A conversation with Gary

A conversation with Gary

He was a carer for Diane, his wife, for many years, as well as having his own health issues. He heard about the Camino and thought it would be something special to do in Diane’s memory. But he caught the Camino bug and has walked some more, and volunteered as hospitalero last summer. Read my conversation with Gary to find out more.

Conversation with Gary

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am 63 years old, retired and I live close to Sheffield in Yorkshire in the North of England. I was a carer for my wife for many years, until she sadly passed away. Being pretty much housebound during those years left me very unfit and losing my wife caused me a lot of mental and emotional stress. I was diabetic, on over 200 units of insulin daily and I also had a pacemaker fitted. Following the death of my wife I took up walking, which gave me a real boost both mentally and physically.

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

I had never heard of the Caminos until I saw a TV programme that aired in the UK, following a number of celebrities as they walked sections of the Camino Francés. I joined a number of Forums and online groups and began to learn more about the various Caminos.


My wife Diane was outgoing with a real zest for life. She loved the outdoors and in addition to being a Scout Leader for 15 years she was also a talented artist. A few weeks after her 50th birthday, Diane suffered a massive stroke which left her paralysed down her left side and blind in her left eye. This was a doubly cruel blow because Diane was left handed and she never mastered painting right handed. 


Through all the pain and struggles, Diane never lost hope or her sense of humour, she fought to recover every minute of every day; unfortunately she never recovered and eventually passed away. I wanted to do something special in her memory and I think the Camino fitted the bill perfectly. Diane would have been really enthusiastic about this challenge and would have loved to do it herself. I discussed it with David Critchlow, a close friend, and we agreed to give it a go.


Tell us about your Camino. 

We looked at the various options and eventually chose to walk the Camino Portugués in September of 2018. We only had limited time available to us and initially looked at starting in Tui but decided it would be more fitting to start the Camino Portugués actually in Portugal. We therefore began our walk across the river in Valença.

We were blessed with good weather every day and the scenery was stunning. Whilst we walked separately during the day we bumped into many of the same people most evenings so we formed a sort of loose knit community. I had never been to Spain before but the friendliness of the locals was fantastic. On one occasion we had taken a wrong turning and asked for directions from an old lady, who, instead of just giving directions, insisted on walking with us for 2 miles, on a very hot day, to ensure we were on the right path.


To say that we enjoyed our Camino would be an understatement. We had the bug and on returning to the UK we began to research our next Camino the very same day. Another bonus was that between the training and walking the Camino I lost 7st in weight and no longer need the insulin


You then decided to become an hospitalero. Why? 

During our research we discovered information about the Confraternity of St James, a UK based organisation dedicated to supporting Pilgrims. They manage 2 Donativo Albergues, one in Rabanal on the Francés, the other in Miraz on the Norte. Having met so many helpful hospitaleros on our Camino, we both agreed that this looked like an excellent way of giving something back.


conversation with Gary

How did you go about finding a volunteering opportunity? 

We contacted the CSJ by email to enquire about volunteering opportunities. We were delighted to hear that they had an opening for this year, 2019. My eldest grandson Kane asked if he could join us, so we completed the application forms and the 3 of us attended a training session with the CSJ early in 2019; were accepted as volunteers to run the Albergue San Martín, for 2 weeks in Miraz, in July 2019.


We decided that instead of flying in to A Coruña and catching the bus to Miraz, that the 3 of us would fly to Avilés and walk the Camino del Norte from there to Miraz, which is exactly what we did. Again stunning scenery, great people and apart from one wet day we were again blessed by the weather.


How was your experience?

We were very grateful for the training we had received from the CSJ as on arrival in Miraz we were very much thrown in at the deep end. The previous team of hospitaleros departed for home just a couple of hours after our arrival.

The three of us eventually settled in to a routine that worked for us and for the pilgrims who stayed with us.


