when there seems to be a kind of consensus. When everyone is calling a certain place a "tourist ripoff", one might want to be cautios around it. But it is up to one self if one wants to take conclusions from that. I had wonderful times in places with horrible reviews and vice versa.
 
IMO one way to get around this 'problem' is to refrain from giving general recommendations and instead to talk about personal experiences. I think there is a (subtle?) difference between saying “I recommend/do not recommend this or that” and saying “I have good/not so good experiences with this or that”.

Just a thought…
 
I find most of my recommendations would be coloured by the reception you receive on arrival and the pilgrims you share your experience with so for me I think you would struggle to have the same experience twice (although I do have a few favourites I would love to go back to) in fact my favourite albergue also included having a meal in the worst restaurant ever…

Many years ago I booked a UK holiday then read some tripadvisor reviews which made me think I had made a huge mistake…thankfully I went anyway and spent the next 13yrs on the same site because we loved it so much so I guess all opinions are subjective to each persons desires 🤷🏼‍♂️

Remember it’s only one night of many so if it’s not what you hoped for shake the dust from your feet and the next day will be a new experience…buen camino
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
Do I think we should make recommendations? No. At least not for places. Tools, or processes, perhaps.
Do I think it should be banned? It would be like trying to ban rain from falling. Nature will will out.

It's human nature. Both to give a review and, especially, to seek one out, to fill in the blank space in our minds.

But others above have pointed out the disadvantages of reviews - they are one person's perception of one brief time. Or one pair of shoes, used by one person in very specific conditions in ways unique to the owner.

During my Camino Frances in 2019 two albergues stood out for me as being particularly special
I think it's interesting that you used the word "special".
Special is an unquantifiable word. Yesterday, that 15 minute spot of sunshine in an otherwise constant downpour of rain was very, very special. Today, in bright sunshine all day long, it's not even noticed. The sun might even be a curse!

It's human nature to pass that on, at least for most people. (I do know some that will stay shtum, and then happily seize the chance to say something like "Oh, you should have gone to X - we had such a wonderful time". )
I had to apologise
You didn't, you know! Or maybe, it's an opportunity to look at the language. Did you actively encourage someone to go there or did you relate a tale that resonates with you? Did you portray the idea that you'd be insulted if your suggestion wasn't followed? Different situations.

Do you think that we should try to discourage the giving of recommendations so that we don't build expectations?

For me, the last word is the key.

Without going too far down the rabbit hole of what is a Pilgrimage, a Pilgrim and all the rest of that, I think it's fair to say that the main Camino routes are pretty unique in terms of the level of facilities on offer and the general security for someone travelling under their own steam. It is entirely possible to point ourselves west and start walking, being able to eat, sleep and drink along the way with no research and no preparations.
For me, that is the value in "doing a Camino", an opportunity to "reset", to take what is on offer without expectations and to be grateful for it, all the time being bound up in the comfort, security and generosity of Iberia.

Expectations kill that.

Best of all, it's not something that is specific to a route, a destination or even a country. It's something that we can carry around with ourselves ever after.

It's not easy. We all have an urge to fill our minds with options, with choices, an (instinctive or cultural?) thirst for "the best". A Camino though, especially a popular one, is one of the very, very few places where we have an opportunity to try something else, the time to absorb and learn the lesson and the direct experience of others who may or may not be doing the same thing.

"Hope for the best, expect the worst and settle for what you get" is old, old advice. The first two parts are straightforward. Be inspired and be prepared. The third part is the real challenge. To be comfortable in the moment.

My recommendation is that we work on that one.
 
"Well, if there were no bed bugs, the food was really good, the people working there were nice, the temperature was perfect, there was hot water, and the price was fair, what was the problem that made it a 'horrible' place to stay?"
"The guy next to me snored all night."

This is the equivalent of the Tripadvisor one-star review which is based solely on a failure to answer the 'phone...
 
Train for your next Camino (or keep the Camino spirit alive) on Santa Catalina Island
Do I think we should make recommendations? No. At least not for places. Tools, or processes, perhaps.
Do I think it should be banned? It would be like trying to ban rain from falling. Nature will will out.

It's human nature. Both to give a review and, especially, to seek one out, to fill in the blank space in our minds.

But others above have pointed out the disadvantages of reviews - they are one person's perception of one brief time. Or one pair of shoes, used by one person in very specific conditions in ways unique to the owner.


I think it's interesting that you used the word "special".
Special is an unquantifiable word. Yesterday, that 15 minute spot of sunshine in an otherwise constant downpour of rain was very, very special. Today, in bright sunshine all day long, it's not even noticed. The sun might even be a curse!

It's human nature to pass that on, at least for most people. (I do know some that will stay shtum, and then happily seize the chance to say something like "Oh, you should have gone to X - we had such a wonderful time". )

You didn't, you know! Or maybe, it's an opportunity to look at the language. Did you actively encourage someone to go there or did you relate a tale that resonates with you? Did you portray the idea that you'd be insulted if your suggestion wasn't followed? Different situations.



For me, the last word is the key.

Without going too far down the rabbit hole of what is a Pilgrimage, a Pilgrim and all the rest of that, I think it's fair to say that the main Camino routes are pretty unique in terms of the level of facilities on offer and the general security for someone travelling under their own steam. It is entirely possible to point ourselves west and start walking, being able to eat, sleep and drink along the way with no research and no preparations.
For me, that is the value in "doing a Camino", an opportunity to "reset", to take what is on offer without expectations and to be grateful for it, all the time being bound up in the comfort, security and generosity of Iberia.

Expectations kill that.

Best of all, it's not something that is specific to a route, a destination or even a country. It's something that we can carry around with ourselves ever after.

It's not easy. We all have an urge to fill our minds with options, with choices, an (instinctive or cultural?) thirst for "the best". A Camino though, especially a popular one, is one of the very, very few places where we have an opportunity to try something else, the time to absorb and learn the lesson and the direct experience of others who may or may not be doing the same thing.

"Hope for the best, expect the worst and settle for what you get" is old, old advice. The first two parts are straightforward. Be inspired and be prepared. The third part is the real challenge. To be comfortable in the moment.

My recommendation is that we work on that one.
Thank you for this comment.

I know it myself because in 2019 that is exactly how I walked and I loved it. It reawakened something in me that had been buried deep down through lack of use.

That is why I am sometimes such a twat about people who over plan their Camino. It is such a valuable thing that I want to bang people's heads together and say "can you not see the tremendous value of this unique thing in front of you, why do you want to destroy it with expectations" and yet, here am I doing it myself!

