I was expecting lots of tapas, sangria and paella, but the food on the Camino was so much more than that!
We arrived in St Jean Pied De Port and headed up to our first stop at the Orrison Albergue, where I ate my very first ever Spanish tortilla. My friend Jane had told me all about Spanish tortilla, but I had never eaten one before and it was delicious. For those of you who have no idea what a Spanish tortilla is, it's like a very thick omelette, but also has potato, onion and other ingredients.
Pilgrim meals are massive!
The pilgrim meals did vary from Albergue to Albergue. A Pilgrim meal is usually included in the price of the Albergue, although that is not always the case, so it is best to ask.
This is how a Pilgrim meal system works…
- You are given a set time for your sitting. The larger Albergues (like Roncesvalles) have a few different sittings, and you will be given a meal ticket to hand over.
- Most Pilgrim meals within the Albergues take place at large communal tables. The Orrison seated about 30 people.
- On each table, you will always have bread, wine and water. (Which are often topped up!)
- Starters – in our experience, the starters are nearly the same size as a full meal! Either pasta or soup. The homemade soup in the Orrison was amazing. The pasta in Zuibri and Roncevalles was too much.
- Main Course – if you are a vegetarian or a vegan then you may struggle a little bit as the Spanish do like their meat! Most of the main courses were chicken, fish, meatballs or other meat. They are usually accompanied with chips (we had lots of chips / fries!). I rarely recall having any “greens”. By far the most wholesome meal was the first one at the Orrison.
- Deserts – are fairly basic. I remember chuckling with Rachel as we were given a menu, and the dessert list had an apple as one of the choices. Usually, you will choose between some type of flan, creme bruelee, or yoghurt (they like their yoghurts!).
Breakfast is very basic
If you are staying at an Albergue, then the breakfasts are usually very basic. I must admit, I was craving a full English fry up by the time I got back to the UK. Breakfast will include the best coffee you have ever tasted (so smooth!), and toast or croissant. Even the local cafe's very rarely provided a cooked breakfast. Note: the coffee cups at the Orisson look like bowls! They are huge and have no handles! (I forgot to take a photo)
Lunch time is just the best
I loved lunchtime on the Camino. Everyone that you meet along the way will gather at a cafe at certain points along the path you are walking. These get-togethers at lunchtime are the highlight of the trip. It is like having a mini reunion every single day! Our first lunchtime was gathering in an emergency hut in the middle of the Pyrenees. There were probably about 10-20 people at any one time in this little hut (or sitting outside the hut). We were all eating the dry baguette, with meat or cheese inside (no butter) that was provided by the Albergue the day before. I know it sounds a bit boring, but this baguette was the best thing ever! We were all tucking in and enjoying every mouthful.
We would meet up at cafes and little vans that pop up all over the Camino and enjoy a range of different tortilla's or sandwiches. Here is Rachel tucking into the best burger we have ever eaten, which was at the Iron Men Sculptures not far from Pamplona.
What is the biggest difference between the Pilgrim Menu and the Menu Del Dia?
The pilgrim menu is a set menu for a set price for three courses.
The menú del día, menu of the day is similar, also with a set price, but you can often have several options for the starter and the main meal. If you don't drink wine you can have a soft drink instead. Water, bread and a desert are also offered.
Is it expensive to eat/drink on the Camino?
No! In fact, we found that eating and drinking (especially wine) was extraordinarily inexpensive. I remember Julie buying a round of drinks (two wines, coffee and a lemonade) which came to less than £4. In the UK you would pay £6+ for the glass of wine alone!
With the Pilgrim meal at Puenta la reina (absolutely fabulous Albergue), we had wine on tap… literally!
If all else fails…
You can imagine the excitement in Rachel's eyes when we arrived in Pamplona to see Burger King's lights like a beacon in the distance! It just had to be done!
What if you are a vegan, or have other dietary requirements?
Please do not let your dietary requirements put you off walking the Camino. You will find that every Albergue will have an area for you to produce and cook for yourself. Many of the larger towns and cities will have supermarkets (even lots of the smaller villages will have a small supermarket where you can purchase most things), so please do not fret. The Camino is for everyone.