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The Camino does NOT start in StJpdP - discuss

Bradypus

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Too many and too often!
In the same Peregrino edition, there'a also a report of 20 young Spanish guys, aged 15-18 years, who walked from Roncesvalles to Santiago in 21 and a half days. Their daily schedule (the times when they get up, when they eat, when they rest) is a bit different from today's Roncesvalles-Santiago pilgrims. Also, they proclaim one member of their group as the "king of the pilgrimage" at Monte del Gozo, and when they reach the town of Santiago itself, they walk barefoot through the streets to the Cathedral.
My first Camino was slightly later in summer 1990. I walked from SJPDP to Santiago in 23 days - so not all that different from these younger people. That sort of time scale would not have been particularly unusual then. There were quite a few long stages between refugios. Private accommodation was also in very short supply. The daily pattern of walking then was often very different from today's norm. With no bed race and frequent long stages people would not normally stop at noon or 1pm as is quite common now. My own preference was to stop for my main meal at lunchtime if possible, rest for an hour or so, then carrying on walking until early evening. Others I met did likewise. As the menu peregrino did not yet exist restaurant meals were served at conventional Spanish hours with an evening meal rarely available before 9pm. Refugios were not usually staffed and there was no general 10pm curfew so eating later was not a problem provided you could stay awake for long enough! If I had found a substantial lunch on a given day then I rarely ate a full evening meal and more often had a bocadillo instead at an earlier time. I know that quite a few people chose to walk the final km or two barefoot though it was not a common practice even in 1990.
 
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Marc S.

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I'm actually more intrigued by the 10% - nearly 400 Compostela recipients - who are recorded as parte a pie. And what does this drawing in the infographic mean? Are the pilgrims changing the tires on their car?

Parte a pie means, 'partially by foot' is that right ? Apparently this was large segment in those days. Just stumbled upon a 1991 article in the Jacobsstaf containing a detailed report of a meeting of the Asociaciones de la Amigos del Camino, that advices that pilgrim passports will no longer be issued to pilgrims who travel partly by foot / partly by vehicle (car). Also the meeting advies that it will specifically forbidden for drivers of following cars / support cars (don't know the correct term in English) to stay in albergues. According to the article, this caused serious problems during previous years. I can also imagine that some of them walked one day, then drove the car the next day, (and then changed the tires the next day ....)
 
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My first Camino was slightly later in summer 1990. I walked from SJPDP to Santiago in 23 days - so not all that different from these younger people. That sort of time scale would not have been particularly unusual then. There were quite a few long stages between refugios. Private accommodation was also in very short supply. The daily pattern of walking then was often very different from today's norm. With no bed race and frequent long stages people would not normally stop at noon or 1pm as is quite common now. My own preference was to stop for my main meal at lunchtime if possible, rest for an hour or so, then carrying on walking until early evening. Others I met did likewise. As the menu peregrino did not yet exist restaurant meals were served at conventional Spanish hours with an evening meal rarely available before 9pm. Refugios were not usually staffed and there was no general 10pm curfew so eating later was not a problem provided you could stay awake for long enough! If I had found a substantial lunch on a given day then I rarely ate a full evening meal and more often had a bocadillo instead at an earlier time. I know that quite a few people chose to walk the final km or two barefoot though it was not a common practice even in 1990.

That sounds like a wonderful way to walk, especially in summer - much more in tune with the Spanish daily rhythm, avoiding walking in the heat of the day, and probably easier on your feet.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
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1989
I'm actually more intrigued by the 10% - nearly 400 Compostela recipients - who are recorded as parte a pie. And what does this drawing in the infographic mean? Are the pilgrims changing the tires on their car?

When I did the Camino in 1989, I did it parte a pie, a mixture of walking and hitchhiking. I wasn't one of the 400, though. When I arrived in Santiago I was much more focused on the cathedral than on the Compostela and didn't ask for one. While I was certainly aware of people walking the who Camino then, there were also people driving it.

I got my first Compostela in 2016, when I walked the whole way (except for the stretch between Tosantos and Villafranca Montes de Oca).
 
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I came across a recent article about the Compostela boom in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port that says that it was only during the early years of this century (ie from 2000 onwards) that SJPP became a global rallying point for those who want to start this ever more popular walk to Santiago.

And they are a manna for the locals, says the article. Between 65 000 and 70 000 pilgrims from 114 nationalities pass every year through the paved streets, with up to 500 pilgrims each day in May and September. They eat, drink and buy, they spend a night and take the road to Roncesvalles the next morning. Numerous inhabitants have made use of the opportunities and converted all or part of their homes into a gîte d'étape, an albergue or dormitories, in addition to the dozens of chambres d'hôtes. SJPP has now at least 470 beds for the pilgrims who pass through the town.

A town of 1 800 inhabitants with 140 shops, 25 restaurants (including one with Michelin stars) and a few bars, all spread out over the three main roads. The Boutique du pèlerin is mentioned, started 10 years ago by a former pilgrim, and also Express Bourricot who started at the same time and have now five employees.

And les voyageurs haut de gamme sont de plus en plus nombreux, and all this is expected to increase.

Leave no trace? Ha, we have quite an impact. ;)

Source: L'impact du pèlerinage de Compostelle sur Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
 
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Bradypus

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Too many and too often!
I came across a recent article about the Compostela boom in Saint-Jacques-Pied-de-Port that says that it was only during the early years of this century (ie from 2000 onwards) that SJPP became a global rallying point for those who want to start this ever popular walk to Santiago.
I have to disagree. SJPDP was being thought of as the principal starting point for non-Spanish pilgrims as far back as 1985 when my own mother-in-law walked the Camino Frances as part of a large group. Roncesvalles was generally regarded as the start by most Spanish pilgrims then as now. By the time I walked in 1990 the UK's Confraternity of St James was publishing an A5 pamphlet supplement to Valina's guidebook which presumed that the majority of readers would begin at SJPDP. The numbers may have been ludicrously small by today's standards but SJPDP had clearly acquired a special prominence long before the millenium.
 
