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The big map o the Caminos de Santiago

To be a Pilgrim (Office Volunteer)

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#1
Well I went and did it. Having had my interest raised by Tom @t2andreo I applied to the Pilgrim Office and was accepted as a Volunteer for two weeks. I mean, who could resist two weeks of lovely Spanish food, weather and senoritas in a place where tinto verano flows like . . . well, tinto verano?

Now this is my first summer of retirement and a good summer it has been too – beautiful weather, sunny day after sunny day so did I prepare for my duties? Did I revise my Spanish (lack of) skills? No. I was more like the grasshopper and fiddled all summer long. Added to which I hurt my foot, couldn’t walk for exercise for a month and so arrived in Santiago an overweight, out of condition 67 year old with a solid grounding in English.

One thought as an aside though, have you noticed how life is full of little oddities? After all the talk we have about getting long, sharp objects onto airplanes I noticed, as I went to sit down in the departure lounge at Gatwick airport, somebody had managed to get a large (metre long?) black golf umbrella through security only to leave it behind along the back of the seat!

An easy flight from London Gatwick to Santiago, straight out to the bus and off to town. Very strange seeing pilgrims walking into the city along familiar streets – have they replace that rickety wooden bridge section?

It’s also very strange arriving in Santiago on a hot, sunny day in September – where’s the rain?

I was thinking Santiago, late September/October it would be cold or at least cool. I have brought along a lightweight puffer jacket, jeans, polo shirts . . . I might have to buy some summer clothes!

Dropped off at the Praza do Galicia I went hot foot across the square and arrived hot and breathless at the office, slightly embarrassed to ease my way past a long line of pilgrims queuing for their Compostela and behind the counter.

Two kisses from Montse and put straight to work at a computer!

Fortunately I had a very good teacher on either side of me and it isn’t too hard to pick up, as you know it’s meet, greet, make them fill in a form, write out their name (in Latin) and send them on their way. . . . and then enter it all (in Spanish) on the computer.

Suddenly I’m faced with my first pilgrim and it all went fairly well – there are some little trips to watch out for: the date on the Compostela is in Latin (septembris) while on the Distancia it’s in Spanish (septiembre) so, sorry to anybody who got certificates incorrectly dated!

After about an hour I was hauled off for a talk about the meaning of the Camino, its history and what it is to be a pilgrim. In Spanish. I understood about one word in six and I started to rue my lack of revision. I was then collected by a lovely Irish nun called Katherine who treated me to a killer cup of (Irish) tea before going back to work until 14:00 when three of us Jose Antonio, Solange and I were whisked off to where we were to stay for two weeks – the Convent of Santa Clara in the Roque district:

Santa Clara.JPG

Now I firmly believe Tom is a sound, upright guy but how could anybody forget to mention the stairs? We had a three bedroom apartment between us (bedroom each, bathroom, kitchen) but to get to them on the top floor you have to climb 50 or so stairs to get there. 50 steps Tom, 50! With my luggage and no sherpa I barely made it.

Stairs.jpg


I’d left home at 2am so was pretty tired so crashed out for a couple of hours, got up, nobody else around so went out and found some food and came home and crashed again, getting prepared to do the 10am – 3pm shift the next day.

Here ended the first day!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#4
Thanks, it was an interesting two weeks and I'd urge anybody to try it if it takes their fancy.

More tales to follow! ;)
I love your tales, Jeff, along with those of Gerard Carey and Andy Wild...keep 'em coming! Oh, and my elephants are still happy wearing the red socks you knitted them last summer when you were fiddling around. Thanks again! :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#6
I love your tales, Jeff, along with those of Gerard Carey and Andy Wild...keep 'em coming! Oh, and my elephants are still happy wearing the red socks you knitted them last summer when you were fiddling around. Thanks again!
Too many elephants.

Thanks for post @Jeff Crawley.:)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#8
Well I went and did it. Having had my interest raised by Tom @t2andreo I applied to the Pilgrim Office and was accepted as a Volunteer for two weeks. I mean, who could resist two weeks of lovely Spanish food, weather and senoritas in a place where tinto verano flows like . . . well, tinto verano?

Now this is my first summer of retirement and a good summer it has been too – beautiful weather, sunny day after sunny day so did I prepare for my duties? Did I revise my Spanish (lack of) skills? No. I was more like the grasshopper and fiddled all summer long. Added to which I hurt my foot, couldn’t walk for exercise for a month and so arrived in Santiago an overweight, out of condition 67 year old with a solid grounding in English.

One thought as an aside though, have you noticed how life is full of little oddities? After all the talk we have about getting long, sharp objects onto airplanes I noticed, as I went to sit down in the departure lounge at Gatwick airport, somebody had managed to get a large (metre long?) black golf umbrella through security only to leave it behind along the back of the seat!

An easy flight from London Gatwick to Santiago, straight out to the bus and off to town. Very strange seeing pilgrims walking into the city along familiar streets – have they replace that rickety wooden bridge section?

It’s also very strange arriving in Santiago on a hot, sunny day in September – where’s the rain?

I was thinking Santiago, late September/October it would be cold or at least cool. I have brought along a lightweight puffer jacket, jeans, polo shirts . . . I might have to buy some summer clothes!

Dropped off at the Praza do Galicia I went hot foot across the square and arrived hot and breathless at the office, slightly embarrassed to ease my way past a long line of pilgrims queuing for their Compostela and behind the counter.

Two kisses from Montse and put straight to work at a computer!

Fortunately I had a very good teacher on either side of me and it isn’t too hard to pick up, as you know it’s meet, greet, make them fill in a form, write out their name (in Latin) and send them on their way. . . . and then enter it all (in Spanish) on the computer.

