Empezando el Camino Inglés

Empezando el Camino Inglés

Empezando el Camino Inglés means “starting the English Way”. Why starting? you may ask. Well, because I didn’t get the chance to finish it… yet. And because I’m not telling you the whole story today. But let’s start from the beginning.

When I first decided I HAD to do the Camino, my first question was: which one?


Why the Camino Inglés?

Somehow, the Camino Francés didn’t sound so appealing. Maybe because it’s so popular… I don’t know. I’ve always had a tendency to go against the flow and NOT do stuff for the simple reason that everybody else was doing it. So maybe that was it.

Then, the obvious choice was the Camino Portugués, as it passes almost right in front of my doorstep. I’ve walked parts of it, although just as day trips or hikes, and not as a Camino experience. But I still was not convinced.

And then I started reading about the Camino Inglés and my decision was made! The English Way was the one followed by British, Irish and other northern pilgrims from the 12th century onwards. So, in a way, it made perfect sense for me to walk this route, since I lived in Ireland for 15 years.

Anyway, “where?” was clear. But “when?” was a bit more complicated. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but I’ve had to cancel this Camino a couple of times. And now the Carnival gave us a few days off; the perfect opportunity to finally do it.

The plan was for my husband and myself to walk for cinco días (5 days) and leave our dos hijas (2 daughters) with their grandparents. But… all of a sudden, a week before our start date, plans changed and that was not an option anymore. So, we could either cancel (again!) or take the kids. And we went for the second option.


Change of plans

The decision to take the girls affected our initial plans in several ways:

  • First. We were not able to walk for 5 days, because they needed some time to do homework and study for exams before going back to school el jueves (Thursday). So we walked tres días (3 days) instead: sábado, domingo y lunes (Saturday, Sunday and Monday), starting in Ferrol and finishing in Betanzos. El martes (Tuesday) we did a bit of sightseeing around Betanzos before returning home.
  • Second. Our 2 mochilas were a bit heavier than planned, because we split the girls’ stuff between them. The girls only carried a small day-bag with some snacks.
  • Third. We pre-booked all our alojamientos (accommodations). There being four of us and two of them being girls close to adolescence, we thought that was the best choice for us (one of them turned trece (13) this week and the other one had turned once (11) a week before our Camino).


Getting to Ferrol

We made our way to Ferrol el viernes (Friday), March 1: train to A Coruña and then bus to Ferrol. The train and bus stations in A Coruña are very close to each other, so it’s an easy switch. There are trains going from A Coruña to Ferrol too. However, we found that they took longer than the bus and they were not so frequent.

Empezando Camino Inglés: waiting for train

For train routes, schedules and tickets, you can check RENFE‘s website. And you can find buses covering A Coruña-Ferrol (but also Miño, Betanzos and Pontedeume), on ARRIVA‘s website.

Anyway, el viernes was a school day. So, by the time we got to Ferrol it was dark already. It was also raining a bit. That means that, basically, all we did was find our hotel, do a bit of last minute planning for the next day and go to sleep early.

El sábado we got up early, got ready and went out looking for a place to have breakfast.

Breakfast in Ferrol

We had company while having breakfast in Ferrol.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this really was a sign of how our Camino was going to be: we encountered more animals than people…

After breakfast, we walked around Ferrol for a short while, before we headed to the starting point of the Camino. Some parts are a bit run down and in need of a lot of care, but there’s still some amazing and interesting architecture. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.


This is the stone marker signalling the beginning of the Camino, quite close to the tourist office, in the port area. From there on, the route is very well signposted. You can’t get lost!

We bought our credenciales from the tourist office.

For more tourist information about Ferrol, you can check https://visitferrol.com

And that’s it for today! Don’t forget to come back for the rest of the story…

Read all about Day 1: Ferrol-Neda, Day 2: Neda-Pontedeume and Day 3: Pontedeume-Betanzos


Today’s Spanish words


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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with Julia

A conversation with Julia

This week I’ve been chatting to Julia, a German pilgrim who walked the Camino Francés after she finished college. Read the whole conversation to find out how the Camino changed her life.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Julia, I am 35 years old and I am from Northern Germany. I’ve been living in Spain now for four years in a small town called Oliva, which is on the eastern coast, with my husband and our two children. I am a German teacher and I run an online language agency: www.milengua.com

When did you first hear about the Camino and why did you decide to do it?

