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Scenic roads near the Camino de Santiago

Old 12-05-21, 11:32 PM
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Scenic roads near the Camino de Santiago

My lovely wife is walking the Camino de Santiago (Frances) beginning in May 2022 (Covid permitting). I am going too but I am riding my bike and we will meet up every one to five nights wherever she is at. Since she is only walking about 25km per day and I want to do longer rides, I need to go off the "official" CdS bicycle route. I am trying to find scenic roads near that route so I can make the 25km stretch into longer rides. I have not problem with decent gravel roads (37mm tires) but prefer pavement if given a choice. I have lots of touring under my belt but mostly in North America.

Here are a couple of examples of what I am thinking about: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/37977762 for a same day ride (meet wife same day). Here is an example where I break off for a few days https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38139879 by riding the Via Verde from Pampola to Andoain. For the latter example, I would either do an out and back or a loop via Bergara then south to Logrono where I could reconnect. Strongly prefer scenic smaller low-traffic back roads.

Any suggestions for other scenic side roads along the CdS you can suggest?
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Old 12-06-21, 06:34 AM
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Michelin maps like the one mentioned above are terrific. I planned a 7 week tour using the one for Andalucia back before on line things existed like they do now. Seeing the big picture in such detail is very useful.
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Old 12-06-21, 05:34 PM
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In France and Spain it's pretty easy to plan rides because there are so many low traffic roads to choose from. Stay away from the highways and you'll often have the roads to yourself. Your routes look like they do, so I'm fairly sure they'll be lovely.

In Spain, I'd highly recommend riding around the Picos de Europa. In France, my favorite regions are the Ardeche and the Vercors. The Alps are beautiful, but there's a ton more tourist traffic. You might have to use the train to take side trips to these areas depending on where you're planning to meet your wife.
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Old 12-06-21, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by BobG View Post
This Michelin paper map shows that area in intricate detail. Green highlight means scenic road. The map is large, you'll want to cut out the area where you will travel. There is a web version also but the paper map provides the big picture better.
Yep, already have the Michelin Atlas. That doesn't say which itty bitty roads are scenic, though there are many in the Pyrenees area.
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Old 12-06-21, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by niknak View Post
In France and Spain it's pretty easy to plan rides because there are so many low traffic roads to choose from. Stay away from the highways and you'll often have the roads to yourself. Your routes look like they do, so I'm fairly sure they'll be lovely.
The Picos look wonderful. I will definitely keep them on the bucket list.
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Old 12-07-21, 07:51 AM
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I've a couple of pointers having done the Camino in two directions on a bike.

When people ask about cycling the Camino my first suggestion is to consider if they want the "bike touring" experience or the "Pilgrimage" experience. In my opinion they are very different. It seems that as a couple you will be doing both. That could be interesting!
​There are any number of Camino routes and variations so you may be coming across Pilgrims anywhere. Some of these folk are deep in thought and have saved for years to do this - don't be a jackass and be respectful.
When on the "official" Frances route it can be quite busy early in the morning but empty by noon.

Northern Spain is great for riding, to he honest you can't really go wrong. New motorways have taken a lot of traffic so older "main roads" are almost empty. Small villages can be wonderful to explore for a while and locals are invariably friendly and welcoming, especially if you speak a bit of Spanish. Food is fantastic and a great way to pass time. After the Camino I roughly followed the northern route just following my nose.

Since your wife is walking and you are not expect to be having different experiences. She will be far more immersed in the "Camino family" than you.
Allow flexibility in plans - especially for her. The unhappiest people I met were the ones sticking rigidly (and painfully) to plans made months and years in advance, at home, that should have been ditched on day one.

The Brierly guide is the most popular English language guide and as a result a lot of people slavishly follow the stages leading to high demand for accommodation. Simply make your own stages and reduce the stress.
If staying in Albergues (hostels) be aware that some will not accept cyclists until later in the day in order to accommodate walkers.


You may find some useful info here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/
an active Camino forum, if not the friendliest for cyclists.