Thank you.

Edit:

After I had apologised to my friend he said to me "you know Doug, it is time to move on".

Like you he had recognised that in a way I was trying to relive that 2019 Camino. Instead, he was advising me to walk the Camino in front of me, the 2023 one.

Thank you both!
 
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That is why I am sometimes such a twat about people who over plan their Camino. It is such a valuable thing that I want to bang people's heads together and say "can you not see the tremendous value of this unique thing in front of you, why do you want to destroy it with expectations" and yet, here am I doing it myself!

Why so hard on yourself?

Some people want recommendations and will be quite peeved if you don't offer some!

This is a Camino forum. The vast majority of the communication is going to be in a certain direction and we are all going to be influenced by that, whether we're aware of it or not.

The fact is (and thankfully in some cases) the posters here are but a teeny tiny proportion of people undertaking a Camino.

There is very little "demand" for the advice of "bring some comfy, broken in footwear, don't pack too much and if you want a baggage company Google will throw up a list" and the people who would take it onboard are probably already on the Camino. :)

You've learned something, thought about it. Are discussing it. That's a good thing, in my book.
 
I think the world of online reviews is getting smaller by the day. One day in the not too distant future, they will be worth nothing. Unless we have a foolproof way to determine which are fake and generated by AI and the likes of ChatGPT and which ones are genuine.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during & after your Camino. Each weighs only 1.4 oz (40g)!
I would also agree with others on this forum that recommendations are helpful. As an avid traveler and walker who has been to more than 60 countries, I really find recommendations useful. That said, you always have to take into account how old the recommendation is as well as any details that are divulged about the background of the reviewer. Any review is a personal opinion. It's like asking whether you like cats. the vast majority of the people will have an opinion but only 50% will be right :) Keep the reviews coming.
 
I think we all know the Camino is changing. This thread brought to mind a story one of our pilgrims shared while we were serving as hospitaleras in Canfranc - he said that his first Camino in 2008 was overwhelming, emotional, life changing and wonderful. He said he arrived at the old Pilgrim office at the end - the only one arriving at the time, went up the rickety stairs to the office, and an hospitalero pulled up a chair, offered him a drink and then asked him about his Camino - he broke down in tears and shared his Camino. The next time he arrived at the Pilgrim office, he was told "take a number!"

Also, after walking the Aragones this spring and arriving in Puente la Reina, I wanted to revisit an albergue that I loved when walking the Frances in 2019. I took a cab to the teeny town of Azqueta and checked into La Perla Negra. It was the same beautiful albergue with the kindest of hospitaleras. Helena received me as if four years had not gone by. Truly enjoyed that place in 2019 and in 2023.

Things change and things stay the same!
 
I've only ever recommended a handful of Albergues and one Pension. Mainly ones I have stayed at more than once, but some I only stayed at once. I never had bad service on year one or two at those places. I have recommended them on a handful of occasions to people. I guess the difference for me is only two of them were private. Most of them were municipal or allowed something different, like camping. I would still recommend them.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Lots of comments but here is the definitive answer based on me hahaha!!!!!
My feeling is that we should continue to allow recommendations but with the proviso that at least some context is given and negative recommendations avoided as much as possible in favour of making a complaint in the libro de reclamaciones, if it was that bad.
Context is super important. I read reviews and for me the most important thing is cleanliness if it is consistently rated clean I am sold. Who greets you and welcomes the pilgrim is important of course and can enhance your experience but if the bed is ok and iría clean and you wake up rested the albergue has served its purpose in spades. No matter how wonderful an albergue what makes an experience memorable after the above mentioned is the pilgrims you meet and of course those special hospitaleros. I have stayed in some really basic municipales and albergues that were May the warmest at night or nice to look at but remember then fondly because of the pilgrim next to me. I have stayed in great albergues with no rememberance of the experience. This is why as @dickbird says matters. Leave a review but say why and talk about cleanliness facilities etc. remember you are staying in a donativo or an albergue for 10 or 15euros not the 4 Seasons. Did you get a decent night’s sleep? If you didn’t because of a guy snoring that is your fault for not having ear plugs. The man at the door sucked? Maybe I. 2 weeks you will meet the second coming of the Virgin Mother. Remember we as pilgrims should be grateful. No more no less and if things turn bad tell us why and remember it may be a temporary setback for the albergue and you.
 
I do think reviews are a good thing and should absolutely not be "forbidden" in any kind. Once you open that box, there will soon follow a discussion on what's OK to write about and what not. Can we recommend backpacks? Specific brands? Shoes? Flight conncections? Even the pro and cons of different camino variants?
Might be a bit exaggated, but i hope it's understandable what I mean. For me, pretty much the main point of a discussion forum is to exchange experiences, opinions and... reviews.

Like pretty much everything in our modern world the problem lies within the bounds of sender, receiver and context. This is a thing I try to keep in mind when giving recommendations of any kind. For example, while my gear setup might be terrific for a fit-ish and young-ish person, it might not work for someone not in that criteria. I might have had a great night at albergue X or a very bad meal at restaurant Z, but again, maybe what i like to eat or what qualities i cherish in an albergue is different from just the next guy. Or, as has been said already by others, maybe it was just "the moment" that made it special. Or i was lucky that the cook had a very good day.

It does however get interesting when there seems to be a kind of consensus. When everyone is calling a certain place a "tourist ripoff", one might want to be cautios around it. But it is up to one self if one wants to take conclusions from that. I had wonderful times in places with horrible reviews and vice versa.
I agree with this feedback - don’t try to manage someone’s reviews positive or negative UNLESS they are obscene and/or totally inappropriate. Censoring is often in the “eyes” of the beholder and often what offend one doesn’t faze another. With that said I read IVAR daily and am often surprised by folks who give feedback from “when I walked in 2017,2019 or earlier. having walked in 2022 and again in 2023 and finding big changes (Camino Frances) I’m appreciative when folks clearly state when they were out there.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
Of course people should give recommendations. It's completely normal to relate experiences to those who will be going through the same thing.

A simple caveat of "when I was there in May 2023..." etc is good enough. You aren't responsible for changes in staff or ownership or circumstance or whatever, and you aren't responsible for how the person reading perceives your words.

Anyone reading such recommendations should use common sense to understand things change and perceptions vary. Always remember people are different from each other and also people could exaggerate one way or another depending on how their day was going or what they were going through or a million other reasons.