I’ve always been up to traveling and especially to hiking and trekking. After finishing my university degree in German Philology I decided to go on a trip on my own and among all the different long distance trekking roads I chose the Camino de Santiago as it seemed to me physically not too difficult but very interesting. Besides, I wanted to get to know Spain, where I hadn’t been before. Also, I had a friend who did a part of the Camino and he highly recommended it.


Did you prepare either physically or mentally? How?

Basically, I got prepared by hiking on every possible occasion. Moreover, I was into running and biking at this time so I found myself in physically good condition. Mentally?  I don’t know. I had a book with the single legs of the way. But to be honest, I just started the journey without thinking too much about it. I was just excited about being outside everyday and walking as far as I could.


Tell us about your Camino. How was your experience?

It was certainly one of my best experiences ever. I met a lot of wonderful people and even though you only shared a couple of days together until each one went on at her or his speed, it felt always like a lifetime. You get to know people that deeply in an incredible short time and I remember almost all of them now 5 years later.

Another deep impression that I will bear forever is the feeling of freedom and peace of mind. You only have to walk. That’s your only mission for several weeks. Enjoying the simplicity of life and the beauty of nature made me feel really “light”.


How did it change your life? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

My anecdote is a romantic one: I met my future husband here, to be precise, in Molinaseca near Ponferrada. From there we went the remaining way together to Santiago and later to Fisterra, where we separated. More than 2 weeks together on the Camino, that’s like 2 years in real time. We stayed in contact ever since but it took us 18 month until we met again. Soon after that I decided to move to Spain  – and I stayed.


Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Did that have any impact on your Camino?

Actually I didn’t know any Spanish before. I learned quickly how to order breakfast, to ask for free beds and to wish a “buen camino”. But it was actually a pity not to be able to talk to the locals. One time I met an older man walking with his dog and as we went the same way for quite a while, we started a conversation. He didn’t speak English so we communicated with gestures, by pointing at things; he showed me photos he had in his wallet and we drew in the sand with sticks we found.  I wished we really could talk as he seemed to be a very interesting person.

Without any Spanish you stay mainly with other pilgrims but you will miss the option to talk with the locals which is basically an important aspect if you want to get to know a country for real.  Another point is the medical assistance, if needed. Whether it’s at a doctors or just in the pharmacy: Some basic vocabulary to explain what’s your problem is more than helpful.



Julia’s words

I usually ask my guests to pick 5-10 Spanish words or phrases: the ones they think every pilgrim should know before their Camino, the ones they knew, the ones they learnt… Julia chose what she learnt on the Camino,  mainly food orders and one phrase that the Spanish pilgrims liked to say when they had wine for dinner: El vino te pone fino, peregrino.
I must confess I’d never heard this phrase before and it can be interpreted in several ways, as it plays on the meanings of the word fino, as well as a couple of expressions that contain it. It could simply mean that wine makes you drunk. But it could also mean that wines makes you wittier!
If you would like to know more about either the menú del día or menú peregrino, check this post.
The word cigüeña means stork and Julia learnt it because she was surprised at how many of these birds she saw while on the Camino. According to her, there are not many storks left in Germany.

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¡Buen Camino!

Yes. You do know some Spanish already

Yes. You do know some Spanish already

You know some Spanish already |

You are planning your Camino de Santiago. If it’s the first one, you probably have tons of questions:

How much should I train?

What mochila should I get? How much stuff should I pack?

What are the perfect shoes?

Should I get a guidebook? Or maybe an app?

Should I learn some Spanish?

Most of these questions don’t have just one right answer. What works for me might not work for you and what works for you might not work for me. So read and listen to as much advice as you want, but then do what’s best for you. Make the Camino your own.


However, the last question, should I learn some Spanish?, is a different story. Of course you can survive without any knowledge of Spanish. Well, the truth is that you know some Spanish already, even if you don’t know it yet. But, anyway, when you go through the pros and cons of learning the language… there are no cons, really! It’s all benefits:


  • First of all, learning another language is good for your brain: it slows down aging, it improves your memory and your decision-making skills, it boosts your self confidence… and the list goes on.

Those alone should be enough to convince you to start learning a new language now!