I loved my Camino experience, but not as a bike tour. My subsequent wanderings around Northern Spain were far more enjoyable as a tour. I met one person who ditched her bike so as to enjoy the experience better.

Buen Camino
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Old 12-07-21, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by John N View Post
Yep, already have the Michelin Atlas. That doesn't say which itty bitty roads are scenic, though there are many in the Pyrenees area.
I believe Bob was referring to the individual Michelin regional maps, not an atlas. E.g., Map Nos. 573-575.
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Old 12-07-21, 08:53 AM
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Indy, yes I agree. Once I get a better feel for the route I will be taking, I will buy the appropriate maps since they cost about $12 each. However, I am requesting recommendations near the CdS that people have enjoyed and while Michelin maps are pretty good, they are not that good. Until I get more recommendations, I am cross referencing various heat maps, RWGPS, and Michelin. Again, unfortunately, those don't really give recommendations, just available roads or roads a lot of cyclists have ridden which may be just a regular club ride not necessarily a great ride.
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Old 12-07-21, 09:17 AM
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I've toured in northern Spain, though not specifically the Camino, which doesn't interest me. Northern Spain has few flat roads, and that includes coastal areas. Also, northwestern Spain in particular, is much wetter and therefore much greener, than most other parts of Spain. One trip was in May, and if you're intending to camp, many campgrounds had not yet opened for the season. I had a fair bit of rain when I was on the north side of the small Picos de Europa range and around Santiago. South of the Picos, the climate is much drier. I did not find roads devoid of traffic, but outside of large towns, traffic was not a problem. Roads were busier further east near Santander, Bilbao, and San Sebastian.

Shop and eating hours in Spain are quite different from other European countries, including neighboring France and Portugal. For example, in France & Portugal, I'd typically stop in a bakery to pick up something for breakfast. In Spain, however, bakeries weren't open yet when I'd be ready to ride. Dinner in Spanish restaurants typically is around 10pm, which does not work for me at all. Lunch, however, is generally available in restaurants around 2-4pm, and restaurants always have inexpensive fixed-price specials for lunch. I'd often stop while riding for a mid-morning snack at a bakery after they had finally opened up. I'd often enjoy a leisurely sit-down lunch in the middle of the afternoon, often after I had finished that day's ride. If I was still hungry in the evening (I often wasn't if I'd finished lunch at 4pm), I might stop in a bar and have a glass of wine or a beer and a tapa. Or I'd stop in a bakery, since they were often open in the evening.

Some stretches of road that I recall as being especially nice are:

On the north side of the Picos de Europa, there is a lovely east-west road between Cangas de Oma in the west, and the village of Panes in the east.

I rode from near Leon (a nice town) through Riaño, over the Puerto de San Glorio pass (1,602 m) down to Panes and the coast. The dry landscape south of the pass is very different from the north side. There was minimal traffic.

Along the northern border of Portugal next to Tui, Spain, I rode eastward along the border and along the Minno river (Minho in Portuguese). There was a bike path, I think on the Portuguese side. I continued along the river after it becomes entirely within Spain, to Ourense. That was a very pretty area with hardly any traffic. Part of it goes through a vineyard region.

The only coastal roads in northern Spain which hug the coast and appear to not be ridiculously hilly or even mountainous, are along the small peninsulas west and southwest of Santiago. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain so I got away from there, so I don't have first-hand experience on those roads.

If you can find a Michelin map #441, it's very useful for planning and seeing the big picture. Failing that, https://www.viamichelin.com/ is a useful website for viewing maps.

