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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 10th, 2005, 01:43 AM
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great pix, Mari! Thanx for sharing them with us
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Jun 10th, 2005, 04:16 AM
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Enjoying your report. but unable to access pix. please could someone forward them ? Thank you
jean253 is offline  
Jun 10th, 2005, 04:30 AM
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If you copy and paste the URL that Mari gives it doesn't work for you?

cruiseluv is online now  
Jun 10th, 2005, 04:42 AM
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Mari--- has visitado la parte que mas me encanta de España!! Tu reporte esta brutal! me estas haciendo planear otro viaje!!

Fabulous report and pictures!!

(Otra) Boricua.
Viajero2 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2005, 08:45 AM
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Thanks to all! With your encouragement it IS turning into an epic trip report!!!

Next day we woke up early and went down for breakfast with the group. We had coffee from the thermos not ‘de máquina’ any more…sob! Had to wait until Santiago for another wonderful espresso from the machine poured by a trained barista! You just cannot have everything Breakfast was standard fare: yogurt, fruit, cereal (I have the impression that this was provided exclusively for the American customers) bread and jam. Afterwards we went back to our rooms to tighten our hiking boots and bring the luggage down,

The way the hiking tour worked was that you have tons of walking length options. Every day you had a first drop off and a second drop off before lunch (and special deliveries as well I guess!). Some people did not walk after lunch.

Here I must say that DH and I are not experienced walkers. He does have a huge advantage over me: we was dragged from the time he learned to walk until he was able to flat out refuse (early teens) on weekend walks through the Swiss mountains. I, on the other hand, was raised on the backseat of a car! Now I must state that I love walking, I find it very relaxing and pleasant exercise but that morning I was a little scared at the prospect of walking over 100k’s in the next few days. On top of everything: the walking of the Camino de Santiago was MY IDEA so I had some (internal mostly) pressure to keep up with the program. We do walk in the weekends and some weeknights when I come home early enough from work. Our usual neighborhood walk is about five miles (8-9 kms). At the moment of truth, I was a little apprehensive when the guides started explaining the challenging climb into O’cebreiro that we had for that day. It was not a problem

We walked from our hotel door in Ambasmestas to the second drop-off in Las Herrerias about 5k’s. We checked in with the guides and began to climb what had been described as ‘the wall’ up to O’cebreiro. The country side was beautiful! We passed several small towns. We stopped in a few for bathroom breaks and to purchase two cans of Acuarius (Spanish equivalent of Gatorade only a LOT better since it is not nearly as sweet) and also to get stamps in our Pilgrim Credential.

This booklet is used to keep track of the progress made by the pilgrim from day to day so that they can qualify for the Compostelana ‘certificate’ once they reach Santiago. Also it is very much needed if you are roughing it on your since since it is required to gain access to the Albergues (dormitories with shared bathrooms and sometimes a communal kitchen).

The climb was a bit on the strenuous side, but the views kept getting better and better so we kept happily walking. Some people in our group were bothered by the heat (high 80’s) but since it was perfectly normal for PR and the humidity was very low, we were perfectly comfortable. The Camino went through a dirt/rocky path in this section which did not sit very well with some of our senior tourmates. I do like the dirtroads because they are easier on my knees than asphalt or gravel. By the time we reached the last roadside checkpoint we were surprised that we only had 1.5 km to go before meeting for lunch.

We reached beautiful O’Cebreiro a little before schedule so we could walk around for a bit and climb to the view point in the highest hill. We stopped by the church (legend has is that the Holy Grail was hidden in this place for a number of years) for our Pilgrim stamp and headed for the nearest bar for two marvelously cold beers! O’Cebreriro has ‘pallozas’. Stone storage houses with conical straw roofs. There were a lot of tourists in there as well as a school day trip with at least 100 kids. It is definitely worth the detour if you are in this area.

The group finally gathered around 2:00 and we headed to a restaurant for lunch. We had some good soup, great bread and very good braised veal with French fries – lots of wine to wash it down. Getting started after a nice lunch like that is HARD!! We finally got moving. We drove in the van a bit to Viduedo and then started our afternoon walking from there to Triacastela, 6k’s.