Plus the onus would be on moderators to police that sort of thing, which sounds like a nightmare.
 
As previously mentioned, context is critical when posting what you think is a great answer.

Several years ago, someone posted a simple question, "Is the climb out of SJPP as hard as everyone is saying?" And a woman responded, "I found it super easy."

That surprised me, so I sent her a PM to ask, "Are you a tri-athelete because that climb almost killed me."

She responded, "I am not a tri-athelete, but I am full time aerobics instructor and I started walking in Le Puy."

🙄
 
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A selection of Camino Jewellery
During my Camino Frances in 2019 two albergues stood out for me as being particularly special, well above the rest for being pilgrim focussed and particularly pleasant to stay at.

Since then, I have recommended both albergues to anyone who would listen.

Last week I went back to one of them during my free time between activities because I wanted to talk to one of the staff members there.

In 2019 I remember walking into the albergue dog tired, sore from a combination of my arthritis and the effort of the trail, hot and sweaty.

I was greeted with a warm smile, given a chair to sit on to rest and offered the sweetest tasting plain cold water to quench my thirst and told to rest a while because registration could wait until I had recovered some of my energy.

This pilgrim focus combined with the fabulous resources available at this parochial albergue (real beds, a maximum of four people in a room and often only two or wonder of wonders a room to myself, a shower and a bath in the room, a shared evening meal and an opportunity to reflect on my pilgrimage with fellow pilgrims) easily made this a stand out place for a pilgrim like me to stay.

This time, in 2023, I was not tired, not sore and only a little bit sweaty because I had just got off the train.

I was greeted (by someone new) who scowled at me as I entered, immediately told to take my boots off and to leave my hiking pole at the door and would I please hurry up and hand over my credential and passport because the person was busy and by the way, here are the rules if you want to stay here and would you sit on that seat over there and wait because there is another pilgrim behind you and I don't want to have to separately tell both of you the same thing and so you should wait until I can deal with you both together. Oh, you can help yourself to that lukewarm jug of water over there while you wait if you like, or not, up to you.

Same fabulous facilities, same shared meal although this time almost no pilgrims came to it whereas last time it was a struggle to fit us in the room.

A fellow pilgrim who I had befriended on the Camino Madrid was staying there on my recommendation and after dinner we sat down together to chat and he asked me "why did you recommend this place, you said that it was fabulous and pilgrim focussed. I wouldn't recommend this place to anyone, it is so officious".

At that, I had to apologise and say, this is not how it was last time.

++++++++++

What happened? In 2019 I was there in the middle of a huge wave of pilgrims and they had half the staff helping. This year, I was there during a lull in pilgrim numbers. Yes they were about half full but they had twice as many staff helping this year.

Was I just lucky in 2019 and happened to arrive at a time when the staff were relaxed and welcoming? I don't think so because in 2019 I talked to other pilgrims staying there and universally, everyone had a similar experience to me.

Apart from my friend and three of his friends who he had convinced to stay there on my recommendation who also wondered why I recommended this officious establishment there was no one to talk to because unlike in 2019 when pilgrims had freely mingled, this time everyone else staying there seemed to want to keep to themselves.

It looked like this new staff member was the source of this officiousness. Not only was he officious but he also made demeaning comments about the food that I brought to the shared dinner and aspects of my background, in public.

Maybe, part of the difference was also me.

Someone else made a comment on another unrelated thread about how sweet the water tastes when you arrive at a destination tired and hot.

Perhaps in 2019 I arrived without much expectation and I was delighted with how I was treated. This time, I arrived with very high expectations and I was very disappointed with my treatment.

Perhaps the guy this year had just had a bad day or a bad month or something. Perhaps I was very lucky in 2019? Maybe.

From his demeaning comments I suspect something had made him sour. Perhaps it was time for him to have a break from pilgrims for a while?

I know that a couple of experienced people on the forum say that if they go back and rewalk a Camino they try not to stay in the same places but then others say that they often repeat the nice places.

Perhaps it was a combination of things and I was just unlucky with this particular place but now I am reluctant to go back to my other top albergue from 2019.

The issue of differing standards and expectations also comes up in restaurant recommendations. I used to carefully copy down lots of other people's recommendations and put them onto my Google Maps account (see my screenshot below) but after several disappointments I am starting to think that I need to find my own great spots to eat that match my style.

What do other people think?

Have you been disappointed with others recommendations?

Have you been disappointed with your own recommendations?

Do you think that we should try to discourage the giving of recommendations so that we don't build expectations?

View attachment 149692

BTW, I have deliberately not named the albergue. If you are experienced enough to guess it then please don't name it because then we set reverse expectations.

Also, I very much get the need for rules, especially in the very big albergues. I have no issue with rules and often prefer them to be policed for everyone's comfort.

The quality of services, such as accommodation, restaurants, airlines etc will vary over time and I think most recognise and accept that. Individual assessments will also vary. What does concern me however are recommendations for gear. These generally seem to focus on the high expensive end of the market and to me seem very often like crossing the line into blatant advertising. And sometimes performance simply doesn’t match the price.

De Colores

Bogong
 
On my last Camino, I was having lunch with a mixed group of veterans and first timers. One of the first timers asked about an albergue further down the Camino. One of the veterans exclaimed, "That place is horrible! I will never stay there again! Worst experience of my life on the Camino!"

Curious about their experience, I had the following conversation with that person:

"Bedbugs?"
"No, the beds were comfortable."

"Was the food bad?"
"No, one of the best meals I have ever had on the Camino."

"Were the people running the place rude to you?"
"No, they were quite nice."

"Was the place too cold or too hot?"
"No, the temperature was fine."

"Were the showers lacking hot water?"
"No, the showers were fine."

"Was it expensive?"
"No, the price was right in line with other albergues."

"Well, if there were no bed bugs, the food was really good, the people working there were nice, the temperature was perfect, there was hot water, and the price was fair, what was the problem that made it a 'horrible' place to stay?"
"The guy next to me snored all night."

Love this @RobertS26 !

I had a similar situation on my last outing.
In Zafra I thought I would spoil myself and stay somewhere really fancy...... ;)

My room overlooked the Plaza de Corazon de Maria, which as it turned out, is where all the local teens hang out at night time :oops:

That, coupled with the drunks heading home through the Plaza from a big night out at the local bars, meant I got to sleep at about 3 am 😟

It kind of turned me off staying in those 'fancy' places and I cancelled a couple of others I had booked.
I also felt a bit guilty staying there on a Camino to be honest!!

