"" The Camino Frances" (Part 1)" Top 5 Page for this destination Pamplona by into-thin-air
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When you Mention " The Camino de Santiago " in England 95% of people just give you a Blank Look !! Not so many people know about it !! In the rest of Europe it is well known and Very Popular ? But From an English prospective it Must be Spain's best Kept Secret !!!
The first stage of this walk is on this page and the second stage is on my " Santiago de Compostela " page !!
Planning to walk the Camino de Santiago is Really Quite simple !!
The first thing to decide is where you wish to start the walk, Our decision was to start in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the reason for this is that we wished to walk right the way across Spain so by actually setting out from France and crossing the border by foot and eventually walking to Cape Finasterre ( The End of the Known World in the time of Christopher Columbus ) that decision was more or less made for us !
Then the next stage was to find and purchase our Maps and Guidebooks. My Next-Door Neighbour's Very Kindly bought me " A Practical Guide for Pilgrims " and this without doubt was our " Bible " for the walk, it comes complete with detachable strip-maps with the walk broken down into 20 / 30 kilometre sections as well as having loads of information on the villages, towns and cities en-route. Next we contacted the " Confraternity of Saint James " and bought their publication " The Camino Frances ( and later their Finasterre extension book ) for information on the " Refugios " and my walking friend Stevie also purchased the " Cicerone " Guide -- " The Way of Saint James " which proved invaluable during the planning of the various stages of the walk.
Next was to sort out transport to St- Jean-Pied-de-Port from England again the choice was a fairly simple one as by far the cheapest and the quickest was to pick one of the Budget Airlines and get the cheapest ticket to the closest point, this turned out to be a flight from London Stanstead to Bordeaux, from there we simply got the airport bus into Bordeaux City Centre, caught a train to Bayonne, changed trains there and caught another on direct to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and there we were ready to start walking !!
We had pre-booked accommodation in a small Guesthouse as our guidebook informed us that the refugio was only open there in the summer months, this proved to bad information ( one of the very few times that this book proved to be wrong ) as we found out that it was open when we went to purchase our " Credentials " (Pilgrim's Passport )
The Pilgrims Passport is ESSENTIAL as without one you will NOT be allowed to stay in the Refugios -- So it is very Important to look after this document and keep it safe, Every Place that you stay you will get a Stamp ( Cello ) and when you eventually reach Santiago de Compostella it is this document that is Closely Studied before you are awarded your Compostella Certificate.
So after a good nights sleep in our Guesthouse, Rucksacks packed, we were ready to start what without doubt is one of the Most Popular long Distance Walks ( Pilgrimages ) in the World !!!!!!!!!
Because of the length of the walk ( approximately 864 kilometres ) we had decided that the only way that we were going to be able to do it was to split the walk into two sections, so Leaving St-Jean-Pied-de-Port we were hoping to walk as far as Burgos within the two weeks that we had available to us.so we had broken the walk down into daily sections of around 25 / 30 kilometres to be able to achieve this.
Day one, we picked the High Level Route over the shoulder of the Pyrenees called " The Route Napoleon " This is a Spectacular route that is only recommended when the weather is good as you are a Long way up when crossing " The Col de Lepoeder " at 1440m
We had a Beautiful day and spent our first night at the Monastery at Roncesvalles and a Wonderful place that is too to spend your first night of you Pilgrimage !!
Then we walked through the Basque Country for two days, stopping overnight at Larrasoana in a great little refugio run by the town's Mayor before arriving at Pamplona.
Pamplona is a Beautiful City, Packed with superb buildings and well worth a day off if you can afford it -- unfortunately as we were on a fairly tight schedule we could only manage half a day but never-the-less thoroughly enjoyed it !!
Next place en-route was Puente la Reina where an Awesome old pilgrims bridge spans the river, from there it was on to Estella which was a town built specifically to look after pilgrims. on the way out of this town was a Funte de Vino ( a wine fountain ) I've never come across anything like this in the past and don't expect that I will ever come across another in the future !!!!
Then it was on through the Beautiful Rioja countryside where Spain's Finest wines are produced, and Yes I did sample the occasional bottle ( or two !!! ) passing through Tores del Rio and then into the city of Logrono and on to Najera with it's spectacular 15th century Franciscan Monastery.
Next we came to the small village of Granon where we spent one of the most memorable nights of the Camino in refugio converted from an old church bell-tower, We were Well looked after by the local priest and a meal was provided -- a Fantastic Place and one not to be missed !!
Then onwards through Villafranca Montes de Oca to Burgos, the Largest city we passed through on the first section of our walk and a Beautiful City it was, dominated by it's Gothic Cathedral.
From here the ground levelled out somewhat and we walked on to Hornillos de Camino, unfortunately at this point the weather broke down and did it Rain !! Onwards on Muddy Paths to Castrojeriz for our penultimate night before walking on to Fromista and finishing our first stage !!!
Getting back home again was a fairly simple affair, we had booked a flight back to London from Madrid with easyjet, so all we had to do was find a way back from wherever we finished the first section of our walk to Madrid, and as we weren't exactly sure how far we were going to get pre-planning this section of the journey was impossible !! We had originally only thought that we would get as far as Burgos and as it was a fairly large city we didn't think that getting to Madrid from there would have been a problem but ending up in a relatively small town we just didn't know !!
As it happened things couldn't have worked out any simpler, we caught a morning train after spending the last night in the refugio at Fromista, changed once at Palencia and arrived in Madrid mid afternoon. we didn't encounter any difficulties in finding good and reasonably priced accommodation right in the City Centre, we had time for a Quick look around the city before it got dark ( It would have been nice to have spent some more time in Madrid but as I have already said we were on a bit of a tight schedule time wise !! )
Then the next day we caught the metro directly out to the airport and flew back to England without any Problems !!
Then we returned once more two years later in August 20001 to complete this Wonderful walk -- If you would like to read about " The Camino de Santiago, Stage 2, then I have wrote about it on my " Santiago de Compostela page !!
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