Camino in Gran Canaria

Camino in Gran Canaria

Spanish teacher Marina Rodríguez, from La Lengua de Babel, is from the Canary Islands and specialises in the Spanish spoken there.

She joined me in the podcast to tell us all about the Camino in Gran Canaria.

This blog post is an English version of the conversation we had in Spanish.

If you prefer to listen, you can do so here:

Why is there a Camino in Gran Canaria?

According to Marina, there are 2 reasons, both going back to the 15th century, when the Kingdom of Castile conquered the Canary Islands first and the Americas later.

The first reason:

After the conquest, the Canary Islands became a part of many Spanish shipping routes. According to legend, a boat with Galician sailors was sailing along the southern coast of Gran Canaria when they were hit by a storm. The sailors were carrying a statue of St. James, so they prayed to him and made a promise: if they survived, they would build a small church on the highest land they saw right after the storm.

They survived and the first place they saw was Tirajana, one of the highest points on the Gran Canaria island. So they carried the statue of St. James from Arguineguín, on the southern coast, to the top of the mountain, where they built a small church as promised. This church became a pilgrimage site, but in 1850 the statue of St. James was moved to another town called Tunte.

The second reason takes us to Gáldar, in the north of the island. 

Right from the beginning, the Castilian conquerors started celebrating mass in the islands, and the first church they built was devoted to St. James. This happened around the same time as the story of the Galician sailors.

Centuries later, in 1965, a papal bull awarded Gáldar the priviledge of celebrating St. James Holy Year under the same conditions enjoyed at Santiago de Compostela. It was meant to be an exceptional occurence, but it became permanent in 1993.

Stages of the Camino de Gran Canaria

The Camino in Gran Canaria joins the stories of the Galician sailors and the Santiago church in Gáldar. It goes from the south, close to where the Galician sailors landed, to the templo jacobeo de Santiago de los Caballeros de Gáldar, the church of Santiago in Gáldar in the north.

Officially this Camino has 3 stages and covers a distance of 66 km. The difficulty of this route is medium-high.

It’s not a good idea to walk it in the summer, because it’s too hot. It can also be dangerous when it’s raining, because of all the cliffs and steep slopes.

Stage 1: Maspalomas – Tunte

28 km from the Maspalomas (close to Arguineguín) to Tunte. This stage follows, more or less, the route that the Galician sailors took after the storm. You start by the sea, at the Maspalomas lighthouse, and you climb up to 1000 m, so you will see the landscape change as you climb. You’ll walk through a national park, and there are not many towns on this section, apart from the villages of Artenara and Fataga. In Artenara there is an indigenous cemetery with around 800 graves. In Fataga, on the other hand, you can see the typical architecture of the Canary Islands.

 

Stage 2: Tunte – Cruz de Tejeda

17 km of ascent from Tune to Cruz de Tejeda. Another beautiful but difficult stage with cliffs, ravines, caves… and something else: calderas. Calderas are volcanic craters that have collapsed, so there’s only part of the volcano. You will see several on this stage.

Stage 3: Cruz de Tejeda – Gáldar

21 km of descent into Gáldar, where the other church of Santiago is located. There are some indigenous remains on this stage too. And the “firefighter-sheep”. In recent years, shepherding has been reintroduced in the Canary Islands, mainly as a way to prevent fires. So, as you walk down into Gáldar, you’ll see the so-called ovejas-bombero (“firefighter-sheep”).

 

The Camino as a social project

In 2027, a judge in the Canary Islands had the idea to send young people who had committed a crime to walk the Camino instead of a detention centre. She thought that the Camino could teach them values like sportsmanship, respect, perseverance, etc.

It started as a pilot project, but the results were fantastic, so it’s been happening since then. There is now an association that organizes a Camino every year for young people with different problems, not just with justice. They also use the opportunity to raise funds for different causes. In most cases, it has been a very successful experience.

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Buen Camino

Pamplona with Jose Mari Ardanaz

Pamplona with Jose Mari Ardanaz

This week I was joined on the podcast by Jose Mari Ardanaz, from El Camino People.

Jose Mari walked his first Camino in 2017. One of the things that most caught his attention about the Camino was the people who walked it and their stories. That’s why he first created an Instagram profile to share some of those stories. that project grew and grew until the Camino took up most of his life. That’s when he founded El Camino People, which is a travel agency but it also an NGO, which collaborates with organisations that help people with disabilities. 

Jose Mari lives in Pamplona and he shares his knowledge about the city. Scroll down to listen to our conversation in Spanish, or get the highlights here in English.

