Camino de Santiago (updated)

WP_20160801_13_11_25_Pro

15th Aug 2016.

We are making our way to St Jean Pied de Port to start the Camino.  The Eurosuntor2016 web page will be dormant until we return back to the motorhome, hopefully in late Sept/early Oct.  Buen Camino!!!!

Update…

………..So belatedly, picking up where we left off, we arrived in Santiago on the 28th September after 36 days on the road and over 800 km’s covered by foot.  We are both really pleased with our achievement as we walked every step, carried our rucksacks and never booked the pilgrim albergues ahead.  We met many great and interesting people on the way and to be honest I am going to struggle with words to describe the experience, so I am simply going to upload the photos which will hopefully prompt our memories when we look back at this blog in the future………..

Walking log:

21st Aug: we left St Jean Pied de Port (Fr) and walked the ‘Route de Napoleon’ over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles (Sp).

22nd Aug:  Roncesvalles to Zubiri

23rd Aug:  Zubiri to Pamplona

24th Aug:  Pamplona (rest by day, bar crawl by night)

25th Aug:  Pamplona to Puente la Reina

26th Aug:  Puente la Reina to Estella

27th Aug:  Estella to Los Arcos

28th Aug:  Los Arcos to Viana

29th Aug:  Viana to Navarette

30th Aug:  Navarette to Azofra

31st Aug:  Azofra to Granon

1st-Sept:  Granon to Belorado

2nd Sept:  Belordao to San Juan

3rd Sept:  San Juan to Castanares

4th Sept:  Castanares to Burgos

5th Sept:  Burgos (rest by day, bar crawl by night)

6th Sept:  Burgos to Hornillos

7th Sept:  Hornillos to Castrojeriz

8th Sept:  Castrojeriz to Fromista

9th Sept:  Fromista to Carrion

10th Sept:  Carrion to Terradillos

11th Sept:  Terradillos to Bercianos del Real Camino

12th Sept:  Bercianos to Mansilla de las Mullas

13th Sept:  Mansilla to Leon

14th Sept:  Leon (rest by day, bar crawl by night)

15th Sept:  Leon to La Virgin del Camino

16th Sept:  La Virgin to San Martin del Camino

17th Sept:  San Martin to Astorga

18th Sept:  Astorga to Rabanal

19th Sept:  Rabanal to Molinaseca

20th Sept:  Molinaseca to Villafranca dal Bierzo

21st Sept:  Villafranca to La Faba

22nd Sept:  La Faba to Triacastelo

23rd Sept:  Triacastelo to Sarria

24th Sept:  Sarria to Portomarin

25th Sept:  Portomarin to Palas de Rei

26th Sept: Palas to Ribadiso

27th Sept:  Ribadiso to O Pedrouzo

28th Sept:  O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela (no rest, just bar crawl)

29th Sept: Santiago (rest day, no bar crawl)

30th Sept:  Bus back to St Jean Pied de Port to pick up the van.

Final note, to rub salt into the blisters, it only took us 18 hours to get back to St Jean using a combination of coach, public bus and taxi.

 

dscn2255

Road sign in Roncesvalles, after the 1st day’s walking.  In short, it was a long walk!

 

 

Advertisements

Tour Reflections so far, now almost 6 months in……

Overall we still love our lives on the tour, but we have definitely ‘motorhome life’ matured a little over the previous 3 months.  First of all, the heat has now become a factor, especially over the last month and a half.  We have found that the van can get too hot to enjoy a good nights sleep and this is made worse if you are staying on a public car parks as we feel reluctant to leave the windows open during the night.  Also the heat has affected our sight seeing and often we have returned from walking through a city completely ‘boiled’ and unable to return back to a cooler state.

12 volt fan

Our 12 volt fan.  It is badged up a Marshall (Chinese) and it powerful and relatively silent.

On a practical side, the 12 volt fan that we purchased for the trip has been excellent and has proved to be very reliable as often it has been left on for hours at a time.  We would definitely think twice in the future about where we would travel in the summer months and from our experience Italy, more precisely the Venice region, proved to be just too hot and humid for us and probably would be better leaving for the months in the autumn or spring.

DSC_0410

Typical motorhome stop over scene.  German beer is excellent!

