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Live - Camino Francés SJPP is Packed with Pilgrims.

Santiago Photo Book
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
There’s got to be close to a hundred people in line at the Pilgrim’s Office at 4:30 today. Locals are saying the first two weeks in September are always the most crowded. Second most crowded is a stretch in May! By 5PM it seemed all the albergues and hostals on Rue de la Citadelle were full. Should be an interesting Camino. 😂

PS:

Just talked with nice Australian woman at Pilgrims Office and she told me they told the pilgrims arriving yesterday to wait a day if they could as today was dark and rainy. Hence there are well over 500 pilgrims queued up for a hopefully a beautiful day tomorrow. The locals are opening the gymnasium and providing mats for late arrivers aas the night train is coming in soon.
 

Nigel Clark

Member
Camino(s) past & future
May /June 2017
September / October 2019
I am currently in Agés and despite many saying it is crowded there are still empty bunks, it was the same in Belorado. However there were many bags deposited at the entrance to my Albergue from the non-carriers .
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Sep/Oct 2018)
Camino Portugues (Sep 2020)
I am currently in Agés and despite many saying it is crowded there are still empty bunks, it was the same in Belorado. However there were many bags deposited at the entrance to my Albergue from the non-carriers .
Ages is a good stopping point to avoid the crowds following "The Guide Book". It's an easy downhill from San Juan de Ortega and shortens the trip into Burgos. Check out the church if you get a chance.
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
There’s got to be close to a hundred people in line at the Pilgrim’s Office at 4:30 today. Locals are saying the first two weeks in September are always the most crowded. Second most crowded is a stretch in May! By 5PM it seemed all the albergues and hostals on Rue de la Citadelle were full. Should be an interesting Camino. 😂

PS:

Just talked with nice Australian woman at Pilgrims Office and she told me they told the pilgrims arriving yesterday to wait a day if they could as today was dark and rainy. Hence there are well over 500 pilgrims queued up for a hopefully a beautiful day tomorrow. The locals are opening the gymnasium and providing mats for late arrivers aas the night train is coming in soon.
Added to the fact that September is an extremely popular Pilgrim month, it is also a popular tourist month for SJPdP, which further depletes available lodging. I always made my reservations - - for a September start in SJPdP - - in January to March earlier in the year. :)
 

BROWNCOUNTYBOB

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015 & 2017) and plans for 2019 (Sept, Oct)
Same thing we experienced during our second camino, which began early September, 2017. Huge numbers of pilgrims on the CF, many arriving in towns late afternoon to learn that not just a municipal was "completo" - the entire town was completo! I recall one pilgrim that hiked from Roncesvalles to Zubiri and no beds were available. We saw him a few days later and he had to walk all the way to Pamplona to get a bed that evening. During our last camino, we had reservations for all but a few albergues. For the few we did not have reservations, we walked briskly and took few breaks. I recall arriving at the municipal at Burgos around 11:30 am and there were probably 50 backpacks lined up on the curb ahead of us. Fortunately beds were available for us. For our upcoming camino, we have firm reservations each evening, reducing the pressure to rush our camino hike each day. Bob
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2016, Mansill de las Mulas to Finisterre and Muxia 2017, Camino Aragones 2018
Added to the fact that September is an extremely popular Pilgrim month, it is also a popular tourist month for SJPdP, which further depletes available lodging. I always made my reservations - - for a September start in SJPdP - - in January to March earlier in the year. :)
Oh, Dave, Don't say that about how far in advance you book! More than one newer person on this forum has gotten the idea that one must book an entire Camino at least a year in advance, leaving nothing for someone like me who just wants to book my first night in country a few weeks ahead. Next year I am going on a cruise around Scotland!
 
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davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
Oh, Dave, Don't say that about how far in advance you book! More than one newer person on this forum has gotten the idea that one must book an entire Camino at least a year in advance, leaving nothing for someone like me who just wants to book my first night in country a few weeks ahead. Next year I am going on a cruise around Scotland!
:) Only for St Jean Pied de Port, because the place I like to stay at gets booked out months ahead, sometimes. Outside of Roncesvalles -- which I book three months ahead -- all else is played by ear day-to-day. No planning involved, and certainly no booking every stop ahead of time.
 

Stephen

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Twice walked from St Jean to Estella and once from Sarria to Santiago. Maybe someday I'll find the time to do the entire walk.
I've found the time. Just completed SJPP to Santiago. 25 Aug to 1st Oct, 2016.
And now the Portuguese from Lisbon.
I'm in a sports hall in SJPdP tonight with about 60 other pilgrims. I'm a bit too long in the tooth for sleeping on floors.
I left the Le Puy route yesterday because of difficulties finding beds.
I'll get the train back to Bayonne tomorrow morning, have already booked 2 nights in an hotel there, and get a flight to Dublin as soon as I can. It seems September isn't a good month for older pilgrims anymore.
 

