Wander Woman: A Travel Podcast

Camino de Santiago: Finding the way

May 01, 2024 Phoebe Smith Season 2 Episode 8
Camino de Santiago: Finding the way
Wander Woman: A Travel Podcast
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Wander Woman: A Travel Podcast
Camino de Santiago: Finding the way
May 01, 2024 Season 2 Episode 8
Phoebe Smith

Pour yourself a glass of Albariño and settle in as Phoebe puts her navigationally inexperienced friend in the lead (and self-guided specialist tour operator InnTravel to the test) as they wander along the Camino Portuguese's Espiritual Variante aka The Old Way. Walking between Tui on the Portuguese/Spain border all the way to Santiago - with much laughter on the way - the question is will they get lost? There's only one way to find out...

Also coming up:

How to switch from flying to trains on your next adventure; Discover the top 10 foods worth travelling for in Europe;  meet the man responsible for designing the best walking trips and find out what makes the perfect hike; in our regular gear chat discover how to pack for the Camino de Santiago;  hear about TV presenter Michaela Strachan's recent pilgrimage and why mountains and cashew nuts are the way to her heart; and in our Wander Woman of the Month - learn about the woman who inspired Jack Kerouac - Alexandra David-Néel.

www.Phoebe-Smith.com; @PhoebeRSmith

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Pour yourself a glass of Albariño and settle in as Phoebe puts her navigationally inexperienced friend in the lead (and self-guided specialist tour operator InnTravel to the test) as they wander along the Camino Portuguese's Espiritual Variante aka The Old Way. Walking between Tui on the Portuguese/Spain border all the way to Santiago - with much laughter on the way - the question is will they get lost? There's only one way to find out...

Also coming up:

How to switch from flying to trains on your next adventure; Discover the top 10 foods worth travelling for in Europe;  meet the man responsible for designing the best walking trips and find out what makes the perfect hike; in our regular gear chat discover how to pack for the Camino de Santiago;  hear about TV presenter Michaela Strachan's recent pilgrimage and why mountains and cashew nuts are the way to her heart; and in our Wander Woman of the Month - learn about the woman who inspired Jack Kerouac - Alexandra David-Néel.

www.Phoebe-Smith.com; @PhoebeRSmith

Speaker 1:

on this month's Wander Woman podcast.

Speaker 2:

I am a natural lemming. I have no, it's not even that I have no sense of direction. I have the opposite. I have the intuition to go the opposite direction of the correct way that I need to be going in.

Speaker 1:

I take my navigationally inexperienced friend on her first self-guided trip with tour operator and this episode's podcast partners in trouble to walk perhaps the quietest route of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I also catch up with Michaela Strachan who, in the latest BBC series of Pilgrimage, found herself taking an inner journey as well as a physical one.

Speaker 3:

Being in mother nature and being in the wild is my soul food.

Speaker 1:

I find it cathartic, it's my form of meditation and if you want to call it, it's my religion and I meet the man whose job it is to find and create perfect walking routes for travellers.

Speaker 4:

I often liken it to the pearls on a pearl necklace that you're trying to kind of string together.

Speaker 1:

Also coming up. My regular travel hack shares how you can switch getting to your next adventure from plane to train and save money in the environment. In my travel gear slot, I tell you all you need to know to walk the Camino de Santiago in comfort. Together, we can explore the top 10 culinary destinations in Europe. And finally, I'll be revealing this episode's Wander Woman of the Month, the traveller whose name is lost in the history books.

Speaker 1:

You're listening to the Wander Woman podcast, an audio travel magazine with me, adventurer Phoebe Smith, exploring off the beaten track destinations, wild spaces, wildlife encounters and the unsung heroes behind conservation efforts. Come wander with me. I know what you're thinking Bagpipes. It must be Scotland, right. Well, actually no. What you're listening to is actually the gator, a Spanish type of bagpipes played in the region of Galicia, where me and my friend Cerys are standing in the town of Tuis, about to begin on a very long walk, 102 kilometres to be exact. We've known each other for years and been on many an adventure when normally and she won't mind me saying this I'm the one doing the navigating. But this time, on this one, walking the Camino de Santiago, arguably the oldest and most famous pilgrim path in Western Europe we are doing things a little differently, as I've decided to put her in charge of route finding. I am a natural lemming.

Speaker 2:

I have no. It's not even that I have no sense of direction. I have the opposite. I have the intuition to go the opposite direction of the correct way that I need to be going in Every time, almost 100%.

Speaker 1:

If there's's an option, I'll take the wrong turn in so am I a fool to say you're going to lead us to Santiago?

Speaker 2:

essentially, this pilgrimage might be really interesting. We won't end in the same place as we ought to be. We might end up in Morocco. If you put me in, are you putting me in charge? I put you in charge. Are you sure about that?

Speaker 1:

so this is self-guided, so we are guides with step-by-step instructions. So today, because we leave tomorrow, I'm going to give you the instructions to follow just a trail around these two cities. So we're going to go either side of the river, so here in Spain, the old town up here, and then over in Portugal, the old town there, and you're going to be in charge of directions.

Speaker 2:

I can't even get my clock at the right time. I arrived in the hotel yesterday and I was shocked. They were speaking Spanish and I'm like why are you speaking Spanish? And they were like we're in Spain. I don't even know what country we're in. You're putting me in charge? You're definitely in charge so you're going to read the instructions.

