TRAVEL – TOM SMITHThe legendary trip to Santiago de Compostela across Spain is within reach of everyone.  The pilgrimage to the resting place of St. James has been going on for over 1000 years! Declared a European Cultural Itinerary, the Camino de Santiago or “The Way” is an inner journey with a number of possible starting points in France, Spain or Portugal.  The most frequently used route (since the Middle Ages) is the French Way, which joins with the other routes for the ultimate goal of Santiago de Compostela located in far northwestern Spain in the state of Galicia.  If you take the French way you begin in the village of St. Jean and you have over 700 kilometers to walk to get to Santiago.  There are many that do only part of the trek, but the full trek takes 4 to 5 weeks depending on how fast you walk.  And even some people do the trek via mountain bike.  Accommodation along the way vary from humble hostals to the incredible Spanish Paradores, the ultimate in old world luxury.  I recently return from Spain and did some investigation on just how you can do the Camino de Santiago….in style!  There are two routes that make it possible to stay in some amazing Paradores.  Paradores (there are 94 of them throughout Spain) are located in extraordinary natural settings or in the most beautiful historical and artistic surroundings.  These Paradores use former palaces, ancient convents, medieval castles or buildings conceived to provide unique service.  Inside a Paradore you will find antiques, tapestries, paintings and carpets and an exquisite attention to detail and all modern conveniences of a luxury hotel. OK so the routes for the Camino.  It is possible to stay at the Paradores in Leon, Monforte de Lemos, Pontevedra, Cambados and of course Santiago de Compostela.  Route 2 gives you opportunity to stay in Leon, Monforte de Lemos, Vilalba, Ferrol and Santiago.  Of course in between there are hostals and small hotels and inns.  The Paradores would be your treat for the long walking!  You would need to book the Paradores in advance because they book up very quickly each year.  I have a special arrangements with the Paradores of Spain and can confirm your stay in any of them along the Camino or any of the other 94 throughout Spain. I can think of no richer way to enjoy Spain than to stay in a Paradore.  And there are also Paradores in Portugal and they are called:  Pousadas.  Paradores make for a great itinerary if you are visiting Spain and I am happy to share my knowledge with you about utilizing them for your next journey

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