We met some truly inspiring pilgrims, ranging from the very young travelling with their families, to the very old; I believe the oldest pilgrim we met was an 82 yrs old lady walking with her granddaughter. One person who sticks in my mind is a young man from Texas, USA. He was carrying the biggest backpack I’ve ever seen, his pack literally weighed more than our 3 packs put together. He was carrying all of his personal possessions in his pack and upon completing the Camino he would be heading to Hungary, where he would be staying in a monastery for several months and assisting the monks to improve their brewing processes.


On completion of our time as volunteers we had to return to the UK but next September we plan to return to Miraz, where we will again volunteer for 2 weeks. After which we will finish walking the Camino del Norte in to Santiago, from there, catch the bus to Ferrol and then walk the Camino Inglés; we really have got the bug.

conversation with Gary

Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino/volunteering? Do you think knowing (or not) Spanish had any impact on your experience?

Prior to walking the Camino Portugués we had very little knowledge of Spanish. We had a couple of phrase books, watched a few videos on YouTube and listened to a couple of CDs. Although our use of the language was very rudimentary, it was very useful and the local people that we met appreciated that we made an effort and were very happy to assist in our learning and point out our mistakes, which was great. I think things would have been much more difficult had we not made some attempt to learn the language, however basic. We both also have a working grasp of German, which proved to be very useful because we met many German speaking Pilgrims. 

Having decided to volunteer as hospitaleros I thought that a better command of the Spanish language would be needed. I therefore began to learn basic Spanish at a local night school. This improved my use of the language a great deal and although it is still basic, it did prove to be very useful.

As hospitaleros in addition to dealing with the needs of the pilgrims, we had to converse with and negotiate with the local utility providers, local tradesmen and shopkeepers. Our use of Spanish is far from perfect but life would have been much more difficult without it. My grandson found that not speaking any Spanish did tend to isolate him somewhat whilst we were running the Albergue.



Gary’s words and phrases 

¿Cuánto es?  – how much is it?

La hora de salida check out time. this literally means “time of departure”, so you can also use it for trains, buses or planes. 

¿Dónde empezó? where did you start? 

La lavandería laundry 

El tendedero clothes line

Por favor escríbalo please write it down

¿Está lejos? is it far?

Gracias por todo thanks for everything

¿Hay camas libres? are there free beds?

Quisiera I would like




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¡Buen Camino!


5 things you need to know about Spain

5 things you need to know about Spain

When you travel to a foreign country it’s easy to make mistakes because we don’t know how things work over there. It’s easy to assume that everybody does things the same way we do and this can lead to difficult or embarrassing situations.

So, what are the things you need to know about Spain? There are more, but let’s start with these 5:

1. It’s not siesta time!

I read a lot of comments about siesta in Camino forums: 

“Everything was closed because it was siesta time” 

“There were no people on the streets because it was siesta time” 

It’s almost like anything unfamiliar you experience gets blamed on the siesta. Sorry to burst your stereotypes but… siesta is not really a thing in Spain. At least not the way you think it is. If you go to a shop at 3:00 or 4:00pm and it’s closed it is not because it’s siesta time. It’s because it’s lunch time. 

Yes. Lunch time. But that’s way more than the usual one hour lunch break, you may say. Well, lunch in Spain is the main meal of the day, quite often a 3-course meal. So, one hour is not enough. Also, traditionally, people would go home for lunch. Not everybody can do that these days, especially in the bigger cities, but many people still do. For more details about eating times, go to nº2.

And if you go for a walk around town at 6:00 or 7:00pm in the summertime and the place is deserted, it’s not siesta time. People could be either at the beach or pool or simply at home, staying away from el calor (the heat).

We don’t put our pyjamas on, get into bed and sleep for 2 or 3 hours in the middle of the day, as many foreigners seem to think. Most of us don’t even take siestas at all. Those who do, it’s mostly a 10-15 minute nap on the sofa. So, por favor, if you find shops closed or streets empty, don’t blame it on the siesta. 