The great thing of going with the tour was they chose only the nicest and more scenic portions of the Camino until we hit the final approach to the 100km marker where the compulsory walking started (if you want to earn your Compostela). We dropped to our chairs in the meeting place – ‘Bar Rio’. The owner started bringing out beers and platters of goodies: jamon Serrano, tetilla cheese, olives (yuck! I truly wish I liked them) and some little pinchos with mayo that were not a big hit. We were still stuffed from our lunch and dinner was fast approaching!!!!

After relaxing for half and hour we boarded the van and went to the new hotel where we would stay for three nights. The place is called Casa de Diaz, near Samos (www.ocioteca.com/casadiaz) and it is beautiful. The owners have put a lot of work into this place! The garden is nice and has lots of little cozy places to sit. Our room was huuuuge for Spanish standards and very large for American as well. It was gorgeous, beautifully furnished with a sitting area by one of the two large windows. We had a view of the swimming pool that looked very tempting after walking 20k’s. The owner said that it was still not open because he had only started cleaning it the day before since it was the first really warm day of the year! Anyway…we had not brought our bathing suits (I didn’t get the impression that skinny dipping was an option )

I took a looooong hot shower and laid down for a bit before getting ready for dinner. We had to be on the van by 6:30 since we were going into the Samos monastery for Vespers and mass. The monastery is wonderful. After hearing the prayers in Santo Domingo de Silos, I will only say that the vespers in Samos were disappointing. We skipped the mass so I did not get a look of the church!

We walked into the bar where we were supposed to meet and had a glass(es) of a fabulous white albariño from Lugo. We sat just over the river with a great view of the old town and monastery. When the mass attendees joined, we walked to another restaurant for dinner. I had an absolutely wonderful, marvelous grilled mushroom salad as primero and an OK ‘churrasco’ (should have waived that one away and have had some more mushrooms). DH had stewed tongue (very good) to his utter pleasure and dismay of most of our American tourmates. Went back to the hotel and sleeped like babies.

Total amount walked for the day: 14 km before lunch and 6ks after = 20 kms
marigross is offline  
Jun 11th, 2005, 10:04 AM
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Sunrise arrived a little too soon the following morning but we got up and headed for breakfast. I fell in deeper love with that place! First the breakfast room was beautiful we seated by a picture window topped with flowering vines and a view of the front garden and wall. The breakfast was wonderful bread, cold cuts, cheese, membrillo (quince jam), fresh OJ, decent coffee. They had a lot of sweet pastries and cookies (sadly, I avoid sugar loaded stuff in the mornings). Everything as so carefully laid that it was a pleasure just looking at the setup.

We boarded the van and drove back to bar Rio and Triacastela where we had stopped the afternoon before. The temperature was cooler than the day before We walked through the rolling hills, sometimes we passed other pilgrims sometimes they passed us. We began to see people that we had seen the day before. At every meeting ‘buen camino’ greetings were exchanged. Even the locals, whom have to be fed up with the constant stream of people plodding along their towns, greeted everyone in response.

The second good thing about walking tours: as opposed to bus tours in which you are almost a prisoner, in a walking tour you are not stuck with the group throughout the day. You walk at your own pace. You can walk by yourself and enjoy the silence, with a partner for a nice conversation or companionable quiet or with groups for chatting.

We walked all morning through the little towns and forest paths. Wildflowers were everywhere. We crossed many little streams on rocky walkways. There are lots of cows in this area – many, many cows! There is manure all over the path. There were also pigs here and there but those smell a LOT worse than the cows. Again we stopped here and there for use of the restroom, stamps and un café con leche, Aquarius or a beer.

Somewhere along this route a deep sense of total relaxation hit me…who cares about if the map given to us was accurate or not, how many km’s to go to the next checkpoint or if we were making good time or not. Even if I was tired by the time we reached Sarriá, I was quite happy and not worried at all about the walking or if my knee was not 100% up to speed. We were to meet in the Hotel Alfonso IX so in groups of twos all the group finally trailed in. The tour guide arrived to lead us to the park where we would have our picnic lunch.

