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Trip Report Camino Redux

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I was called on our first Camino and as Colin began reading about it he decided to join me. Finally Chris and Anne Marie joined us as well. This time it was Colin who was called. With our travel commitments set until 2017 it looked like we would only be able to do the Camino in 2018. However God giveth and God taketh away and our planned and booked 32 day cruise of the northwest passage had to be cancelled due to Colin's work commitments. A space opened up followed by us discovering a Crystal Lisbon to Barcelona itinerary touching ports like Tarragona, Casablanca, Ibiza and Palma which we hadn't been to and including visits to Sintra and the inside of the Sagrada Familia.

When I mentioned a possible Camino to our friends we soon were able to form a group. Johnny and Cheryl joined us followed by Alex and Liddy, Karen who I met on a Tahiti cruise, Irwin and Sheila and then at the eleventh hour Tiffany.

The travel agent decision was a fait accompli. Liz Helmore of Nativa Travel had put together an excellent itinerary with very nice inns and excellent food and a seamless no hassle trip in 2012. It's important on any trip to have the perfect Travel Agent and I am not a person who believes one size fits all. I use specialist agents depending on our travel itinerary and it has resulted in many super trips with our bucket list almost at it's end. A couple of weeks before the trip John and Cheryl's daughter Tiffany found that exams over she was free to make the trip. Here is where we saw Liz's value added service. She was able to get triples or single rooms in every inn we stayed in at the very last minute. Then Karen decided to make the gutsy move of walking the 80 k from Santiago to Finisterre by herself and Liz was able to arrange this for her.

Liz had arranged a pick up at the Santiago airport for Colin and myself us on August 27 and we sped away full of excitement and on my part trepidation. Someone on the cruise had given me a cold so I felt sub par but loaded myself with Tylenol cold meds. We had an excellent vehicle and driver who kindly gave us 2 boxes of individually packaged cookies in the shape of scallop shells as a gift. He took our two extra suitcases of cruise clothes to the Hotel Altair for us to pick up when we checked in.

We gathered together at the Rectoral de Goian. This bucolic inn in the middle of beautiful pine forests lived up to its reviews. The rooms were nice and the surroundings restful a fitting start to our Camino. Javier the innkeeper gave us our Credencials and a copy of the Brierley book for each of us. Dinner that night was a very jovial affair and what a dinner it was. Red and white wines flowed. A salad with torched goat cheese and a lovely cheese that was flower shaped included a cornucopia of salad ingredients in a tangy dressing. Hake beautifully grilled rested on a bed of mashed potatoes and was accompanied with a delicious creamy white sauce on the side. The dessert was a layered medley of fruit purées topped by a delicious ice cream in a martini glass. All very chic and beautifully presented but tasty as well.

Breakfast the next morning was also superb and besides the usual stuff included hard boiled eggs, mini spicy chorizos and smoked salmon. Bread, cakes and pastries completed the offerings. Replete and well fortified we felt ready to face the challenge ahead.

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    Day 2 the walk begins

    The itinerary promised a walk of 14.4 km from Cruce Leiman to Portomarin. Since it was our second Camino I assured all that this was an easy stroll all downhill. However for whatever reason Javier decided to drop us a few km earlier so our walk included a bit of an uphill and then a downhill and was about 18 km. Buoyed with our pilgrim spirit we walked in groups of two or three naturally forming based on of our abilities.

    The first part was lovely. Not as many pilgrims as before and great weather all morning. In fact the morning mists lingered until noon at the earliest and made the walk easier. I had many bad memories of severe dehydration the last time and guzzled litres of water. After Mercadoirio where we stopped for some victuals, the terrain got a bit tougher. The soil between stones was washed away and the ankles took all the pressure. Poor Cheryl became our second casualty....Alex had become a casualty in February when he ruined his knees and was prepared for a taxi Camino. He actually walked or hobbled as much as he could when he could. Cheryl sprained her ankle and she was assisted by her caring hubby Johnny and devoted daughter Tiffany but valiantly walked all the way to Portomarin.

