Camino de Santiago

Camino to Santiago de Compostela

The PilgrimagePilgrim Statue

– Sir Walter Raleigh 1604

` Give me my scallop shell of quiet,

My staffe of Faith to walk upon,

My scrip of Joy, Immortall diet

My bottle of salvation

My Gowne of Glory, hopes true gage

And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

Santiago Cathedral
The destination: Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

The Camino, which launched my post-retirement life, was quite a ride. Who would have predicted that a site of a Christian relic (St. James) in a “field of stars” (compostela) in northern Spain would have incited a virtual riot of pilgrims 2000 years later? An important destination for Christian pilgrims throughout the Middle Ages, spawning a number of routes through Spain and France,

The long road to Santiago.
The long road to Santiago.

the last 20 years has seen a sudden surge in the popularity of a walking pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The route most favoured is the 800 kilometre way that begins in St. Jean Pied du Port, France; The Camino Frances.

Morning in the Pyrenees.
Morning in the French Pyrenees.

The Camino Frances, both sublime and challenging, begins with the formidable Pyrenees, descending into the undulating Basque country, the sweeping ‘meseta’ plains, concluding in the mountains of

Meseta on the Camino.
Meseta landscape on the Camino.

Galicia. It is essentially a path for the faithful from church to church, statue to statue and cross to cross (with a few bustling town plazas, picturesque stone bridges and ancient water fountains thrown in for good Medieval measure!). In 1985, 700 pilgrims completed the Camino Frances, in 2002 that number had grown to 65,000, and in 2014, 250,000 pilgrims could claim ‘compostela status’ (a certificate awarded the

On the way to Muxia.
Dipping my toes in the Atlantic.

pilgrims devout enough to have walked at least the last 100 kms).  From Santiago, many pilgrims choose to walk the 200 kilometre Camino Finisterre to the ‘end of the earth’, a cape on the Atlantic where the body of the apostle Saint James delivered from Jerusalem first reached the shores of Spain.

My Camino

Did not really caring that an Apostles’ bones lay at the end of an

Windmill power on the Camino.
The sun, windmills, and one happy pilgrim.

800 km long purpose-built pathway make me a fraud as a pilgrim? Did one need Catholic guilt, piety and rosary beads to

be even considered a candidate for the course? Or could one be welcomed for one’s other humble intentions…

To savour the landscape, and not take for granted one single charming Medieval village along the

Entering Trinidad de Arre.
Entering Trinidad de Arre on the Camino.

way redolent with the art, architecture and history that was mere centuries in the making. To toast a culture that values strong coffee and steamed milk, and family bodegas that date back hundreds of years. To be grateful for the opportunity to sleep my way through Europe for no more than 10 euro a night (if one stayed in the designated pilgrim hostels). Likewise for the

Burgos Cathedral.
The stunning Burgos Cathedral.

opportunity to try out my fledgling Spanish, my apologetic French, and if nothing else, my comfort with the unknown. To re-assess my physical needs, and dare to see if 8 hours of walking a day can be

fueled by more water and less food, thereby honouring what our bodies truly need. To let the simplicity of walking be a conduit to greater spiritual and self awareness. To let it connect me to the soul of the world.

So, no the bones didn’t do it for me, but the walk with God in the Spanish countryside did wonders!Morning bliss on the Camino.

Joan Thompson

I'm a freelance writer and lifelong travel enthusiast. In mid-life, I am pursuing passions that include: adventure, books, music, beauty, epic people and journeys, the extraordinary in the everyday. Part of my story takes place in B.C. Canada and part of it along the shores of the Mediterranean.

2 thoughts on “Camino de Santiago

  • September 7, 2016 at 1:40 am

    loved your summary on the history of the Pilgrimage and your adventures and thoughts on the Camino de Santiago trail. I’ve yet to experience it and you’ve wet my appetite to do so.
    We wet in Asytypalea waiting for a ferry to Kalimnos/Kos.
    Hope we meet again.

    • September 7, 2016 at 7:41 am

      Hi Sarah!
      Thank you so much for reading & commenting on my Camino blog. Off to do my 3rd
      this fall (this time in France), and after that – flying back to Tilos. We may
      be in Samos in November – will you be at your place near Bodrum?


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