Suddenly I’m faced with my first pilgrim and it all went fairly well – there are some little trips to watch out for: the date on the Compostela is in Latin (septembris) while on the Distancia it’s in Spanish (septiembre) so, sorry to anybody who got certificates incorrectly dated!

After about an hour I was hauled off for a talk about the meaning of the Camino, its history and what it is to be a pilgrim. In Spanish. I understood about one word in six and I started to rue my lack of revision. I was then collected by a lovely Irish nun called Katherine who treated me to a killer cup of (Irish) tea before going back to work until 14:00 when three of us Jose Antonio, Solange and I were whisked off to where we were to stay for two weeks – the Convent of Santa Clara in the Roque district:

View attachment 47384

Now I firmly believe Tom is a sound, upright guy but how could anybody forget to mention the stairs? We had a three bedroom apartment between us (bedroom each, bathroom, kitchen) but to get to them on the top floor you have to climb 50 or so stairs to get there. 50 steps Tom, 50! With my luggage and no sherpa I barely made it.

View attachment 47385


I’d left home at 2am so was pretty tired so crashed out for a couple of hours, got up, nobody else around so went out and found some food and came home and crashed again, getting prepared to do the 10am – 3pm shift the next day.

Here ended the first day!
I feel your pain, Jeff. Those stairs look like the 5 flights of stairs I had to climb at my hostel after walking most of a day into Bilbao. Round and round we went, up, up, up. I was pooped out, but laughing as it seemed so rediculous! I guess you get what you pay for...and I didn't pay for an elevator! o_O
 
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Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#9
Well done. There have been many Irish volunteering in the office over the summer, more next year. Looking forward to going out next year myself, if I can improve my Spanish.
There's one there at present - my friend Paula from Belfast. Your Spanish doesn't have to be great but it does help - a lot of pilgrims will drop automatically into English. If you have problems your fellow, Spanish, volunteers will happily pitch in. Your Spanish will certainly be better after two weeks!
 
Camino(s) past & future
'Portuguese,Frances,Norte,Salvador/primitivo,Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, VDLP spring19
#12
Camino(s) past & future
'Portuguese,Frances,Norte,Salvador/primitivo,Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, VDLP spring19
#13
Thanks, it was an interesting two weeks and I'd urge anybody to try it if it takes their fancy.

More tales to follow! ;)

Jeff
Loved hearing about volunteering in Santiago’s pilgrim office from your perspective - Very encouraging for all of us.

Annie
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#14
Oops! Did I actually forget to mention the 50 stairs? Lo siento! My bad! LOL!

Well done! Everyone should have a go! You do get more out of the experience than you put into it.

The thread mentioned above IS the best place to start if you are interested in working at the pilgrim office as a volunteer. Most all of your questions are answered.

There is some good news regarding volunteer housing. The former vicarage at the ancient convent was intended as an interim solution.

Renovation at the pilgrim office includes building small, private rooms on the upper floor of the large rectangular building at the rear of the pilgrim office complex. The availability of funding is driving the schedule.

When the rooms are finished, there will be new, modern private rooms for volunteers. There is a lot I do not know about the build-out. But I do know that floor 2 will have all the shared spaces: kitchen, dining, lounge, laundry, etc. The private ‘dormitorios’ are on floor 3.

One of the big unknowns is whether each room will or will not have a private en-suite bathroom. In 2016, I was reliably informed that the volunteer rooms would be like the pilgrim rooms at San Martin Pinario. We will see what happens in the end.

Based on what I saw this past August, I assess that this renovation COULD be done by the 2019 season IF funding is available. If not, I am thinking the project will be done in 2020. In general, all renovations at the pilgrim office and the Cathedral are being raced to conclusion in time for the next Holy Year in 2021.

Hope this helps.
 
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Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#15
Hey Jeff,

How do you set off the volunteer application?
I assume accommodation is included and you need to pay: flight/food/beverages of all kinds
How about little to nada Spanish?
Gracias!
As OzAnnie says follow Tom's bread crumb trail and all shall be revealed.
Montse will want to know your history of walking the Camino and why you want to volunteer - in Spanish. Fear not, Google Translate is your friend!
Tom kindly supplied me with a series of questions in Spanish, German, French, Dutch and Italian. I printed these off and put them in a plastic folder and then managed to take the wrong folder with me! The ukulele chord sheets I had weren't much use to me in the office!
If you feel so inclined DO offer your help. In some ways it's even more fun than the Camino itself.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#16
“The bells – they woke me up you know.”

Now, as said previously, we were housed in a section of the Convent of Santa Clara along the ever climbing Rúa de San Roque. I never got to see any nuns but there were bells. Lots of bells.

Bells can mean different things to different people – there’s the charming Westminster Chime: Ding-Dong, Ding-Dong; Ding-Dong, Ding-Dong or the children’s nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” celebrating the church bells of London – I was brought near to tears of joy on hearing the bells of St Clement Dane in the City of London for the first time as it played out the full rhyme (I was in my 30s!) by the by, the restored, Christopher Wren designed St Clement is well worth a visit if you’re ever in London.

And then there are the bells of Santa Clara . . . at 6:14 every morning, not 6:15 but 6:14 two bells clang. They do not ring, they clang with no discernible pattern CLANG . . . CLANG . . . CLANG-CLANG . . . CLANG.

First a mid-pitch bell and then a higher pitched bell. 40 times EACH. Every morning – Tom forgot to mention this too! Although, in his defence, my room was closest to the bell tower. Solange and J. Antonio on the other side swore they couldn’t be heard and the walls are two feet thick but the window and shutters weren't enough to muffle the sound.