    As we neared Portomarin I noticed the route was totally changed. At one point there was a choice of a shorter but tougher walk and an easier walk along a road. There was even a board with pictures of how bad the walk was. Well we took the longer but easier walk and reached the iconic bridge from a different part. Once we crossed the bridge we waited in the shade for the others and asked the innkeeper to pick us up.

    Dominic the Chef, arrived with his golf cart and kindly made two trips trucking us into the beautiful Santa Marina Casa Rural which is a bit off the Camino. All of us had rooms in one of the log cabins with a very nice common area. The gardens and orchards of this property are very welcoming with the Apple and pear trees were full of fruit. The rooms were comfortable and shower and bathroom excellent.

    After showering and resting a bit we met outside the dining area in a lovely patio that overlooked the river. It was great to relax together with a drink while we awaited dinner. Internet worked well so all of us were busy reviewing emails and the like in between exclaiming on the wonderful view and idyllic surroundings. The river was likely dammed at some point so looked very full compared to my previous visit.

    Dinner and hi jinks in my next instalment!

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    Hello emdee!

    So glad to see you did the Camino again! Not sure if you remember me, we corresponded back in 2012 and shared ideas and plans for our first Camino. Although Liz from Nativa Travel was extremely helpful, I decided to organize it on my own. Since then I've done two more Caminos, one of them a different one, the Portugues.
    On my first Camino I also stayed at Rectoral de Goian, so lovely!

    Looking forward to reading about the rest of your experience.

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    A Tahiti reunion? Sounds great, but I've never been to Tahiti, so don't know if I qualify for a reunion :) Please keep writing about your Camino experience, its so a special thing!

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    Dinner that night was hearty and tasty. The traditional Caldo Gallego served in huge urns filled to overflowing and constantly replenished. Alex decided to act as wine steward and flitted around the table filling our wine glasses. Suddenly a loud and Germanic accented voice shouted out. " I saw you take are a cheater" . The hubbub of conversation instantly quieted while the diatribe continued..... Alex being Alex, our gregarious, big hearted friend, worked his charm explaining his injury. He even paid thousands on a special procedure which elite athletes like Patrick Chan ( world champion figure skater) had had in the hope of being able to walk the Camino. However no amount of trying could make those knees work. He decided to enjoy the experience and walked as much as he could and in the evenings was a very efficient and charming wine steward! Before you know it, the accuser became best buddies with the accused and the sigh of relief was almost audible at our table.

    Of course all this drama was neatly forgotten when Chef Dominic's wonderful salad appeared. Likely his salad may be one of the chief reasons for Colin's return to the Camino. The salad ingredients from his own garden were bursting with freshness having been picked only a few hours before. The main course was pork ribs succulent, tender and delicious accompanied by fries. Platters of meat and salad were constantly replenished kudos to our very generous host. We tucked in heartily guilt free after the long walk. Dessert was a choice of Flan or Santiago Cake and was equally scrumptious.

    As we finished dinner Mario, our host, appeared, heartily kissed me and told our group to sit outside for a special event. When we went outside we saw ten chairs arranged in a semi circle with a table in the centre. Showtime soon began with lights off and Mario, the consummate showman dressing up in a hemp cape and hood chanting dramatically in Galician while he stirred a witches brew of lemon, coffee, herbs and spices along with a grappa like liquor. The liquor was lit and exploded into a blue flame while his incantations continued. This Mario had explained was Queimada, a Galician tradition, no doubt Pagan, that went back to the Celts? We were killing ourselves with laughter at Mario's histrionics and this got worse when he gave Johnny the English translation to read and incant. Johnny is the master of ad libbing and we shall never know how much was Mario's translation and how much was Johnny's additions. Though a lot of the alcohol had burned off the liqueur was herbal and lemony a bit of a fire water. Thank you, Liz for arranging this wonderful show.