There are 3 things every visitor to Pamplona should be aware of, according to Jose Mari:

  1. The Camino, of course. The Francés from Saint Jean, is just one of them, but there are others, like the Francés from Somport, Camino Francés-Aragonés,  Camino del Baztán, and Camino de Sakana, which is part of the Camino Olvidado.
  2. San Fermín festival, with the running of the bulls. One of Jose Mari’s recommendations is to follow their route, from near the town hall to the bullring.
  3. Food.

    Things to visit in Pamplona

    The cathedral. Unlike other cathedrals along the Camino, the one in Pamplona is not in a big square. The exterior and interior belong to 2 different periods. The exterior is ‘ugly’ compared to other cathedrals; it looks more like a palace or official building, but the interior is spectacular. You shouldn’t miss the Occidens exhibition there.

    Pamplona used to be a fortress and the old city walls are still standing. You enter Pamplona through the Portal de Francia, one of the old city gates. Visit the city walls, the old town, and Jose Mari particularly recommends not to miss El caballo blanco, a meeting point for the people of Pamplona. 

    On your way out of Pamplona there’s a park called La Taconera on your left. The Camino is on your right. Instead of following the official Camino, Jose Mari recommends to take Avenida del Ejército on your left instead. That way you’ll go through the old citadel and be transported to past times. After that, you’ll join the official Camino again on your way to Alto del Perdón.

    Centro Ultreia, a pilgrim welcome and interpretation centre that is 100% accessible. You can learn about the history of the Camino in Navarra. 



    Food

    Pamplona’s food offer is very varied, ranging from simple traditional dishes to more elaborate and innovative ones. 

    If you’re only staying one night, the fun thing to do is to have a tapas, only they’re called pintxos in Pamplona.

    On the traditional side, Jose Mari recommends Café Río and their bechamel ball with an egg inside. They have a counter keeping track of how many eggs they ever have sold… and it’s over half a million!

    If you prefer the trendier side, Jose Mari suggests Baserriberri.

    If you’re planning to stay longer, and you’re a meat lover, you need to treat yourself to a good chuletón (big T-bone steak). 

    And a word you may need, and that’s specific to Navarra and the Basque Country: zurito. You probably know caña already, for a glass of beer. A zurito is a smaller serving, it’s half a glass. It’s what the locals normally take when planning to go to 4 or 5 bars.

     

    Hemingway

    You can’t talk about Pamplona without mentioning Ernest Hemingway. References to the author can be found throughout the city:

    – There’s a monument to Hemingway outside the bullring.

    – On one side of Café Iruña, you’ll find El Rincón de Hemingway (Hemingway’s corner), a speakeasy serving great cocktails.

    – When in Pamplona, Hemingway used to stay at Hotel La Perla. If you want to splurge, you could also stay in this 5-star hotel. Hemingway’s room has been kept just as it was when he stayed there. Over the years, people who have stayed there have sent copies of The Sun also Rises (Fiesta in the Spanish translation), in their own languages. So, the room now displays this collection. 

     

    San Fermín festival

    It takes place every year, July 6-14.

    Jose Mari’s warning: if you’re planning to stay in Pamplona around those dates, you should book a year in advance. The city will be packed during the festival and it will be impossible to find accommodation otherwise. 

    You should also know that the public albergue closes during the festival. And the private hostels will be full of tourists and party-goers.

     With so much to see and do, maybe plan some extra time in Pamplona and follow Jose Mari’s recommendations.

     

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    Jose Mari also told me a little bit about the Camino del Baztán. If you’re interested in this bonus audio + transcript, you’ll find it with the podcast transcripts.

     

    Buen Camino

    Other Christmas traditions

    Other Christmas traditions

    Spain is a very diverse country. There are cultural differences in every region, and Christmas is not an exception.

    Of course, we have shared customs and traditions, but there are other Christmas traditions too that are specific  to each region. 

    I got 3 people to share some of these in the podcast.

    You can listen in Spanish.

    Or you can continue reading a summarised version of it in English.

     

    Christmas in the Canary Islands

    We start in the Canary Islands with Marina Rodríguez, from Lengua de Babel. I must confess I didn’t know about any of the things she mentions, which are:

      • A Christmas carol called ‘Lo Divino’, performed by parrandas. Parrandas are an informal kind of band. To announce the start of Christmas, they go from house to house performing ‘Lo Divino’. People give them food and drink and neighbours improvise small street parties.

       

      • The nativity scene at Las Canteras beach in Gran Canaria. It’s made of sand and it’s huge! Around 1500m². Once Christmas is over, it gets destroyed.

      • They have different Christmas foods & treats. Marina’s favourite treat is called truchas de batata. They’re sweet potato pasties and, apart from sweet potato, they also have sugar, lemon, cinnamon and anisette.

