What is the Camino de Santiago

What is the Camino de Santiago

After 100 blog posts, I thought it was time to try other things.  I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a podcast for months. And now, finally, the Spanish for the Camino podcast is here.

Unlike the blog, podcast episodes will be in Spanish.

The idea with the blog was to help those with no Spanish at all to learn at least some basics.

But I know that some of you have those basics covered and are looking for something more advanced. And that’s where the podcast comes in. Short episodes, on not too difficult Spanish and all about the Camino.

I recorded a very short episode in English explaining what you can expect from the podcast. And… you can also listen to the first ‘proper’ episode. In Spanish.

Episode 1

To give you some context before you listen: the title of Episode 1 is ‘Qué es el Camino de Santiago’ or, in English, ‘What is the Camino de Santiago’.

In this episode you’ll hear an overview of what the Camino is and how it started. You will also hear what the main routes are within Spain and some of the most common motivations to walk.

Without getting into too many details, because the episode is just over 6 minutes long.


The plan

The plan is not to turn the podcast into some sort of Camino encyclopaedia with lots of data (there already are some fantastic websites out there with plenty of information). The plan is to give you an opportunity to improve your Spanish while listening about one of your favourite topics: the Camino.

If you know me, you’ve probably heard me talk about the importance of consistency when learning a language. If you’re going to do 1 hour of Spanish a week, it’s much better to split it into shorter periods and do around 10 minutes a day, rather than doing the whole hour the same day.

And that’s one of the reasons why I plan to keep the podcast episodes short. They could be your 10 minutes of Spanish a day.

OK. Enough explaining.


The podcast



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¡Buen Camino!

Walking & talking on the Camino

Walking & talking on the Camino

I did it again. I walked the Camino with another group of strangers. Sort of.


Let me explain.

In 2019 I walked the Camino Inglés with another Spanish teacher and a group of total strangers who wanted to improve their Spanish. The truth is, I hadn’t even met the other teacher in person until we both arrived in Ferrol the day before we started walking. Despite all my fears (and I had many), the experience was so amazing that we were planning to do it again in 2020. But we all know how 2020 went…

Fast forward to 2022. The idea was to give the plan another try. A different route, though. But, again, things didn’t go according to plan. This time it was the other teacher, who had to pull out of the project, quite unexpectedly, for personal reasons.

That left me wondering, should I go ahead by myself? Or should I just forget about the whole thing? So many changes of fechas (dates), cancellations, and other setbacks… maybe it was not meant to happen again after that first wonderful experience.

After much thinking and some ‘consulting with la almohada’* I decided to do it.

Since our original dates were too close, I moved forward to September. I also made the decision to take a smaller group (4 or 5 max.).

As you can imagine, the group changed a lot since we originally planned this Camino in 2020. And even from the time I decided to go ahead with it and the time we actually started the walk.

The walk

We ended up with a very balanced group: 2 hombres (men) and 2 mujeres (women); 2 with previous Camino experience and 2 who were walking their first Camino; 2 I knew, and 2 I had only met once briefly when they were inquiring about this experience. That would require some adjusting and getting used to each other’s quirks, I thought. But we got on quite well and I soon felt like we had all known each other for a while.

We all met in Tui, our starting point, on Sunday September 25. We started walking the Camino Portugués the next day. The plan was to walk for 6 days, and arrive in Santiago on Saturday, October 1.

It was still quite busy on the Camino at the end of September. We kept seeing other pilgrims along the way. 

Our destination for the first day was Porriño. We didn’t know this, but there was a local festival there, with everything that entails: lots of people, busy bars and restaurants, loud music, etc. It was hard to rest after lunch, due to all the noise. And we were worried we would not be able to sleep at night. But we were lucky and they didn’t finish too late. Phew!

The weather

The weather forecast for the week wasn’t bad. The first 2 days, the weather was perfect for walking: dry and not too hot.  The forecast for the third day was confusing. Depending on where we looked, we could make it to Pontevedra without rain… or not. 