Speaker 1:

Let me know how it goes today before we I unleash you on the Camino. We are going to read the instructions.

Speaker 2:

Good luck, let me know how it goes today before I unleash you on the Camino. We are going to go wild. We are feral pilgriming.

Speaker 1:

The good news is, as you heard me mention to Cerys, we weren't entirely on our own. We were travelling within travel, who not only move your luggage each day from one hotel, B&B or Parador to the next, allowing you to travel light and with only a small day pack, but they also provide detailed instructions so that you can easily find your way. At least, that's the plan.

Speaker 2:

Alright, walk straight out the hotel entrance. Continue straight ahead, effectively following the Camino Santiago markers, reach the crossroads with the main M550 road and turn left along it. Well, this straight ahead is there to me. Is that right? Even though that's got the shell on it, I'm lost already see.

Speaker 1:

Thankfully, our itinerary began with a practice day that we spent wandering across the Portuguese border to a small fortified town called Vallenca and the town of Tui. We were staying in. Despite the slightly shaky start, we had a great time and Cerys, full of confidence, was eager to get going. So the next day, with pilgrim passports in hand and an included taxi drop-off to our start point of O Porrino, we were off.

Speaker 2:

Well, this is classic. I want to go the opposite direction to everybody else. Clearly it's not the right direction. We've got a couple in front of us with a GPS system, on with their phones. I am not having screen time, I am paper, paper and brain.

Speaker 1:

We were finally on the right way to Santiago. And if you're curious about this part of Spain and the Camino, a quick history lesson. Its origins date back to when Spain's patron saint and one of Jesus's 12 apostles, james, or Santiago in Spanish, was said to have been beheaded in 44 AD by King Herod in Jerusalem. It's said his followers managed to repatriate his remains by stone boat to Galicia and bury them where they lay undiscovered for another near 800 years. That was until under the reign of Alfonso II they were found.

Speaker 1:

There are several accounts of how the remains were discovered, but the one I like best is that the king followed the lights of the Milky Way after getting a tip-off from a hermit and found them after toiling on a trail over several days, thereby becoming the first ever pilgrim to undertake the Camino. The Camino is not one route, but several, but the most famous and therefore busiest is the Camino Francis, which I walked back in 2016. But keen to see a quieter option, we were instead on the Camino Portuguese. But keen to see a quieter option, we were instead on the Camino Portuguese.

Speaker 2:

Listen, we're passing a lemon tree, some lilies that we see growing all over Galícia. I think this is a plum tree, wisteria oak trees.

Speaker 1:

Sorrel we've seen, we've seen gardens with cabbage and potatoes and vines coming in. It's, in short, stunning. We continued on ticking off the kilometers as we went, until just over six hours after we began, the end of our first day was in sight.

Speaker 2:

yeah, we're not far About 800 metres up this hill to delightful rural hotels set within rambling gardens dotted by ancient stone oreos, which is what we've been seeing all along, isn't it?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and how are you feeling how it's gone in terms of, first of all, the directions and, second of all, the distance?

Speaker 2:

I would have probably got lost at least three times without you questioning me, I think to be fair yeah, why do you?

Speaker 1:

think that was. Do you think you weren't looking around enough? Do you think you weren't reading the instructions enough? Or do you think you just got a sense you should go away that perhaps you shouldn't.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the latter I obviously, I guess, just get distracted and start dreaming and then I've forgotten to actually concentrate on taking in signs. Yeah, I just walk. So at that um junction off the roundabout, yeah, there was a clear camino sign, but I was by instinct to go up the wrong fork. Right same direction, yeah, but is off in the wrong direction, but no, I think I feel a lot more comfortable with it now. Yeah, to know that I've just got to keep on it.

Speaker 1:

Settling into our overnight accommodation, we enjoyed a celebratory drink while the sun set and in the morning we woke to a classic rural alarm. Despite being on the last 100km, the official distance you need to tread to gain a Compostela pilgrims were few and far between, a huge difference to my previous experience on the Camino Frances, when the last hundred was very, very busy. So when we met a fellow peregrino at breakfast, an Australian mum called Jeanette, I was curious as to what made her come here and what made her come and self-guide alone, because you know you're part of a family.

Speaker 7:

Own Because you know you're part of a family, you're. You know, I'm never on my own, I'm never individual. So I wanted to be, I wanted it to be my thing, and I think my husband's really jealous. He's like, oh, we've got to come back and do this together and I'm like, yeah, okay, we will, but I needed to do this on my own.

Speaker 1:

We also met a couple from Malaysia there, called Steph and Tom, who had travelled within travel before in Provence, enjoyed it and wanted to try something else.

Speaker 5:

I like hiking right, so now that we have a little bit more time. So the kids have flown the nest, so we are doing these long, slow travel.

