Friday, June 30, 2017
Where Do I Start My Camino Frances?
So you've decided to walk the Camino Frances.
You've heard the stories, read the books, seen the movie.
Now it's time to start planning and the first thing you need to think about is where you will begin.
Luckily you have some great choices.
I have flown to Paris and taken the train to Bayonne.
I've flown to Madrid and taken the bus to SJPP.
But for the Camino Frances, I have two favorites!
From the United States, I find it's easier to fly into Madrid.
I make my plans on arriving morning or afternoon.
I walk out of the Madrid airport and onto a bus to Pamplona.
I book an inexpensive hotel in Old Town, Pamplona.
Flying to Madrid and grabbing a bus to Pamplona makes sense for many reasons.
Depending on where in the US you're flying FROM, you're going to need a day or two to adjust to the time change. This may not be as important if you're flying from the East Coast, but from the West Coast, it takes me at least a day.
Once you're in Pamplona, you can take a few days to SEE Pamplona! There is so much to see there, from the Cathedral to the Museum to the many wonderful tapas bars. It's just a wonderful, festive place!
In Pamplona you can drop by Vodafone and get a SIM card for your phone.
You can find any gear you forgot at home.
You can meet LOTS of other pilgrims.
THEN, you can walk over to the bus station and grab a bus to SJPP or Roncesvalles. If there are a few of you, you can get a taxi for about the same amount of cash. Another option is booking your first night with El Corazon Puro. They will pick you up in Pamplona, usher you to their albergue, where they will feed you dinner and breakfast, and drop you off at the beginning of the route in SJPP or Roncesvalles, your choice.
You can also just start walking from Pamplona if you aren't interested in crossing the Pyrenees.
Why stay in Pamplona if you plan on starting in Roncesvalles or SJPP?
Because then you have SEEN Pamplona.
Then when all the pilgrims in the world are walking from Roncesvalles to Pamplona and filling up the albergues, you can either STOP in Trinidad de Arre and stay at the lovely albergue there, right on the beautiful river. Or you can walk right through Pamplona and on to Cizur Menor. And THEN you are out of the HERD of pilgrims that walk the Brierley stages like they were the Holy Book.
Now, you can walk BETWEEN the stages and have fewer worries about finding a bed at the end of the day.
Another wonderful option if you fly into Madrid is to simply begin your Camino there. Spend a day or two seeing Madrid, then just start walking! The Madrid route is wonderful and quiet, compared to the start of the Camino Frances. It hooks up with the Camino Frances in Sahagun about 2 weeks into your walk. It gives you the option of seeing Segovia, and there's a great museum to see there!
As a side note, I much prefer riding the bus in Spain to the train.
The buses are Mercedes Benz buses - beautiful, clean, quiet, spacious with giant viewing windows. The train, to me, is noisy more expensive.
Unless you have an aching to see Paris, there's no reason to start there.
It makes more sense and is less stressful, for me anyway, to fly into Madrid.