Dani7

Stop wishing, start doing.
Camino(s) past & future
(2020) Camino Frances
:) Only for St Jean Pied de Port, because the place I like to stay at gets booked out months ahead, sometimes. Outside of Roncesvalles -- which I book three months ahead -- all else is played by ear day-to-day. No planning involved, and certainly no booking every stop ahead of time.
Which place may I ask in Saint Jean Dave?
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Last time I walked the Francés I took the Valcarlos route and stayed in the albergue there. A leisurely breakfast in SJPDP watching the eager beavers rush off to the Napoleon, then a lovely walk through the Basque countryside (with a stop off at Arnéguy for coffee and a meander through the duty free shops), then on to Valcarlos and the excellent albergue there, where I stayed. Only two pilgrims in the albergue, a scrumptious dinner meal, and the next day a stroll through the beech woods, and I arrived in Roncesvalles ahead of the Napoleon crowd, with no trouble getting a bed.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I'm in a sports hall in SJPdP tonight with about 60 other pilgrims. I'm a bit too long in the tooth for sleeping on floors.
I left the Le Puy route yesterday because of difficulties finding beds.
I'll get the train back to Bayonne tomorrow morning, have already booked 2 nights in an hotel there, and get a flight to Dublin as soon as I can. It seems September isn't a good month for older pilgrims anymore.
I'm sorry to read this, @Stephen, but thank you to you and to @Kevin considine for this feedback about the current situation in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. I guess sports hall means sleeping on the floor without a mattress and many people will not be carrying a pad to sleep on? It would be a killer for my back, too.

I follow the FB group of the SJPP pilgrims office. They registered over 400 pilgrims on the 1st of September and they are saying right now that the situation has been the same every day during the last 10 days. The first two weeks in September have been very busy in this section of the Camino Frances for years now but this year seems to be even busier than before.

The number of beds reserved (around 60 beds out of about 200 beds can be reserved) further on, at the Roncesvalles albergue, is a good indicator, and on this basis I can see that it will be remain busy well into next week (beyond the weekend of 14-15 September 2019).
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I am currently in Agés and despite many saying it is crowded there are still empty bunks, it was the same in Belorado.
Where and when did you start, @Nigel Clark? The bottleneck is Saint-Jean / Roncesvalles / next villages until Pamplona, from about 1 September onwards this year apparently. 1 September was a Sunday this year. What was your experience in that section?
 
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Jamminclark

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances partial (May-June 2018)
Frances (2019)
This sounds a bit troubling. I am restarting my Camino in Pamplona on 16 Sept 2019. Not sure how fun this will be with hundreds of pilgrims running for beds every night!
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
This sounds a bit troubling. I am restarting my Camino in Pamplona on 16 Sept 2019. Not sure how fun this will be with hundreds of pilgrims running for beds every night!
I'm glad that you bring this up. It is important to be very clear about where and when these problems arise. First, so that people are not caught by surprise which apparently does happen right now to quite a few people, judging from what I currently read in the FB groups that I'm following, and secondly, so that nobody worries or even panics without reason.

@Jamminclark, you are starting on a Monday, you are starting from Pamplona, you will be walking from the middle of September onwards, and I'm predicting that it will be just fine. Please let us know how it goes if you feel like online communication while walking 🙂.

PS: As you said "restarting", I suppose you did SJPP to Pamplona earlier? Others will do the same right now. The section is a popular short stint. Many will be gone after Pamplona.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances and Invierno (2019)
Camino Frances (2021)
There’s got to be close to a hundred people in line at the Pilgrim’s Office at 4:30 today. Locals are saying the first two weeks in September are always the most crowded. Second most crowded is a stretch in May! By 5PM it seemed all the albergues and hostals on Rue de la Citadelle were full. Should be an interesting Camino. 😂

PS:

Just talked with nice Australian woman at Pilgrims Office and she told me they told the pilgrims arriving yesterday to wait a day if they could as today was dark and rainy. Hence there are well over 500 pilgrims queued up for a hopefully a beautiful day tomorrow. The locals are opening the gymnasium and providing mats for late arrivers aas the night train is coming in soon.
We are now in Logroño. Until now there have been packed everywhere. We have to book albergue ahead, which takes out the Camino spirit or some of it 😢😢
 

Evvie

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2019
There’s got to be close to a hundred people in line at the Pilgrim’s Office at 4:30 today. Locals are saying the first two weeks in September are always the most crowded. Second most crowded is a stretch in May! By 5PM it seemed all the albergues and hostals on Rue de la Citadelle were full. Should be an interesting Camino. 😂

PS:

Just talked with nice Australian woman at Pilgrims Office and she told me they told the pilgrims arriving yesterday to wait a day if they could as today was dark and rainy. Hence there are well over 500 pilgrims queued up for a hopefully a beautiful day tomorrow. The locals are opening the gymnasium and providing mats for late arrivers aas the night train is coming in soon.
We’re in Pamplona. We’ve had reservations until now. People were turned away from Orisson and Roncesvalles, with very little to no availability in Zubiri. If there are that many Pilgrims in SJPDP they’ll have a really hard time going forward without reservations.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
:) Only for St Jean Pied de Port, because the place I like to stay at gets booked out months ahead, sometimes. Outside of Roncesvalles -- which I book three months ahead -- all else is played by ear day-to-day. No planning involved, and certainly no booking every stop ahead of time.
Zubiri can be a bottleneck too though....... Things tend to clear after Pamplona.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013)
San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
This thread prompted me to have a cursory search for the increase in pilgrims since I walked the Frances, which was from Roncesvalles on 23rd June till maybe 21st July 2006. We did not book ahead ever, and we never had to sleep on the floor. In 2013, on the Portugues from Oporto, we had to sleep on the floor once. There was never a problem on the Salvador. On the Ingles this summer we booked ahead to avoid the danger of not finding beds, but we were aware of the difficulty for some who found no room at the municipal inn... here is the first graph I found... from Caminoadventures.com. Not sure of fine details or if this is a concerted graph of all pilgrims recorded, regardless of which Camino, but it shows the ever increasing swell. Screenshot 2019-09-11 at 13.52.31.png
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
@mette, @Evvie, I have given your messages a "like". Not because I like what you are reporting but because you are reporting "from the field" right now.