The mid-pitch bell repeats, on its own, at 22:10. Again note the timing – I think the times are to prevent you sleeping in and to prevent you getting to sleep early.

There are other bells of course, the cacophony that woke me from a siesta on a Sunday afternoon was particularly brutal but, best (or worse) of all was what I remember as The Alarm.

Do you remember the scenes in old time Western movies where the chuck wagon has a steel triangle or an old iron hoop from a barrel? When it’s time to eat the cook would rattle this with an iron bar to call the men in. Imagine this going on for a full FOUR minutes . . .

If any of you are interested in hearing this in its full glory PM me with an email address and I’ll send you an audio file. I might even replace my phone ringtone (currently Shakira, Estoy Aqui) with it to frighten the heck out of people on the train.

I have a brilliant set of BOSE noise cancelling earphones that will wipe out the noise of an Airbus engine at 30,000 feet but even they struggled with The Alarm. The answer is, of course, if you stay at Santa Clara, not to get stuck with room 3, apartment 2!
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Camino Inglés 2018

Now: http://egeria.house/
#17
Hi @Jeff Crawley and welcome to Santiago! Hope to see you whilst you are here! BC SY
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#18
Oh, and one more thing...mind the bells! NO one sleeps past about 06:15 each morning... HA! Look on the bright side, once you adjust your sleep-wake cycle, they are a very good alarm clock.;)

Sheesh, I can't remember EVERYTHING! Plus, no one wants to read more of my ramblings than necessary. To keep things concise, as it were, I kept out some any discussion of some of the 'collateral benefits' of life at the top of the mountain.

We still have not discussed the uphill hike to get to the convent in the first place. I told Jeff offline (PM), and he actually discovered for himself, that there are two paths up the mountain from the pilgrim office to the convent.:mad:

The first, and direct route (fine for coming to work), is directly up Calle San Francesco, in a more or less straight line to Avenida San Roque. It is only a 10 - 15 minute trudge, but it is easily as steep as anything during the first day out of Saint Jean pied de Port...whew. After my first go, I went to Decathlon and bought a hiking cane for €9.99. Worked great for the rest of the month. The downward push from my arm took some of the strain off my aged and achy knees.:rolleyes:

The second, far more refined route, goes up the ramp, past the Parador, through the arch, and San Martin PInario on your left, to Plaza Cervantes. Left there, keeping to the left 'calle / street' takes you to Plaza San Roque at the sharp bend in the road. You can see the convent ahead on the right from there. It takes marginally more minutes (say 5 =/-), but the incline is much more manageable.;)

Now, when and if the dormitorios at the pilgrim office complex are put into service, you will have a one-stop shop. Two flights of stairs (2-1-0), and you are on the same floor as the pilgrim office, correos, ALSA bus, and travel agency. The Familia mini-mercado, farmacia, and banks are around the block, on Avda Pombal. It will be a much more convenient situation, at least IMHO. AND the neighborhood has far fewer bells...o_O

I will be lobbying for Wi-Fi at least in the public spaces of the shared accommodation when I am next there. If done correctly, it should not bleed over into the public spaces used by pilgrims. The office management does NOT want to provide free Wi-Fi at the office. I understand that one reason is that, if they ever did provide free Wi-Fi, many pilgrims would never leave.

For the office to function efficiently for all pilgrims, pilgrims need to complete their business there, then leave...politely of course. The office complex was never intended to be a day care center for pilgrims.

The walls of this 150-year old building are very thick. Wireless signals do not propagate well through thick walls. I will be making a case for two Wi-Fi routers, one centrally located in the volunteer's shared spaces on floor 1, and another centrally located on floor 2, where the private dormitorios are. We will see how successful I can be. Then again, they may have already thought of this.

Even if they do not spring for free Wi-Fi for the volunteers, the upper floors of this building have cellular data great signal reception to the West. I sneaked into the construction site this past summer (on a holiday or Sunday when no one was working) and tested that with my iPhone... At the window openings, you get maximum signal strength. Slightly inside the windows, signals do not degrade much. Once the build-out is complete, figure on going from 4-5 bars at the windows to 2-3 bars inside a dormitorio room.

Hope this helps.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#19
Oh, and one more thing...mind the bells! NO one sleeps past about 06:15 each morning... HA! Look on the bright side, once you adjust your sleep-wake cycle, they are a very good alarm clock.;)

Sheesh, I can't remember EVERYTHING! Plus, no one wants to read more of my ramblings than necessary. To keep things concise, as it were, I kept out some any discussion of some of the 'collateral benefits' of life at the top of the mountain.

We still have not discussed the uphill hike to get to the convent in the first place. I told Jeff offline (PM), and he actually discovered for himself, that there are two paths up the mountain from the pilgrim office to the convent.:mad:

The first, and direct route (fine for coming to work), is directly up Calle San Francesco, in a more or less straight line to Avenida San Roque. It is only a 10 - 15 minute trudge, but it is easily as steep as anything during the first day out of Saint Jean pied de Port...whew. After my first go, I went to Decathlon and bought a hiking cane for €9.99. Worked great for the rest of the month. The downward push from my arm took some of the strain off my aged and achy knees.:rolleyes:

The second, far more refined route, goes up the ramp, past the Parador, through the arch, and San Martin PInario on your left, to Plaza Cervantes. Left there, keeping to the left 'calle / street' takes you to Plaza San Roque at the sharp bend in the road. You can see the convent ahead on the right from there. It takes marginally more minutes (say 5 =/-), but the incline is much more manageable.;)

Now, when and if the dormitorios at the pilgrim office complex are put into service, you will have a one-stop shop. Two flights of stairs (2-1-0), and you are on the same floor as the pilgrim office, correos, ALSA bus, and travel agency. The Familia mini-mercado, farmacia, and banks are around the block, on Avda Pombal. It will be a much more convenient situation, at least IMHO. AND the neighborhood has far fewer bells...o_O

I will be lobbying for Wi-Fi at least in the public spaces of the shared accommodation when I am next there. If done correctly, it should not bleed over into the public spaces used by pilgrims. The office management does NOT want to provide free Wi-Fi at the office. I understand that one reason is that, if they ever did provide free Wi-Fi, many pilgrims would never leave.

