Frigiliana to the Lost Village

The locals call us swallows. We fly down south in winter and then head north again in spring; I think it’s a fair description. As with other years we’ve spent the last few weeks enjoying the glorious winter sun of southern Spain. We’re in Axarquia, east of Malaga, in the hills above Frigiliana.

We’ve rented a little villa which is nestled at the foothills of the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama natural parks and from our terrace we can look down over the village and beyond to the blue, blue Mediterranean sea.

Frigiliana is one of Spains more famous pueblos blancos and is by many considered the pueblo más bonito de España… the most beautiful village in Spain. The entire old town is now a UNESCO world heritage site with good reason. Imagine in your minds eye a typical white Andalusian village tumbling down the side of a hill and you will imagine Frigiliana. It’s visited by tourists around the globe but in winter the roads are quieter and come late afternoon we feel like we have the place to ourselves.

We’ve spent our time here enjoying the company of friends and family and simply exploring the area. And of course, because it’s me, we’ve also spent a fair amount of time walking these glorious hills; just like today with our walk to Acebuchal.

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O.C.D… maybe?

I think I have to accept that I’m a camino addict; certainly walking has become my passion!

This year I plan to walk Madrid to Santiago. Not satisfied with that, I decided I would start a little walking group at home ( and as expected there are a lot of happy hikers in SW France!  I’ve planned a few walks and I’m looking forward to spending a few hours in the company of like minded folk.

You’d think that would be enough? mmm…

I was asked if I would arrange a ‘mini-camino’… just a few days for folks to find out what it’s all about.  So, glutton for punishment that I am, I’ve arranged a week on the Camino Frances for 6, in the first week of September!  I’m going to call it training for the Madrid!

It’s only a tentative plan at the moment but I have booked accommodation.  I decided Pamplona to Logrono was a good section.  It offers beauty and history, some important landmarks and a mix of terrain and both cities are easy to travel to and from.  If my little group do decide they’d like to walk more,  they can return and still have the excitement of starting in St Jean.

And me… well if I have the time I might as well bolt on a few extra days at the start and walk to Pamplona.  Gerry will walk St Jean to Roncesvalles but leave me there whilst I walk on to meet my group.  We’ll definitely call that weekend training for the walk into Segovia!

And if that’s not enough I’m already planning for 2020 and I really need to do my hospitalero training so that I can help out and I’d like to be able to volunteer at the Pilgrim’s office.

I don’t think my passion is going to dampen down for a while!?  Am I alone?  Are there other seriously addicted pilgrims out there?


Maggie and Le Puy

Maggie was in France!  That could only mean one thing… we had to go and find a camino adventure together 🙂  She flew in from Spain last week and we collected her from Bordeaux airport.  After a few days showing her the sights in my corner of the Dordogne (and my corner of the Vezeley camino) we set off in search of the Le Puy route.

We drove to Conques, spent the night and meandered our way around this fabulous old village.  We found the GR65 and followed the markers for a wee while before heading off to Figeac.  Again we meandered around the town and picked up the GR markers… and spent an hour or two pilgrim spotting over a plat du jour.

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And then we walked…

So many times since I started this journey I’ve been told I should do more with my walking.  “You should write a book” is a common refrain (watch this space on that one!) “You should offer escorted camino trips” is another.  My usual response is to laugh and brush it off but I guess if something is said often enough then it plants a seed… the shadow of an idea… a whisper that sits with you and slowly takes form.

Over the last few months I’ve been thinking.  I live in a beautiful corner of South West France.  I’ve lived here for over a decade, I speak French,  I’ve raised a family here and gone from being a stranger on foreign shores to thinking that this is my home.  So I thought, why not use my love of France, my knowledge of this region and my passion for walking and merge them all together…  And Then We Walked was born.

logoMy plan is to find a beautiful French holiday home to rent for a week.  I’ll plan daily walks and visits to some of the many iconic sites in this region, maybe we’ll spend a few hours at the local market, maybe we’ll visit a boutique vineyard for a private wine tasting?  Or maybe we’ll visit one of the 1001 chateaux that adorn the Perigord?  And of course there will be food and wine and fresh croissants and french coffee… well… you get the idea!

For a week I’ll show you my France.  Beautiful. Surprising. Enchanting… and after all of this we’ll also walk!

Watch this space… I’m only going to offer a maximum of 6 places each trip.

Bitter Sweet

It’s winter in the Dordogne and time to head south for a tiny bit of winter sun.  A few years ago Gerry decided that we should escape the cold and the grey and head to Portugal; we do love Portugal but this year decided that we would wander elsewhere  and try Estepona in the south of Spain.