Are you intending to ride at all in SW France? If so, I can give you many recommendations for that area.
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Old 12-07-21, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
Shop and eating hours in Spain are quite different from other European countries, including neighboring France and Portugal.
That was difficult for me to get used to, especially the late dinners, when I toured in the south. The nights I camped and cooked you could sometimes find me outside the local market nearly chewing my fingers off waiting for it to re-open at 6. I started making every effort to shop for dinner goods before 2 p.m.
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Old 12-08-21, 03:52 AM
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The north shore of the Ebro river west of Logrono has some great scenery to offer, fantastic villages and fun, low traffic roads (from Fuenmayor to San Fuente and Haro). La Rioja lies on the other side of the river but the Basque wines are just as good. I can recommend a detour in the Sierra de la Demanda between Burgos and Soria as well: remote, forested and mostly mild percentages (unlike some of the climbs in Asturias and Cantabria). There's a great via verde, starting in Arlanzon east of Burgos, that takes you deep into the mountains. Further west, you can look into connecting with the camino primitivo (between Oviedo and Santiago), especially around Lugo, a great provincial town that possesses an intact circuit of Roman city walls, one of the most mind-blowing historic monuments in Spain IMO.
I agree that generally speaking you can't go wrong in this region: stick to the secondary roads and the caminos rurales (gravel mostly) and you'll have a great time.

Ebro west of Logrono


Hills around Lugo
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Old 12-08-21, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour View Post
I've a couple of pointers having done the Camino in two directions on a bike.

When people ask about cycling the Camino my first suggestion is to consider if they want the "bike touring" experience or the "Pilgrimage" experience. In my opinion they are very different. It seems that as a couple you will be doing both. That could be interesting!
​There are any number of Camino routes and variations so you may be coming across Pilgrims anywhere. Some of these folk are deep in thought and have saved for years to do this - don't be a jackass and be respectful.
When on the "official" Frances route it can be quite busy early in the morning but empty by noon.

Northern Spain is great for riding, to he honest you can't really go wrong. New motorways have taken a lot of traffic so older "main roads" are almost empty. Small villages can be wonderful to explore for a while and locals are invariably friendly and welcoming, especially if you speak a bit of Spanish. Food is fantastic and a great way to pass time. After the Camino I roughly followed the northern route just following my nose.

Since your wife is walking and you are not expect to be having different experiences. She will be far more immersed in the "Camino family" than you.
Allow flexibility in plans - especially for her. The unhappiest people I met were the ones sticking rigidly (and painfully) to plans made months and years in advance, at home, that should have been ditched on day one.

The Brierly guide is the most popular English language guide and as a result a lot of people slavishly follow the stages leading to high demand for accommodation. Simply make your own stages and reduce the stress.
If staying in Albergues (hostels) be aware that some will not accept cyclists until later in the day in order to accommodate walkers.


You may find some useful info here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/
an active Camino forum, if not the friendliest for cyclists.

I loved my Camino experience, but not as a bike tour. My subsequent wanderings around Northern Spain were far more enjoyable as a tour. I met one person who ditched her bike so as to enjoy the experience better.

Buen Camino
You are indeed correct. My wife is doing the "Pilgramage" and I am just touring, albiet with somewhat constrained parameters. I have already convinced her to do her own schedule (especially "off cycle" compared to Bierly) since I strongly believe that if you are not enjoying the trip, why do it. Sure there will be days when we are on a Bierly recommended stop but we will definitely not be beholden to it. Plus, I can always ride the extra 5km to find her if she decides to do shorten or lengthen any given day. We will try to stay mainly in private rooms when available but understand we may have to separate occasionally due to "no cyclists allowed" and the only available place is a municipal albergue. My dilemma is that I have discovered how incredibly beautiful northern Spain is and all the little country roads. Wow! However, I can only break off for a 5 days so many times before she will get perturbed. Hopefully, she will want to become more immersed and will prefer to go it alone so I can tour my heart out further north.

If not, I just plan to make a couple of 40km to 80km routes that will hopefully meet up where she is at. That is why I started this post; to see if there are nice rides near the trail. Anyway, I figure if I arrive early (most likely) compared to her, I will just eat some tapa and drink some wine while reading a book.