Were you aware beforehand that the beginning of September is an exceptionally busy period at the start of the Camino Frances?
 

ELHS220

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés - 2015
Francés - 2017
Norte (Oviedo Costa) - 2018
Finisterre/Muxía - 2018
Norte - (2019)
I'm sorry to read this, @Stephen, but thank you to you and to @Kevin considine for this feedback about the current situation in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. I guess sports hall means sleeping on the floor without a mattress and many people will not be carrying a pad to sleep on? It would be a killer for my back, too.

I follow the FB group of the SJPP pilgrims office. They registered over 400 pilgrims on the 1st of September and they are saying right now that the situation has been the same every day during the last 10 days. The first two weeks in September have been very busy in this section of the Camino Frances for years now but this year seems to be even busier than before.

The number of beds reserved (around 60 beds out of about 200 beds can be reserved) further on, at the Roncesvalles albergue, is a good indicator, and on this basis I can see that it will be remain busy well into next week (beyond the weekend of 14-15 September 2019).
What is the name of the FB group? I can’t find it.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF2012,Le Puy/CF 2015 Portugues 2017 Norte 2018, CF 2019
I'm sorry to read this, @Stephen, but thank you to you and to @Kevin considine for this feedback about the current situation in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. I guess sports hall means sleeping on the floor without a mattress and many people will not be carrying a pad to sleep on? It would be a killer for my back, too.

I follow the FB group of the SJPP pilgrims office. They registered over 400 pilgrims on the 1st of September and they are saying right now that the situation has been the same every day during the last 10 days. The first two weeks in September have been very busy in this section of the Camino Frances for years now but this year seems to be even busier than before.

The number of beds reserved (around 60 beds out of about 200 beds can be reserved) further on, at the Roncesvalles albergue, is a good indicator, and on this basis I can see that it will be remain busy well into next week (beyond the weekend of 14-15 September 2019).
what is the name of the facebook group for the pilgrim office I can't seem to find it. Thanks in advance
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
@ELHS220, @lt56ny, the name of the FB group is Accueil des amis du chemin de St Jacques de St Jean Pied de Port.
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
Booking ahead only makes life easier for the bookee, it does nothing to fix the problem.

Does anyone make/sell a ultralight sleeping pad?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
Am in Roncesvalles now in a wonderful bed on the top floor of the albergue. I think some people get a bit of the wrong idea of my original post. Yes it is crowded but there were still beds available yesterday in SJPP if you just showed up until 5PM. My Dutch friend, Kees, is one of the volunteers at Roncesvalles Albergue doing his 2 week stint and he says they have been filling up every night between 4 and 6 and arranging busses to take people to alternative towns.

Yes it is crowded but I rise early because I like too and have no doubt I will have no problems by simply sticking to municipal albergues and making a few reservations at private albergues. I rarely have done that in the past but am thinking it might be necessary this Camino.

I suppose I would not plan a Camino Frances Pilgrimage starting the first two weeks in September if I was doing just that. I am just coming off doing several other Caminos and this start in SJPP just kind of flowed. Still very nice things are starting to happen. I have no doubt this Camino will be as magical as my first 3 on Frances.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Sep/Oct 2018)
Camino Portugues (Sep 2020)
I understand that people don't want to book ahead - mostly because they want the freedom to decide when they want to stop. For first time pilgrims I would suggest booking the first three days well in advance - there aren't that many options for stopping between SJPdP and Pamplona, and if you didn't book Orison in advance, you're not likely to get in same day. I know this won't do anything to stop the overcrowding, but if you can't get reservations, you might want to consider moving your start date, or at least be prepared to bus / taxi to the next available town (and book ahead there). As mentioned above, things do ease a bit once you get to Pamplona. This might help alleviate some stress (and injuries) in the first few days if you don't have to race to get a bed
 

MarkyD

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés 31/08/2018 - 20/10/2018
I'm in a sports hall in SJPdP tonight with about 60 other pilgrims. I'm a bit too long in the tooth for sleeping on floors.
I left the Le Puy route yesterday because of difficulties finding beds.
I'll get the train back to Bayonne tomorrow morning, have already booked 2 nights in an hotel there, and get a flight to Dublin as soon as I can. It seems September isn't a good month for older pilgrims anymore.
Or you could go to Irun and do a bit of Camino del Norte, then 'hop' across to CF later (via bus or train or a connecting Camino route)
If you get to a town that is fully booked, one option is to get a taxi to nearest hotel/pension with availability then get taxi back in the morning (or not) to start where you left off.
Or get a bus to Vitoria-Gasteiz and start your Camino from there.
Seems a shame if you've travelled from Dublin to start the Camino and give up just because of this problem. Obviously, you know best how you feel.
 

MarkyD

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés 31/08/2018 - 20/10/2018
I am currently in Agés and despite many saying it is crowded there are still empty bunks, it was the same in Belorado. However there were many bags deposited at the entrance to my Albergue from the non-carriers .
If you avoid the end of stage stops given in the popular guide books then you should find it easier to get a bed, even without booking ahead. The problem with booking ahead is that you are then obliged to get there, but during the walk you might feel like stopping earlier - perhaps due to fatigue or just because the village is peaceful or interesting etc. Alternatively, if you're feeling good and time is in your favour, just go on one more village past the end of stage stop. There is plenty of infrastructure on the CF, but the stage start/stop towns can become bottlenecks at times.
 

