If the first question that people ask is generally about the paths we walked, the second is usually about the places we slept. In the 84 days it took us to walk from Le Puy to Finesterre,we slept in 81 different beds. Most of them were hostels specifically for pilgrims — called gites d’etape in France and albergues or refugios in Spain.
We slept on plenty of bunk beds, but not as often as I expected. We had private or semi-private rooms fairly often in France, where the gites were usually smaller and family-run. In Spain, it was more often a question of how many people would be in the room, and how closely the beds would be packed.
In hindsight, I wish I’d taken more pictures of where we slept. These become a huge part of my Camino memories, and I can still picture the places that aren’t here: the curtained, cubicle-like spaces in Le Puy and the private room in the 500 year-old Larreule farmhouse; the stifling attic with more than fifty people crowded above a restaurant just outside Leon and the laughably terrible, moldy “triple” room in Najera that was three twin beds packed wall-to-wall (and touching each other). We never knew if we would sleep within arms’ reach of a dozen snoring neighbors, or in a huge, airy, four hundred-year old convent room with a private bath. The dreariest towns often gave us the biggest surprises.
The only consistent thing was that no two days would be alike. If one night we found ourselves in a private room in a converted rectory, complete with sheets (the ultimate luxury) and antique furniture, then the next we would pay the same amount for rickety metal cots in the town hall gymnasium. We rarely planned our accommodations more than a day in advance, and often picked a place at random from the guide book as we were walking into town.
Here are just a few examples of our Camino accommodations. (Click the photo to see the slide show with captions.)