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 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 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 (8), Marina (3)and Sam (born 11/27/06), and live on the Galician coast.
Nancy L. Frey, PhD
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.
Nancy has also lectured for ElderHostel and Smithsonian Institution on their educational tours in Spain, Portugal and France. She has also taught a course on the Camino de Santiago at the University of Santiago and is currently researching the relationship between landscape and experience.
In her free time she enjoys reading, swimming, SCUBA diving, kayaking, tending her flower garden and 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 lawyering and back to his real passion: children and the outdoors.
He has taught outdoor education and coaches soccer, basketball and volleyball.
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 especially enjoys writing short stories, carpentry, restoring furniture, working his garden, kayaking and mountain biking.
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.
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.
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 culture life and landscapes.
Photo credit: Katherine Peake
The diversity of cultures that has formed part of Spain’s history, the great range of climates and the varied geography of the country have all contributed to make Spanish cuisine a splendid combination of its forbears. Spaniards passionately love their cuisine and take eating very seriously. At On Foot in Spain we also take food seriously and we delight in stimulating your palate with the best that Spain has to offer. We will introduce you to each region’s specialties and wines during both our roadside picnic lunches and in the evening in the finest local restaurants. Here is some of what you have to look forward to and its historical archaeology.
Olive oil, the fundamental essence forming the base of many dishes, came from the Romans as did several forms of cooking: roasting, grilling and the use of the brick oven.
Visigothic influence from northern Europe in the 4th century AD added an emphasis on livestock and shepherding and consequently the development of hundreds of types of cheese from pungent blues, to creamy cow’s milk rounds, and sharp, hard sheep’s milk varieties. The fame of Spain’s hams, the result of acorn feeding, come from this era as did the vegetables artichokes, spinach, and turnips.
Despite 700 years of Moorish residence of Andalucia, the imprint left on Spanish cuisine tends to be more savory and subtle than immediately apparent. You’ll find shades of flavor in the spices: saffron, cinnamon, cumin, anise, caraway, cilantro and mint; the plants: citrus, rice, eggplant, and sugar cane; and in types of dishes: vegetable and meat stews, vegetables stuffed with ground meat and the use of poultry, rice and frying.
The discovery of America wrought great change in the Spanish kitchen as the new and exotic products (tomatoes, peppers, cocoa, corn, and potatoes) were slowly incorporated. Rather than use peppers to create hot and spicy food (which you won’t find in Spain), ground sweet red pepper - pimentón - became an essential ingredient in sausages and as a frequent condiment for stews. We have to thank 16thC Spanish monks in Mexico for the invention of chocolate when they added sugar to cocoa. The Spanish queen Maria Teresa introduced it to Europe.
As is customary in other parts of the Mediterranean the largest meal of the day is at midday (usually between 2-3) and consists of a first and second course (usually a vegetable then a meat dish) served with wine, dessert and then coffee. Dinners are late; not usually beginning before 10pm in most households. On our tours we make an effort to create a compromise between American and Spanish customs with rich, wholesome but not heavy lunches and dinners arranged well before the Spanish hour.
After the day’s walk and the evening meal slumber will happily come in the accommodations we’ve selected for each of our stops.
Depending on the tour, you’ll stay in either out of the way monasteries, charming rural guest houses (often restored stone farmhouses), luxurious paradors and/or hotels located in the heart of the city center.
All rooms have bathrooms.