When I was researching for a tour company, I has seen that Spanish Steps offered picnic lunches but I was a bit skeptical as to how good could they possibly be. Boy, was I in for a surprise!!! They had setup tablecloths in some of the park tables but they were in the sun so we just sat in the shady grass. The brought out huge platters of roasted chicken (my comment from before regarding the avoidance of stewed chicken in Spain is not applicable to this one) and a wonderful vegetable salad with cheese that were absolutely delicious. We washed it down with Asturian hard cider and wine. There was a delicious fruit salad and some watermelon slices as desert.

We were surprised with the fact that there was no afternoon walking scheduled and that we could go back to the hotel and relax for a while before dinner. This was greeted with pleasure especially from the group that had been walking for a week before we joined and from other teammates which were experiencing painful blisters in their feet by this point.

Another looong hot shower, a two hour nap and we were ready to go! We went to a Torre do Barro (http://www.turgalicia.es/sit/ficha_d...idi=E&nonav=1#) a Pazo (manor house) where the other Spanish Steps tour group, 16 Ecuatorian from a walking club was staying but they were having dinner where we had been the night before. The place was great!!! We were greeted by the kitchen queen, Aurora and she imparted instructions to be prepared to eat and eat until she deemed adequate. We started out with platters of appetizers: pimientos rellenos (red peppers in a béchamel sauce), delicious eggs with mayo and tuna (the eggs had been laid that morning in their farm), empanada gallega, Serrano and cheese…Then we were presented with the best Caldo Gallego (white bean, kale and chorizo soup) that I had in the entire trip. The main course was lamb from their farm with a side of greens and French fries. I had to plead with Aurora for mercy when I refused desert and it was only granted when I admitted that I had had three helpings of the Caldo. Two cortados with Orujo (firewater somewhat similar to grappa) and we were set!!! There seemed to be a lot of empty bottles on our side of the table (there was another couple digging in so we were not solely responsible for this!).

We were somewhat hurried into the courtyard where we were surprised with a Quemada ‘ceremony’. Allegedly this is a galician tradition into which a lot of sugar is poured into large bowl of Orujo with some fruits and coffee beans (I thnk). The Orujo is then flambéed while an exorcism is read. It also involves a lot of screaming and running around the table to scare away the witches and bad spirits. It was hilarious (the wine might have helped)!!! We visited the chapel in the house before leaving. A short drive back to Casa de Diaz and we dragged ourselves into our comfortable bed!

Total walking for the day: 15 km in one shot from Triacastela to Sarria.
marigross is offline  
Jun 11th, 2005, 05:16 PM
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Just so I understand, in this latest installment, are you walking and then going backwards to the hotel to sleep? And then , next day you're driven to the new starting point, which is where you finished the prior day?
cruiseluv is online now  
Jun 11th, 2005, 05:27 PM
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Next morning we had another wonderful breakfast, got in the van and drove to somewhere near the place we had had lunch the day before. The bad thing was that we drove back from the hotel mostly through the road we would be walking later that day.
We had been warned to take our rain gear with us since showers were likely in the afternoon.

The day was on the cool side so it was almost midday before I took my synthetic fleece turtle neck off. We started out of Sarria (my first stamp that day was from Belante). The morning walk was glorious! We walked up and down hills, through streams and pastures, through forests and fields. It was just what I thought the Camino would be. We struck several short conversations during that day with fellow pilgrims. Lots of them were elated when we walked by the 100km marker. I mean, some of these people starated by the 750km markers so getting down to less than 100 was ‘almost there’. We took our pictures, then some other people’s pictures and then they took our picture together…and then we kept walking. Lunch time finally arrived when we were close to Portomarin.

The church in this village was relocated to the top of the hill when it was threatened by the Miño River dam. The view walking into town was stunning. We walked to the old church and naturally it was closed. Went to a bar for gas water, bathroom and stamp and then headed out to a nearby park for our picnic lunch. We had cheese ravioli tossed in pesto and beef tortellini in a tomato sauce. Cherries and cheese made desert.
We mossied around a little bit and walked the rest of the afternoon until we made it to Gonzar.

