Caldas de Reis to Padron

Thursday, September 27. As always we are up and out, today to Padron and Hostal Flavia, just at the south edge of town, a block before a huge fresh market with the smell of fish everywhere. Even fresh fish has a smell that’s hard to take in large quantities and all day.

I wonder how the fishermen’s wives deal with that when their husbands come home after a long day in the boat or at the market. I’m not sure I could deal . . . but we get used to whatever is going on in our own homes, don’t we?

This is also the Padron of Padron peppers, the source itself!

I check in to the room, wherever we land, and try to catch up with this writing, hoping for decent wifi. See how far behind I am now? Our room at the Hostal Flavia is typical, and there IS an elevator, which is wonderful. The young woman who works in the bar/restaurant is a doll, easily juggling the people like Ria and me, who have a reservation in the Hostal part of the building, as well as the groups of two or four or six walkers who pour into the bar, needing beds for the night, happy to sleep in the Albergue half of the place.

And she cheerily serves drinks and food to everyone inside and at the street tables. When we come back the next day, she is smiling at 8:00 a.m. I ask her if she never sleeps! I feel as though I don’t get much sleep, though I am sleeping fairly well. But never feel really rested when I get up in the morning.

Before I left on this trip, Neil had suggested, bless his heart, that I might be less tired if I got more regular exercise, but I’ve certainly been doing that for the past two weeks, and I still don’t feel any fresher in the morning. As if we haven’t done enough walking, Ria and I take a stroll down to the tree-lined park, near the Church of, what else, St. James of Padron.

Placa near the Church of St. James of Padron, with Ria in the red shirt

The Church itself, a beautiful, simple one, despite the gold starburst above the altar.

We found the restaurant at which she had eaten two years ago, so we had dinner there, but this time she wasn’t impressed.  Neither was I, BUT for the padron peppers.  You’ve seen photos of them several times now, so no need to post again.

Tomorrow we head for a funky little place near Teo,

between Padron and Santiago de Compostela.  I’m not walking all of it in one day, because here is what it looks like:

The last stage . . . and I’ll do half of it tomorrow. Two steep climbs to Santiago!

Views over the stone wall into the mist

 

 

Posted in Miscellany | 6 Comments

From Meson to Caldes De Rei – The Hoards Join Us

Wednesday, September 26.  Up early today and out of the Hotel Madrid.  I am seeing the beginnings of a huge influx of new pilgrims . . . those on big buses, buses that carry HUGE suitcases for each peregrino, while the peregrinos themselves walk with tiny day packs and fresh clothes.  I have seen some evidence of this in the past two days, hotel and hostal lobbies crowded with large matching suitcases, resting next to people with walking sticks.  How can they possibly be peregrinos?  But we see that they are some version of that.

Until yesterday, we have seen very few pilgrims on our path, but things are going to change now.

Ria and I have mapped out the possibilities for today’s “Stage” as set by the Brierley book, and see that if we start in Pontevedra, we won’t get to a place with any sleeping accommodations before we fall down exhausted.  There IS one Albergue 11.5 km from Pontevedra, but it houses twenty two people in two bunk rooms, and there are clearly many more pilgrims on the path at this point.  The albergue has no restaurant, no bar, no food of any kind and is not in a town or village, apparently.  Our book suggests carrying sandwiches from a bar few kilometers south of the albergue, so we will have something to eat after a day of walking.

If there is “no room at the inn”, our next option is  another 14 km up a very high climb, and back down again in a wavy vertical plane to Caldas De Reis.  So we figure backward and catch a ride to a place in the middle of nowhere, the supply bar called Meson don Pulpo.  That will give us a 14km day, a version of my daily goal. Ria could probably have walked the entire stage, but she has done this trek before, and wants to take her time as much as I do.  Or almost as much . . .

When we arrive at the Meson, we see enormous buses off-loading perhaps 50 school children on a day trek (a nice idea, by the way), as well as a coven of mostly Irish tourists with their clean shirts, brand new day packs and shoes, ready to hit the trail.  I’m sure they’re not staying at the albergue in the middle of nowhere, but then neither are we.  So the droves begin to walk.

Somewhere north of Meson Don Pulpo, with the crowds of new peregrinos.