    What a day and what an evening!

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    Day 2 of walking. Portomarin to Lestedo 20 k

    A beautiful misty morning greeted us, especially over the river. Eager to begin the day we walked to breakfast and found that the usual Continental breakfast had been set up including some packaged cake which was great as a snack along the way. After much hugging and kissing we bid Mario and Dominic adieu. I cannot say enough about the genuine warmth and hospitality these two offered us....we were clasped to the breast both figuratively and literally!

    Cheryl and Alex were to rest until 10 am and then taxi it to Lestedo.

    Mario dropped us in his souped up golf cart to the Church so we were able to see a bit of the town and the huge trek began. I am pretty sure the way has changed here as we took a Complimentary route. This was scenic and beautiful but OMG what a climb. Each time we thought the summit was reached we had to find this was not the case. The cold had played havoc with my energy so I rested at every available opportunity which were few and far between. At some point the regular Camino joined us and we soldiered on.Finally we found a place to sit down by a vendor and I was happy to rent a seat by buying a snack. Once again I found that while I am great on the flats my knees give out on the climbs. The two of us were the last of the group headed by Irwin and Karen and Johnny and Tiffany. Sheila and Liddy were in the middle with us laggards at the end. To our surprise we met the whole group at a snack bar where some had a power lunch of beer while I enjoyed a Hamburger and fries!

    As we ate Mario came by with Cheryl and Alex and said hi. He was on his way to drop them at the next inn the Rectoral de Lestedo. Another lovely inn. Toxibo, had gone by on a blur, Gonzar was intense pain and we finally after a steep uphill climb reached the village of Castromaior. By this time I was ready to drop and rested at every opportunity. Another ascent to Monte Ligonde meant sheer exhaustion. Would the climbing never end? Our friends were way ahead. Finally we reached Ligonde and a long, long rest stop. It became clear that Colin had succumbed to my cold and was as exhausted as I was. A downhill walk took us to Eirexe. Part of this was on the road and part thru a narrow gully not more than three feet wide. The descent was quite treacherous but we stepped very carefully.

    At last we turned a bend and the Rectoral was in sight. Alex was our welcoming committee and told us that we were only 20 minutes behind the last group. We were shown to a lovely room where we were able to unpack and relax. That evening we met Dee from Australia who dined with us. Aching limbs meant less conversation. Our dinner that night was a delightful cream soup followed by a small piece of chicken and potatoes with ice cream for dessert. We missed Mario 's hearty meals and hearty personality and trundled up to bed terribly exhausted and a little peckish.

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    Thanks for your continued report. Glad the tense situation with the German "pilgrim" was defused. Amazing how people can stick their noses in things that are none of their business!
    I tried staying at Rectoral de Lestedo to break the long walk from Portomarin to Palas de Rei but it was fully booked.
    In what month did you do this Camino?

    PS No, I've never been on the Gaugin. Going on the Explorer, the new Regent ship in Nov

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    Day 3 Lestedo to O Coto-Leboreiro 13.4 km

    Up early again I was very exhausted from the first two days walk while I was walking with my cold. Colin's cold was at the incipient stage. We decided at this point not to seek the Compostela and to just walk each day as our health dictated.

    Breakfast was a disappointing meal with us constantly asking for items like Bread and Cheese.
    Anyway that done we walked with the injured at a very gentle place. The plan was to walk to Palas de Rei and then hail a cab to take us the rest of the way. Once in Palas we stopped at a little church with its main doors open for the Holy Year of mercy and sat awhile listening to some religious music then continued down a series of steps towards Vallins bakery hoping to buy a fresh Empanadas but they were all out. Met an acupuncturist who advised Alex and Cheryl how to walk with injury. Then arranged a cab to take us to Casa Los Somoza.

