Saturday, May 30, 2015

Santiago May 29 - 0 kms

"Take me to church.......".

Today was a day where the spirituality and the essence of the Camino came through. Up until now so much has centred on the physicality of the Camino...the heat, the asphalt, the climbs, the steep descents, the cobblestones, the distance, the tendinitis and plantar fasciitis, the food, the accommodations and the weight of the backpack. A little self absorbed and whiny I guess but the reality of it.

Letting go of that, today we went to the cathedral early to stake out a good seat for the noon hour Mass. As we were settling into our wait, I impetuously decided to attend an earlier Mass that was being offered in English in one of the side chapels. For me this Mass, performed by a visiting volunteer Irish priest, was one of the most personal and moving Masses ever. The priest made a conscious and successful effort to include every attendee into the service asking where we were from and how we had arrived at this service and later he had the pilgrims offer up personal intentions for their prayers, so much more meaningful than just a recitation of the usual ritual.

After this Mass I settled in to attend the Mass in the grand cathedral. It is amazing and astounding to realize that this Mass is offered at least twice a day all year and it is always packed. Imagine that many people completing this pilgrimage every single day. The Maltese group had specifically arranged for the botafumeira to be incorporated into this noon hour service and the expectation and enthusiasm of the pilgrims was palpable. When the accolytes got into place to take the ropes to swing the botafumeira, everyone's cameras and cellphone came out to record it. As the botafumeira swooped wildly back and forth in front of the altar, all the arms holding cameras followed the arc of the incense burner swinging up and down like a wave at a baseball game.

The feeling of congratulation and celebration spilled out onto the Catedral steps as pilgrims hugged and greeted one another or hugged and wished one another farewell. I know the Camino connections and friends they have made along their route will stay in their memories.



The main altar.









Friday, May 29, 2015

Padrón to Santiago May 28 - 25.6kms

'It is not that the Camino is difficult but that difficulty is the Camino.'

A really cold and strong Galician wind pushed us out and onto the way this early early morning; fleece weather for sure. Dayton and I walked together through the still dark and sleeping town until we reached the bus stop where I was to wait for the bus to Santiago and Dayton continued on his way and The Way.

Even Santiago, a very vibrantly alive and busy city, was still quiet when I arrived at 7:40am. I even had to wait for the cafe shops to open before I could defrost with a warming cup of tea and churros. It wasn't long before the pilgrims were streaming in, enthusiastically greeting one another and joyfully sharing the joy and congratulations of having completed their Camino. Most then adjourned to the line up at the Pilgrim's Office to show their credenciales and receive their Compostelas.

Not surprisingly, Dayton had made record time and had even stood in line for an hour to get his Compostella before I saw him shortly after noon hour. The two Maltese contingents were about to walk in having coordinated their arrival, one from the Camino Portuguese route, the other from the Camino France's route, with much fanfare; flags waving, cheering and exuberance . They all had on matching t-shirts and they posed for a great picture with signs indicating how much money they had collectively raised for their cancer charity. What a great thing to do; walk for yourself as you raise money for others and have great fun with friends while you do it.

And then it began...the wine and tapas tour. Every bar has a counter of a myriad of tapas laid out, two of which are vegetarian - the fried Brie and the potatoes bravas, everything else has ham or anchovies or squid or tuna or egg or something equally carnivorous on it. Going to be tough and fattening for the next few days.

Our Hotel Barbantes is right near the Catedral at the centre of everything including all the nightlife and passerbys and the inherent noise that goes with it. I still can't figure out if it is a youth thing or a cultural thing that the partyers stay out all night yelling and chanting and making noise for the sake of making noise. Our suburban neighbourhoods are a lot more sedate or maybe we just have better window insulation.


Maltese Portuguese contingent approaching cathedral.

Acknowledging the purpose for their Camino €50,000.00 in fundraising for cancer.





The wine and tapas diet continues....


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Caldas de Reis to Padrón May 27 - 19kms

"Does this money belt make me look fat"?

Or could it be the churros, the croissants, the wine or the bread?

