Beachcombing for Scallop Shells with On Foot in Spain
A version of this article was posted on On Foot in Spain’s Facebook page 21 Dec 2014
By Nancy L Frey, February 2018
On our Camino de Santiago tours we gift our walkers scallop shells, the primary symbol of the Santiago pilgrim. We gather these shells ourselves from the Ría de Arousa in Galicia, the very same estuary in which the Apostle James’s stone boat sailed looking for safe harbor before eventually being buried in what came to be known as Santiago de Compostela. This image of St James/Santiago (note he’s standing in a boat dressed as a pilgrim) comes from the town of Ribeira on the Ría de Arousa.
In winter we like to go with our kids to a favorite set of beaches to find shells, beachcomb and enjoy this magical, remote spit of land in the sea. Beachcombing is a marvelous, relaxing activity that we enjoy together as a family and individually as we discover the wonders to be found on these magnificent beaches. Here Sam sits in the distance floating atop a sea of shells.
You have to go at low tide to cross over to the string of shell beaches where we find the scallops (and lots of other shells!)
We've reached the first set of beaches. The beaches lie at the mouth of the estuary where the open ocean batters the coast. Striking deep mustard-yellow lichen adorn the granite boulders.
Scallop shells start to appear - buried beneath other shells, wedged between rocks, in the water. Some shells are whole, others are broken, weathered or worn.
Scallops come in many color variations and sizes. They are all unique like each pilgrim and his or her journey.
Reaching the next set of beaches, we continue our trek out along this rocky spit that reaches out into the open ocean. It looks like we might be able to walk all the way to Sálvora Island but no chance. The urge to see how far you can go is strong.
Scallop within a scallop - one of the many gifts from the sea.
We each search for shells and anything that captures our fancy - sometimes together, sometimes alone.
Along with the scallops, we find razor clams, limpets, many types of snails, mussels, oysters, cockles, clams...
At high tide the water will cover this beach completely. We always keep one eye on the water to make sure we don’t get caught. Being out here is mesmerizing.
When you get down on your hands and knees you realize that what looks like sand from the distance is actually an infinite mass of shells in various crushed states. As far down as you dig, all you can find are shells.
The sea birds like to hang out here including many yellow-footed gulls, sandpipers and cormorants. The cormorants like to warm and dry their sleek black wings in the sunshine perched on the rocks.
You can spend hours slowly combing the beach finding special treasures.
Marina holds up a very large yellow-toned scallop.
Jose and Jacob showing some of their finds and Jose holds a stunning pink-tinged scallop.
With an eye on the rising tide, we reluctantly make our way back across the rocks to the mainland sorry that they treasure hunt is over. At the end we pull out our collection of shells and select the ones we can use to gift to our walkers. Inevitably our pockets are filled with sand, polished beach glass and other eye-catching bits and pieces of beach.
Now back home for cleaning, drilling and red cords to be attached for our walkers (to be continued…).
You both were the yellow arrows that welcomed …and guided us…
Truly a trip of a lifetime! A feast for the eyes, the body and the soul. A journey of discovery from beginning to end. You both were the yellow arrows that welcomed us and thoughtfully guided us through a place in time and history. Nancy, you have a gift for telling a story or aspect of history that makes I interesting to hear and retain. Jose is so thoughtful, considerate – You both were always there, but never hovering. Thank you!
Judy and Steve, NYC, USA
June 2017, Camino de Santiago
…Nancy & Jose- you are absolute legends..
I have done so much raving on to people about how wonderful On Foot in Spain & particularly Nancy & Jose were, that they should never need to advertise. It was all such a special experience as evidenced by our reaction as we walked into the Santiago Square – still gives me goosebumps….Nancy & Jose – you are absolute legends….
Bron & Michael, Vermont, VIC, Australia
May 2017, Camino de Santiago
You bring out the best in everyone.
Thank YOU for the most fabulous trip ever! What a wonderful trip and a wonderful group. I think you are able to bring out the best in everyone, so I suspect you have the best groups all the time. Thank you so much.
Julie, Bend, Oregon, USA (2nd Time Traveler)
Jan 2018, Tenerife
…calmly moved the group through the eleven days…
The eleven days we spent with you were just superb in every way. Nancy, I constantly admired the way in which you so calmly moved the group through the eleven days…I just loved all the history, anecdotes, information on just so many things& never did I tire of it. Your engaging style & warm, interested personality set the scene & it was this above all else which contributed to the great success of the trip. Your laugh is infectious & your beautiful smile memorable. Through your words & references to Pilgrims I found I was able to spend much time reflecting on my life, its purpose & experienced a feeling of peace & contentment & extreme gratitude….Meanwhile Jose performed his magic…I know & appreciate the great planning & fine tuning all that requires. You are a wonderful team & obviously loving union. Possibly it’s just that which makes your Camino so very special…a very big Thank you for providing us with a truly wonderful, memorable Camino.