2. Don’t criticise our meal times. Try to adapt to them instead.

As I already mentioned, lunch is the main meal of the day, quite often a 3-course meal. It is usually served between 1:30 and 3:30 or 4:00pm.

You’ll have trouble finding dinner  before 8:30pm. 

The picture shows average kitchen hours, although they may very from place to place.

Instead of complaining because dinner is too late, why don’t you try the Spanish way? Have lunch when you get to your destination for the day; shower, rest and and then you can have something light for dinner, like a drink and a tapa or two.

3. Avoid criticising Spanish customs, even those that we, Spaniards, criticise. 

This is like family: you may complain about them but when an outsider criticises them, you feel compelled to defend them. Same thing here: I may disagree with that particular custom but if you, an outsider, criticise it, I may feel forced to defend it. How would you feel if we went to your country and started criticising what you do?

“Why do you not have a proper 3-course meal for lunch?”

“Oh, so you don’t eat tortilla de patatas? That’s weird!”

“Shops close at 6:00pm? Ridiculous!”

Not nice, right? For me, one of the beauties of travelling is to get to see and experience different things, eat different foods… Embrace the difference and enjoy it!


4. Manners, please!

Don’t go over the top with your gracias and por favor. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t use those words, but we don’t use them half as much as in other cultures. Once or twice per conversation is fine. More than that is too much and you’re going to make the other person uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean we’re rude or don’t have manners. We just express it in different ways.

5. Yes, I’m greeting you.

We might not say please and thank you as much as you do, but we probably greet each other more, even total strangers: you go into a shop, you greet the shop assistant; go into a doctor’s waiting room, you greet the people who are already there; get into a lift with strangers, you greet them.

A simple hola is fine or, depending on the time of the day, you can also add buenos días (in the morning, until lunch time -Spanish lunch time), buenas tardes (in the evening) or buenas noches (later in the evening, from 9:00pm roughly).


These are just 5 basic things you need to know before you travel to Spain. There are more, especially around food, but they would make this post too long and we’ll leave them for another occasion. If, on the other hand, you would like to know whether it’s OK or not to tip and how much is appropriate, you can check this post.



Today’s words

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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with Randall

A conversation with Randall

He was diagnosed with Stage IV Prostate Cancer in 2015. He fought it. Five years on, he walked the Camino with a mission: raise awareness about the disease and encourage men to get screened. Read my conversation with Randall to find out more.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Hola amigos, mi nombre es Randy. I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and went to Damien HS, an Irish Christian Brothers school –  namesake Saint Damien, the savior of the Lepers on Molokai. Moved to California in 1979 and attended Loyola Marymount University, run by the Jesuits. Stayed in California and attended USC School of Dentistry – not the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela  🙂

In 2014, at a too young age of 57, I had done the Long Beach, CA marathon. I had a PSA test at 555.2 (under 4 is normal) and my journey began.


When did you first hear about the Camino? You had been running marathons for years. So, why did you decide to walk the Camino?

I had seen the movie “The Way” in the early 2000s and was, as many have been, inspired by that poignant story of a Dad walking the Camino in memory of his son.

A dental patient told me that she was going to Madrid to teach English this year and that sparked an idea about doing The Camino. I did some online research, contacted my son, who lives in London, and suggested that we do it together.

I found out that September tends to be cooler and less traveled. I knew that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month, and my almost five year survival with Stage IV Prostate Cancer was upcoming. 


This would be a perfect time for me to walk/bond with my son, spread PCa awareness, and maybe get a man screened. Since the diagnosis in 01/2015, I’ve had signs on my back at marathons (31 so far) telling my saga, urging men to get screened, and more recently – honoring those taken.


Did you prepare either physically or mentally? How?

I ordered hiking shoes online and walked four days per week either with my wife or up at my other dental office for over two months. My wife and I even did a walk, eat, walk to prep for 9 miles to simulate life on The Camino. I knew that marathon fitness (151 so far) would confer a base but I didn’t know how a backpack would affect me. Doing a marathon entails mental and physical discipline and I knew that would really help in the hike. 