Caldas de Reis is about 43kms to Sanatiago which means almost all the pilgrims have two comparatively easy and short days left. Today's stage into Padrón was only 18kms so Dayton decided to wait at our hotel for breakfast and didn't set out until 8:15am which meant he met a whole new and larger wave of pilgrims, the late starters, most all walking without backpacks. The backpack transportation economy is definitively flourishing here.

The bus I took to Padrón stops on the outskirts beyond the town which meant I had to walk back all the way through this long town to find our hotel located at the other end, the entrance to the town. Darn. Surprisingly, or not, I arrived at our hotel moments before the walking pilgrims. Sad.

My goal today is and was, despite that long walk to the hotel, to really not walk and rest my useless feet and fortunately, this hotel has a very good restaurant so no need to go anywhere. The hotel is a little dated but the restaurant is a pleasant surprise; white wine that is more than several hours old, a Caldo de Galego soup and wonderful grilled garlicky razor clams, which Dayton said were the best ever.

Santiago is in sight and this is evident not only in the increase in numbers of pilgrims but also in the look of them. This afternoon we started to see some new faces; faces that have not seen a razor in two or three weeks are now smoothly clean shaven.


It's starting to get crowded.

Only 27 kms. to Santiago.



One of Dayton's hiking partners for the of the lovely Maltese ladies.

A Galician woman digging furrows with her boots.





Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis May 26 - 22kms

"Take your shoes off and meet me at the hot springs "!

I am three for three in this independent village to village tour but have a ways to go to perfect the efficiency of my travelling skills. I hobbled gingerly on these tendinitis heels for half an hour back to the bus station and communicated well enough to get an earlier bus to Caldas de Reis. The bus took a twenty minute route around the outskirts of Pontevedra before coming to its first passenger pick up and stop - about two blocks from the hotel where we had just rushed through breakfast! As I was walking to the bus stop a couple of bewildered pilgrims saw the direction I was walking and turned to follow me along the Camino. "Always follow the arrows, not the pilgrims". I helped them out by giving them my Pontevedra city map with the Camino route already highlighted on it and two less bewildered pilgrims were on their way.

The bus let me off near a bridge in Caldas de Reis and as I was crossing back over this lovely little bridge 'lo and lucky me behold' there was our hotel, Balneario Acuña - a SPA!!!! This is an area of hot springs, Caldas; their use documented back to the beginning of the XI century. I am so booking in for a foot and leg massage, just waiting for Dayton to come in to see if I am booking it for two. Hmm thermal waters - Camino- tendinitis - this has to be good.

I had the good fortune to meet up again with our Swedish free spirit, Solveig, Dayton's walking partner from yesterday. Solveig had already walked over ten kilometres this morning and was looking for the noted hot springs to soak her feet. Since my morning agenda was somewhat flexible, as in I had nothing to do, I joined Solveig for a foot bath and a chat. Oh my goodness, both were soothing and enlivening, maybe this injury path has its own rewards. A local lady came to the hot springs to do her laundry. As she was dipping and scrubbing her clothes, Solveig and I were wondering what was worse - our soaking our feet in her laundry water or her washing her clothes in our footbath.

I found a cafe by the bridge which was a perfect spot to sit and be the official welcoming committee for all the pilgrims as they came into town. Drinks, snacks and great friendly conversations with pilgrims from Holland, Germany, Boston in the USA, Malta and Canada. As everyone else left to continue in their travels or to find their albergue, Dayton and I adjourned to our hotel to await our spa appointments.

This was a Camino afternoon of the nicest kind, sitting and visiting at the hot springs or cafes with group after group.



Bridge in Caldas de Reis.

Pig's ears....Nope!




Bridge leaving Pontevedra.


Laundry in the footbath.????