Lu & MIchael, Melbourne, Australia
Sept 2016, Camino de Santiago
I feel stronger mentally, physically and spiritually.
Thank you for the opportunity to walk in beautiful places, make wonderful new friends, partake in gourmet picnics in unforgettable locations and for all your knowledge and care. This was a truly unique experience for me and I am amazed at what I learnt along the way. I feel stronger mentally, physically and spiritually. Thank YOU for enriching my life.
Lynne, Golden, Colorado, USA
Oct 2016, Compostela
Our walk along this special path was just as uplifting as our first time. Your passion for story telling & your unique connection with the Camino made the trip truly worthwhile. Heartfelt thanks to Jose for preparing those delicious lunches and taking care of us. We all arrive on this walk with our shortcomings, but the road and those we encounter plus our traveling companions offer many gifts which we cherish long after we’ve moved on. So thank you for this Camino!
B & S, London, Ontario, CANADA (2nd time Travelers)
June 2017, Camino de Santiago
…a fulfilling experience that finds a place in your soul.
Making this incredible journey along the Camino with Nancy & Jose exceeded our expectations. They are such caring people who freely share their hearts & knowledge. The tour is hard to describe – it’s a fulfilling experience which finds a place in your soul.
John & Lucille, San Jose, CA, USA
October 2016, Compostela
Preparation and attention to detail, second to none...
Jose & Nancy – your preparation and attention to detail is second to none, your knowledge of the land, food & people is outstanding & you both clearly love and understand the history. This makes us want & yearn to come back again and again. The trip was a 10 out of 5 – we enjoyed everything & would have been happy to keep going as all our experiences were so enjoyable.
We can’t thank you and Jose enough for such an amazing week exploring Galicia - we had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed every moment with you both. We were talking in the early hours this morning about our walk with you and going through each day remembering what we did and how seamless the days and evenings flowed and how natural the experiences were- by that I mean we really felt immersed in the Galician way of life- eating, working, drinking, family and history. This rich holistic experience that we feel so blessed to have had is thanks to your (you and Jose) love of your Galicia and this was heightened by allowing us to meet the local producers, winemakers, shellfisherwomen, chefs, bee-keepers allowing them to tell their stories and this made it personal to us and we remember them more so for this very reason.
Janine & Craig, Hornsby, Sydney, Australia (2nd Time Travelers)
Sept 2016, Galicia: Food & Wine Journey
The bar is set very high
Given that this is the first trip of this kind that I have ever taken, I was not sure what to expect. Now I believe that the bar is set very high. It was an experience of a lifetime which I will always treasure. I had looked at other tours when on the waiting list for a later OFIS tour, and am very pleased with waiting for this one …There is no possibility that I would have experienced the Camino as well as I have with this group, Jose and Nancy.
Marc, Apex, North Carolina , USA
Compostela, October 2016
….your kindness, caring and love of the country and of people….
Our time in Spain with you two was life changing. You instilled a desire to travel and get to the heart of the country and the heart of the communities. ….Having said all this, where we started our adventures in Spain, remains one of the best places we have ever been. It was one of the best places because of you and Jose and your kindness, caring and love of the country and of people. We desire to return someday and experience it with you again….You really impacted our lives.
Chris & Dale, Iowa, USA
July 2013, Galicia: From Sea to Mountain (Writing in 2017 reminiscing about their trip in 2013)
I wasn’t expecting…the emotional experience….
I wasn’t expecting it to be the emotional experience that it turned out to be. I would heartily recommend it to anyone thinking of doing the Camino, it was a truly fantastic experience in so many ways. I want to commend you both on offering such a wonderful experience and I hope to do one of your others tours at some stage in the future.
Jen, Hurlstone Park, NSW, Australia
June 2017, Camino de Santiago
…places we could never find…people we would never meet [on our own]
This trip, while quite different from the Camino trips, was the best. You took us to places we could never find and introduced us to people we would never meet. The hiking was hard, but you believed we could do it and helped us to discover that despite any doubts we may have had, we could….As usual Jose your lunches were great. You seem to have a gift for inventing dishes from simple components that please everyone, even non-lettuce lovers…I know this group was quirky, but you both rose to the occasion and managed the group well. I appreciate your deep knowledge about and love of your country, its history and culture. You are able to impart your knowledge on a broad range of topics. …On this trip, I thought about how much effort and preparation you make to ensure the trip is successful…I could really see that we were always in good hands.
