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Sarria

Private (15, 10€, March to November) A Pedra, on the right at the start of the town, beside tourist information. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Evening meal. Website albergueapedra.com Tel 652 517 199 Open 11:00

Private (27, 10€, March to October) Albergue Oasis, just after A Pedra on the left. In a classy, modern building. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Website www.albergueoasis.com Tel 605 948 644 Open 11:30

Private (100, 10€, March to November) Alma do Camiño, on Rúa Calvo Sotelo, a wide street which branches right off the Camino, on the right. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Breakfast. Website alberguealmadelcamino.com Tel 629 822 036 Open 11:30

Private (25, 9€) Albergue O Barullo, on the Camino on the right. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Restaurant. Tel 604 055 722 Open 13:30

Private (28, 10€) Albergue Credencial, on the Camino on the left. Laundry facilities. Café / restaurant. Breakfast. Website www.alberguecredencial.es Tel 639 722 878 Open 09:30

Private (41, 9€, March to October) Albergue Puente Ribeira, on the Camino on the right. Laundry facilities, microwaves. Café / restaurant. Website www.alberguepuenteribeira.com Tel 698 175 619 Open 11:00

Private (22, 10€, April to October) Albergue Casa Peltre, on the Camino on the steps up to the old town. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Website www.alberguecasapeltre.es Tel 606 226 067 Open 11:00

Xunta (40, 8€) Albergue de Peregrinos de Sarria, a little to the right at the top of the steps. Laundry facilities. Modern. Tel 660 396 813 Open 13:00

Private (16, 10€, April to October) Albergue Mayor, on the left on the Camino. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Website www.alberguemayor.es Tel 646 427 734 Open 11:00

Private (41, 10€, April to November) Albergue O Durmiñento, on the Camino on the left. Laundry facilities. Evening meal. Breakfast. Reported nice. Tel 600 862 508 Open 11:00

Private (45, 10€) Albergue Internacional, on the Camino on the right. Laundry facilities, microwaves. Café / restaurant. Website www.albergueinternacionalsarria.es Tel 982 535 109

Private (28, 10€, Easter to October) Albergue Obradoiro, on the Camino on the right. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Website www.albergueobradoirosarria.es Tel 653 498 621 Open 11:00

Private (42, 9€, March to November) Los Blasones, on the Camino on the right. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Evening meal. Breakfast. Website www.alberguelosblasones.com Tel 652 256 226 Open 11:00

Private (40, 9€) Albergue Don Álvaro, on the Camino on the left. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Website alberguedonalvaro.com Tel 686 468 803 Open 12:00

Private (32, 9€) Albergue Matías, on the Camino on the left. Laundry facilities. Café / restaurant, recommended. Website matiaslocanda.es Tel 683 243 335 Open 11:00

Private (22, 10€, May to October) Albergue dos Oito Marabedís, at the end of Rúa Maior turn left when you see the sign, on Rúa Conde de Lemos. Kitchen x 2, laundry facilities. Tel 618 748 777 Open 12:00

Private (28, 10€, April to October) Albergue San Lázaro, from Rúa Maior turn right on to Rúa do Colexio / Calaxa and continue about 500m until you see Rúa San Lázaro on your left. Laundry facilities, microwaves. Website alberguesanlazaro.com Tel 659 185 482 Open 11:00

Private (24, 12€) La Casona de Sarria, same direction as Albergue San Lázaro. Laundry facilities. Breakfast. Good reports. Website www.lacasonadesarria.es Tel 670 036 444 Open 12:00

Religious (100, 10€, April to October) Albergue Monasterio de la Magdalena, on the Camino 400m after Rúa Maior, on Avenida La Mercede. Laundry facilities, microwaves. Website www.alberguesdelcamino.com Tel 982 533 568 Open 11:00

Sarria is a major town with all facilities. Tourist Office on the right at the beginning of the town. Most pilgrim albergues are in the historic centre, on or near Rúa Maior, where there are also restaurants and cafés which open for breakfast. Supermarket, fruit shop and bank on Rúa de Matías López, continue straight where the Camino turns left up the steps. More banks and pharmacies on Rúa Calvo Sotelo, on the way to the train station. Good hiking shop and a pharmacy just before the steps. Sarria is the most popular starting point on the whole Camino Francés because it is the most easily reached point which is just before the 100km mark. Fiestas San Xoán 24 June and the last Saturday of August Noite Meiga / Witches Night.

If you like Italian food (or the pilgrim menus are getting you down) try Matías Locanda Italiana, part of Albergue Matías, on Rúa Maior. It has been recommended.

Sarria to Santiago

Sarria is the main starting point for people who are walking the last 100km. If you're walking in summer you will notice a sudden increase in the number of fresh-looking people energetically (and often noisily) passing you by. That makes this an appropriate moment to mention: Sarria to Santiago

A few years ago I spent a night in the town of La Bañeza on a little-frequented part of the Vía de la Plata. It was mid-winter and already the sky was darkening when I arrived. An old lady who lived across the street from the municipal albergue gave me the key, told me where the shops and restaurants were, and where to leave the key in the morning. Then she left me to my own devices.

I was alone in the albergue. This wasn't a surprise. I hadn't see another pilgrim in about two weeks so I was used to the solitude by now, and I had my routine: shower, wash clothes, shop for the next day, then there would hopefully only remain a couple of hours to kill until the restaurants opened at 9 (this being 'off-Camino' restaurants worked on 'Spanish time'). Then, immediately after dinner, bed.

The municipal albergue looked like it dated from the 1950s and had once been a girls primary school. Now, besides housing the occasional errant pilgrim, it also served as the local community's shrine to the Camino complete with every type of Camino artefact imaginable, banners, books, posters, maps. There was even a surprisingly big piece of wood purported to come from the house where Santo Domingo de la Calzada was born.

This had all been assembled by the local Friends of the Camino.

But what struck me most were the photos. Loads and loads of photos carefully arranged into display cases, dated and labelled, all of them of groups of people, smiling, mostly middle-aged in summer clothes, with sticks and backpacks, the instantly recognisable paraphernalia of pilgrimhood. Sometimes it was a daytrip to a local place of pilgrimage but often too the background and labels identified places along the Camino Francés in Galicia which were familiar to me.

The people were familiar too, with their tiny backpacks and their air of a Sunday outing, these were the people I'd seen many times between Sarria and Santiago, waiting at bus-stops, eating sandwiches out of the back of a van, sitting outside a café greeting their companions' arrivals with a mixture of cheering and jeering.

These were the people who we long-distance pilgrims sometimes disparagingly refer to as 'tourists' or 'turigrinos', because they sully the silence and solitude of 'our' Camino with their good-humoured, excited babbling.

But these are also the people who provided the wonderful albergue in La Bañeza where I got to sleep for free, and many, many other albergues all over Spain which we all get to use. They're the people who make the Camino what it is, welcoming and accessible to people like us.

So, be nice to them.

ps. A point to remember if you're walking in summer and you still want to avoid the crowds is that most people who start from Sarria do so at the weekend.

Accommodation on Booking.com

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Copyright © Gerald Kelly 2021. All text and photos.