For the office to function efficiently for all pilgrims, pilgrims need to complete their business there, then leave...politely of course. The office complex was never intended to be a day care center for pilgrims.

The walls of this 150-year old building are very thick. Wireless signals do not propagate well through thick walls. I will be making a case for two Wi-Fi routers, one centrally located in the volunteer's shared spaces on floor 1, and another centrally located on floor 2, where the private dormitorios are. We will see how successful I can be. Then again, they may have already thought of this.

Even if they do not spring for free Wi-Fi for the volunteers, the upper floors of this building have cellular data great signal reception to the West. I sneaked into the construction site this past summer (on a holiday or Sunday when no one was working) and tested that with my iPhone... At the window openings, you get maximum signal strength. Slightly inside the windows, signals do not degrade much. Once the build-out is complete, figure on going from 4-5 bars at the windows to 2-3 bars inside a dormitorio room.

Hope this helps.
With respect, it's your "ramblngs" that keep us all on the straight and narrow!
I was going to address the "altitude sickness" problems later ;)
Was that you who left the silver hiking pole in the wardrobe? I used it as a washing line set on top of the open doors :)
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#20
Oh, and one more thing...mind the bells! NO one sleeps past about 06:15 each morning... HA! Look on the bright side, once you adjust your sleep-wake cycle, they are a very good alarm clock.;)

Sheesh, I can't remember EVERYTHING! Plus, no one wants to read more of my ramblings than necessary. To keep things concise, as it were, I kept out some any discussion of some of the 'collateral benefits' of life at the top of the mountain.

We still have not discussed the uphill hike to get to the convent in the first place. I told Jeff offline (PM), and he actually discovered for himself, that there are two paths up the mountain from the pilgrim office to the convent.:mad:

The first, and direct route (fine for coming to work), is directly up Calle San Francesco, in a more or less straight line to Avenida San Roque. It is only a 10 - 15 minute trudge, but it is easily as steep as anything during the first day out of Saint Jean pied de Port...whew. After my first go, I went to Decathlon and bought a hiking cane for €9.99. Worked great for the rest of the month. The downward push from my arm took some of the strain off my aged and achy knees.:rolleyes:

The second, far more refined route, goes up the ramp, past the Parador, through the arch, and San Martin PInario on your left, to Plaza Cervantes. Left there, keeping to the left 'calle / street' takes you to Plaza San Roque at the sharp bend in the road. You can see the convent ahead on the right from there. It takes marginally more minutes (say 5 =/-), but the incline is much more manageable.;)

Now, when and if the dormitorios at the pilgrim office complex are put into service, you will have a one-stop shop. Two flights of stairs (2-1-0), and you are on the same floor as the pilgrim office, correos, ALSA bus, and travel agency. The Familia mini-mercado, farmacia, and banks are around the block, on Avda Pombal. It will be a much more convenient situation, at least IMHO. AND the neighborhood has far fewer bells...o_O

I will be lobbying for Wi-Fi at least in the public spaces of the shared accommodation when I am next there. If done correctly, it should not bleed over into the public spaces used by pilgrims. The office management does NOT want to provide free Wi-Fi at the office. I understand that one reason is that, if they ever did provide free Wi-Fi, many pilgrims would never leave.

For the office to function efficiently for all pilgrims, pilgrims need to complete their business there, then leave...politely of course. The office complex was never intended to be a day care center for pilgrims.

The walls of this 150-year old building are very thick. Wireless signals do not propagate well through thick walls. I will be making a case for two Wi-Fi routers, one centrally located in the volunteer's shared spaces on floor 1, and another centrally located on floor 2, where the private dormitorios are. We will see how successful I can be. Then again, they may have already thought of this.

Even if they do not spring for free Wi-Fi for the volunteers, the upper floors of this building have cellular data great signal reception to the West. I sneaked into the construction site this past summer (on a holiday or Sunday when no one was working) and tested that with my iPhone... At the window openings, you get maximum signal strength. Slightly inside the windows, signals do not degrade much. Once the build-out is complete, figure on going from 4-5 bars at the windows to 2-3 bars inside a dormitorio room.

Hope this helps.
One option on the WiFi is to not broadcast the network name. The volunteers could be provided with the network name and password. This way the visiting pilgrims visiting would never see the network name pop up in the list of available networks.
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#21
@Peter1, from near London, used that pole as a drying rack. Simply open the window shutters and place the extended pole across the top... VOILA! Instant drying rack. I scavenged the pole from the discard / donativo pile at the office one day and gave it to him. It's what I do...

This would have been on Piso 2, in dormitorio #3, IIRC... The window overlooked the Catholic church / chapel in the cloister of the convent. I was in room #1, facing more or less south and overlooking the Cathedral... great view!

FYI, discarded poles with attached cards go to the huge sculpture at the contemporary art museum up on the hill. Poles lacking a tag get sorted. The best ones typically end up at PIlgrim House, at least if I am on duty. I sort them, repair as needed and if possible, and hand-carry them over, usually until the staff tell me they are full to overflowing. They have a donativo there. The lesser quality and broken poles usually go to recycling.