Mark, Vienna, Virginia, USA (3rd Time On Foot in Spain Traveler)
July 2016, Galicia Hiking: From Sea to Mountain
…a priceless experience..
Definitely a 5! [out of 5] what one gets from a trip like this is hard to quantify. The selection of hikes, villages, restaurants is something I could not have put together myself. Nancy and Jose share their love of this region and its people and history so generously. That makes for a priceless experience.
Alison, Sebastopol, California, USA
July 2016, Galicia Hiking: From Sea to Mountain tour
Fuera de lo común..
Estan haciendo un trabajo fuera de lo común. No creo que haya otra compañía que ni siquiera este cerca. Les recomendaré a todo quien me pregunte o planee un viaje a España o Portugal. Espero algún día volver a viajar con ustedes.
Sara, Miami, Florida, USA (2nd Time Traveler)
July 2016, Portuguese Camino
…your ability to look after everyone so easily…
I loved our cultural immersion & the bus readings, music and the towns’ history – felt like I was living in the era of all events (maybe lucky I wasn’t! )….The group dynamics work because of your ability to look after everyone so easily…We just loved our time with you all and it makes me so sad you are so far away.
MIchael, New Zealand
July 2016, Portuguese Camino
…your knowledge…passion, professionalism & genuineness!
Not only was it your knowledge but it was your passion, professionalism & genuineness that stood out! The picnics were superb!
Pam & Robert, Rockford, Barosa, Australia
July 2016, Portuguese Camino
…thank you….from the bottom of my heart..
I do want to thank you both from the bottom of my heart for your care, attention to detail and generosity of spirit. At times it all felt overwhelming & I still do not have words for that – only to say, thank you.
Sam, Braidswood, NSW, Australia
June 2017, Camino de Santiago
…all done seemingly without effort..
We were continuously impressed by the wealth of knowledge Nancy imparted to us every step of the way! …All was done seemingly without effort, and you both seemed so calm all the time, and patient, but with a great sense of professionalism. Jose, you’re the greatest! Loved the variety of local cheeses, breads, sweets, etc but the Salads! The best!... This was one of the best trips we’ve ever done! Apart from the camino, which was very special and very unique, our guides were of the finest quality! We learned so much and did so much. Thank you for introducing us to a very special region of Spain! We’d love to come back again! We rate the trip with a 5++++++!
Linda & Tom, Portland, Oregon, USA
Sept 2017, Camino de Santiago
…your love for Spain has inspired us..
We came for the walk but learnt so much more. The interpretations at all we saw has opened my eyes. Your love for Spain has inspired us. Much love,
Leonie & John, West Pennant Hills, NSW, Australia
Sept 2016, Camino de Santiago
The Camino revealed unexpected opportunities….
I knew I was coming to hike. I knew I was hiking with a friend facing challenges, but I underestimated how that would affect me; The Camino revealed unexpected opportunities and I am proud of my choices and the way I made the journey. I am grate to have had the company of my fellow pilgrims and you, Nancy and Jose.
Joan, Beaverton, Oregon, USA
September 2016, Camino de Santiago
Video of Nancy’s talk: The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age (Jan 2017, London)
By Nancy L. Frey
In January 2017, I gave the keynote address at the Confraternity of St James’ Annual General Meeting in London titled The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age. In the talk I briefly review some general changes I’ve noticed over the last 25 years and then present my research on the incorporation of new media technology into the Camino and how this has impacted being a pilgrim. The rise of the Internet is the single most important change in the Camino during this period and has dramatically impacted how people engage with the pilgrimage experience before, during and after the Camino is over.
The video is long. To help facilitate listening to the parts that are of most interest, I’ve broken down the video into segments and themes. Please let me know if you have any questions or observations.
0:00-1:00 - Intro to video
1:00-4:35 - Intro about talk and Nancy’s 25 years’ experience on Camino
4:35-5:30 - Nature of change on Camino
5:30-22:15 - General Changes on the Camino over the last 25 years
• 6:55 - Pilgrim’s Office and Statistics
• 7:45 - Numbers
• 8:27 - Sex
• 8:50 - Internationalization
• 10:11 - Mode of Travel
• 10:50 - Roads Traveled and Development of other routes
• 11:44 - Acquisition of the Compostela Certificate & Certificate of Distance
• 14:18 - Motivations and Expectations
• 16:33 - Infrastructure
• 17:50 - John, the Pilgrim Helper and Red tape
• 18:29 - Equipment
• 19:13 - Invasion of our Attentional Space
• 19:42 - Graffiti & Pokemon Go
• 21:08 - The Cathedral: Security, protecting patrimony and limited access
• 21:33 - What happened to the wild dogs?
