Last week we discussed the best time of year for walking the Camino in part 1 of this four part series. Today we answer the question, “What are the best accommodations?”
In addition to the common question of when to walk the Camino, we hear “Where did you stay?” all the time.
The Camino is many things for us, but perhaps most importantly, it is an opportunity to shed the distractions of life, recalibrate, and discover who we really are and compare that to who we can be. One of the best ways to shed some of these distractions and embrace the beauty that exists within each of us is to spend time with others and steep in the wonderful mess that is our fellow man. This means albergues are a great place to spend your evenings and nights.
Albergues are a wonderful place to connect with people from all over the world. But the size and quality varies. Many of these pilgrim specific hostels have kitchens where communal meals are made, and large dining areas where food and wine can be shared by all. In some, you might find yourself in bunk beds with 40 other pilgrims in the same room. Most of the ones we stayed in housed anywhere from 6 to 20 men and women from all over the globe.
Unfortunately, staying in albergues every night was not an option for us. Between needing space for the wheelchair and the low height of bottom bunks making transfers in and out of the beds difficult, we had to opt for other options. Some albergues had private rooms with a little more space, but this was not common.
There is a saying on the Camino – “The Camino provides” – and it’s so true. But perhaps it could be said more accurately, “The people of the Camino provide.” The kindness we experienced from others on our journey was amazing. Sometimes dumbfounding. We had complete strangers invite us into their apartments or homes or rent their apartments to us for the night. While we missed out on time with many fellow pilgrims, we did have snore free rooms and had some time to reflect.
With the many challenges of our journey and the sheer physical nature of getting a wheelchair across 500 miles of terrain, we found ourselves craving the comfort of a hotel room in some of the bigger cities, or a private room in an old monastery. Some might call this cheating, but we just felt it was good decision making.
One of our favorite experiences with lodging on the entire journey was at a pension in A Brea. Pension The Way is a beautiful home owned by Roger and Tony from England and managed by Colin from Ireland. This is a place a small group of pilgrims can spend time together in a private setting. The scenery is beautiful and the hospitality and food is remarkable.
Regardless of where you choose to spend your evenings and nights on the Camino, embrace the opportunities you have to step into relationship with those you meet. You will definitely learn from them and probably learn a few things about yourself. The time spent with others at the end of 15 to 20 miles of hiking will have you thinking about all the relationships back home that you haven’t appreciated for the gifts they are.