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I have to disagree. SJPDP was being thought of as the principal starting point for non-Spanish pilgrims as far back as 1985 when my own mother-in-law walked the Camino Frances as part of a large group. Roncesvalles was generally regarded as the start by most Spanish pilgrims then as now. By the time I walked in 1990 the UK's Confraternity of St James was publishing an A5 pamphlet supplement to Valina's guidebook which presumed that the majority of readers would begin at SJPDP. The numbers may have been ludicrously small by today's standards but SJPDP had clearly acquired a special prominence long before the millenium.
It is good to point this out. I guess the article was trying to express that the pilgrimage boom in SJPP took off in the years around 2000 and that SJPP is now a global rallying point, with so many people from nearly all nationalities from around the globe now represented. It's perhaps no coincidence but a sign of this development that this particular forum with its specific audience was started in 2004.

All the Camino related online forums that I knew of in 2003 when I looked around for the first time were quite country specific and their forum language was rarely English. At that time, I was definitely not aware that SJPP was more than just yet another place you pass through on your way to Santiago. In fact, shortly afterwards I happened to meet, in other contexts, people who had already walked to Santiago, and that gave me the impression that one starts either in Le Puy or in Arles or Toulouse or Bordeaux or any town that was close to where they happened to live and that was on one of the established pilgrimage roads. SJPP wasn't mentioned.
 
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longwalker60

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
09/2018
I came across a recent article about the Compostela boom in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port that says that it was only during the early years of this century (ie from 2000 onwards) that SJPP became a global rallying point for those who want to start this ever more popular walk to Santiago.

And they are a manna for the locals, says the article. Between 65 000 and 70 000 pilgrims from 114 nationalities pass every year through the paved streets, with up to 500 pilgrims each day in May and September. They eat, drink and buy, they spend a night and take the road to Roncesvalles the next morning. Numerous inhabitants have made use of the opportunities and converted all or part of their homes into a gîte d'étape, an albergue or dormitories, in addition to the dozens of chambres d'hôtes. SJPP has now at least 470 beds for the pilgrims who pass through the town.

A town of 1 800 inhabitants with 140 shops, 25 restaurants (including one with Michelin stars) and a few bars, all spread out over the three main roads. The Boutique du pèlerin is mentioned, started 10 years ago by a former pilgrim, and also Express Bourricot who started at the same time and have now five employees.

And les voyageurs haut de gamme sont de plus en plus nombreux, and all this is expected to increase.

Leave no trace? Ha, we have quite an impact. ;)

Source: L'impact du pèlerinage de Compostelle sur Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
You can start your camino walk anywhere. Look at all those that do only the last 100 km in Sarria. What about those that leave their front door in Sweden, Italy or some other country. I do think SJPP has become more popular due to the movie "The Way" and the many of the guidebooks have noted it as a starting point. That being said, when I walked, I walked from SJPP. I am so glad I did. It made it challenging, most memorable and certainly brought me to question, if I bit off more then what I could chew. A humbling experience. Wish I could go back tomorrow. Good luck to all those that walk...no matter where you start!
 

AlwynWellington

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You can start your camino anywhere.

The convergence of three of the major routes through France just a few days walk before Saint-Jean must surely help to make the town what it is.

And those routes are themselves "collector" routes for those starting in northern or central European countries.

And, arguably, Saint-Jean is at one end of the more benign crossing of the central Pyrenees.

Kia kaha (take care, be strong, get going)
 
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I saw some numbers on the website of the SJJP Camino Association. I don't know whether it proves the point of the article or not, I'm just adding this for info. All figures are rounded figures.

In 1995, they welcomed 2,000 pilgrims in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Then we have:

Year1999200020012002200320042005
Pilgrims7,00010,00014,00017,00018,00022,00024,000

Then 36,000 in 2010 and 54,000 pilgrims in 2015. And during this current year 2019, they will have welcomed around 61,000 pilgrims.

BTW, the Compostela Holy Years were 1999, 2004 and 2010.
 
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Bradypus

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Too many and too often!
In 1993, they welcomed 2,000 pilgrims in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
Interesting. In 1993 the pilgrim office in Santiago issued 99,436 Compostelas. It is quite likely that a few pilgrims left SJPDP without calling in at the pilgrim office there and were not counted. But the comparison would seem to suggest that in 1993 only about 2% of those who received Compostelas started in SJPDP while last year the figure was 10%. A blip caused by far greater numbers of short-distance pilgrims in the 1993 Holy Year? Or evidence that SJPDP has grown in significance over the years?
 
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Interesting. In 1993 the pilgrim office in Santiago issued 99,436 Compostelas. It is quite likely that a few pilgrims left SJPDP without calling in at the pilgrim office there and were not counted. But the comparison would seem to suggest that in 1993 only about 2% of those who received Compostelas started in SJPDP while last year the figure was 10%. A blip caused by far greater numbers of short-distance pilgrims in the 1993 Holy Year? Or evidence that SJPDP has grown in significance over the years?
Sorry, I was still fiddling around with the table and checking on my typos when you answered. It was 1995, not 1993.
 
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I have enjoyed reading all the various views on SJPdP being the definitive starting point for the Frances and the reasons why. It seems to me that this is now acquired wisdom rightly or wrongly. I told friends I was intending to walk the Camino but always added “But only a bit of it” as my chosen start point was Ponferrada. The ‘whole thing’ is still niggling me and so I suppose SJPdP will be my aim
 
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JabbaPapa

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I have to disagree. SJPDP was being thought of as the principal starting point for non-Spanish pilgrims as far back as 1985 when my own mother-in-law walked the Camino Frances as part of a large group.

1985 is "recently". But well, I agree that Kathar1na is mistaken in commencing this business of confluence into SJPP and starting there in this Century.

But SJPP has always been a gathering point for people from several pathways, which dates back to mediaeval times. But "gathering point" is not "starting point".
 