22:15-23:38 - Changes related to Internet Age. Tech is a tool but not a neutral tool.
23:38-26:44 - Pilgrimage/Camino is a Rite of Passage with three stages: Prep, During, Return. “While the physical component has remained relatively the same, for most people the mental component has changed dramatically…” The Camino in the Cloud.
26:44 – 35:47 - Stage 1: Preparation for the Camino in the Internet Age. Anxiety is normal. Information overload, we overly complicate the Camino, developing pilgrim identity pre-Camino
• 33:12 - What to take and packing lists
35:52 – 1:02:15 - Stage 2: Being on the Camino
• 35:52 - Outcomes of preparation and spectrum of mobile tech usage
• 38:45 - Experience of time and place impacted, Incorporation of “Tech time”; bracketed time away disrupted, stay inside comfort zone
• 42:56 - Internet age pilgrims have new needs and new neediness; my sacred tech time; increase virtual connections and decrease face-to-face connections
• 47:10 - Impact on Camino community and social relations
• 49:53 - Relationship to Home; the importance of “missing” and “longing”; collaborative pilgrimages
• 53:48 - Digital Detox pilgrimages
• 56:25 - Shift in thinking and expectations about “what is the Camino?”; controlling the Camino and fear management; “not having a bed” anxiety; having a “Trip Advisor” Camino; dilution of the power of our experiences
• 1:00:30 - Tech industry encourages us to trust tech and not ourselves; WiFi App; Progressively outsourcing skills to phone and atrophying those abilities within ourselves.
1:02:15-1:05 - Reaching Santiago – transition point; experiences mediated by phones; losing trust in our memories; capturing moments vs contemplating moments
1:05-1:11 - Stage 3: The Return Home
1:11-1:14:59 - Conclusions
|Tour No.||Tour Name||Dates||Price||No. Days/Nights||Spaces Available
|Tour 1||Hiking Tenerife Island: Lava, Sea & Stars||15-21 Jan 2018||2325€||7||SOLD OUT!|
|Tour 2||Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago)||2-12 May 2018||3475€||11||SOLD OUT!|
|Tour 3||Camino de Santiago (Pamplona to Santiago)||6-16 June 2018||3475€||11||SOLD OUT!|
|Tour 4||Galicia: Hiking From Sea to Mountain||3-10 July 2018||1975€||8||3 Spaces Available|
|Tour 5||Galicia: Food & Wine Journey||3-9 Sept 2018||2625€||7||1 Space Available|
To book a tour, please click here.
Canadian photographer and blogger France Fehr joined us along the Camino de Santiago in June 2015. The Camino rarely fails to inspire the artistic eye and France was no exception. We are very happy to be able to share one of her entries from her blog FUN & LIFE. Enjoying life to the max. France blogged extensively about her 11 day Camino trip with us and this last entry "Camino in photography" captures well the whole journey.
Camino in photography.
Today, I will not post about Barcelona yet but I will share some photos taken on the Camino. (June 2015)
We were lucky to have Nancy and Jose as guides for this great adventure.
On Foot in Spain is the link if you ever are up to do a walking/hiking educational journey in Spain or Portugal. You would be having a good time .
Now , the photos with little description! But if you want to read and see more on our adventure with On Foot in Spain, I have written 11 more texts ( you can find them on this blog). It was a real pleasure to write our story and to share it here.
The shell, is the symbol on the Camino. We all received a shell to wear around our neck or put on our bag or just to bring home as a memory.
St-James. The history of the Camino de Santiago goes back at the beginning of the 9th century (year 814) moment of the discovery of the tomb of the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula. Since this discovery, Santiago de Compostela becomes a peregrination point of the entire European continent.
Pamplona is the first city where we met with our group. I really liked that city . We had time to walk and get a feel of the place. It has a nice square where people come and sit on benches and visit. Pamplona is very famous for the run of the bulls.
Alto del pardon. monument to the Pilgrim. A 14 iron figures of natural size.
This man had set up a table with little crafts and food. He is only asking for donation.
