Arriving in Santiago de Compostela – The end of the road

NOTE:  My apologies for getting this last segment finished a month after I actually arrived in Santiago.  My time away is paid for dearly with piles of work once I get back home.  So here it is, finally.

Saturday, September 29. Right on schedule, today is the day our reservation at the Seminario Major begins in Santiago. The beautiful former seminary is now called Hospidaje San Martin Pinario, or perhaps it was always called that, but this is the place I have stayed at the end of every Camino.  I look forward to some down time by mid-day in this stately sanctuary, formerly a real seminary.  But first, the journey from the Albergue in Faramallo.

In Faramello we all rise and shine, and head downstairs for the uncomplicated breakfast, coffee and toast, no croissants. Of course, Beatrice, who has been dubbed “The Angel” by former peregrinos, is bustling around, still greeting, cooking, delivering breakfast, taking money, and smiling all the while. Gabriella and Ria are getting better acquainted in one corner of the breakfast room, and I join them, preparing for the day, when all of us who slept here last night will be in Santiago de Compostela by afternoon.

After a short breakfast, Gabriella and I load our packs on our backs, grab our sticks and say goodbye to Ria, hug our Angel, and head for the bus stop. Gabriella has a course of antibiotics for her infected feet, and I hope she will heal quickly. But she is still full of remorse and disappointment because she has to travel into Santiago on four wheels, not her own two feet.

The morning is again misty and beautiful, promising a good day of walking, but I’ve already made my decision.  When the bus arrives, we load our packs underneath in the luggage compartment and I ask the driver if he stops at the Praza Galicia. He does not, but another passenger, speaking perfect English, says she will show us where to get off.

The bus ride takes about 40 minutes, and we disembark at the train station, along with the helpful passenger. She spent a year in the US midwest getting her Master’s Degree, and is back in Santiago working. From the train station, it is a mile to the Praza Galicia, and another half mile to my Hospidaje San Martin Pinario, and I know the way. This is familiar territory. But Gabriella is frantically trying to get one more stamp in her Peregrino passport, worried that if she doesn’t, she won’t get her compostela, the certificate that says she completed the Camino.  I try to soothe her, telling her she doesn’t need to collect one more stamp before she gets to the Pilgrim’s office, but she can’t seem to hear what I’m saying. She runs from one café to another, one shop to another, hobbling on her bandaged feet, and none of these places has a stamp. We are no longer ON the Camino, and the stores aren’t required to supply us with a stamp.

Gabriella also has no reservation to stay at an albergue or hotel for the next few days, so I point her in a direction toward the Pilgrim’s headquarters and the Information Center, but after she gets a street map of the old section, she turns 180 degrees, saying she will search for a room at a hotel nearby.  I’m sure she will settle down by the end of the day, but there is nothing more I can do for her.  Since it’s clear she is going to need to find her own way, I walk toward the old section, past the Cathedral, and on to my lodging.

Coming to the center and the Cathedral, a first stop for most pilgrims.

This time, of course, Ria will not be here ahead of me, through no heroism of mine. I check in, pay my five days’ lodging and head up the elevator to the fourth floor, reserved for the pilgrims, where Euro 25 gets one a private room, private bath, and full breakfast every day.

My little room . . . like a convent room!
Here is the extent of my private lodging, my buddy, the red backpack resting for a few days.

Breathing a sigh of calm in such a familiar place, I open my pack, throw all my clothes, but for what’s on my back, into a large bag and begin to google a nearby laundromat.  Easy walking, and I stroll past familiar buildings for 15 minutes, finding the tiny laundry tucked between two larger establishments.  Here I find a sign that makes me laugh:

Very good! Remember to stay together with your partner.

I guess socks get lost in the dryer no matter what country they’re in.

When the laundry is finished and folded, I make my way back toward the Cathedral, and passing through the Praza Cervantes, I stop to enjoy a festival and the participants of a conference being held this weekend.

Walking the world, gathering in Santiago de Compostela for the weekend.

The festival celebrates María Rosalía Rita de Castro, who was a Galician romanticist writer and poet. Writing in Galego, the Galician language, after the period known as the Séculos Escuros, she became an important figure of the Galician Romantic movement, circa mid-1800’s. I had no awareness of this woman, but the poster and activities surrounding the event suggested a joyous honoring of this Galecian woman born nearly 200 years ago.