But it led me to re-evaluate the types and location of accommodation I would book.
I was booking one or two nights ahead, sometimes not at all (Donativos for example)

So without appearing too judgemental, I came up with some 'considerations'.

  1. Stay where other Pilgrims are likely to stay! (a) You will have the company of others on the same journey. (b) The locations are generally close to the Camino (c) the accommodation normally understands the needs of Pilgrims. (d) They are often (mostly) much better value. (e) Pilgrims usually go to bed quite early and try to be quiet!
  2. Don't stay where tourists stay! (a) Most will be Spanish. And the Spanish have a different concept of 'bed time'. They generally go to bed much later. (b) The Spanish have a different concept of what is deemed acceptable noise levels. So conversations in the next room can be loud, phone calls loud, TV on loud. Many times I found this to go on till 1 am listening to 'everything' through paper thin walls. Don't get me wrong please. I love Spain and the Spanish people. It's just a different aspect of culture, that we need to understand and accept. (note below)
  3. Price has almost no relationship with bed/sleep quality. The best nights sleep out of my last 60 day Camino? You would never have guessed. A Donativo Albergue. A tiny hostal in a private house. An old coaching Inn off Camino.

An illustration of cultural differences, expectations and just going with the flow. It's their country!

I was sitting in the bar having some tapas and a beer.
The floor above was an Albergue.
Above that, private rooms.

My room was great. The Menu del Dia had been great. I had used the provided washing machine to do my laundry. Things were good.

The bar gradually filled up. And started to get a bit noisy. Maybe I'd have an early night?

Looking up from my snack, I took in the scene.

Next to me was a local family with 2 young kids. Out for the evening for some tapas and a few drinks.
They were having to speak really loud to hear each other.
Because.......
On the wall right above them was a TV with a local gameshow running at full volume!

Next to their table, two old men were with a young boy. Maybe a grandchild.
Again having drinks, chatting, having a good laugh.
All at quite a volume, so they could hear each other.

Beyond those tables was a pool table, with 4 young men having a great time.
Everyone in the bar was keeping an eye on the game particularly as the shrieks and laughter peaked.
The lady serving at the bar would call across encouragement between serving drinks and tapas.

5 or 6 people were on stools at the bar, swivelling to watch the game show or the pool game.

Finally..........

Beyond the pool table, 2 kids of about 6 or 7 were playing football.
The ball bouncing off the bar wall and front door.

The noise level was climbing and climbing.
I could barely think straight.
This is 'mental' I thought to myself!
I just had to get out of there.......

But hey.
It was just a local bar in rural Spain.
And obviously a popular Social hangout 🙂

And Yes. I had a good night sleep.............

After the local football team finished a game at 11 pm on the pitch across the road.
Great pitch, fully floodlit!

I'd recommend the place by the way!
 
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Ideal pocket guides for during & after your Camino. Each weighs only 1.4 oz (40g)!
Have you been disappointed with others recommendations?

Have you been disappointed with your own recommendations?

Do you think that we should try to discourage the giving of recommendations so that we don't build expectations?
Assuming that the restaurant or lodging is safe, provides the food or shelter needed, and does not grossly overcharge, I would not give the matter much thought at all. I might or might not go there again, or recommend it to others, but "disappointment"? No!

I do not take or give such recommendations so seriously.
 
During my Camino Frances in 2019 two albergues stood out for me as being particularly special, well above the rest for being pilgrim focussed and particularly pleasant to stay at.

Since then, I have recommended both albergues to anyone who would listen.

Last week I went back to one of them during my free time between activities because I wanted to talk to one of the staff members there.

In 2019 I remember walking into the albergue dog tired, sore from a combination of my arthritis and the effort of the trail, hot and sweaty.

I was greeted with a warm smile, given a chair to sit on to rest and offered the sweetest tasting plain cold water to quench my thirst and told to rest a while because registration could wait until I had recovered some of my energy.

This pilgrim focus combined with the fabulous resources available at this parochial albergue (real beds, a maximum of four people in a room and often only two or wonder of wonders a room to myself, a shower and a bath in the room, a shared evening meal and an opportunity to reflect on my pilgrimage with fellow pilgrims) easily made this a stand out place for a pilgrim like me to stay.

This time, in 2023, I was not tired, not sore and only a little bit sweaty because I had just got off the train.

I was greeted (by someone new) who scowled at me as I entered, immediately told to take my boots off and to leave my hiking pole at the door and would I please hurry up and hand over my credential and passport because the person was busy and by the way, here are the rules if you want to stay here and would you sit on that seat over there and wait because there is another pilgrim behind you and I don't want to have to separately tell both of you the same thing and so you should wait until I can deal with you both together. Oh, you can help yourself to that lukewarm jug of water over there while you wait if you like, or not, up to you.

Same fabulous facilities, same shared meal although this time almost no pilgrims came to it whereas last time it was a struggle to fit us in the room.

A fellow pilgrim who I had befriended on the Camino Madrid was staying there on my recommendation and after dinner we sat down together to chat and he asked me "why did you recommend this place, you said that it was fabulous and pilgrim focussed. I wouldn't recommend this place to anyone, it is so officious".

At that, I had to apologise and say, this is not how it was last time.

++++++++++

What happened? In 2019 I was there in the middle of a huge wave of pilgrims and they had half the staff helping. This year, I was there during a lull in pilgrim numbers. Yes they were about half full but they had twice as many staff helping this year.

Was I just lucky in 2019 and happened to arrive at a time when the staff were relaxed and welcoming? I don't think so because in 2019 I talked to other pilgrims staying there and universally, everyone had a similar experience to me.

Apart from my friend and three of his friends who he had convinced to stay there on my recommendation who also wondered why I recommended this officious establishment there was no one to talk to because unlike in 2019 when pilgrims had freely mingled, this time everyone else staying there seemed to want to keep to themselves.

It looked like this new staff member was the source of this officiousness. Not only was he officious but he also made demeaning comments about the food that I brought to the shared dinner and aspects of my background, in public.

Maybe, part of the difference was also me.

Someone else made a comment on another unrelated thread about how sweet the water tastes when you arrive at a destination tired and hot.

Perhaps in 2019 I arrived without much expectation and I was delighted with how I was treated. This time, I arrived with very high expectations and I was very disappointed with my treatment.

Perhaps the guy this year had just had a bad day or a bad month or something. Perhaps I was very lucky in 2019? Maybe.

From his demeaning comments I suspect something had made him sour. Perhaps it was time for him to have a break from pilgrims for a while?