Our friend, David, took a photo of me at the Sta Maria La Real Monastery in Najera. David and I got along because he was taking as many photos as me.
Sometimes, my husband also took photos of me! Thanks, Stephen.
Food never tastes so delicious when you have walked a few km.
Walking “la meseta” on a beautiful day.
A snack … Little Bee is never too far .
Part of our group listening to Nancy while she explains history of the San Zoilo Monastery in Carrion de Los Condes . They were all happy to be sitting after 20 km walk.
Sam with the rock I brought with me. As I didn’t want to leave it at the “Cruz de Ferro”, I gave it to him as a souvenir. It was a rock I painted a few years ago.
Rainy day on the Camino…
Always a place to stop for coffee if we want to.
Cyclists on the Camino
David is taking photos … and I take a photo of him!
Nancy , our guide . With Jose , they have been leading those adventure for 17 years. The best guides for this experience. Great people with so much knowledge to share.
A monk at the Monastery in Samos.
Jose is mixing the salad for our picnic.
Some animals we saw while we were on the Camino…
On our last picnic, we enjoyed some cider !
Thanks to Saint-James, we had this wonderful walking experience.
and thanks to Nancy and Jose, this trip was a success.
Thanks for reading ! my next post will be about Barcelona. A unique experience. Maybe it will inspire you to do it.
There are some people you never forget! Virginia and George Havens traveled with us 12 years ago in May 2003 along the Camino de Santiago. They formed part of a special group that came together as strangers and ended up sharing many wonderful moments and developing friendships that still endure today. I have a photo of that memorable group taken at the Camino’s literal high point – la Cruz de Ferro (the Iron Cross). Looking at each face brings back a flood of memories. Some of them went on to travel with us two or even three times. Others we have kept in touch with via email and holiday cards.
One such special couple is Virginia and George. At the time they were a spry 78 and 79 and they are still going strong! Jose and I fondly remember how beautiful Ginnie was always lovingly cared for by George. Ginnie’s a birder and I can still remember hearing about her work with birds and building birdhouses. As we walked she’d point out birds I couldn’t even see. Many times over the years I have wished she were along on other walks to keep teaching me! On that trip we also discovered that Ginnie and I and another woman on the trip, Nancy Grandfield, are all Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters. That was a great coincidence! At the end of walk, during our final dinner at the Parador in Santiago de Compostela, George got up, ordered champagne for the group and gave a very special and meaningful toast! What a couple!
Over the years we have kept in touch and George sent me an email telling me about Ginnie’s continuing education through Case Western Reserve University. He wrote:
Her latest [class] was Sports History which required writing a short paper on an object related to some athletic activity (baseball bat, football, etc.). Ginnie chose her scallop shell and we thought you would enjoy seeing her report to which she attached a copy of the Camino certificate that you gave us.
We did enjoy seeing her report and asked if we could have permission to publish it here with a photo of Ginnie. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did! We greatly enjoy seeing how the Camino continues to evolve in people’s lives and can inspire projects such as these 12 years later! Buen Camino, Ginnie and George!
The Scallop Shell
By Virginia C. Havens
The symbol that evokes memories of achievement, endurance and adventure is the white scallop shell hanging on a cord at my desk. This type of shell was first worn on the hat of St. James, patron warrior saint of Spain, and today it signifies a completed pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Santiago across Spain.
First, a brief history of St. James, a disciple of Jesus, and this 500-mile trek to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. James came to Spain shortly after the crucifixion to spread Christianity. On returning to Jerusalem, he was beheaded by Herod and his body sent in a casket by the other disciples back to Spain for burial. After some 800 years, the burial spot was forgotten and unknown, but on a certain night the field was illuminated by the stars and with this guidance the burial casket of St. James was unearthed and discovered. This startling discovery resulted in a sacred pilgrimage to this holy site that drew pilgrims from all over Europe.
The Camino starts in eastern Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains that separate France and Spain. It descends through Roncesvalles (a historic location where Charlemagne once fought the infidel Moors) then on to Pamplona. Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Bierzo, Arzua to Santiago to be blessed in the great cathedral there. In the middle ages, pilgrims walked the 500 miles across Spain seeking redemption and a spiritual encounter with St. James, and receiving forgiveness for their sins. This walk along this ancient road became a venerated tradition and Santiago became a popular pilgrimage destination. Last year over a million individuals were reported to have traversed the Camino and then received the scallop shell to reward and verify their experience.
In my years of reading I would come across references to this famous “road” and I would think “Oh the experience of walking it...walking, thinking a and meditating” with all of Spain stretching out before me, all open, no restrictions, no time table...just me and the world.