Singing, dancing, classical and Celtic music, a book fair . . . a beautiful day to celebrate the life of a writer, poet, and

Ria will arrive later this afternoon and she will be much more in need of a rest than I am at this point.  I need food, and walk through the old part of the city, back to my room, unload the laundry and head for my favorite SDC bakery, for a sandwich and something sweet.  I sit on the steps of the Cathedral, with no urgency to head for the next Mass.

This is a very different Camino for me, and will probably be my last. I will spend a few days in this city, before Ria and I fly to Barcelona for five nights. I’ve been reflecting on many things on my walk, in a different tone from my last two Caminos.  Once I gather my thoughts, I’ll write them here.  In the meantime, peregrinos surge in toward the Cathedral from several directions, depending on which part of the Camino they are coming from.

Steps outside the Cathedral

I sit on the steps, finish my sandwich, and am grateful that I can be invisible among the throngs.  Life inside me and outside, in this city, goes on.

Posted in Miscellany | 9 Comments

Faramello and a bit of Italian!

Friday, September 28.  From Padron, it’s an easy walk out with the usual mist and fog, and as usual, it will be cool until the fog disappears.  Then the sun will blast bright and beautiful, but hard on an oldish walker.  The path leads through and then around the main part of town, and as I head right and then up, I am delighted to see a beautiful graveyard, similar to some of the ones in Italy.

Northern edge of Padron

Leaving Padron, walking through and around villages like Santa Maria de Adina, Romeris, Vilar.  Again, very few places to stay, according to Brierley, at least after the first 8 km. (too soon to stop for the day), but my e-book maps show a little tiny village (tinier than most of the tiny villages I will pass today, called Faramello, in which there is an Albergue La Calabaza del Peregrino.  I had called last night to reserve two beds for Ria and me.  So at least I know where I am headed.  This is approximately the halfway point between Padron and Santiago.

No cows yet, and no more horses, but I do see this poor thing, tied up to a post on a village street corner, his right front leg corralled by the rope:

Poor sheepsy . . . all alone

Fortunately, I notice three old women (I should talk  . . . ) a few feet from the animal, and I gesture toward the sheep’s leg, help untwist him, and he is happier.  I continue through the hill and villages toward Faramello.

At one point, I find myself on a crushed gravel path, not sure whether I have missed an arrow.  Ahead of me is a couple, and I think, “Well, I’m on the right road,” but then they stop, he turns round with his phone in his hand for directional help, and waves at me.  Hands in the air in a question, I reply with the same, and shake my head.  Together, we guess that we’ve indeed missed a turn.

I don’t remember exactly what he says, but I do recognize the language.  “Italiano?” I ask.  He nods.  “Parle Italiano?” he queries.  “Ah, poco,” I respond.  But we begin a bit of a conversation as he, his wife, and I head back down toward the village searching for another arrow.  I ask him (in Italian, I might add) whether he and his wife have a reservation for tonight.  No, he doesn’t.  Where am I staying?  I tell him, show him, give him the phone #, and he calls on the spot to secure two places for himself and his wife.  He nods gratefully,  “Grazie!”

We do find the slightly hidden arrow, and begin again to walk in the correct direction.  I take my time, but see them up ahead, and we converge on a bigger group of pilgrims as we approach Santa Maria de Cruces.  Everyone looks for a bar.  A woman outside the first bar directs people to a restaurant across the road, and the collection of bodies shifts to the left and toward the recommended food source.

Trying to tell the waitress that I would like just two or three slices of ham and cheese, but no bocadillo, she goes back into the kitchen for awhile and returns with three HUGE plates of sliced ham and cheese.  No way can I eat all of that, so I take it all back in and try to talk with the bartender.  He haltingly explains that he doesn’t serve only two or three slices of anything.  He takes one plate piled with cheese, and shoves the rest toward me again,  I sigh and return to my table again, with my new Italian friends, Ricardo and Paula.  I offer them part of my heaping plates, but they have ordered Padron peppers, huge salads and a big sandwich.  And two beers.  No room for my unwanted food.