I know that a couple of experienced people on the forum say that if they go back and rewalk a Camino they try not to stay in the same places but then others say that they often repeat the nice places.

Perhaps it was a combination of things and I was just unlucky with this particular place but now I am reluctant to go back to my other top albergue from 2019.

The issue of differing standards and expectations also comes up in restaurant recommendations. I used to carefully copy down lots of other people's recommendations and put them onto my Google Maps account (see my screenshot below) but after several disappointments I am starting to think that I need to find my own great spots to eat that match my style.

What do other people think?

Have you been disappointed with others recommendations?

Have you been disappointed with your own recommendations?

Do you think that we should try to discourage the giving of recommendations so that we don't build expectations?

View attachment 149692

BTW, I have deliberately not named the albergue. If you are experienced enough to guess it then please don't name it because then we set reverse expectations.

Also, I very much get the need for rules, especially in the very big albergues. I have no issue with rules and often prefer them to be policed for everyone's comfort.
I stopped at two particular albergues in 2013. I would have recommended both without hesitation. When I returned two years later the hospitalera had changed in both. They were still good albergues. However, in the first I came to, the hospitalera had decided the communal meal would now be vegetarian only. Don't mind that at all but her idea of food did not suit the pilgrims. Most went uneaten and she was not best pleased but generally ok. Just the food was now awful. In the second, once again still a good albergue, but the lovely Hungarian hospitalera had been replaced with a middle aged man (still a lot younger than me) and he could have been well served going to classes on how to interract with fellow human beings. I would still recommend those two albergues with the proviso that staff do change. Another place I loved had exceptional. staff but when I went back the new staff were just very good. Sounds a bit picky but having expected the same again, I was a little disappointed but that says more about me than those lovely people😄
 
Sounds a bit picky but having expected the same again,
This is the essence that I am exploring in this thread.

How to rewalk without expectations AND if I (or anyone else) gives recommendations then are we cursing the Caminos of the people who received the recommendation because now THEY have expectations.

For me and some others on here, walking without expectations is almost the essence of our Caminos.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
For me and some others on here, walking without expectations is almost the essence of our Caminos.

In the kindest possible way can I ask why you are on here now?

You're on the Camino, you've done it before. You don't need much advice. So what are your expectations of coming online to this place?

I can well understand a desire to see what's going on in the world or to catch up on sports results and am a huge fan of reading about places as I pass through them but.... it seems a little strange to me to be chatting online about the Camino when the Camino is literally all around you?

I missed the addition to one of your posts but your friend is dead on correct: Walk the Camino in front of you. I'd go a tad further - feel the Camino you're on. It's harder to do that engaged online. Or, at least, it is for me.

I realise that this might seem incredibly rude, please understand that's not my intention. You want to chat to a Pilgrim? I'd bet there's one right over there. And there. And up there. And back there. :)
Lots of time for chatting and teasing things out online later.

Buen Camino!
 
During my Camino Frances in 2019 two albergues stood out for me as being particularly special, well above the rest for being pilgrim focussed and particularly pleasant to stay at.

Since then, I have recommended both albergues to anyone who would listen.

Last week I went back to one of them during my free time between activities because I wanted to talk to one of the staff members there.

In 2019 I remember walking into the albergue dog tired, sore from a combination of my arthritis and the effort of the trail, hot and sweaty.

I was greeted with a warm smile, given a chair to sit on to rest and offered the sweetest tasting plain cold water to quench my thirst and told to rest a while because registration could wait until I had recovered some of my energy.

This pilgrim focus combined with the fabulous resources available at this parochial albergue (real beds, a maximum of four people in a room and often only two or wonder of wonders a room to myself, a shower and a bath in the room, a shared evening meal and an opportunity to reflect on my pilgrimage with fellow pilgrims) easily made this a stand out place for a pilgrim like me to stay.

This time, in 2023, I was not tired, not sore and only a little bit sweaty because I had just got off the train.

I was greeted (by someone new) who scowled at me as I entered, immediately told to take my boots off and to leave my hiking pole at the door and would I please hurry up and hand over my credential and passport because the person was busy and by the way, here are the rules if you want to stay here and would you sit on that seat over there and wait because there is another pilgrim behind you and I don't want to have to separately tell both of you the same thing and so you should wait until I can deal with you both together. Oh, you can help yourself to that lukewarm jug of water over there while you wait if you like, or not, up to you.

Same fabulous facilities, same shared meal although this time almost no pilgrims came to it whereas last time it was a struggle to fit us in the room.

A fellow pilgrim who I had befriended on the Camino Madrid was staying there on my recommendation and after dinner we sat down together to chat and he asked me "why did you recommend this place, you said that it was fabulous and pilgrim focussed. I wouldn't recommend this place to anyone, it is so officious".

At that, I had to apologise and say, this is not how it was last time.

++++++++++

What happened? In 2019 I was there in the middle of a huge wave of pilgrims and they had half the staff helping. This year, I was there during a lull in pilgrim numbers. Yes they were about half full but they had twice as many staff helping this year.

Was I just lucky in 2019 and happened to arrive at a time when the staff were relaxed and welcoming? I don't think so because in 2019 I talked to other pilgrims staying there and universally, everyone had a similar experience to me.

Apart from my friend and three of his friends who he had convinced to stay there on my recommendation who also wondered why I recommended this officious establishment there was no one to talk to because unlike in 2019 when pilgrims had freely mingled, this time everyone else staying there seemed to want to keep to themselves.

It looked like this new staff member was the source of this officiousness. Not only was he officious but he also made demeaning comments about the food that I brought to the shared dinner and aspects of my background, in public.

Maybe, part of the difference was also me.

Someone else made a comment on another unrelated thread about how sweet the water tastes when you arrive at a destination tired and hot.

Perhaps in 2019 I arrived without much expectation and I was delighted with how I was treated. This time, I arrived with very high expectations and I was very disappointed with my treatment.

Perhaps the guy this year had just had a bad day or a bad month or something. Perhaps I was very lucky in 2019? Maybe.

From his demeaning comments I suspect something had made him sour. Perhaps it was time for him to have a break from pilgrims for a while?

I know that a couple of experienced people on the forum say that if they go back and rewalk a Camino they try not to stay in the same places but then others say that they often repeat the nice places.

Perhaps it was a combination of things and I was just unlucky with this particular place but now I am reluctant to go back to my other top albergue from 2019.