Geoff Shepherd

I’m the big fella on the left.
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sep-Oct 2018
Ages is a good stopping point to avoid the crowds following "The Guide Book". It's an easy downhill from San Juan de Ortega and shortens the trip into Burgos. Check out the church if you get a chance.
I was there a few weeks ago - a great little village, the local ‘fair’ was being held that night - and the church is very simple by normal over-the-top (personal view) Spanish standards-very calming.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
Does anyone make/sell a ultralight sleeping pad?
Most of the videos I've watched on YouTube by American long trail thru-hikers have good things to say about the various ones in Thermorest's NeoAir line. The video below by Darwin of Darwin on the Trail shows it and a couple other types and discusses the pros and cons.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route.
I wonder if they are giving pilgrims pads to sleep on like the ones they hand out in the parochials? Does anyone know? I don't think it's necessary to carry a pad, is it?
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I wonder if they are giving pilgrims pads to sleep on like the ones they hand out in the parochials? Does anyone know? I don't think it's necessary to carry a pad, is it?
If I were walking at the height of pilgrimage crowds, I'd be tempted to carry one, so I can sleep a mite more comfortably under the church porch if needed.
 

Jamminclark

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances partial (May-June 2018)
Frances (2019)
I'm glad that you bring this up. It is important to be very clear about where and when these problems arise. First, so that people are not caught by surprise which apparently does happen right now to quite a few people, judging from what I currently read in the FB groups that I'm following, and secondly, so that nobody worries or even panics without reason.

@Jamminclark, you are starting on a Monday, you are starting from Pamplona, you will be walking from the middle of September onwards, and I'm predicting that it will be just fine. Please let us know how it goes if you feel like online communication while walking 🙂.

PS: As you said "restarting", I suppose you did SJPP to Pamplona earlier? Others will do the same right now. The section is a popular short stint. Many will be gone after Pamplona.
Thank you for the information. Yes I walked for 3 days May/June 2018 it was all the time we had. I have pre-booked a couple of places (Pamplona, Puente la Reina, and Lorca (short day)) and wanted to just play it by ear from there. Hopefully things will thin out after Pamplona, and I always try and avoid the main Berkey stops. If I get a chance, I would be happy to transmit some information while on the Camino.

Buen Camino! (I hope :) )
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
If I were walking at the height of pilgrimage crowds, I'd be tempted to carry one, so I can sleep a mite more comfortably under the church porch if needed.
Good idea. Bringing a ground pad (for those that do not mind the wee bit of extra weight and bulk) does add a measure of mental security/relaxation that if need be you can pull up a section of church porch or similar and crash for the night in relative comfort.
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
Zubiri can be a bottleneck too though....... Things tend to clear after Pamplona.
I never stop at Zubiri except to take a short break for refreshment so I'm clueless about what the situation is there. I do know that Zubiri has taxi service and buses, so if housing is full, one can transport to alternative locations for the night, then return to start again from Zubiri.
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
Booking ahead only makes life easier for the bookee, it does nothing to fix the problem.

Does anyone make/sell a ultralight sleeping pad?
On my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, I started using one of the Nemo Tensor ultralight air-mats as a replacement for the many NeoAir models I had used previous. Tough things, those. :)
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
On my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, I started using one of the Nemo Tensor ultralight air-mats as a replacement for the many NeoAir models I had used previous. Tough things, those. :)
So why did you use "many NeoAir models" if they are tough? ;) ;) ;)

I bought my sleeping pad (because it was wider than usual) in Athens in 1997 and I'm still using it. And not just me, mom and dad do morning stretch on it for couple of years now too :D
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
As far as ground pads go, unless one plans on using it every, or almost every night, I would not spend too much money or research into one. It would be for the possible (maybe never use it at all) circumstance of having to sleep outside for the night on the Camino. You can easily find a basic one for about a 20 spot. Maybe even get one that someone doesn't want anymore.
Say out of 35 nights on the Camino Frances you have to use the ground pad only twice. That is what? About 5% of the entire journey? No need to devote much money or resources to something you MAY only use 5% of the time. That goes for any piece of your Camino kit.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
I never stop at Zubiri except to take a short break for refreshment so I'm clueless about what the situation is there. I do know that Zubiri has taxi service and buses, so if housing is full, one can transport to alternative locations for the night, then return to start again from Zubiri.
In the 'peak' it can be booked up from Zubiri to Pamplona.... :oops:
Twice I've gone through at end of April, last year we stayed at Akerreta as a bit of a treat. People were having to walk on to Pamplona. Taxis were all used up.... But that was probably a 'wave' on top of the peak. It thinned out after Pamplona.

Roncesvalles and Zubiri seem to be becoming major 'choke' points at peak times.....
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
So why did you use "many NeoAir models" if they are tough? ;) ;) ;)

I bought my sleeping pad (because it was wider than usual) in Athens in 1997 and I'm still using it. And not just me, mom and dad do morning stretch on it for couple of years now too :D
Oops. . . The Nemo are the ones that are tough. The neoair are ok, but not quite as resilient for my use. I also find the Nemo more comfortable with no weight penalty. Sorry 'bout the mix up. :)
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Roncesvalles and Zubiri seem to be becoming major 'choke' points at peak times.....
I wonder how much the decision to close the "substandard" overflow beds in Roncesvalles a couple of years ago has contributed to the problem? The place was already manically busy the previous September (2016) when I last stayed there. A bit different from my first time there when 9 of us stayed one night in July - the largest number of pilgrims I saw in one place until I reached Santiago.
 