On the budget front we are still slightly ahead of target by about 80 euros only.  The French Rivera and Italy in general proved to be more expensive.  We found that fewer of the stop overs were free, especially on the French coast and our 40 euro per day budget would be heavily compromised just to ensure we could park.  For this reason we found that ‘weaving’ between coast and inland helped and more often than not we found stunning small villages inland that were free to stop over and this diluted the expense of staying on the coast.  Another observation is that there are many more motorhomes on the road from June onwards obviously as people take their annual holidays.  However, this increased population has not effected us and nearly always we have arrived at our destination and there has been space for us, be it at times the last one. Some motorhomers have passed on tips to us about trying to arrive at the next destination by noon or early afternoon at the latest to ensure they can park.  Even though this makes complete sense to us we find it difficult to stick to.  Often we arrive at random times, sometimes in the early evening, but this haphazardness has not affected our stop overs on this trip so far.

Returning to costs, Italy certainly consumed more money, and upon analysis of this we have come to the conclusion that we spent more time out of the van, and defiantly more time in bars and restaurants!!!  Generally, though the supermarkets and fuel are more expensive than France, Spain and Portugal but this is a small difference in price to pay to enjoy such a great country in our opinion.  Conversely, Germany proved to be really cheap and after a few weeks there we managed to get back on track, several times we only spent 200 euros in total per week between us – long live Netto!!!

DSC_0414

We could not resist the giant Schnitzels from Netto!

The van on the whole is going well and any minor interior problems have been rectified.  We have found the fridge really capable running on gas during the summer months and often turn down ‘paid for’ hook ups as we believe it costs less to keep it on gas.  The twin 12 litre LPG tanks seem to last forever, keeping us ‘cooking on gas’ for between 15 – 20 days and at roughly 0.5 euros per litre cost very little to fill.  Finally, on the consumption note, the 2.8 diesel roughly returns 28mpg, which on the face of it seems low, but when you consider that we rarely use toll roads and prefer to tootle down the A and B roads taking in all the towns and villages enroute, seems more reasonable (note we have covered circa 10,000 Kms so far).

Sanlucar, Carol, Christine, Naill and Ian (2)

This is what it is all about, meeting people out on the road.

More recently we have become a little ‘Camino’ obsessed and we are really excited that this part of the tour is upon us.  Are we pleased to be leaving the van after 6 months?  I don’t think so overall, the touring experience has been wholly positive for us, after all it is our home and we are now used to thinking about it in this way.  For sure, we are looking forward to picking up the motorhome tour again in early October, be it with a few blisters maybe!

The Suntor

Our Swift Suntor parked up.  For next few weeks we are swapping wheels for feet…….

Tri-nation Metropolitan Upper Rhine Region – GER, FR, and CH.

From the tranquillity of the Bodensee came the bustle of Freiburg city and this would be our first stop as we tour up and down the Rhine.  We had to miss out Freiburg whilst touring the Black Forest several years ago as we had cooked the brakes on the Elgrand campervan whilst descending the Schwarzwalderstrase.  This meant we had to swap the care free tourist hours for time spent on the side of the road waiting for the brakes to cool, wearing the obligatory Hi Vis.

DSCN2179

Classic Freiburg

Freiburg seemed a very historical city, but one that is kept updated with it’s vibrant diverse student population.  This would be my only observation of the city really as I was completely pre-occupied with hunting down outdoor sports shops in hope that we could purchase our ruck sacks that would be used on the Camino.  As it turned out, both Sharon and I achieved this goal over the two days in the city, managing both to acquire quality rucksacks at 50% reduction in the summer time sales.   We also had another stroke of luck, well in my book anyhow, as we had stopped off at a lively bar alongside the city’s university and during the first drink the heavens opened and refused to close.  This meant we had to extend our single post shopping refreshment to a few more and then we also added a flammekuchen (a pizza without the tomato sauce?) to the list.  Even with this blatant time killing, the rain refused to stop so after several hours we tramped back in the rain to the van which was parked up about 2 Kms away.  Apparently, Freiburg has the highest sunshine rate in Germany, so it seems we were particularly unlucky here.