The issue of differing standards and expectations also comes up in restaurant recommendations. I used to carefully copy down lots of other people's recommendations and put them onto my Google Maps account (see my screenshot below) but after several disappointments I am starting to think that I need to find my own great spots to eat that match my style.

What do other people think?

Have you been disappointed with others recommendations?

Have you been disappointed with your own recommendations?

Do you think that we should try to discourage the giving of recommendations so that we don't build expectations?

View attachment 149692

BTW, I have deliberately not named the albergue. If you are experienced enough to guess it then please don't name it because then we set reverse expectations.

Also, I very much get the need for rules, especially in the very big albergues. I have no issue with rules and often prefer them to be policed for everyone's comfort.
I have stayed at the albergue to which you referred 3 times: 2018, 19, 21, and have always had a great experience. Don't let one bad apple host stop your well meaning comments, recommendations, praise, etc. Negative comments should be tempered, and usually without naming names as you have wisely withheld. I think it is beneficial for forum members to continue to give their recommendations and opinions, sticking to the facts, and keeping in mind that their experiences could be easily be situational "one-offs," especially dealing with personalities. Things change year to year, month to month...
In 10 caminos, I have only met a few devils and a few angry/abrupt albergue hosts, restauranteurs, bar tenders, etc., but the devils do exists.

I almost did not stay at one albergue in El Burgo Ranero last month based on Wise Pilgrim comments, but in fact, my experience there was opposite to the negative comments. It had a large dorm, beds spaced appropriately, very large bathrooms with large showers which were clean. The doors DID lock securely. VERY large outdoor grassy courtyard with trees and lounge chairs. No traffic or town noise. I paid 3 euro above the regular dorm bunk price of 12 euro to get a single bed in 4 person dorm, each pair of beds separated by partition, the dorm separated from the main dorm with sliding door. Walking through the main dorm several times at night and early morning, no loud snorers. I heard no complaints from the other pilgrims staying there.
 
Do you think that we should try to discourage the giving of recommendations so that we don't build expectations?
I have been watching this with interest while I have been travelling this week, and puzzling over why this has become such an issue. It seems to me that this forum's role is in helping us share our experiences so future pilgrims learn.

But is @Turga's earlier suggestion that there is a difference between that and making recommendations a basis for considering when recommendations might be appropriate, and when they might not be?

As a start point, my observation is that, as forum members, we are generally pretty good at not providing recommendations about medical or dental treatments and legal matters to name three areas where professional qualifications would normally be needed to offer such advice. There are many more.

However, there might be some members who are held out as having specialist subject matter expertise in matters like pack choice and clothing selection, either by themselves or others. I don't see any practical way on a forum such as this for holding them accountable in any way if other members do follow their advice and find it to be inappropriate. My conclusion is such recommendations, recommending who might have more credibility on some matters than others, is nice but not worth terribly much, and misleading where one does not establish the context in which a person holds any specialist knowledge.

For example, I have never walked a Camino route on the Iberian peninsula in summer. All my pilgrimage walks there have been in spring. While I have many years experience walking in Australia in summer, that is not the same as actually having walked in Portugal or Spain. It would appear to me inappropriate to claim any more credibility on this than anyone else on the forum.

And this is where most of us would be when it comes to offering recommendations to new pilgrims. We are not generally holding ourselves out to experts. Forum members should understand that, or learn that relatively quickly, and know that we are subject to a range of biases and prejudices when we give our recommendations. That doesn't seem to be any good reason to stop.

Earlier, @frannie z suggested we should make clear the context of our recommendations. Many of us use signatures that include the various pilgrimage routes we have walked, and when. This is not a perfect solution, but in your personal settings, you can make those signatures visible when using a PC or laptop. They don't appear on a tablet, smartphone or in the new app. There you have to follow the links to the members listings and look at an individual's 'About' entry.

Finally, a comment on unsolicited recommendations. If no-one has asked for a recommendation, there is no need to provide free advertising for businesses along the camino or elsewhere by writing up puff pieces about their products. There are many other services, such as Gronze, or the feedback pages on the apps, where you can leave comments about how wonderful some place was - use them instead where your views can be balanced by others who are also prepared to leave feedback. These unsolicited recommendations should be treated as what they are - spam - and removed.
 
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Thank you, good stuff here. I agree, bad reviews should be used sparingly. I regularly review places on Google Maps and I rarely give a bad review, especially if a small business is involved because I am conscious that someone's livelihood may be affected by my review.

I try to separate myself and my feelings from the situation and try to be objective and only really make negative comments when something like food safety or something similar is involved.

This case has shown me how much my own expectations colour my views.

With some trepidation I went and looked at the Gronze comments on my other top spot and found one that was very critical. Interestingly, most of the factual information presented in the negative review was correct.

The owner of the small private albergue does cram multiple bunks into tiny rooms but also provides extensive common space so that pilgrims have somewhere to be, at ease, and interact outside of the bedrooms.

Yes there are only two bathrooms available to multiple pilgrims but they are well thought out with great facilities. Places to safely hang clothes and towels, space for big people like me to move, free shower gel and hair shampoo and spotlessly clean.

Yes the shared meal was made with cheap ingredients but it didn't cost pilgrims much to partake in it and it was cooked with skill and love so that it provided a tasty, nutritious meal. No meal needs expensive ingredients to make it great.

The negative review made no mention of the warm smile and personalised greeting of everyone that I saw enter this albergue, nor the information provided for pilgrims in multiple languages or the comfortable, shady seats outside in the square with close access to the drink fridge with about the cheapest prices I had seen for awhile.

I was relieved enough that it is possible that this special place in 2019 might still be special today.



Of course this is correct and I am a regular Google Maps reviewer myself.

The difference is that G Maps and other review sites have structured reviews and so, as someone else in this thread mentioned, over time and with enough reviews it can be reasonably obvious to differentiate the better places from the not so good.

I am not necessarily advocating for a structured review process on the forum, I don't think that is our "style" although another comment further down provides a pretty good start at structuring the review process.

I guess that ultimately this thread is me venting about how utterly disappointed I am that what was, in my opinion, a truely great albergue to stay at has become just another place to stay with some advantages and some disadvantages. This is such a waste.
Turns out that last month my sister-in-law and her husband also stayed in the albergue to which you referred, and they loved it, the hosts, communal dinner, 4-bunk rooms with own bath, etc. Really, you must have gotten a host on his very bad day.
 
In the kindest possible way can I ask why you are on here now?

You're on the Camino, you've done it before. You don't need much advice. So what are your expectations of coming online to this place?