      • The weather is not cold in the Canaries, so it’s common for people to go to the beach at Christmas time. But tradition dictates that you should go for a swim in the ocean on January 1.

        By the way, did you know there’s a Camino in the Canaries? Maybe I’ll invite Marina some other time to talk about it. What do you think?

        Christmas in Extremadura

        Liliana Duarte, from Lilidiomas, is from Portugal, but she lives in Extremadura and she tells us all about Christmas foods in this region.

        Extremadura is in the west of Spain, next to Portugal and the Vía de la Plata goes through it.

        Extremadura is well known for producing some of the best Iberian hams so, it’s only normal that ham would be one of the main starters, together with local cheeses like Torta del casar, Ibores or La Serena. Some families may also have the Extremaduran version of gazpacho.

        For the main course, roasted lamb or piglet are popular options. Although Extremadura is landlocked, some families choose to have cod or octopus, probably influenced by Portugal. All of this accompanied by local wines.

        And let’s not forget dessert. Apart from the Christmas treats that are common to all Spanish regions, Extremadurans also take roscos de vino (little cakes shaped like a ring doughnut and cooked in wine), and pestiños (honey fritters).

        Christmas in Murcia

        Lourdes Soriano, from El aula de Lourdes, is from the region of Murcia, in the south east of Spain. That’s where Caravaca de la Cruz is, and 2024 will be a jubilee year there. But Lourdes is not talking about the Camino de Caravaca de la Cruz or the jubilee year today. She’s sharing a couple of typical Christmas treats in the region.

        • Cordiales originated in the east of Spain. They’re made of almond, eggs, sugar, wafer and a filling made of pumpkin and syrup.

        • Alfajores, of arabic origin, contain honey, nuts and spices.

         

        Find out more about Marina, Lili and Lourdes.

        If you want to know more about the Canary Islands and the Spanish spoken there, Marina is the person you need. Check her website La Lengua de Babel.

        Lili is from Portugal and teaches European Portuguese. You’ll find her on her website or her Youtube channel.)

        Lourdes Soriano is a Spanish teacher from Murcia. You can find out more about her (and her podcast) in El Aula de Lourdes

         

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        ¡Felices Fiestas y Buen Camino!

        Walking the Camino as a solo woman

        Walking the Camino as a solo woman

        Paloma García is a Spanish teacher and pilgrim who has walked the Camino de Santiago twice.

        She has three passions: languages, cooking, and meaningful travel. She fulfilled her dream of learning French by moving to France and she’s a dedicated cook.

        Her love for travel with purpose led her to walk the Camino de Santiago twice.

        So, Paloma’s Caminos were not motivated by religion but rather by a desire for a different kind of vacation, a physical challenge. She was also someone who travelled with a lot of luggage, so the idea of travelling light was appealing.

        You can listen to our conversation, in Spanish, in the podcast.



        Or you can read a summary here in English.

        Paloma’s first Camino experience was in 2017. She walked for a week with her partner, into Santiago de Compostela. For her first experience, she decided to combine different Camino routes to avoid the crowded final stages of the Camino Francés. 

        Five years later, in 2022, Paloma decided to walk the Camino alone. For most Spaniards, Roncesvalles is the starting point of the Camino Francés. However, since Paloma lives in France, starting in Saint Jean Pied Port, was important for her. France. She wasn’t sure she would be able to make it all the way to Santiago (and she didn’t have the time either), but she wanted her second experience to be longer than the first, so she walked for 10 days. She hoped she could walk all the way to Burgos, but once on the Camino, she realised her goals were too ambitious and decided it wasn’t wise to push herself to reach Burgos.

        For this 2nd Camino, several people offered to walk with her, but she really wanted the experience of doing it by herself. 

        Although she is a social person, Paloma also enjoys quiet time by herself, to reflect and get lost in her thoughts. And the Camino provided the perfect opportunity. 

         

        We  discussed the balance between solitude and social interaction on the Camino and how it encourages self-reflection and the development of emotional independence. 

        In this context, we also commented on the cultural differences in people’s approaches to travelling alone and the respect for each other’s desire for solitude.

        One of the differences she noticed is that Spaniards are more gregarious, and find silence uncomfortable, while people from certain other nationalities don’t seem particularly interested in socialising. 

        Her second Camino was a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, to learn how to overcome her initial fears and embrace solitude. It was a very empowering experience, and a declaration of her right to travel alone without fear.

        Does Paloma recommend a solo Camino?

        Not necessarily. While she had a desire to walk by herself and she learned a lot from it, Paloma doesn’t think this might be the right choice for everybody. Every person is different and, depending on your characteristics and personal circumstances, may or may not be a good idea for you. 