JabbaPapa

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I have enjoyed reading all the various views on SJPdP being the definitive starting point for the Frances

It isn't.

French-pilgrimage-pilgrim-map.jpg
 
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If anyone is interested, the source for the SJPP numbers, including some interpretative blurb, is here:

I should really be doing something else right now but here's something I noticed that may be interesting: in 2005 for example, around 66 % of those counted by the SJPP Welcome Office had actually started walking in SJPP and the rest had started elsewhere, so that's a third or every third pilgrim. The majority of those had started on the road from Le Puy.

Edited to add: However, only 15% of the French pilgrims counted in SJPP started in SJPP in 2005: the overwhelming majority of the French pilgrims had started walking elsewhere in 2005. So this fits nicely with my earlier observation that those people that I met in a different context, away from the Camino, around that time and who had already walked to Santiago, did not put any emphasis on SJPP as a starting point.
 
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The view from the SJPP Pilgrims Office about when the boom started in SJPP (Année jacquaire means Holy Year). Apparently, 1996 was the year when the SJPP Camino association were first tasked with running the Welcome Office and producing their statistics.
SJPP data.jpg
Some details:
Year199619971998199920002001200220032004
Pilgrims​
1,300​
2,000​
2,900​
7,000​
10,000​
14,000​
17,000​
18,000​
22,000​
 
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David Tallan

Veteran Member
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1989
The view from the SJPP Pilgrims Office about when the boom started in SJPP (Année jacquaire means Holy Year). Apparently, 1996 was the year when the SJPP Camino association were first tasked with running the Welcome Office and producing their statistics.
View attachment 67979
Some details:
Year199619971998199920002001200220032004
Pilgrims​
1,300​
2,000​
2,900​
7,000​
10,000​
14,000​
17,000​
18,000​
22,000​
Interesting. There is definitely a big leap in the 1999 Holy Year but I don't see a similar noticeable increase in 2004 or 2010. The increase from 2003 to 2004 seems less than the increase from 2006 to 2007, and the increase from 2009 to 2010 is much less than the increase from 2010 to 2011.

It seems that most of the large increases in pilgrims in 2004 and 2010 came from pilgrims who started closer to SdC than SJPP.
 
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It seems that most of the large increases in pilgrims in 2004 and 2010 came from pilgrims who started closer to SdC than SJPP.
The huge increase in numbers for the Holy Year 2010 came from pilgrims who started closer to SdC than SJPP and it came mainly from Spanish pilgrims. I played around with the numbers a bit recently (I'm trying to acquaint myself with a different spreadsheet program than Excel) and it's stunning at first to see how the figures changed from 2009 to 2011, both throughout the year and for Spanish pilgrims and non-Spanish pilgrims in comparison. The non-Spanish pilgrims barely left a mark on the 2010 Holy Year figures.

2009-2011 by month.jpg
 
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O yippee, more numbers:

About 6,600 pilgrims from the USA were registered by the Pilgrims Office in SJPP in 2019, i.e. only a little over 10% of the total number of those who started in SJPP or passed through, or every 10th pilgrim, but their contingent has now climbed to 2nd place in the list of nationalities, in hot pursuit of the French who are still in 1st place and ahead of the Spanish in place 3. Also:
  • a total of about 61,000 pilgrims were registered in SJPP in 2019, a new all-time record
  • a little over 5% of them, about 3,400 pilgrims, arrived from the French side and ended their walk in SJPP
  • the overwhelming majority, nearly 95% or 57,000 pilgrims, started in SJPP or continued walking
    • nearly all of them chose the Camino Frances
  • about 60 pilgrims (out of those who were registered) were on their way back from Spain.
Obviously, not every pilgrim who walks through the Porte de l"Espagne is included in these statistics ...
Source: FB group Accueil des amis du chemin de St Jacques de SJPP
 
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dick bird

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Members will be aware that I am neither a contrarian nor a provocateur but that I do like, now and again, to ask questions a little beyond which is the best bar to discuss the best sleeping bag in.

So, as I viewed a thread started by a new member who is flying into Madrid and probably training it to Pamplona asking how to get from there to a small provincial French town in the western foothills of the Pyrenees, I wondered, again, why do people think that the Camino starts in St Jean pied de Porte?

Our new member could start walking to the shrine of Santiago from Pamplona, as many do. They could, if they were determined to travel away from Santiago before walking to Santiago, have made their way to historic Roncesvalles. They could, if they wanted to, head for Somport or Irun or even Barcelona but everyone wants to get to StJpdP and then leave it the following morning via a potentially crippling walk up and over a thumping great hill for no other reason that I can discern than "that its there" (Mallory, I forgive you) or because that is where their guide book starts.

With all due respects to @Monasp and the good folk of the Bureau des pèlerins de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Why?
Santiago became a pilgrimage site in the ninth century when most of Spain was still under the control of the Moors. If you had tried walking across the meseta via Pamplona, Burgos and Leon at that time you would have been deprived of your head, personal property or more likely both, either by the Moorish soldiery or Christian bandits. Pilgrims had to keep to the coastal areas, north of the mountains (which were what helped the locals keep the Moors out). Most, in fact, sailed to somewhere along the coast then headed inland, hence the 'Primitivo' (which in Spanish means original or first rather than crude and unformed) from Oviedo, or the Inglés from A Coruña. Later on, pilgrims from east France, Germany, Italy etc would have found it convenient to cross the Pyrenees as soon as practicable, i.e. Somport, hence the Chemin D'Arles becomes the Aragonés from Canfranc (check out the station) to Óbanos. I've met pilgrims obsessed with the 'historic route'. One look at (for example) an old Ordnance Survey map will show you how even modern roads shift and change course. There are reservoirs, airports, industrial estates not to mention motorways above where our forebears would have walked. As one contributor has pointed out, mediaeval pilgrims would have gone from village to village relying on pilgrims coming the other way for directions. And I suspect Fr Elias did not have a passport anyway.

You know what? The camino starts from wherever you start walking. Buen camino, friends.
 