Speaker 1:

Slow travel was definitely the name of the game. They were breaking their walking with an extra overnight. In our next destination, Ponte Vedra, a well-preserved 12th century old town replete with a cathedral and multiple tapas bars. In a couple of days, we too would take two nights to enjoy the delights of the Albrino wine region, with a tasting thrown in. For good measure, we went to the excellent Adega Eidos. In case you wondered, then we were taking a 10-year-old Espiritual Variante, aka an alternative to the main Camino Portuguese. Instead of sticking to the big towns, we went first to the coast and the fishing village of Combarro, a spectacular granite old town that's almost frozen in time, and then on to the vineyards, while staying at the beautiful Quinta de San Maro, which owes a lot to the more recent pilgrim clientele.

Speaker 8:

But now I think from all these months that are not medium season, we're starting now with the medium season from April, may, june and and October and the beginning of November. We are working most people from the Camino and this is very nice for us.

Speaker 1:

It was fantastic to think that by doing this pilgrimage slower and off the usual boot-beaten, more well-known way, we were contributing to small local businesses like these, and it left a good taste in our mouths in the form of incredible fresh local fare and hyper-local wine. After our rest, we continued on our spiritual variant, taking in the moss-coated stone and water pathway from an old monastery to the seaside town of Villanova de Arousa, ably guided by Cerys, who had really found her stride, refreshed from a day off.

Speaker 2:

We're going downhill for seven kilometres. It sounds gorgeous. Listen to this. You'll immediately join the Ruta de Pedra y de Agua, the route of stone and water, a glorious woodland trail that follows the meandering course of the Armentera River as it tumbles and cascades its way through seven kilometers of unspoilt woodland. You want to come. Sounds aced, doesn't it? And you can hear the water already sort of tumbling down the streets, under the streets and then out again, and people are coming out of the monastery, which has got such a zen. Like some monasteries are quite intimidating, aren't they, and foreboding, this one somehow has a real zen-like vibe.

Speaker 1:

Along the way we met another pilgrim, also full of joy to be in this part of Galicia. My name is Sandra Castle. And where are you from? I'm from Colombia. And why are you doing the Camino de Santiago?

Speaker 6:

Oh, I love the Camino. I doing the Camino de Santiago. I love the Camino of Santiago. I live for the way. I live for the way Every day. From 2020. I live here and I came only to do the way and I stay here.

Speaker 1:

You never went home. No. Though we were loving it too, staying forever was not quite on the cards for us, and besides, we had a boat to catch. This is called the Old Way for a reason, because this particular Camino Trail is unique in that it goes some of the distance by water from Villanova to Padron, said to be the route where the body of St James travelled in its stone boat up the river to the town, before his remains were transported by land to Santiago de Compostela. Now its route is lined by small crucifixes directing us on our way through the water. Our boat was thankfully made of fiberglass rather than stone, and as we went, our guide, alex Alejandro, explained how much the locals appreciate the visitors on this fairly new, though actually very old Camino.

Speaker 5:

All around here are small towns and you are like fresh air and other cultures, other point of view about life, and we like to converse with you and it's like new energy for us.

Speaker 1:

Once more, we were hearing the benefit of the Camino and, in particular, this route, on the local communities, and it made us feel good. By travelling this way and taking our time, not to rush it, we were not only enjoying it more ourselves, but also seemed to have minimal impacts on our surrounds.

Speaker 2:

It's been amazing. I can't believe how beautiful every turn and twist was. And the rarest thing is going to places, normal, lovely places around the world that haven't been too affected by a huge footfall of tourism. It's getting rarer and rarer, I think, isn't it?

Speaker 1:

The end was now firmly in sight. Literally, we reached the point where we could see the spires of the cathedral just four kilometres away, and Cerys and I were feeling suitably buoyed.

Speaker 2:

I'm getting very excited about getting there now.

Speaker 1:

You're already there. Mentally, you're already there.

Speaker 2:

I'm already there. Yeah, I've got my feet up and I've got the albarino in that funny bowl that they serve it in. Apparently, you know talking wildly about how I navigated here without the use of any kind of map or arrow, just by sheer willpower and maybe the odd star. You know I'm'm there telling the stories, but I know, looking at the graph, being a savvy navigator that I am, at this point we've got an uphill to go at the end, which is so cruel, isn't it? You think they just go downhill for the end, we just roll, roll downhill is what?

Speaker 1:

how I want to go. Is that what they there? You absolve yourself of a lifetime of sins. Is that what they say? Is that what we're doing this for?

Speaker 2:

Apparently A whole lifetime. A whole lifetime. They better have a lot of incense.

Speaker 1:

We finally reach the square where all those who have walked the Camino arrive together. Some cheer loudly, others are struck silent in deep contemplation of the path they've walked to get here and the journey that lies ahead.

Speaker 2:

Holy moly, we did it and I feel good. 100k, I feel great 102k.

Speaker 1:

Good, really good. What does the last?

Speaker 2:

instruction say. It says drink in the atmosphere before heading to your hotel and a well-deserved rest. The atmosphere before heading to your hotel and a well-deserved rest I'm going to cry oh 'congratulations pilgrim'. And the bells. What Can you hear? It, that's bonkers. Is that one o'clock?

Speaker 1:

We did it, we did it. We went to get our final stamp and claim our compostelas, but before we got to celebrate with a well-deserved albrino, I asked Cerys how she feels having successfully navigated 100km, do you?