    We had so many fond memories of this place with Mari Puri and his charming wife and Anna who assisted in every way. The place looked all spruced up with the courtyard and garden a haven for bus tours. We enjoyed the menu del Dia with excellent croquettes and salad. I asked for Mari Puri and was told that he was in Melide and came back in the evenings. The young man was friendly and didn't charge me for the Cup of hot water to soothe my throat.

    When the gang arrived we gathered beneath a roof of grape wines and spent a quiet afternoon chatting. Internet was not working as a bad storm two days before was the cause. We eagerly awaited dinner remembering the delicious home cooked meal and warmth of the lady of the house. Unfortunately the place had changed hands and the new owner was brusque. We were first told dinner was paid for only four then acknowledged that there was dinner paid for all ten of us. Instead of the heart warming meal we had here previously we were asked to choose three courses from the menu del dia page which we had had that afternoon. After much discussion we called Liz, our travel agent, who spoke to the management and we were then told that our menu also included pulpo and Galician style cod. The wine was flowing and tempers amongst ourselves got a bit high....however in hindsight adversarial situations like this take on the stuff of legend as years go by and the story is recounted.

    To the inn's credit they had very delicious apps and salads. Their cod though was a disgusting hunk of boiled fish with a smidgeon of olive oil. I could only swallow a morsel. Desserts were standard though I must say their Flan was thickened with flour.

    Day 4 A rest day .....walk to Melide of 5 k.

    After a hearty breakfast we set out on our walk. The walk was like a stroll in the park and we looked at it as such.i noticed a lot of vendors on this Camino, offering special stamps with seals and medals attached for a cost, tee shirts and the like as well. At one of these vendors two women inserted themselves in the line between Karen and ourselves. I told them we were Canadian and did not cut queues. We circumvented their action by adding Karen's credential to our own! On the whole though the friendliness and camaraderie of other pilgrims was always visible.

    Hearing about our disappointment Liz of Nativa Travel suggested that she do something special for us and I recommended that maybe comping the pulpo lunch meal would be ideal. She made arrangements with Ezekiel Restaurant and what followed was an amazing meal. We started with a plate of Serrano ham and spicy chorizo followed by the most delicious melt in your mouth pulpo. When salad followed we were in alt but to our surprise plates of razor clams followed. Johnny had stood up withdrawing from the feast but at the sight of the luscious plates of huge shrimp re-entered the fray. When our hostess asked me about a meat course i declined but she insisted that we try Galician cookies and the local melon. Both were delicious. Liz had arranged a taxi back to the inn and this is a great arrangement. It's convenient yo stay two nights in one place. Further, we were able to get our laundry done for just 10 Euros.

    Dinner that night was not very memorable because we felt that pork was passed off as beef but heck we were still talking about our wonderful lunch.

    My report has turned out to be a lot about the food.....but our Camino was a bit of everything : Pain and suffering or sheer torture as Tiffany put it... Perseverance, determination, meditation, appreciation of nature , prayer, offerings for our special intentions. Some friends in Toronto felt that we had a little too much of luxury but as Cheryl put it we were not doing this Camino to atone for any major sins!

    One of the highlights for some of our group at Los Somoza was the wonderful masseuse. The quality and attention to detail was exceptional.

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    Day 5 Melide to Arzua 13 km

    A taxi had been arranged to take us to Melide to continue the walk at the spot we had stopped the previous day. We began the walk together but as usual Irwin, swift as a mountain goat, and Karen his walking buddy, led the pack. Johnny and Tiffany helped Cheryl along until we suggested they carry on ahead and she walk with us. Very early on we watched a family of donkeys. Strangely the young one kept nuzzling the father while the mother munched away. A very domestic scene.

    The weather gods smiled on us again, misty mornings gave way to brilliant sunshine. Walking in Galicia is so beautiful. The country roads and little paths, the walks through pine and eucalyptus forests and those charming paths where the trees on either side had grown together to form a lovely canopy. Wish I could walk there again but I think my right knee is shot!