         

        Overall, our conversation explores the unique experiences and personal growth that come from walking the Camino de Santiago, particularly as a woman travelling alone, and how it offers a balance of solitude and social interaction.




        About Paloma

        As I mentioned at the beginning, Paloma is a Spanish teacher. You can find her at www.sicomprendo.net

        She hosts Sí, comprendo, a podcast for intemediate-advanced students. In one of the episodes, she talks about the Camino. I was a guest in another episode where we talk about my experience walking ‘alternative caminos’ (or avoiding the Francés…). 

         

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        ¡Buen Camino!

        Tips to improve your Spanish on the Camino

        Tips to improve your Spanish on the Camino

        There’s nothing like spending time in a Spanish-speaking country to improve your Spanish skills and learn about the life and culture of that country. The Camino de Santiago is the perfect opportunity for an immersion experience. After all, you’re going to spend at least one week in Spain, and you may spend several weeks, a month even.

        It would be a shame not to take advantage of all that time to improve your Spanish a little. 

        You’re going to be in Spain, surrounded by people who speak Spanish, things written in Spanish… so it’s almost impossible not to learn something. 

        In this post you’ll find tips to get more out of your Spanish during this pilgrimage time.

        You can listen to these ideas in the podcast, in Spanish.

        Or you can continue reading in English.

        Let’s start with the advantages of learning Spanish on the Camino compared to other destinations in Spain.

        There are many routes and each one is different, but in general you’ll pass through a lot of towns and villages that are far from the most touristy areas. So, you won’t find many people who speak English or any other foreign language. It may not be so difficult on the Camino Francés because it’s the most popular one. But if you take other routes… Spanish will come in very handy. 

        In general, people react very positively when someone makes the effort to speak Spanish, even if it’s very basic. So don’t be afraid. You’ll even notice that they treat you better than someone who doesn’t try. And I’m not the only one saying this, people who have made the effort have had access to special experiences that would have been closed to them otherwise.

         

        Tips to improve your Spanish

         

        • The first one is quite obvious: Depending on the route you choose and the time of year, it’s quite possible that you’ll come across other pilgrims. Sharing the path with other pilgrims from around the world is an essential part of the experience. But why limit yourself to people who speak your own language only?  Roughly half of the pilgrims who walk the Camino every year are Spanish. Speaking Spanish will allow you to connect with them and it will obviously help you improve your Spanish. In addition, Spanish is an official language in more than 20 countries, so you can make friends not only with pilgrims from Spain, but with those from any other Spanish-speaking country.   

        • We tend to focus on relationships with other pilgrims and often forget about the people who live in the places we pass through. In the smaller towns, it’s common to find people, especially older people, who are eager to chat. Take advantage of this opportunity and greet them. Stop for a few minutes, ask them about life in the village, their festivals, history, customs, whatever comes to mind. Not only will you be practicing the language, but you will also be learning a lot about the culture and way of life. And you will be making this person’s day.   
        • In the bigger cities and towns, people tend to be in a hurry. They don’t have as much time to stop and chat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice. Look around you. You are surrounded by opportunities to improve your Spanish. There are billboards, signs in shop windows, information at bus stops, etc.  Pay attention to all of this. Do you understand everything or are there any new words? Surely you have a phone with an internet connection, right?  If you see a new word, you can look it up in an online dictionary. Or take a picture and ask someone later when you have the chance.

        • In these larger places, there is usually a tourist office. Look for it and go ask for information. They will be happy to help you and you will be practicing and learning.  
        • It’s common for bars and cafes to have newspapers. Take advantage of the breakfast or break time to read a bit if you don’t have anyone to talk to. In addition to practicing reading, you will also be up-to-date on current events and learning about other issues. What topics are given more space in the newspaper? What type of news is more frequent? Are newspapers in your country the same or different?  
        • At the end of each day, write a little bit, in Spanish, of course, about how your day went. You don’t need to write a long text with long, elaborate paragraphs. You can start by simply writing down words or very short phrases, and you’ll notice how your writing will get better every day.   

         

        In order to help you with this last part, I have created journals for the Camino. Actually, you can start using them even before arriving in Spain. You can plan your stages, write your packing list or your thoughts. You also have space to write every day during your Camino, as as after your journey, while you are still processing your experience.

         

        There are two versions of the diary:

        There is one for those who are going to do a longer journey. In this one, you have space to write up to 40 days.

        And for those who are going to do a shorter journey, there is a shorter version of the diary where you have space to write up to 15 days.

        Or, if you prefer a simple notebook, you can get a Camino-inspired one.

         

        >> Looking for the podcast transcripts? Click here to find them.

         

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        ¡Buen Camino!