Walked a good 20 km’s that day.

We returned to our hotel for showers, packing for relocation the next day and getting ready for dinner. We had roasted pimientos de padron for first dish, oooohhh they were good! We also had some outstanding, surprisingly good rose wine from Ourense. I know I asked about it and someone said it was Ribeiro as well but we never saw the label in detail. If it had not been sooooo goooood, maybe I would have remembered to get the winery’s name  I must now research and/or beg through the internet to get the information first and then the wine.

Next morning we had our last good breakfast at Casa de Diaz and headed to the Camino. The rain gear came out of the backpacks rather soon since it started misting right away. Again, we walked through the country side. Gonzar to Hostipal to Eirexe to Palais del Rei for lunch.

Picnic was cold and wet. We ate our empanadas and drank our gazpacho quickly and kept walking to keep warm. I took my old faithful thick scarf out of the daypack in the van and tightly wrapped it around my neck. DH insisted that he was not cold.

We walked few more k’s to Castromayor and waited for the group to assemble before getting to our new hotel. This place was setup as separate houses with kitchens, dining rooms and three bedrooms with a bathroom each. We took our showers and rested a little but the temperature kept coming down. We tried to turn on the heat in the bedroom but it was not working!!!! The guides took some of the people grocery shopping for breakfast stuff since now we had a full kitchen. We did not go since the tour group was providing basic stuff and we did not need anything else. DH got in bed under the covers and shivered for the next two hours! Just before we met to go for dinner we complained about the cold. The guides had been so busy bringing stuff in that they had not noticed that everyone else was coooold! The A/C was turned to the winter setting and half an hour later the rooms were toasty

The rooms were confortable but lacked tables or chairs to put stuff in. The houses were very confortable and the manor house garden was beyond magnificent even though I did not see it on that first day!!!!! See www.apainza.com

We went for the next three nights to the same, nearby restaurant. Our first impression was not very auspicious since we were told that (1) we had to wait at least fifteen minutes and (2) we had to sit outside. It was in the low 50’s and getting lower by the second, no one wanted to sit outside!!!!! It turned out to be tents with flaps to keep the wind out and they brought out large gas radiators to keep us warm. They were also hosting a wedding upstairs so I’m pretty sure that we had the same appetizers as they had. First came out absolutely wonderful croquettes, then the most delicious and perfect red peppers stuffed with seafood we have ever tried. Then came out some Pulpo a la Gallega (grilled octopus) that defied all reason with its tenderness. Thank God that the octopus did not seem very appealing to most of our American tourmates because DH, one of the guides and myself shamelessly devoured it all. We even got the leftovers from the other table. They won the price for best pulpo EVER and ANYWHERE!!! The main course was some of the tough Spanish stewed chicken with a great sauce and rice (I didn’t know until I saw it that I was experiencing rice withdrawal since as a good Puerto Rican native I eat it almost every day!). I ate some but I was soooo stuffed by that point that I really didn’t care about the main course anyway. We walked back to our room and crashed for the night.

Walked another 22km's that day. The last 2k's were a killer hill, swear it must have had a 20% grade.
marigross is offline  
Jun 11th, 2005, 06:56 PM
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I'm getting tired only of reading your walking )
By the way,stewed chicken in Spain is certainly tough..because everybody seems to like it that way Not me..so I only eat it at home
The Queimada ceremony is rather serious in Galicia but surely they have forgiven you all, half drunken, hahaha. It's white magic , like a blessing to all the ones who are sharing the Queimada.
I'm waiting forward the rest...
Puerto Rico es muy plano ?
kenderina is offline  
Jun 12th, 2005, 01:22 AM
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Sorry, Mari! Albarinho is from the Minho valley: Certificate of Origen Pontevedra. They have excellent local wines in Lugo but they are not Albarinhos.

NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Jun 12th, 2005, 04:22 PM
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Ned, that is what I thought! But I am not about to argue with someone who is offering me a rather good, free glass of wine!!!! Also, we had just walked on a bridge over the Miño river by Portomarin that day so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt....BTW, I did not get to see the label so we will never know for sure what we were drinking.

Kenderina, I love white magic and witches! This is why I got such a kick out of that Quemada! It also has something to do with my true and secret reasons for wanting to walk in the Camino

Puerto Rico is definitely not flat but what I call mountains my Swiss DH calls foothills. We did walk in preparation for the trip (I hesitate to call it training) at El Yunque in the rain forest. El Toro, the highest peak in the forest goes up to 3,532 feet but the trail head starts at around 1,000. The walk up to O'Cebreiro might have been twice as much (or at least it seemed so at the time).
marigross is offline  
Jun 12th, 2005, 04:48 PM
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I see, you had a hard training, I hope it has been useful By the way, I'm from Castellón (full name : Castellón de la Plana) so go figure. What I call "a mountain" , probably your DH would call it "a stepping stone", hehehe.
kenderina is offline  
Jun 12th, 2005, 05:55 PM
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Hi Mari,

Wow! I better get in training if I want to do this( which I do!). I exercise but I don't walk too much or do jogging.

Looking forward to your next installment. Thanks!

Hi Kenderina,

In what region of Spain is Castellón?
cruiseluv is online now  
Jun 12th, 2005, 11:23 PM
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Er ... I´m afraid I am going to sound too pompous (and I hate it), but ... Albariño is a kind of grape (like Pinot Noir or Garnacha or Tempranillo). So, it is possible to have an Albariño from the Lugo province (in fact, I was just talking this morning to a coworker whose family have a small place in Lugo with Albariño grapes, and they make wine ...), although it won´t belong to the DOC Rias Baixas. I think that if you drink an Albariño from Lugo, it will be mostly a family affair.

Most of the people in Spain call the wine from the DOC Rias Baixas Albariño, although not all the wines belonging to that DOC are made with Albariño grapes ( Treixadura, anyone? ), and the biggest area in that DOC is the Salnes, near the Arousa fjord ( Cambados, Sanxenxo, Ribadumia ...). Then you have Tea and O Rosal, near the Miño river. I would probably prefer the wines from O Rosal. The Salnes wines tend to be monovarietal ones (only Albariño grapes), but the O Rosal ones have some hints of Treixadura and Loureira, and I find them more interesting.

Ah, and before I forget. When you mentioned that the Ribeiro you had was a rose one, it made total sense to me. The Ribeiro was usually a hard-edged white wine, kind of rough (and my experiences with it are really "bad", specially when you are 18 ...), but nowadays there are a lot of talks about the new red and roses Ribeiros, and I suppose I will have to try them one of these days. It is similar to what happened with the txakoli in Guetaria and Bakio. The Albariño winemakers are dipping their toes in the Ribeiro and Txakoli industry, and the quality is increasing considerably.

Cruiseluv, Castellon is a province in the Comunidad Valenciana, between Tarragona and Valencia. Overlooked by many, but with good beaches ..., and of course, Morella


Rgds, Cova

Mari, I also don´t get the thing with the chicken. I don´t think that it is the way we liked it, because it is not hard at all at home (or in some expensive restaurants ...)
cova is offline  
Jun 13th, 2005, 02:34 AM
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I for one appreciate all this info about the wines of Galicia .It'll come in handy later this summer as I find my way to Santiago!!!

Thanks for the info on Castellón as well.
cruiseluv is online now  
Jun 13th, 2005, 03:44 AM
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Cruise,if you really want to do a part of the Camino you should really get some walking done before to toughen up your feet and BREAK IN your hiking boots. That way it does not turn into a VERY painful experience. I saw some scary feet along the way.

Nasty detail: pilgrims put a thread through the bisters and leave it there so that they drain while they walk and not get any bigger. Blisters can get infected.

Near Santiago you see a LOT of people walking in whatever sandals they can get their hands on.

It has to be a major bummer to spend all the money and precious vacation days and then not to be able to comfortably walk because of muscle pain or blistered feet.

