R & R, rest and relaxation, may be too mild a term for what is needed after walking almost 900kms. A more expansive expression is necessary; rest and relaxation plus rehabilitation, rehydration, relief, respite, recovery and then repatriation home. Fortunately we had allowed ourselves lots of extra time to indulge in as much R & R & R & R as we wanted. Having finished our Camino to Santiago in 31 days and, after one wonderful day of rest and visiting with Camino friends in Santiago and then completing the added 3 days Camino to Fisterre, we still had 10 days left over before our flight back to Canada. What to do, what to do?
Spending the first three days of our overtime in Fisterre was a quick, no-brainer decision. Fisterre won us over with its charming harbour, beaches and numerous cafes and restaurants.
It was a perfect spot to dump the backpacks in the hotel, hobble around the small village, sit on the cafe patios and share stories with other camino grads, hobble to the beach and soak sore feet in the cooling (cold) Atlantic water. Nothing to do and all day and night to do it. Perfect.
We had considered several other small villages or cities to visit, Muros or Ponteverde but at the last minute we decided the quick and easy two hour bus ride north to O Coruna was the way to go. As promised, getting to O Coruna was quick and easy and cheap, only 14 Euros. Unfortunately, once there we had to don those *&$%#@ backpacks again and plod through the busy streets to an information centre. We had no idea what O Coruna had to offer. First impressions were that it was a bigger city than expected, hectic, lots of construction and not so obviously charming. We learned that it did have a few beaches and, by accident or design, as we searched haphazardly (hobbled - there is a recurring theme here) through the busy streets I recognized a sign from one of the tourist books: Hotel Riazor. Turns out they had a room, 53 Euros without a view, 65 Euros plus tax with an oceanview. Throwing financial caution to the wind we took the oceanview. Good choice. Our lovely big room looked out over Riazor Beach - a topless beach. Because we were more comfortable with watching than participating in the 'topless' concept, we first headed out to shop for bathing suits. In the end, I just used a sports bra and my sleep boxer shorts rather than spend 40 to 80 Euros on a bathing suit, an ugly, poor fitting bathing suit.
Walking in the sand on the beach was brutal on my ankle and, while the cold Atlantic water felt great, by evening it was obvious it needed treatment. Off we went to a private hospital where, after consultation with a doctor, Xrays, ultrasound and 250Euros, we got a diagnosis of tendinitis and the usual presciption: rest, elevation, ice and anti-inflammatories. Nothing we hadn't already self-diagnosed but now it was official. The real rest wouldn't come until home though. I can't say we did much in O Coruna. Even the little bit of walking the sight seeing entailed was too much but flopping down on a beach towel or the hotel bed was enough to satisfy us. I revelled in hot water and a real shower and shaving my legs ( TMI - too much information?) Dayton revelled in not carry a 16kg backpack everywhere.
In O Coruna, we availed ourselves of a very helpful travel agent who helped us book bus tickets for a 7 hour bus ride to Salamanca, a reservation at the Hotel Monterrey near the Playa Mayor in Salamanca and then train tickets for later to Madrid.
The seven hour bus ride to Salamanca was not as bad as expected. We had a huge tour bus and only 7 passengers. However, this did not mean you could sit anywhere. Seats were assigned when we purchased the tickets and that's where we were to sit, even if the front row seats where empty or there were empty seats to sprawl out in right across from us.
The Hotel Monterrey was a very old hotel, again ideally located but no more carting backpacks, we were now into taxis. We enjoyed sitting at the cafe tables that edged the Playa Mayor, sipping wine and watching the tourists go by. The Playa Mayor was a happening place and there was a late night concert featuring a couple of 'boy bands'. We managed to stick around for only the first song of the first set. A super late night on the Camino might have been 10pm max. and we were still happy with that schedule. Our hotel was hosting a seniors' tour group and as the seniors left the hotel and filed ever so slowly onto their tour bus, obliviously blocking the hotel exit and the sidewalk, all I could think of was "next year that's us"?
Salamanca is a lovely university town and, surprisingly we ran into some James Madison University students who were starting a 6 week intensive course studying Spanish and partying - for 9 college credits. JMU is in Harrisonburg in Virginia just north of Dayton's home town.
We left Salamanca on Saturday, June 6th and took the train to Madrid. The train was easy and comfortable and the Metro was easy to navigate. Since I had booked us a room at an airport hotel, we took the Metro to the airport and then got our hotel shuttle to take us to the Hotel Clemente Baranjas which turned out to be another pleasant bonus; a very new and modern hotel. The Metro took us back into the centre of Madrid, an easy 50 minute trip and we immediately got tickets for the Madrid Vision double-decker sightseeing buses. I was disappointed that now they just hand out ear phones and you plug them into the language of your choice outlet. I had expected a real live tour guide. I think a tour guide would have given more information and extra tidbits about the places we were seeing. When we went back into Madrid again on Sunday we discovered a big 'tapas' market just outside and to the west of the Plaza Mayor. The market had many different tapas counters, wine and vermouth bars, an oyster bar, panadarias and it was definitely 'the place to be'. This is our style of touristing, food and wine.