In 2003 my husband and I decided to tackle the Camino, at least a part of it. We would do 100 miles in 12 days in an arrangement that extended across the entire road, but avoided the less interesting parts. It was for me a magnificent experience and the shell recreates memories of golden wheat fields filled with red poppies, impressive ancient buildings, bridges and churches, warm and kind mountain people, owls and great beech trees and exotic foods. And then the memory of walking 8 to 10 miles each day on weary, weary feet, then the last demanding push for 12 miles up an almost unending mountainside on a never-to-be-forgotten day.
What are the lasting, indelible effects of such an experience? First of all, I am always aware of having the gumption to do such a trek at a senior age. Then having the courage to cross the ocean, plant my feet on strange soil and move out on a 100-mile effort, and accomplish it. It was a singular decision in my life – that produced a bold, unique and highly satisfying experience that confirmed my commitment to an adventurous life. It reinforced my love and appreciation for Spain. It left me with regrets that we were not able to do the tough trek to the Everest base camp at 18,000 feet in Nepal (which we had planned) and on to the Antarctic in the footsteps of Shackleton.
"Aside from marrying my husband and having my son, this was the greatest thing I have ever done. Everything I hoped for, and more, happened. Please know to what a great extent you enhanced my life…"
Cynthia, Portland, Oregon, USA,
Camino de Santiago, 2003
I have done so much raving on to people about how wonderful On Foot in Spain & particularly Nancy & Jose were, that they should never need to advertise. It was all such a special experience as evidenced by our reaction as we walked into the Santiago Square – still gives me goosebumps….Nancy & Jose – you are absolute legends….”.
Bron & Michael, Vermont, VIC, Australia
May 2017, Camino de Santiago
Sam, Jose and Nancy on Portugal tour by client B. Cameron
WHO WE ARE: YOUR OWNER-GUIDES - NANCY & JOSE
Receiving feedback like the above testimonials, written 14 years apart, fills us (Nancy & Jose) with a tremendous sense of fulfillment. Our primary goal on our trips is to help facilitate the engagement of our travelers with something meaningful within themselves or the rich landscapes and experiences within which they are immersed. Being a part of someone’s potentially transformative experience is a great honor and privilege. Jose and I both have a great passion for and knowledge of Spain, where we live (Galicia), the Camino de Santiago and it is a pleasure to share this with those who accompany us.
Both Nancy and Jose have always held both walking and learning close to their hearts. Their paths crossed while Nancy was conducting her doctoral dissertation research on the Camino de Santiago in the hamlet of Roncesvalles (Navarre) and Jose was just beginning a 450-mile/780KM walk across Spain. Their paths rejoined a month later in Santiago de Compostela and since then have not diverged.
Together they co-authored the chapters on Galicia, Cordillera Cantabrica (Picos de Europa) and the Camino de Santiago for Lonely Planet’s Walking in Spain (1999 and 2003 and Hiking in Spain, 2010) and co-authored Lonely Planet's 1st edition of Walking in Scotland (2001). Nancy and Jose started On Foot In Spain Walking & Hiking Educational Adventures in 1999. They have three children, Jacob (2 Feb 1999) Marina (05 Dec 2003) and Sam (27 Nov 2006), and live on the Galician coast.
Nancy L. Frey, PhD
Nancy on top of Mt. Dana, Yosemite circa 1978
Nancy’s love of hiking grew from annual summer trips to Yosemite led by a Dad who always knew the name of every tree and who reveled in leading his children to inspirational points. Thus it wasn’t too surprising that when she selected her subject material for her doctoral dissertation in cultural anthropology (UC Berkeley) one very attractive element of it was the prospect of traversing the north of Spain on foot.
Since her first walk in 1993, Nancy has walked the Camino de Santiago numerous times and cycled it as well. In her book on the modern day journey, Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago (UC Press, 1998), Nancy brings to life the contemporary way by discussing pilgrims' motivations, mishaps and discoveries while walking as well as providing insights into why the route is so popular today.
In the late 1990s Nancy lectured for ElderHostel and the Smithsonian Institution on their educational tours in Spain, Portugal and France. She also taught a course on the Camino de Santiago at the University of Santiago. Nancy is currently researching the impact of the internet and mobile technologies on the pilgrimage experience and on being a pilgrim. Her website Walking to Presence is dedicated to sharing her research and insights on pilgrimage in the Internet Age and to helping travelers to reflectively engage more fully with their travel experiences.
