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Mari's Northern Spain and the Camino de Santiago Trip Report

Mari's Northern Spain and the Camino de Santiago Trip Report

Jun 7th, 2005, 05:29 PM
  #21  
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Day 6 – we woke up and went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. The ‘normal’ breakfast was HUGE it had a humongous sobao toast, croissant, some pastry I was too full to try, coffee and juice. Waaaaayy too much!!! DH had some yogurt and some of my leftovers. I was tempetep to go back to Fuente De to see it with better weather but you just have to let go and move on sometimes....

After checking out and scratching the Saint Bernard dogs we got in the car and drove from Cosgaya to Potes to Panes to Arenas de Cabrales to Poncebos. This drive has some NARROW stretches with buses coming through and a LOT of stones and gravel on the road (coming down from the gorge) but boy-oh-boy, was it impressive!!!

We approached the ticket office for the funicular to Bulnes just as the sun was coming out. Tickets were 16 Euros for each and I must say that I almost hesitated (remember Fuente De and the fog). We finally (I) decided and jumped in. If you have a chance, DO THIS!!! Even if you are not interested in hiking, still it is a must. We took the +/- 10 minute ride through the tunnel dug out of the solid rock and emerged into the sunlight at the bottom of the valley!!!

Now, before I pour my heart out into the beauty of this area I must acknowledge the fact that if I was a taxpayer on this region and my money was being used to build this engineering marvel to connect Bulnes (population perhaps 30 if you count the dogs) to the 21st century; I would rant and protest!!! Now since I am a tourist and for 32 euros DH and I could go and painlessly enjoy this magical site, I will rave about it!!!

You walk from the top station to Bulnes de Abajo or to Poncebos. We went first to Bulnes de Abajo (at the bottom) and then to Bulnes de Arriba (at the top).

Here I must make a footnote! I am tropical and suburban raised 36yr old woman, I did not know about plants in general and nothing at all regarding nettles. There is no reason why I SHOULD know about nettles, they do not exist in Puerto Rico. I was never chased as child with them in kindergarten (apparently this was a common practice in Swiss grade school). I was informed about the existance and dangers of nettles about a quarter of a second too late, just after DH started asking if I knew what they were and if I was being careful not to touch any of them. The stinging begun just as I was trying to negotiate a plank crossover very loaded with cow evidence that forced me to the outer side of the little bridge, just above the drop off into Poncebos (I am cursed with vertigo so I was not happy at this particular moment anyway, even without the stinging).

After the nettle stinging passed I enjoyed very much the view from Bulnes de Arriba into the Garganta (gorge) in the direction of Poncebos as well as into Bulnes de Abajo. On the way down I stepped all over the cow evidence and was not stung by the nettles or scared about the drop off and the plank cross over – hey, you learn to pick your battles

We had two tintos to drink in a café in Bulnes de Abajo just by the stream and then we decided to walk into the Naranjo viewpoint. Wonderful, marvelous!!! Just to think that I had really good hiking boots and walking stick in my luggage in the bottom cable car parking lot made me angry. And there I was again, in my (old faithful) Clark’s walking shoes and jeans - I was always a bad Girl Scout, never prepeared! Anyway we had a great view of the cascades and then of the Naranjo de Bulnes. After that we headed back to the funicular and went back down.

The sun was shining so I decided to go up to the Lagos and Covadonga area. OHHHHHH… beautiful!!! Now the drive up there. Do not attempt unless (1) you are totally comfortable with a manual transmission and (2) you are a confident driver which is not intimidated by (a) heights, (b) narrow roads/switchbacks and (c) buses. But then again this is a sight not to be missed under any circumstance. If I had been by myself I would have gone with one of the aforementioned buses which seemed to go to and from Covadonga fairly often.

You go up, up, up and then some more until you find yourself in Alpine meadows filled with cows wearing bells (remember my humble suburban, tropical origins and DH’s Swiss upbringing – I thought it was remarkable and he thought that it was just plain normal and that “ANY true farmer that respected him/herself would have bells on ALL his/her cows”, and “anyway, the Swiss Cowbells sounded a lot nicer”). I was tempted to break out in song: “the hilllls are aliiiive….”.