We made it to Arcade in dry weather. But when we left the café where we had stopped for a break, it was raining. The rain was light at first, but it soon became heavier. I had good memories of the section between Arcade and Pontevedra from the previous time I had walked it. But I can’t say I enjoyed it this time. The rain was relentless; I was roasting under the poncho; the group got split and I ended up in the middle, losing track of the ones ahead of me and not seeing the ones behind me either. Kind of stressful. We eventually got reunited, and at some point I decided to take off my hood. It was either getting my head wet or passing out from the heat. Getting wet sounded like the best choice.

It stopped raining a couple of miles before Pontevedra. It rained heavily that night and we feared we would have another very wet and miserable day, but it didn’t rain that much while we were walking between Pontevedra and Caldas de Reis. No more rain after that. We got loads of fog between Caldas and Padrón and the last day was just perfect!

Into data?

As I mentioned above, we all had different backgrounds and interests. So, while I’m not too interested in data, we had someone in the group who gave us a daily report. That’s how I know we walked for 29h 44min in total. We covered a distancia (distance) of 121km, at an average speed of 4.07km/h. The day we walked in heavy rain was our slowest. The day we walked in the fog was our fastest.

The day we arrived in Santiago, 2897 Compostelas were issued.

The talk

Almost 30 hours spent walking, plus breaks, mealtimes, etc. That’s a lot of speaking time.

The good news is that we never lacked topics for conversation.

Some conversations were serious; some, funny (or even ridiculous! 😂). Some were happy; some, sad. Some were very informative; some, full of useless facts (thank you, Andy, for the ‘useless fact of the day’).

We talked about life, death and everything in between. We told jokes and scary stories. We discussed books and films, history, family, food, sports… even politics and religion! All in Spanish. All flowing naturally. It wasn’t perfect. In fact, we may have coined one or two new Spanish words… But that was not the point. Or the goal.

The point was to communicate, to learn new things, to make connections. And we certainly did that. We even had a couple of Camino moments!

And the connecting part did not just happen among ourselves.

Finding a place that was open for desayuno (breakfast) in Porriño was complicated. According to Google, there were many to choose from. The reality was that only one of them was actually open.

And that’s where we had our first encounter with a very lively group of Spanish ladies. They were sitting at this café, all wearing the same jackets and being quite loud, we thought, at that early time. The camarero (waiter) was reciting a poem to one of them, the others were recording with their phones and making jokes. In short, they were having a blast.

We met them again, later that day. Some of our group got to talk to them a lot (all in Spanish), learn about their story and bond -something they couldn’t have done if they didn’t speak Spanish.

We learned that these ladies were from Valencia and belonged to the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer (Spanish Association Against Cancer). They took part in many activities together, like singing in a choir… and they did sing a lot while walking. It was their way of keeping the spirits up of those who were struggling with serious health issues. They were a lovely group, always happy and positive, and it was a joy to meet them day after day, including the day we walked into Santiago. 

There are so many anecdotes and we shared so many moments (good and not so good) that I could keep writing and writing. But I don’t want to bore you. I may write another post about the experience. Or not. Can’t promise anything.

Anyway, the video below will give you an idea of some of the special moments we shared.

Today’s Spanish words

*Consultar con la almohada is the Spanish version of the English expression ‘to sleep on something’.


For more details about each of the stages and the towns we visited, check my previous posts. I had walked this route before, at different times, with different people, and I wrote a post about each of the stages. You can start here.

I’m finalising the details for a new Walk & Talk experience in 2023. To get an idea of what to expect and join the waiting list, check the details of this year’s experience.


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¡Buen Camino!

Finding food on the Camino

Finding food on the Camino

How often did you have trouble finding food on the Camino?

This is a complaint that comes up on a regular basis in Camino groups. It usually has to do with one of these 2 scenarios:

  • Pilgrims are trying to get cena (dinner), but restaurants are closed and no one is serving hot food.
  • Pilgrims want to buy supplies on a domingo (Sunday) or festivo (public holiday).

