Our decision to go to Spain was the desire of Benjamin to follow The Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostelo. There are several routes across France but we were interested only in the Spanish part due to time constraints, deciding that three weeks were required for this trip. A guide and information was obtained from The Confraternity of Saint James. For more about the Camino see our Camino page. Photographs are in Gallery1-Spain.
The choice was between sailing from the south coast to Santander in Spain, or going by air. Taking into consideration the need of travel to the south coast, the best option was flying from Manchester. We used the Spanish airline, Iberian, to San Sebastian, via Madrid with the return Santiago de Compostelo to Manchester via Barcelona, as there were no direct flights. You can get direct flights from London. No problem with taking a tandem, the only necessity being to remove pedals and reduce air pressure in the tyres, and something to cover the chains to protect other luggage. Most times the tandem was wheeled out to the plane. We did have this authorised with the customer services at the London office of Iberian prior to booking, because locally they were not sure.
We had been warned that Spain was very hot and to take plenty of protection for the sun, but this was in June and also in the north of Spain, so we had more English type weather, cold and wet. However we did have some hot days and of course the best day was on the day we flew home.
We knew it was going to be hilly but we found them not too troublesome, only long. The gradients were rarely steeper than 1 in 16. Roads were part main road with smooth tarmac, elsewhere quiet country or mountain roads with a rougher metalled surface, with in Leon province a specially built cyclists and walkers path, over one stretch. See more on our Camino page.
We used Michelin 1/400000 (1cm-4km). Seven cover the country, show most of the roads, with scenic ones marked, and spot heights shown. Firestone do a series at 1/200000 (1cm-2km)
Food and Lodgings
The Camino has refuges all along it, for the pilgrims to stay in. Some of these were very basic, with only cold water available, others were quite comfortable with all mod cons. In one or two places they had disappeared but there were rooms available, in fondas or hostals. These varied from basic and comfortable, to very good. Being a pilgrim route, it is very popular so there are cafes in every town village or hamlet. In the country, shops are hard to find, as they have no shop frontage, and are simply a private home. If you watch you will see where the locals are going, or you can ask. See Camino page.
Generally it was cheaper than the UK for food and accommodation, especially in the rural areas, but in the cities, like Burgos and Leon, prices were almost on a par. A coffee in Leon was twice that of one in the rural areas. The flight was the same price as a self catering 14 day package to Crete, per person.
Basically we had a contrast. The cities were busy places, very modern, and much as one would expect. The country was quiet, predominantly labour intensive, with horses and oxen much in evidence. Many villages had communal wash tubs, sometimes quite a way from the village to which the women carried or wheeled their wash. We had to learn some Spanish for very few people speak English, we found only four during our entire trip. The Spanish people were friendly and helpful. The tandem was always found a secure place, if not in a cellar or outbuilding, then it was in the room with you, even upstairs carried there by the staff.