But let’s concentrate on the benefits of learning Spanish for the Camino 

Not everybody in Spain speaks English. English speakers are easier to find in the bigger cities, but you’ll be going through a lot of rural areas and small villages populated by older people who do not know a word of English.


  • The locals will be more receptive to you if you try to speak Spanish (and they might even invite you to whatever they are doing) just because you made the effort. 
  • Learning at least some basic Spanish means you don’t need to rely on other people to communicate your needs.
  • It also means you are not dependent on technology either (my phone’s battery tends to die just when I need it most!) 
  • The fact that you don’t need to rely on other people or technology will make you feel more confident and independent; it will reduce the stress and anxiety you will feel if you need to get an important message across (maybe you have a health issue, you need to book accommodation…).


OK. So, you are convinced now and have decided to learn a bit of Spanish.

For some reason, when we start learning a language we focus on all the stuff we don’t know: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation… And it can be overwhelming.


What if I told you that you know a lot of Spanish already?

Yes, there are many words that are the same, or almost, in English and Spanish. Maybe a tiny spelling change. Most likely a different pronunciation. But still very similar. Let me give you a few examples:

Hotel, teléfono, restaurante, menú, taxi, chocolate, delicioso, animal, doctor, kilo, local, municipal, región, religión. 

Did you need the translation? I didn’t think so.


A few weeks ago I interviewed Kelli, an American pilgrim, about her experience on the Camino. In the second part of my conversation with Kelli, she gives you a tip to automatically increase your Spanish vocabulary:


Words in English that end in -ity will be the same in Spanish but replace the -ity with -idad.


So electricity becomes electricidad; spirituality > espiritualidad; tranquility > tranquilidad and security > seguridad, just to mention a few.


The good news is that this is not the only tip to increase your Spanish vocabulary:


  • Many English words ending in -al are the same in Spanish. Again, the pronunciation will be different and there might be minor spelling changes but nothing that will prevent you from recognising the word. You don’t believe me? Check these examples: 

hospital, normal, dental, total, inicial, oficial, profesional 


  • Some of the English words ending in -ist will end in -ista in Spanish:

dentista, ciclista, especialista, realista, turista, racista


Warning! You will find exceptions but they’ll be mostly words you won’t need for the Camino. So, what are you waiting for to start increasing your Spanish vocabulary?


Can you think of any other tips? Please share them in a comment.


Today’s Spanish words



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¡Buen Camino!

Está cerrado

Está cerrado

You are planning to do some shopping when you get to the next town. You get there and find that everything está cerrado (it’s closed). And you don’t understand why… After all, it’s only the middle of the day.


Well, that’s exactly why everything is closed!


Lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain. And, although things are changing in the bigger cities, it’s common in smaller places for people to go home for lunch. In addition to that, the weather (especially in the summer months) can be too hot in the middle of the day. It’s just safer to stay indoors during the hottest hours.


That’s why, for instance, it is not advisable to walk the Vía de la Plata during the months of julio (July) and agosto (August) and why you should still be careful in junio (June) and septiembre (September).


So, most tiendas (shops) will close for lunch. Yes, for lunch. Not for siesta, sorry!


Some shops have horario continuo, meaning they don’t close in the middle of the day. This is more common in the bigger cities and also in the case of bigger shops: big supermercados, hipermercados or grandes almacenes (department stores).


In smaller towns, almost everything will close a mediodía; a mediodía literally means at midday, but we really use this expression to refer to lunch time, which could be anything between 1.30 and 4.30pm.



 ¿A qué hora abren?

What time do they open?

Shops opening and closing times may vary a bit from one establishment to another. But they will be similar to the one in this picture.

First of all, in Spain, when writing the time, we don’t use am and pm, as you can see in the picture. We use the 24-h clock. But just in writing.


The second thing you can see in the picture is that shops have some hours for weekdays (lunes a viernes – Monday to Friday) and different ones for sábados (Saturdays). It’s common for shops to be closed on Saturday evenings.


Almost everything está cerrado (is closed) los domingos (Sundays) except for bars and restaurants. Panaderías and pastelerías (bakeries and cake shops) open on Sundays too, but in the morning only.


Los bancos (banks) open in the morning only, usually from 8.00 or 8.30am till 2.00 or 2.30pm. They don’t open in the evenings or sábados.