The views of the lakes are stunning. I had seen similar landscapes in Rocky Mountain National Park at tundra conditions but then I was soooo busy trying to breath at over 12,000 feet elevation (remember born and raised at sea level) that I did not enjoy it as much…and there were no cows with bells in Colorado

Anyway, the Lago de Enol and Encina are an absolute must if you are ever in this area. We made our harrowing way back down and decided not to stop in the Covadonga shrine since there seemed to be some major festivity of which I (lapsed catholic) was not aware and the place was packed. We continued and made our way to the Parador in Cangas de Onis.

Once again our lack of lunch kicked in and after checking in to the hotel we proceeded into the bar and ordered two tintos and a cheese board to carry us to dinner. Well, that stuff was goooooooddddd. Did I mention at any point that the main difference between Northern and Southern Spain is that you can get truly great bread throughout the North? Well it is so; there is readily available GOOD bread from the Basque Country to Galicia. Any way, we went back to our rooms almost full with Cabrales, Tetilla and lots of other good cheeses. We took our showers and dressed a little nicer and headed for the Parador restaurant. I had some pasta (so so) and an assorted fish grill. It was OK but it was not as good as the one in Santillana del Mar and also it had some competition in my stomach among all that good cheese and bread. DH had some Fabada which was very good. We went for a walk aftwards along the river that runs parallel to the Parador. There were lots of fishermen and the evening was just perfect. Headed back into our room for another good nights sleep.

Next: Leon through the Desfiladero de los Beyos
marigross is offline  
Jun 7th, 2005, 06:31 PM
  #22  
 
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My God, mari , you did such a wonderful trip !! I've been in some of these places but never had the chance to do it in a car. I'm jealous ! I'm hooked to your report
kenderina is offline  
Jun 7th, 2005, 08:06 PM
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Mari,

I LOVED the Enol and Ercina lakes. So peaceful that sometimes the only thing you heard were the cows bells. I also grew in PR and I don't think I was ever that close to a cow in my life!

I took the same walk from the Parador alongside the river to the town of Cangas. I hope you liked the Parador. I thought it was very special.

Thank You so much for your very vivid descriptions!
cruiseluv is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 12:08 AM
  #24  
 
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Hi Mari,

first, I would have agreed with your husband regarding that crazy walk up from the cable-car in Fuente De
Speaking seriously, the terrain in Picos de Europa is dangerous in the fog, and the dangers can run from getting lost to sprain your ankle or getting killed (I am wearing my deadly serious hiker hat right now ... too many years hiking along the whole of northern Spain since we were little kids have taught us when not to venture out in the middle of the fog ... and this year there was a lot of snow hiding the holes and stones ...).

Second, you think that the tramway to Bulnes is expensive ... right now it is making money and it´s far cheaper than having to take people away by helicopter as it used to happen before The only complaint from the people in Bulnes is that they cannot bring their cows on it

I am really looking forward to the rest of your trip.

Rgds, Cova
cova is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 01:27 AM
  #25  
 
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marigross: Great report!

Just an observation on your "I was disappointed since the cocido Liebanes was only served for lunch and that was what I wanted."

I have had Favada Asturiana and Cocido de Liebana (very similar, except the Favada is with Fava Beans (expensive) and the Cocido, Garbanzos). In either case one spends the next 2-hours as if one has swallowed a brick. That's why in an earlier comment, I suggested a Siesta after the Favada Asturiana.

The best Cocido I tried was in Potes, Capital of Liebana, but that's to be expected.

BTW
The Cabrito asado (roast suckling goat) taste is almost indistinguishable from the roast suckling lamb
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 03:34 AM
  #26  
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Cova, you are absolutely rigth that we should have turned back in the fog. There were a lot of people around and I guess that gave me a false sense of safety!

Cruise, I loved the setting of the Parador. We also had a very nice room with sitting area and the most comfortable bathroom of the entire trip! It stays in the 'recommended' list Wait until I get to the Camino installment, there were cows, cows, pigs, cows, sheep and some more cows....