    We walked until Boente and met everyone at a rest stop. This was a pretty and easy walk for us though Colin had a bit of a fever. I was thankful that we were not planning to walk after Boente as I have many memories of this day being long and hard on our last Camino. At Boente we took a taxi to Casa Teodora, a motel like building right on the way. Of all the properties we stayed in, this one was most basic and lacked charm. But it was convenient especially if you needed to make any purchases. However, the food here was tasty and plentiful , the service prompt and friendly. Our very charming waitress brought us a taste of Arzua cheese, added a scoop of ice cream to the Santiago cake when requested without a demur and at no extra charge.

    Day 6 Arzua to Santa Irene

    Another beautiful morning and great breakfast. Colin had a fever and the four of us on the sick and injured list decided to take a bus to the next stop. We were to walk to Mason Empalme where Liz had arranged for us to be picked up by Taxi and taken to the beautiful O Muino de Pena, a former water mill with lovely greenery, bubbling brooks and dogs that escorted you around the property. I was surprised how many injured pilgrims were on the bus.

    Since we had overshot the spot on our last Camino I showed everyone a picture of the bar, the bar previous to it and the bright yellow building across the street as shown by Google maps. I remembered well the resto where we had rested a few K prior to the Mason. On the bus I sat on the right side and it was fortunate I did so as the yellow house was now bright blue and we almost missed our jump off spot. No worries...we debused ( this isn't but should be a word) and ambled inside to the lovely garden of Eden spot inside. We quickly emailed and messaged the group about the changed colour of the building and settled down to a nice meal.The food at the Mason was quite decent and I would definitely recommend it. Liz was able to arrange an early pick up and soon we were off to the Inn.

    Meanwhile, on the Way an innkeeper produced a guitar and Johnny was at his best singing and strumming to the pilgrims enjoyment. Sadly, we missed his impromptu concert. Johnny is an absolutely fabulous singer and has a huge repertoire of songs including Spanish favourites.

    Dinner that night was absolutely fabulous. I had noticed on the previous Camino that portions were dainty and asked Liz to arrange an additional course. The salad looked delicious but had candied walnuts so wasn't for me. I had a lovely soup to which spicy peanuts were added. Liz had advised all Inns of my allergies to tree nuts and they took great care to make sure that I had an alternative menu when appropriate. There followed our additional course of Serrano ham graced with olive oil and paprika and the most delicious cod fritters and spinach croquettas ever, served on blocks of wood. The main course was a small portion of beef and this was followed by the Chef's take on a bread and butter pudding which turned out to be a glorified French toast with caramel and ice cream both very delicious. The wines were also exceptional, here.

    Many have compared the Camino to life. More than once I have been struck with the similarities. There are ups and downs, great moments and painful ones but a good attitude and joyful acceptance takes you a long way.

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    Hi, emdee,

    Thank you so much for posting this. For many who are addicted to walking Caminos in Spain, there is a huge temptation to enter the debate over who is a "real" pilgrim. I am sorry to say that many of the people I know best from my 15 odd caminos over the years fall into the judgmental category. It is no doubt true that many of the people who walk the Camino Francés today would never have walked it fifteen, twenty, or even more years ago when there was no baggage transport, no wide range of accommodation, no tour guides, etc. And so a lot of us old timers frequently fall into the trap of talking about "back in the day when the Camino was not overly touristed...." And that inevitably takes on a tone of (usually unintended) superiority.

    Your posts remind me once again that a lot of the "Camino magic" can still be there on the Camino Francés, no matter how many people there are, how cushy the accommodations are, whether you carry your pack or not, etc. And it´s a good lesson to not be judgmental, a life lesson that many could use.

    But of course, if anyone wants to eschew all those comforts and experience a Camino of a different sort, there are lots of us happy to give our two cents. And there are LOTS of other caminos where you will not find the crowds, the amenities, etc etc. Just look at this map of Spain:
    There are caminos everywhere, just begging to be walked. Buen camino!

