I can assure you without hesitation that the French Way (Camino Francés) is the most characteristic route of the Camino de Santiago. This route meets all the requeriments that make the Way of St James such an unforgettable experience.
Very often I receive queries on what route of Camino de Santiago is recommended to do as a first experience, and my answer is always the same: “For beginners, the best choice is to do the French Way”.
Only having travelled through the French Way it is possible to enjoy other routes such as Vía de la Plata, Northern Way, Portuguese Way…
In the French Way, the bike-pilgrim will be immersed on the most genuine Jacobean environment, sharing experiences with people from around the world, feeling the atmosphere in hostels after a long day, community meals, solidarity, conversations with other pilgrims…
After completing this route, doing the Vía de la Plata, for example, we will be able to compare the experience, we will face that route from the point of view of pilgrimage, we will stop at hostels and will see everything differently. But if we have not travelled through Camino Francés in the first place, the other routes will feel as a long-haul cycle tour like any other. Vía de la Plata is, for me, the most beautiful Camino de Santiago that I have ever done, but I have to admit that it would not have been such an incredible experience if I had not travelled through the French Way before.
Going further into technical details about the route, it is mostly a cyclable route and, with the exception of a couple of sections, you will be able to follow the original itinerary. It all depends on the mood in which the route is confronted, there will be stretches where we should not mind walking while pushing our bike and if we have a good time frame to not be overwhelmed and in a hurry we will enjoy the route intensely.
The main ingredients needed to complete the Camino de Santiago are “ambition” and “time”, if we have both nothing will stop us.
No great physical preparation is needed to do the Camino, however the more prepared we are the more we will enjoy and thus we will not suffer as much. As an example, some pilgrims will complete an stage at noon and other pilgrims who are less prepared will need a couple of hours more to finish it.
Camino de Santiago is not a race to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. You could make the mistake of wanting to get there before anyone else, completing it in less time that some acquaintance or something of the kind, but that would not be good. It is recommended to have a wide enough time margin to not have to do the journey in a hurry.
Avoid fixing an stage ending point during the journey. It is okay to have the intention of stopping at an specific place because you want to visit some place of interest or because the accommodations are better, but do not be obsessed with arriving necessarily.
One of the premises to enjoy the Camino is: Get up in the morning with no other concern than to move forward at the speed you feel appropriate, eating when you are hungry and resting when you are tired. If you achieve this, you will fully enjoy you journey.
The advise is to start the trip with extensive knowledge of the itinerary and with a good guidebook or information on the route otherwise. It is essential to know where are we travelling through, from where we are coming and where we are going to be able to make decisions during the day. Ideally we should leave in the morning and go forward at our own pace and enjoying the environment, then about noon is when we should gauge our strengths and decide where we are going to stop. We can make a call to the hostel or accommodation chosen and book our place, that way we will face the rest of the day comfotably being aware of our energy and our possibilities and more importantly without stress. At Bicigrino’s hostels and at BICIGREEN accommodations you will be able to book your place without any issue.
Good Camino!! and let the Camino grow inside you, do not rush through it…