Robin and I finally returned home on Feb 8th. We are still very much in the processing mode from our camino but a few things come to mind that some might find helpful or at least interesting.
The weather (Dec-Jan) was milder than I expected with temps averaging 30-55 F and sometimes hitting the 60's. It was also much drier than expected. We wore ponchos (all day) only a couple of times and probably broke them out maybe 5-6 times during the entire camino.
We took the valley route up from St. Jean and stayed the night in Valcarlos. This was a very wise move. We had been traveling for 33 hours when we arrived in St. Jean and although we probably could have made it to the top, why? The jet lag, fatigue etc, made stopping in Valcarlos a great choice. I would recommend this to whoever has to to travel a great distance to get to the Camino. The Route Napoleon was not recommended when we departed but I found the valley route to very scenic and a beautiful climb.
No bedbugs while we were on the Camino.
A light pack makes for happy feet and a happy pilgrim. A pack should never exceed 20 pounds and hopefully it weighs a bit less. Remember, there might be times when a jacket and things you always think you will be wearing will wind up in the pack (more added weight). Plan and pack accordingly.
Spend money on good boots, a good pack and perhaps a good sleeping bag ( a light one).
Don't take more than two of anything.
A buff was essential.
Take a headlamp. There will be days when an early start is necessary and you can easily get lost (on some parts of the Camino) in that half hour or so of pre-dawn darkness. Either that or just plan on waiting for daylight.
A little red LED light (from REI) on a coiled elastic key chain worn around my wrist at night was perfect for those late night trips to the bathroom in the albergues.
The municipal albergue system is great. The services and accommodations were more than I expected, and in some cases much more. I think of the one at O'Cebreiro (brand new with a spectacular view). The one by the Cathedral in Burgos was also terrific. There were many others as well.
Bring ear plugs for the albergues. Even with just a few people they can help ensure a good night's sleep.
Be kind to people and they will be kind to you. We found the Spanish people we encountered to be very kind and helpful (even though we don't speak their language).
Don't be selfish. The Camino provides as long as pilgrims are willing to help one another (and most do).
The Camino is not a race to Santiago. Pace yourself so that you can enjoy the experience. You might only get this one chance. Be the experience.
The Camino experience is unique in that it frees your mind from all the usual distractions of work and perhaps even family. Be ready for that feeling of openness and the delight at what might fill that space.
Be a good listener. You will learn things that just might change your life.
And finally express your joy for this incredible opportunity. You are blessed and your happiness will be contagious.
Peace and buen camino,