Tailwinds, John
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Old 12-08-21, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
I've toured in northern Spain, though not specifically the Camino, which doesn't interest me. Northern Spain has few flat roads, and that includes coastal areas. Also, northwestern Spain in particular, is much wetter and therefore much greener, than most other parts of Spain. One trip was in May, and if you're intending to camp, many campgrounds had not yet opened for the season. I had a fair bit of rain when I was on the north side of the small Picos de Europa range and around Santiago. South of the Picos, the climate is much drier. I did not find roads devoid of traffic, but outside of large towns, traffic was not a problem. Roads were busier further east near Santander, Bilbao, and San Sebastian.

Shop and eating hours in Spain are quite different from other European countries, including neighboring France and Portugal. For example, in France & Portugal, I'd typically stop in a bakery to pick up something for breakfast. In Spain, however, bakeries weren't open yet when I'd be ready to ride. Dinner in Spanish restaurants typically is around 10pm, which does not work for me at all. Lunch, however, is generally available in restaurants around 2-4pm, and restaurants always have inexpensive fixed-price specials for lunch. I'd often stop while riding for a mid-morning snack at a bakery after they had finally opened up. I'd often enjoy a leisurely sit-down lunch in the middle of the afternoon, often after I had finished that day's ride. If I was still hungry in the evening (I often wasn't if I'd finished lunch at 4pm), I might stop in a bar and have a glass of wine or a beer and a tapa. Or I'd stop in a bakery, since they were often open in the evening.

Some stretches of road that I recall as being especially nice are:

On the north side of the Picos de Europa, there is a lovely east-west road between Cangas de Oma in the west, and the village of Panes in the east.

I rode from near Leon (a nice town) through Riaño, over the Puerto de San Glorio pass (1,602 m) down to Panes and the coast. The dry landscape south of the pass is very different from the north side. There was minimal traffic.

Along the northern border of Portugal next to Tui, Spain, I rode eastward along the border and along the Minno river (Minho in Portuguese). There was a bike path, I think on the Portuguese side. I continued along the river after it becomes entirely within Spain, to Ourense. That was a very pretty area with hardly any traffic. Part of it goes through a vineyard region.

The only coastal roads in northern Spain which hug the coast and appear to not be ridiculously hilly or even mountainous, are along the small peninsulas west and southwest of Santiago. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain so I got away from there, so I don't have first-hand experience on those roads.

If you can find a Michelin map #441, it's very useful for planning and seeing the big picture. Failing that, https://www.viamichelin.com/ is a useful website for viewing maps.

Are you intending to ride at all in SW France? If so, I can give you many recommendations for that area.
We are currently planning to start around mid-May. When do the campgrounds typically open? I am debating taking the tent since it would suck not to have that option if all of the regular under $150 Euros a night places are gone for some reason. We hope to stay in the typical albergues for less than $50 but are fortunate enough that price is not a limiting factor.

I knew the restaurants/eating patterns were different that the USA but I didn't know they were off by that much. I have seen bars (restaurants) that, according to Google, open around 8:30am. Are the posted times typically accurate or are they more on "Mexican Time" as far as when they open/close? How often are their grocery stores or "convenience stores" where I can get some snacks if need be. I would prefer not to be fully loaded if possible.

I will look into your favorite stretches of roads. Thanks for the recommendations! Question: Did you ride many gravel/unpaved roads? When they get wet, are they passable or is there some type of mineral in the soil that, when wet, causes the soil really gum up and try to clog everything, a la the Dempster Highway, so the road becomes unrideable? Are their ATMs in small towns or just the larger towns? While I speak limited Spanish (Latin American), is there an issue in the Basque region communicating? I can always use Google Translate .

Many thanks, John
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Old 12-08-21, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by CMAW View Post
The north shore of the Ebro river west of Logrono has some great scenery to offer, fantastic villages and fun, low traffic roads (from Fuenmayor to San Fuente and Haro). La Rioja lies on the other side of the river but the Basque wines are just as good. I can recommend a detour in the Sierra de la Demanda between Burgos and Soria as well: remote, forested and mostly mild percentages (unlike some of the climbs in Asturias and Cantabria). There's a great via verde, starting in Arlanzon east of Burgos, that takes you deep into the mountains. Further west, you can look into connecting with the camino primitivo (between Oviedo and Santiago), especially around Lugo, a great provincial town that possesses an intact circuit of Roman city walls, one of the most mind-blowing historic monuments in Spain IMO.
I agree that generally speaking you can't go wrong in this region: stick to the secondary roads and the caminos rurales (gravel mostly) and you'll have a great time.
Thanks! This is EXACTLY the type of recommendations I was looking for. Close to the CdS yet not necessarily "known". I will definitely look into these.
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Old 12-09-21, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour View Post
I've a couple of pointers having done the Camino in two directions on a bike.

When people ask about cycling the Camino my first suggestion is to consider if they want the "bike touring" experience or the "Pilgrimage" experience. In my opinion they are very different. It seems that as a couple you will be doing both. That could be interesting!
​There are any number of Camino routes and variations so you may be coming across Pilgrims anywhere. Some of these folk are deep in thought and have saved for years to do this - don't be a jackass and be respectful.
When on the "official" Frances route it can be quite busy early in the morning but empty by noon.

Northern Spain is great for riding, to he honest you can't really go wrong. New motorways have taken a lot of traffic so older "main roads" are almost empty. Small villages can be wonderful to explore for a while and locals are invariably friendly and welcoming, especially if you speak a bit of Spanish. Food is fantastic and a great way to pass time. After the Camino I roughly followed the northern route just following my nose.

Since your wife is walking and you are not expect to be having different experiences. She will be far more immersed in the "Camino family" than you.
Allow flexibility in plans - especially for her. The unhappiest people I met were the ones sticking rigidly (and painfully) to plans made months and years in advance, at home, that should have been ditched on day one.

The Brierly guide is the most popular English language guide and as a result a lot of people slavishly follow the stages leading to high demand for accommodation. Simply make your own stages and reduce the stress.
If staying in Albergues (hostels) be aware that some will not accept cyclists until later in the day in order to accommodate walkers.


You may find some useful info here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/
an active Camino forum, if not the friendliest for cyclists.

I loved my Camino experience, but not as a bike tour. My subsequent wanderings around Northern Spain were far more enjoyable as a tour. I met one person who ditched her bike so as to enjoy the experience better.

Buen Camino
great comments, especially this one.
I quoted you, but want John to notice this. A number of years ago, my wife was one of those people who did the Camino on foot, but despite training, was unrealistic about her abilities and "kept up" with a fitter and faster travel partner, resulting in an injury and consequent bailout and consequent dramas.

The old adage of doing "your own ride" , or walk, can't be over emphasized.
I wish you and your wife a great experience.
I've only ridden a bit in the Basque part of France and Spain, and was eons ago, so am not any help for suggestions. What I do recall, and agree with, is that there is no lack of quiet roads.
I've always wanted to return and ride in that area, and the Picos region looks particularly enticing.

thanks to the others for suggestions, one day I'll revisit these topics and actually pay attention to the place names.
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Old 12-09-21, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by John N View Post
We are currently planning to start around mid-May. When do the campgrounds typically open? I am debating taking the tent since it would suck not to have that option if all of the regular under $150 Euros a night places are gone for some reason. We hope to stay in the typical albergues for less than $50 but are fortunate enough that price is not a limiting factor.

I knew the restaurants/eating patterns were different that the USA but I didn't know they were off by that much. I have seen bars (restaurants) that, according to Google, open around 8:30am. Are the posted times typically accurate or are they more on "Mexican Time" as far as when they open/close? How often are their grocery stores or "convenience stores" where I can get some snacks if need be. I would prefer not to be fully loaded if possible.

I will look into your favorite stretches of roads. Thanks for the recommendations! Question: Did you ride many gravel/unpaved roads? When they get wet, are they passable or is there some type of mineral in the soil that, when wet, causes the soil really gum up and try to clog everything, a la the Dempster Highway, so the road becomes unrideable? Are their ATMs in small towns or just the larger towns? While I speak limited Spanish (Latin American), is there an issue in the Basque region communicating? I can always use Google Translate .