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MichaelC

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One thing that I think gets lost in these discussions, and which the recent BBC In Our Time podcast reminded me of, was that medieval pilgrims went from shrine to shrine, not just from their home in a direct line to Santiago de Compostela (or to Rome, or to Jerusalem).

The first international delegation to head to Santiago was led by the bishop Godelasc of Le Puy in 950. Subsequent Gascon and French pilgrims would pay homage to the local shrine to the Black Madonna at Le Puy, and then stop to pay homage at the major shrines, icons, and reliquaries at Conques, Rocamadour, Moissac, and St. Jean Pied de Port before crossing the Pyrenees to Roncesvaux and across Spain.

I don't know that the other passes have as important a connection to medieval Christianity as St Jean and Roncesvaux. And we read chronicles from León complaining about all the Gascon and French pilgrims ... but not Germans, Dutch, Italians, etc. ... & I would conclude that Le Puy en Velay, in fact, is the one and only true starting point of a proper Camino de Santiago! *

(* but only light-heartedly. Obviously our modern Camino is not the medieval Camino, and the true 'starting point' is an individual decision).

(Side note: Rocamadour didn't make the cut for the modern Via Podiensis route; and the Abbey at Conques had to cheat early-on by stealing an reliquary from another abbey in order to get pilgrims to divert from the main route to stop there. It's a great story, see the BBC podcast above).

(Side note two: Alessandro Barbero recently did an episode on the crusading era, and he discusses how even the first crusade started as a type of pilgrimage related to the pilgrimage to Santiago, but that one wasn't an official part of the action until one "took the cross" (L'epopea - Le crociate - sorry, Italian only). )
 

RENSHAW

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A revived thread but good.
The Frances as most people say , starts where you choose.
I must admit that to start from Pamplona is something I did so many times , even taking the number 10 bus to Cizur Menor? I also took a bus a half a dozen times to Roncesvalles and I certainly benefited , experiencing a world that you may not see on the rest of the Frances? In 2003 there were elderly Bask peasants working in the fields , it traditional dress.
Merely from a romance point of view , I would like to some day start from SSPDP. ........... but that first day can be such a killer and I have seen many a pilgrim just push to hard for the first few days and then have to go home? You may have found it easy , me with my 'Ducks Disease' not ; as I have to take twice as many steps.
Starting at Burgos is also a preference and even Logróno ( I would have to double back for Viana.) , Navarra is a must to me?
If I had the money , I would take a bus or taxi to Zubiri and spend a night in that beautiful quaint hotel at the end of town. I have been there before after an all day rain affair from Roncesvalles. They offered a pilgrim special , I booked in and soaked in a hot bath followed by a power nap , I then changed for dinner. I had been upgraded to the silver class meal which include the obligatory sweet and cognac trolly. I joined another solitary pilgrim who had booked through 'Planet' and they had mapped out and booked an entire Camino for him , but in those days Spain was a lot cheaper.
 
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The first international delegation to head to Santiago was led by the bishop Godelasc of Le Puy in 950.
To be more precise, the bishop is the first international Santiago pilgrim known by name. Sources speak of other pilgrims who came from very far away before him but their names are not known. Nor is anything known about where the bishop or these earlier pilgrims first set foot on the territory of what is today's Spain.
 
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we read chronicles from León complaining about all the Gascon and French pilgrims ... but not Germans, Dutch, Italians, etc. ...
The thought occurred to me that what is often translated as "French" today is not what it meant in those days. The (Latin) word Francus denoted anyone who came from the vast area on the other side of the Pyrenees and that included not only what is today's France but also the area of today's Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands and adjoining areas of west-north Germany in particular. To translate Francus/Franci as French or Franks in this context is not necessarily correct. Someone wrote that the word was used in a similar way as gringo is used today for example. It denoted any foreigner who looked and sounded like these people from far away; the word was usually not associated with any or much negativity.

A famous refrain ("ultreia e suseia") in the Latin pilgrim song about Saint James ("Dum pater familias") is written in a dialect from the area, i.e. it's neither German nor Flemish/Dutch but something in-between. But hey, their language and their refrain made it into the Codex Calixtinus!

The majority of these pilgrims crossed the Pyrenees, i.e. they travelled by land and not by sea. In contrast to contemporary pilgrims, who don't pick the easiest crossing into Spain, which today obviously would be the coast, and who prefer to walk the more scenic route from SJPP to Roncesvalles, their choice was driven by available infrastructure (a lot more scarce than today) and safety concerns (very different from today).
 
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According to Sumption in his book, the Venetians organised the first "pilgrimage package" to Jerusalem hundreds of years ago. The Venetians were preferred as they were trusted to deliver rather than make off with the cash.

Seems there is nothing new in this world.
 
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MichaelC

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2023
The thought occurred to me that what is often translated as "French" today is not what it meant in those days. The (Latin) word Francus denoted anyone who came from the vast area on the other side of the Pyrenees and that included not only what is today's France but also the area of today's Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands and adjoining areas of west-north Germany in particular. To translate Francus/Franci as French or Franks in this context is not necessarily correct.

Good point! I didn't even think of that; I've just always gone along with the idea that the Camino Francés was the road of the French rather than the road of the Franks ... but it makes so much sense now that you point it out.
 

Squeak

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Members will be aware that I am neither a contrarian nor a provocateur but that I do like, now and again, to ask questions a little beyond which is the best bar to discuss the best sleeping bag in.

So, as I viewed a thread started by a new member who is flying into Madrid and probably training it to Pamplona asking how to get from there to a small provincial French town in the western foothills of the Pyrenees, I wondered, again, why do people think that the Camino starts in St Jean pied de Porte?

Our new member could start walking to the shrine of Santiago from Pamplona, as many do. They could, if they were determined to travel away from Santiago before walking to Santiago, have made their way to historic Roncesvalles. They could, if they wanted to, head for Somport or Irun or even Barcelona but everyone wants to get to StJpdP and then leave it the following morning via a potentially crippling walk up and over a thumping great hill for no other reason that I can discern than "that its there" (Mallory, I forgive you) or because that is where their guide book starts.

