Guide books – and the sour taste they leave

Guide books - and the sour taste they leave


The comment was:

We all start out like this…

We buy a guide book, read excitedly about the Camino and its stages and often follow the recommendations about albergues and routes outlined in them because after all the author must know!

During my last Camino I decided to ditch the recommendations of the famous Brierley guide when I discovered that the little villages in between stages are often more beautiful, peaceful and welcoming then the ‘recommended’ stage destinations.

However, one day I got confronted with the reality of what these recommendations mean to locals and I was both shocked and saddened by it.

Walking out of Leon I decided to take the ‘grey’ route planning to stay in San Martin del Camino. It was a pleasant walk despite walking along the road. One of the locals, now in his 90s, had left out snacks and drinks in his front yard for pilgrims to enjoy as he used to walk the Camino many times when he was younger …. It was the nicest thing ever … except there were no pilgrims to enjoy it and this was in June!

Upon arrival in San Martin I stayed in Santa Ana … it was spacious, clean … and very empty! There were 4 pilgrims (including myself) and the other 2 albergues didn’t look any busier. When I talked to hospitaleira I discovered that since the route via Mazarife was recommended hardly any pilgrims came this way and a 4th Albuerge in town had to close down already. During the joined evening meal I discovered that 2 of the other pilgrims only had ended up there because they had ‘taken a wrong turn’ and they wanted to take the recommended route too. I felt very sorry for the owner of the Albergue as she was so welcoming, an amazing cook and we even got free cherries from a tree growing in the yard.

Make of this little story what you want but it really brought home to that the decisions we make, the guide books we follow (often without thinking too much about it) can have a profound impact on the locals. Perhaps we should start using our own head more, choose our routes and places to stay based on what feels right to us rather than following the trail like sheep.

Despite all this I had an amazing time and wish everybody all the joy and love there is to discover out there!

Read the full conversation on the good and the bad about using a guidebook.

What is a good book for choosing which Camino to walk?

What is a good book for choosing which Camino to walk?

The question was:

I think the first step in planning my Camino is to choose a route.

Can someone please recommend a book that outlines in the various routes and discusses them in detail?

Read this conversation on books on the Camino de Santiago here.

Guide book or just a map for the Camino de Santiago?

Guide book or just a map for the Camino de Santiago?

The question was:

I had just walked the Camino Frances with the Brierley Guide. A couple of friends who plan to walk the CF next year asked me what maps/guides I would recommend. I remember meeting pilgrims with just maps of the camino. I thought that it would have sufficed and are much lighter than my guide book. I looked up the Brierley Maps (NOT Guide) and Ben Cole and Bethan Maps on Amazon (USA). The Brierley Maps was listed at 4 ounces, while the Ben Cole and Bethan Maps at .8 ounces! I have heard that the Ben Cole and Bethan’s lighter, but I don’t think it’s that light LOL For those who have these two maps (Brierley’s and Cole’s), please let me know the actual weights of these two items. BTW, in helping these two friends plan for their CF, I’m thinking of returning next year to walk the Camino del Norte. Any suggestion for Guide/Map for the Norte? Buen Camino.

Read the good advice regarding the pros and contras of bringing a map and/or guidebook on the Camino de Santiago.

What did you read while walking the Camino de Santiago?

Camino de Santiago Books

The question was:

I am interested in what people were reading while they we walking. Reading books about the Camino is important before and after, but the books are heavy and once absorbed, provide a context for an experience.

I have walked twice – once ten years ago on the Camino Frances and most recently, this fall on the Le Puy route.

For my first walk, I brought along the Lliad – and didn’t read a bit of it. I was thinking about a classic “journey” book but I realized I was being way too earnest and it simply did not resonate.

In the fall, I brought another book, which I cannot even remember and I think I shipped it home with my initial round of weight shedding.

During the walk, I picked up an Islandic dectective novel translated into french and read that. It was in fact the first book I have read “en francais” for pleasure and has been transformative, in a way since I am now much more likely to read other books in french – but nothing too earnest.

During my walk, I thought more about what would be a good book to read while walking the Camino. My proposal then and now is “Shamrock Tea” written by Irish author Ciarran Carson. The book is an imaginary journey that touches on colours, paintings, saints, Whittgenstein, Irish folklore and other fantastic references. It defies categorization – part memoire, part novel, part folktale and part sorcery. This swill of images fits since we are all engaging in an experience that is outside our comfort zone; hence it complements the reflection and transitions that occur during the walk.

While I was walking, I heard that an Irish pilgrim was talking about this book to others but, he was generally a a couple of days ahead of me. In fact, we met briefly at Conques but did not have much time to have an extended conversation.

What were you reading (or intend to read) on your Camino and why?

Read the good discussion on what book to bring with you on the Camino de Santiago here.

Camino de Santiago map

Camino de Santiago map

This is not really a question, but may are looking for Camino de Santiago maps. In the forum this has been talked about a lot,  for example posts like:

But maybe the most important question would be: