Camino de Santiago (French route) – The complete index

Camino de Santiago
Our journey from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela
20 Sept – 1 Nov 2016

The Complete Index

There is something undeniably special about walking the Camino de Santiago. As one of the great medieval pilgrimage routes it draws people from all over the world – irrespective of religious belief or lack thereof – to do something extraordinary. To walk in the footsteps of a thousand years of pilgrims is a way to touch a deep cultural history – something we rarely get to do in a busy life. Scroll down to find links to all the posts about our 2016 Camino.


Camino - Don't stop walking

The Camino, like most travel, is at least three journeys in one. It is a physical journey, in which you discover what distance can be covered in a day’s walk, and the strange feeling of walking across an entire country. It is also an inner journey of the mind, as your perspective changes, your assumptions are challenged, and you have an opportunity to spend time out from a busy schedule to gain a new perspective on life. Thirdly, it is a cultural journey spanning a thousand years of history. As UNESCO has stated: “Europe was built on the pilgrim road to Santiago.” Buen Camino!

Compostelas with shells


INDEX to the Camino posts

I have collected here links to the story of our journey to Santiago de Compostela in 2016 – feel free to dive in at any point, or to follow the story sequentially.

Camino training

Trekking pole tripod – camera mount

Camino training – a lighthearted look

Packing for the Camino de Santiago

Camino Credential from Notre Dame Paris

Paris – the final pack for the Camino

Paris to St Jean Pied de Port

Camino Frances: St Jean-Orisson

Roncesvalles and the Witches Wood

Espinal to Zubiri: A sketch and a close call

Abbey of Eskirotz and Ilarratz – a hidden gem

A Bell before Pamplona

Pamplona rest day and a moment with Heidegger

Zariquiegui and on to the Mount of Forgiveness

On to Puenta la Reina

Magic House at Villatuerte

The Wine Fountain then on to Villamayor de Montjardin

Villamayor de Jardin to Los Arcos – and a special sunrise

Viana and a micro-fiesta

Logroño – city of farewells

Logroño to Ventosa

Ventosa to Azofra via Nàjera

Azofra to Santo de Domingo de la Calzada

On to Villamayor del Rio – and some thoughts on the Camino

On to Villafranca Montes de Oca

Camino Frances: Haven’t seen you in Agés…

Atapuerca and on to Burgos

Burgos – And a Museum of Human Evolution

Burgos – A Cathedral, a Prince and a Toy Train

Leon – Stained glass to rival Chartres

Leon – Hogworts, a museum, and the weight of history

Hobbit houses, then on to Villar de Mazariffe

A long bridge and a fiesta – Puente de Orbigo

Passing Astorga

Tex Mex on the Camino

Cruz de Ferro – a poignant moment

The descent, then on to Ponferrada

Villafranca del Bierzo – and a Camino angel

To O Cebreiro – Gateway to Galicia!

O Cebreiro to Fonfria

Sarria – Beginning of the final leg

Sarria to Morgade

Portomarin – and a moving church

Off to Hospital – and an encounter with Spanish plumbing

Palas de Rei

Camino – Casanova scammers and on to Melide

Melide to Arzua and an encounter with raspberries

Arzua to Pedrouza

Pedrouzo to Santiago – Arrival at last!

Santiago moments, and an encounter with the Botafumeiro

Camino Kilometre Zero at Finisterre and on to Muxia

Encounter with the Secret Pilgrim

Lessons learned on the Camino

Santiago cathedral

bronze Camino shell

Instruments from the Portico of Glory

Here is a Camino moment – one of those special encounters I had on the Camino. When I reached Santiago, I toured the Cathedral and was amazed by the carvings on the Portico of Glory – carved by Medieval French sculptor Master Matteo in the 11th century.

Pórtico de la Gloria

Portico of Glory. Photo credit: By José Antonio Gil Martínez from Vigo, Spain – Pórtico de la Gloria Uploaded by tm, CC BY 2.0, wikimedia – 26175646

The Portico of Glory depicts, among other things, a large group of musicians, caught as though in the act of tuning up before performing. Some are in conversation with the person next to them, some are tuning-up, and as a result, it is a surprisingly relaxed and naturalistic carving. I could easily imagine a group of musicians chatting before the start of a gig.

The portico also depicts the instruments in some detail – the instruments are well observed and there’s enough information to enable reproductions of each of the instruments. When I visited the museum, I found some of the instruments on display, and was able to photograph them.

The instruments bring to life medieval Galician-Celtic music, as well as music from the Codex Calixtinus. And there is a group performing regularly with these reproduction instruments.

One of the most interesting is the Organistrum – a kind of medieval hurdy-gurdy. This is a keyed, 3-stringed instrument which is ‘bowed’ by turning a rosined wheel that bears against the strings. The instrument is constructed with a figure eight soundbox, and is played by two people, one to turn the handle for bowing; the other to operate the keys.


The sound-box is elaborately carved with stylised fleur de lys and dot motifs.