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Redondela to Pontevedra May 25 - 20kms

Karen and Dayton's (not so) Excellent Separate Vacation Adventures.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I am on my own little cross country train tour while Dayton finishes walking the Camino Portuguese. I have to admit I impressed myself on retracing my path back to the Redondela train station this morning, not without doubts, but I managed. I imagine Dayton should be even more impressed as I have not shown any directional aptitude on our previous Caminos. It was a quick and scenic little train ride and I did get a view of things I might have missed from the Camino path. As we chugged passed apartment building after apartment building, I noticed these large vegetable garden plots tended by, I presume, the tenants. How wonderful it must be able to pick your own tomatoes and beans right outside your apartment complex. From the Ponteverdra train station I found and followed the Camino markers into the old town and to our little hotel in a plaza by the tourist office and, I think, just a very short walk to the river. So popping a few naproxen and voltaren pills, to combat tendinitis pain, I set out for a limited tour of the nearby section of town. My little tour took me past a shoe repair where I got new cushy insoles and heel protectors for my boots, a considerable improvement on the thin hard inner soles that have been tramped down over a thousand kilometres.

Once again I parked myself at a cafe on the incoming Camino route and sure enough, shortly after noon hour, Dayton arrived with today's walking companion, Solveig, a lovely young lady from Sweden. We shared some drinks and snacks before Solveig left to walk another ten kilometres along the trail. Later in the afternoon we joined a small group of the Maltese contingent as they had an afternoon lunch of pulpo (octopus) and drinks. They are all such a lively and friendly group. Actually the larger Maltese group is divided into two contingents, one doing the last 100kms coming from the west, Sarria in Spain to Santiago and another, this group, doing the last 100kms from Tui, from the south. This group has fund raised and is doing their Camino for a cancer charity. The ambience of open-air cafes was 'enhanced' by the blessings of some of the ever present pigeons. The recipients of these blessings were surprisingly unimpressed when told that it was actually good luck to receive these 'gifts'.



80 kms. to Santiago.

Ria de Vigo. It goes into the Atlantic Ocean.

Dayton's hiking partner du jour, Solveig, from Sweden..

The beautiful paths in Galicia; Solveig and the greenery.

Pilgrim statue in the chapel honouring "la Peregrina", and all female pilgrims.



Monday, May 25, 2015

Tui to Redondela May 24 - 34kms*

All night long......

Oh how the young Spaniards like to party all night long..especially on a Saturday night. Even being up at least five flights of stairs in this residence could not filter out their lively exubuence from midnight until after Dayton headed out this morning at 6:30am. Maybe they head straight from the tabernas to early Mass.

My morning consisted more of killing time until I left for the 11:07 train to Redondela. For all my trepidation and worry, I managed quite well. It helps when everything happens where, when and as you were told. The train was easy, comfortable and inexpensive, only €3.20. I must admit I had no clue what to do or where to go once I arrived in Redondela but I figured following the other pilgrims would get me to the centre of town or at least to the Camino route. And it did; however, I wasn't sure because the centro de Redondela was not particularly distinctive as the big centre of town. My confusion and wonder must have been evident as a very helpful waitress, at the cafeteria where I had stopped to get oriented, offered to give me directions. The directions were typically Spanish; a long, elaborate, enthusiastic descriptive accompanied by much arm waving and gesticulating, and I think the waitress and the other Spanish patrons were shaking their heads as I left sure that all the explanations in the world were wasted on me. But they weren't. Everything worked out exactly as I thought she had said; I found the hotel, checked in, paid, left my stuff and headed out to find a cafe along the Camino route right where Dayton would walk past into town. Good plan.

I found a seat at a cafe where every pilgrim would practically have to trip over me as they came in and, after checking back over my log calendar to see how long 33kms usually takes us to walk, I mentally shortened that time, knowing that without me to slow him down Dayton would be walking so much faster. I ordered a diet coke and expected Dayton to walk passed me around 1:45-2:00pm. My drink, as per Spanish custom, came with free tapas but I declined saying gracias but I am vegetarian. A few minutes later the server brought me out chips and peanuts - vegetarian. I left an 80% tip for her thoughfulness - which really was not that much, one euro. Around 2:30 paranoia set in and I went back to the hotel to see if by any chance I had missed Dayton. Nope, so I went back to my cafe and ordered a vino blanco. This time my waitress delivered a little salad of tomatoes, lettuce and asparagus. Same tip. By 3:30, after going back to the hotel yet again, I was seriously considering going to the guardia and instigating a search but, before I embarrassed myself, Dayton arrived. It appears he found another walking companion to slow him down, the lovely Stella from Holland. I will take this factor into estimating his time from now on.