I can well understand a desire to see what's going on in the world or to catch up on sports results and am a huge fan of reading about places as I pass through them but.... it seems a little strange to me to be chatting online about the Camino when the Camino is literally all around you?

I missed the addition to one of your posts but your friend is dead on correct: Walk the Camino in front of you. I'd go a tad further - feel the Camino you're on. It's harder to do that engaged online. Or, at least, it is for me.

I realise that this might seem incredibly rude, please understand that's not my intention. You want to chat to a Pilgrim? I'd bet there's one right over there. And there. And up there. And back there. :)
Lots of time for chatting and teasing things out online later.

Buen Camino!
Responding as someone on Camino, who also happens to be here. Sometimes it is nice to hang out with fellow pilgrims and read about and talk about pilgrim things, find out how things are going with other pilgrims you know (after a fashion) and can speak to in English.

You would lose your bet. There is literally not another human in this albergue right now. Although there is a very annoying fly.
 
Responding as someone on Camino, who also happens to be here. Sometimes it is nice to hang out with fellow pilgrims and read about and talk about pilgrim things, find out how things are going with other pilgrims you know (after a fashion) and can speak to in English.

You would lose your bet. There is literally not another human in this albergue right now. Although there is a very annoying fly.
Agree, David. When I walked CF, CI and Muxia/Finisterre extension late April-May this year, I also was the only one or one of very few in several albergues in this allegedly "SO BUSY" time. I would go for 2-3-4 hours walking sometimes without seeing a single person. I often consulted IVAR's forum while at coffee, dinner or relaxing in an albergue. I was also able to assist several pilgrims via IVAR who were walking or getting ready to walk the Camino.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
As previously mentioned, context is critical when posting what you think is a great answer.

Several years ago, someone posted a simple question, "Is the climb out of SJPP as hard as everyone is saying?" And a woman responded, "I found it super easy."

That surprised me, so I sent her a PM to ask, "Are you a tri-athelete because that climb almost killed me."

She responded, "I am not a tri-athelete, but I am full time aerobics instructor and I started walking in Le Puy."

🙄
Almost killed me too. Everything is now in context of walking from SJPDP to Orisson. That is why I was surprised the so called killer climb on the spiritual from Combarro to Almenteira was such an anti-climax.
 
Recommendations of albergues: I would say leave reviews on one or more of the sites that ask for them, and hear only in response to a query. Otherwise, this forum would be drowning in them (and with the responses of people who disagree).

Same for recommendations of other things: wait for a query.
 
Thanks, great comment and very relevant. I agree, many of the negative reviews that I see seem to come from an entitled point of view.
I've seen at least one review that was completely false of an albergue where I've been hospitalero for three to ten week stretches many times. "Nobody speaks Spanish" it said—there is always one of the managers there who are fluent in Spanish, Dutch, French, German, and English, and almost always most of the volunteers can speak Spanish and English. They said it was filthy, which I doubt, since staff spends about two hours cleaning every day, with each room getting a "deep clean" once a week. Someone had a grudge strong enough to tell lies. "Glowing" reviews might be equally suspect. I get really tired of seeing the phrase (on Facebook) "best ____ ever" for something that clearly isn't.
 
Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

€46,-
I realise that this might seem incredibly rude, please understand that's not my intention. You want to chat to a Pilgrim? I'd bet there's one right over there. And there. And up there. And back there. :)
As hospitalero, I've seen nights with NO pilgrims, and nights where we made dozens of phone calls trying to find a bed for the pilgrims that arrived after we were full. As a walker, I've seen no one for an entire day, and times where I've passed or been passed by dozens in an hour.

I like to hear what others have experienced (especially on routes I haven't taken), but I am careful not to expect it to be the same for me.
 
During my Camino Frances in 2019 two albergues stood out for me as being particularly special, well above the rest for being pilgrim focussed and particularly pleasant to stay at.

Since then, I have recommended both albergues to anyone who would listen.

Last week I went back to one of them during my free time between activities because I wanted to talk to one of the staff members there.

In 2019 I remember walking into the albergue dog tired, sore from a combination of my arthritis and the effort of the trail, hot and sweaty.

I was greeted with a warm smile, given a chair to sit on to rest and offered the sweetest tasting plain cold water to quench my thirst and told to rest a while because registration could wait until I had recovered some of my energy.

This pilgrim focus combined with the fabulous resources available at this parochial albergue (real beds, a maximum of four people in a room and often only two or wonder of wonders a room to myself, a shower and a bath in the room, a shared evening meal and an opportunity to reflect on my pilgrimage with fellow pilgrims) easily made this a stand out place for a pilgrim like me to stay.

This time, in 2023, I was not tired, not sore and only a little bit sweaty because I had just got off the train.

I was greeted (by someone new) who scowled at me as I entered, immediately told to take my boots off and to leave my hiking pole at the door and would I please hurry up and hand over my credential and passport because the person was busy and by the way, here are the rules if you want to stay here and would you sit on that seat over there and wait because there is another pilgrim behind you and I don't want to have to separately tell both of you the same thing and so you should wait until I can deal with you both together. Oh, you can help yourself to that lukewarm jug of water over there while you wait if you like, or not, up to you.

Same fabulous facilities, same shared meal although this time almost no pilgrims came to it whereas last time it was a struggle to fit us in the room.

A fellow pilgrim who I had befriended on the Camino Madrid was staying there on my recommendation and after dinner we sat down together to chat and he asked me "why did you recommend this place, you said that it was fabulous and pilgrim focussed. I wouldn't recommend this place to anyone, it is so officious".

At that, I had to apologise and say, this is not how it was last time.

++++++++++

What happened? In 2019 I was there in the middle of a huge wave of pilgrims and they had half the staff helping. This year, I was there during a lull in pilgrim numbers. Yes they were about half full but they had twice as many staff helping this year.

Was I just lucky in 2019 and happened to arrive at a time when the staff were relaxed and welcoming? I don't think so because in 2019 I talked to other pilgrims staying there and universally, everyone had a similar experience to me.

Apart from my friend and three of his friends who he had convinced to stay there on my recommendation who also wondered why I recommended this officious establishment there was no one to talk to because unlike in 2019 when pilgrims had freely mingled, this time everyone else staying there seemed to want to keep to themselves.

It looked like this new staff member was the source of this officiousness. Not only was he officious but he also made demeaning comments about the food that I brought to the shared dinner and aspects of my background, in public.

Maybe, part of the difference was also me.

