The people: Our group of 15 bonded to an amazing team. This year, two groups signing up knew each other prior to the trip and embarked on this adventure together. Five singles – our two trip leaders and three tour members ballanced the group and soon we felt like one team. Our “costumes” made us look like lead-out train at the Tour de France as well, at least in the mornings, when the group was still together.
The hotels: One highlight of this trip are the amazing hotels. The photos below speak for themselves, but starting with a modern, top-location hotel with roof-top pool, was just the start. After an amzing hotel in Madrid it was off to the country side, and our country hotel in Puente la Reina felt like an Oasis compared to the busy city of Madrid. Next was our hotel in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Sleeping next to the Saint Santo Domingo did not result in haunting dreams, but the beauty of this former “hospital” and it’s inner courtyard floored us all. After that we had the pleasure of staying in Burgos. The amazing location of that hotel was key to exploring the city. It was not the stunner of a hotel, in fact, its corky color choice and decoration design for lobby and breakfast room made us laugh. The rooms, which is what really matters, were a fine retreat for our tired bodies, and that’s what counts. The next day, in Carrion de los Condes, the Monestary of San Zoilo was our breathtaking sanctuary for the night. The inner courtyard transported us back into high Gothic and our rooms, being the former residents of the monks of this establishment, invited to peace and quiet. High cealings, spacious bathrooms and comfortable beds! A dream! Arriving in Leon the following day was quite a deal. The industrial outskirts of Leon forced us onto the bus, and getting our monster bus into the inner city of Leon was like attending Mission Impossible in person. Ramon our bus driver masterfully stired the 30-footer around the original Roman city grid of Leon to our next Monestary transformed luxury hotel. This hotel came with its very own guided tour of the place, which we enjoyed immensely. Our second last hotel was a modern, spacious hotel with pool and spa in the town of Villafranca del Bierzo in the mountains about 150km from Santiago. The last hotel once again was all about location. Just on the former city wall of Santiago de Compostela, located on the grounds of a former Dominican Monestary, and thus believed to be ground zero for the citie’s Inquisition torture chambers, lay our final hotel of the journey.
The food: A scrumptious Welcome- and Farewell dinner bookended an incredible culinary experience beyond measure. Having crossed the entire north of Spain, including four distinct regions, the pride of each place was showcased and came to an epithamy in its food and drinks. While lunches were utalitarian and for a bike trip spartan by design, our dinners were opulent. Six dinners during our stages alone would have been enough to feed a small army. From amazing seasfood to blood sausage, the group did very well in endulging in the local cuisine.
We can’t wait for our reunion, sharing the stories from the Camino one more time. Who knows, some of us might return to the Camino, maybe walking it next time? Just kidding – biking was THE way to experience the Camino de Santiago! Buen Camino!