Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday Greetings from Santiago

Robin and I send to all of you who follow this blog our best wishes for a joyous holiday season, and a peaceful, healthy new year.



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

It is starting to feel a lot like Christmas

Today is yet another day of recovery for us. Yesterday, Robin made an appointment at a salon on Rua Vilar to get her nails and pilgrim feet attended to. While we were there I asked if someone could also cut my hair. No problem, the deal was done. So, a day later I am freshly shorn (and enjoying a coffee), while Robin is still being fussed over. Good for her as she truly deserves it. So to pass the time I am doing a personal review of Christmas decorations on Rua Vilar. The Spanish don't seem run to the excesses that Americans do when it comes to holiday decorations. But, in many ways less is more so it all seems to work. However there does seem to be a theme emerging. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Day 33: Ponte Ulla to Santiago (21 kms)

Porto do Mazarelos

We spent a pleasant, restful night in Manolo's beautiful home. He had a nice breakfast laid out for us, as we carefully eased our way downstairs to the dining room. We had asked Manolo if he could arrange a taxi for us, and he made an arrangement with a local taxi driver to come and get us at 10:30. There would no more walking on this Camino. Robin was still limping and it was clear we needed transport to Santiago. So with breakfast done we packed up, met the taxi, said goodbye to Manolo, and headed off to Santiago. It is always bittersweet to not complete the journey you anticipated. We had walked a month, covered a good part of the Via de la Plata, and now were about to enter Santiago once again. We had much to be thankful for and many prayers of thanksgiving to utter at the pilgrim mass. Manolo suggested to have the taxi driver drop us off just outside the gate to the old city where the Via de la Plata enters. We felt we could manage that and agreed that we would enter the city on foot. We had a few thrilling moments as our driver, ignoring one way traffic signs, maneuvered us up as close as he could get before dropping us off. Once afoot we managed to slowly find our way into this now very familiar city. We checked into our hotel, and headed off to the 12:00 pilgrim mass. We entered the cathedral through the Puerta Santa (Holy Door) which was only opened this past Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, in response to the Pope's declaration of a Year of Mercy. As we walked into the cathedral, and into this Year of Mercy, we were filled with gratitude for having reached this holy place once again. It wasn't all as we had planned it, but it was a precious gift and a blessing nonetheless. Feliz Navidad.


John and Robin

Holy Door
Cathedral nativity scene
That's my girl


Day 32: Silleda to Ponte Ulla (19 kms)

Robin felt her foot was sufficiently rested and wanted to try and walk to Ponte Ulla. We headed out rigged for rain, but as it turned out, we enjoyed a dry day. We opted to stay on the shoulder of the N 525 until Bandeira (about 7 kms) where we stopped for a coffee. At this point Robin was feeling some pain but opted to continue. We followed the Via de la Plata out of Bandeira and through some quite pleasant countryside. Robin found it hard going but together we adopted a slow pace that enabled us to reach our destination. The long, steep, descent into Ponte Ulla was particularly hard for a Robin, but somehow she managed it. We limped across the bridge into the village only to find that the Albergue Touristico where we were to stay was closed. This was not what we wanted to deal with at this point. As we were mulling over our options, Robin spotted a restaurant just across the road that appeared to be open. We shuffled across the road and entered into what was obviously a very expensive restaurant. At this point we just needed to get off our feet so throwing caution and euros to the wind we soon found ourselves being shown to a table. The meal was fine and the two cañas we ordered arrived in the form of a large pitcher of beer (first time in Spain this has ever happened). Perhaps our waitress sensed we were in need and opted for a practical solution to the beer issue. During our meal we did some searching on Booking.com and found a local manor house that offered rooms, Pazo de Galegos. It was shown as booked but we called anyhow. The owner, Manolo, answered the phone and explained that he was closed. It was Sunday and he had no bookings, and the previous day he had a large party of guests. So he had let the staff have a day off. But, he asked (in his perfect English) if we were by chance pilgrims. When we said we were he offered not only to take us in, but also agreed to pick us up. He knew the restaurant where we were dining and worked out with the waitress to be called as we finished our meal. Before long the three of us were turning into the parking area of this beautiful old home, with a working vineyard. Manolo also produces wine from this property. He could not have been kinder to us. The room was quite nice, and was warming up as the radiators came to life. As Manolo was in the wine business we soon had a nice Albariño and a nice Mencia to enjoy as we licked our wounds from the day's walk. What an unexpected end to a very difficult day. Thank you, Manolo.