Speaker 2:

know what I feel like a kid to have a certificate that they stamped right and he said, he smiled and he said Felicidades. You know, congratulations. I'm in tears. I did not expect tears, honestly. Yeah, it's quite moving. I was thinking of a lot of lost friends and it's just moving for some reason.

Speaker 1:

And you've done 100k. You did have doubts about doing it.

Speaker 2:

Well, I just don't. I never do the step thing. I never know how far I'm walking. I have no concept of walking, you know, really at all. So the concept of 100 kilometres was just something just academic. Now I know how it feels and that you can do it. And now the fountain's just started again.

Speaker 2:

I think we need to toilet a little bit. Yeah, and the bells started ringing just as we got into the square, and the bagpipes and just people's faces, everyone just seemed. So you know, just, you know, in today's age just simple pleasures, yeah, just walking, a really long way and everyone could empathise with everybody else's aches. It was just something really innocent and I think the innocence really moved me.

Speaker 1:

Can we go and have some drink now? That was me and my friend Cerys in Spain, walking on InnTravel's Camino de Santiago, the Old Way trip. Not only was it the perfect way to reach Santiago on foot, but it blended together sublime local food and drink, cosy, family run and historic accommodation and the chance for my friend, who had never led us on an adventure before, to boost her route-finding confidence. It's a trip I know we will both be talking about in the years to come. Thank you to this episode's podcast partners, Inntravel. Do check out the trip on inntravel. co. uk Now.

Speaker 1:

When thinking of getting to Spain from the UK or anywhere in Europe, it can be the default to immediately turn to the search engine to book a flight. However, switching from intensely carbon emitting planes to the way more enviro-conscious trains is not only great for upping the adventure ante, but also helps reduce our impact. But how easy? And let's ask the difficult question expensive is it? This month's travel hack, with the help of InnTravel's rail expert Kylie Anderson, finds out. First up cost While flights can appear dramatically cheaper at first glance when you take into account the luggage fees, parking or taxi fares, airport hotels, carbon offsetting and the cost of getting between airports and city centre at your destination. Then the scales begin to tip, and while the Eurostar to Paris may no longer be the bargain option it once was, once you're in mainland Europe the cost of high-speed rail can often work out cheaper than low-cost airlines, especially if you book in advance. Normally, this is three months ahead of travel, though some summer options can be as much as 11 months ahead, so worth checking. Also, look into getting an inter-rail card instead. It often works out a lot cheaper than individual journeys and is valid for a set period of days within a week, two-week or month-long period. And while it's true that going on a price comparison, rail travel can, at the moment at least, show that greater savings are made by the air, do try and think about comparing the experience as a comparison as well.

Speaker 1:

Travelling by rail is way more rich and enjoyable, much like walking the Camino. The journey is the holiday, one that starts when you board your train, not at the other end of the flight. Check-in times are shorter, security lines too, and there's no liquid restrictions or waiting at the carousel at the end to find your bag. If time's a problem, no worries. Our next travel hack is to consider doing one-way rail and one-way air. It's a good way to dip your toe in the water and compare experiences. Travelling by rail saves around 90% of the carbon of the equivalent journey by air, so even if you choose just one way, by rail, you are still significantly reducing your footprint.

Speaker 1:

Another tip to truly enjoy the experience is to keep travel days to 10 hours or less and limit the number of changes. Make it enjoyable rather than a long slog, and consider your timings. If you arrive in the dark, you might miss some of the best views, and where overnighting is a necessity, choose those places you've always wanted to explore and stay a bit longer. Paris, Zurich, Berlin, Barcelona all make the perfect mid-holiday mini break. Conversely, for long distances, you can't do better than sleeper trains, which, when you factor in saving the night you'd spend in a hotel room, actually work out cheaper than flying and cover boring bits while you get some shut-eye.

Speaker 1:

There's something magical about going to sleep after leaving a major city and waking up to a mountain view of Slovenia or Austria. When you're ready to book, check the invaluable man in Seat 61 website for suggested routes and great advice on which websites to book tickets with. There are also now aggregator websites like Rail Europe, which allow you to book multiple tickets from several train operators in one shopping cart. Or, stating the obvious if you're booking with a company like InnTravel, do ask them to see if they can help with the booking of the tickets for you.

Speaker 1:

Finally, once you're all signed up and ready to go, pack as if you were flying EasyJet with a cabin case, small backpack with a trolley strap, and then add to this a small day pack for a little train picnic At the end of your holiday. Pack some gastronomic treats from the area you visited, better than any airline meal and gives back to the local economy. Bon appétit and bon voyage. That was my Wonder Woman travel hack, the advice and insight I offer each episode to truly enhance your travel experience. Now, speaking of enhanced experiences, my next guest is someone you'd never normally meet on your walking holiday, but is actually the reason you were there at all. James Keane has the enviable job of wrecking and designing the perfect hiking routes for travellers, but how on earth does he know where to start? I caught up with him, map in hand, to find out what makes a good walking route, in your opinion.

Speaker 4:

It has to feel like it has purpose, and often if you're walking from one place to the next next, well, there's kind of a ready-made purpose. But even then, you know, there could be potentially two, three, four ways of connecting two towns and so identifying the best route, the one that might take you up to that viewpoint or give you the opportunity to visit that winery en route, or maybe a good picnic stop along the way.