I loved my boots! (the second pair, the first one I tried during 'training' were given away after wearing three times without showing any kind of improvement). The ones I took with me are not really suitable for real mountain hiking but more like very sturdy, thick-soled sneakers with ankle support. The brand is Hi-Tech. I must say that the socks that you wear are just as important as the shoes!! I swear by my 'gloved' cool max socks purchased from www.injinji.com. I thought that they were expensive in the beggining but BOY, was I happy I made the 'investment'. 150kms an not a single blister My knee was a little cranky but my feet were fine!

I don't think that real tough hiking boots work as well. For 80% of the portion that I walked, sneakers would have been fine. The other 20% involved some rocky, muddy patches and I was happy to have my boots. There is also a lot of manure on the path and I was happy to have my feet safely hidden inside!

One of the tourmates developed some serious blisters on the second day of walking. She was in serious pain and could only walk limited portions - and she still had two weeks of vacation in southern Spain after we finished walking!!!! Can you imagine, walking through the marvelous Alhambra just thinking about how much your feet hurt

marigross is offline  
Jun 13th, 2005, 04:01 AM
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Hi Mari,

You're right! There is nothing worse than aching / hurt fet. It can take the fun out of anything. I'm glad that you described your boots since I kept envisioning them as your standard leather high hiking boots which I don't think I would like. I just bought some hiking shoes that sound just like yours and some of those cool max socks. Now I just have to work on my actual walking training!

But I have time , it certainly won't be this year.
This year I'll be going to Santiago the old fashion way : public transport!

cruiseluv is online now  
Jun 14th, 2005, 06:05 PM
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Ok, this is where epic trip reports get stuck so I will try to finish quickly!!!

Very important note: I lost my maps for two of the days and in top of that I didn’t make any notes of the towns where we went or where we had what lunch or exactly which day (6th or 7th ) was the day it rained. I didn’t get as many stamps either since I finally figured out that if I skipped the second cup of coffee in the morning I did not need to run from bar to bar in order to get to a bathroom before I wet my pants or had to run behind a tree. Bottomline: The 5th, 6th and 7th days of this trip report should not be read with expectations of high accuracy Also, I confused Plas de Rei and Portomarin a few times in the last installment 8)

Day 6 of the walking tour was cold but no rain in sight so we were happy with that. Breakfast was in the house so everyone pitched in to get set up. We were sharing the house with the guides and they had to get up early to prepare some of the lunch salads so by the time we were dressed and ready almost everything was set for breakfast.

We got dropped of in Castromayor to start walking 11k’s in the morning and 7 in the afternoon. Only half of the tourmates walked that day some had a stomach bug, one had a migrane, another one busted a knee and the last one had BAD blisters. I don’t know how many doctor runs the guides had to in this trip!!! We struck some conversations with fellow walkers during the day.

The Camino took us through little towns and Melide. Walking in Melide was confusing since they had market day and it was Corpus Christi. Throughout town people were making drawings in the street with flower petals. With the crowds we could not find the yellow arrows to find the camino and had to ask. For the second time in the trip a very nice gentleman speaking very thick gallego escorted us halfway through town until we found the arrows again.

Couple more k’s and lunch was in a park by Castañeda. The group was so spread out that we did not see anyone else while we ate! I had the first runner up for best lomo (ham) and pimiento (roasted red pepper) sandwich ever. The winner was eaten in Santiago in front of the university in case I forget to mention it! How can something sooo simple be so maddeningly good. I had a second sandwich instead of the ensaladilla rusa (potatato salad) that was the side dish. Since only half the group was walking a lot of happy pilgrims walked away from our picnic very well fed. After we were finished we just kept walking the remaining portion of the day.

We stopped for the day in Arzúa rather close to the hotel. Got picked up in the plaza after a nice cold beer and headed for the showers. We relaxed a little bit and then went for dinner in the same restaurant as the night before. We had some spinach soup and a really good Paella accompanied by lots of nice Ribeiro.

