Egeria House 2021.1

Like many other pilgrims I had planned to walk a Camino during these days. I wanted to start in Roncesvalles and reach Santiago on 24th July 2021, for the vigil of the feast of Saint James. My first Camino was in 1999, also a Holy Year, but as I walked it in winter I never experienced the ‘craziness’ of a such a year. So, I have always said: I have experienced a Holy Year (2004) as a hospitalera, now I want to experience it as a pilgrim, before I am too old to sleep on the floor! So, why I am still here in Santiago? As it’s a while since I wrote the last blog post, here some random updates and tentative lookouts in the future.

These statues mark the spot from where pilgrims can see the spires of the Cathedral for the first time. Monte de Gozo – The Mountain of Joy.

Covid, the Caminos and Spain

Good news first: Vaccination seems to work very well and prevents serious illness and death in most people, even with the Delta variant being now firmly established here in Spain.

Unfortunately there is also a bit of bad news, it doesn’t seem to protect 100% and that means that people that are vaccinated can be also asymptomatic carriers and continue to spread the virus. Also, case numbers are the highest among unvaccinated young people and teenagers, those who, sadly, seem not be willing, a lot of the time, to adhere to the guidelines. But whilst case numbers are rising steeply across all of Spain, hospitalisation and death rates are increasing only very slowly but sadly steadily.

You can follow the statistics for Spain here:

And if you can read Spanish, or use a translator app or similar, Quincemil has the best coverage of the Covid situation here in Galicia:

For entry requirements to Spain, Portugal and France, please follow Marion’s blog here: She updates it at least once a week, usually on Sundays, and her information is always spot on and backed up by official sources.

Also, follow the guidelines of your home country regarding travel to/from and check if your airline or similar has any additional requirements like a negative test and the like.

For EU residents, plus those of a few other countries, the EU Digital COVID Certificate is now active, more information here:

As for the Caminos, all of them are open, there are no movement restrictions at the moment that affect pilgrims and they arrive each day here in Santiago (see

Not all albergues are open and those that are, operate at reduced capacity, 30-75% depending on their layout and local/regional guidelines.

So, yes, walking or biking a Camino is perfectly possible BUT it is recommended:

To bring your own sleeping bag as pretty much all albergues have put away their blankets. It’s simply too expensive for them to wash them after each pilgrim.

To reserve a bed. Even most of the albergues that operated in the past on a ‘first come, first served’ base, allow now reservations.

Note: Xunta albergues here in Galicia have just done away with this and are back to the ‘no reservation possible’ system.

On the more frequented Caminos I would recommend to reserve 1-2 days ahead, on the ones with less infrastructure, more planning is necessary to avoid too long stages.

If your next travel destination requires you to have a negative test, you need to book them well in advance and also ask them how long it will take to have the result. Sergas, the Galician health authority, maintains a list of laboratories here: plus the tourist office here in Santiago has also a current list.

I know now of several pilgrims that struggled to get their test in time to be allowed to board their flight home, so book your appointment early and make sure you book the right test with the correct time frame for your home country/next destination! Additionally to the list mentioned above, you can also try

Face Masks

The guidelines here in Spain have been relaxed and are now:

Indoors – Face masks have to be worn at all times, except when eating, drinking or sleeping or if you are in a space like a dormitory or hotel room where only members of the same household are present, for example if a family group of pilgrims has a dormitory all for themselves.

Outdoors – Face masks don’t have to be worn anymore IF you can keep a social distance of at least 1,5m from everybody that doesn’t belong to the same household as you. Which works well on the Camino but becomes more difficult to judge when you enter a village, town or city. Please err on the side of caution and wear your face mask if in doubt.

It is still important to follow the local news as the situation can change quickly, especially when it comes to at which capacity restaurants and cafes are allowed to operate and what their opening hours are.

Pilgrims also report that a lot of the ‘in between places’ where you stopped for a second breakfast and the all important Café con Leche in the past, are closed. So make sure you have enough water and snacks with you to get you to your day’s destination.

Pilgrim Numbers

This week the pilgrim’s office registered record numbers, with up to 1626 pilgrims (11th July and the highest number this year so far). This is most likely due to larger groups now arriving in Santiago, often school and/or college kids that come as an organized group. And here might emerge a problem.

Walking a Camino is still one of the safest activities you can do in these times, alone, in small groups (preferable from the same household). But take a bunch of kids, sometimes several hundred at once, load them in a bus and bring them to a starting point and walk the Camino with them?

In my opinion it’s completely unrealistic to expect that they stick to guidelines like face mask wearing and social distancing. We have already seen this here in Spain (off the Camino) when several school groups made end of year trips to Mallorca, had parties there and spread the virus among themselves and others.

They needed to be brought home by special buses and ambulances and are now in home quarantine, together with several hundred others that they came in close contact with. Sadly, a similar scenario, for big groups, is also possible on the Caminos, which would be devastating on so many levels.

