IMG_0377Carlos is an affable man, friendly but discreet, strong, quiet ; he could be said to have something Mediterranean about him. And this is no wonder since Quiroga, his homeland, is famous for its wines and, you know, there is nothing more Mediterranean than wine.

Anthony is more highly strung, moving centered some would say. He could be an athlete but is too outgoing for such a solitary experience, he would be better suited as the coach of a basketball team, someone capable of coordinating a group in motion .

The two meet in Santiago de Compostela, in one of the countless cafes that the locals call ‘Compostela of a lifetime’, with its bare stone walls: stones of Santiago.

IMG_0368Anthony asks questions because he is new to all this. He has experience in organizing tours, big tours with a great many people, in agencies like the one his father owned in the United States, and he has also been a pilgrim and a teacher … However, now he wants to participate in a new venture: the organization of tours on the Camino that his company, The Way Services, is going to organize with Charles. Anthony wants to know more about the new projects, especially since he plans on participating in many of them.

Carlos makes it clear from the outset that in these tours there is no formula, they are never the same, there is always flexibility because in many ways they are made to measure. They are designed for people who want to have an experience in which their safety and comfort are guaranteed, where there is someone thinking and taking care of all the details for them. That’s what he has been offering for several years and what The Way Services is now beginning to offer with his help.

Anthony is interested in the experience of small groups, by the fact that Carlos is reluctant to arrange tours for more than 8 people, in some cases they may work for 10 or 12 people, especially when they already know each other, but never more than that.

Carlos’s answer iIMG_0390s clear: It is not possible to give what I want to a large a number of people! Our tours are for small groups because it allows great flexibility. A group of 8 to 10 people is a number that enables its members to enjoy the intimacy of friendship or the possibility of making friends and there is even the possibility of family intimacy if the members decide to travel together as a group. But, above all, this small number ensures there is certain peace and quiet, thus giving everyone the opportunity of deciding when they want to be with others and to be alone. Each one of us has moments of reflection, time to be alone and be quiet, but there are other times when you need to communicate and have fun with others. This is something we understand and respect. ‘Anthony,’ Carlos adds,’ surely you know this because you’ve been a pilgrim too.’

Anthony agrees with Carlos and tells him that now he is beginning to understand why he always chooses to take the pilgrims to sleep in country cottages, rather than hotels or hostels. Hotels respect privacy but make provision for socializing, while hostels facilitate socialization but there is no privacy. Whereas the country cottages, he says, are more like a home- generally larger and more traditional than your own home- but nonetheless a house with private rooms and common rooms… Carlos, is that not so?

IMG_0369That’s it, exactly,’ replies Carlos.’ Some days in May or October, we have found houses with a fire already lit in the grate and there the tour members just decided how best to enjoy it. There was everything!, there were some nights when people told stories about their experiences on the Way or things about their own lives, with a good bottle of wine. At other times the atmosphere was quieter, while you sat and read, a couple chatted and sipped whiskey, while others wrote postcards to their friends by the fire … And, of course, anyone who wants can retire to his room and enjoy the silence of a country night .

Anthony cannot resist commenting on what is obvious to all of us who are familiar with Galician rural tourism : you eat well! And the cottages are perfect places to enjoy home cooking!

Yes, so we often organize dinners in almost all the houses. Or again we leave meals open. Obviously here too we are flexible … When you join our tours you are free at any time to ask us to reserve or organize whatever you need, also to eat where and when you want, throughout your journey on the Way. … Sometimes there is need to organize anything because I provide snacks and fruit and anything you need to drink.

There are also many free evenings … right? And something new that I like about this offer is the visit to Lugo, a beautiful town with a Roman wall around it which was recently declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and allows the group to see a little of what Spanish provincial life is , and also go shopping. … Anthony has no doubts about this option- … because one of the advantages of traveling with a back- up car is that shopping is permitted.

Carlos nods and smiles, yeah, they can always buy what they want or need, it certainly is a shame not to take anything and we can help them in both Lugo and Compostela -tell them where to find what they want and, when they need it, explain our craftwork, gastronomy etc …

Carlos, what satisfies you most about this experience?

I get personal satisfaction when, after so many years, I still get requests every year from people who have travelled with me before or from their friends or family who want an equally good experience. I think that what I do, I do well – because it’s a job I like.

This post is also available in: Spanish