#Camino Inglés vs Camino Francés

The English or the French? It’s a rivalry that’s lasted hundreds of years, and not one I really intend to solve in this blog, but having walked the English and French Caminos, I have some reflections on the comparative merits of both.

  • If you want a quiet Camino: I can’t start by giving the English Camino nil point! One of the loveliest things about this route is how quiet it is. When I walked apart from my group, I barely saw any other pilgrims, I could hear the birds and the brooks. Walking through enchanted woodland in the rain, I felt protected and peaceful. A good route for the soul. (Inglés 1: Francés 0)

  • If you want to meet new people: the flip side of a quiet Camino is that the opportunities for long pilgrim’s meals with new friends are reduced. On the Camino Frances, I always knew if I wanted company I would meet new people, or bump into people I met a few days earlier and we’d reunite like old friends. I missed the spirit of community this time, a point goes to the French route. (Inglés 1: Francés 1)

  • If you want to see changing landscapes: the Inglés is entirely in Galicia, and Galicia is beautiful, green and glorious. It’s possibly my favourite part of Spain. But because the Francés is so much longer you slowly see the scenery change along with the culture of the different parts of the country. I loved Navarra, la Rioja, Castille and Leon as well! (Inglés 1: Francés 2)

  • If you don’t have much time: For me, the real appeal of the Camino Inglés was the ability to walk a whole route in just a few days, it’s nice for a sense of accomplishment without using up vast chunks of annual leave. A point to the English way. (Inglés 2: Francés 2

  • If you need time to find yourself: it’s a privilege to find the month needed to hike the Francés in its entirety, and boy oh boy do you learn things about yourself along the way! A few days on the Camino Inglés can provide a little time for reflection, but if you want to dig deep, go long. (Inglés 2: Francés 3)

  • If you want to feel free: in 2016, on the flight to Pamplona where I started the Camino Francés, I remember feeling nervous that I wouldn’t find a place to stay each night, I could hardly believe hostels existed every few kilometres along the route. But they did! Every day I could choose how far I wanted to walk, and it was very rare that I wouldn’t be able to stay in my first choice of accomodation. I woke up every morning excited to see what the day would bring, and not knowing how it was going to end. On the Camino Inglés the albergues are few in number, and small in capacity. I’ve found that it’s a Camino where advance booking is a good idea, which can reduce spontaneity somewhat. That said, wherever you find other pilgrims you’ll always have new and unexpected encounters. (Inglés 2: Francés 4)

  • If you like the rain: well this is a draw, walk in March/April time and you’ll probably get some impressive Spanish rain. A point for both Camino routes on this one! (Inglés 3: Francés 5)

  • If you want a magic moment of arrival in Santiago: I think this has to be a draw too. Today I sat in the square outside of Santiago to see if I could spot Sten and Annette as they finished. As well as capturing the magic moment for my friends, it meant that I was in pole position to see many other pilgrims arrive. It was so beautiful to see their emotions as they saw the cathedral. Most hugged their friends or their partners. Some nearly fell over with emotion. Others waved their hiking poles in the air triumphantly, one man even threw his across the square! I’ve no idea which route these pilgrims walked, or how many kilometres, but the moment of arrival is always one of elation! (Technically the score is Inglés 4: Francés 6… but really, it’s your Camino, so who’s keeping count?)

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