Las farmacias have an on-call system, so that at least one is always open. You can check how the system works in El botiquín. 

So, are you ready for some Camino shopping now?


For the pronunciation of supermercado, panadería and pastelería, check Shopping on the Camino.


For the pronunciation of junio, julio, agosto and septiembre, check Vía de la Plata. 


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¡Buen Camino!


El Camino Inglés

El Camino Inglés

It was the fifth Camino in number of pilgrims last year (https://oficinadelperegrino.com/en/statistics/). In 2018 it continues to grow its popularity. I’m talking about the Camino Inglés, or English Way.

It’s so called because it was mainly British and Irish pilgrims who followed this route. From the 12th century onwards they used to travel by boat to the Galician coast and then they would continue their pilgrimage a pie (on foot). After the 15th century, when king Henry VIII separated from the Catholic Church, the number of pilgrims choosing this Camino decreased dramatically.

These medieval pilgrims arrived at several ports along the northern coast of Galicia, A Coruña being one of the main ones. However, A Coruña is less than 100km from Santiago (and 100km, as you probably know already, is the minimum distance required in order to obtain a Compostela). So, in recent times, Ferrol has become the most popular starting point, since it’s over 100km from Santiago.


Can you still start the Camino Inglés in A Coruña?

But that doesn’t mean you can’t start in A Coruña anymore. In fact, you can. And you can still be eligible to obtain a Compostela. How is this possible? You can can walk the first 25km in your own country or area.

If you are planning to do this, don’t forget to get your credencial stamped during that first stage. You will need evidence that you’ve completed the required 100km in order to get your Compostela.

Whether you start in A Coruña or Ferrol, you should remember that you need to get your credencial stamped twice per day if you are planning to get a Compostela once you arrive in Santiago.

Galerías in A Coruña

Galerías in A Coruña

Torre de Hércules. A Coruña

Torre de Hércules

For things to see and do in A Coruña, check this: Turismo Coruña website.


You can complete this pilgrimage in six days or less (check my review of Susan Jagannath’s guidebook). So the Camino Inglés could be a good choice if you only have a few days to do your pilgrimage.

This is not a particularly difficult Camino, although there are a couple of hills that could prove a bit challenging. Also, it goes mostly through rural areas and small villages. So there are some long stretches without bares or tiendas (shops). Make sure you have plenty of agua (water) and some snacks with you!


The Camino Inglés from Ferrol

As I mentioned above, the most popular starting point these days is Ferrol, where you can find a stone marker signalling the beginning of the Camino quite close to the tourist office, in the port area. For more info on Ferrol: http://www.turismo.gal/que-visitar/cidades/ferrol?langId=en_US

After you get out of town, you will be bordering the Ría de Ferrol, which provides stunning views. If you prefer to make your Camino shorter, you can walk up to Pontedeume on your first day (31km). If you’d rather take things slower, then Neda is the best place to stop (15km).


After Pontedeume, your next stop is Betanzos, an interesting town with a lovely old quarter. If you have time to explore a bit more, you should consider going to the Parque do Pasatempo, an astonishing place built by the García brothers.

These two brothers emigrated to Argentina (1870), made a fortune there and returned to Betanzos. Here, they created schools, hospitales… and this park where you can find all sorts of unexpected things (https://www.galiciamaxica.eu/galicia/a-coruna/pasatempo/#respond).


Oh! And let’s not forget that in Betanzos you can find the best tortilla in Spain: http://www.expansion.com/fueradeserie/gastro/2018/08/06/5b617442ca4741f5728b45e0.html


After Betanzos, you will go through Hospital de Bruma and Sigüeiro before you reach Santiago. Hospital de Bruma takes its name from an old hospital for pilgrims that does no longer exist. The current albergue is beside the spot where this old hospital used to be.


Some parts of the Camino Inglés have been rerouted recently, but don’t let that concern you: it is well signposted and you will not have any problems finding your way.


Do you think this could be the Camino for you?


Well, it is the Camino for me! You can start reading about my experience on the Camino Inglés in Empezando el Camino Inglés and Walking with strangers.


Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of a pie, credencial and Compostela, check ¿Cómo vas a hacer el Camino?


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¡Buen Camino!