With all due respects to @Monasp and the good folk of the Bureau des pèlerins de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Why?
I have completed 3 Caminos none of which started in SJPdP :D :D I think is just become the "norm" for people travelling the "French" route to start in France. It makes sense to people. BTW I've done the Norte, VdP and Portuguese route i have no current intention of walking the "French Way", I am concerned i would find it to commercial and populated.
 
A revived thread but good.
The Frances as most people say , starts where you choose.
I must admit that to start from Pamplona is something I did so many times , even taking the number 10 bus to Cizur Menor? I also took a bus a half a dozen times to Roncesvalles and I certainly benefited , experiencing a world that you may not see on the rest of the Frances? In 2003 there were elderly Bask peasants working in the fields , it traditional dress.
Merely from a romance point of view , I would like to some day start from SSPDP. ........... but that first day can be such a killer and I have seen many a pilgrim just push to hard for the first few days and then have to go home? You may have found it easy , me with my 'Ducks Disease' not ; as I have to take twice as many steps.
Starting at Burgos is also a preference and even Logróno ( I would have to double back for Viana.) , Navarra is a must to me?
If I had the money , I would take a bus or taxi to Zubiri and spend a night in that beautiful quaint hotel at the end of town. I have been there before after an all day rain affair from Roncesvalles. They offered a pilgrim special , I booked in and soaked in a hot bath followed by a power nap , I then changed for dinner. I had been upgraded to the silver class meal which include the obligatory sweet and cognac trolly. I joined another solitary pilgrim who had booked through 'Planet' and they had mapped out and booked an entire Camino for him , but in those days Spain was a lot cheaper.
@RENSHAW, you are truly a "Man for All Reasons!" I thoroughly enjoy how much insight and, dare I say Humor, you impart as you thoroughly cover your experiences on Camino. I would opine, that were I to capture all your Threads and sage replies, I will have an exciting, accurate and readable travel guide to eclipse even Brierley.
Well done!
 
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I have completed 3 Caminos none of which started in SJPdP :D :D I think is just become the "norm" for people travelling the "French" route to start in France. It makes sense to people. BTW I've done the Norte, VdP and Portuguese route i have no current intention of walking the "French Way", I am concerned i would find it to commercial and populated.
I would suggest you reconsider, the CF is chock full unique architecture, living history (religious/cultural) and the Meseta. Why would any pilgrim want to skip an opportunity to visit Reb ad Paddy at the Peaceable Kingdom in Moratinos? The town is small, I think about seventy inhabitants (many over 70 y o) so the town is not fast paced, rather relaxing. As to the remainder of the CF. As many times I have walked that Way (apologies to Aerosmith and Steven Tyler), I've discovered that many and much is new again with the towns, people and even favorite albergues. I suspect, that once restrictions are lifted, the CF, and your personal favorites may not be recognizable; save for the thousand year old architecture, the very same as viewed, visited and venerated by pilgrims past.
 

Harland2019

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances April/May "2019"
Why did I start in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the honest answer is that was in the guidebook and it was easy to get to from Biarritz but more importantly I could tell everyone that I walked from France, through the Pyrenees and across Spain! It sounds better than I walked in Spain!
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
The first international delegation to head to Santiago was led by the bishop Godelasc of Le Puy in 950. Subsequent Gascon and French pilgrims would pay homage to the local shrine to the Black Madonna at Le Puy, and then stop to pay homage at the major shrines, icons, and reliquaries at Conques, Rocamadour, Moissac, and St. Jean Pied de Port before crossing the Pyrenees to Roncesvaux and across Spain.
I'm not so sure there were major shrines, icons or reliquaries in St. Jean Pied de Port. The Medieval Pigrim's Guide believed to be by Aymeric Picaud (an English translation by William Melczer is relatively easy to find) has a section on the shrines that a French pilgrim would pass through and noticeably fails to mention any in SJPP. While he does mention many saints one should visit on the Le Puy route, he also mentions others on the route from Arles, so those crossing in Somport instead of SJPP would have no shortage of shrines to visit en route.

In fact, our best medieval source completely fails to mention SJPP at all. On the French side of the pass, it talks of the village of Saint-Michel (which is not far from SJPP) instead.

So I don't know that we can look to medieval sources or practices to establish any importance of SJPP.
 

JabbaPapa

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(Side note two: Alessandro Barbero recently did an episode on the crusading era, and he discusses how even the first crusade started as a type of pilgrimage related to the pilgrimage to Santiago)
hmmm, the Way to Jerusalem is a lot older than the Camino ; and a purpose of several of the Crusades was to protect pilgrims, including the entire purpose of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller.
 

trecile

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Why did I start in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the honest answer is that was in the guidebook and it was easy to get to from Biarritz but more importantly I could tell everyone that I walked from France, through the Pyrenees and across Spain! It sounds better than I walked in Spain!
Same here. In fact, my goal wasn't Santiago, it was Finisterre - I wanted to walk all the way across an entire country.
 
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JabbaPapa

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The thought occurred to me that what is often translated as "French" today is not what it meant in those days. The (Latin) word Francus denoted anyone who came from the vast area on the other side of the Pyrenees and that included not only what is today's France but also the area of today's Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands and adjoining areas of west-north Germany in particular. To translate Francus/Franci as French or Franks in this context is not necessarily correct. Someone wrote that the word was used in a similar way as gringo is used today for example. It denoted any foreigner who looked and sounded like these people from far away; the word was usually not associated with any or much negativity.

A famous refrain ("ultreia e suseia") in the Latin pilgrim song about Saint James ("Dum pater familias") is written in a dialect from the area, i.e. it's neither German nor Flemish/Dutch but something in-between. But hey, their language and their refrain made it into the Codex Calixtinus!
Interesting idea, but I think it's somewhat doubtful, and it may possibly be anachronistic.