Next day we woke up ready for our big 27k’s day! My knee was hurting a bit but ace bands, Feldene cream and walking stick can work wonders. It was a bit on the rainy side, kind of constant misting.

We got dropped of in Arzúa, put on our rain ponchos and started walking. Up and down the rolling hills throughout the day. In the morning, the countryside continued to be very nice and we walked through Calzada, Calle, Boavista. Then the Camino kept getting closer to the highway and it was not as nice anymore for several k’s.

Lunch was in some newly constructed building near a school near Brea. Bad setting for a good meal. We had the best Spanish Tortilla with sides of cheese, Serrano, pimiento, bread, naturally some Ribeiro to wash it down (not that much since drinking and walking is not good – Hey, we were on VACATION and everyone knows that you can drink as much as you want while on vacation )

The rest of the day was rather unpleasant. We walked next to the highway on gravel paths. It got quite hot in the afternoon. The approach into the Santiago area and walking behind the Lavacolla airport I could have skipped. It was a shock (only slightly better than the one we had driving into Las Vegas after spending two weeks in several National Parks), suddenly finding ourselves in heavily trafficked areas.I don’t know how many pilgrims get run over as they near the Santiago area after they have spent weeks worrying only about stepping in manure or walking into a tractor! Finally we stopped in San Paio, utterly beat but very happy.

We drove back to the hotel were we were instructed to be ready by 7:30 and take our cameras to dinner. I almost crashed (DH just went to the backyard and laid down to nap in the sun) but I resisted the temptation and went to visit the garden. They have the tallest eucalyptus tree in Spain.

The garden itself is worth a stop in this place. As you enter there is a French-style manicured garden in the front of the main house/museum with roses everywhere. When you pass the second gate you find yourself in a Spanish garden with fountains and big bushed hiding benches and even tables inside! This part reminded me of the Generalife. Then there was an open field with a beautiful view of surrounding hills (they must have paid the farmer to keep the cows in place to complete the pastoral setting) with a stone bench in just the exact place where you get the best view. It was like a Zen garden Spanish Countryside style!

An opening in the wall led to the tree avenue that surrounded part of the property. Following the path finally there it was: the big tree! It would take at least five of me to circle the trunk. First I sat in a bench integrated to the wall but then I just sat with my back to the tree. That spot must have been carved out for me! I fitted almost inside the tree. I sat there for about an hour and meditated about the entire experience, my motives and expectations for undertaking the Camino. I must say that even if I had not walked into Santiago yet – in my heart that was the moment I arrived.

Farily energized (hey – I walked 27k’s that day; one cannot expect miracles either!) I went back to the house, took a shower and got ready for dinner.

Dinner was Grelos con jamon (sautéed greens with ham) that were soooo good that we almost stuffed ourselves with them. Followed by steaks (very good! Even by US standards). Big surprise for the night was a ‘serenade’ by a ‘tuna’ (not a fish but a typical Spanish musical group). Bagpipes and everything!!! Absolutely loved it. They asked where everyone was from and once you mention Puerto Rico, they just automatically starts singing ‘en mi Viejo San Juan’ so DH got some embarrassing pictures of me in full tuna regalia with a mandolin in my hands (no idea of how to play the thing) and joining into the song….

Last day of the walking tour we were to walk only 5 k’s (see how everything is relative!) and meet in Monte de Gozo so that we could all walk together into Santiago. I thought about not bothering with them since we would be walking through the suburbs and industrial areas but then….why quit when you only had 5 out of 147 to go 

Monte de Gozo is the hill where you get to see the spires of the Santiago Cathedral for the first time. I was happy that we walked with the tour guides since the arrows are hard to find in the city.

The first real close view of the towers did bring tears to my eyes. We walked straight to the KM 0 mark in the plaza del obredoiro before I turned left to get the first real view of the façade. I started crying, you have to walk there to get it I guess….

When everyone was there the tourguides popped open a few bottles of Cava and handed out slices of Tarta de Santiago (almond cake) to celebrate our arrival. After they kissed goodbye they handed us to the city tour guide. They must realized at some point that you do not take a group that has just walked 147 km’s (actually measured by GPS by one of the guys in the Ecuadorian group) on a WALKING tour. I’m sure she was great but I didn’t care that much at the time.

