Spain: El Camino De Santiago, 2015

London to Lisbon via El Camino De Santiago

22/08/2015 to 08/10/2015

El Camino De Santiago, translates as The Way Of St James, is a centuries old pilgrimage to the alleged burial site of St James. The burial site is supposedly at a cathedral in Santiago De Compostela. The pilgrimage has the specific finishing point, however it does not have a required starting point. There are numerous routes starting at various points across Europe, including France, Portugal, England and Germany. I have chosen to do the most popular route, known as El Camino Frances (The French Way). This route starts at St Jean Pied De Port, a town in France close to the Spanish border, and is approximately 500 miles to Santiago De Compostela, with an additional 50 miles to the ocean. I am not religious, therefore my preferred destination is the ocean. The idea of walking from France, all of the way across Spain, and finishing at the Atlantic Ocean, and walking until I can walk no further, that is my target.

I am doing this pilgrimage with an Australian friend called Jon. I met Jon on a group tour in Poland in December 2007, and I have since met up in 10 countries across 3 continents. We have discussed this trek for a while now, and decided on September as it is just outside of the peak season, and I imagine that my hayfever would make it more difficult if I did it during Spring. I am technically Christian, but I do not practice religion at all. I was attracted to this pilgrimage, solely as a different way to travel, by foot, as opposed to public transport that I use frequently. It also seems to be sociable, which would be good. In addition to El Camino De Santiago, I will be completing London, England to Lisbon, Portugal, using overland travel.

I will break down all of my expenses, to demonstrate how a longer trip, can be low in cost.

Exchange Rate: £1.00 = €1.40

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Saturday 22nd August 2015

Tube: Upminster to Victoria – £3.10
Snack: Sausage roll & milkshake – £1.42
Bus: London to Toulouse – £1.50
TOTAL: £5.92

I got a lift from my mum to Upminster tube station, and said bye to her for the umpteenth time due to all of my travels. Getting to London early, I went for a walk via Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards Parade and Big Ben. This was my first walk carrying my backpack exactly as I will carry it across Spain. I walked about 3 miles to Victoria Station, and I was questioning my fitness, mainly due to the weight of the bag making my arms tingle.

I was one of the first people on the bus and managed to get my ideal seat, next to the window, with the window frame to rest my head for sleep. The bus was almost full, and then a couple came on late and wanted to sit together. I declined. Then, a solo father with 4 children were one of the last on the bus. I did my good deed so the children could sit by their father. I paid the price by getting an aisle seat, and getting minimal sleep all night. My frustrated journey got a bit worse again at the border crossing, when a French woman pushed in front of me, and spent several minutes to have her passport checked and converse with the French passport checker. I hadn’t even got on the boat yet, and I was already annoyed with the French.

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Sunday 23rd August 2015

Breakfast: McMuffin & coffee – €2.50 (£1.79)
Lunch: Pan au raisin & Cornetto – €2.45 (£1.75)
Dinner: Big Mac meal – €7.30 (£5.21)
Snack: Jaffa Cakes – €1.80 (£1.29)
Hotel: Ibis Budget – €36.05 (£25.75)
TOTAL: €50.10 (£35.79)

With minimal and disturbed sleep, we arrived in Paris about 6am. I have 3 hours until the bus continues to Toulouse, and have to leave the bus. My plan was to walk by Arc De Triumphe, which I saw lit up in the darkness, and then head to McDonalds. McDonalds on the main street in Paris, did not open until 7:30am. I strolled around Champs Elysees, caught a glimpse of Eiffel Tower, before heading to McDonalds and back to the bus. I had 9 more hours until Toulouse, which was spent catching up on sleep.

In Toulouse, I was staying close to the bus and train station, so I was soon showered and ready to explore. I strolled around the canal, saw a church and visited the main square, had McDonalds for dinner, and went to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before hostelling began.

My reason for McDonalds is because I do not enjoy French food. In my opinion it is over-rated. Also, I do not speak French, and it is difficult in France without French. In McDonalds, you can order on a machine, therefore cutting out the need to speak French. Finally, it is a lot cheaper than eating in any French restaurant.

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Monday 24th August 2015

Breakfast: Chicken sandwich – €2.21 (£1.58)
Train: Toulouse to Bayonne – €21.70 (£15.50)
Lunch: Sandwich & crisps – €2.98 (£2.13)
Train: Bayonne to St Jean Pied De Port – €11.20 (£8.00)
Hostel: St Jean Pied De Port – €10.00 (£7.14)
Snack: Fanta – €0.70 (£0.50)
Dinner: Burger, chips & beer – €7.00 (£5.00)
Drinks: 2 beers – €4.00 (£2.86)
TOTAL:  €59.79 (£42.71)

I woke up after a good 8 hours sleep, and had plenty of time to buy food and catch my 10:30am train. I had a train from Toulouse to Bayonne, another train from Bayonne to Cambio Bains, and finally a bus from Cambio Bains to St Jean Pied De Port, where I arrived around 4pm and met my friend Jon.

I had to laugh at Jon’s backpack, and especially its contents, such as large high zoom camera lens, 3 knee wraps (he only has 2 knees), and a whole box of 25 zip lock bags. We visited a supermarket for some snacks, had dinner, and headed down to the river to have a French beer in our 11th country together. I was expecting to not drink very much on the walk, and planned to have a beer with Jon in each of France, Spain and Portugal.

I walked around wearing my flip-flops, in a quite hilly town. The walking was tiring me, and again made me lose faith in my ability for the challenge that is ahead of me. I had hoped to watch a football match in a pub that night, however Jon had chosen the only hostel in town with a 10pm curfew, and no WiFi to follow the scores. We did get free breakfast though. I expected a dorm room of about 100 beds, so was pleasantly surprised at only 10 beds. However, and a big however, there were about 6 snorers out of them. My night’s sleep was also disturbed by noses being blown, plastic bags being rustled, worry of the following day and the football result, as well as being on the top bunk, where I was concerned my belongings may fall of the bed.

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