As the Serments de Strasbourg show, by the 9th Century, the "French" and "Germans" were separate linguistically, and the document itself constitutes their separation politically.

French : Pro Deo amur et pro christian poblo et nostro commun salvament, d'ist di en avant, in quant Deus savir et podir me dunat, si salvarai eo cist meon fradre Karlo et in aiudha et in cadhuna cosa, si cum om per dreit son fradra salvar dift, in o quid il mi altresi fazet, et ab Ludher nul plaid nunquam prindrai, qui meon vol cist meon fradre Karle in damno sit.

German(ic) : In Godes minna ind in thes christianes folches ind unser bedhero gealtnissi, fon thesemo dage frammordes, so fram so mir Got geuuizci indi mahd furgibit, so haldih tesan minan bruodher, soso man mit rehtu sinan bruodher scal, in thiu, thaz er mig sosoma duo ; indi mit Ludheren in nohheiniu thing ne gegango, zhe minan uuillon imo ce scadhen uuerhen.

And although in the Spanish of the day the word Francos meant "foreigners", that particular Way of St James started to be known as the French Way only from about the 11th Century onwards, and more for the many French who created villages and towns and Pilgrim Hospitals, in Castilla and La Rioja especially, along that particular Way than for the French/"foreign" pilgrims.

But also, it's not the Camino de los Francos, but it's the Camino Francés, and "francés"/"français" is a word of Provençal and southern European origin pertaining more specifically to France and the French than the more polysemic "francos".

As to the Dum Pater Familias, obviously, the first three lines of the verse :

Herru Santiagu,
Got Santiagu,
E ultreia, e suseia,
Deus adiuva nos.


are Germanic not French, but then the song as a whole is in Late Latin, and it refers elsewhere to :

cuncte gentes, lingue, tribus,
iluuc uunt clamantes:
suseia, ultreia.


Roughly, "all peoples, languages, tribes/counties", so it refers specifically to pilgrims of all nationalities (plus ça change ... ), and not at all to the French Way. So it's amusing, but its deliberate use of a foreign language in some verses is IMO more for a humorous purpose than as a commentary about the name of the French Way.
 
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Good point! I didn't even think of that; I've just always gone along with the idea that the Camino Francés was the road of the French rather than the road of the Franks ... but it makes so much sense now that you point it out.
There is an article in Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franks#Legacy - that lists a number of languages where a derivative of the Latin word Francus/Franci denotes not only the Franks but Europeans in general. I had been aware of the Persian Farangi or Ferengi because it appears in a series of old-fashioned adventure books that were still popular when I was younger. Today’s young and not so young people may have heard of the Ferengi, too - the name was appropriated by the writers for the Star Trek movies though no longer as a synonym for foreigners/Westeners/Europeans but to denote some extraterrestrial aliens. ☺️

As an aside, as with all translation, it depends on the context how the actual meaning of Francus/Franci is best expressed in another language and/or another time.
 
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RENSHAW

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2003 CF Roncesvalles to Santiago
2/4 weeks on the CF frequently.
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@RENSHAW, you are truly a "Man for All Reasons!" I thoroughly enjoy how much insight and, dare I say Humor, you impart as you thoroughly cover your experiences on Camino. I would opine, that were I to capture all your Threads and sage replies, I will have an exciting, accurate and readable travel guide to eclipse even Brierley.
Well done!
Arn , coming from you I consider that a HUGE compliment.
In 2008 I started writing a book called 'Love on the Camino' , many moons before the explosion of camino autobiographies stated - only 2 thirds completed , you have spurned me on. I will post an excerpt some day. I never read books and I have some sort of undiagnosed ADHD. The book if chiefly for ME.
Every now and there are some cantankerous retired school teachers who point me out for my spelling - How ignorant? How demeaning? I am no Vincent van Gogh but I can paint ......... in my way.
 
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Arn , coming from you I consider that a HUGE compliment.
In 2008 I started writing a book called 'Love on the Camino' , many moons before the explosion of camino autobiographies stated - only 2 thirds completed , you have spurned me on. I will post an excerpt some day. I never read books and I have some sort of undiagnosed ADHD. The book if chiefly for ME.
Every now and there are some cantankerous retired school teachers who point me out for my spelling - How ignorant? How demeaning? I am no Vincent van Gogh but I can paint ......... in my way.
I started my factional novel about my alter-ego on Camino in 2008...the meds I was on created a writers block. Although the situations/locations were accurate, the characters were cardboard cutouts.
A drastic lifestyle change found my muse returned and the book was published in 2018.
My hope is you return to the writing pad and complete the epic Camino novel.
Oh, BTW, don't allow spell checker to get a hand in.
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
please see signature
On the topic of names with a connection to France:

During the week walking from Calais to Arras I was struck by the town and village names ending in "-hem".

And the great similarity of town and village names from further east, especially modern day northern Belgium.

As I have a lot of time on my hands when walking, and no really big decision to make, my thoughts turned to Charles the Great (Charlemagne 748-814) whose burial site in Aachen Cathedral I had momentarily visited in August 1971. While continuing to Arras, it was an easy mental leap to Roncevaux (Roncevalles in Spanish, Orreaga in Basque) where Charlemagne's rear guard was destroyed by the locals in 778.

Now to starting out to Compostela

My pilgrimage to Compostela certainly started from my home as I left wearing my walking gear and carrying only my pack and the contents which were to (and did) support me for five months away. Of necessity I used the mediaeval equivalent of the back of the horse drawn cart to get me from my Wellington home to Napier and Auckland, visiting family and friends on the way. Then a more elaborate version to get me direct to Paris and the Grande Vitesse version to Lyon and so on to Le Puy.

The village of Saint John at the foot of the pass, for me, was but a short stop for a feed and a sleep.