The one good thing was that we got the full tour inside the Parador since the Ecuadorians were staying there. Once again access to the inside of the building is restricted to guests. Maybe next time I do splurge and stay there after all….

The church IS impressive, you put your hand in the middle column of the Portico de la Gloria and you can feel where it has been worn out by the hands of weary pilgrims for hundreds of years. The golden baldachin in the altar with the Apostle in the center is something else!!!!

The guide finally realized that only corpses were following her and gave up. She walked us to the pilgrims office to inquire about the time for the next swinging of the Botafumeiro. It was not going to be that day so we had to wait until the following day at noon for the pilgrim’s mass. Since we were already there we got in the pilgrim line to get our Compostelana certificates. Poor guide did not even get good tips that day, certainly not from us since I realized the omission after I had already showered in the hotel.

Even as much as I enjoyed it, the sense of liberation was HUGE; the tour was over –WE WERE FREEEEEEEEEE….

We stayed in hotel Costa Vella, our luggage had been delivered when we arrived. I would stay there again but only on a room facing the garden in the back. Our room was VERY noisy and with all the hostals nearby there were a lot of partying pilgrims.

After resting, showering and mutually rubbing our tired feet . We very slowly and lazily strolled out to see the cathedral at our own pace. We got in line to hug the statue of Santiago from the back (one of the pilgrim traditions) and too see the urn were the alleged bones of the Apostle are supposed to be.

We walked to the Alameda park to get the Cathedral pictures (this is the best spot in town). Called home to let everyone know that we had arrived in one piece. We wandered around the old town aimlessly for a while and then went to get more pictures of the cathedral with the afternoon sun illuminating the main façade. We had some berberjeos (?) (steamed little clams) in a bar and then headed to the restaurant recommended by the hotel for dinner.

We never would have found this place on our own. Even after we found it looked like it was closed. I pushed the door just to say that we had tried everyting and lo and behold – it opened. We went down some steep stairs and the ambiance immediately picked up. Very nice indeed. We sat in a covered patio under a grapevine pergola. We had some pimientos de piquillo, I had some fish and I cannot remember what DH had since I was so full after the pimientos that I could have skipped my entrée and did not taste DH’s. We had some very interesting young ribera del duero to go with the meal.

We walked back to the hotel, crashed, got woken up several time by rowdy passerby and crashed again until 9:00 in the next morning!!! Ohhhh the freedommmmmm of being on our own

marigross is offline  
Jun 14th, 2005, 10:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,044
Hi Mari,
great report !

The clams you mention are "berberechos", and the last restaurant ... won´t be by any chance "O Dezaseis"? I have been there with Santiago friends, but you don´t really find tourists on their own.

BTW, as you mentioned coming to Madrid next week, a couple of recs :
- "Julius Caesar" with Ralph Fiennes at the Teatro Español
- "La Parranda" at the Teatro de la Zarzuela
Tickets can be bought at

I have tickets for "Julius Caesar" on Sunday, and I cannot wait

Rgds, Cova
cova is offline  
Jun 15th, 2005, 01:40 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 2,635
marigross writes: "Dinner was Grelos con jamon (sautéed greens with ham) that were soooo good that we almost stuffed ourselves with them."

I thought that was a wintertime dish. I was there in February once and there were lots of vegetable stands along the old Santiago-a'Corunha highway selling Grelos. I took a cousin to lunch in San Luis (along the road from Lavacolla airport into town) and we had Lacon con Grelos. I have since been trying to figure out if they are turnip greens or what ... I found the Lacon to be more like salt pork than ham

Some things have changed my first visit to Santiago (1992):

The Portico de Gloria used to be only open during Jubilee years.

In non-Jubilee Years the Botafumeiro would only 'swing' on Church Holidays - now it seems that every Saturday noon Mass (pilgrims' Mass) it 'swings.'

A Hearty en Hora Buena on earning your 'La Compostela!'
NEDSIRELAND is offline  

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