Someone else made a comment on another unrelated thread about how sweet the water tastes when you arrive at a destination tired and hot.

Perhaps in 2019 I arrived without much expectation and I was delighted with how I was treated. This time, I arrived with very high expectations and I was very disappointed with my treatment.

Perhaps the guy this year had just had a bad day or a bad month or something. Perhaps I was very lucky in 2019? Maybe.

From his demeaning comments I suspect something had made him sour. Perhaps it was time for him to have a break from pilgrims for a while?

I know that a couple of experienced people on the forum say that if they go back and rewalk a Camino they try not to stay in the same places but then others say that they often repeat the nice places.

Perhaps it was a combination of things and I was just unlucky with this particular place but now I am reluctant to go back to my other top albergue from 2019.

The issue of differing standards and expectations also comes up in restaurant recommendations. I used to carefully copy down lots of other people's recommendations and put them onto my Google Maps account (see my screenshot below) but after several disappointments I am starting to think that I need to find my own great spots to eat that match my style.

What do other people think?

Have you been disappointed with others recommendations?

Have you been disappointed with your own recommendations?

Do you think that we should try to discourage the giving of recommendations so that we don't build expectations?

View attachment 149692

BTW, I have deliberately not named the albergue. If you are experienced enough to guess it then please don't name it because then we set reverse expectations.

Also, I very much get the need for rules, especially in the very big albergues. I have no issue with rules and often prefer them to be policed for everyone's comfort.
I just had a similar problems a few weeks ago. I stayed at a small albergue that had had good recommendations. Despite being nice accommodations, the food was very mediocre, but much worse was the host. It was a miserable experience. You can't really say anything, or leave -- because it was prepaid and there was no other place to easily go to.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I think the world of online reviews is getting smaller by the day. One day in the not too distant future, they will be worth nothing. Unless we have a foolproof way to determine which are fake and generated by AI and the likes of ChatGPT and which ones are genuine.
That's a very insightful comment. I hadn't given much thought to the impact of AI on online reviews, but of course that makes sense. In my case, I used to be an avid user of TripAdvisor, but whether it's the pandemic or something else, I sense that that's rather in it's heyday as a source of reliable, objective information.
 
differing standards and expectations

@DoughnutANZ, thanks for starting this thread.

I believe I have quite a good recall of many things on most days on my various camino / pilgrimages / long distance walks since 2010.

For this reason I have opted to NOT repeat my journeys on foot: there are enough different routes that I can tread and so have different experiences of all kinds.

Repeating a route might cause too much reflection of difficulties that occurred, even though at a different time of year and with different road conditions, weather etc.

I have only once returned to an albergue: on the second occasion I was bearing a token gift to honour a very particular personal matter that occurred 18 months previously.

For a similar reason, I have purposely not read reviews of this hostel or that museum, church, whatever.

I hope to accept what happens on the day as the best that could be achieved at that time.


My methodology for getting a bed for the night is to start at the first hostel on entering the town.


Kia kaha, kia māia, kia mana'wa'nui (take care, be strong, patient and confident)
 
I think there is nothing wrong with sharing our experiences on the Camino here in these forums, and that includes our experiences with places to sleep, eat, sightsee, etc.

Of course, the more context we provide, the more helpful the sharing will be for fellow pilgrims. And some experiences we share will have a longer "shelf life" than others. Some things change more rapidly than others. If I recall correctly, my experience in the cathedral in Leon in 2016 wasn't radically different than in 1989. It hadn't changed that much.

When we are talking albergues, it is similar. Some have hospitaleros who change every few weeks. One person's experience with the hospitalero can be very different than another's, a few weeks later. On the other hand, there are places like Casa Susi on the Frances or Casa da Fernanda on the Portugues where you can come back year after year and expect to see the same hospitaleros. Some have regularly changing hospitaleros but still a way of doing things particular to that albergue that can create consistency in experience even when the hospitaleros change. For example, no matter who is on staff at Grañon, you can expect to be greeted with a hug not a stamp.

Grañon is a perfect example of where providing more information and context is useful. It is frequently recommended as one of the most special stays along the Camijo Frances, with reason. But not everyone is looking for the same things in an albergue. Someone who likes those really modern albergues, where everyone has their own private pod with light and outlet and all the modern conveniences might be taken aback to follow the recommendations to Grañon and find themselves on a mat on the floor without even a pillow. The same way that someone who loves the sense of community in Grañon might be taken aback when they follow recommendations to an albergue where everyone is in their own separate world, lost in their mobile phones.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
On my last Camino, I was having lunch with a mixed group of veterans and first timers. One of the first timers asked about an albergue further down the Camino. One of the veterans exclaimed, "That place is horrible! I will never stay there again! Worst experience of my life on the Camino!"

Curious about their experience, I had the following conversation with that person:

"Bedbugs?"
"No, the beds were comfortable."

"Was the food bad?"
"No, one of the best meals I have ever had on the Camino."

"Were the people running the place rude to you?"
"No, they were quite nice."

"Was the place too cold or too hot?"
"No, the temperature was fine."

"Were the showers lacking hot water?"
"No, the showers were fine."

"Was it expensive?"
"No, the price was right in line with other albergues."

"Well, if there were no bed bugs, the food was really good, the people working there were nice, the temperature was perfect, there was hot water, and the price was fair, why would you never stay there again?"
"The guy next to me snored all night."
I have used Gronze on all my Caminos to select accommodations and will continue to use it under the understanding that opinions expressed by other pilgrims will be as different as we all are. I select an albergue based on what is essential to me and always keep hoping for the best. The Camino is full of surprises! Like they say...
It's like life itself

On all my Caminos I use Gronze to select accommodation.
Where there was more than one option, I would read the reviews.
 
I think the world of online reviews is getting smaller by the day. One day in the not too distant future, they will be worth nothing. Unless we have a foolproof way to determine which are fake and generated by AI and the likes of ChatGPT and which ones are genuine.
Or the ones which (on some sites) are made by the place being reviewed or by one of their competitors.
 
The same way that someone who loves the sense of community in Grañon might be taken aback when they follow recommendations to an albergue where everyone is in their own separate world, lost in their mobile phones.
At Oasis Trails, for a long time, we had no public WiFi because we wanted the pilgrims to interact with us and with each other. But when we finally realized more than half were hanging out a block away to use the little store’s free WiFi, we put a WiFi AP in one of our windows. Thanks to our four-hundred-year-old half-meter-thick stone walls, it only worked if you were outside and not too far from that window (or near the window directly above it).
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.

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