Evvie

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2019
@mette, @Evvie, I have given your messages a "like". Not because I like what you are reporting but because you are reporting "from the field" right now.

Were you aware beforehand that the beginning of September is an exceptionally busy period at the start of the Camino Frances?
yes, I was aware of the September popularity after reading about it here and on the Facebook forums. I got a little nervous about it as a first-timer so I booked through Pamplona. I’m really glad I did!
 

Kristie

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2016)
Ages is a good stopping point to avoid the crowds following "The Guide Book". It's an easy downhill from San Juan de Ortega and shortens the trip into Burgos. Check out the church if you get a chance.
I loved Ages. San Juan de Ortega was full, so we had to go there. Several of us put together a private table of 10 or 12, and were served dinner by the charming. Fighting couple that own the corner restaurant/deli. It was upstairs, and the building seemed hundreds of years old. The couple would scream and yell at each other in the kitchen, then come out smiling. It was like a tv show.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Am in Roncesvalles now in a wonderful bed on the top floor of the albergue. I think some people get a bit of the wrong idea of my original post. Yes it is crowded but there were still beds available yesterday in SJPP if you just showed up until 5PM. My Dutch friend, Kees, is one of the volunteers at Roncesvalles Albergue doing his 2 week stint and he says they have been filling up every night between 4 and 6 and arranging busses to take people to alternative towns.
So I understand that yesterday in Roncesvalles, the hospitalero volunteers arranged taxis for 100 or so people by 17:30 to take them to accommodation elsewhere and the albergue was full by 15:30? As someone else remarked, even when pilgrims are able to leave SJPP at 7:00 in the morning and arrive after a mere six hours in Roncesvalles at 13:00 - many first-timers are not able to walk so fast and need all day - or everyone starts from Valcarlos, there will always be 100 people who won't get a bed in Roncesvalles in times of such a large influx of camino walkers.

I am surprised that this happened mid-week. Is it simply because too many people had been following the advice that they should not start on a weekend?
 

The Kolbist

Member
Camino(s) past & future
past: Frances, inland Portuguese, Fatima
future: Del Norte, coastal Porugues, Englis
starting in Oct in SJdPP i think is the best if you dont mind the occassional 32F in Galicia w/ frost on the ground but i would rather walk in the cold than heat of the summer.
 

Jan79

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning on starting my camino frances in september 2019
I am starting my first camino from SJPDP next week, September 21st. I have booked my first night in SJPDP, but nothing after that. Do you think that the September peak is over by then?
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I am starting my first camino from SJPDP next week, September 21st. I have booked my first night in SJPDP, but nothing after that. Do you think that the September peak is over by then?
Yes I think so. The pattern in SJPP/Roncesvalles is the same every year. A peak at the beginning of May and a peak at the beginning of September (see below). The weekend of 21 September is not going to be lonely as I see from their website that the bookable beds (which is not the same as the available beds, only about a third is bookable, the rest is first come first served) are all already booked at the Roncesvalles albergue for Friday and Saturday (20+21) but it will be much calmer than it was just now.

Screenshot 2019-09-12 at 12.38.49.png
 

Rich1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (May 2015)
Camino Frances (2016-2018)
A complicated Camino from Madrid (Aug/Sep 18)
All goes to show how seasonal it is - we walked from SJPDP to Burgos starting 21st August and I was amazed how (relatively) quiet it was. It struck me as being significantly less busy than in May which is when we usually walk.
May/September are the new July/August...
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
All goes to show how seasonal it is
Not only seasonal but also regional. The fact that there was a peak in SJPP/Roncesvalles just now doesn't mean that there will be a peak in Santiago in a month's time. Only a minority of pilgrims walk from Saint-Jean to Santiago non-stop or cover the whole distance at all.
 

BROWNCOUNTYBOB

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015 & 2017) and plans for 2019 (Sept, Oct)
Don't be surprised if the shortage of beds continues beyond Pamplona. In 2017, we began our hike from St Jean on Sept 8th. Roncesvalles and Zubiri both ran out of beds. The problem continued day after day. Two weeks later, we hiked into Hornillos del Camino and arrived by noon. Fortunately we had a reservation at Casa del Abuelo (highly recommended). Pilgrims continued arriving in Hornillos throughout the afternoon. There was not a single bed available. Finally someone arranged for a van to come and pick up the unplaced pilgrims and shuttled them to the next town or two so they could have beds. Some suggest that making advance reservations limits the flexibility of when and where to stay. The risk is you won't have a bed available when you are ready to stop hiking for the day. Bob
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Pilgrims continued arriving in Hornillos throughout the afternoon. There was not a single bed available. Finally someone arranged for a van to come and pick up the unplaced pilgrims and shuttled them to the next town or two so they could have beds.
I had a quick look at Gronze.com and counted the beds available in Hornillos. About 130 beds. So, obviously, at any time, if there are more than 130 people who want to stay there, which I think is not an extraordinary high daily number, there will not be a bed for everyone in Hornillos. Even if nobody reserves in advance and everyone gets up really early and walks really fast ...

