Carlos was already a pilgrim before 2020. With the help of his father-in-law – who always had the dream of making the journey to Santiago de Compostela – he set off on his bike in 2009. Eleven years later, he repeated the journey twice more, but not alone. With him was his wife, Isabelle, and their children, Yaël and Sam.
Find out more about this family, their experience to the capital of Galicia and what it’s like to prepare the Way with two children.
Why did you decide to make the journey with your family?
Carlos: I had already done the French Way to Santiago in 2009 on a bicycle. At the time, my father-in-law, very enthusiasticly, helped me with the preparations of my equipment. He always dreamed of doing the pilgrimage to Compostela, but never found the time to realize his dream. Being a farmer, he worked every day of the week and practically every week of the year. When he retired, his health deteriorated and he eventually passed away in 2017.
My father-in-law was very close to his grandchildren and had a special bond with my sons, Yaël and Sam, who miss their grandfather very much to this day.
In 2020, we were coming out of a long period of quaratine due to the pandemic, and I decided that we would do something different during the summer vacations. I told them about their grandfather’s dream of walking the Way to Santiago, explained the context of the pilgrimage, and proposed that we make the trek to Compostela as a family in memory of their grandfather. They accepted the idea with great enthusiasm.
In early August 2020, myself, my wife Isabelle, and my children, Yaël (then 6 years old), and Sam (then 3 years old) left for Porto and started the Portuguese Way of the Coast to Santiago de Compostela on foot. My children liked the experience so much that they asked to repeat the pilgrimage the following year (2021). The second year we did the Portuguese Way of the Coast again but this time with the spiritual variant.
How did you and your family prepare for the hike?
Carlos:My kids like to hike through forests and collect trash in a big plastic bag “to help save the planet”. We intensified the length of these walks and also took long bike rides, even though we knew we would be going on foot, to get them used to staying active for long periods.
You did the path with two children, did you try to do something to make the path more comfortable?
Carlos: We were a bit afraid that the children would feel physically exhausted between two stages and we would have to carry them in our arms (plus the weight of the backpacks on our backs …). To solve this problem, I got a special sports stroller that comfortably accommodated both of us in moments of fatigue. My wife and I took turns carrying the stroller.
The following year  they no longer fit in the cart and we had to take two carts to be able to complete the journey.
In how many days did you complete the stages? And what were the stages?
Carlos: In 2020 we did 16 stages: Porto, Vila Chã, Póvoa do Varzim, Esposende, Anha, Viana do Castelo, Seixas, Vila Nova de Cerveira, Valença, Porriño, Redondela, Pontevedra, Caldas de Rei, Padrón, A Picaraña and Santiago de Compostela.
In 2021 we did it in 18 stages: Porto, Vila Chã, Póvoa do Varzim, Esposende, Anha, Carreço, Vila Praia de Âncora, Seixas, Vila Nova de Cerveira, Valença, Porriño, Redondela, Pontevedra, Armenteira, Vilanova de Arousa, Padrón, A Picaraña and Santiago de Compostela.
What was the most family-friendly hostel you stayed in?
Carlos: It’s important to remember that in the two years that we did the Way, most of the public hostels were closed. We stayed in private hostels and in hotels.
The structure of the local accommodations is excellent all along the Coastal Way, but some hostels were very special because of the kindness of the people: Casa da Carolina in Anha, Casa do Sardão in Carreço and Albergue São Bento in Seixas.
Which course did you enjoy the most?
Carlos:In 2020 we really liked the route between Esposende and Anha, especially the region of the Neiva River. By 2021 we were surprised by the beauty of the spiritual variant, highlighting here the “Ruta da Pedra e da Auga.
What surprised you the most on the journey?
Carlos: Besides all the beautiful scenery, the beautiful villages, towns and cities we passed through, we were also surprised by the kindness of the locals towards the children. In several places people offered fruit, water and sweets to the children and many wanted to talk to them (who don’t speak Portuguese but could understand each other there with gestures and mimicking)
And was there a more difficult moment? Why?
Carlos: The two times we walked the Way with the kids, we always followed the yellow arrows without deviating from the more difficult terrain, so we had to carry the cart several times, some of them with great difficulty, such as on the “Ruta da Pedra e da Auga”.
There was an especially difficult moment in 2020 when we arrived at the Neiva river bridge and found that it had collapsed days before. The option would be to cross the river on foot or walk 5 kilometers more to cross it. We opted for the wettest and coldest solution: we crossed the Neiva river several times with the children in our arms and, finally, we crossed with the stroller, carrying it above our heads so as not to get it wet.
What was the best meal along the way?
Carlos:Like every Brazilian, I really like rice and beans and couldn’t find that option in any restaurant. Finally in Seixas, the person in charge of the hostel called a local restaurant, Restaurante São Bento, and the owner prepared a huge pan of beans just for us, since it was not on the menu. It was the best rice and beans we ever had in our lives.
Who did you meet on the journey that you’ll never forget?
Carlos: We met very dear people both times we walked the Way as a family, but we had a very special affection for the Maciel family who have the hostel “A Casa de Carolina” in Anha and the very kind Dona Cândida, manager of the Albergue São Bento in Seixas. When we did the Way for the second time, my children “demanded” to stay in these two hostels to see these wonderful people again
What should a pilgrim traveling with two children pack?
Carlos: Materially speaking, nothing special. The infrastructure of the Way has everything we might need.
If you could only give one tip to people who are thinking about making the path, what would it be?
Carlos: Don’t postpone your plans, don’t wait for the ideal moment. If you want to do the Way, do it now.
What was the reaction the first time you arrived in Santiago de Compostela?
Carlos: It was a very emotional family moment. The children were amazed to see the Cathedral for the first time. We gave them a strong hug and cried. Afterwards, the little ones went to deposit their grandfather’s photo in front of the apostle’s tomb and delighted in the feeling of “mission accomplished” that hit us all.