And if you want to watch pilgrims live, here is the web cam that shows the Praza do Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral in Santiago:

Neighbourhood Pantry

I plan to write a longer post about this soon, so here just a short summary (backstory here:

Typical distribution box.

It has now been months since the doorbell wasn’t ringing at least once, more often it rings two or three times, a day.

There are now 4 families, with a total of ~16 people, depending on my little neighbourhood pantry for food and other essentials.

Recently there was a steep increase in cost of electricity here in Spain, so many of the low income families face now the impossible choice of paying their electricity bills or putting enough food on the table.

Add to this that school holidays have begun, this means also that school lunches have stopped.

So, I plan to move some furniture around (again!) to create a better and bigger storage area in one of the bedrooms.

Current storage area.

Friends of mine are continuing to collect things like books, toys, shoes and clothing among their own friends and bring them to me. I sort them and distribute them among those of my neighbours that need this kind of help.

People are judged by their clothing far to often, so having access to good outfits is important to people’s self esteem and to how they are treated by those around them. Sadly clothing and dignity go hand in hand in many of our societies.

Sorted and ready to go …

If you are interested in the whole topic of ‘neighbours helping neighbours’, have a look at Lots of excellent information there!

And if you want to support what I do here in Santiago for both neighbours and pilgrims, you can find the donation button at the top right corner of the website 😉


Last year I started far too late with growing plants on my balcony but earlier this year I promised myself, and silently my neighbours, that it will be a riot of colours this year to cheer everybody up. And so far, I think I have succeeded!

Colour for the neighbourhod.

The balcony is not only incredible helpful for my own emotional well-being but also produces things I can share with my neighbours and flowers to brighten up the neighbourhood in general and hopefully lift everybody’s spirits a bit.

Apart of flowers, I am able to grow:

Enough chives, parsley and rucola/rocket salad to share around.

Cherry tomatoes are looking extremely promising and should provide an excellent harvest in a few weeks.

Top row: Calendula, parsley and chives. Bottom row: Cherry tomatoes and Padron peppers.

Other things that I grow (and hopefully will provide a good harvest):

Padron peppers (looking also good and are about to flower), Brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cucumbers, lemon basil, Calendula (also to make oil for my hands that suffer from too much soap and sanitizer), garlic (more for fun and mainly to keep pests off the other plants), mint and a variety of little house plants that I grow for my neighbours like loquat and Swedish Ivy (which is not Swedish, nor an ivy ;-).

Plants for my neighbours, I just put them before the house door for pick up.

In short: I am surprised each day how, with a bit of planning, I can grow not only enough produce for myself, but a surplus to share with others, on a balcony that roughly measures 1x3meters. The climate here in Galicia is a huge help with this!

Yes, you can grow cucumbers on a balcony.

Plants I found less ideal for the balcony:

Radishes and carrots (they need too much space for the harvest they produce) and the word on the papayas is still out 😉

Peas, they should be ideal for growing in the Galician climate, but after a short burst, they just died on me ;-( I need to experiment with bigger/deeper pots for them.


I am emotionally and mentally exhausted by the ongoing need for social distancing as I am still not vaccinated.

The good news is that I will receive my first jab on Wednesday 14th July and the second one around 8 weeks later. That means that from beginning of October I might be able to hug my equally fully vaccinated, by then, friends again. I haven’t touched or being touched by another human being since beginning March 2019 and I crave hugs and just normal social interaction. It has been such a long haul …

This Year’s and Future Projects

I have been asked if Egeria House will ‘open’ this year, the truth is that that it never has really closed. But yes, most of my Camino related activities have been, and will be for the time being online and/or socially distanced.

There have been pilgrims over the last 16 months that came to the house for food and/or replacement equipment and pilgrims that needed help to navigate their journey back home (test, travel restrictions etc).

I also still do Zoom meetings for pilgrims for a Facebook group and help with a CSJ (Confraternity Saint James, London, UK) Zoom meeting.

I tried several times to update my book but every time I finished a paragraph, things changed again. So I am now offering one-to-one Zoom or Skype meetings on a donation base, more info here:

Feel free to like the page and to recommend it, as it’s a donation project there is no risk involved 😉

I also continue to maintain so if you know of an albergue or other Camino related business that should be on this list, but isn’t, please ask them to contact me and I will add them.

What will 2022 bring?

If vaccines, and their boosters, continue to work and if everybody that can get vaccinated gets vaccinated we might see a Holy Year 2022 that is as ‘normal’ as possible in these strange times. Which means really busy and crazy (in the good sense). Let’s hope and pray that this happens.

For vaccination progress in Spain see:

And for current data here in Galicia:

And if it does, Egeria House and I will offer hospitality and common meals agin, just like in the good old times which now seem to be so far away …

All the best from Santiago, SY

2 thoughts on “Egeria House 2021.1”

  1. Hola, Sybil 🙂

    If it’ll all go as planned I’m coming to hug you in the end of Sept after Portugues Litoral & Espiritual.
    Keep on you good soul!


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