I have an idea: If someone has nothing better to do they could draw up and maintain a list with the number of beds available in every town of the CF. 🙃
 

BROWNCOUNTYBOB

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015 & 2017) and plans for 2019 (Sept, Oct)
Katharina, that's an interesting way to look at bed capacity in a town. We stayed at the municipal in Sept, 2015 and had no problem getting a bed in the municipal and found that albergue to be quite nice. In 2017, there were so many pilgrims on the trail with no beds available in several towns, we called ahead from Burgos and made a reservation for Casa del Abuelo for the following day.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
I am starting my first camino from SJPDP next week, September 21st. I have booked my first night in SJPDP, but nothing after that. Do you think that the September peak is over by then?
You will be OK. No worries.
Honestly, there is no way to predict pilgrim numbers on the Frances other than busy season, not busy season. Sometimes there are almost panicky threads on this forum about pilgrim numbers marching forth from Saint Jean. Are there at times huge numbers all leaving the same day? Of course, but the next day it may be a fraction of that amount and just a mere week later the route is almost empty. Walk without worries or concerns and be flexible.
Two things I do when I can is make reservations in Saint Jean and make reservations in Santiago. Other than that que sera sera.....
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Not quite! The old July/August is still the new July/August from Sarria to Santiago.
It will be interesting to see the actual numbers if the pilgrim office ever get around to publishing them for July and August this year. Strange that they have not been updated on the website. That usually happens very quickly after the month ends. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the figures this year are so high that they are afraid it will scare people off from starting a Camino :cool:
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route.
I am starting my first camino from SJPDP next week, September 21st. I have booked my first night in SJPDP, but nothing after that. Do you think that the September peak is over by then?
It is easy to book a bed in Roncesvalles, and I sure would.
I'd book in Zubiri also if the municipal will still be closed.
From Pamplona on, you should be fine.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
@C clearly made a suggestion on another thread that one could walk from Bayonne to Pamplona and I posted a follow-up. That walk would avoid the crowds on the early part of the CF. The post follows:

Who knows?... maybe you'll meet someone in Bayonne before SJPP, and decide to start walking from there to Pamplona! Skip SJPP entirely!
Gronze.com suggests five stages on the Camino Baztan from Bayonne to Pamplona. This also crosses the Pyrenees.

Search results on the forum for Baztan:
 

Healthful

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Siempre
I am starting my first camino from SJPDP next week, September 21st. I have booked my first night in SJPDP, but nothing after that. Do you think that the September peak is over by then?
Yes, you'll be fine without booking ahead beyond that, unless you want to stay at Orrison.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route.
Yes, you'll be fine without booking ahead beyond that, unless you want to stay at Orrison.
Well considering there are under 200 beds in Roncesvalles and there were over 400 pilgrims in SJPP yesterday, I would be a little more concerned and would probably book Roncesvalles and Zubiri. But you'll figure it out.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
The problem is that for that reason--it being something you may not use often, if at all--you may want it to be as small and light as possible. The smallest/lightest ones are quite expensive.
I tend to stray away from recommending any piece of kit that is expensive. I do not assume everyone reading these posts has gobs of disposable currency to spend say 100 euros on a fancy piece of foam/inflatable bladder. I know that many who come here are on extremely tight budgets and barely scrape enough money up to get to the Camino. I have met many pilgrims like that on the Frances. I never carry anything on the Camino so expensive I would be overly upset at losing/breaking/donating or have stolen from me. It is all just things anyway.
So I'll stick with the inexpensive ground pad advice. The basic foam pads worked quite well for me when I was in the army.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Yes, you'll be fine without booking ahead beyond that, unless you want to stay at Orrison.
It is easy to book a bed in Roncesvalles, and I sure would.
@Jan79 said that s/he will start on Saturday the 21st of September in SJPP. I mentioned it already in my reply to her/him in a tiny line that is easily overlooked so below it is in large ;). I also pointed out that they have many beds that cannot be booked.

Roncesvalles 21 Sept.jpg
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I may be wrong but I follow the time-honoured example of giving advice on the basis that what I would do is what others would do 😇.

I've slept in the open air in the Grand Canyon where it started to rain a bit. I've slept in the open air in the Sahara desert in February where it was near 0 ºC at night. I've slept on Thermarests and on foam pads at 4500 m altitude. I know that I and my neck and my back that is much older now than it was then - and it was already past its prime then - no longer want to sleep in a porch and not even on a gym mat. Especially not when it's cold in the open air, when it rains, and when the church doesn't even have a porch (I looked at a lot of churches along the CF in great detail).

Without hesitation, I would call a taxi to get to a bed forwards, backwards or sidewards. There are plenty of free beds in Navarra and in every other region along the CF. 🙃
 
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Jamminclark

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances partial (May-June 2018)
Frances (2019)
You might find a free ground mat if you want one at various Albergues. When I stayed in Roncesvalles end of May 2018 there were a couple at the dump/donation table.

20180530_183344.jpg
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route.
@Jan79 said that s/he will start on Saturday the 21st of September in SJPP. I mentioned it already in my reply to her/him in a tiny line that is easily overlooked so below it is in large ;). I also pointed out that they have many beds that cannot be booked.

View attachment 64676
I sense some frustration, Katharina.
I have scrolled back and this is the first time I've seen this post.
I apologize; I must be going blind.
I guess I'm old. lol!
 

Stephen

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Twice walked from St Jean to Estella and once from Sarria to Santiago. Maybe someday I'll find the time to do the entire walk.
I've found the time. Just completed SJPP to Santiago. 25 Aug to 1st Oct, 2016.
And now the Portuguese from Lisbon.
People they will give you a mat in SJPP at the gymnasium.
They didn't give us mats. One young lady brought her own inflatable matress. She must have had a comfortable nights sleep as she was the last one up.
 