Speaker 4:

So I think it's a well-structured day, that is, it becomes yeah it's a really it's a satisfying experience, then if you've kind of arrived at your destination feeling like you've achieved something, when do you start to create this walking itinerary?

Speaker 4:

something. Where do you start to create this walking itinerary? I often liken it to the pearls on a pearl necklace that you're trying to kind of string together. So you'll be looking to find the right places to stay. You'll be looking for good quality accommodation and making sure that there's places you can eat on an evening, that there might be interest as well, um, but crucially, that are an appropriate distance apart so that you can feasibly walk between them in a day. And that's the magic. I guess , it's painstaking, it's, it's hard work. That that's the research. You know I love a good map. I will pore over maps. I will read from multiple resources. I speak multiple languages, so I'm often able to access local information that might not be available in English, which can again give you insight into into, possibly, routes that maybe locals walk or or historic trails that may exist, and and, yeah, it's, yeah, it's research and it's time consuming but hugely rewarding.

Speaker 1:

So you know your area. You think you've found the right places on the way that are within a day's walk apart. What's the next stage of the process? What happens after that? Do you then have to send someone out there to try that out?

Speaker 4:

I'll often go in the first instance and check that the theory on the map works in practice, because there can often be a disconnect between map and reality. Because you know, we're very fortunate in the UK to have our OS mapping. You don't always find such high quality, up-to-date and consistent mapping in other parts of Europe. So, yeah, you have to be kind of mindful of theory and reality. So you'll go and scope that out, visit the prospective hotels and make sure that they are suitable and keen to be part of an in-travel itinerary in that way. And then there's the other logistical elements to consider, of course, the transportation of the luggage. Is there places to maybe stop and have lunch along the way, or do we need to provide a picnic or a packed lunch so people can stop and enjoy that? It's.

Speaker 4:

It's that level of detail that again just ensures that the whole experience hangs together. So you turn up and you know that everything has been has been laid out. But within that there's still the flexibility that if you decided one day you didn't want to walk and you could take the bus and you could skip, that day you could. Or often we'll build in two night stays along the way on the itinerary and we'll have a recommended circular walk for that day. And again, it'll have a purpose. It might be to take you to a hilltop castle or whatever it might be, but if you want the day off and to rest by the pool or to potter around that little medieval village with its museums and shops, then you can. So whilst there's a framework, there's flexibility within that as well.

Speaker 1:

In your experience, then, putting these routes together, is there a route that you've kind of trailblazed that you are the most proud of?

Speaker 4:

oh, that's like asking which of my children is my favorite. Um, I, I'm possibly proudest of a holiday that we have in the Canary Islands, on the island of El Hierro. So there's a popular image of the Canary Islands and there is a totally different side to the islands as well. But then some of the smaller islands, in particular the smallest island of El Hierro, which you know, that's where the prime meridian sat before it moved to Greenwich in the 19th century. This it was the end of the known world and it feels like it when you're there. It's so remote and just to introduce people to somewhere so special and so unusual and the opposite of that popular image of somewhere like the Canary Islands. That feels like a really valuable and important part of what we do.

Speaker 1:

That was James Keane, a man who makes it his mission to connect together the perfect inns, food stops and walking trails to ensure your hiking holiday is memorable for all the right reasons. I know what job I want to get if this podcasting doesn't work out. Speaking of working out, that's exactly what you'll need to add to your agenda following this month's top 10. I'm looking at the European foods worth traveling for and, in partnership with InnTravel, suggesting the perfect itinerary pairing for each one. Are you ready to follow your nose and your stomach? Let's go In.

Speaker 1:

At 10, we're desperately seeking parmesan, that slightly stinky but oddly hunger-inducing cheese you sprinkle over your pasta. It's found in an area of Italy called Emilia Romagna, and the resulting whey by-product is used to feed the pig, hence Parma ham, which is also the area's specialty. Tickle your taste buds on the flavours of Emilia Romagna's Cycling Tour or Italy's Food Journey undertaken by Rail, where you'll try both of these, along with the area's signature balsamic vinegar, bolognese ragu and much more. At nine, we're staying in Italy for the double-trouble pairing of pesto and focaccia. On the quiet side of the Italian Riviera trip, you can taste the garlic, basil and pine nut paste, along with the pizza-like flatbread in the area it's known for Liguria, and specifically its capital, genoa. Bellissimo. For number eight, we raise our glasses for Port in the Portuguese city of you've guessed it Porto, on a tour that includes it, lisbon and Coimbra, as well as a stay in the vineyard-rich Douro Valley, the city's palaces and wine self-guided itinerary will have you sampling the best local fare, from alcoholic tipples to sweet pasta, stannata or Portuguese custard tarts.

Speaker 1:

Seven sees us heading to the coast of Catalonia to sample the red prawns of Palamos, a delicacy much revered by top chefs thanks to their rich, biodiverse habitats 400 metres deep, meaning a strong and sweet flavour. Diverse habitats 400 meters deep, meaning a strong and sweet flavor. Sample them on the flavors of catalonia trip , home of molecular gastronomy. So I'm told who were at six it's list. And blanco, the acidic, organic white wine made from grapes grown at bodega reveron winery in tenerife, 1300 meters above level, so one of the highest vineyards in Europe. Sup this tasty specimen on the valleys, vines and volcanoes trip and pair it with a visit to one of the island's six Michelin-starred restaurants.