After the city break we wanted to stay beside the Rhine, allowing us to do some walking.  We chose Breisach am Rhein, a small town, where we stayed for free on the car park of the Am Rhein restaurant.   Here the owner permits stop overs on a quiet annexed car park to the side of the popular restaurant, as long as you make a visit to the bar or restaurant during your stay.  We ended up staying two nights here for the cost of two rounds of drinks which were pleasantly enjoyed on the river side terrace and when compared to the official camper stop in the town which charges 6 Euros a night seemed really good value.

DSCN2181

Sharon and new rucksack – Rhine river walk

On the Saturday we loaded up our new rucksacks with books, old shoes and pillows to add weight and then set of a practise ‘Camino’ walk.  We managed an idyllic 20 Km route which took us up the Rhine, through wood lands, into historic town Burksheim, through peaceful country side and finally back alongside the river.  The trip took us almost 5 hours including a brief sandwich stop at Burksheim and both the walking shoes and rucksacks gave us few problems which we were pleased about.

After Breisach we had planned one more countryside stopover before hitting Strasbourg.  Once we were heading north along the country lanes we spotted a poster for an ‘African Music Festival’ in Emmendingen which was about 20Km east of our planned destination.  Needless to say we turned off to hit the festival’s last day, unfortunately we had missed the reggae day’s bill, topped by Julian Marley, but the Sunday offered Afro Beats and World Music – all good!!

AMF

The festival itself was in the small grounds of the town’s central castle and was quite chilled out upon our arrival.  We were amazed that entry to the festival seemed to be free and the main acts would start to appear around 17:30. Obviously, free entry was too good to be true, and we were informed that the site’s security would begin to sweep the grounds removing people without the festivals wrist bands.  Not trusting our hiding skills, we decided to get a seat in a café just outside the festival allowing us to hear the music if not see the actual acts.

After the free stop over that comes complete with services we headed back to original destination, Messenheim, which lies about 10Km from Strasbourg.   The remarkable thing about here is this wild futuristic building that sits by itself in the country side, nestled between old wooden beamed houses typical of the Alsace region – it makes an interesting contrast.

DSCN2217

DSCN2215

The Fuchs Technologies building in Messenheim.  The cost was 2 million euros back in 2009, but the building now stands empty as the company (steel fabrications) went bust in 2012.

En-route to Basel we travelled down the French side of the Rhine staying the night at Strasbourg, Turckheim and Eguisheim.  Strasbourg aside, the Alsace villages are very picturesque, with many small pastel painted wooden beamed houses tumbling aside narrow streets.  It is a region though that is very popular and the tourism is high and often we have had to fall inline within in the mass of visitors and tour the streets completing the tourist ‘shuffle’.

DSC_0427

Alsatian village.  One of the many down the wine route from Strasbourg to Colmar.  We completed some wine tasting in Eguisheim (Famille Banwarth) and increased our knowledge lot about Alsace wine. 

For me personally this has helped me understand what I like and often I lean towards normal cities where people are just getting on with their lives.  In these cities I enjoy people watching, absorbing the city through its people more than it’s architecture or tourist attractions.  Strasbourg was a great example of this, combining wonderful tourist attractions (cathedral and ‘petite France’) with the normal bustle of an energetic, commercial, and industrial city.  A nice detour on the way out of Strasbourg was the European parliament buildings park. We could have sworn there was not a union jack flying outside the building for Humans Rights……..is this the Boris Johnson effect?

DSC_0420

European Parliament Buildings

……………………On a motorhome point, Strasbourg was the first major city on our tour where the municipal has purposely assigned a motorhome parking area complete with all services where you can park for FREE with the only restriction being that you can only stay there for seven nights, which is much more than many of the paid areas.  Nice one Strasburg, maybe your mayor is a motorhomer?!?

DSC_0385

Matt at the French Swiss border

Once at Basel, Switzerland we managed to park the van near Steve and Maryann’s apartment which allieved our worries (thanks Steve for the prior research and parking space measurements).  The weekend consisted of great food and drinks and walking around the Tri-Nations.  On the Sunday we even managed a Caminoesque 20 Km walk around the hills that surround Basel taking in the great views, observing the hordes of sunbathers enjoying the banks of the Rhine and marvelling at the seemless borders – we must have crossed in and out of Germany ten or more times during Sunday’s walk.  On the Saturday we topped this, walking into France, over the bridge into Germany and then back into Switzerland.