Ptermini

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(10/2018)
ThermaRest makes a very light, comfortable, small backpacking sleeping pad. Well worth the $100
 

RRat

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning 2017
There’s got to be close to a hundred people in line at the Pilgrim’s Office at 4:30 today. Locals are saying the first two weeks in September are always the most crowded. Second most crowded is a stretch in May! By 5PM it seemed all the albergues and hostals on Rue de la Citadelle were full. Should be an interesting Camino. 😂

PS:

Just talked with nice Australian woman at Pilgrims Office and she told me they told the pilgrims arriving yesterday to wait a day if they could as today was dark and rainy. Hence there are well over 500 pilgrims queued up for a hopefully a beautiful day tomorrow. The locals are opening the gymnasium and providing mats for late arrivers aas the night train is coming in soon.
You are encountering the Senior Citizen wave. Many of us Seniors wait until September to avoid the summer rush, creating a Sep/Oct rush.
 

Zita Stumhofer

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (2019)
If you avoid the end of stage stops given in the popular guide books then you should find it easier to get a bed, even without booking ahead. The problem with booking ahead is that you are then obliged to get there, but during the walk you might feel like stopping earlier - perhaps due to fatigue or just because the village is peaceful or interesting etc. Alternatively, if you're feeling good and time is in your favour, just go on one more village past the end of stage stop. There is plenty of infrastructure on the CF, but the stage start/stop towns can become bottlenecks at times.
Buen Camino!

First-time pilgrim currently in the albergue in Lorca. Yes, it seems to be heavier traffic than usual, according to hosts. However, beds are available and the hosts will call ahead to find you one, if necessary.

Definitely seems to be a good recommendation to avoid the popular "end of stage" stops (and a few other aggravations people find in larger groups) and maybe call to book a place only a few hours out as you approach the end of YOUR day's walk, according to your needs and rhythm.

If you book ahead, though, one thing to please keep in mind: IF YOU MAKE A RESERVATION and you stop for the night elsewhere, call and cancel so they can give the bed away. Hosts are very understanding, but I've heard two express their frustration after turning away bed-seeking pilgrims and then having no-shows.

Again, buen Camino!
 

taigirl

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2019
There’s got to be close to a hundred people in line at the Pilgrim’s Office at 4:30 today. Locals are saying the first two weeks in September are always the most crowded. Second most crowded is a stretch in May! By 5PM it seemed all the albergues and hostals on Rue de la Citadelle were full. Should be an interesting Camino. 😂

PS:

Just talked with nice Australian woman at Pilgrims Office and she told me they told the pilgrims arriving yesterday to wait a day if they could as today was dark and rainy. Hence there are well over 500 pilgrims queued up for a hopefully a beautiful day tomorrow. The locals are opening the gymnasium and providing mats for late arrivers aas the night train is coming in soon.
Just past Logrono. So many on the path and a bed race every night. Very hot.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
I'm in a sports hall in SJPdP tonight with about 60 other pilgrims. I'm a bit too long in the tooth for sleeping on floors.
I left the Le Puy route yesterday because of difficulties finding beds.
I'll get the train back to Bayonne tomorrow morning, have already booked 2 nights in an hotel there, and get a flight to Dublin as soon as I can. It seems September isn't a good month for older pilgrims anymore.
Sorry to hear that Stephen. I think if you walk early and strong in rhythm you are fine and if you prefer slower and afternoon walking then booking the first few nights makes sense at the most bisy times of year.
 

NancyLee

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
First Camino Mar-April 2018
Currently in Mansilla. We have been booking ahead as albergues are filling up. Our goal tomorrow is León, so most definitely booked. Also wanted to note that we are a cross section of ages in this current ‘stream/parade’ of Peregrinos. Weather has been hot last couple days so we start early. Tomorrow is rain but warm.
Ola from festival in Mansilla, 🇪🇸
NancyLee
 

Bob from L.A. !

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis 2012, 2014, 2016. Camino Norte 2018. Many more to come in my future God willing !
Great thread. I'm glad I stumbled onto it. Would anyone know if starting in September is busy like this on all Caminos or just CF? I am/(was) starting to think about a September (2020) start for the Portuguese.
Any info would be appreciated............
 

AlexanderAZ

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017 (Sept/Oct): CF: SJPdP-->Fisterra-->Muxia (solo)
2019 (late Sept): CF: SJPdP-->Leon (honeymoon!)
You are encountering the Senior Citizen wave. Many of us Seniors wait until September to avoid the summer rush, creating a Sep/Oct rush.
During my 2017 Sept/Oct walk we referred to this as “the grey wave”. ;) I’ll be there in less than 2 weeks and anticipate the same. I am confident in my strategy to manage any wave.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
You are encountering the Senior Citizen wave. Many of us Seniors wait until September to avoid the summer rush, creating a Sep/Oct rush.
I would agree with that. Ive been walking since July 22 and the Frances is loaded with seniors right now.
 

Jackie Robinson

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
First Time this year
Last time I walked the Francés I took the Valcarlos route and stayed in the albergue there. A leisurely breakfast in SJPDP watching the eager beavers rush off to the Napoleon, then a lovely walk through the Basque countryside (with a stop off at Arnéguy for coffee and a meander through the duty free shops), then on to Valcarlos and the excellent albergue there, where I stayed. Only two pilgrims in the albergue, a scrumptious dinner meal, and the next day a stroll through the beach woods, and I arrived in Roncesvalles ahead of the Napoleon crowd, with no trouble getting a bed.
I took the Napoleon route first time around and whilst it was a hard slog I’m still glad I opted to give it a go but would take the Valcarlos route next time as I’d heard it was an enjoyable route.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
@mette, @Evvie, I have given your messages a "like". Not because I like what you are reporting but because you are reporting "from the field" right now.