Ponte Ulla
Pazo de Galegos
Saint Manolo


Day 31: Castro Dozón to Silleda (27.3 kms)

Robin needed a rest day so I called a taxi whose number was posted in the albergue in Dozón. He knew just where we were, and arrived 20 minutes later. Robin would head off to Silleda, where we had a hotel reservation, and I would walk. Our new walking companion, Ray, left ahead of us, and I caught a lift for a few kilometers before saying goodbye and striking out along the Camino. As it turned out Ray caught up with me a short while later and we walked together to Silleda. It was an uneventful day, with fine weather, and we made good time. I said goodbye to Ray in front of the Alfergue Turistico at 3:00 and carried on to our hotel which was just on the edge of town. I made it just before the lunch cut off at 3:30, and sat down to the largest hamburger I think I have ever seen. About ten minutes later the plate was clean, and an empty beer glass stood with it. Perfect timing and good thinking on Robin's part for ordering ahead of time. We spent a quiet night in just resting Robin's foot. Tomorrow she would try and walk to Puente Ulla. But for now it is lights out.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Day 30: Cea to Castro Dozón (19 kms)

There were only three of us in the junta albergue in Cea. The heat was on and we had a peaceful night's sleep. A cold fog once again greeted us as we made our way up through town to the Vatican Bar for some morning coffee and toast. Suitably fortified we pushed on for the albergue at Castro Dozón. It was a day of ups and downs as hills came and went. We stopped in a bar next door to the monestary in Oseira for a coffee, warmed up a bit and then set out uphill once again.

Later on as we walked into the village of A Gouxa we noticed there was some fair going on and several vendors had great pots of pulpo steaming away. We still had about an hour to go to Cea, but decided to take a break. We got our plates of pulpo, and were the directed inside this hall where picnic tables were set up, and a throng of people were eating. Serving ladies came by and dropped off wine bowls, a pot of red, and a basket of wonderful bread. We tucked in and had what amounted to a menu del dia. There were other plates coming out of a kitchen that intrigued us so we ordered some nice grilled cubes of pork with fried potatoes (of course), and enjoyed that as well. It was a wild affair with much commotion. Would be diners were jockeying for table space, and ladies were trying to find serving lanes as the hall swelled with hungry locals. 6 euros for the pulpo and 12 for the pork, bread, wine and dessert. We could have stayed there for the duration but good sense finally overtook our stomachs and we slung our packs, weaved through the crowd, and stepped out the door. We were full as ticks and happy to have an hour's walk to help it all hit basement. A very nice lunch indeed.

True to our dead reckoning we arrived in Castro Dozón a hour later. We walked through town and probably another 200 meters to get to the albergue. We settled in to await the hospitalera who, according to the posted notice, would arrive at 6:00 pm to check us in. It was then back into town for a run through the local shop and a couple of beers before we headed back to the albergue and our beds. Robin's ankle is in need of another day's rest so tomorrow she will go by taxi to Silleda, while I walk on to meet her.

Clearing a bit
The Monastery at Oseira
Coffee time in Oseira
Robin and Ray heading uphill from the monastery
Approaching Castro Dozón


Day 29: Ourense to Cea (23 kms)

Our plan to backtrack fell apart this morning when Robin and I both agreed that her ankle would not be happy doing both the backtrack, and the walk from Ourense to Santiago. So we put our faith in reaching Santiago from Ourense, and set out with this new plan. We took a taxi to the top of the hill out of Ourense, that chopped off about 6 kms, and walked the remaining 16 kms into Cea. It was just as the taxi dropped us off that we met another pilgrim, Ray from the UK, he was coming from Valencia. We fell in together and have enjoyed his company. Robin made it to Cea, but she was just about limping at the end.

Ray and Robin
The path ahead
Looks inviting
Arriving in Cea
Plaza Mayor in Cea