One of Nancy’s favorite roles on tour is bringing to life the history and culture of the places we visit through a wide range of stories and consistently receives very positive feedback for how she conveys her knowledge. To learn more about this facet of the On Foot experience, read The Story Teller. In this photo, taken by client F. Fehr, Nancy has just told the group about the history of the special mountain village O Cebreiro and explained how and why the yellow arrows were invented.
In her free time she enjoys reading, swimming, kayaking, tending her flower garden and her hens as well as cooking savory pies and tarts.
Jose Daniel Placer
A native of Santiago de Compostela, Jose received his law degree from the University of Santiago and then made a 180 degree turn away from being a lawyer and back to his real passion: children and the outdoors. He has taught outdoor education and coached soccer, basketball and volleyball. He runs the children’s theater program for the local school where he writes and directs the plays.
With Europe as his backyard, Jose has hiked extensively both within and beyond Spain since he was a teenager. Despite having enjoyed the Italian Dolomites, and hiking in the Alps while studying law at the University of Passau in Germany, his favorite stomping ground continues to be Spain’s Picos de Europa.
Jose’s picnics have received tremendous praise over the years. When not on tour Jose lovingly tends his fruit orchard and garden and enjoys experimenting with new recipes from our own harvest.
Jose especially enjoys writing short stories, carpentry, restoring furniture, working his garden, kayaking and mountain biking.
ON FOOT PHILOSOPHY
Each time we set out on a trail we go with the idea that to walk is to learn. Slowing down to the rhythm of your feet inevitably brings more to your immediate attention and consequently allows for greater speculation and wonder. We abide and live by the slow travel, slow experience movement as an enriching way to experience a new culture.
On our journeys into northern Spain’s exceptionally beautiful back roads we want to give you the opportunity to challenge yourself physically (without overdoing) and at the same time pique your curiosity by pointing out the not so obvious as well as providing insights into the wonders of the everyday. In this photo, taken by traveler J. Laskall, she captured Jose demonstrating the usage of the Spanish botijo, glass wine holder, traditionally used by field workers.
Art, architecture, anthropology, folklore, history, Spanish fiestas, cuisine - we interlace them all into each day of your tour. Our carefully designed walks, combining charming accommodations in rural inns, monasteries, and hotels with the finest in local cuisine, will immerse you in the riches of northern Spain’s cultural life and landscapes.
ON FOOT FAMILY
After nearly 20 years of running On Foot in Spain, our family has grown up with the business. Nancy wrote a four-part series highlighting the challenges and joys of having their family grow up with On Foot in Spain as a constant presence. Over the years we have developed very special friendships with travelers from around the world who have joined us on 3, 4, 5 and even 6 trips! We feel very blessed indeed to have created a huge network of the On Foot Family around the world. Thank you to all of you who have made it possible. Please see our group photo gallery to enjoy the experiences of our some our 1500 clients on 160 tours in the last 18 seasons.
To read about the On Foot Family story, please read here.
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…the helping hands when the going got tough…
Such a special time! … The sights, the sounds; the misty morning light and starry sky at night at Axpe; the picnics, and idyllic settings; the going up and the going down of the trails; the enchanting forests and the panoramic rural and coastal views; the history, the myths, the saints, the culture and even the jokes!; the storytelling, the card games and the camaraderie of the group; and the helping hands when the going got tough. And so much more!
Lesley, Melbourne, Australia (4th time On Foot in Spain traveler!)
Sept 2014, Basque Country
this Pilgrim’s journey was deeper, fuller and richer from the gift of On Foot in Spain
I will write something down the road on Facebook or the website for On Foot in Spain because I want others to know the gift of this journey from Nancy’s & Jose’s incredible knowledge shared about the special places on the Camino and the hikes designed to bring the Camino alive for each of us. Who could forget the wonderful picnic lunches each day unique to each region we traveled through (how I missed the picnic the day after I left you). All in all this Pilgrim’s journey was deeper, fuller and richer from the gift of On Foot in Spain and the love and commitment of Nancy and Jose to the El Camino de Santiago and to each of us on our pilgrimages shared.
Pat, Shingle Springs, California, USA
Sept 2014, Camino de Santiago
the group’s collective experience was enriched by the expert facilitation…
Nancy and Jose possess this wonderful talent of bringing people together in their trademark and subtle and gentle way. Meeting and getting to know this fantastic group of people was one of the many highlights of the walk. I am convinced that the group’s collective experience was enriched by the expert facilitation of Nancy, Jose and Sam. Thank you for making this such a fantastic experience …and for your skill and thoughtfulness.
