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Pilgrim Luxury

Locals Offer Comfortable Farmstays in Spanish Countryside

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“You’ll be sleeping in the barn,” said Pilar, as she led me through the courtyard of Casa da Curiscada to my sleeping quarters.

After a full day of hiking I had hoped for something more comfortable than a barn, but with my aching feet I was willing to sleep anywhere. And this home has a long history of offering refuge to travelers thanks to its location on the historic trail known as El Camino de Santiago or The Way of St. James.

For more than 12 centuries pilgrims have been making the 700-km trek from France through the Pyrenees and across northern Spain to pay homage to the relics of the apostle St. James in the city of Santiago de Compostela. Enroute, many pilgrims stay in refugios, the public network of hostels along the trail, free to those officially registered with the Pilgrim’s Office.

I was not a pilgrim and planned to hike for only two days, so I had chosen an alternative—casa de turismo rural or country home. While not free, these historic farmhouses, designated for preservation by the Spanish government, offer the opportunity to experience the region’s rich history and the life of a pilgrim. They also provide a glimpse into rural life and an opportunity to meet and support the locals. And at under $50 euros a night they fit my budget. My room for the night was at a private home located between the villages of Arzúa and Burres, and only 36 km from my final destination.

“Pilgrims would grab some straw from the field to catch some sleep before the final push to the Cathedral, ” explains Pilar, pointing to a photo display by the doorway. It shows the home filled with livestock pens and bales of hay. Built over 400 years ago, it had been abandoned when she and her husband bought it four years ago.

Like other casa rurales in Spain’s countryside, this home has been fully restored. It boasts seven bedrooms as well as a patio, television, country kitchen, and fireplace. My room, formerly a wing in the barn, has been decorated in a charming, rustic Gallego style and contains every modern comfort. Breakfast is included.

Located in the heart of “Green Spain,” the region is still relatively unknown, but it is a place of quiet beauty—undulating green hills, rocky granite outcroppings, and deep coastal inlets carved by the powerful Atlantic waters. Everyone is welcome to hike El Camino. Small village cafés such as Mesón a Paínza offer caňas (glasses of beer) and leisurely lunches that include tetilla cheese, hearty peasant bread, and caldo gallego soup. It’s easy to imagine that life is unchanged from when pilgrims first walked the trail over one thousand years ago.

I awoke to the sound of cows lowing. Outside, the panandero had dropped off a basket of the day’s bread. Pilar was bringing in buckets of fresh milk. As I relaxed in bed and listened to the clinking of cow bells, I realized I could get used to sleeping in a barn.

For More Info

Mesón a Paínza is a country restaurant that serves traditional food and offers accommodation in historic stone dwellings:; Tourism Galicia lists a selection of rural accommodations:

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Bed and Breakfasts and Farmstays Abroad
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