Many thanks, John
I wasn't camping myself, but I met a couple of other cyclists who complained that many campgrounds weren't open yet for the season. This was in late May and I met them near the coast, which means it was still cool in that region. Remember that south of the mountains it is much warmer and sunnier. In Santander on the north coast, the average high temperature in May is only 62F (17C), with 14 rainy days. You can probably find some websites for campgrounds and find out when they open. I know that some campgrounds are open year-round.

I found that room prices were quite reasonable. I was typically staying in small inns. My trip was about 10 years ago. Airbnb might be a good resource now.

I think that restaurants were in theory open in the evening beginning around 8:30pm or 9pm, but they were deserted. I recall tapas places in the Basque region which had customers before 10pm. I wonder what things are like now with Covid, because in my recollection, customers were standing and eating in very crowded conditions in tapas bars. (An aside, I was in Argentina with a friend and dinner hours there are similar to Spain. We arrived at a restaurant at 8:30pm on a Friday night and they served us, but we were literally the only customers. When we departed around 10:30pm, there was a line out the door waiting to get in.)

I don't recall any issue with finding food shops, but you need to be aware of the hours they're likely to be open.

I was riding a Bike Friday touring bike, not a mountain bike, so I was riding on paved roads. I can't imagine riding on unpaved roads when I was in Galicia, given how much rain there was.

I speak Spanish moderately well, and I think I only spoke English once with a Spaniard. Interestingly, it was a local cyclist who initiated our conversation in English. He saw my bike and panniers and correctly guessed that I was a foreign tourist. In Spanish Basque country, everyone can speak Spanish fluently. BTW in Galicia, road signs are in Galician & Spanish. Everyone there can speak Spanish, however.

gorge on north side of Picos de Europa
Miño valley vineyards

Picos de Europa

pass in Picos de Europa
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Old 12-09-21, 09:00 AM
  #17  
HobbesOnTour
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Originally Posted by John N View Post
However, I can only break off for a 5 days so many times before she will get perturbed. Hopefully, she will want to become more immersed and will prefer to go it alone so I can tour my heart out further north.
Without meaning to comment on your relationship you may well find yourself having to deal with her lack of perturbation at your absences :-) The Camino can be a totally immersive experience.

Your other questions about dining and times are relevant to the different experiences between Pilgrims and tourists.
Pilgrims are early abed - very early, sometimes 6pm and early, very early to rise. From 3am. That's not my idea of cycle touring. In private rooms and (presumably) with reservations your wife will feel less pressure than most to find a bed. However, by travelling later she may find herself with less companions.

The places along the official route in my experience will have stores open early for coffee etc. Stores will close for siesta but (because of Pilgrim's schedules) food outlets will offer food earlier than is typical in off route places. Snacks, cold drinks and coffee will be available right through the day along the route. In fact, in the smaller on route towns the best food is served after the Pilgrims have gone to bed. That's not to say the Pilgrim menus are poor, they're not, just the "normal" offerings are tastier.

Don't expect ATMs in villages but decent sized towns will. Cash is king.

I had no problems in the Basque country with pidgin Spanish. Even a please, thank you in Basque with a smile will go a long, long way.

Northern Spain can have a lot of rain at that time of the year and the route traverses many different areas with different soils. Yes, roads can become muddy or flooded. They slowed me down at times but never stopped me. If it's a concern the surfaced roads offer a safe and comfortable option.





To the best of my knowledge there are no campsites along the Frances route. Wild camping, while possible, will be difficult. Archies is an app that is very useful for finding official campsites in Europe (and works with cycle travel). Don't trust Google Maps to find campsites! Elsewhere, especially on the coast, expect campsites to be tightly packed. Many have excellent restaurants. Unfortunately, Covid is still impacting opening times.

​​​​​
​​You may find https://cycle.travel/map useful for planning purposes

The final 100km after Sarria is by far the busiest section. I'd suggest staying well away from the official route on a bike there. At least until late afternoon.

