You may have noticed that caminoist.org has been quiet the last several months. There’s a good reason — I’ve been immersed in a time-consuming pilgrim project, a new guidebook on the Camino Francés route of the Camino de Santiago.
Wait, another guidebook on the Camino, you ask? In reality this is not a new guidebook, I should say. One of the first guidebooks on the Camino was authored by the esteemed Alison Raju and published by Cicerone Press many years ago. What I’m doing is renewing and re-invisioning Alison’s work in a new format and for a new day by the same publisher. I was approached in Jan 2018 by Joe Williams and Jonathan Williams of Cicerone who recognized it was past time for a refresher on Alison’s work. They wanted the project to look and feel different than other camino guidebooks and proposed this formula:
- Excellent, well-researched text;
- Fabulous photography;
- Coverage of Saint-Jean to Santiago and also Finisterre/Muxía;
- Outstanding maps in an accompanying map booklet; and
- An excellent smartphone app that coordinated with the print set but could be used on its own.
In short, they wanted to put together the best guidebook/map/app set on the market today. How could I say “no” to a goal like that?
I began researching the route — which I’d already walked twice — looking for the best print materials to form the historical core of the project. I read important documents like the Codex Calixtinus, the original guidebook from 900 years ago, and local histories of Galicia. I read art history books and Spanish history texts. Then I planned my trip.
Theresa and I took off for a five week walking camino last July/August and just had an absolute blast together. She’s such a great walker and explorer and so much fun to be with 24/7. Including 2014’s Way of St Francis project, this was her second time walking with me while I was researching, writing, snapping photos and recording GPS tracks. We walked the entire route from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Finisterre and Muxía, biking the Meseta to save time.
After the walk the work began. I sat down with notes, tracks and photos and began the work of putting them all together into an excellent guidebook. Cicerone knew I’d need help, so they stepped forward to purchase great photos from Seattle friend Rod Hoekstra, provided seasoned help for optional camino paths from Cicerone author Mike Wells, and then brought onboard my sister-collaborator, Roxanne Brown Nieblas, to put together the accommodations database that is the heart of any great camino guidebook. Jonathan Williams himself walked parts of the path and sent in his photos, too. Last January I traveled to the UK to meet the Cicerone team and compare our notes and expectations. Finally at the end of last month, after many weeks of every-spare-non-work-minute devoted to the project, I pressed “Send” and entrusted the manuscript and materials to Cicerone for creation of what I know will be a beautiful, elegant and extremely helpful new guidebook.
As their work of editing and producing the book begins my work takes a new turn. This summer I’ll return to Spain and bike the Way, draft guidebook in hand, and check out every detail for accuracy and clarity. At the same time I’ll enter information into the database that forms the core of the smartphone app that’s part of the package. I believe what purchasers will get, once it’s all done in January 2020, is a state-of-the-art guidebook that offers more and better information than anything else out there. Through it all I came to a renewed appreciation for the Camino Francés which is unlike anything else out there and really is a must for any walking pilgrim. I hope readers will see my love of this amazing walk through each page.