I segregate the wooden staffs into a separate pile. Periodically, a local charity comes by and takes these sticks. They are cut to stove lengths and used as kindling by some folks in and around Santiago, who still use wood or coal for heating and cooking...yes, there are some. Typically, these folks are poor and can use the extra fuel.

Hope this helps.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#22
One option on the WiFi is to not broadcast the network name. The volunteers could be provided with the network name and password. This way the visiting pilgrims visiting would never see the network name pop up in the list of available networks.
THAT is a very good idea...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#23
With respect, it's your "ramblngs" that keep us all on the straight and narrow!
I was going to address the "altitude sickness" problems later ;)
Was that you silver hiking pole in the wardrobe? I used it as a washing line set on top of the open doors :)
You are often soo hysterically funny! I always look forward to what you have to say...both the serious and non serious!
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#24
Just on the phone with my daughter and she says the flight of stairs reminds her of Escher's Infinite Flight:

1539440223364.png

And it's true - I think Escher designed the whole of the Old Town in Santiago because no matter how far you go down you always seem to end up higher than you started.

There is, however, a hidden benefit to this. Following the guidance laid out by Sherpa Tom I would wend my weary way home at the end of a shift - believe me, office work can be tiring and you don't want to climb those slopes any more than you have to so no high life for this Voluntario!

By the time I'd reached the busker juggling the Devil Sticks in the Rúa da Algalia de Arriba I knew I was on the last stretch. A pause by the fountain in Praza de San Roque to take on fresh oxygen tanks for the final push (as Tom says you can see the summit of the Eiger - I mean the Convent from here) I'd launch my way up to the stone benches across the road from "home" and sit near the fuente (much nicer water than the apartment) to catch my breath before crossing on the Green Man, hauling myself up to the entrance before the big finale, pausing on each landing before I reached the top.

And you you know what? On the last two times I walked up the stairs and wasn't out of breath! Not only that but I lost 7lbs in weight over the two weeks and boy did I enjoy my food!

You don't need to walk a Camino to get fit and lose weight - just volunteer to work in the Office!

Tom, what IS there up the hill past the Convent apart from the Dia% supermercardo? I saw many pilgrims wander up but saw few come down.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#25
@Peter1, from near London, used that pole as a drying rack. Simply open the window shutters and place the extended pole across the top... VOILA! Instant drying rack. I scavenged the pole from the discard / donativo pile at the office one day and gaver it to him. It's what I do...

This would have been on Piso 2, in dormitorio #3, IIRC... The window overlooked the Catholic church / chapel in the cloister of the convent. I was in room #1, facing more or less south and overlooking the Cathedral... great view!

FYI, discarded poles with attached cards go to the huge sculpture at the contemporary art museum up on the hill. Poles lacking a tag get sorted. The best ones typically end up at PIlgrim House, at least if I am on duty. I sort them, repair as needed and if possible, and hand-carry them over, usually until the staff tell me they are full to overflowing. They have a donativo there. The lesser quality and broken poles usually go to recycling.

I segregate the wooden staffs into a separate pile. Periodically, a local charity comes by and takes these sticks. They are cut to stove lengths and used as kindling by some folks in and around Santiago, who still use wood or coal for heating and cooking...yes, there are some. Typically, these folks are poor and can use the extra fuel.

Hope this helps.
That's it, Piso 2, in dormitorio #3 Peter must be taller than me, I wasn't going to risk standing on the chair to reach!
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#26
It’s quite interesting, sitting the other side of the desk and watching the reactions of the pilgrims as they come in to collect their Compostelas.

Curious beasties, pilgrims. They’ll walk 800kms, queue for two hours and wait until the last minute, as they face you across the desk, until they untangle their Credential for you to inspect. And, as somebody else here mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there are SO many that don’t bother to fill in their details in their Credentials!

I have tremendous respect for all of them that have made an effort to reach SdC and especially those from China and Korea to whom nothing must make sense except the numerals they see and who are, without exception, so delighted when they receive their Compostelas.

Some Pilgrim Tales (note I’ve included nationalities not to point the finger but to show there’s not much difference between them for the dodges they try and pull):

I missed this one as it was just after opening one morning before I started my shift – A French lady arrives with Credentials in TWO names, one for her and one for her husband with multiple sellos from the Camino Frances. On being told he has to appear himself she replied that he was outside parking the car . . . So did he walk all the way or drive? He drove. Did SHE walk all the way? Yes, except for when she got tired and then she rode in the car. No Compostelas.

An Englishwoman fresh in from the CP but without two sellos a day in the last 100km.
“But I’ve walked well over 100kms!”
“They have to be continuous and end in SdC.”
“What do you mean, continuous?”
“Did you walk ALL the way?”
“Well I only took the bus now and then, are you telling me it was all a waste of time?”

One man wanted his Compostela in a different name. When told that was against the rules he exclaimed that it wasn’t – he’d seen it in that movie The Way. Another wanted his dog’s name included.

A Brazilian lady who claimed to have travelled from SJPP to SdC in 18 days – had she walked the whole way? Not quite, she took transport from Pamplona to Astorga. You can have a Compostela because you have two stamps since Sarria but the Distancia will only say Astorga. But I’ve come all the way from SJPP!

A smartly dressed German pilgrim told me he had come in from Portomarin in one day (it was just after lunch) and had sellos all dated 5th October to prove it. When Pili (nice lady but strict) challenged him on how that was possible he claimed to have misheard me. He thought I’d asked if he’d walked every day, not all the way. In fact he had walked few kilometres a day and then caught a taxi. On being refused a Compostela he complained he had queued over an hour for this!

