My flights are booked, airport transfers are made, hostel beds reserved for pre-and-post hike days, and now my hiking itinerary is settled upon. My first trip to Spain is almost here, and with it marks my first solo, international journey.
To avoid succumbing to the “scared shitless” feeling that’s been hanging over me like a dark cloud for the past few months, I’ve tried to organize as much as I can before I depart. My nightly accommodation while on the pilgrimage will basically be left up to chance (reservations cannot be made for pilgrim’s hostels), but considering I’m hiking during Galicia’s wet season, I doubt I’ll have thousands of fellow pilgrims to compete with.
I’ll be flying out of Toronto at 10:05pm on Tuesday, March 4th and will arrive in Madrid at 3:10pm the next day (with a stopover at London’s Heathrow). Although Madrid deserves a trip in itself, I decided to make my way as quickly as possible to my starting point of the pilgrimage — León. Thankfully there’s a coach bus service that runs from the Madrid airport directly to León, so I lucked out. My only concern is the timing between when I land and when the bus departs at 4:45pm. The only thing I can do is cross my fingers and hope that there are no delays during the flight or upon arrival at immigration and baggage claim. The 4:45pm bus gets me into León by 9:15pm, which isn’t too bad of a check-in time. Otherwise, I’ll be arriving at 1:15am on March 6th. Yikes. Please God, let this work out.
For my first night in León I decided to stay at a moderately priced hotel as opposed to a hostel. I figured it would be best to get a good night’s sleep in my own room after travelling, instead of bunking with (at least) six to eight other strangers. I’ll be staying at the Guzmán El Bueno, which is only a fifteen minute walk from the bus station.
I chose to give myself a free day in León to get over the flight and acclimatize to Spain. Plus, the city has some major sites to see, including the 13th-century cathedral, the Basilica of San Isidoro which has 12th-century wall and ceiling paintings, and one of the few Gaudí buildings outside Barcelona. The Art History student in me is very excited about all of this.
For my second night in León I’ll be staying at a Benedictine Monastery, Santa Maria de Carbajal. Pilgrims are only allowed to stay one night here, and if it’s your very first night on the Camino then your accommodation is paid for by donation (i.e. what you choose). Here is where I’ll acquire my first stamp in my pilgrim’s passport, and I’ll have an early bedtime as the nuns like to get everyone to bed by 9:30pm.
For the next twelve nights I’ll be staying in pilgrim’s hostels enroute. I have a pretty good idea of which ones I’ll be seeking out, thanks to my guidebook. For the most part I’ll be selecting the municipal auberges or xuntas (this is what they’re called once I enter the region of Galicia), as they’re usually the cheapest at about €5 a night.
To properly celebrate my arrival in Santiago de Compostela and my thirtieth birthday, I will be staying in the city for a total of three nights. I originally wanted to stay at the Parador, but for one night’s accommodation it’s nearly the same cost as the total of all my hostels along the way. However, it is the oldest hotel in the world and used to be a pilgrim’s hospital. Plus you only turn thirty once, right? I’ll give myself a few more days to think about it.
Whether I stay at the Parador or not, I’m booked in at the Roots & Boots Hostel. According to their site it’s “…the place you will live compostela in every way…”. I think that slogan might have been lost in translation somehow. It is, however, located in the old quarter of Santiago and offers this view of the cathedral (don’t mind the random crap strewn about the room, I borrowed the photo from their website):
I might have mentioned this in the past, but I’ve adopted the habit of getting souvenir tattoos on my trips. I have four of these tattoos (collected in Victoria, Vancouver, New Orleans and Las Vegas), so I decided to commemorate this particular journey and my milestone birthday with yet another piece. I already have the appointment made and decided on a scallop shell — the symbol used to waymark the Camino.
I’ll be attending the Pilgrim’s Mass on both the 20th and 21st of March, and the rest of my days there will be full of wandering the city streets (hopefully in shoes that are not my hiking boots). Then on the 22nd I’ll be flying directly out of Santiago, stopping over in Madrid then London before I land back in Toronto at 8:20pm that night. The following day will probably be dedicated to sleep and relaxation before I have to return to work on Monday.
So, after that breakdown, here is my finalized Camino itinerary:
Only eleven more sleeps before I begin the process and get on that plane!!