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    Emdee, Happy you sample Ezequiel Pulperia, my favorite in Melide!!I hope the guy with the octopus tattoos was the one cooking the pulpo. Been there several times, my favorite for pulpo in Galicia!
    I think it was a good idea to ditch the Compostela, and adapt your hiking to your needs, so all of you could enjoy getting to Santiago. There's always one next time if you're so inclined.
    I'm curious, did you find the trail more crowded that when you first went in 2012? When I did the last 100+ kms from Sarria last Sept I found the Camino so crowded that frankly, it detracted from the experience.

    lreynold1, hi!!What Camino did you do this year? I totally agree with your post, and I know about the "undercurrents" of criticism there is from some quarters about hikers such as me and emdee who do not stay in Albergues and send our luggage forward. The first time I was very apprehensive , but the next two times I didnt care. We all have different levels of stamina and level of commitment. I'm now done with any fixation of getting a Compostela, and I'm more into walking special segments and busing or taxing those that dont interest me. I'll check the website link you gave to get some ideas, thank you!

    Buen Camino!!

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    Hi, cruiseluv, I'm glad that you have put that apprehension aside -- I don't think we'll ever stamp out that judgmental disapproval, but I will keep trying. So glad to hear you're still walking -- what's up next for you?

    This year I walked from the mouth of the Ebro, the starting point is Riumar. Up to Zaragoza, then onto the Camino Castellano ARagones (GORGEOUS, and Soria is an absolutely lovely town with lots to see) and over to Santo Domingo de Silos. Then on the Camino San Olav from Covarrubias into Burgos (highlights on that three day walk were dinosaur prints reputed to be 114 million years old and a visit to one of the few standing visigothic churches in Spain, 7C, Quintanilla de las Viñas. From Burgos I "cheated" :-) and took a train to León, where I went back to one of my favorites, the Salvador/Primitivo combination. Sorry, I bet you didn't expect such a long answer to your simple question.

    Probably a better website for searching for new routes is mundicamino, because it gives stages and distances, elevations, accommodation, etc. It has info on most but not all of the Caminos Ray and Rosa have on their map.

    Buen camino!

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    Day 7 Santa Irene to Lavacolla 12.5 km

    Today was very misty and we decided to leave a bit earlier than the others as we were quite ready. We were able to get a ride before our official taxi driver Teresa arrived and were dropped near A Rua We had a longish downward walk to O Pedrouzo but the mists continued so it was very pleasant. There were only a few pilgrims on the road. Once we reached the lovely pine forests all this uphills began. We would literally take 30 steps and stop to catch our breath. I had forgotten how hard this sector was. Then for a while we were walking in between farmland and forests until we reached Amarelle where we took time to rest at the rest stop. Finally, we made it to the Lavacolla stream, historically significant as it was here Pilgrims washed themselves before reaching Santiago.

    When we went by the airport fence we didn't see any planes. San Paio was our next rest stop. This is a charming town with a lively church. I enjoyed a lovely ice cold Coke Zero as it was a bit hot. On reaching Lavacolla we had lunch and Irwin and Karen caught up with us and we walked to the charming Pazo Xan Xordo.

    Dinner that night was amazing. The last time we were at this lovely Pazo they did not provide meals. However since we were 10 they agreed to do so in advance. The meal was catered from some fairly high end place and arrived by van. It started with huge bowls of steamed mussels, lukewarm but delicious. Then followed a seafood salad app of which I could barely consume a quarter, huge salad platters and then leg of lamb with veggies and dessert. My only suggestion to them is to serve all in platters. Even those with huge appetites couldn't do justice to the quantities.

    Day 8 Lavacolla to Santiago 10.5 km

    The next morning Colin and myself decided to skip the walk to Monte Gozo...been there done that and took the bus to the entrance of Santiago. We had a very pleasant walk into Santiago with empty streets and it was lovely to take a few pics around the Church and square without too many pilgrims.