A French lad who had about 12 sellos over the whole way from SJPP with 3 or 4 day gaps between got turned down. Came back a bit later with a female friend. It was explained to him again that he needed to have evidence that he had walked at least 100kms and have at least two sellos per day. She said he had often slept outside and when it was pointed out there were bars, shops and cafes where he could have got them she said SHE didn’t have two sellos a day over the last 100kms so I asked her if she’d like to give her Compostela back?

An Englishman who “hadn’t really been bothered” about getting a Compostela and had only picked up 4 sellos since SJPP had changed his mind and would like one please – he had hotel receipts to prove he had, in fact, walked . . . .

Another Frenchman with FOUR very heavily stamped Credentials had walked in from Arles. And did you walk all the way? He smiled. Restores your faith in pilgrims does people like that.

My furthest travelled pilgrims – the gentleman from Arles on foot and a cyclist from Berlin – 1800kms and 2200 kms respectively.

On the other hand, for national stereotypes . . . Americans and the British are SO relieved when you speak to them in English. People from Quebec tend to put that down instead of Canadian as their nationality. The German education system must be amazing judging by the linguistic skills of their youngsters. The Italians have the cheapest and nastiest ID “card” (actually a flimsy piece of paper always in a state of instant disintegration). The Spanish have a defined style of handwriting that I often couldn’t decipher – why would you need an A to look like a D? The Irish like to take their time on a Camino – 8 to 10 years isn’t unusual. Some are in a hurry to go as soon as they have their Compostelas and others would be happy to talk about their experience all day.

I had representatives from every country in Western Europe (including Andorra) except Belgium, San Merino and Monaco – and I DID have a priest and a nun but not together and not in uniform.

The End of the Day:

1539461666801.png
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#29
OK, coming to the end of these now with “A Day in the Life of a Volunteer”

It’s funny, I’ve visited cities while on vacation and I’ve visited cities on business trips but I’ve never “worked” in a foreign city before (if you except two years in Canada).

So, Volunteers (at present) live in apartments in the vicarage of the Santa Clara convent. Part of the convent is open to the public but there’s a locked door to “our” part
1539517412467.png

Still, on two occasions, tourists tried to follow me through thinking it was a hidden attraction.

If I was on an early shift (10am until 3pm) I’d let my two flatmates have the run of the kitchen and bathroom and wander down the hill stopping for breakfast at the Confitera San Roque on my way to work. The first time I went in I had a grande café con leche, fresh orange juice and a glazed croissant (I’m so pleased the Spanish have left their croissants crescent shaped – here in the UK they’ve pretty much all gone straight so you can put fillings in – savages!). The second time I ordered the same and it came up with a small plate with a piece of sponge cale and a biscuit on it. The third time it came with sponge cake filled with cream and a miniature pastel de nata and I got engaged in conversation with the server, probably because of my blue, volunteer’s tee-shirt. I guess it’s a kind of “Loyalty Card”.

On a late shift (3pm until 8pm) I’d go uphill slightly to Café Bar Estila. Croissants not so great but good tostada. Except one day no tostada so I settled for a peach conserve filled Danish. As recompense I was given “de la casa” a piece of deliciously moist cake. It was only as I reached the bottom that I realised the moisture was straight booze – probably Orujo – certainly beats Wheetabix!

Also up the hill is a Dia% supermercado (with a Froiz tucked away down a back street) and, further up and across the street an amazing fruit store Basquinos Frutas and next door Alimentacion Maricarmen – cheesecake to die for!

Lunch was either salad in the apartment or a bocodillo in the park near the As Marias statue while I people watched:

There’s a dry fountain nearby with a high wall. One day a father, son and small daughter combination arrived and she was put in the dry well to “swim”. Her father and brother thought it would be a great laugh to hide so that when she “surfaced” they could not be seen. Huge scream rent the air. Dad scooped her up, 20 seconds of crying and she wanted to go back in!

Lots of young people in Santiago and it’s interesting to the people watcher how different is the maturity of the average Spanish girl compared to boys. The girls strive to look cool and attractive while checking out the boys. The boy tend to be giving each other noogies and trying to throw one another into fountains – no wonder Spanish ladies wait to get married!

Lovely sitting there in the sunshine, watching pilgrims arrive and hearing loud cheers from friends sitting outside of the bar across the way as they were spotted though.

On arrival at the office you face down the stares of the queuing pilgrims who think you are pushing in and take your place:

1539517527708.png

You’ll have all seen the desk but off to one side is an office piled high with boxes of Credentials and a Lost Property box containing everything from a rosary to a French ID card – I rummaged for my lost Credential from June (even though Tom A had looked for me) “just in case” – and a small kitchen area where you’ll find the “treats”. On Tom’s advice I brought in biscuits – Galettas de Galicia – which disappeared in a flash, others brought whole empanadas and, on one occasion, a tray of baked pasta/sea food.

I tried to be at the desk a little before my shift and, on a late shift would always stay until the queue had gone – usually 8.30. You’re supposed to have a day off a week but I didn’t get one the first week so went 9 shifts, alternating morning and afternoon, before I had a break (day trip to A Coruna by bus – strange to be using transport again!). Surprisingly the work wasn’t tiring but your shoulder can start to ache after a couple of hours of stamping Credentials. The first hour goes swiftly and very soon it’s time to go home.

You DO get a chance to have some fun though. Now I certainly don’t look Spanish. When I had hair and a big, bushy beard I was often taken for a German and sometimes a Dutchman but certainly as a foreigner by most Europeans. Anglo-Saxons, however, are a different story. You soon get to spot different passports: blue for the US and Canada, burgundy for the Brits and Irish. One tall, pale faced lady with long tight curls came in and couldn’t have looked more Irish if she’d been draped with the tricolour and carrying a pint of Guinness! The French have a distinctive ID card, larger than a credit card with an outstanding blue stripe on it. So you watch for these and, as they approach say in a stern voice “hablas español? ingles?” with a sigh they say “Oh, English please!” and I’d reply in my best English accent “Oh, jolly good!”

