Camino de Santiago Part the Third: Pamplona and Beyond

Apologies for this getting posted late! Yesterday was spent on trains, buses, planes, an unexpected cable car (I thought it was a train! Then the ground dropped away underneath me!), another train, an underground that I stayed on a little bit to long, and some wandering around an entirely unfamiliar city in the dark.

Now, however, I am sitting drinking tea in a living room in Cologne(!!!), so it’s postytime! (Yes, everything has a lot of exclamation marks today.)

At my last post on the Camino, me and my impeccable sense of direction had managed to get myself lost in Pamplona. Before we go on, however, I’ve been reliably informed that the videos I posted before didn’t have sound. I was on a pretty awful internet connection last week, so I’ve only now been able to get those uploaded again. Here they are, this time with commentary. Also, the sound of howling winds.

Pretty scenery!

Enough with the pretty scenery. My feet hurt.

Here is the place where, a few hours later, I devoured a massive burger and side of omgsogood garlicky courgettes and aubergines. I would have taken a photo of it, but I practically inhaled the thing in less time than it would take to pick up my camera.

Pamplona was lovely. It was a pity that I was exhausted, ravenous and hobbling when I was there- I would have loved to see more of the place. The municipal hostel was one of the nicer ones. The beds were comfortable and didn’t rattle, the showers were plentiful and hot. While there were a lot of beds per room, there were arranged in niches of four with little barriers between them, so it felt a little less open.

The next morning huuuurt. Oh my god, did it hurt. Actually, all of the mornings on the Camino hurt, but day three was one of the worst. After stumbling about for a while and pouring some terrible vending machine coffee down my throat, though, I did manage to get out before we were kicked out.

It was worth it.

Walking out of Pamplona was wonderful. It was my first morning walking alone. I was a little apprehensive about that. But honestly? It was lovely to have just me, my feet, and the countryside for company. The scenery was also incredibly different from the days before- a lot drier, less greens and more yellows.


The first town I hit was Cizur Menor- I think that’s it in the distance in the pic above.



It wasn’t far back from Cezur to Pamplona:


I absolutely loved how, now I was out of the mountains, the countryside seemed to open up into huge rolling vistas where I could see for miles and miles. It was, y’know, a bit awesome.



I have no idea what the name of this village was. But it was little, and it was pretty, and it made me incredibly happy to walk through. It also came equipped with a public toilet. This may or may not have significantly contributed to my absolute love for the place.


Follow the yellow arrows!


After a long morning’s hike up the hillsides, here was Alto del Perdón. One of my favourite things about the Camino was coming across places like this, almost every day.




After a morning like that, things couldn’t stay easy. The way down the other side of the hill from Alto del Perdón? I don’t think I’d ever (yet) been in so much pain from walking downhill. My right knee hurt like hell with every step. I have no idea how I’d have made it without my walking stick. Even so, the couple of kilometers down the hill were agonisingly slow. Not to mention rocky. Not to mention that it was getting on to the afternoon now, and the sun was hot.


Things got a lot more bearable after that, though


And a couple of kilometers later, I was treated to this amazing, wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous, stunningly fantastic cafe. It had chairs. And thick, filling lentil soup with giant hunks of soft, crusty bread. Also, a thriving population of kittens.


I seem to have left the camera in my pocket for the rest of this day. The last few kilometers of the day were hard– my feet were sore, I was tired, and it was oh so hot. At the end of the day in Puente la Reina, I treated myself to a bed in a private hostel annexed to a hotel. In a room with only four other people! With its own bathroom! And wifi!
What more could anyone ask for?


Edited to add: This is my 100th post! Woooop! You know, when I started this blog I wondered how I’d think of anything to write about after the first ten or twelve entries. Turns out that hasn’t exactly been a problem, has it?

Camino de Santiago Part the Third: Pamplona and Beyond

Camino de Santiago 2: Zubiri, Pamplona

I’m trying to remember the morning of Day 2, but it’s all some kind of fuzzy, sleepy haze. Funny, that.

Fortunately, I have pictorial and video evidence that I was, in fact, in places.



I’m not normally one for churches. This place, though, was sweet and little and pretty. And also happened to have things to sit down on. I was, at this point, quite the fan of things to sit down on.


It wasn’t long after that before we really started coming out of the mountains and into a whole different kind of landscape:

Another wee sit-down by a river:


Right next to what turned out to be the outskirts of Pamplona!


Pamplona was lovely. That is, by the time I’d gone past the hostel, gotten lost, gotten found again, backtracked, and fallen into bed exhausted at around, er, teatime.