We left home in the rain and drove down to the Spanish border under a very grey sky.  As we crossed the border at Irun we had sleet that stayed with us as we drove on towards Burgos; which didn’t make for a pleasant drive.  I sent the Gazelles a photo as we passed Belorado and my thoughts wandered back to the warm sunny days 10 months ago when me, Jaqui and Sarah had giggled our way across that path.  However, my navigation duties forced me back to the motorway, the sleet and today’s destination.

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38 and Counting

1Our walking holiday is turning into more holiday and less walking.  France Meteo issued a canicule warning for today… Canicule “précoce et exceptionnelle” dans le Sud-Ouest : il a fait jusqu’à 38 degrés lundi … and we’ve manage to locate ourselves almost in the hottest part of France.  They said it was going to reach 38c…  Mr S was not planning on walking today.

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We were determined, after yesterdays long hot walk, that we would get up in good time today.  We would go and find some provisions for a picnic and start walking around 10:00… but we woke up at 9:45am.

So we showered and meandered and had a cup of tea and finally left our apartment around midday.  We drove 15km to the very pretty village of Montreal du Gers.  This is another stop on the Camino Le Puy and the road sort of shadowed the route as we drove… although you couldn’t see the path.

le puy

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Shoes for Sale!

If you follow my blog you will know about my ‘holy grail’ search for the perfect walking shoe for my pasty wide feet.    I have bought so many different shoes over the last few years and spent so much money, I could honestly weep.  On the Via de la Plata, I thought I’d found my perfect shoe in the Altra Lone Peak 3.0; however it’s being replaced by the Lone Peak 3.5 and it’s maybe not the best shoe for tarmac… so watch this space!

In the meantime, as the Baztan walk approaches I’ve bought myself a new pair of Altra Olympus and decided it was time to try and sell some of the shoes I’ve bought and tried… someone could bag themselves a bargain!

Merrell Mens Vertis Ventilator Shoe

Size : EU 44 (used for 15km)

Price 25€ (new 69.95€)

When I started training back in 2014, folks told me that the best walking shoe was a Merrell.  They also told me to size up.  I always buy a mens fit as I have a EEE wide foot so I bought this shoe in an EU44.

It felt great but after 15km I knew it was too big.  My husband swears by Merrells but for me the fit just wasn’t right, so this shoe has been parked in the back of the wardrobe gather dust.


KEEN Men’s Targhee II Mid

Size : EU 42.5 Wide (used for 30km)

Price : 70€ (new 140€)

I am a fan of Keen shoes. I have some Keen Newport sandals and they are  comfortable.  I was really excited to see I could purchase a Keen wide fit walking shoe in Europe… honestly in the US there is lots of choice but not here.  I ordered the size recommended on the Keen website, and the same as my Newport, but it was too small and on the downhills I could feel my toes pushing the inside of the boot.

If you want a sturdy walking shoe and you have wide feet this is a great choice.


KEEN Men’s Targhee II Mid

Size : EU 44 Wide (used for 20km)

Price : 70€ (new 140€)

I tried buying this shoe in my usual walking shoe size and of course this was too big.  I think maybe the Keen men’s fit is just not right for my foot.  I love the toebox width but it’s too wide in the heel… I’m guessing women have a narrower heel?  I could feel  slipping.  I tried a few different lacing options but it wasnt working and I know the slip would create blisters with more use.  As much as I loved the Keen Wide fit, I decided that this was not going to be the shoe for me.


Altra Olympus 2.0

Size : EU44  (Used for 100km)

Price – 50€ (new 150€)

I’m a convert to Altra trail shoes.  I know they are not for everyone but I walked over 1000km on the Via de la Plata and I loved the fit.  But, I did develop some foot pain and I also felt that maybe the Lone Peak wasn’t so comfy on tarmac.  Altra recommend I try the Olympus and so I took these on a short walk this spring.  They feel great BUT they are not the same fit as the Lone Peak.  I developed in-between toe blisters (usually a sign that the shoe is too narrow) and I had a blackened toenail where my toe was hitting the inside on the downhills.

I was really disappointed with the sizing as these are not a cheap shoe.  But, I love Altra and so I have forgiven them and purchased the new Olympus 2.5 but a size up… I sincerly hope these don’t end up on this page too!

There is 100km of wear on these shoes but I did over a 1000km on the Via so there is still plenty of walking left in them.



p.s. In my non-walking world I wear a ladies UK size 8 shoe – always wide fit, EEE if possible.