JudyC, we wrestled for over a year with the decision if we should go on our own or organized! We did find several baggage transfer services (see www.euroadventures.net or www.walksworldwide.com) but the price difference with the full 'tour' group was neglectable considering the added convenience.

Kenderina, I absolutely have to go back to Spain. I guess I will never see the rest of the world if I keep up with this addiction!!!!

Ned, I really like the Fabada but Garbanzos are my favorite grain so I was dissapointed anyway I love all of the spanish roasted meats, the cabrito, the cochinillo - Im already drooling and experiencing signs of withdrawal.....
marigross is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 04:13 AM
  #27  
 
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gosh Mari, it's only 8 AM and you have me drooling , thinking of that cochinillo! I can't wait to get to Spain in a month!
cruiseluv is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 04:55 AM
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Hi Mari,

I´m trying to behave ... but I am just back from lunch and I have had "cocido madrileño" (with plenty of garbanzos ... are they called chickpeas?). The cocido at the Hotel del Oso is really good, probably the best in the valley of Liebana, and I find it easier in the stomach than the fabada ...

BTW, did you manage to get a glimpse of the Asturian coast before heading inland to your Camino?

Bye, Cova
cova is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 10:44 AM
  #29  
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Cova, you are cruel!!! Thank God that I have to go back to Madrid the week of June 20th, even if it is only to work at least I still get to eat over there for a week!!! It will be Cocido Madrileño and Cochinillo for me.

The further west I made it to the coast was San Vicente de la Barquera.

Cruise, do you have an itinerary set for your trip?
marigross is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 10:46 AM
  #30  
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Day 7 – We got a lazy start in the morning and again discussed if we should go to Leon via Oviedo or take to the mountain roads through the Desfiladero de los Beyos. DH does not care that much about town or churches and I was loving so much the scenery that we agreed to let Oviedo go.

BTW-I am actively considering groveling and begging to my boss for a transfer to the Spanish facility of the company I work for. I think it is the only solution to my Spanish addiction. I cannot bear the anguish of having to choose one town over the other…..oh, the pain, the pain….

I am so happy we made this decision! The roads on this section were a bit narrower and again there was a lot of loose gravel on the road. Every time DH stopped to take a picture of the gorge I had visions of rocks falling through the roof of the car! Anyway I must reiterate my previous observation – the Picos de Europa and their surroundings deserve a full trip to the area. The stark, rocky peaks with their gravel slopes are absolutely stunning.

Ger/Oreilly: l if by any chance you read this trip report I wanted to let you know that I admire your stamina for driving around the Picos in a single day!!!!

We drove by the Embalse de Riaño. The views are wonderful. We got some great pictures of the mountains clearly mirrored in the lake. Once when we stepped out of the car, I suddenly heard something that sounded like wind chimes in a storm but kept approaching. Then on the other side of the lake, there was a large herd of running (well, cantering) sheep wearing bells being guided by three sheep dogs. Now, remember my suburban origins….I thought it was a myth that dogs would actually be shepherds. But there they were: pushing the stragglers and herding the ones that separated back into the group, not a human in sight! It is almost something to be ashamed off, this city ignorance! DH got a kick out of my excitement over something so simple.

Unrelated anecdote: I have a co-worker (very well educated but also raised in tropical suburbs) that anytime someone mentions Segovia as part of a conversation he goes into a rave about the actual existence of storks. He believed that they were like the boogeyman or the toothfairy, something made up to explain where babies came from (“brought by the stork”).

Getting into Leon was a bit of a hassle. For all other hotels I had maps and directions in my file but not for Posada Regia, do not ask why – I just did not have it!!! I am not perfect…Anyway it would not have mattered since the hotel was in the pedestrian area and we never would have found it. We parked the car in the street and went hotel hunting. I knew it was close to the cathedral so we headed that way and started asking around.

A very helpful man offered to walk us to the Cathedral through the little back streets. After we made quite a circle around the old town we realized that he would escort us to the cathedral only after he had picked up his granddaughter after school. At the end we made to the square and naturally the tourist office was closed until 5:00 PM so I headed to a candy store just across to ask for Posada Regia. The very pretty counter lady had a vacant look in her eyes when I asked for (1) Posada Regia, (2) a map of Leon or (3) the tourist office. This last one was just a test since I knew that it was 10 meters away and clearly seen through the window. Dumb Blonde jokes started popping up in my head A customer in the store that happened to be the owner of the hostel next door, very politely pointed out to the thick stack of Leon maps next to the cash register and kindly directed us to Posada Regia which was less than 200 meters away.

