Camino 2019 – Reflections

Our primary reason for Camino 2019 was to give us a goal, to provide additional incentives for us to continue to actively pursue a healthy lifestyle in our 70’s. So from that perspective alone, we succeeded.

A real bonus was that we have reached an even higher level of fitness both physically and mentally after 59 continuous days of walking over 400 miles.

An underlying objective for Camino 2019 was to exploit our previous Camino experiences to reduce or eliminate some of the less than positive aspects of this two month experience. This resulted in skipping a few unpleasant sections which not only reduced a negative that we experienced on previous Caminos, but reduced the overall distance we walked from 495 to 415 miles.

We extended our walking range by transporting Linda’s backpack nearly every day, reducing the physical burden on both of us.

We also effectively used public transportation, taxi & bus, to give us extra flexibility to skip the sections mentioned above, as well as to eliminate the problem of finding suitable places to stay when heavy pilgrim traffic and/or lack of facilities occurred.

Our stays in pilgrim hosting private homes and small hotels, especially for multiple days, was a particularly enriching experience.

None of our Camino 2019 “adjustments” adversely impacted the wonderful places we passed through or stayed on our walks. The scenery was still extraordinary, some seen for the first time, others missed but remembered from previous walks. The deliciously, comfortable food was enjoyed daily and new items were discovered as before. The interesting interactions with other pilgrims and pilgrim hosts, as before, enriched our experience and our lives.

The spiritual and meditative and healing environment of the Camino Frances was ever present, as before.

Our Caminos are different than most, because, for the most part, we do not stay in albergue dormitory’s, with communal showers and bathrooms, sleeping in bunk beds and confining our main meals to communal pilgrim settings. And our daily spending (45€) is slightly less than double that of a “typical” pilgrim. Consequently, our Camino experiences can provide alternatives to prospective pilgrims as they plan a Camino that fits their needs.

And one final suggestion: Plan to stay a day or two extra after arriving in Santiago, if you want to receive a Compostela. The pilgrim office is not equipped to handle the ever increasing traffic and no effective remedies appear to be in the works.

This is probably our last Camino. But we’ve said that before and who knows what the future will bring. The Camino Frances has enriched our lives and continues to impact the way we live. We strongly recommend it to anyone, as it can impact one’s life in so many positive ways.

Coming Home

We enjoy traveling by train in Europe.

waiting for the train at Santiago Estacion

The trains are predictable, almost always on time departing and arriving and much easier and faster than driving or flying. And the scenery can be quite spectacular (inspite of reflections in the large windows)

The 5 hour plus trip from Santiago to Madrid-Chamartin terminal passed quickly, mostly because we shared a four seat table with a delightful couple currently living in Denmark. Lillias, originally from South Africa, and Jonathan, originally from Zimbabwe, worked for an international construction company building bridges, roads, tunnels, etc.

We chatted about our Camino experiences (they had just completed the Portuguese Camino) and just about anything else that came to mind. The time passed too fast as we really enjoyed their company.

They are considering a trip to the US in a year or two to walk the Appalachian Train from Georgia to Maine. We encouraged them to contact us so we can possibly meet when they pass through NC.

We said our goodbyes as we left the train in Madrid as they were going back to Denmark later in the day.

Our connections from Chamartin station by local train to Atoche train station in downtown Madrid and an easy walk to Pension Barrera(95€). had us checked into our room by 2:00.

view from our room and our temporary neighbors

Our post Camino 2019 R&R continued for the afternoon and next day, reading, continuing to enjoy Spanish cuisine at nearby restaurants and taking brief walks around the city.

Madrid is one of our favorite cities with magnificent buildings and diverse architectural styles, treed streets and parks and spacious sidewalks, all carefully maintained and clean. Museums and historical monuments are everywhere,

rear entrance of Prado Museum before opening time

but just walking around them is very entertaining and relaxing. Madrid is not as intimidating as many world capitals and large cities can be, especially if you are not fluent in the language. And also very important, its relatively easy and cheap to eat and get around.

On Wednesday morning, our taxi picked us up at Barrera at 9:00 and 45 minutes later, in heavy morning traffic, we were at the AA ticket counter in MAD, checking our backpacks. We were still over an hour before boarding time so we stopped for a snack before proceeding to our gate.

note Philadelphia spelling

Our flight left on time and the 8 hour flight

airborne over Madrid and heading home

to Philadelphia was without incident getting us into the terminal a few minutes ahead of schedule

A 3 hour layover gave us plenty of time to clear customs, recheck our packs and board the plane for our two hour flight to GSP.

Our neighbor, Ed, graciously agreed to pick us up at the airport and was waiting for us when we arrived 15 minutes early!!!

A ten minute drive by car had us opening our garage door and walking into our home after being away for 10 weeks.

It was a very smooth and easy finish for an extraordinary trip and good to be home!

Closing thoughts on Camino 2019 to follow.