Were you aware beforehand that the beginning of September is an exceptionally busy period at the start of the Camino Frances?
Yes this is my 11th Camino and 4th time going through SJPP. I just finished De Madrid and did Aragones, Irish(English) and Invierno in July and August. So as we walked de Madrid and got close to Sahagun we thought why not train to Pamplona and do Frances from SJPP. I have no problem with the crowds. As you said I was simply stating a fact. But have had a lovely time. Have no reservation tomorrow but there are lots of municipal and parish unreservable beds there and our rhythm is to start early and we walk relatively fast. When necessary we may make reservations again. In my 3 previous trips I only made reservations a few times in SJPP and Santiago only.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances(15,16,18)CheminduPuy(16) Portuguese(16 VDLP(17)Primitivo(17)Ireland-3000K(18) Norte18Vasco17
There’s got to be close to a hundred people in line at the Pilgrim’s Office at 4:30 today. Locals are saying the first two weeks in September are always the most crowded. Second most crowded is a stretch in May! By 5PM it seemed all the albergues and hostals on Rue de la Citadelle were full. Should be an interesting Camino. 😂

PS:

Just talked with nice Australian woman at Pilgrims Office and she told me they told the pilgrims arriving yesterday to wait a day if they could as today was dark and rainy. Hence there are well over 500 pilgrims queued up for a hopefully a beautiful day tomorrow. The locals are opening the gymnasium and providing mats for late arrivers aas the night train is coming in soon.
Follow up to my original post. On 11 September, according to my Dutch friend who is a volunteer hospitalero there September 6-20 the Roncesvalles Abbey’s 217 beds (around 300 total in Roncesvalles) were filled by 3:30 and they set a record for needing 15 taxis to take over 100 pilgrims to other accommodations. I was talking with him in the lobby at 9:30PM when a final pilgrim walked in all red from the cold. He just informed me that today they were completo again for like over 2 weeks consecutively. Positively, they needed no taxis. Perhaps the numbers have peaked and things will ease up for pilgrims starting over the next few days and weeks.
 

RRat

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning 2017
Follow up to my original post. On 11 September, according to my Dutch friend who is a volunteer hospitalero there September 6-20 the Roncesvalles Abbey’s 217 beds (around 300 total in Roncesvalles) were filled by 3:30 and they set a record for needing 15 taxis to take over 100 pilgrims to other accommodations. I was talking with him in the lobby at 9:30PM when a final pilgrim walked in all red from the cold. He just informed me that today they were completo again for like over 2 weeks consecutively. Positively, they needed no taxis. Perhaps the numbers have peaked and things will ease up for pilgrims starting over the next few days and weeks.
I was part of one of those last minute taxi runs Sept 2018. Stressful at first but taxi driver called ahead to an Alburgue not expecting a small crowd. Alburgue was eagerly waiting for is when we arrived. Our group of strangers had now become a close knit family. Dinner was joyous.
 

Jim

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006- Camino Portuguese
2008- Camino Frances
2009- Sanabres extension of the VDLP
2010- Camino Frances
2011- Camino Potuguese
2014- Camino Frances
2017- Camino Finisterre
I would add O Cebreiro as another tight spot on the Camino Frances. Once on the trail and seeing how you are pacing yourself, I would advise booking for that town.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
@C clearly made a suggestion on another thread that one could walk from Bayonne to Pamplona and I posted a follow-up. That walk would avoid the crowds on the early part of the CF. The post follows:
Or walk from there to Irun and on to either Santo Domingo or Burgos on the Vasco Interior/Via de Bayona.
Both they and the Baztanes are beautiful (and authentic) caminos.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
Great thread. I'm glad I stumbled onto it. Would anyone know if starting in September is busy like this on all Caminos or just CF? I am/(was) starting to think about a September (2020) start for the Portuguese.
Any info would be appreciated............
I just finished the Portuguese yesterday. Started the first week of September from Porto. Not too many pilgrims until Tui, then the crowds began.
 

truenorthpilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Sept-Nov 2016)
Camino Podiensis/Le Puy (Sept 2019)
Camino Frances (Oct 2019)
Last time I walked the Francés I took the Valcarlos route and stayed in the albergue there. A leisurely breakfast in SJPDP watching the eager beavers rush off to the Napoleon, then a lovely walk through the Basque countryside (with a stop off at Arnéguy for coffee and a meander through the duty free shops), then on to Valcarlos and the excellent albergue there, where I stayed. Only two pilgrims in the albergue, a scrumptious dinner meal, and the next day a stroll through the beech woods, and I arrived in Roncesvalles ahead of the Napoleon crowd, with no trouble getting a bed.
I’m totally doing this in a few weeks.
 
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weiho

Wei Ho
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances , September/October 2018
I'm in a sports hall in SJPdP tonight with about 60 other pilgrims. I'm a bit too long in the tooth for sleeping on floors.
I left the Le Puy route yesterday because of difficulties finding beds.
I'll get the train back to Bayonne tomorrow morning, have already booked 2 nights in an hotel there, and get a flight to Dublin as soon as I can. It seems September isn't a good month for older pilgrims anymore.
later september is good. i started my on 19th last year. thr weath was very pleseant and it was quiet all the way to santiago. never had problem finding a bed once.
 

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