Stella (Holland)......Dayton's walking partner for the day.

Horreios.......Galician grain/corn crib.

Nice walk through the countryside.

Galician countryside approaching Redondela.

We definitely need to figure out portion control.



Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ponte de Lima to Valença/Tui May 23 - 37.4kms***

I walked from Portugal to Spain today. It was painfully (literally) slow, probably painfully boring for Dayton and it wasn't pretty but for a brief moment I felt like a pilgrim again.

We started the day with a caffeine and sugar high thanks to the amazing variety of breakfast coffee cakes offered at our hotel then we took a taxi from Ponte de Lima to the train station in Valença. That took care of about 32.4 of the kilometres for the day. Our taxi driver, Antonio, gave us the scenic tour to Valença going through the windIng mountain and valley roads that parallel the Camino. At one point, Antonio pulled over to the precarious edge of the road to point out in the distance a huge climb we would have been tackling had we walked this morning.

Once we arrived in Valença we walked through the old quarter of this ancient town, parts of which date back to c. 47 A.D., and up to its famed fortress, Fortaleza. From there we walked towards the bridge that would take us across the Rio Mino and into Spain but first we had to stop at the 'last Portuguese cafe stop before Spain'. Then it was across the long long bridge and, after one hour and ten minutes, we were in Spain. Actually, if you discount the one hour time difference between Portugal and Spain, it was only a 10 minute walk. Exaggeration is so much more interesting.

Our room, at the hotel O nova Cabalo Furado, is in fact a well equipped apartment; well equipped with a washing machine, so we are now very cleanly dressed and presentable pilgrims. Time to see if we can explore this town with as little walking as possible.

I have often said how much admiration and awe I have for the ladies who are independent enough and brave enough to walk the Camino on their own. I concede that I have always been a pampered peregrina with the security of having Dayton always there to find the arrows and the path and always carrying some of my gear to lighten my load. Tomorrow Dayton and I are going separate ways for a bit. Oh my. Dayton is going to leave early to walk the 32.4 kms to Redondela and I have to walk about 25 minutes down the main street to take the train. With absolutely no confidence in my directional skills, we waymarked the route for me this afternoon. Pitiful I know.

We met up with Eman and John for a mid-afternoon lunch at the Happy Restauant. It was wonderful. A huge platter of the freshest, juiciest and biggest tomatoes drizzled in olive oil and garlic, some fried green hot peppers and potatoes with aioli sauce. As soon as you get into Spain you notice so many differences from Portugal. For one thing, there definitely is a siesta time here with most restaurants not serving meals in the afternoon. Also they don't try to put a 'head' on your glass of wine, only filling the glass two thirds full. Another difference is, when we went out at 8:30pm, most of the dinner restaurants had not even opened yet. In Portugal we could feel like we were 'dining' at 7:30pm. We are an hour later so that means leaving an hour later in the morning - 6:00am is now before sunrise and any daylight. Some small things may differ but the heart and soul, the people and food are the same - wonderful. There are of course so many more pilgrims as Tui is the 'Sarria' of the Camino Portuguese. What this means is that Tui is the closest point to Santiago that one can begin their pilgrimage and still get a compostella. It is 115kms to Santiago and one must walk those last kilometres and get at least two sellos (pilgrims stamps) a day to qualify for a compostella. On the Camino Frances that point is the town of Sarria. Obviously, even though I have already walked well over 300kms, I will not qualify for the certificate but that was never the purpose of my walk anyway so I am okay with that,

The rest of the afternoon was taking advantage of the washing machine again to wash everything else we have and Dayton finished booking the rest our nights. It looks like, by the end of this Portuguese Camino from Lisbon to Santiago (and on to Fisterra and Muxia) we will have managed to do it without one communal albergue. Definitely not the most economical way to do it but a great way to do it if you want to enjoy a quiet night's sleep. Again, a gentle reminder - don't judge.


At the fortress leaving Valença


Had to do it - the sign says it all

Crossing the bridge from Portugal to Spain.


Late afternoon lunch - a platter of the freshest, largest tomatoes with olive oil and garlic. Fried green peppers.

View of the Tui cathedral from our rooftop laundry.