I feel as though I’m back on the Camino Frances . . . no more quiet little Portuguese Way.  It’s an easy enough path today, but a different environment,  in addition to the new crowds.  I begin to see vineyards . . . not the huge ones that are part of the Camino Frances across northeastern Spain, but smaller, family owned vineyards with very low production numbers.

A cool spell while walking through vineyards.

This means that despite our book’s dearth of stopping places, all of a sudden there are little “vinotecas” popping up ever few kilometers.  And there are a few more hostals on what seemed to be an accommodations desert.  But we already have made our plan, and I’m sure there are plenty of other pilgrims who can fill those new spaces.

I’m quite surprised to see a group of blind people, perhaps half a dozen, with sticks, one German Shepard, and one or two “seeing” guides. I cannot imagine doing this without SIGHT!  It’s tricky enough with decent eyes.

I think I passed at least four new and local wine bars, pouring their products for peregrinos!  The last thing I want to do is taste wine on and off all afternoon on a semi-long, hot hike, but the newbies gather to taste at every opportunity. Perhaps those with the tiny backpacks bought bottles of wine to take back to their hotels or put in their already huge luggage waiting for them.  I guess I sound pretty snarky right about now . . . not very Camino-like, right?  And still I say, “To each his or her own Camino!”

I don’t want to drink the wine, but I can sit among the vineyards . . . and one of the newbies wanted to take my photo.  I do NOT look like a new and fresh pilgrim!

Other enterprising locals have cropped up, much to my delight.  A man in a food truck with drinks and ice cream. A woman with a fruit stand in the shade of her own property.

A little woman and her offerings . . . a banana please!

And while I haven’t seen my beloved cows, as I usually do on the various Caminos, I do see just few horses . . .

Horsies greet me

Is she bowing her greeting?

I arrive late afternoon in Caldas de Reis, check in at the Lotus Hotel, and meet Ria at a cafe near a small old Roman bridge . . . were the Romans EVERYWHERE??  Then dinner across the bridge at a nice restaurant called Numero2.  Ria invites a German couple to join us, since they are waiting for a table and we are seated at a table for four.  The man, Werner, I think, had worked in Boulder on and off for a few years and they considered moving there, but decided against it.   Too clearly meant for the “white and affluent.”  I mutter something about  “the People’s Republic of Boulder” and he laughs.

This couple retired a few years ago, sold their house in a large city in Germany, bought a smaller one on the Danish border and equipped themselves with a small motor home, in which they have been doing a great deal of traveling for the past three years.  Sounds like they are having great adventures.  They met 50 years ago, have been married for 46 years, and are long-time ballroom dancers.  Do you know that one of the largest tango gatherings in the world is in FINLAND???

Wikipedia says, “The annual Finnish tango festival Tangomarkkinat draws over 100,000 tangophiles to the central Finnish town of Seinäjoki; the town also hosts the Tango Museum. ”

So they go to the festival and dance what I’m sure is a beautiful and long-time practiced tango together.  I’d love to see it and them!

We have plenty of time to talk because the restaurant’s service is the s-l-o-w-e-s-t service I’ve had anywhere on this trip.  When Werner’s food comes, long after the rest of us have finished eating, he tells the waiter he thought he would have to wait until breakfast to eat this meal. The waiter just laughs, but obviously doesn’t see the sarcasm and irony in Werner’s comment.

By that time, I have made my excuses and was probably already asleep.  A hot day.  Getting closer and closer to the finish line . . .

Posted in Australian Sunsets, Backpacks, Camino Portugues, Wine tasting, Women Walking | 3 Comments

Pontevedra, Day Two

Tuesday, September 25. Today we stay in Pontevedra, but move to the Hotel Madrid. We walked most of the day, in between check–out and check-in, and I try to write a bit, but the wifi in this location sucks. So wandering the ruins and beautiful park areas is what I will do. And tonight’s Menu del Dia convinces me that I am finished with these set meals. The soup tonight is good enough (Caldo Gallego, which I like very much), but still has too many potatoes for me. Baked chicken drumstick and thigh, mediocre with limp fries (doesn’t ANYTHING come without potatoes??), and the worst flan I have ever had.