Lisa, Sparta, Michigan, USA
Sept 2014, Basque Country
the warmth and friendship of your wonderful family
We not only survived your well planned walk through the beautiful Basque country but also really enjoyed every minute of it.
What did we enjoy the most? The trails were wonderful, the accommodation in the comfort bracket and sometimes really interesting, the universally proclaimed lunches, (carted and prepared by Jose,) the history and culture of this amazing Basque country and its friendly people and its special food and wine (especially Pinchos) the unforgettable lunch at Etxebarri and even your jokes all bring back great memories. However it was the warmth and friendship of your wonderful family and the amazing camaraderie of an eclectic walking group that stood out.
Suffice to say we had a wonderful time!
Barry & Maureen, Melbourne, Australia
Sept 2014, Basque Country
It was magical.
What a beautiful note, Nancy. It sums up well the tremendous experience of sharing the Camino with this very special group of people.
We all have much to look back on. You provided us with a marvellous, varied, and rich experience. Even without the small miracle of a highly compatible group of merry folk, it would have been a wonderful trip. WITH them -- and you and Jose -- it was magical.
Dale, Toronto, Canada
May 2014, Camino de Santiago Tour
Your love for this magical walk shows in everything you do...
I can’t thank you both enough for the wonderful time you gave me in showing me your Camino. Your love for this magical walk certainly shows in everything you do, and it is something that I will always remember and draw strength from.
Maureen, Sydney, Australia
June 2014, Camino de Santiago
Taken to the next level!
There's a saying in San Diego: "You can't have a bad day at the beach!" I would suggest that you can't have a bad Camino. I believe that anyone who travels the Camino will be positively changed either physically, mentally and/or spiritually.
However, if you are able to travel the Camino with Nancy and Jose that experience will be taken to the next level. You will come away with a much deeper understanding of what the Camino is truly all about. Nancy and Jose LIVE the Camino. It is their life's passion to instill in each of us their love of the unique history, the beauty of the natural surroundings, the fabulous foods, the vintage wines, the authentic culture and the genuine people who make up the Camino.
I have been taken to the next level, and would highly recommend this journey to you.
Joan, San Diego, CA , USA
Compostela, April 2014
You brought the best out in everybody and allowed us to be ourselves.
The tour had many dimensions for me – not in any order. Weather was fabulous, loved all the local wines and food. The variation of accomodationn. It was phyiscal, it had spirituality and history, we had a great group, it was fun ,relaxed and organised without being too structured_- congratulations to you both, you brought the best out in everybody and allowed us to be ourselves.
Jillian, Queensland, Australia
May 2014, Camino de Santiago
….warmth, kindness and generosity of spirit….
On a personal note, thank you for guiding us through this remarkable journey. It was a privilege for us to have you accompany us and share in your warmth, kindness and generosity of spirit along the Camino.
S & B, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
June 2014, Camino de Santiago
There are not enough thanks in the world!!!
Even after being home for only two weeks I am still processing the entire experience. It was more spiritual than I had expected, and I can see some potential long-term effects in how I view "Life" and my place in it. How wonderful that you are conduits for providing such experiences! Northern Spain was even more breathtaking than I had expected; the scenery, food, and most of all people! We had an exceptional group (your best, remember?) led by two dynamic and passionate human beings. There are not enough thanks in the world!!!
Colleen, Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA
Sept 2014, Camino de Santiago Tour
Set the bar very high….
Nancy, we are reminiscing of our happy holiday with you ALL the time. You have set the bar very high for any future tour guides. It was the best.
Mary-Anne and David, South Australia, Australia
May 2014, Camino de Santiago Tour
In December 2013 the BBC aired a three part pilgrimage documentary with adventure traveler and writer Simon Reeve as the presenter. I was consulted by the BBC for their film preparation as an expert on the Camino de Santiago and then interviewed by Simon Reeve in Santiago de Compostela in June 2013. A small part of that interview appears in Episode 2 of Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve in which Simon covers pilgrimage in northern France, along the Camino de Santiago, and then, finally, in Rome. In this clip from Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, Episode 2, I answer Simon’s questions about Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrimage city, about Santiago or St James as a multi-faceted figure (Apostle, Pilgrim and Warrior) and about the sticky issue of whether or not the bones of the Apostle James are really in Santiago de Compostela or not.
For more information about the full episode, please see the BBC website. This segment in which Nancy Frey appears with Simon Reeve is reproduced with permission from the BBC.
Here is the direct link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01kqjg3/episodes/guide.