A conversation with Randall

Tell us about your Camino. How was your experience? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

My son’s new wife and a friend decided to walk with us. The Camino was a wonderful contemplative, spiritual, bonding, and life affirming experience. We disconnected from the real world and connected with nature and each other.


I had a sign en español on my back and that sparked a conversation with numerous Peregrinos. I also placed Blue Ribbons on The Camino and a group of Spaniards in Portomarín asked why. I told them in my so-so Spanish “Tengo cáncer de próstata estadio 4 desde 2015” (I have Stage 4 prostate cancer since 2015).  They asked how I was doing and I communicated that estoy bien (I’m OK) and the reason for being out there.


At one point, my son and I had eaten possibly mejillones malos (bad mussels). One of that quartet below had not seen me one day on The Camino and left me an Instagram message Oye, ¿dónde estás? (Hey, where are you?). We caught up with them at another rest/sello/cerveza/tortilla stop and I told them I was fine, toasted them with a beer and took a group pic.

This was such a great experience; strangers on The Camino became friends/supporters all because of The Camino. She messaged me Me alegro que hayas disfrutado tanto aquí. Ha sido un placer conocerte . Mucha suerte y buen viaje” (I’m glad you have enjoyed it so much here. It has been a pleasure to meet you. Good luck and safe trip). 

conversation with Randall

 Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Do you think this had any impact on your Camino?

I had four years of Spanish in High School and one year in College, but still had to review quite a bit. Spanish for the Camino was so very helpful in refreshing my long unused Spanish skills. Knowing some Spanish is very beneficial on The Camino; you can engage/communicate, and bond better knowing key words or phrases.

Randall’s words

  • First, some general vocabulary such as greetings and other words you can use in many conversations.

Hola: hello

¿Dónde esta?: where is it?

Buenos días: good morning

Buenas tardes: good afternoon/evening

Muchas gracias: thank you very much

Por favor: please

De nada: you’re welcome (after someone says thank you).

Vale: OK.

Está bien: it is OK/fine.

Claro: of course

  • Some food and drink related words too:

Cerveza: beer 

Caña: a glass of beer

Vino blanco: white wine

Vino tinto: red wine

Tinto de verano: it literally means summer red and it’s a drink made with red wine and soda; very common in the summer (verano), hence the name.

Pulpo: octopus (and if you want to learn how to prepare it, check this post). 

Mejillones: mussels 

Pimientos de Padrón: Padrón peppers

Jamón: ham

Bocadillo: sandwich made with baguette-type of bread, not with sliced bread.

Tortilla: Spanish omelette, with eggs and potatoes (you can find the recipe here).

La cuenta: the bill (at a restaurant, mainly). 

More of Randall’s adventure on : #chinononcamino  / @Dockam57 on Instagram


I hope that my Camino adventure “makes a ripple” and maybe a man’s life saved. 


The Camino is a metaphor for your own life. The Fleetwood Mac song says “Go your own way”. We all have our own “Camino” that we are on; how do we do it, who do we meet and what impact can you make?


Buen Camino, Buen Viaje, y vive una gran vida

PS. I’m signed up for the Long Beach, CA marathon again next month. I’ll celebrate my unofficial five year survival then! (old data said only 28%). Also, doing the New York City Marathon in November (my 4th in a row, raising over $14,000 for ZERO).

To learn more about Randall’s story, you can check these:


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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with Richard

A conversation with Richard

This is the first part of my conversation with Richard, one of the 8 “strangers” I walked the Camino Inglés with at the end of April/beginning of May. We met for the first time in Ferrol, last April 28, same as James. And the following day we all started walking together towards Santiago de Compostela.

But Richard was not a Camino newbie. He had walked the Vía de la Plata before. In this first part of our conversation, Richard shares his experience on the Vía de la Plata in 2018.