To avoid either of these situations, you must understand how things work in Spain.


So, what do you need to know to avoid not finding food on the Camino?

Let’s start with the second situation: domingos y festivos.

Most businesses are closed on those days.

Bars and restaurants are usually open. So, eating out on a Sunday or holiday should not be a problem. At least, not at lunch time. Dinner could be tricky.

Panaderías (bakeries)  will open in the morning. But supermarkets and other shops in general will be closed. So, you could get fresh bread and pastries in the morning. But, if you’re hoping to buy something else… well, ¡buena suerte! (good luck).

In smaller towns you may find that shops close on sábado (Saturday) evening too.

Something else to keep in mind: buses and trains are less frequent on Sundays and holidays, but that’s not our topic for today, so let’s focus on food.


Finding food when it’s not a Sunday or holiday

Now we know what happens on Sundays and holidays. But what happens the rest of the week? Why do some people struggle to find food? And no, the answer is not siesta, in case that’s what you’re thinking.


The first thing you need to understand is that there are specific times for each meal in Spain. Finding a place that serves hot food outside of those times is a rare occurrence. You can find snacks, but not a proper cooked meal. 

For more info on what you can find and where, check ¿Dónde vas a comer?

Breakfast is the least important of all our meals and, as such, it’s more flexible. Most Spaniards will have a cup of coffee and a tostada (toast) or a couple of galletas (biscuits or cookies, depending on where you’re from) before heading off to work. A second breakfast, pretty much like the one pilgrims have, is common.

Lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain. And lunch happens typically between 1.30-4.00pm. After 3.30 (or 3.45 at the latest), the kitchens in the restaurants close and they don’t reopen until dinner time.


When is dinner time?

Late, for other countries’ standards. Having dinner at 9.00, 10.00pm or even later is perfectly normal. But not such a good plan if you’re starving because you’ve only had a few snacks throughout the day. Or if you need to be back at the albergue before 10.00pm. 

Finding food

Restaurant kitchens usually reopen at 8.30pm for the dinner service. 

In this restaurant they have their kitchen times posted outside. You can see that their kitchen opens 30 minutes earlier, for both lunch and dinner, than what I said above. 

Not every single restaurant opens and closes at the same time, obviously. But finding a place that starts serving dinner before 8.00pm and lunch before 1.00pm is the exception rather than the norm.


What can you do?

Your best bet is to try the Spanish way: have lunch as soon as you get to your destination for the day, as long as you finish walking before 3.00pm. You can shower and rest after you’ve eaten. And then you can have something light for dinner, like a drink and a tapa or two.

Doing it like this will also give you more options, since the menú del día is usually available for lunch but not for dinner.


If having your main meal earlier in the day does not appeal to you, you have 2 options: starve until dinner time or find a shop selling food and buy something to help you make it until dinner time. 


Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of siesta (and for an explanation of why siesta is usually not the answer), check 5 things you need to know about Spain.

For the pronunciation and more info on what menú del día is and how it works, check Menú del día.

For the pronunciation of tapa, check ¿Dónde vas a comer?



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¡Buen Camino!

Walking through Galicia

Walking through Galicia

Once you start walking through Galicia, you’ll start seeing several new architectural elements, some of them quite frequently. They’re not exclusive to Galicia. But they are more common here.

In this post I’m goign to tell you a little bit about 3 of them. Two of them are ubiquitous. The third one, not so much. But I think it’s quite interesting, and that’s why I included it.



A common question I see in Camino groups from pilgrims once they enter Galicia:

Combarro, on the Variante Espiritual

‘What are these structures?’, accompanied by a picture similar to the one here. Sometimes they add a guess or two as to what these might be.

Well, they are called hórreos. And they are granaries. Not chicken coops. Not mausoleums. Granaries.

Mostly, they store maíz (corn).


You’ll see them everywhere while walking through rural Galicia, where every house used to have one. They’re also common in Asturias and the north of Portugal.


