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  1. #1

    Default Camino de Santiago, Portugal Way

    It has been a while since I posted here. I usually post about the Wonderland Trail, but I thought I would share about my most recent experience. I just completed the Camino de Santiago, Portugal Way adventure with REI. It was a great experience.

    I never use guides when hiking in the U.S., but when I hike in parts of the world where I don't know the local language, I have found that guides are worth the cost. The REI guides were great.

    For those who are not familiar with the Camino de Santiago, it isn't a typical trail. There are many different routes with a common destination -- the tomb of Saint James. Historically, the Camino started at a person's home and ended at the Cathedral of Saint James. So, when two different people say that they walked the "Camino de Santiago" they may both be telling the truth but have walked entirely different routes.

    The REI adventure combined some of the harder parts of three different Ways -- The Portugal Coastal Way, The Queen's Way, and The Portugal Central Way. We walked approximately 90 miles.

    Each of the Ways is marked with with yellow painted arrows and with an occasional sea shell marker. Just as the AT has "Thru Hikers" and "Section Hikers" the Camino has the "Pilgrims" and the "hikers." The Pilgrims are comparable to the Thru Hikers. People, like my group, are there for the adventure.

    If you have an interest in the Camino de Santiago, I recommend the REI version. I enjoyed it enough that I might do it again.
    Shutterbug

  2. #2

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    Sounds like a cool trip. Although I am a bit too cheap/particular to do REI trips at this point, their trips and info are nicely outlined on their site and I will go back for some inspiration and ideas

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hikingjim View Post
    Sounds like a cool trip. Although I am a bit too cheap/particular to do REI trips at this point, their trips and info are nicely outlined on their site and I will go back for some inspiration and ideas
    The REI trips are definitely "luxury" trips. They use the best guides, lodging and food. I have done 4 REI Trips and have enjoyed every one.

    At this point in my life, I am spending my children's inheritance -- why not spend some on REI trips?
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  4. #4

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    Nice info. Please tell us how the experience would have been different (better or worse?) if you had gone on your own instead of hiring guides on a package trip. Let's face it, one big problem with guided tours is the lack of freedom to stay longer, or leave sooner, than the itinerary of the guide service, and interesting side trips are out of the question.

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    From someone who has done 3 Camino's I have to say, though I don't know what the REI tour is, it is not needed on the Camino De Santiago on the French way or Portugal way. Yes there may be a little confusion at first but it's easy to get going and help in english is available. Nothing wrong with taking the tour, but the reasons you say why you took the tour in this location of the world were not really an issue.

  6. #6

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    Estimated costs of the trip "Camino de Santiago"
    REI Adventures $4299 + sales tax = $4729
    SEA to BIL $850
    SCQ to SEA $2564 (not sure why this is so high; this is from Travelocity.com)
    airport transfers + meals not included + gratuities + incidentals $500
    total... $8643/per person for 9 days = $960/day

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    If one really had very limited time to hike, it would make sense to book a complete journey including acommodation and guide, otherwise one would spend the first day or two in some sort of trial&error and confusion, until everything is sorted out.
    For anybody who has more time than money, there is absolutely no need for a guide at the Camino (or in any other place in whole Europe, for that matter).
    Especially the Camino in the old days originally was designed for going without any money at all, but with all the time god would give the person for to take the pilgrimage.

    May I add:
    For all my life, I've put my full pride and energy into doing all myself, without booking, without guide.
    Just recently, maybe due to growing older, eyes and ears growing weaker and having survived a serious illness, I'm going more and more into booked tours with guides.
    I have the money and am ready to share it, as long as I get some good reward in terms of good service, smooth travel, and generally easy going.
    But then, I'm still far from spending 1000,-/day.
    Last edited by Leo L.; 09-20-2019 at 04:15.

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    Also just to add that the Camino de Santiago is know as one of the cheapest travels one can take, but used to be more so.

