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T his week, we listened to a Wander Woman podcast called Camino de Santiago – Finding The Way  – which featured the host, Phoebe Smith, following one of the Inntravel routes Jack and I created. Handing the directional reins to her navigationally challenged friend, Cerys Matthews (of Catatonia fame), Phoebe follows the Portuguese Camino de Santiago using our notes.

On the Portuguese Camino de Santiago

It’s fair to say I was extremely nervous to listen. What if Cerys went wrong? What if I had made a mistake in my directions? What if neither of them enjoyed the journey?

My worst fears seemed to be coming true when, right at the beginning of their walk, Cerys went the wrong way out of the hotel! Luckily (for me), it seems she has a propensity to go in the opposite direction to the one she should be following, and it was her error, not the notes – phew! By the time they reached Compostela de Santiago, Cerys considered herself a competent navigator and, having enjoyed her experience so much, had contracted the self-guided walking bug. For her, it had been a journey of self-discovery.

Jack and I were delighted. Not only had our directions stood up perfectly, but Cerys quoted parts of the narrative to illustrate how the notes raised expectations of what lay ahead, enhancing the anticipation of the journey. Most of all, I was pleased to know that our directions had empowered someone who considered themselves to be a hopeless case, to successfully navigate over 100km of paths. That’s a priceless result.

A journey of our own

Listening to the podcast of the Camino reminded us what a unique and unforgettable experience it had been. We undertook the walk right at the end of the pandemic before any other pilgrims were on the trail. It was a strange feeling, having people drive past, toot their horns and shout “Peregrinos! Peregrinos!” at us in delight; we were harbingers of a long-awaited return to normality by a society whose livelihoods had been decimated by the disappearance of the pilgrims.

Peneda Gerês

Working with Inntravel over the last twelve years has given us some truly incredible experiences that we would never have had on our own. Stand-outs among a gallery of travel masterpieces have been: travelling across the mountains of Portugal’s Peneda-Gerês; uncovering the softer side of Corsica; walking in The Black Forest; visiting Hitler’s mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden … to name but a few.

At Eagle’s Nest, Berchtesgaden

And like Cerys, for us every one of those journeys wasn’t just about finding the way, in our case for others to follow, but it was also about our own journeys of discovery.

We pushed ourselves on longer and harder ascents which brought greater reward; we found a niche in our love of preparing and enjoying good food as an essential part of travel; and we became expert in the art of Slow Travel, trading whistlestop tours of multiple destinations for really getting beneath the skin of a place, understanding it better with every step we took.

Who knows how much longer we will work with Inntravel but when it ends, the memories will last forever. And they’re priceless.


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