Speaker 1:

Salud! Tasty truffles claim the number five. Spot the mushroom-like underground-grown delicacies that can take a pasta dish from nice to fantastical. Find them on the villages of the Dordogne itinerary, where you will also get a chance to sample duck wild plums and locally grown walnuts. makes it to number four, which isn't actually one individual dish but a style of German cuisine heavily influenced by the neighbouring borders of France and Switzerland, found in the Upper Rhineland region of Baden, aka the Black Forest, think, or rather Google, flatbread soup, steamed dumplings, the very cheesy potatoes and, of course, black Forest cake, all served with an actual cherry on top.

Speaker 1:

On in-traravel's eponymous A Walk in the Black Forest trip. Anster cheese is found in bonnie, scotland, and makes the top three. This farmhouse-made cheddar is mild, mushroomy with a touch of citrus and aged in Fife for up to four months. Sample it as well as locally made malt whiskey and freshly caught seafood on Fife's Coastal Kingdom self-guided foodie tour. Just missing out on the top spot is Tarte Flambee in Alsace, France. Similar to an ultra-thin pizza, these moorishly delicious crunchy flatbreads are topped with a host of traditional and local ingredients such as cream, onion and bacon, and are particularly tasty when washed down by the crisp white wines of S. Walkers can sample them on the castles, vines and forests of Alsace trip, while cyclists can fuel up on this Franco-German delicacy whilst peddling the villages and vineyards of Alsace. At one it's the open sandwiches of Scandinavia consisting of rye bread than any topping you desire. From cheese to veggies, cold cuts of meat and seafood All can be sampled on the frankly mouth-watering Nordic Cities Explorer trip.

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Just don't forget to pack your pants with the stretchy waistband. That was my regular top 10, where I get to choose my pick of the best places, food and travel experiences from around the globe. Feel free to pause at this point to enjoy a tasty snack. I'm feeling a bit peckish myself Now. With all that food, you'll be needing to up your exercise and may I suggest a really long walk, perhaps 100km, on the Camino de Santiago. If I've persuaded you, then here, with a little help from Peter Hunt, a route finder for Inntravel is the ultimate gear guide to packing for a self-guided walk along the Camino or really any multi-day jaunt where you have a handy Sherpa service moving your luggage along each day.

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I'm going to be brutally honest with you about Galicia, the region of Spain. You will undoubtedly wonder in if doing the Camino de Santiago. It's lush, it's beautiful, but there's a reason for this rain, and a fair bit of it. This means that even on a day that starts off with blazing sunshine which does happen too you need to be prepared for anything, so waterproofs are essential. Most pilgrims favour the poncho, as it's lightweight and, crucially, goes over you and your rucksack. By the time you stop to put on a waterproof jacket and trousers and cover your daypack, chances are it may even have stopped raining already. A wide-brimmed hat is another good tip, good for both the sun and rain.

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As with any walk, good-fitting walking shoes is vital, but note that we don't necessarily recommend boots. Given the higher-than-normal proportion of road and paved paths versus the usual walking trails, a pair of lightweight walking shoes is way more practical than your heavier footwear. Some pilgrims even opt to walk in sandals. Don't underestimate the value of good, made-for-purpose, well-fitting socks. Always a good idea to carry a spare pair in your day pack, just in case. A walking pole, or rather two, will not only make you look the part, but also help on any ascents, as well as on slippery sections.

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Also for your walk notes, bring a waterproof map holder that you can wear so you can keep on top of your navigation without it turning into a sodden mess. Other than that, take your sense of adventure, pick up your pilgrim passport or credential and say it with me. Buen Camino, that was my regular gear chat, helping you take the stress out of packing on all your adventures. Now, someone who knows all too well the stresses of loading up a backpack for multi-day treks is my next guest, Michaela Strachan, fresh from walking the North Wales Pilgrim Way for the show Pilgrimage, which is available to watch on BBC iPlayer. Now we caught up to chat walking boots, going with a group versus solo travel and why the inner journey on an ancient footpath is perhaps inevitable. Michaela, what made you say yes to walking a

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pilgrimage. Listen, you're someone that likes walking, so if someone said to you do you want to go on a two-week walk and be paid for it in a beautiful part of North Wales, you'd jump at it, wouldn't you? Definitely. So I'm a hiker, I love hiking. I find that being in Mother Nature and being in the wild is my soul food. I find it cathartic, it's my form of meditation and, if you want to call it, it's my religion. If you want to label it, then Mother Nature is my church. So for me it was like, yes, please put me on this particular filming job, because this sounds perfect for me and had you ever considered doing?

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one before. Put me on this particular filming job, because this sounds perfect for me, and had you ever considered doing one before? Or had you ever done a pilgrimage before anywhere in the world?

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Do you know, I actually did a little bit of the Camino, so we kayaked around the Camino, so we did the Camino de kayak, it's called.

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So you did a week of kayaking and then you walked the last day to Santiago de Compostela would you normally go with a group to do to go out for a walk, or are you more of a solo walker?

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normally I can do either. So I have a dog, so I'm never on my own. I have deep conversations with my dog, rio. Sometimes I really enjoy that. Sometimes I enjoy being on my own and that's again.

