These were our last days on the French Way. The crowds were over-whelming and we found ourselves walking 20+ miles everyday due to a lack of beds. What I mean by that, is we would walk until we were tired, then stop to book a bed. Usually, all the beds were reserved, so we’d move on to the next town, and the next town, until we found something.
This particularly bit us in the booty when we got to Los Arcos. We were SO exhausted that we booked the first place we came across, simply because we were used to everything being booked and we could not move another Kilometer. That meant we stayed in a high-end, privately owned Albergue. The accommodation was nice, but the owner seemed to be nickle-and-diming us at every opportunity. For example, he said that he would make us dinner at 7 o-clock, didn’t mention any additional cost (Keep in mind this place is already very pricey for the typical albergue), so we went to dinner. After we ate, he told us that dinner, would be 15 Euros each! You could go to a restaurant for cheaper! He even tried to sell me his used hat for 10 Euros… what?! Terrible experience.
That was one of the days that we talked seriously about switching to the Northern Route, Camino del Norte. We had heard that it was generally less crowded, and the views were incredible. We were tired of walking in a herd to each stop, or feeling like we had to wake up at 5AM to try and get to the next place before everyone else booked the beds. So we planned to make a final decision in Logroño–the next major city on our route.
The idea was, if everything was fully booked in Logroño, we will catch a train to Bilbao and continue towards Santiago on the Camino Del Norte. The morning before we got to Logroño, a fellow pilgrim asked if we had made reservations explaining that there was a huge festival in Logroño that night, and we probably won’t get a bed unless we’ve already booked it. We kept that in mind, also reminding ourselves the common Camino mantra “The Camino Provides” with the idea that if it’s booked we leave, if not we stay.
Sure enough, everything was booked in Logroño, all the albergues, all the hotels, not even an AirBnB was available. So, we ate a little lunch, drank a beer and walked to the train station to book the next ticket to Bilbao. And this was the end of our journey on the French Way.
They say that 700 people start the French way everyday in the high season. This wasn’t supposed to be the high season, but it seems that something happened in 2017 that directed a large amount of people to all converge in Spain and travel it’s ancient roads. We would be hearing over and over during the course of our camino that this was the busiest year camino trails have ever been.