Hórreos vary slightly depending on the location. In some areas, they’re built in a combination of wood and stone. In some other places, they’re fully made of stone. They usually have a rectangular shape, although in some places, square hórreos are the norm.


What they all have in common is that they’re raised from the ground by pillars. This helps keep crops dry. On top of each pillar there is a flat stone designed to keep rodents out. That’s also why access stairs are separated from the hórreo. Their walls have slits to allow ventilation. The roofs usually have some decorative element, such as a cruz (cross), a pinnacle, a weather vane, cones (you’ll see those on the Camino del Norte), etc.


The oldest reference to an hórreo in a document dates back to 1219 and it refers to a certain hórreo in Betanzos, on the Camino Inglés. However, different versions of hórreos have been in use in Galicia since pre-Roman times. 


In the 17th-18th centuries, hórreos became common and they became also a symbol of status: the bigger the hórreo, the richer the family. In fact, some of the biggest hórreos in Galicia belong to the Church.


There are several of those in the Fisterra area, like the one pictured below, in the town of Carnota.

Walking through Galicia hórreo


You can see another one on the Variante Espiritual of the Portuguese Way, next to the Poio monastery. Also on the Variante Espiritual, you should check Combarro, with the highest concentration of hórreos in Galicia.



Another common element of the Galician landscape is the cruceiro (in Galician) or crucero (in Spanish). A cruceiro is a high cross, made of stone. Cruceiros can usually be found in churchyards, crossroads or ancient pagan worship sites.


There are more than 12 000 cruceiros all over Galicia. The oldest one is in Melide, next to the capilla (chapel) de San Roque, and it dates back to the 14th century. There’s another one from the same period in Neda, on the Camino Inglés.


There are several superstitions linked to cruceiros.

Some of them were built in places where a violent death had occurred. The purpose of the cruceiro was to try to save the soul of the deceased and stop it from wandering around the area and from harming passers-by.


Cruceiros also offered protection against the Santa Compaña.

The Santa Compaña is a procession of the dead (or of tormented souls) who wander through the paths after midnight, wearing hooded cloaks and holding candles. The procession is led by a living person, who is under a curse. This person is carrying a cross (sometimes a cauldron too). He or she will not remember anything in the morning, although they will feel very tired.


The only way to be free from the curse is to get another living person to carry the cross. If they can’t do this, they will feel weaker and weaker and become sick for no apparent reason. There are several ways to avoid being cursed if you encounter the Santa Compaña. One of them is to step onto the base of a cruceiro.

Cruceiros were also the chosen location to perform magical practices, like curing certain deseases or fertility issues.

In some places, babies who had died before receiving baptism were usually buried at the base of a cruceiro. 


Petos de ánimas

Peto de ánimas roughly translates as souls’ money box. This is actually the Galician name but, to be honest, I have no idea if there’s a name for them in Spanish.

They are little shrines devoted to the souls in purgatory, and they can be found at crossroads or near churches. Most of them were built in the 18th century. 

Petos de ánimas can vary a lot, but tend to have 3 common elements: 

  • A base, usually made of stone.
  • On top of the base goes the niche, with a stone carving depicting souls in the fire of purgatory.
  • Under the niche, there’s the peto or money box where people used to leave their alms for the salvation of those souls.

Nowdays, it’s not common to leave money, but you will still see other kinds of offerings such as flores (flowers), maíz, or velas (candles).

walking through Galicia peto de ánimas

This peto de ánimas is in Tui, on the Camino Portugués. It shows souls in the fire of purgatory, with the dove/Holy Spirit watching over them.

You can see remains of flowers and a candle that someone offered for the salvation of the souls in purgatory.



When a soul is saved and goes to Heaven thanks to your offering or prayers, they will later intercede on your behalf, so you can go into Heaven too. Keep it in mind when you’re next walking through Galicia and you see a peto de ánimas.


Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of cruz, check Tarta de Santiago.



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¡Buen Camino!

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño |

Last week I got an early birthday present: a new pair of zapatillas de senderismo (hiking shoes). So, I decided to test them the next day… by walking a stage of the Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño.