Kia kaha koutou katoa (you all take care and be strong)
 
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dick bird

Active Member
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Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
There is an article in Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franks#Legacy - that lists a number of languages where a derivative of the Latin word Francus/Franci denotes not only the Franks but Europeans in general. I had been aware of the Persian Farangi or Ferengi because it appears in a series of old-fashioned adventure books that were still popular when I was younger. Today’s young and not so young people may have heard of the Ferengi, too - the name was appropriated by the writers for the Star Trek movies though no longer as a synonym for foreigners/Westeners/Europeans but to denote some extraterrestrial aliens. ☺️

As an aside, as with all translation, it depends on the context how the actual meaning of Francus/Franci is best expressed in another language and/or another time.
I have also read suggestions that the name Francés is not derived either from French or Frank, but from the Latin (and Spanish) 'franca' meaning free or open. In mediaeval times the largest contingent (even out numbering all other nationalities), but the route across northern Spain was kept open for the sake of commerce as well as for the pilgrimage. Franca was only later corrupted to 'Francés'.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
I have also read suggestions that the name Francés is not derived either from French or Frank, but from the Latin (and Spanish) 'franca' meaning free or open. In mediaeval times the largest contingent (even out numbering all other nationalities), but the route across northern Spain was kept open for the sake of commerce as well as for the pilgrimage. Franca was only later corrupted to 'Francés'.
Yes, the Latin word franca had multiple meanings in the Middle Ages, and in Spain, one of these meanings was "free", namely free of certain tax obligations and other legal obligations.

An example are towns called Villafranca. This can be translated, according to the RAE, as tax-free town or town with exemptions. It reminds me of the German concept of the free imperial cities (Freie Reichsstadt) in the Middle Ages; they were self-ruling cities with a certain amount of autonomy and not subordinate to a territorial ecclestical or secular lord.

As a professional translator would say, the meaning of "franco/franca" depends on context, context, context.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
As a matter of fact, some time ago I tried to find out just when the Camino Frances started to be called Camino Frances or via franca or any combination of via or camino and franca, franco, etc and I didn't get far. In old reports, people usually write that they will go to Saint James in Galicia.
 

mspath

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I'm rather sad that I have a credentiale, all filled in with a first stamp from my local St James church here in Sydney, that I have not been able to use. It was for last year's camino-that-did-not-happen.
Kanga,
It is sad that you could not use it then but you still have it to use when you can.
 
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dick bird

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As a matter of fact, some time ago I tried to find out just when the Camino Frances started to be called Camino Frances or via franca or any combination of via or camino and franca, franco, etc and I didn't get far. In old reports, people usually write that they will go to Saint James in Galicia.
Interesting. So who does name all the caminos?
 

C clearly

Moderator
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2022
Interesting. So who does name all the caminos?
Whoever talks about them.

There is no single camino management authority. Different local authorities might name different walking paths, and local camino associations can put up signs with whatever name, language and spelling they decide. Maybe neighbouring associations reach agreement, but maybe not. Each guidebook author decides what to use in their book!
 
D

Deleted member 73526

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I think is just become the "norm" for people travelling the "French" route to start in France. It makes sense to people.
So SJPP allows people to be both "completists," and "minimum achievers?" Perhaps that's true for some people but I have the feeling that most devotees of SJPP haven't spent a huge amount of time analyzing the decision. They're following the tradition because it's the tradition because it's the tradition.

I kind of hope that the difficulty of crossing borders right now does something to de-fetishize the act of starting in SJPP. I think it would be no bad thing if people start to feel that setting off from Roncesvalles or Pamplona or another location that is right for them can also be "the tradition," whether its the Spanish tradition, or their personal tradition.

I came across a one discussion recently about how to get from Spain to SJPP in order to walk from SJPP. Clearly, some people plan to go to some trouble to cross the border twice in rapid succession. Everyone is free to decide for themselves what is important to them. Speaking for myself, it would not be satisfying to put so much emphasis on "walking around the flagpole."
 
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Albertagirl

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Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
As I mentioned in a previous post, I now consider Ostabat, where the three main camino routes going south through France to Spain join before crossing the Pyrenees, as the beginning of the Camino Frances. The Aragones, a continuation of the Camino d'Arles, the fourth French route, joins those three at Puente la Reina. If you can't get to Ostabat at present, I suppose you could currently join the Frances at Puente la Reina, or even take a Spanish bus to Somport. Either of these options might be easier to arrange than crossing the French border because you don't want to start at Roncesvalles, as Spanish pilgrims generally do.
 

JabbaPapa

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I have also read suggestions that the name Francés is not derived either from French or Frank, but from the Latin (and Spanish) 'franca' meaning free or open.
No, it's derived from a Provençal / Langue d'Oc word designating specifically France and the French. As is the French word "français" !!

The French Way became "French" not from the Pilgrims, but from the numerous French setting up shop and founding villages along the Way to cash in on the huge influx of "tourigrinos".

Plus ça change, et plus c'est la même chose ...
 
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Squeak

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Camino Ruta de la Norte 2014
Camino Via de la Plata 2016
I
So SJPP allows people to be both "completists," and "minimum achievers?" Perhaps that's true for some people but I have the feeling that most devotees of SJPP haven't spent a huge amount of time analyzing the decision. They're following the tradition because it's the tradition because it's the tradition.

I kind of hope that the difficulty of crossing borders right now does something to de-fetishize the act of starting in SJPP. I think it would be no bad thing if people start to feel that setting off from Roncesvalles or Pamplona or another location that is right for them can also be "the tradition," whether its the Spanish tradition, or their personal tradition.

I came across a one discussion recently about how to get from Spain to SJPP in order to walk from SJPP. Clearly, some people plan to go to some trouble to cross the border twice in rapid succession. Everyone is free to decide for themselves what is important to them. Speaking for myself, it would not be satisfying to put so much emphasis on "walking around the flagpole."
I've not walked the "FrenchWay" and have no plans to do so, I prefer more solitude on my walks and accommodations. I have walked the Norte, SdP and Portuguese. We plan on walking another when bordered allow, perhaps the Mozarabe but it likely will not be the French route.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
I'm rather sad that I have a credentiale, all filled in with a first stamp from my local St James church here in Sydney, that I have not been able to use. It was for last year's camino-that-did-not-happen.
I have a credentiale with just the first stamp, too, that I am waiting to use on my next Camino Frances. It's been waiting since 1989. I'm hoping to complete it within the next few years. If I hold off until 2024, it will be 35 years old when completed.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
I start walking. I walk. Several times from Pamplona, once from SJpdP. I don't care. I walk from where I walk. This SJpdP fetish is of no interest.