A few minutes later we had checked in to the hotel and were instructed on how to get our car into the pedestrian area for baggage unloading. When we returned to the hotel the group from Spanish Steps was checking in. We were not supposed to join the group until the following evening in Ponferrada but they invited us to go with the group for a guided visit of the Leon pantheon and cathedral. We also asked the guide if we could give them our luggage in the morning so that we did not have to wrestle with it when we gave the car back to Avis in Ponferrada. All that church-visiting incurred in the previous days most have earned us some brownie points somewhere because I do not even want to think about the next day if we had had to haul the luggage with us!

The Pantheon in Leon is to the Romanic period as the Sistine Chapel is the Renaissance! Absolutely stupendous collection of frescoes; marvelously preserved -remember that I am into medieval stuff. I liked the information provided by the guide, could have done nearly as well by myself with the Michelin Green Guide and a few years of Art History in college, but hated the time crunch and the pressure to keep moving on. The other people in the group were NOT into medieval art or architecture, in their defense I must say that after walking over 12k’s in a day there is not much that will interest anyone This group had already been walking for a week before we joined in Ponferrada.

We went then to the cathedral. WOW! Big, big WOW!!!! You feel as if you were walking into a jewel box. Just imagine how the medieval average Joe that had never seen anything taller than three stories high must have felt when entering this marvel! We walked with the guide through the church and into the cloister until all the explanations were done. The guide offered to walk the group back to the Gaudí building were we started for a short explanation over there but DH and I declined this part. We stayed in the cloister to have a leisurely walk at our own pace and then did the same with the cathedral.

We sat down in a café to ponder the possibility that we had made a huge mistake in joining a tour group for the first time in our couple life. There were 3 pairs of senior ladies and a single guy in his forties that greeted us with a big smile of relief when we were introduced to the group (in a future installment I will discuss how those ladies, which were well into their 70’s, bent the laws of aerodynamics, human stamina and reason while walking.

Anyway we headed out for a last tapas night before we had to give up our freedom and eat group dinners. The evening started out kind of disappointing, the bars in Leon do not have out in display what they are offering as tapas so it is almost a wild guess. We walked into the first one and got lucky, for 2.60 euros we got two tintos, two small empanadas, two small croquettes and some potatoes with chorizo. Second bar we bummed out – olives (have I publicly admitted that the only food item that I cannot swallow are olives?). We then changed our strategy, we walked into a bar without a kitchen and asked the bartender where we could go for good, local tapas. He gave us directions to a small, easy to miss, place about 50 meters from where we were – bar Ribera (maybe?).

The place was packed with locals and the floor was very dirty with paper napkins and other stuff – all good signs for a Spanish bar! We were kind of skeptical when we were presented with potato chips with our two tintos and we almost walked out without tasting. Then suddenly DH reached for one chip and his eyes lit up. “These chips are not from the bag”, I reached over, tasted one and proceeded to appropriate a barstool and ask for the raciones menu. I guess that they do not need the menu very often because she had to look in several placed before locating it. My hopes were multiplying by the second! We decided to play it safe and ordered half a racion of what everyone else was eating: rabas (fried calamari rings). The bar lady found a table for us and we settled down. As soon as we tasted the first calamari we ordered a full racion of them, another of callos (tripe) and some more potato chips. Naturally lots of red wine was downed with it. We then had some pulpo a la gallega before we gave up for the night.

We returned to our very nice hotel room (a bit noisy, but this seems to be almost standard throughout Spain) and repacked our suitcases to prepare for the next days of walking.

Next: Driving along the Camino and the Ponferrada adventures in giving the car back and formally meeting with our tour.
marigross is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 12:06 PM
  #31  
 
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Mari,

You're so lucky to have a DH that doesn't mind doing the driving! Mine doesn't want to . Many moons ago I would have not mind either but now..... I don't think I could navigate those narrow roads and look at the same time!

