Two weeks ago, one of the authors of the brand new guide book A Village to Village Guide to Hiking the Camino de Santiago announced on a forum that the book was hot off the presses. I immediately ordered it, and waited (and waited!) for Amazon to get it in stock and send it to me before we left. I got lucky and it arrived with two days to spare, so I’ve had a chance to look it over and do a quick comparison against the current standard most people seem to be using, John Brierley’s A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago.
First impression: it’s beautiful! Stunning photos, great maps, and directions that make sense. I especially like the detailed list of albergues in each town, complete with prices and icons showing their amenities. There’s a sample chapter available on their web site, so you can get a good feel for what a typical stage looks like.
The distances between places are different than in the Brierley book. This book resets the distance to zero at the beginning of each stage, and then shows the cumulative distance until the end of the stage. 0.0, 3.2, 6.8, 12.0, 18.5, etc. Whereas Brierley shows the distance from place to place and not the cumulative distance. 0.0, 3.3, 1.5, 2.7, etc. I like this book’s way better, at least if your stages mostly line up with the book’s. If you end up staying at a town that’s not at the beginning of a stage though, your numbers will be off a bit the next day.
This book is 2.8 cubic inches (46 cu cm) larger and 3.4 ounces (96 g) heavier than Brierley’s. They’ve really taken advantage of the extra space though, and the general tone of the writing is much more relaxed, and less terse. It also does a good job of pointing out important historical points of interest, as well as things to watch out for (like the lack of water between Valcarlos and Roncesvalles). I carefully compared the directions for the multiple paths leading into Burgos, and both books cover all the details about equally well — I feel certain I could find my way with either one. But there’s no question that I prefer the tone of this one.
We leave tomorrow for Paris, and we’ve decided to take this book as our only guide book. We’re only doing the first 11 days from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, but it should give us a pretty good sense of what it’s like relying on it.