Or, if they’re French, address them in French and they are so delighted not to have to speak in a foreign tongue they’ll even forgive an Englishman butchering their prized language – I live across the English Channel from northern France and, no matter how good your French is they will nearly always address you in English!

And so the day comes to an end and, rather than immediately scale the heights, you look for somewhere to eat. Now I don’t know about you but I usually only spend a couple of days in Santiago so finding a restaurant isn’t particularly a chore but when it’s a full two weeks you cast around looking for a change. Sometimes that choice turns around and bites you.

One night, slightly more tired than usual, I ordered caldo, what was billed as "carne a la parilla" and a beer. I got this:

1539517629015.png

That’s a lot of meat. In fact it’s 7 lamb ribs and 3 beef ribs with a garlic sausage hiding between them. The waiter brought me an empty plate to work on – the ribs were still joined. I did my best. Ate the beef, ate the sausage but had to leave half the fries, half the salad and two ribs :(.

Still had the cheesecake though :)

And so up the hill once more to bed. Goodnight everybody, goodnight!
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#30
Thanks for the smiles, Jeff. What a fun post! Loved reading all the amusing little stories!

In regards to all the food you ate in two weeks. Did you end up losing any weight after all on the big climb up the hill each day? :p Yes, that's a lot of meat, but the pile of fries looks even bigger!
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#31
Thanks for the smiles, Jeff. What a fun post! Loved reading all the amusing little stories!

In regards to all the food you ate in two weeks. Did you end up losing any weight after all on the big climb up the hill each day? :p Yes, that's a lot of meat, but the pile of fries looks even bigger!
There was also a silver server of salad (ooh, nice alliteration!)

The carnage afterwards:

1539519520187.jpeg

And yes, I lost a full 7lbs!
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#32
Just on the phone with my daughter and she says the flight of stairs reminds her of Escher's Infinite Flight:

View attachment 47427

And it's true - I think Escher designed the whole of the Old Town in Santiago because no matter how far you go down you always seem to end up higher than you started.

There is, however, a hidden benefit to this. Following the guidance laid out by Sherpa Tom I would wend my weary way home at the end of a shift - believe me, office work can be tiring and you don't want to climb those slopes any more than you have to so no high life for this Voluntario!

By the time I'd reached the busker juggling the Devil Sticks in the Rúa da Algalia de Arriba I knew I was on the last stretch. A pause by the fountain in Praza de San Roque to take on fresh oxygen tanks for the final push (as Tom says you can see the summit of the Eiger - I mean the Convent from here) I'd launch my way up to the stone benches across the road from "home" and sit near the fuente (much nicer water than the apartment) to catch my breath before crossing on the Green Man, hauling myself up to the entrance before the big finale, pausing on each landing before I reached the top.

And you you know what? On the last two times I walked up the stairs and wasn't out of breath! Not only that but I lost 7lbs in weight over the two weeks and boy did I enjoy my food!

You don't need to walk a Camino to get fit and lose weight - just volunteer to work in the Office!

Tom, what IS there up the hill past the Convent apart from the Dia% supermercardo? I saw many pilgrims wander up but saw few come down.
There are two points of interest up and sort of behind the convento, and one or two more in line with but farther out than the convento.

One is the Bonaval cemetery. From my bedroom window I could see the stacked crypts forming a wall. There is a popular garden there. Some folks like to picnic or sunbathe in cemeteries. It IS quiet, and the grounds are well kept... go figure...

Also, if you go up and over that hill, beyond the cemetery you are very near the big bus station... it is hard to imagine, but if you look at a TI provided map, you can see the logic.

The other attraction behind, but near the convento is the popular albergue & hotel La Salle. For folks using Express Bourricot to ship luggage from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, this is where it goes and is locked up until you arrive to claim it. Also, as a rather large albergue and hotel, it is popular with groups during the summer.

If you walk in the direction of the Dia market on Avda San Roque, and keep going, you come to the McDonalds, and a right turn there leads you to the Centro Commercial (Mall) As Cancelas. The #4 bus also takes you to the As Cancelas Mall. There is a HUGE Carrefour hypermarket there as well as some 50 or so other stores...and restaurants, including a Burger King. It's a mall...plain and simple, but the largest one in Santiago.

Hope this helps.
 
Last edited:

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#34
There are two points of interest up and sort of behind the convento, and one or two more in line with but farther out than the convento.

One is the Bonaval cemetery. From my bedroom window I could see the stacked crypts forming a wall. There is a popular garden there. Some folks like to picnic or sunbathe in cemeteries. It IS quiet, and the grounds are well kept... go figure...

Also, if you go up and over that hill, beyond the cemetery you are very near the big bus station... it is hard to imagine, but if you look at a TI provided map, you can see the logic.

The other attraction behind, but near the convento is the popular albergue & hotel La Salle. For folks using Express Bourricot to ship luggage from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, this is where it goes and is locked up until you arrive to claim it. Also, as a rather large albergue and hotel, it is popular with groups during the summer.

If you walk in the direction of the Dia market on Avda San Roque, and keep going, you come to the McDonalds, and a right turn there leads you to the Centro Commercial (Mall) As Cancelas. The #4 bus also takes you to the As Cancelas Mall. There is a HUGE Carrefour hypermarket there as well as some 50 or so other stores...and restaurants, including a Burger King. It's a mall...plain and simple, but the largest one in Santiago.