As far as my itinerary is concerned, believe it or not I have two itineraries booked!!! One if my son's language class is in Santander and another if he goes to La Coruña. He's going with a group , mainly from the US but the kids are placed with families and they're still working on it!

If he goes to Santander I'm going to Madrdid, Santander, San Sebastian , Burgos and back to Madrid.

If he goes to La Coruña , it'll be Madrid, Coruña, Santiago( with day trips from there) and back to Madrid. Hopefully I'll find out in the next few days.

Looking forward to El Camino!!!!!
cruiseluv is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 03:23 PM
  #32  
 
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marigross writes: "Unrelated anecdote: I have a co-worker (very well educated but also raised in tropical suburbs) that anytime someone mentions Segovia as part of a conversation he goes into a rave about the actual existence of storks. He believed that they were like the boogeyman or the toothfairy, something made up to explain where babies came from (“brought by the stork”)."

In Madrid, they say babies come from Paris.

If you want Storks you should daytrip to Alcala de Henares (Madrid), Cervantes' birthplace. They are all over the Universidad there.
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 03:45 PM
  #33  
 
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Cruiseluv writes: "As far as my itinerary is concerned, believe it or not I have two itineraries booked!!! One if my son's language class is in Santander and another if he goes to La Coruña. He's going with a group , mainly from the US but the kids are placed with families and they're still working on it!

If he goes to Santander I'm going to Madrdid, Santander, San Sebastian , Burgos and back to Madrid.

If he goes to La Coruña , it'll be Madrid, Coruña, Santiago( with day trips from there) and back to Madrid. Hopefully I'll find out in the next few days."

Universidad Internacional de Menendez Pelayo (UIMP, Pronounced 'Wimp') is one beautiful location at playa Sardinero in Santander. It's much nicer than a'Corunha although it's further from Santiago. Nearby is Laredo, Limpias (Cristo de Limpias), Comillas and San Vicente de la Barquera, Liebana and the Picos de Europa, including Monasterio de Santo Toribio on the outskirts of Potes where the largest known fragment of the Cross of Christ's crucifiction is guarded, Llanes, Cangas de Onis, even Bilbao. I fell in love with Santander about 43 years-ago - wife was surprised when we returned after 40-years and the people I had met there treated me like a long lost relative.

If I went to Santander, I wouldn't even bother about San Sebastian. There's plenty to see and do In Santander and really great seafood in el Barrio Pesquero. Evenings, on c/ de Burgos there's wall to wall street performers and they're not agressive like in N.Y. Washington Square Park or Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 06:42 PM
  #34  
 
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To Mari, Many thanks again for the reply about the 2 sites.

I visited Oviedo last year, still remember vividly the pre-Romanseque yellow stone churches on rolling green hills outside the town under the bright winter sun.

One point of interest I always try to seek out along the Camino is bronze statues of pilgrims/travellers in each town/city: such as the weary one in Burgos, or the father and son by Leon Cathedral and another by Parador. Even in Oviedo, there is one with bunch of trunks.

Looking forward to the next installment.
JudyC is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 06:51 PM
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marigross, enjoying your report.
When in France, at Alsace, if you look up in breeding season you can see the stocks on chimmney tops.
cigalechanta is offline  
Jun 8th, 2005, 07:46 PM
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Hi Nedsireland,

I have a copy of a thread from last year where you described your tour from Santander to Potes and Fuente Dé. If I get To Santander I'll try to do the same. I was in Santander last year and stayed at Sardinero. Also did a day trip to Santillana After Santander I went to Bilbao.

I also liked Santander a lot but would like to see San Sebastián and see what the hoopla is about.

Thanks for your suggestions!

Mari , get back soon and tell us about the Camino please! Thanks!!
cruiseluv is offline  
Jun 9th, 2005, 09:31 AM
  #37  
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Day 8 – we got up early to make sure that the tour guides could take our luggage with them. We had breakfast in the hotel since this was included with the room and headed out see the Parador and the adjacent church/museum. Had to wait a little bit since nothing is scheduled to open before 10:00 AM and nothing really happens before 10:30. The Parador seems to be beautiful but they were really strict about only letting guests in, so we could not get a good view. I was not crazy about its location either since it seems to be a little further out from the lively/pedestrian part of town and next to a huge government center. I love staying in the old towns and returning quickly to the hotel when we are tired of wandering aimlessly through the streets…..