Conversation with Richard

Please tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Richard Maynard. I’m 69 years old. I live in Warwick, a small town in the centre of the UK not far from Stratford-on Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

I retired from full time working in the IT sector as a consultant in 2012 and worked a further 5 years as a freelance contractor until 2017 when I decided that it was time I stopped and concentrate on other more important things… Like myself!

I am married to Diane. We don’t have any children unfortunately but my only sister has two boys and I get a lot of enjoyment spending time with them. They ask me advice on a lot of things which makes me feel  quite useful.


The Camino Inglés was not your first Camino.

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

I first heard of the Camino in 1993 when I first visited the ‘real’ Spain with Diane, who had spent time there teaching English in the 80’s. During that time she had made friends in Palencia and León. We still visit these people on a regular basis today and are always made most welcome as is the Spanish tradition.

León is a beautiful city, with a wealth of history and culture. Walking through the streets of the old quarter of the city in 1993, I noticed metal plates in the paving shaped like scallop shells and also noticed yellow arrows painted on some walls and lampposts. They all guided you towards the cathedral.

I asked about these signs and was told about the Camino de Santiago. Over the ensuing years I researched more information about its beginnings and history. I wondered why it had endured for so many years and what there was about it that still drew people to it to walk to Santiago de Compostela.

I determined to do the Camino because I was curious about its mysterious and powerful nature.


I felt it would offer me a meaningful experience.

I have to say that, at the time,  I felt somehow dissatisfied with life even though I had been quite successful and appeared happy to external observers.

People ask me why I waited until 2018 to do my first Camino. Well, for me the Camino exists with one starting point and continues until it finishes in Santiago de Compostela outside the cathedral. I knew therefore that I could never be truly fulfilled if I walked the Camino in stages, returning every year until I had completed it. I had to do all of it in one go. But, I was working and knew I could never get sufficient time off work to do this, so I waited until I no longer had work commitments to concern me.


Why did you choose the Vía de la Plata?

The Vía de la Plata is possibly the longest of the numerous routes across Spain. It  runs from Seville in Andalucia and heads north through Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora and then heads North West to Ourense and finally, after 1007 Kilometres arrives in  Santiago de Compostela.

Via de la plata map


 I decided on this route firstly because I was not keen on the large number of pilgrims on the Camino Francés(the best known route) from St Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees. The second reason was because I am the type of person who likes to set myself challenges.


I spent a long time in the past listening to people who told me I couldn’t succeed at the things I was interested in. I don’t do this anymore!


I also wanted to discover something about myself. I guess I’m a little crazy and take risks in life.


 I wanted answers to the questions:

  • Could I do it?
  • Did I have the strength and energy to keep going to the end?
  • Could I survive walking and average of 20 -25 kilometres per day ……….. Every day!
  • How could I manage daily life with only the 6-7Kgs contents of my rucksack on my back?

I have to confess that I was very nervous about failure, although my wife said she believed I could do it and that I should try my best.  I knew that some acquaintances would try to dissuade me from going or try to convince me that I, a retired old guy, was physically incapable of such an undertaking.

So I didn’t tell anyone about my Camino until the evening before I set out from Seville, when I went onto Facebook and announced that I would head north the following morning and keep walking until I arrived in Santiago de Compostela!

As I expected, I received a lot of concerned messages about my age, and my sanity but also a lot of support which made me feel more nervous about failing, as I didn’t want to disappoint people, let alone having to listen to others saying “I told you so!” I was committed!


Tell us about your experience on the Vía de la Plata

Firstly I must say that the Camino is not just a walk, it is a life experience. We embark upon it for our own reasons. We look for resolution in our lives. We look for answers, but usually we find more questions. What I am saying is that the Camino is what it is for each individual. It is intensely personal because it is a process during which the pilgrim is confronted by themselves; they discover their strengths and overcome weaknesses.