It looks like an ugly sponge the color of a very old white sock, drudged up from the ocean floor. I’m very sorry I don’t have a picture of that, but Ria and I will laugh about it for years, I’m sure.

The Pontevedra ruins

I sip wine in front of this beautiful old tree

Back on the road again tomorrow.  We smell the finish line.  In four days, we will be in Santiago de Compostela.  But first, Caldes de Reis, Padron, and a two-day last stage, with a stop in Farmanello to SDC.

We are smart enough to have reserved space in each of these towns for ourselves.  We will soon see why.

Posted in Camino de Santiago, Hostals and Hotels, Pontevedra, Spain, Women Walking | 3 Comments

Pontevedra and A Michelin Recommended Restaurant

Monday, September 24.   Ria sets out fairly early because it will be a long day, but I have laundry to do at a real Laundromat, a 1.5 kg box to mail to myself, and find a way to catch up. My plan is to do my errands, grab a banana and juice for “breakfast” and get a bus. However, by the time I was done, I discovered that the bus only runs every 2-3 hours to Pontevedra. So the taxi got my business.

By the end of this Camino, I will have walked at least 100 miles on the path from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. I have no blisters at all, no foot problems, no back or shoulder problems, at least not any caused by this trek. And I intend to keep this status. Everyone who knows me knows that in my real life I hate hiking, don’t like health-club exercise (but for Nia, which has all but disappeared in the Fort) and love to walk, but not in the heat. So I will always be less well prepared than many on the trail. But I like the challenge, and I persevere. I hope this will be my last “wild hair” Camino. Next accumulation of steps can be on my own Cathy Fromme Prairie trail or in NYC.

Pontevedra is a very nice small city, about 75,000 people, second only to Santiago de Compostela for its rich history. Here’s a bit of official info:

“In 1999, Pontevedra pedestrianized its 300,000 square meter medieval center by banning all but the essential automobile traffic. Pontevedra’s car free center helped transform it into one of the most accessible cities, leading to awards for its urban quality: the international European prize, “Intermodes” in Brussels in 2013, the United Nations Habitat prize in Dubai in 2014 and the “Excellence Prize” of the Center for Active Design in New York City in 2015.  Quite impressive!  Makes for a vibrant pedestrian “town within a town”.

Pontevedra

Though we stay just outside the medieval part of the city, it is an easy walk in, and gives us opportunities to mix our café browsing with a bit of history walking.

The Praza Peregrino,  a large circular plaza with a children-friendly fountain in the center, yellow arrows all the way through the medieval part of town, presents a very welcoming environment.  I walk almost as much IN the city as I would have done on the hot hills. A nice tradeoff.  I try to reserve a second night, but the Hotel Avenida was “completo”, though they make an arrangement for the Hotel Madrid for our second night.

Medieval Cathedral in Pontevedra

Weaving into the medieval center through several tour groups hearing (in Spanish or German) the historical details about the churches, the ruins, and various port references doesn’t educate our tired minds,  but we find a leafy, shady table in an area away from the tour groups (and the beggars), to have a glass of wine.

Dinner is late in this town as well, so we wander, looking for a good tapas menu, finally settle into another shady but hopping Praza to sit again.  German Michael (from our albergue in Mougas) pulls up a chair, appearing very happy to have some company.  We have wine but not much food yet.

Michael has a recommendation for a Michelin (not starred, just recommended) restaurant  around the corner.  Loaira Xantar. We find the last outside table and make our selections.  Seabass ceviche, Padron peppers, hake with green rice (and thin strips of seaweed), tempura king prawns and vegetables, and razor clams in garlic, a new one for me, all beautifully presented and delicious.  So delicious, and so hungry are we, that I forget to photograph the plates before we dive in, but for the razor clams.

My first taste of razor clams.

My dessert choice was “cheesecake with strawberries”, but what came was what anyone I know would call panna cotta.  Doesn’t matter what it’s called . . . it was creamy smooth and tasty, making up for the horrible “panna cotta” I got a few days ago.

Tomorrow we will move to the Hotel Madrid, with terrible wifi so these posts get later and later.  But beautiful parks abound outside the medieval center, and we will spend some time closer to greenery.

Just inside the old Cathedral . . .