DSC_0395

Maryann at the Swiss German border.  It was a good job there were not any wild ‘Schwein’ around, or they might have found themselves slaughtered for a very small cost (!?!)

Wartect brewery staircase 1

The old Warteck Brewery building, Basel.  Cantina Don Camilo (French, Asian, Vegan fusion) was the venue for Sharon’s belated birthday dinner – Cheers Steve and Maryann.  

Today (Monday 15-08) we are leaving the luxuries of their Basel apartment and heading towards St Jean Pied de Port which is 1200 km away.  We hope to arrive there late on Wednesday in time to find a storage location for the camper.  Once this is done, we will pack up our rucksacks with the essentials, strap on the hiking boats and head off for a long walk………

Bodensee and Allgau (Germany)

(27 July to 4th Aug)

Since we had missed out Austria we could spend more time in Germany before meeting up with Sharon’s brother and wife in Basel which has been arranged now for mid August.  We spent a total of nine nights in this small region and travelled around 100 kms in a rough loop staying in Lindau, Kisslegg, Weingarten, Bad Waldsee, Bad Schussenreid and Meersburg

The highlights were bathing in the Bodensee and cycling to the Lindau Island.  Also the views across the lake to Austria and Switzerland reminded us how much we like borders and the differences they offer.

WP_20160726_14_30_37_Pro

The Bodensee with swimming pool type ladder entry.  Oh, and not forgetting GERMAN beer.

Having a crazy night at a local kneipe in Kisslegg that entailed local hay schnapps, fun illegal gambling, a visit to a local artists workshop and late night food and drinks back at the van with Claudi and her dog Luki.  Cheers Willie, Erbe, Lise, Claudi and of course Achim the Kneipe owner for a memorable night, I will send a postcard.

DSC_0396

The shared long table at the ‘Kneipe Linde’, Kisslegg.  Note small ‘gambling’ machine.

Next up was marvelling at the lack of Hymers in the Hymer museum and eating schnitzels in Bad Waldsee.  Then, enjoying a little too much the local UmPah band in the biergarten of the Schussenreid brewery and feasting on local Allgau foods purchased for us by a kind widowed local women who insisted that her late husband would have choose the same rustic hearty plates.

DSC_0418 - crop

Edwin Hymer must have a sense of humour.  Where were the Hymers?  (this phrase is mildly funny if you speak German…)

WP_20160730_20_27_50_Pro

Regional Allgau food from the Schussenreid brewery.  Note great free camperstop at the back of the brewery.

Moreover, taking in the peaceful countryside consisting of forests, vast wheat and corn fields and small hamlets either on foot or on bikes as we ramp up the preparation for the Camino.   This region has also produced some interesting architecture, the best examples being the oldest inhabited castle in Germany (Meersburg), the Basilika at Weingarten and the prettiest church in the world (quote Zimmerman) that lies in Steinhausen.

WP_20160729_19_48_16_Pro - CROP

Signs for Santiago, 2400Kms away from the Basilika in Weingarten. 

WP_20160801_12_24_33_Pro

Corn fields, woodlands and hamlets dominate the vistas in Allgau.

From a motorhome point of view our first impressions of touring in Germany is very positive.  The roads are almost as smooth as glass and the supermarkets are very inexpensive which makes a welcome change after Italy.  We have also managed to fill up with LPG at a countryside petrol station in Allgau which bodes well for the rest of the trip.

Alpi Sarentine (It), Austria and Liechtenstein

We had a slow start after the music festival and left Treviso quite late.  Also, as this was possibly our last time in Italy for a good while we were not ready to let it go just yet (it was planned that we would drive to Innsbruck).   We decided to stay in the Alpi Sarentine for one last Italian night before hitting Austria and chose Chiusa as a base.  In the end it did not really deliver our last taste of Italy, more Germanic, as once we travelled above Bolzano the German influence becomes very strong, to the point where I had to dust off my rusty German.

DSCN2135- crop2

Dual language is very evident, Chiusa

Chiusa, or Klausen in German, was a very pretty mountain town and was set up for summer hikers.  We should have maybe used this stop off to do some walking training in preparation for the Camino de Santiago which is already looming upon us, but I was desperate to start the journey through Austria and therefore we settled for a quick morning stroll through the town.

