Now that I've nailed down the length of my Camino walk to forty days, I can start making travel arrangements to get there and back. There are two parts to this: Getting to Europe (Spain or France) and getting around within Spain and France).
Getting to Europe. I don't like arranging air travel. There is always too many options and most of these options are expensive. My first thought was to look at the meager frequent flyer miles I had to see if I could wrangle a cheap ticket out of those. I looked at my choices and found that flying into Madrid would need less points than Paris. I figured if I combined my miles with the Wife's miles and then buy a few miles more I might be able to get a cheaper (not a cheap) ticket. In the middle of doing this I realized that once you added all the point transfer fees, the cost of the extra miles, and all the surprise fees that you encounter in the booking process, it would be more convenient and practically the same cost just to buy a regular ticket ... so that's what I did.
I ended up getting good flights, window seats all the way, no unreasonable layovers, arriving in Madrid early in the morning. The only downside is I fly through Chicago which I've never flown through without some delay. Fortunately, Being a day late won't hurt my plans too much. The tickets weren't the cheapest ... well, I mean they were but of all the things I could buy, these tickets weren't cheap. When I buy airline tickets I'm alway paranoid that they're selling cheaper tickets to someone else. I wonder, if I find tickets for the same flight on the same airline, would they refund the difference if I asked politely? I do live in a dream world at times.
Actually I made these reservations almost a month ago. Now I have a round trip ticket to Madrid leaving the 11th of May and returning the 28th of June. This will give me forty days for the Camino walk and nine days for the getting there and back bit.
Getting Around. Once I arrive in Madrid I will be catching a train to St. Jean Pied de Port, France. I haven't arranged train tickets yet because it's a little too soon and I would like to talk to the Matron of Honor and Best Man, who are returning from a trip to Spain as I compose this post, and they may be able to give me more information about train travel in Spain. The snooping around I've done so far suggests I should expect the train trip to last eight to twelve hours. A second train trip, from Santiago de Campostela to Madrid will have to be arranged once I arrive in Santiago.
Once I arrive at St. Jean Pied de Port, I will check into a hotel and spend a day there getting my body adjusted to European time and spending time visiting the Pilgrims Office. The Pilgrims Office has the latest information about albergues and maps of the route.
Based on all this guess work, I expect that it will take about three days to get there and get ready. Assuming two days to get back to Madrid from Santiago de Campostela, that leaves me with four 'extra' days. These extra days may be needed either during the Camino for days of rest, or at the end when I would like to take a bus ride to Finisterre, a common trip taken after completing the Camino. It is said to be the western most point of continental Europe, hence the name's translation 'Land's End' (In fact, the western most point is actually in Portugal.)
Next: The Packing List.