Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.” In the same spirit, I believe that as life goes by so fast there are only a few moments that you really live to the max. Walking the Camino de Santiago, as opposed to bullfighting which is not for me, was one of those times where I felt truly alive. For a few days, weeks or months, I was able to extract myself from my day to day routine and focus on myself.
Lately, I walked the Camino Frances from St Jean de Pied to Pamplona with a company called Follow the Camino, which organises accommodation, meals, maps and heavenly luggage transfers. They have added a twist to the Camino that really attracted me and made my journey so much easier. This twist was to link one of my favourite authors, Ernest Hemingway, to the Camino. The American author based his first and most celebrated novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’ during the Pamplona Festival, the San Fermin, which he used to attend regularly.
The storyline follows a group of American and British expatriates who travel from Paris to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls and the bullfights. The setting was unique and memorable, showing the seedy café life in Paris, and the excitement of the Pamplona festival, with a middle section devoted to descriptions of a fishing trip in the Pyrenees and end sections in San Sebastian and Madrid.
Follow the Camino therefore launched a new walking holiday called the Camino Heming-Way where you walk in the footsteps of Jake and Bill, two of the main protagonists of the book, from Saint St Jean de Pied in France to Pamplona in Spain. It is undoubtedly one of the most scenic, challenging and rewarding of all the Camino routes and a unique journey through time and literature.
The Camino Operator booked me into charming 2-3* hotels along the Way, which was a very welcom comfort. The staff were simply lovely and so typically French and Spanish! I did not want to try walking the Camino without pre-booking hostels etc. Although this option might suit some, I find it difficult to cope with the stress of not knowing where I am sleeping and if I will find a dorm before arriving in a town. Not to mention the snoring, little levels of comforts and the smell… No, I was more than delighted to pay the tour operator services so I had my own room, bathroom and all I needed to rest and refresh after a hard day’s walk. And then was I ready for a few tapas and vino! I never had to use their 24/7 emergency phone, thank God!
The route departs Saint Jean Pied de Port, a quaint French market village in the heart of the Pyrenee. There are lots of things to see including the ancient bridge, historic buildings, full of history and a lovely old Church for pilgrims. In only five days, I crossed the Pyrenees (tough but so exhilarating having achieved it), experienced French gastronomy - think yummy cheese, locally-produced charcuterie and traditional baguette, discovered the legendary Basque country and finally arrived in beautiful Pamplona. En route I stayed in the small quiet village of Burguete, on the Irati River where the two friends (from the book) fished.
In Pamplona, they treated me to a Heming-Way style city tour. Thanks to Mickel, our lovely Spanish guide I found the Cafe Iruna and had a drink beside Hemingway’s statue. I also had the chance to try a special Hemingway favourite: trout stuffed with chorizo. I recommend this tour to Hemingway enthusiasts and anyone looking for an alternative to the last 100km of the French Way, the most popular section. So why not follow this route and take the walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Pamplona? And if you are able to make it for the San Fermin Festival in July, you’ll be able to celebrate this famous Festival in true Heming-Way style!
This post is brought to you by Follow the Camino, a world-wide leading tour operator specialising in organising walking, cycling and horse riding holidays along the Camino de Santiago since 2006. They created a new approach to this ancestral pilgrimage, respecting its spirit and enhancing its values, whilst making it more accessible, enjoyable and achievable for all. Find out more about the Camino Heming-Way here.
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