    We checked into Hotel Altair very well located, clean and comfortable with extremely pleasant staff and were reunited with the rest of our bags which had been left behind.

    As we made our way to the Church we found ourselves in the midst of a huge procession which we promptly joined. Hymns were sung, a band played. I think it was for St. Roque. They set off a ton of firecrackers which sounded like gunshots. This very much reminded me of my childhood in India where once a year we would have a Catholic religious procession in honour of Our Lady in the largely Hindu and Muslim streets of the area where we lived in Mumbai. Crowds of all religions would line the streets and we would hang colourful flags and light oil lamps. Now that India's secularity is on the wane I don't know whether this tradition is still maintained.

    We reached the Church in time for mass with excellent seats which was great because the botufumeiro was swung. What a majestic cathedral and what an experience. The mass was said by the bishop and all the more meaningful as most of my group hailed from India and the announcement of Mother Teresa's canonization that day was made. The main doors should have been open for the holy year but there is still work going on in that area and the door to see St. James's remains is designated the holy door.

    Those who qualified Irwin, Shiela, John, Liddy, Karen, John and Tiffany received their Compostellas that day. We outliers were nevertheless happy with what we accomplished and the whole experience.

    Dinner was arranged by Liz in a chic restaurant whose name escapes me. Another fabulous meal, great food and wines. We were very happy peregrinos as we walked back to our hotel that night.

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    The final day in Santiago.

    After a scrumptious breakfast we made our way for a tour of the Cathedral and the old town. Liz had arranged this tour and the guide, Sabella, did an excellent job explaining the Church's construction thru the ages and taking us to the museum as well. We had the same guide for an afternoon tour to Finisterre with a stop at a waterfall. She was very good, with a pleasing personality and we enjoyed her chats that day. She was quite surprised that we had experienced a Quiemada ceremony and asked if Mario had made the presentation.

    Our final dinner was at Pazo de Altamira in the heart of the old town. Once again great food and Rioja and I think Albariño wines. We left the dinner early was well passed Colin's legendary bedtime we had an early morning flight.

    Our return flight to Toronto was via Zurich and Boston a bit circuitous but beggars cannot be choosers when it comes to getting a free ticket on points. Unfortunately our bags didn't get to Toronto for a couple of days.

    The Skinny on our Camino

    I walked in walking sandals...after losing my nails the last time didn't want to take the chance this time. They lasted the entire journey. I had taken other shoes too. New Balance in case of rain and very light and comfortable Fila pair.
    Our air wicking shirts did really well. Mine were purchased from Costco and from Sports stores. Others used Old Navy. They are great for travelling and for me will do double duty in the lagoons of French Polynesia.
    Loved all the choices of hotels except for the Casa Los Somoza. While the rooms were updated there the food was fast food or as they say mutton dressed as lamb!
    Great travelling with our noisy rambunctious group as they are warm and caring and honestly a lot of fun. It made the whole experience very special. Love you guys!
    Our bucket list is almost complete...just the North Cape and Scotland left...but walking the Camino will always be one of our great experiences. OK the PG is still at the top of my list!
    Thanks very much to Liz Helmore of Nativa Travel in Spain. She did a tremendous job putting this trip together and then pinch hitting when we hit the one bump along the way. Hit it out of the ballpark with our memorable lunch at Pulperia Ezekiel.
    At some point I will post pics of our Camino on my photo site but don't know when that will be!

    I think my knees are finally shot so doubt I will be able to do another Camino. However, the torch is passed on and Johnny is talking of walking the Pyrenees.

    Buen Camino!

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    Emdee congrats to your group in completing the journey, thanks for your very detailed report! Not sure if you'll see me in the Gauguin, for whatever reason I always gravitate to Europe, specially Italy and Spain.

    lreynold, I always enjoy reading about your itineraries!I'll never be as adventuresome as you but pick ideas to do at least part of them. I've heard very good things of the Aragones, will look into it. Another option is a segment(s) of the Camino del Norte.

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