Right now I’m thinking of Dorothy saying, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…” but it is NOT working!!! I don’t want to be home, I want to be in Spain and on vacation, I wanna, I WANNAAAAAH!!!!

We took the car out of the parking and made started driving towards Ponferrada. We took the smaller roads that go right next to the Camino. I was amazed at the amount of people actually walking! Every couple hundred meters you would see pilgrims walking by themselves or in groups.

There were many little, semi-abandoned villages along the way. Some looked a little more prosperous than others with all their doors and windows painted blue. The rural areas of the northern region of Spain seem to be very sparsely populated. You can sometimes drive on the smaller roads through the mountains for more than an hour and see only a car or two along the way.

Along this road we started seeing cyclists in the Camino. Those people must have some stamina. The approach to the top of the mountain ridge is a good 10 kilometers long with a 10-12% grade up. Those hills are STEEP!!!! Also, they pick up some awful speed on the way down…scary!

We stopped by the Cruz de Fierro where pilgrims drop off stones they have brought from their homes as a symbol of letting go of their burdens before they start their approach into Santiago. The stone hill is about 10 meters high with a single post topped with a cross. There were many objects in there among the stones: little stuffed toys, pictures, letters, military medals….I found it to be moving in a very quiet way. It makes you think about why anyone would want to take a 30 –pound backpack and walk 800km (or cycle up the steep hills).

One of the must-see places that I had scheduled in this trip was the church of San Juan de la Peña but as we approached Ponferrada, I had to admit that we were not going to have time for the detour since we had to meet with the tour at five in the bus station (?) or was it in the train station (?) and it was already 1:00 PM. We drove a few times around town looking for the tourist office so that we could get a detailed map of Ponferrada since the town turned out to be a lot larger than I thought it would – hey, there is only so much research you can do for a trip!!!!

We say plenty of direction signs for the tourist office but never found it. We changed strategy and went to the bus station since they would certainly have maps. Well, we went in and the information center was there but they did not have maps of Ponferrada –HUH???? “No Señora, we don’t have maps to give away, but you can buy one for five euros at the magazine store next door”. It had been a loooong time since I had been a victim of ‘you-are-a-tourist-and-I-will-s*c*r*u*’ attitude. A definite benefit of (a) being over thirty and (b) being the mother of a 12yr old is that you know (most of the time) which battles you are not going to win before you engage in full-blown warfare.

So, I smiled sweetly at the information master behind the counter and asked if she had directions to the Avis office so that we could return our car. I only asked this casually since I had printed out from the Avis website the address. I had the directions in my file…which was in the backpack….which was in the tour van with the rest of our luggage…along with all the papers that would dissipate our recently awakened doubts regarding if our meeting point was in the bus station or the train station!

I refrained from expressing (too much) my increasing feeling of panic. Naturally, the information master did not know where Avis was located but I vaguely remembered the name of the street – I DID do SOME research you know and I had proof in my backpack!!! With that she could give us some directions to a nearby street.

We got back into the car and quickly found out that maybe her directions were correct if you were walking but we could not navigate the one-way streets the way she told us! We finally gave up and parked the car again so we could find it on foot. After walking around the block a few times we finally located the small door with the Avis sign. Needless to say, they were closed for lunch until 4:00 PM (it was 2:30)

Since it WAS lunchtime we started walking around the streets looking for a place to eat but we were not in the city center, we did not in which direction the city center was. Boy-was the 5 euro map beginning to look like a deal! We located the way to the train station and then we wandered around until we found a pedestrian street that looked a little more promising and found a bar to sit down. We asked the bartender is they served lunch. They did not, ‘but there is a great place just down the street…’. We found the recommended place and settled down to eat.