Posted in Camino de Santiago, Pontevedra, Spain, Women Walking | 1 Comment

Ordinary Day, Not Such Ordinary Thoughts . . .

Sunday, September 23. Escape from Rosa and her mincing farewell to us, scout out a nearby café for tea and tostas, headed for Arcade. We have mapped out our route, cutting some of the stages in half because of their length or difficulty, and choosing one more town in which to spend a second night. This time it’s Ponte Vedra, for tomorrow night and the next. If our plan works and I don’t fall down or otherwise crash, the timing for reaching Santiago is just what I thought it would be.  Saturday, September 29, arrival at the Seminario Major, aka San Martin Pinario Hospidaleria. My favorite converted Seminary, elegant but simple, friendly, and right across from the northeast entrance to the Cathedral. Good plan. Only a plan, though.

The trail to Arcade

The track today, now that I’m completely off the coastal way, is very hilly, but a shorter day and quite manageable.  My thoughts float, as they always do, though I find I’m more anchored to my life back home than I typically am while on Caminos.  Business to take care of no matter what, and these are not things my daughter can do for me, as she usually does during these times in Spain.

A new type of ad is popping up on my Facebook and Tiny Beans sites . . . advertising funerals, asking, “Do you have your funeral plan in place?”  Not just one pop-up of this sort.  Continuous funeral plan ads.  Is that a hint?

While I am on the trail today, though, I am musing in that direction . . . thirty years with Neil and no sign of any real deterioration for either of us, but for the usual aging, lines, creaky joints more evident.  But I watch people around me, not so much on this trail, but in the towns, moreso than I can or do in my daily life, and see dowager’s humps, limps, a crutch or wheel chair, vacant looks of those whose aging is catching up with their brains, etc.  Some couples still hold hands, others act as though they wish they had never met . . .

And I wonder . . . how will we end?  Neil and I.  Of course, I would choose to be fairly healthy until I crash, but everyone hopes for that, and it doesn’t always happen.  Protracted illnesses or deterioration, or just a heart attack in one’s sleep . . . none of those is optimal.

So often I reminisce, either with photos or in my mind or listening to an old Al Jarreau tune, about our former young and vibrant selves, beginning as a couple, so actively and passionately in love,and look at old people passing me, wondering, “What did THEY look like when they were young and newly in love?”  And I can see them now, 30 or 40 or 50 years later, often feeble.  But while I can imagine in detail how Neil and I were years ago, I can’t picture us in 10 or 15 years, but for a scene that is pretty much like we are now, only more wrinkled.  I don’t picture me helping Neil with his walker, or him with his hands gripping my wheel chair, though intellectually I don’t kid myself about the absence or presence of those future possibilities.

What dreary thoughts to have while walking a lovely countryside.  I even listen to a recording of a few poems Neil used to recite to my answering machine, but it doesn’t give me more energy for walking as it used to do.  Still the dreamy voice, reciting love poems but I’m in a different space in my thoughts now.The music I put together years ago to be used someday for my memorial party does cheer me up and put bounce in my steps.  I don’t understand that. Walk on, Joannah.

Wooded, shady, peaceful

I have secured a decent hotel with a balcony, in Arcade, again near water, but a river this time, and once I have arrived, I see Ria, always the energizer bunny, waving to me from the balcony like Evita or Juliet.

The reception young woman draws me an incomprehensible map of the town, so I can scout out a Laundromat and the post office (another small package of things I realize I won’t need, lightening my load).  Necessary and a way to get a look around, though there isn’t a lot to look at. And Ria would like to find a café on the beach, but there is nothing.  So we stop at a restaurant on the main street, but unfortunately, the kitchen is closed.  This is the way pilgrims spend the rest of a short walking day.  Dealing with normal things, not lofty thoughts and discussions.

The restaurants don’t open until 8:30 for dinner.  They must not get many pilgrims stopping here who are very, very hungry long before they hit the village . . . so we wait . . . and at 8:25, we walk down and out the front hotel door to a large canopy covering the hotel’s restaurant.  Padron peppers again, yum yum, tomatoes and soft cheese (sort of a Caprese), and I finally find my eggs.  Scrambled with champignons and “cured ham”, which I discover after I nearly break my tooth on one bite.

