With training for my upcoming Camino Francés trip, I eat a lot more than I used to. Before? In a normal week? I ate meat once. Maybe fish, too. Eggs were good, but cheese wasn’t high on the list of food choices. Neither were items containing flour: breads, cakes, etc.
Now? I’m always starving and eat tons of meat. Cheese? Yes, please! I’ve even taken up bread, with toast and raspberry jam being a favourite snack.
Why is this relevant to the Camino?
At home, it’s easy to follow this regiment of healthy food in plenty. But it made me think. How am I going to survive hiking, every single day, for 30+ days, without this easily accessible source of sustenance?
Menu del Peregrino – Pilgrim’s Menu
I went back to the Camino forums and blogs to read their suggestions for food. Some gave lists of the restaurants who offered the best Menu del Peregrino, often served with French fries, a food I dislike.
Others said these Pilgrim’s Menus were awful and way too expensive, 13 – 15 Euros, for the quality. The Menu del Dia – the Daily Special – was the best choice, even if it was more expensive.
But remember? Money is tight and eating in restaurants isn’t a good budget option.
There was always living off sandwiches (only in desperation!) or cooking. But this entailed picking up items on the way to the hostel, all assuming there was an open store close by.
Then I’d have to find a hostel (I’m making no reservations), prepare food, cook it, and then clean up after eating. Was this after a shower? Or before? Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
So I kept digging.
Albergues Camino Francés
The greatest list of Albergues (hostels) on the route was written by a man who took reviews, from English, German, Dutch, Italian, French and Spanish websites and forums, to compile them into a usable list of choices from the 435 (and growing) albergues along the way.
Most from this list serve communal meals, but I’m not completely clear what these communal meals entail. Is it like a potluck, everyone brings a dish? Does the albergue make it and charge per person? Or is it a kitchen where all the pilgrims cook together? All these are apparently possible.
Forums say these meals are a lot less expensive than eating in restaurants, better quality food and a lot of fun. What else could a tired hiker ask for?
From where I sit? I haven’t arrived in Santiago yet, but it already feels like I’ve found a chunk of salvation.
A Tentative Schedule
With this list in mind, I’ve prepared a tentative schedule for walking from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago. One day is 7 km. Most days are 22- 30 km. The longest is 38 km. Every day ends at a great Albergue.
The thought of a good meal and a decent place to sleep will serve as sufficent motivation to get me through whatever the day’s ordeal will be. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. If I follow this schedule, God willing – so much can happen, I’ll reach Santiago in 35 days.