Ricardo and I try to communicate in our meager English and Italian, respectively.  Good practice for each of us, but useless if we really want to convey information.  So we finally resort to technology.  We each have Google Translate, so he talks into his phone, and turns the translation toward me.  I then talk into MY Google Translate and turn the phone toward him.  In this way, we can have a reasonable conversation.

I finally leave with a plastic ziploc bag full of sliced ham and cheese, wave to Ricardo and Paula, and continue toward Faramello.  More hills, more heat, more villages, more bars, where I always order water, no gas, but ice, please.

Beautiful vines crawl up a stone house in a village

Finally, after another few hours, my last ice water stop is a larger town called Teo, and a highway out of that town toward the last village for the day, I see a little turnoff to the left, and the slighty farther, another turn to the left, with a handwritten sign:  “Faramello” and I can even see the Albergue down the road a bit.

Run by Beatrice, “the angel”

As I enter the front of the La Calabaza del Peregrino, a cheery, but harried woman greets me.  “Joannah?  From US?”  I nod.  “Ria, from Germany?  She is here.”  Well, of course she is!  She always gets everywhere before I do.  After I pay my 12 Euro for my bed, the woman, Beatrice, leads me upstairs and to my room.  A two-bunk room with TWO windows, one looking down on a large grassy patio with a dozen tables and a feisty gathering of pilgrims.  Ria’s backpack is already there, and she is resting on her lower bunk.  Her hat is on the other lower bed, and she tells me Beatrice has said we might not have any more people in our room tonight, but Ria wants to make sure I have the baja, not the upper bed.  I chuckle . . . so considerate of her!

I go down to the patio, with a new glass of ice water, and write for awhile.  Ria joins me but at the next table so she can roll her own cigarette, complete with filter, and have a smoke.  She does this about six times a day, and is very adept at it.  She carries rolling papers, loose tobacco, and a little ziploc bag of white filters, about the size of the end of a Q-tip or smaller, and deftly puts together a nice neat cigarette,  I have told her long ago that I wish I had known her when I was a pot smoker.  I could never roll a respectable joint.

The restaurant menu has . . . Caldo Gallego, the Galician soup I always crave when I am on a Camino.  Cabbage, chicken stock, potatoes (always too many, David L.), white beans.  AND they have the first Tarta de Santiago I’ve seen.  Yes, I am in Galicia. When I go back into the restaurant to order, Beatrice is even more harried.  She is the receptionist for the albergue, AND the cook, AND the waitress, AND the cashier.  She puts her hand on mine and says, “Just in a little while, please.”  And I assure her I am not in a hurry.  Apparently that makes me a friend for life.  She hugs me.

Ricardo and Paola arrive and come to sit at a table near me, with another Italian, so no need for Google Translate at this point, at least not for anyone but me.  We do have another GT conversation, much to the delight of a very loud crowd at a nearby table.  About eight of them, including a boistrous woman, whose voice I could hear from my window, directly above her head.  I had done a bit of laundry before I came down to the patio, and had put underwear on the windowsill to dry,

She is talking about “only pilgrims” will do this and that.  Points to my laundry and says to her friends, “See?  Who would hang a bra out the window anywhere else?”  And I cleared my throat and called out, “That is my bra, thank you.”  The whole group laughed.

Two or three hours on that patio, watching people come and go, watching Beatrice hustle food out to each table, including mine, and enjoying my first tastes of the Galician soup and the Tarta de Santiago, I argue with myself about whether I’m going to walk to Santiago tomorrow or not, up the very steep climbs and down, up and down. Ria tells me there is a German woman, Gabriella, who has such blisters on her big toes, trying to walk 40 km per day, ignoring her pain for days, who is staying here tonight.  She cannot walk any more, especially up the last steep climb to the “finish line”, and she will take the bus in the morning, which stops just three blocks up the road from Faramello.

She is crushed, because she is doing this walk for her 60th birthday, and now feels like she has failed because she can’t “walk in”.  I on the other hand, have “walked in” twice in the past five years, and feel no qualms about accompanying her in the morning.  Or at least only tiny qualms.  Ria introduces us.  Gabriella speaks very little English.  Ria is surprised because most Germans from cities and surrounding areas DO speak English, though not all as well as Ria does.  But then she talks with Gabriella and realizes that G is from Berlin, the part that was East Berlin before the late 80’s, and of course they did NOT learn any English.