Hope this helps.
That DOES make sense - I humped over the ridge to get to the bus station when I caught the bus to A Coruna.
Whenever I think of Maccy D in Santiago I think of this guy standing outside:

1539541769849.png
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#35
See, like I say. and often, you get more out of it than you put into it.

Plus, you even get to shed some weight in the process.

See you next year...
Think I might do the CP from Oporto and straight into the Office if Montse will have me again.
 
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
#36
@Jeff Crawley and @t2andreo , a thought that occurs from issues when a Compostella cannot be granted, even if these seem to be a minority

I suggest the Pilgtims Office arrange for a card with biggish print in five or six languages (including from Asia) to give to pilgrims as they pass security into the building. On the card are the conditions re how to complete the last 100 km and two sello etc. The card to be handed over with the credential.

The message might contain (in English):
__________________________________
Please read this.
For a Compostella to be granted a prilgrim is to:
1) ...
2) ...
etc
If you have not met this standard, you can still ask for a Certificate of Distance.
When you arrive at the counteer please hand this card and your credential to the volunteer.
__________________________________

And thank you both for your insights and incidents into this aspect of this pilgrimage.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#37
@Jeff Crawley and @t2andreo , a thought that occurs from issues when a Compostella cannot be granted, even if these seem to be a minority

I suggest the Pilgtims Office arrange for a card with biggish print in five or six languages (including from Asia) to give to pilgrims as they pass security into the building. On the card are the conditions re how to complete the last 100 km and two sello etc. The card to be handed over with the credential.

The message might contain (in English):
__________________________________
Please read this.
For a Compostella to be granted a prilgrim is to:
1) ...
2) ...
etc
If you have not met this standard, you can still ask for a Certificate of Distance.
When you arrive at the counteer please hand this card and your credential to the volunteer.
__________________________________

And thank you both for your insights and incidents into this aspect of this pilgrimage.
A bit like the landing card you get given on international flights then?

Have you seen any of those "reality tv" border crossing shows? I especially like the Canadian ones because they're always so damn polite.

A family gets pulled over and are asked if they are carrying contraband.
No they say.
Huge suitcases are opened up to reveal they are packed with foodstuffs.
But you say on the card you have no food.
Oh, I didn't understand the question.
But it's written in your own language.

What they mean is they didn't think they'd get caught.

On the credential I have next to me each page for sellos says that you need at least two stamps per day with the date (it doesn't confine itself to the last 100kms). The page headed IMPORTANTE ANTES DE COMENZAR EL CAMINO DE SANTIAGO sets out the conditions for being granted a Compostela as100kms for walkers and horse riders, 200kms for cyclists and 100 nautical miles for sailors (ending on foot). It also says that the "Carrier of this Credential accepts these conditions"

Often, when this is pointed out, the person says "Oh, but it's in Spanish" to which my response was "That's because we're in Spain"

In short I don't think it would change things :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
#39
In short I don't think it would change things
Those who don't want to know, dont wnt to know.

And when you are at the Pilgrims Office you can't get the two stamps per day or do the section you didn't walk.

When I was an hour from home I filled out the arrival card. We have quite strict bio-diversity cntrol. While I had soaked my shoes that had walked more than 600 km down eastern France and taken to them with a hard brush I had totally forgotten to clean mt tent of all the grass and seeds it hd picked up.

I fessed up by marking my card appropriately and we had a very relaxed conversation. The bio-diversity chap even cleaned my tent without charge.

In the same way at the Pilgrims Office, a check card would help focus the conversation at the desk.

And possibly, make the encounter just that bit quicker for all.

Kia kaha (take care)
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#40
Those who don't want to know, dont wnt to know.

And when you are at the Pilgrims Office you can't get the two stamps per day or do the section you didn't walk.

When I was an hour from home I filled out the arrival card. We have quite strict bio-diversity cntrol. While I had soaked my shoes that had walked more than 600 km down eastern France and taken to them with a hard brush I had totally forgotten to clean mt tent of all the grass and seeds it hd picked up.

I fessed up by marking my card appropriately and we had a very relaxed conversation. The bio-diversity chap even cleaned my tent without charge.

In the same way at the Pilgrims Office, a check card would help focus the conversation at the desk.

And possibly, make the encounter just that bit quicker for all.

Kia kaha (take care)
"And when you are at the Pilgrims Office you can't get the two stamps per day or do the section you didn't walk." which is why you should familiarise yourself with the requirements before setting off not when you've finished the Camino.

I've only ever flown long distance across the Atlantic and the landing cards were, IIRC, only in English and French while on trips to North Africa and the Middle East this extended to include Arabic. I did a quick tot up and I issued Compostelas to the speakers of 35 different languages. Now a lot of Generation Z speak very good English - probably better than I do - but their parents and grandparents not so much.

Should there be 35+ different cards to suit all? Who would know which pilgrim would need which card?

As for speeding things up, many pilgrims don't even get their Credentials out of their packs until they're at the desk. The signing in sheet is in 6 languages (Spanish, English, German, French, Italian and Portuguese) and people still dither over what to fill in and where :) My best "score" over a 5 hour stint (no breaks) was to process 43 pilgrims - about one every 7 minutes - if you get a crowd of people who are not used to a Roman alphabet (I'm thinking Russian/Chinese/Japanese/Korean here although their passports also have entries in a western alphabet) charming as they are it does slow things down a lot. The only way to speed things up would be to have more volunteers - anyone care to offer? :)

In short I don't think it would change things ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
#41
[pilgrims] should familiarise themselves with the requirements before setting off
@Jeff Crawley , kia ora and no argument.

But the original post was about events at the Pilgrim Office, some of which were awkward, to say the least.

My suggestion was aimed at making those interactions less fraught by reminding waiting pilgrims of what will be asked at the counter.

Kia kaha
 

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