Arcade’s version of Caprese

Those delicious Padron peppers again

Vino tinto, of course, and excellent bread.  Some sort of mediocre dessert.  And that’s the end of the evening.

Dinner as usual

Tomorrow is another day.  Laundry for real, not just in the sink, the Correos (post office) to send my little package, and on to Ponte Vedra.

 

Posted in Camino de Santiago, Spain, What Goes on in the Mind, Women Walking | 2 Comments

Redondela, Rosa, and Our “Private Room”

Saturday, September 22 – Breakfast at the Hotel Arco’s café, run by Manuel’s daughter. She too tells me about her mother (Manuel’s wife) walking from Sarria to Santiago in three days. 100 km in three days. I ask, “WHY?” and she says, “It was a promise, a sacrifice. All the pain was part of her deal.”

I ask again, “Why?”. She says her baby was born at 25 weeks and her mother promised God . . . ah . . . she puts up her hands. I ask how old the baby is now. She says, “Three years old.” So I guess it worked, if you believe such things. Whatever gets you through the night.

After breakfast, we pack up and go to the bus stop. Our plan for skipping 36 km from Sebaris to Redondela. I will go 10-12 km per day and no more unless I feel like it. I alternate between being ashamed of myself and being disgusted with being ashamed. This will be my habit, all the way to Santiago. But that’s another matter. For now, Redondela by bus, as per Ria, who has done this Camino before,

All the way to Vigo bus terminal, and we discover that the next bus to Redondela is FIVE hours from now. This time it’s Ria who nods toward the taxi stand and raises an eyebrow. On we go.  20 Euro.

Our reservation in Redondela is at Casa d’Abreu. My contact is Rosa, and when I spoke with her on the phone, her English was pretty fair.  I asked the price per person of a private room with bath. 18 Euro each. No problem. When we arrive at her Casa, she says 20 Euro and I balk. She mutters something about another reservation she wasn’t aware of, and I insist on her quoted price. She then mutters again, about her English being “not so good”, but it was plenty sufficient on the phone.  So she tells us we must take a third floor room. And she takes forever to check us in. Probably 30 minutes, rather than 5 minutes. We trudge up the stairs. Ria thinks I might have been too sharp with Rosa. But she soon changes her mind.

What we find is that we have a bunk and a “flat bed” in our “room”, but no privacy at all, no window at all, and one bathroom on the second floor for about 12 people. Where our window might have been is an opening to another room for three people, and out theirdoor is a balcony where everyone can hang their laundry. But one must go through that room in order to hang clothes, thus disturbing the three people sleeping or relaxing there.

Fortunately, those women are happy to keep their door, our “window to their room, and their balcony doors open so we can have fresh air all night. But since I drink so much water on these Caminos, my four or five visits to the bathroom during the night are treacherous, down narrow, steep and creaky stairs, hoping no one else will be occupying that one tiny room at the moment.

I check out the place on Trip Advisor (too late, of course), and find many people with the same type of complaints . . . overcharged, falsely represented accommodations, and in some instances, suggesting that Rosa doesn’t actually record everyone’s passports, perhaps so she can rent more spaces than she is authorized to do. I see two girls in one closet, with two foam mattress pads crowded next to one another on the floor. BLEAH!

After another uninspiring Menu del Dia down the street, we return to our “room” to sleep, ready to get out of Dodge early the next day. We forego a shower, not wanting to fend off the other inhabitants. So we are not sad to leave this habitacion.

And there are no photos today. Not of the bus, the taxi, Rosa, or our blah dinner. Mañana.

But I will end with a fresh image just for relief.

This beauty is not a “rosa”!

 

Posted in Albergues on the Camino, Backpacker beware, Camino de Santiago, Dorm life, Oldish world traveling, Redondela Rosa, Spain, Women Walking | 6 Comments

Into The Woods . . . for awhile

Leaving the beach , , ,

 

Friday, September 21 – Ria, Michael and I, along with the other Albergue guests, walked out early today in deep fog.  62 degrees and 99% humidity. A common theme for the coast, I guess. The paltry breakfast at the Albergue didn’t look inviting, and we were locked out by 8:00 anyway, so tromped in a small group to the bar promised to be about 1-2 km down the road. Another exciting breakfast of “Toasta” or croissant, fresh orange juice and tea.  Where oh where are my eggs, for breakfast, not for dinner??