    Spain is in general inexpensive, 4 years ago a bed was about $7 if one wants to stay at municipal albergies, $11 to $18 for private alberge private rooms for maybe $35, a complete really good dinner, sometimes including a full bottle of wine per person was about $10 and one can do self cooking in the albergies for cheaper, breakfast may cost $6, and leave another $10 for meals along the way . Add in for other incidentals perhaps another $10 - $20, so it can be as low as about $40- $60/day, but yes one could pay more.

    However those prices were 4 years ago, more recently, due to recent popularity, prices has risen, and quality of those dinners have decreased to almost american fast food levels (fries and chicken strips instead of lamb with local vegetables) as they try to hold the prices down, but self cook is still about the same and more pilgrims are groupling for evening meals. Overall still cheap, but now more like $60-$80/day and the cheaper stays fill early and one must sometimes pony up more euros for a bed, sometimes a private room more often than in the past. In some ways the Camino is suffering from the surge of hikers like the AT which I have also seen prices rise over recent years (since 2013).

  9. #9

    Default Camino de Santiago

    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    From someone who has done 3 Camino's I have to say, though I don't know what the REI tour is, it is not needed on the Camino De Santiago on the French way or Portugal way. Yes there may be a little confusion at first but it's easy to get going and help in english is available. Nothing wrong with taking the tour, but the reasons you say why you took the tour in this location of the world were not really an issue.
    As I said, REI is a "luxury tour" more than a hike. It did involve hiking about 90 miles, but included a lot more than hiking. If one is on a tight budget, REI isn't the way to go, but if one has the resources REI turns a hike into an "adventure." I will share just one example. on one of the days, we had lunch with a Count in his country mansion. We got a taste of what it is like to be royalty in Portugal. One doesn't get that kind of experience on a mere hike.
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    Just a little anecdote. When I was in Paris this summer, I passed by La Tour St Jacques (St James's tower) in the center of the city and there's a plaque that says that it was the gathering point for pilgrims from all over Europe on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The tower was part of a church, which was destroyed during the French revolution.

  11. #11

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    Shutterbug, it sounds like you got a taste of the local culture you wouldn't have gotten without the tour. Travel anywhere, but especially in Europe, doesn't get interesting until you get off the tourist path. Ironically a local based tour guide can help with that! Several years ago a family member was sent to Italy for several months for his job. Upon his return I asked him what he enjoyed most about his down time. He said it was a miserable trip because he couldn't find anything good to eat.......in Italy. Wow. Maybe he doesn't have the same sense of adventure I do or maybe his company itinerary shuffled him within easy access to fast food joints but it sounded like a huge wasted opportunity. Glad to hear your trip was a success!
    "I love the unimproved works of God" Horace Kephart 1862-1931

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    Quote Originally Posted by TwistedCF View Post
    ...
    Several years ago a family member was sent to Italy for several months for his job. Upon his return I asked him what he enjoyed most about his down time. He said it was a miserable trip because he couldn't find anything good to eat.......in Italy.
    ...
    I would quit such a job immediately. Poor employer, having extremely poor Italian Partners.
    Normally, its impossible to escape those endless Italian dinners, when you're released only after 3hrs to finally get the very last and final Grappa.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    I would quit such a job immediately. Poor employer, having extremely poor Italian Partners.
    Normally, its impossible to escape those endless Italian dinners, when you're released only after 3hrs to finally get the very last and final Grappa.
    Right! From the first taste of wine to the last sip of lemoncello is three hours minimum with lots of culinary wonders in between! Takes some getting used to for an American. If forced to I could live happily on prosciutto, fresh bread and wine, not hard to find in Italy!
    "I love the unimproved works of God" Horace Kephart 1862-1931

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shutterbug View Post
    ... but if one has the resources REI turns a hike into an "adventure." I will share just one example. on one of the days, we had lunch with a Count in his country mansion. We got a taste of what it is like to be royalty in Portugal. One doesn't get that kind of experience on a mere hike.
    I really disagree, however I am glad you had that experience, I have had things like that multiple times on my adventures, none of them near REI quality. Perhaps REI sets it up so that happens more often, but yes we get that kind of experience on a mere hike.