She has no place to stay tomorrow, has no idea where to get off the bus at the closest stop to the old city, (where we will still have to “walk in”) and is quite grateful to have a seasoned pilgrim with her.  So we make our plan to meet in the morning for a bit of breakfast (toast and tea or coffee), and I go up to my room.

Since it is a Saturday tomorrow, the “last train to Clarkson” leaves in the morning at 9:15 from the bus stop on the main road.  We will be there.


Posted in Albergues on the Camino, Animals, Camino de Santiago, Women Walking | 5 Comments

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”.


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

Across The Portuguese/Spanish Border

Thursday, September 20.

The scenery is beginning to change.

I’ve been thinking about how very different this Camino is . . . not only that I’ve been in Portugal rather than Spain, thus far.  Not only that I’m on a beach boardwalk for the most part, again thus far.  But because my mind can’t seem to let go of wrangling with the issues still at home . . . a horrendous HOA situation, a possible sale of one of my Vermont properties (with all the attorney e-mails, etc. no matter where I am).  A different way of living in the moment.  I have no Neil, no Kali or Huxley, the beings who give my life its day-to-day joy.  But I still have more of the BS from home than I have had in the past.

And I also know that from my first Camino that it took me two weeks to let go of all the “home fires” burning and just be free every second.  Now I only have two weeks, start to finish, and one can’t just speed up one’s letting go.  So.

Today I am up and out of my apartment early enough.  My breakfast was a banana, a few little jam-filled cookies, and mint tea, all of which I had purchased yesterday.  So no wasted time stopping for “breakfast”.  I have managed to avoid cafe con leché (though I love it unless I know I’m going to have a full extra day of no walking, substituting mint or lemon tea, which has in turn eliminated my need for ‘Paris moments” in the bush.  A good thing.  Took me 1-1/2 Caminos to learn that!  Sigh.

So an easy path to the coast.  half a block and I’m there. The walk was easy, and my mid-destination is Caminha, a town on the border between Portugal and Spain.  Once in Caminha, a ferry takes travelers of all sorts (and cars) across an inlet of the sea.  Less than 10 minutes (and Euro 1.50, I think) and poof!  Spain.  A Guarda, to be exact.

My bed is in Mougás, however, and when I arrive at the Albergue, a couple is sitting outside in front of the reception area.  “Oh, you must be the American!” the woman says brightly.  “We’ve heard all about you from your German friend.”  Hmmm . . . I laugh.

I look around for the proper entrance, and the woman tells me to follow “the man”.  She gestures to someone approaching me from the restaurant next door.  I walk with him into the Albergue buiding, and he says, “You must be Joannah.  Your friend is waiting in your room!”  Nice to be infamous.

The view from our Albergue room in Mougás

After settling in, doing a bit of laundry, hanging it out on our balcony, with its lovely view, I must say, we went down to the attached restaurant for dinner.  A German man Ria had met on the road joined us.

Our various selections made a colorful display on the table.  Michael’s mussels, my langostinos, Ria’s baby squid, and our shared Padron peppers (I have to look for these in Fort Collins . . . delicious!). Some mediocre red wine, but hey, we’re all tired . . .

Michael’s mussels

Joannah’s Langostinos

Ria’s baby squid

Shared Padron Peppers. My maiden experience! YUM!

The room at the albergue WAS private, but had its problems.  Half of the plugs in the room were non-functional, as were half of the light switches.  The major issue was that the toilet didn’t flush.  At all.  EEWWW!  Who wants to dump water from the shower sprayer in the middle of the night, just to flush a toilet.  We’re old, remember, or at least I am, and I get up a lot in the middle of the night.

But at least we weren’t in bunk beds with twenty other pilgrims.

Posted in Albergues on the Camino, Beautiful seafood, Boardwalks and sand paths, Camino de Santiago, Camino Portugues, Hiking oceanfront, Oldish world traveling, Spain, What Goes on in the Mind, Women Walking | 4 Comments