This is my exhausted face. Just in case you were wondering:


And here’s the parking space where I finally realised how far it was to the next hostel and that I should should probably turn around:


After the obligatory couple of hours of post-walk unconsciousness, I managed to hobble my way to a pretty square for some foods. There is no better food than the food you have after walking for seven or so hours.

Camino de Santiago 2: Zubiri, Pamplona

Camino de Santiago. Part one: SJPDP to Zubiri

I figured it’s about time I post about my time on the Camino. I’ve got a lot of pics, so I’ll break them up between a few posts.

I landed in Biarritz airport on a sunny lunchtime. The bus to Bayonne train station was reasonably well populated with suspiciously clean-looking backpacker types, and it didn’t take more than a few minutes before all of us worked out that we were all, in fact, off to the same place. The fact that we all got onto the same rather tiny train to St Jean Pied de Port didn’t hurt, either.

SJPDP is one of those gorgeous old mountain towns that you see on postcards- all small cobbled streets, old buildings and outdoor cafes.

Just out of the train, looking for a map:




First thing was to pop over to the Camino office and get our pilgrims’ passports. Two euro a pop gets you access to all the pilgrims’ hostels along the way. The municipal hostels normally run at around €6 a night. I gather this is awesome when it’s not the middle of high season and you’re sharing a room with 30 snoring people..

Here’s the map of the Camino Francés route, from the SJPDP camino office:



The others went to find hostels, but I’d had a moment of panic the night before and booked myself a hotel. A rather pretty hotel, although I must have walked past it four or five times before I found the place.


The view from outside the window. From my phone, for some reason, and it absolutely doesn’t do the view justice. But here, have some Pyrenees:


The next morning should technically have involved crossing the Pyrenees. I… didn’t do this. I’d gotten the idea that there was nowhere to get food or to stay for the next 27ish kilometres, and had also had the worst night’s sleep and woken up feeling pretty damn godawful. (Hint: several days of moving house +unpleasant&headwrecking personal stuff + being alone and far from home ≠ a good night’s sleep. By the way.) I knew that Anna- one of the people I’d met the day before- had already sorted herself out with a lift over the mountains. I figured I’d see if I could tag along.

We got a lift over the mountains to Roncesvalles, just on the Spanish side of the border.


I may have been sleepy and self-pitying that morning, but once we were over the mountain, Anna was having none of it.


Some breakfast and liberal doses of syrupy-strong coffee later, we were on our way. 790km? Not a bother, right?


Day One was a little bit of rain, a little bit of getting lost, a whole lot of asking for directions, a little bit more getting lost (the directions may have been a wee bit vague), finally getting the hang of keeping our eyes out for yellow arrows. Walking through the woods. Stopping for lunch in a playground full of cats. A lot of trees.

Follow the yellow arrows!





Just in case you’d forgotten what to do:


..or where to go:


At the end of a long, long, loooong day’s walking we arrived (slowly and painstakingly) in Zubiri at about five-ish. Where I had my first experience of municipal hostels. This involved climbing up onto a bunk to have a bit of a relax, and waking up an hour and a half later  to be informed that it was Absolutely Time For Eating Now. There was only one thing that could have gotten me out of that bed. Fortunately, this was it.


That’s all for now! Stay tuned for the next couple of days.

Camino de Santiago. Part one: SJPDP to Zubiri

Overly personal self-centredness

I’m not sure if I’ll feel this way tomorrow. It’s how I felt yesterday and this morning, it’s not how I felt this afternoon. But it’s important, even if this is veering way toward the personal.
You have been warned.
Right now? I feel like I’m Done here. Really really done. I wonder why I’m here, and how much of it is misplaced inertia and simply not knowing quite how to get home.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I came here. I did an awful lot of thinking over the past week. Changed a lot of plans. I’m also grateful for the soothing distraction of needing to push myself physically and overcome a lot of physical discomfort. And for reminding myself that I can rely on myself.
But ever since I got here I’ve been unhappy. I have a lot of stuff to deal with- all, by the way, the boringly ordinary kind of problems that never did anyone any permanent damage. But, damnit, that’s precisely the kind of stuff that needs familiar faces and nice cups of tea. It’s precisely the kind of thing that makes me not want to talk to new people and be light and entertaining. I want to retreat into my bubble and lick my wounds for a while. But here, that means isolating myself entirely.
I’m not sure I want to do that.
I’m not sure if I’ll feel the same way in the morning, or in the afternoon. But right now? I just want to go home.
Wherever that is.