DSCN2128

Our view from the camper stop of the hillside castles, Chiusa (It).

Austria in the end turned out to be a non-event.  Due to our lack of travel plans and maybe research we did not realise that the Tirol, the region we would be travelling through, does not allow overnight parking.  We tried several towns and found that we either had to stay at a campsite (around 30 Euros) or at a restaurant car park, but then we would be obliged to buy a meal.  This ruling is only specific to the Tirol apparently, and the rest of Austria is set up well for free stopovers.  As our planned destination after Austria was Liechtenstein and this route through covered the majority of the Tirol, we decided to abandon Austria entirely for this tour and had to please ourselves with an Austrian one day drive through.  After 40 Euros on the Austrian tolls, many long tunnels (12km the longest), dramatic mountain range scenery and several hours in the cab later we landed in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.

DSCN2148 - crop2

We did a drive through of Austria, bis spater!!

The reason we wanted to go to Liechtenstein was that we find small countries very interesting.  To seek the specific Liechtenstein experience we ventured out into the centre of Vaduz in the evening.  After we had drawn out a few Swiss francs we sheltered from the rain at a bustling Brassiere on the main pedestrianised street.

DSC_0392 - crop

At prices similar to Switzerland, Liechtenstein can be quite expensive – about 7 euros for a local Liechtensteiner beer, 17 Euros for a pizza.

We were not the only British people who had this motivation to see Vaduz as once we were back at the ‘free’ night stop over car park we met two UK couples travelling together.  They both had 10 metre long twin rear wheel brand new A classes, so were in a different league to our little van. However,  Kevin who was a hedge fund manager from Essex, summed up our motorhome differences – “it does not matter how expensive your van is, we both still have to Sh** in a chemical loo”.  I found this quote quite levelling!

The next morning, we took the walking trail up to the Prince of Liechtenstein’s castle and I took a late opportunity to continue breaking in a pair of walking shoes that I will be using on the Camino, much to my dislike, as I would rather complete it in my old Vans.  This walk lets you take in the mountain range views that surround Vaduz, and these views summarise Liechtenstein.  Overall we enjoyed our short stay, we would of liked to have interacted a little more with the locals to gain more of an insight but we can save this to another visit.

That concludes our short time in the country of Liechtenstein (that makes 10 countries visited on this tour so far!)

WP_20160725_19_43_01_Pro

Are Liechtenstein number plates the best looking in Europe?  I think so, especially on black cars.

 

Suoni Marca Music Festival – Treviso (It)

After ten days of almost solitude in Bosco Mesola it was time to pick up Sharon from Treviso (Venice) airport.  We decided to stay at the free camper stop in Treviso again so Sharon could recover from her journey back.  We had two surprises when reaching Treviso 1)  Colin and Anne who we had met in Slovenia were already parked up and 2) the city was hosting a free music festival called Suoni Marca.  On the Friday that Sharon returned we did a quick recky of the festival and decided it was worth staying the Saturday night too, especially since Suzanne Vega was headlining.

DSCN2116

Kim Bingham at Suoni Marca, crunching through ‘Where is my mind’ by the Pixies

DSCN2121

Headliner, Suzanne Vega

We had another great night in Treviso and even upon our now second visit to this city we marvelled at it’s beauty, it’s local feel and again were received well by it’s inhabitants.  Giuseppe, who Sharon met initially in the drinks queue just before Suzanne Vega came on stage, will be our strongest memory.  He was certainly a character and spoke very little English, but with the help of random passers by that he stopped and involved them in the group temporarily for translations managed to keep the conversation going for more than an hour!  Also he kept buying us drinks, quoting “you are in my city, welcome, I’ll buy the drinks”……..

So we are nearing our time in Italy and we have almost spent two months here in total.  It has been a great place to visit and quite varied too in terms of scenery.  The only downside has been the poor roads and in total the toll of the potholes, be it the vibration of hitting them or just trying to avoid them,  on the van has been two punctures, two shelves, one cupboard door and the main lamp shade – luckily all these things have been easy to fix and not permanent damage.