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As I've got older, I never would have enjoyed being on my own when I was younger, but I enjoy that.

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Sometimes I enjoy being on my own, and that's again as I've got older. I never would have enjoyed being on my own when I was younger, but I enjoy that, that solitude now and my own thought process, and I really enjoy not having a podcast in my ear, not having music, just having thoughts and decluttering. You know, I think again. You know we go through our lives just gathering so much information. It's like. It's like, isn't it in your house? You gather, you gather, you gather and then you get to an age where you're like I don't want them anymore, let's get rid of them, let's go declutter, declutter. It's the same with my thought process. Sometimes I'm like gosh, there's an awful lot of information there. It's all getting very confused, it's all ahh.

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So I enjoy sometimes walking on my own, but I equally enjoy walking with other people. I mean particularly family, yeah, and when we've, we've just had all our family together because, um, we've just had a memorial for my mother-in-law and at 96 years old, you know, it's great to go on a reminiscing walk with the family, which is exactly what we did went up the mountain and all talked about her and remembered her. Nice um, but it's very much our social life. So on a saturday or sunday I mean more often than not, it'll be right who's around for a hike, who wants to go somewhere?

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and we'll go hiking I love the idea of a walking memorial.

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That's, that's perfect, um memorial as well with no speeches and everything but it's, it's you know it, it it does mark things. We actually went away for three days after she died. It was I don't know, I just found it. Watching someone in the hospital go is particularly in a hospital. It's just quite traumatic, yeah, um.

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And so you know, learning from the pilgrimage that I managed to process, uh, death in during the pilgrimage, we we did the same after my mother-in-law died recently. You know, we went away for three days with friends, um, we were going to camp and then it was very windy and they had a cabin available, so we decided to go in the cabin, nice, nice friend, if you know um, and is there anything about doing this pilgrimage that surprised you?

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um, do you know, I think what surprised me, I think, was, obviously I was in a very different emotional state because my best, I had just lost my best friend, um, from breast cancer, which she was diagnosed a few years after I was diagnosed. She didn't make it, I did, you know, that's very poignant and it and it hit me very hard and I was very, very sad about it, and so during the pilgrimage I processed that and I was quite um, well, it was challenging, it was a challenging pilgrimage for me for that reason, yeah, and so I withdrew every so often. I mean, we had such a laugh, um. So I'm not saying I withdrew all the time, but there were times when I just withdrew because they're a fantastic bunch of people, but there's very large characters within that and sometimes, when you're not feeling robust, you know, you feel like you want to withdraw. So, you know, in the chat earlier we were saying that in the evenings they often would play Traitors, right, whereas I wasn't in the right frame of mind to play Traitors.

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I wanted to withdraw, yeah, and so, uh, yeah, I did. There were times when I took myself away from the group with and just had my own thoughts, and so that was quite interesting for me. So what did I learn? I'm not used to being the one that takes myself away because I'm, you know, I like to be part of a big group and I like to, you know, often be the there's the scent, not not center of attention, but the, you know, part of the center of the heart of a group yeah, and I was really withdrawing from that role, which I thought.

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This is interesting.

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This is a side of myself that I'm not used to wow and and tell me, as someone who grew up in North Wales, what did you you make actually of the and, as a wildlife and outdoor lover, what did you make of the North Wales Coast Path?

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Oh, my goodness, Can I tell you that if it had been raining I might have had a different answer. But we were incredibly lucky and it was absolutely beautiful weather the first week. I mean, do you know, just before it I'd packed and I thought jeepers. I looked at the forecast. I thought I haven't got enough shorts. I went out and bought another pair of shorts.

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This is it. When you turn up wearing shorts, I'm like are they really in the place I grew up? I mean, it was astonishing.

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And this was September, wow, so we were incredibly lucky, but it was absolutely beautiful. My favourite, Aber Falls, which, which was stunning yeah and not just the falls.

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All the area around the falls was gorgeous. And also Snowdon. I mean I mountains are my place, yeah, that is definitely the place that I feel most connected to, and so going up to the top of Snowdon for me was just a complete and utter pleasure. And again, it was great because there were times when we could talk, and there were, because it takes quite a long time to get to top. There are other times when you can be on your own, yeah, and that really suited me for this particular um, two weeks, um, and of course, you get a great sense of achievement when you get to the top. What was interesting? When we got to talk, we did an interview.

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Yeah, it suddenly occurred to me probably why a top of a mountain is so important to me, because it's where I really fell in love with my partner. So Nick and I. So the second time we met was to climb to the top of Table Mountain, and it was when it was a full moon. So the sun went down on one side of the mountain, the full moon came up on the other. I mean, you know I'm painting a romantic picture here. He gets a bottle of red wine out and some, and that what really sealed the deal was cashew nuts and so, and it hadn't occurred to me that that was probably an extra reason why the top of a mountain has become such an important place for me. Oh, I'm not surprised with a story like that, yeah.

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My God, how did he top the day after that?

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He's my soulmate, he really is my soulmate, and that's a place where I feel that I'm connected to myself and to anything spiritual one final question for any would-be pilgrims out there.

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You've gone and walked this like 200 odd um mile route. What is the one piece of kit you would recommend a pilgrim packs and takes with them?