Then on to the next bed, near Nigran, I think. I made the reservation so I know we HAVE a bed, but one can never tell exactly what town it is in.

I realize I’m good for about five hours of walking these days, typically, or 10-12 km, whichever is hottest. This isn’t easy once the fog lifts and the temperatures rise, but it’s been okay so far, with my turncoat taxi help.   Today the path heads up into the words for awhile and over a “mountain”, though from sea level, it’s only 170 meters . . . a bit over 550 feet. The pack feels alternatively lighter and heavier as I walk the rocky path up the mountain. Some shade occasionally and I sit against a rock, trade shoes for sandals, and read more of my Kindle book on my phone.

The feet wonder WTF??

Pilgrims pass me by and nod. At some point, two woman stop. “That looks like a good plan”, one of them says, and they take off their packs and after a few bits of conversation, sit down next to me. So much for reading, but these women are fun to talk with. Soozie, from Australia, will meet her friend from England (not a walker) in Baiona, the next town. The friend has flown in for Soozie’s 65th birthday, and has reserved a room at the Baiona Parador.   Such a friend!

The other woman, Terri (Terry?), tells me this is her first time out of the States, and that she has been taking care of her disabled sister for the past TWENTY TWO years!! A sister-in-law (I think) is taking care of the sister while Terri has her first passport adventure. I don’t ask where the brother or other relatives are in this caretaking solo assignment. Terri and Soozie have met on the trail from a day or two ago, and Terri has decided to book her own Parador room. I don’t think I would splurge on a Parador in anywhere but Paris or Florence, but not sure I would spend that kind of money anyway.

Are we again on the “Old Roman Road”?

Another 15 minutes and we are all back up the hill. The shade and breeze are helpful, and after an hour or so, we finally think we are in Baiona, but no, another 3 km, says a man walking by, and up up up a hill with no shade.   I am not headed for Baiona as my stopping point, so we split trails eventually, and now I’m on pavement, a street, with no idea how far it is to the Hotel Avenida in, supposedly, Nigran. Mid-afternoon, with a very real concern that I might just pass out on the road. No drama here, but no bars, no cafes, no nothing,

And even if I could call a taxi, I have no idea where I am, with no town or road markers to help indicate my position.

After about an hour, I see a taxi going the opposite way and flag it down. I explain my predicament, and though the driver has a passenger, he waves three fingers at me, and drives off. Sure enough, a bit less than five minutes later, he is back again. I tell him where I am going and he shakes his head. Finally he calls the number of the hotel and tells me it is in Sebarís. Not helpful, but at least someone knows where it is. Another seaside town, darling down, with the kindest hotel owner named Manuel.

He tells me his wife, my age, walked the last 100km of the Camino Frances, from Sarria to Santiago, in THREE DAYS. Why? I ask. He just shakes his head. He says, “She doesn’t do that anymore.” Asks how I am, do I need some cream, are my feet all right, etc. Gives me the keys and I go to my room to wait for Ria.

When she arrives, we go next door to a grocery store, get some fruit and water, and find a café. Vino tinto, por favore.  Researching restaurants on Trip Advisor, which I am sure the pilgrims of 1000 years ago wished they could have done, I find that one of the highest rated restaurants in the area is just down the block.  Fidalgo. Mediterranean, Spanish, Tapas, etc.  No pictures, but a varied paté plate for me with local cheese and marmalade.  Different fare than I’ve had on this trip so far, and I welcome it.

Ria recommends that we take a bus leap tomorrow, so we can skip an apparently very large and fairly ugly city, Vigo, which means a bus to Vigo and then a transfer at the bus depot, on to Redondela.  The bus stop is just outside the sea-side entrance of our hotel.

I secure what I am told is a private room with two beds and a private bath in Redondela, at Casa d’Abreu.  Hear the “I am told” part.  We think we are set.  And we have a good sleep tonight.  Still beautiful flowers all around . . .

Posted in Camino de Santiago, Spain, Women Walking | 4 Comments