That’s one of the advantages of living on the Camino. If you wake up and feel like walking, you can do it.

I had walked from Porriño to Santiago before, at different times and in different company. I had also been to Tui several times in the past. But I had never walked the Tui-Porriño stage of the Camino. So that’s what I did.

The plan: drive to Tui and leave the car there; walk to Porriño; take a taxi back to Tui (and the car) and drive back home.

The weather has been quite hot and dry this verano (summer). The forecast for the day we walked showed yellow warnings: 50% risk of tormenta (storm) and 60% chance of light rain.

Well, it was sunny and quite hot, like the rest of the summer. Not a drop of rain and no sign of storms either.



Tui is the first Spanish town after you cross the puente (bridge) over the river Miño, which serves as a natural border between Portugal and Spain.

Tui has been inhabited since prehistoric time so, as you can imagine, it has a lot of history.

In mediaeval times, Tui was an important trade centre, with a very active puerto (port) and a hospital for pilgrims. It was also the capital of one of the 7 provinces of the Kingdom of Galicia.

One of Tui’s most iconic monuments is the Santa Maria cathedral. It has the appearance of a fortress and its construction began in 1120, although it has some later additions, like the main entrance or the organ.

Not far from it is the Museo y Archivo Histórico Diocesano (Diocesan historical archive and museum). The building dates from the 18th century and it used to be a pilgrim’s hospital.

If you keep following the yellow arrows through Tui, you will see the convent of the Poor Clares (or Clarisas, in Spanish). It’s also known locally as convento de las Encerradas (convent of the locked up ones), because this is an enclosed convent. You can buy delicious fish-shaped almond biscuits from the monjas (nuns).



We started at the cathedral, walking through the old part of Tui, and passing by all the places I  mentioned above.

We were soon leaving Tui, walking through a mixture of forest areas and roads.

It is not a difficult stage. I was still half asleep when we left the house and I forgot to take bastions (hiking poles), but I didn’t miss them.

What I missed was more places to stop for a break. And I mean bars and cafés. We saw one not long after Tui, too soon for us to stop. And then nothing until we were almost in Porriño, slightly off the Camino. We had plenty of water and some snacks too, so this wasn’t a problem. But it would have been nice to be able to stop sooner.

At Orbenlle, you can follow the official route (through an industrial estate) or the Camino complementary, through the woods. You can’t miss Orbenlle because it has become a Camino landmark, thanks to 3 large paintings: the Pórtico de la Gloria, St. James and an elderly pilgrim.

There are two milestones and a map indicating the 2 routes from Orbenlle. The riverside walk through the woods is the one on the left. Going right will take you through the industrial estate. As you can guess from the pictures below, we took the alternative route.

The last section goes through residential areas, but it’s still nicer than an industrial estate, I think.

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño

We saw many chestnuts during our walk between Tui and Porriño.


I read in a guidebook that there’s also an alternative route into Porriño, along the river, but we didn’t see that. So, we took the classic route, which was not particularly pretty. In fact, if there’s something for which Porriño is known locally, it’s for not being particularly pretty.

It is an important logistic centre in Galicia and, as such, it’s quite industrial (remember the big industrial estate right beside the Camino?).

But there are also some interesting buildings. The most important one is, by far, the ayuntamiento (town hall), built between 1919-1921 and designed by local architect Antonio Palacios. His most famous works can be found in Madrid, like the Palacio de comunicaciones (current town hall), and even the logo of Madrid’s metro.

And that was the end of my adventures on the Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño. Lunch in Porriño, a taxi back to Tui and drive back home… and no problems with the new shoes.

Here are some of the pictures I took:

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of Tui and Porriño, check El Camino Portugués.

For the pronunciation of puente, check El juego de la oca.

For the pronunciation of tormenta, check Weather on the Camino.

Por the pronunciation of Pórtico de la Gloria, check Santiago de Compostela.


Go to the next stage of the Camino Portugués: Porriño-Redondela.

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¡Buen Camino!