My wife, Dominique, and I are American pilgrims that own an Albergue on the Camino Frances.
As I write this, I am sitting in our Albergue, Casa Banderas in Galicia, in the province of Lugo, in the Concello de Paradela, in the Parocchia of As Cortes in the village of Vilacha’. Our Albergue is between Sarria and Portomarin on the last 115 km of the Camino Frances. We are at the 94.1 km mark. Just approximately 2 km from Portomarin. The Pandemic is still here, and Spain is painfully slow at getting their citizens vaccinated. (note: both my wife and I were vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine in February and March). It is Easter Sunday and I have seen more and more pilgrims every day.
How did we get here? Did you do 12 Caminos and work as volunteers and researched the purchase for years before DOING IT? How did you find and buy an Albergue in Spain right on the Camino? What did you have to do to buy in a foreign country? Did you have to get visas and work permits? What about business licenses and tourism inspections? Was it as easy as just buying the Albergue and then you opened right up and started taking care of pilgrims?
So, to start this journey I have to give you a bit of background. As I child my parents brought us to Spain every summer from when I was 6 until I was 14 years old. My mom was a Spanish teacher (originally from Nicaragua) and had developed a business where my dad and her would bring her advance Spanish students for a month to Spain. They bought an apartment in Almunecar (on the Costa de Sol) and we would travel all over Spain taking in the culture and sights and sounds of Spain. My mom is now retired and lives in Motril Spain.
But the Camino was never mentioned and was not at all in our radar. This was from 1967 to 1975. Spain was a completely different place during those years!! So, I did not become aware of the Camino until 2016 when a Spanish friend of ours would lead groups of people on the Camino. My wife on the other hand has known about her entire life (very Catholic) and has dreamt of walking the Camino.
In May of 2018, my 82-year-old dad decided that he was going to walk the full Camino Frances by himself!! My sister and I got worried so we developed a plan that she would walk the first part from SJPD as far as her vacation time would let her, which ended up being to Burgos. I was to fly to Madrid and take the train to Sarria and walk the last 115 km with him. It was an amazing journey to have an active, healthy, incredibly smart 82-year-old dad to myself for 7 days on the Camino. One of the greatest gifts!! I learned more about my dad in those 7 days then I knew in 57 years of being his son. The Camino also taught me patience and to slow down and enjoy and SEE the world and the beauty that is Galicia and the people!!! After all I was walking with an 82-year-old man!! We were not breaking any speed records and by the way the man can snore!! Ear plugs did not work because you could FEEL the snore resonate through your entire body.
But what about my wife Dominique?
Who has been dreaming of this journey her entire life? You want to talk about jealous and upset that I went without her!! I walked in May with my dad so I made a promise to her that we would walk in October of the same year. We could not take enough time off to walk the entire route, so we did the Sarria to Santiago. It was such a different adventure. Even though had done it in May and I was familiar it was different. We stayed in different places. Our pace was faster but still comfortable and the people you meet are fantastic. We both fell in love with Camino family and the land of Galicia. We both started the seed of changing our lives and DOING something different. But at that time, we had two kids in their first year of university studies and our last still a sophomore in High School. So, like so many others it became a “dream”. We went back to California and experienced the post Camino (whatever you want to call it) what are we doing with our lives??!!