    That said perhaps it's me and being born under a lucky star. Not saying REi doesn't have its place, along with AMC, but let's not discount what is available without comercial intervention.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    I really disagree, however I am glad you had that experience, I have had things like that multiple times on my adventures, none of them near REI quality. Perhaps REI sets it up so that happens more often, but yes we get that kind of experience on a mere hike.

    That said perhaps it's me and being born under a lucky star. Not saying REi doesn't have its place, along with AMC, but let's not discount what is available without comercial intervention.
    I apologize that this thread has turned from a thumbs up for the Camino de Santiago to a discussion about whether or not one should take a commercial adventure. I want to make my position clear. There is a lot to be said for going to Europe with no prearranged plans. When I was younger, my wife and I would often go to Europe with a 14 day Eurail Pass. As we traveled around, we would ask people on the train, "If you were an American tourist, where would you go?" We would choose our stops based on recommendations of the locals. We saw a lot of Europe on a shoe string budget. We used a book named "Europe on $5 a day." If I were still 40, I would probably still do it that way. But, the group I organized for this trip was made up of very busy professionals. They don't have the time and flexibility to do that kind of travel. They want to know in advance where they will sleep each night. There are many people who need to have their adventures pre-planned. For those people, REI is a good option.

    I am 76 years old. I am still a strong hiker, but realize that my time for this kind of thing is not endless. My wife and I have done several "adventures" this year. In January, we visited Cuba (Viking Ocean Cruise), In March, we hiked the Grand Canyon (self-guided), In June and July we visited Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany and France (Viking). In August, we hiked on Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Park (self-guided). In September, we hiked the Camino de Santiago (REI). In November, we will hike the Grand Canyon again (self-guided). For people like us, having a company planning our adventures makes a lot of sense.

    Whether or not to use a company like REI is just like flying to Europe. You can fly in Business Class or in Coach. Both get there the same time but believe me the experience is not the same. You can use a company like REI to organize your Camino de Santiago hike or you can do it on your own. Either way you will have "done the Camino de Santiago", but your experience won't be the same.
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    I think it's wonderful that you had a great camino and that how you did it your way. That's what makes it your camino, or in AT terms HYOH. I see the bug up my butt was this:
    REI turns a hike into an "adventure."

    T
    he short of it was objecting to the use of the word 'adventure' which the way you stated it seemed to be elevating your experience over a non-guided hike. I'm really glad you enjoyed the hike and the luxury aspect of it, but the way you stated it was to me somewhat anti-HYOH.

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    I'm starting the Camino Frances the second week of October, finally, after having to postpone this trip several times. I'm really looking forward to it and one of the reasons is that I am doing zero planning ahead other than my flights and train ticket to St Jean. I am hoping that hiking in October and early November will reduce the crowd issues and make lodging easier to come by. I fortunately have the resources to stay in private rooms as much as I'd like to, I plan to stay in the hostels for the most part unless there are good reasons not to (if they are too full, noisy, dirty, etc). I want the experience of the typical pilgrim.

    I think that everyone is looking for different things on the Camino and there's nothing wrong with self guided or commercial. Being a planner, and over-planning most trips, I'm looking forward to being liberated from that. My return flight is 42 days after my arrival so I have absolutely zero time pressure to finish. I will use whatever time I have after the trail to see Madrid and possibly Lisbon as well.

    I looked into the Portuguese Way as well but decided to do the Camino Frances as my first camino. If I like it, I'm sure I'll be doing some of the others too.

  18. #18

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    Coffee, you will have a great time. Have you watched "The Way?" It has scenes from that route.

    If you have time at the end, don't overlook Porto, Portugal. You could take a day in Porto on your way to Lisbon.
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    I haven’t seen the movie but maybe I will before I depart. Flying to Paris a week from Tuesday!

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    Quote Originally Posted by TwistedCF View Post
    If forced to I could live happily on prosciutto, fresh bread and wine, not hard to find in Italy!
    I think I'd have to have a bit of cheese in there too

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