No two Caminos can be the same. The effects of the Camino can be fundamental but different in each case.

I can say without a doubt that, for me, walking the Via de la Plata was the most powerful experience I have had in the whole of my life. I am now changed forever.

I learned so much about myself and how to change; how to open my heart and mind to the world and the people around me. How to help others and how to accept help from others. How to be tolerant and understanding of others and of myself. To be able to see yourself in context with the world, with nature, with all living things.

Life proceeds at the most simple level. You move forward using your legs, there is no other way forward. You live with what you have on your back, that is your world. You are liberated. You can then look around you and realise what you are in relation to the Camino and the world you are passing by. You realise how small a part of creation you are and yet how fortunate you are to be part of it.

I discovered something that proved very useful to me on the Camino. The first week or so was difficult. A few blisters, rain, cold, crowded albergues and a bad cold left me feeling very depressed. The worst of it was the realisation that I still had nearly 900 Kms to go until the end.

It was then I learnt a great lesson from other seasoned pilgrims.


The secret is to live your life on a daily basis. Don’t think about the distance still to go to Santiago de Compostela but focus on the day ahead. How far do you need to travel? Where are you going to sleep? Where will you eat? Do you need to wash clothes etc.?

I took this on board and immediately it seemed as if a weight had been lifted from my back. My pack seemed lighter because I knew I only had to carry it 20 kms or so. I focussed on getting a bed for the night, food and any supplies that I needed. That was all. At the end of each day, I could look at the challenges that tomorrow would bring with greater strength and determination.


You feel liberated. You only need to plan one day ahead!

The Via de la Plata has less pilgrims than the Camino Francés. As I passed through parts of Extremadura I found myself walking alone through a wilderness. I had never experienced this before. I walked for four days like this but never felt lonely or frightened. I have never felt closer to the world and to creation than at this time and would stop and allow my senses to explore my environment, sounds, sights, smells; the wind on your face the warmth of the sun upon your skin.

The Camino can be a solitary experience if you so desire and you will meet pilgrims on the road who will ask you to respect their wish for solitude. However this is not that common. For the most part, pilgrims develop an open nature and celebrate their common experience of the Camino. They share themselves with others talking about their backgrounds, their motivations, their hope for the future.

The common purpose of the pilgrim, the meaningful journey, generates a resonance that breaks down all barriers and creates  the fellowship of the Camino. To this day I maintain contact with friends I made on the Camino. People from all backgrounds and cultures who share with me knowledge of the quiet determination you develop on the road and the peace that this brings to your spirit.


Richard’s words

You’ll have to wait till next week for the rest of my conversation with Richard. In the meantime, here are some of the Spanish words he thinks you should know. You can listen to Richard explaining his choice of words and, of course, saying them in Spanish, in the audio below.

por favor (please) & (muchas) gracias (thank you)

el albergue (hostel), una pensión (guesthouse), la habitación (room)

la comida (food), el menú del día (menu of the day)

el supermercado (supermarket), la farmacia (pharmacy), la lavandería (launderette)

una mochila (backpack), una credencial (pilgrim’s passport), un sello (stamp), una compostela (certificate of completion)

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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with Catherine