Actually, starting out from Pamplona, crossing the Alto del Perdon and then relaxing in Uterga or Puente de la Reina on the first day, is great.
 

lthrnck55

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sept/Oct 2014

Camino Frances via Lourdes Sept/Oct/Nov 2020 ( Hopefully )
I started in SJPdP in 2014. The Pyrenees were glorious that day. But I would tell anyone, 'Start where your heart tells you'.
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I really do not understand why more people do not just start in Madrid. Take the Cercanias(?) train from airport to Charmartin station and start walking from there. Once you hit Sahagun you can continue on the Frances, at Leon, you have the option to do San Salvador to Oviedo. From there, the Primitivo or Norte and then back to finish on Frances. Or, just continue on the Frances from Leon to Ponferrada where you can pick up the Invierno or continue on the Frances, finally ending up in Santiago or carry on to Finistere. So many choices.

I do realize my run-on sentence structure has gone awry. If it truly bothers someone feel free to correct.;-)

Ultreya,
Joe
 
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Robo

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I really do not understand why more people do not just start in Madrid. Take the Cercanias(?) train from airport to Charmartin station and start walking from there. Once you hit Sahagun you can continue on the Frances, at Leon, you have the option to do San Salvador to Oviedo from there the Primitivo or Norte and then back to finish on Frances or continue on the Frances to Ponferrada where you can pick up the Invierno or continue on the Frances, finally ending up in Santiago or carry on to Finistere. So many choices.

I do realize my run-on sentence structure has gone awry. If it truly bothers someone feel free to correct.;-)

Ultreya,
Joe

I think on reflection, certainly for my first Camino, the Camino Frances from St Jean to Santiago, my Camino started as I stepped out of my front door! Even though it took me 48 hours to reach St Jean, I was 2 days into my Camino emotionally and spiritually. ;)

I shot this 1 minute video as I waited outside my home for the Taxi.

The Aussies and Kiwis will notice my slip. years, not days!

 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
I really do not understand why more people do not just start in Madrid. Take the Cercanias(?) train from airport to Charmartin station and start walking from there. Once you hit Sahagun you can continue on the Frances, at Leon, you have the option to do San Salvador to Oviedo from there the Primitivo or Norte and then back to finish on Frances or continue on the Frances to Ponferrada where you can pick up the Invierno or continue on the Frances, finally ending up in Santiago or carry on to Finistere. So many choices.

I do realize my run-on sentence structure has gone awry. If it truly bothers someone feel free to correct.;-)

Ultreya,
Joe
One of these days I will start in Madrid (although from Plaza San Vicente de Paul where I used to live, rather than from Chamartin). But I can see why it is not the automatic starting point for people (other than madrileños). All of the media that people take in (books, movies, etc.) do not show people starting in Madrid. Generally the historic accounts (from Codex Calixtinus on) do not show people starting in Madrid. When people think of following in the footsteps of the millions of pilgrims over the centruries, they tend to think of crossing the Pyrenees and taking the Camino Frances. What would prompt someone to think of flying to Madrid and starting with the Camino de Madrid?

et suseia!
David
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
One of these days I will start in Madrid (although from Plaza San Vicente de Paul where I used to live, rather than from Chamartin). But I can see why it is not the automatic starting point for people (other than madrileños). All of the media that people take in (books, movies, etc.) do not show people starting in Madrid. Generally the historic accounts (from Codex Calixtinus on) do not show people starting in Madrid. When people think of following in the footsteps of the millions of pilgrims over the centruries, they tend to think of crossing the Pyrenees and taking the Camino Frances. What would prompt someone to think of flying to Madrid and starting with the Camino de Madrid?

et suseia!
David

Try thinking of it this way. The Camino starts at your front door. Therefore, Why wouldn't it start where you first set foot in Europe vs. taking buses, trains and taxis to arrive at a starting point.

Ultreya,
Joe
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
Try thinking of it this way. The Camino starts at your front door. Therefore, Why wouldn't it start where you first set foot in Europe vs. taking buses, trains and taxis to arrive at a starting point.

Ultreya,
Joe
I like the idea of the Camino starting at my front door. That's why I want to do the Camino Madrid from Plaza San Vicente de Paul, the closest I can come to that.

But why assume Madrid is the first place one sets foot in Europe? Many fly to other destinations. And even if one is flying to Madrid, by your logic, one should start walking from the airport (as I've read some do) rather than taking the train to Chamartin.

And, in any case, I wasn't saying I failed to understand where you were coming from. But you were saying that you failed to see where people are coming from who start elsewhere. ("I really do not understand why more people do not just start in Madrid") I was trying to explain that. All sorts of starting places are valid.
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I like the idea of the Camino starting at my front door. That's why I want to do the Camino Madrid from Plaza San Vicente de Paul, the closest I can come to that.

But why assume Madrid is the first place one sets foot in Europe? Many fly to other destinations. And even if one is flying to Madrid, by your logic, one should start walking from the airport (as I've read some do) rather than taking the train to Chamartin.

And, in any case, I wasn't saying I failed to understand where you were coming from. But you were saying that you failed to see where people are coming from who start elsewhere. ("I really do not understand why more people do not just start in Madrid") I was trying to explain that. All sorts of starting places are valid.

I understand what you stated also. Madrid is not really discussed as a starting point.

I believe I said, "Where you first set foot in Europe". I just used Madrid as an example because it provides so many connections and is a major ingress to Camino walkers. One could leave from the airport but Madrid airport would not be easy. Bayonne very easy.
 
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