And the key box is designed so that as each key is lifted, it forms a chord across the three strings.


A rhythm can be established by alternately speeding and slowing the turn of the handle which turns the bow wheel. The instrument provides a steady chordal drone to fill out the music – just like a hurdy-gurdy.

The next instrument was a fidula obal – an oval-shaped fiddle – in many ways this instrument is the distant forebear of my pochette, or travel fiddle.

Fidula obal

In this case, it has three strings secured by three tuning pins at the top of the neck and at the ornately carved tailpiece at the base. The strings run over a slightly curved bridge, enabling the bow to sound one, two or even all three strings.

Fidula obal

My pochette fiddle, modelled on one I saw some years ago in London’s Victoria and Albert  Museum, would not have seemed too out of place among the medieval instruments. Here is my instrument being played along with a couple of other instruments at a folk festival.

Which reminds me that I really must learn some Galician Celtic tunes 🙂

A further instrument is the Fidula Ocho – or figure eight fiddle. This one has a larger soundboard area, and a waist, not unlike a modern violin. So, this instrument could be viewed as one of the violin’s ancient ancestors. This fidula would probably have been louder than the Obal and was possibly a lead instrument carrying the melody.

Fidula Ocho

All these instruments were accurately recreated from the 11th-century stonework of Master Matteo. The Foundation of Pedro Barrié de la Maza commissioned expert luthiers, art historians and musicologists to form a multidisciplinary team to produce the most faithful re-creations possible. There is a video in Spanish describing the process of bringing these instruments back to life.

As you can see from the video there were more instruments than I was able to photograph, such as the harp and bowed psaltery and a frame drum – still played in Galicia today, an instrument strongly resembling the Irish Bodhran.

The Organistrum was for me the most fascinating instrument, due to its mechanical complexity. It appeared to be a cross between a hurdy-gurdy and a Swedish Nyckelharpa. I must admit it is tempting to see if I could build at least one of the Fidula instruments!

Here is the Organistrum being played.

I could easily see how an ensemble of these instruments, along with voices would give a full and lively sound – especially with the acoustics of the Cathedral to add a little echo and ring to the music 🙂


If you’d like to read more about our Camino in 2016, here is the index page for all my Camino posts

Camino de Santiago 2016

or click on the link above 🙂


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Encounter with the Secret Pilgrim

I had heard rumours of a so-called secret pilgrim, or hidden pilgrim, from the concierge at our hotel in Santiago. It was all a bit cryptic, so I decided to find out more. But first, it was time to visit the museum and tour the cathedral – including hugging the Saint.

Santiago cathedral

This latter is another pilgrim tradition. Saint James’ relics are contained in a large life-sized reliquary in the cathedral. And by climbing the stairs behind the altar and under the watchful gaze of a member of the clergy (no selfies allowed) you can embrace the jewel-encrusted golden reliquary.

St James reliquary

And then we explored the rest of the Cathedral, finding niches and side rooms richly decorated with Camino symbolism.

Santiago cathedral

The Cathedral museum, housed in the former Benedictine monastery next door – was the very monastery from which Dom Salvado came to Perth in Western Australia to found New Norcia – itself the subject of an Australian pilgrimage route. The museum held a wide range of art objects and religious objects – chalices and the like, and statues formerly mounted on the Cathedral, and a couple of spare Botafumieros that have been used over the past few centuries.


We met up with Camino friends Dekel and Jack once again. They had walked to Finiserre and Muxia and had returned to Santiago before departing back to the UK. We shared a wonderful meal and drinks with them before parting. It is definitely worth hanging around in Santiago for a few days to meet up with those wonderful people we had met along the way.

Jack and Dekel

Later in the evening, it was time to seek out the hidden pilgrim. He was a shadowy figure, only seen at night. And there is a story attached.

Legend has it, that centuries ago a monk fell in love with a nun and planned to elope. He told her he would dress as a pilgrim (great disguise as there would have been thousands of pilgrims as they are today), but at the appointed hour she didn’t show, so he appears every night hoping for her to turn up. It is, of course, a trick of the shadows formed by the base of the lightning conductor and his staff is the shadow if the support column for the Berenguela clock tower – but it makes for a good romantic – even gothic – story! It was made all the better for the late evening gloom and the rain that fell steadily throughout my search for the pilgrim.

Secret Pilgrim

It was time to celebrate with a Tarte de Santiago – the famous Galician almond cake that provided excellent sustenance along our journey. We would not be eating many more of these once we left Spain, so it seemed a fitting conclusion to our Camino. Next stop Madrid, then Rome!

Tarte de Santiago


INDEX – If you wish to follow our journey from the start, or jump in to any of the Camino posts,
here is a link to the index page – also found in the navigation bar at the top of this blog


Why not have these posts delivered to your in-box? Just enter your email address and click the ‘subscribe’ button in the left margin, and don’t forget to respond to the confirmation email in your in-box 🙂