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oh I I can say actually is comfy boots, but not new boots. Do not think you can go on any long hike with a pair of new boots that you've hardly worn. Do you know? My son did it. They did at school. They had to go on I mean hectic hikes. They went on when they were in grade 10. So they would have been about 15 years old. Yeah, and you know, we all told him you've got to wear those boots in darling, did he? No, he got 10 blisters on the first day. That is going to make your any hike or pilgrimage deeply unpleasant. So I think my biggest piece of advice would be get a pair of boots or shoes, whatever you hike in way before you go and wear them in.

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That was TV presenter Michaela Strachan. Do check out the show Pilgrimage, available to watch on BBC iPlayer now, and already it's nearly the end of the episode, so time for me to share with you my utterly incredible Wander Woman of the Month. I hope you've enjoyed what you've heard. Please do subscribe so you never miss an episode and please, please, please, do leave a review. It means so very much. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at Phoebe R Smith. Go to my website, phoebe-smith. com, where you can sign up for my occasional newsletter and, of course, send me a message.

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Now this episode. We head to Tibet, where a young woman has become the first European lady to sneak into the country to visit Lhasa. The year is 1924., the place Tibet. This is at a time when all foreigners are banned. Yet, moving amongst the locals, there is what appears to be a beggar, or perhaps a monk, but it is neither of these things. This is called a woman called. In the days before, to further her understanding of Buddhism, she had met the exiled Dalai Lama in India before heading into Tibet to meet the Panchen Lama, one of the most important figures of Tibetan Buddhism at the time. The disguise was so not to arouse suspicion that she was a tourist. It would have been a daring escapade for any of her male counterparts, but for a woman back then it wasn't heard of. Among the many women we featured as Wander Woman of the Month, all incredible, none have gathered quite so many descriptions as her Explorer, spiritualist, buddhist writer there's a link there, but then add in the words opera singer, anarchist, radical feminist.

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Over the 100-year lifespan of Alexandra, she accomplished several lifetimes of achievements. She did, as you can imagine from how she's been described, live life at its edges, yet always with a clear, caring and influential philosophy at its edges, yet always with a clear, caring and influential philosophy. She inspired beat writers, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, alongside philosophers. Yet how many of us know her in the context of those two household names? Back in the 1920s, on her return, the journey seemed to have captured the imagination of people across the globe and for a time she did find some notoriety. A fellow author wrote of her she had an intelligence, an acuity, a desire to live and an insatiable curiosity. She followed her path from the beginning and wanted to give meaning to her life, and she did.

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Born Louise, eugenie, alexandrine, marie David, in Tunis in 1868, her life was remarkable from almost that time. When she was two, her father, louis David, took her to the Communard's Wall at the Pierre Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, commemorating the execution of thousands of protesters at the hands of the French army. She claimed it was a pivotal moment in her life. By 15, she was regularly fasting, and in the same year, on a holiday in Ostend, she ran away and made for England. While still a teenager, she joined several secret societies and was friends with a French anarchist called Elisa Huaclou. And at 21, she converted to Buddhism, spending her time in the British Museum of Parisian Libraries studying Sanskrit and Tibetan. And while still in her 20s, she was the first singer at the Hanoi Opera House and later in Athens and Tunis. And if you're having a hard time keeping up with just how much she travelled by the age of 30, I can assure you it never stopped, especially in the next part of her life.

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In 1912, aged 44, she arrived in India to study Buddhism, making friends with the Crown Prince in the process, as well as the 13th Dalai Lama. She lived in Lausanne for several years, a town in Sikkim that borders Tibet, practicing yoga. In 1916, she made her first trip to Tibet spending time with the Panchen Lama, and then she wandered to Japan, Korea, China and Mongolia. In 1924, she entered the forbidden city of Lhasa dressed in rags, albeit concealing a compass and pistol. She escaped after being discovered by the governor. Walking back to northern India, she recounted the adventure in her book, my Journey to Lhasa, including tales of levitation. For more than a decade she lived in Provence before boarding the Trans-Siberian Railway to China, and then went on a retreat for five years again in Tibet while the World War raged. At 78, in 1946, she returned to Digne in France, publishing books and Tibetan writings. She died on 8 September 1969, aged 100. Before she died, however, she renewed her passport, just in case.

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That was our incredible Wander Woman of the Month. I hope her spiritual quest and insatiable wanderlust has you suitably inspired to overcome any obstacles In the next episode of the Wander Woman podcast, led by my late grandmother's diary. Inspired to overcome any obstacles. In the next episode of the Wander Woman podcast, led by my late grandmother's diary, I head to Saudi Arabia to follow in her footsteps and see how much this controversial kingdom has changed as it fights to woo tourists. I speak to a woman on the front line of the project to bring back the Arabian leopard and consider the best gear to take you from souk to sand. See you then, Wander Woman out. The Wander Woman podcast is written and edited by me, Phoebe Smith. The producer and writer of additional material is Daniel Nielsen. The logo was designed by John Summerton. Thanks to this episode's podcast, partners InTravel. Do check out their trips at inntravel. co. uk. And a final thanks to all the people I met on my journey and were willing to talk to me. It's because of you that this podcast is able to happen at all.

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