Overly personal self-centredness


In the past week, hundreds of people have wished me ‘burn camino’ and ‘buenos dias’. Tens have asked me where I come from, what language(s) I speak, where I’ve walked from. Where I’m going to today, where I hope to walk to eventually, how long I’ll be walking. Whether I’m walking with friends or alone. Why I decided to walk the Camino.
Not once has anyone commented on my being a woman walking alone. Not once has anyone suggested that walking for hundreds of kilometers alone through the country leaves me in danger of anything other than sore legs, insect bites, uncountable blisters and an increasingly odd sense of social interaction.
I can’t explain the freedom in that.


Introspection and companionable solitude

I’m not sure how I feel about doing this alone.
On one hand, if you’re going to be alone, this is a good place to do it. Nobody thinks you’re crazy. Loads of people walk alone. And you can walk for hours and see nobody, but stop for a rest and within minutes someone vaguely familiar will walk on by with a friendly “Buenos dias”, and ask how its going.
But I miss companionship. I’m also.. without going into too much detail, I’m in the middle of some personal stuff that is quite difficult. Bloody hard, even. And although I can see the benefits of a crash course in being by myself with my own mind, that doesn’t make it easy.
But maybe that’s the point?

Introspection and companionable solitude

I was doing fine. Honest.

So it turns out that posting is HARD when you’re falling into bed after eight hours’ hard walking each day and only getting up for dinner. Been tweeting up a storm, though!
Last night I stayed in a Nice Hostel. Cost me a tenner instead of the usual €6, but sharing a room with only three others was SO worth it. They also had a buffet for a €10, and since I was Wrecked and had Done Something To My Knee (down is bad today) I wasn’t in the mood to go further afield.
Earlier I’d met the other people in my room, who chatted away to each other in French. I’ve no French, but wasn’t feeling super social anyway.
So off I go to the buffet. I asked the waitress if everywhere was included, as there was one counter that wasn’t self-service. She was telling me that it was, when one of the French people from my room comes up to us.
Now here’s the thing. When I talk in languages I’m not fluent in, I tend to start off speaking quite quietly. It’s a nerves thing. But I’m reasonably able to get my point across, especially when it’s a thing as simple as “can I take that food over there as well as this stuff. And why yes, I’d love some wine with that, thank you”.
Anyway,  yer man comes up ABS starts telling me in slow broken English, with piles of hand gestures, that I must go to the salad bar first! And then the cold main courses section! And only then will it be the Other Counter Time! I must go to the first counters twice! And then explaining to the waitress, in Spanish, that I speak English.
I kinda love that the only words I heard her speak in English were “so do I!”.

I was doing fine. Honest.

Books. Books! Books?

I’m planning on travelling light on the Camino.

This, obviously, means that instead of taking a giant stack of books that weigh a ton and take up space that could be used for silly things like ‘water’ and ‘clothes’, I’ll be taking my beloved ereader. A delightful side-benefit of this is that it fits way more books in it than my backpack*. Yay!

So one of the things that I’m planning on doing over the next few days is filling up my ereader with piles and piles of delicious literature**. Now, we live in a world which is (fabulously) full of far more delightful reading than any one person could ever hear of. So I have a question for you, my most ravishing readers:

If you were a book that a person should take with them for a 5-week long walk, what would you be? I’m looking for recommendations of anything you think fitting. Travel writing is, of course, always a good thing when travelling, and any of that you’ve read would be very welcome indeed. However, if you’ve read anything else that might fit, feel free to mention it. Quirky sci-fi is also always welcome 🙂

Thanks bunches in advance!


*or my bookshelves. We’re living in the future, people.

**nom nom nom.

Books. Books! Books?

Bloggly Updates: a quick PSA

Over the next month and a half, things might get a little different around here. Instead of spending an awful lot of time sitting in front of a keyboard in Dublin, I’ll be off walking the Northern route of the Camino de Santiago.

This is something I’m simultaneously really excited and really nervous about. It’ll mean two things for the Tea Cosy:

Firstly, since I’ll be travelling a lot, I’d like to do some travel blogging. I was thinking of setting up a new blog for the purpose. But, you know what? I like it here in my little corner of the internets. So, I hope that You Lot won’t mind an awful lot of posts about walking through northern Spain for the rest of the summer.

Secondly, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to do my usual kind of posting. So I was thinking of opening things up for a few guest posts. It might be nice to get some fresh perspectives around here- especially when I’m busy falling over with my feet in ice buckets of water after walking 30K that day 😉

What do You Lot think?

Bloggly Updates: a quick PSA