A conversation with Catherine

Catherine had been following this blog for a while before she decided to join my Challenge last summer. She was preparing for the Camino Portugués later in the year. As you may already know, I live on the Camino Portugués, so we thought we might actually meet in person when she passed through my town. Unfortunately, that was not possible in the end, but we still managed to have this conversation online, so you can now read the story of her Caminos.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
CatherineI live outside Portland, Oregon in the US. I moved here two and a half years ago from Seattle after taking an early retirement and now I have plenty of time to travel! This part of the US, the Pacific Northwest, is beautiful and I love living here. Seventy miles west of us is the Pacific Ocean and 70 miles east of us is Mount Hood. We now live in a planned community where I can walk to almost everything I need. I feel very fortunate.
When did you first hear about the Camino? When/why did you decide to do it?
Both my father and my brother recommended the movie “The Way” to me several years ago but I didn’t know anything about it and it was probably about a year later that I finally watched it. Like so many others, I became captivated with the idea of doing the Camino. A year or so later, “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” was screened near me and after that I was fully obsessed with the idea of doing the Camino. After I retired my husband told me to stop talking about it and just go! I started out on my own from Saint Jean Pied de Port on September 20, 2017 and finished in Santiago de Compostela on November 4, 2017, the day after my 60th birthday. Even well into my journey I didn’t know why I was there – I just felt “called” to be there. Eventually I knew that my own soul had called me there. I loved everything about the journey and wished that I could have kept walking and walking.
Did you prepare either physically or mentally? How?
I was totally obsessed with preparing for my first Camino, although it would have been good to put as much energy into training as I put into gear testing! I spent hours and hours reading books and following Facebook groups. I thoroughly enjoyed the planning. The CAMIGAS Facebook group was especially helpful to me. The discussions there gave me the confidence to walk the Camino alone.
That was not your only Camino. Tell us about your other Camino.
Last September I was fortunate to walk the Camino Portugués with a friend from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. We started on the Coastal Route and then cut over to Valença along the Minho River. There were certainly some stunning places along the Camino Francés but I found the Camino Portugués to be more consistently pretty and I loved that nearly all the churches in Portugal were open. The people, in Portugal especially, were very friendly and helpful and of course the Portuguese pastries are worth the trip! Fortunately my traveling companion agreed to learn some Portuguese because I found the language very difficult. I took over once we were in Spain.
How do both experiences compare?
I still think of the Francés in 2017 as “My Camino” because, for me, walking 12 days on the Camino Portugués didn’t match the transformational experience of walking for 46 days on the Francés. I’m grateful for having had the time, health and resources to make that journey. On both the Camino Francés and the Camino Portugués I felt like I was surrounded by kindness and I have tried to bring that into my daily life at home. There is (generally) no reason not to be kind. And I now smile and say hello to everyone I pass on the sidewalk. Well, not on the busy city sidewalks!
Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Do you think this had any impact on your Camino?
Before my first Camino I learned some basic Spanish vocabulary recommended for peregrinos, but I discovered as soon as I got to Spain that it was pretty inadequate. I might have been able to read a little but I certainly didn’t understand what people were saying. It’s true that you don’t need to know Spanish to do a Camino but I wished I had been able to communicate better. I would have liked to have connected more with the Spanish people along the way.
Any difference between your first and second Camino?
So before I went back last year I made more of an effort to learn more Spanish vocabulary. Doing the Challenge with you taught me the pronunciation rules and that gave me a lot more confidence learning new words. I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to go back to Spain but I haven’t given up learning Spanish. In a couple of weeks I’ll be starting my second session of Spanish Through the Arts, a class offered at my community center where we practice Spanish through songs and dances and coloring and doing little plays. It’s great fun!
Catherine’s words
I usually ask my guests to pick a few Spanish words or phrases: the ones they think every pilgrim should know before their Camino, the ones they knew, the ones they learnt… Catherine chose
  • one she learned along the Way: Una cama baja, very useful if you prefer the lower bunk in the albergues.
  • Her personal favourite: un café con leche grande, por favor. Does this need further explanations?
  • And finally, two more she wished she knew for her first Camino: a la derecha (to the right) and a la izquierda (to the left). I know a la izquierda is not the easiest to pronounce and I also know it was also a bit of a challenge for Catherine, so I really appreciate her mustering the courage to record herself and allowing me to post it here. But I must say she did an excellent job. Her pronunciation is impeccable. Well done, Catherine!
Una cama baja, por favor Café con leche grande, por favor A la derecha A la izquierda Make sure you don’t miss any posts by subscribing for free here. That way, when a new post is out, you will get it in your inbox. And… you get access to some exclusive content too. I promise I won’t send you any spam.

¡Buen Camino!