Finally, if I may make a suggestion; While I understand the urge to have secure and private accommodation a significant part of the "Pilgrim" experience is the communal accommodation and the search for it on arrival.
While there are horror stories of people being turned away due to a full house these are very, very rare considering the tens of thousands of people who walk every year.
I was turned away once but the refusal was followed with a phonecall and confirmation of a bed 100 meters away.
The learning experience of sharing a room with so many different people from different places speaking different languages but all with similar goals was very rewarding.
The gratitude for a simple bed after a day's travelling is something worth experiencing.
Submitting yourself to the Camino is probably the most rewarding aspect of it.

Best of luck.
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Old 12-09-21, 09:38 AM
  #18  
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Vizcaya transporter bridge near Bilbao

Vineyards in Miño valley
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Old 12-09-21, 10:42 AM
  #19  
John N
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour View Post
Without meaning to comment on your relationship you may well find yourself having to deal with her lack of perturbation at your absences :-) The Camino can be a totally immersive experience.

Your other questions about dining and times are relevant to the different experiences between Pilgrims and tourists.
Pilgrims are early abed - very early, sometimes 6pm and early, very early to rise. From 3am. That's not my idea of cycle touring. In private rooms and (presumably) with reservations your wife will feel less pressure than most to find a bed. However, by traveling later she may find herself with less companions.

The places along the official route in my experience will have stores open early for coffee etc. Stores will close for siesta but (because of Pilgrim's schedules) food outlets will offer food earlier than is typical in off route places. Snacks, cold drinks and coffee will be available right through the day along the route. In fact, in the smaller on route towns the best food is served after the Pilgrims have gone to bed. That's not to say the Pilgrim menus are poor, they're not, just the "normal" offerings are tastier.

Don't expect ATMs in villages but decent sized towns will. Cash is king.

I had no problems in the Basque country with pidgin Spanish. Even a please, thank you in Basque with a smile will go a long, long way.

Northern Spain can have a lot of rain at that time of the year and the route traverses many different areas with different soils. Yes, roads can become muddy or flooded. They slowed me down at times but never stopped me. If it's a concern the surfaced roads offer a safe and comfortable option.

To the best of my knowledge there are no campsites along the Frances route. Wild camping, while possible, will be difficult. Archies is an app that is very useful for finding official campsites in Europe (and works with cycle travel). Don't trust Google Maps to find campsites! Elsewhere, especially on the coast, expect campsites to be tightly packed. Many have excellent restaurants. Unfortunately, Covid is still impacting opening times.
​​​​​
​​You may find https://cycle.travel/map useful for planning purposes

The final 100km after Sarria is by far the busiest section. I'd suggest staying well away from the official route on a bike there. At least until late afternoon.

Finally, if I may make a suggestion; While I understand the urge to have secure and private accommodation a significant part of the "Pilgrim" experience is the communal accommodation and the search for it on arrival.
While there are horror stories of people being turned away due to a full house these are very, very rare considering the tens of thousands of people who walk every year.
I was turned away once but the refusal was followed with a phonecall and confirmation of a bed 100 meters away.
The learning experience of sharing a room with so many different people from different places speaking different languages but all with similar goals was very rewarding.
The gratitude for a simple bed after a day's travelling is something worth experiencing.
Submitting yourself to the Camino is probably the most rewarding aspect of it.

Best of luck.
She gets "perturbed" because she misses "companionship", thus the need for a private room . I have 45 years of touring experience and totally agree with the statement that people should ride/walk their own trip. I think we will only have reservations in advance for the initial 4-6 days as those will be short days and people are more bunched up then. After Pamplona, we will probably just make reservations for the next day or two in advance so that way if she needs a rest day or weather or whatever we can easily adjust vs. being forced to a schedule.

I will look into the mapping app you suggested.

Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions!
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Old 12-09-21, 10:44 AM
  #20  
John N
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Axolotl,
That is one interesting "bridge"!
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Old 12-10-21, 07:02 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by John N View Post
Axolotl,
That is one interesting "bridge"!
it certainly is isn't it? I've seen photos and I think in person, of small 2,3, 4 person ones in Latin America.
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Old 12-12-21, 06:11 AM
  #22  
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John,
If the two of you are planning to start in St Jean Pied a Port be aware that that is a "special" starting point as a lot of people commence their Camino there (similar effects but more diluted in Pamplona & Burgos).
I found the atmosphere exhilarating after a month on the road. On a whim I aborted my plan to take the road to Roncevalles and instead lugged the bike up with the walkers. It's not something I'd recommend!
It's difficult to describe the emotion and the atmosphere but it was definitely a high point of my Camino (no pun intended). The walker's route down to Roncevalles is pretty much impossible for a loaded bike but there is a road nearby.
My suggestion would be to at the very least give yourself time in the morning to watch an amazing procession of people pass by. If "walking fit" consider doing the walk (or a part of it). There's no shortage of public transport that can carry your gear in either direction. There's an actual road (very steep) up some of the way so you could also ride part of the way up before it goes off road.
I had a similar experience in Pamplona - early morning coffee and pastries and watching the "new" pilgrims heading off.
It's not something we normally see on a bike tour.
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Old 12-13-21, 08:19 AM
  #23  
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Yes, we are starting in St. Jean. The first day will only be about 5 miles or so since this is her first real "hike". I will take the small roads to the east and south to Roncevalles the next day. While I don't mind gravel, I do not like to "hike-a-bike" if possible. I still haven't really come up with too many "side routes" but am always looking for ideas. The country roads between St. Jean and Roncevalles have fantastic scenery though. I will probably do a lot of sitting and watching since my wife and I will mostly be sharing a room each night except for those times when I find a wonderful 2-5 days loop I can do. But through Pamplona, I have committed to staying each night with her until she gets more confident.

I sort of wish the USA had something like this but I doubt the American mentality would allow that. Too many lazy people who would rather just drive over here.
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Old 12-13-21, 02:56 PM
  #24  
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John, as Hobbes mentioned, the walkers often form into iimprovised "groups" that they really enjoy travelling with, or at least socializing with each day. I know my wife really liked this aspect of it, and spoke very positively of her "circle" of a group that were most often in the same alberque each night etc, so this may happen with your wife also, enabling more "free" time for you to do your own thing for a few days.

of course every person is different, but it certainly was the case with my wife.

I do know that due to the heat, my wife and friends were real early risers and departers, so that they would get a good chunk of the days distance done before it got too stinking hot. No, I can't recall what months she did it....I'll have to ask.
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Old 12-14-21, 05:57 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
John, as Hobbes mentioned, the walkers often form into iimprovised "groups" that they really enjoy travelling with, or at least socializing with each day. I know my wife really liked this aspect of it, and spoke very positively of her "circle" of a group that were most often in the same alberque each night etc, so this may happen with your wife also, enabling more "free" time for you to do your own thing for a few days.

of course every person is different, but it certainly was the case with my wife.

I do know that due to the heat, my wife and friends were real early risers and departers, so that they would get a good chunk of the days distance done before it got too stinking hot. No, I can't recall what months she did it....I'll have to ask.
I could see her getting into a little group. Sort of hope she does so she has company. If she does, great, if not, that is fine too. I will survive touring alone in Spain. Don't have pity on me!

What is weird is that everyone says it gets so hot. Yet, I look at the weather data from WeatherSpark.com, in most places the average high is only 80* at the peak in August. A few places get warmer to mid-80s but not too many. Sure it can be hotter (or cooler) by 10* but being from Oklahoma, we think but 80 is wonderful. Anyway, we are going in mid-May through June (then a couple of weeks seeing France) so we should only get low to mid-70s for the highs. I am actually more worried about the cool mornings. Then, after we get adjusted to the "coolness" of Europe, we head back to Tulsa in mid-July for its mid-90s. That will be a shock to the system.
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