As you have probably noticed by now, I am the #1 fan of Spanish cuisine. Keep away from chicken in Spain. The salad we had was great, the sauce of the stewed chicken was good but the chicken must have been training for triathlon, it was tough and the pieces were cut in such a way that you did not get any good bite of meat. I will risk the generalization since later on we had the same experience in another (outstanding) restaurant. At this point we started discussing the meeting point situation: train vs. bus station.
DH: I think you said it was the train station
Me: I thought the guide said bus station this morning
DH: I think you said it was the train station
Me: That was when I thought this would be a tiny little town and the bus station and train station would be the same!
DH: I think you said it was the train station, do you have the tour papers?
Me: Yes, they are in the backpack that is in the van with the tour guides
DH: Oh…..I think you said it was the train station. Didn’t they give us a tag with their cell phone numbers?
Me: Yes, it is attached to the backpack that is in the van with the tour guides. I still think that it is in the bus station.
DH: Oh…..Everyone meets in train stations!

Maybe in Switzerland they do and then the only train in Puerto Rico inaugurated two months ago. Since I had no clue (except a feeling that it was the bus station) and he had a firm opinion that we had to go to the train station I decided to let it go and follow his lead. Maybe this conversation had something to do with my not liking the chicken too much

We paid for lunch and headed back to Avis. They were finally open so we could give them the car back. It was 4:00 PM and we found the way to the old town and the templar castle. We enjoyed it for five minutes (the castle was closed anyway) before we walked to the train station. We had a beer in the bar and sat down to wait…4:35…4:45…5:00…5:05. At this point I was convinced that we had made a HUGE mistake in joining a tour group, that if we had continued on our own we would not be subjected to cruel and unusual stress during vacation time…I was close to tears!!! At 5:15 DH said that one of us should take a taxi and go to the bus station. We finally agreed that he would go, he gave me a 20 euro bill (I was not carrying any money at that point), told me that he would wait over there until 6:00 PM and if the guides were not found he would return to meet at the TRAIN station. He did kiss me goodbye though…

I did not like Ponferrada - I know I'm biased but I don't feel the urge to give it another try!

Ten minutes later the tour van drove into the TRAIN station, I ran out to tell them that DH was on the way to the BUS station in a taxi but they had already picked him along the way. Turned out that they have experienced the Train vs Bus confusion before so if someone is not showing up they just go to the other place. I immediately began to feel better about the tour in general!

There were two other severely jetlagged parties in the van that were joining the walking group. We were very happy (not for the last time) that we had changed our plans to do the on-our-own part of the trip first before joining the group. I don’t think I would have been up to walking fresh out of the airplane! We had been instructed to wear our hiking boots and after driving for around 40 minutes the van was parked and we were let out to start walking on the Camino. We were told to follow the yellow arrows and scallop shells until we reached the village of Ambasmestas.

We had a fairly nice 5k walk going through wooded areas (very nice) but also along the road (not nice), my mood was improving by the second and it made a final turn for the better when we bought a half kilo of cherries on a roadside stand! By the time we reached Ambasmestas I was back to my happy self

We stayed for one night in a little Casa Rural (www.ambasmestas.com). At 8:00 we had the tour introductory meeting followed by dinner at 9:00. The restaurant was rather good, I had some bacalao and DH has some beef stew. After dinner we took a little walk around town (maybe 300 meters long) to aid digestion after eating way too much and turned in for the night.

Next: Walking the Camino: O’Cebreiro and Triacastela
marigross is offline  
Jun 9th, 2005, 04:17 PM
  #38  
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Just two small clarifications: (1) We were supposed to be in BUS station but when we dint show up they went to look for us in the TRAIN station.

(2) One of the reasons (among many) that I am still wiht DH is his ability to let things go at a simple "Oh" (this might be a full blown argument for a Swiss but it is extremely polite for latin culture)
marigross is offline  
Jun 9th, 2005, 05:31 PM
  #39  
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I posted some of the pictures online, the order is not correct (first time I try this!!!)

http://share.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=EeAMWzZi2buHDhw
marigross is offline  
Jun 9th, 2005, 08:28 PM
  #40  
 
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Mari,

Those are some unbelievable pictures. I can't believe the snow! Beautiful pictures of the Basque coast!

Thanks for continuing with your report!
cruiseluv is offline  

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