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Showing posts from April, 2015

Day 9: Albariño Wine

Albariño wine is a good companion to saying good-bye to Santiago. I am now sitting at the Cafe Literarios sipping some good wine and writing this post. There's a father to my right doing homework with his two very well behaved children - doing justice to the Cafe's name. It's been two nights since my arrival and even with all the pain I have not been able to stop walking around this city. This is a truly international town with most visitors arriving on foot. How unique is that?? Regardless of the spoken language, it's really nice to see pilgrims arriving. Some cry, some don't. But they all have that familiar expression of relief and amazement upon arriving in Santiago. That feeling that the mission is accomplished and that now they can relax and enjoy the moment of arrival. It's been an amazing experience and one that I would love to do again. Camino Frances, anyone? Well, I am not sure which way I'll be coming back but I know I will. John, this is a call…

Day 8: Pilgrim's Mass

I attended the Pilgrim's mass the day after I arrived in Santiago. I hadn't been to a mass in a few years. Because the mass was in Spanish I was compelled to pay close attention in order to understand the message. It sermon was a beautiful message about acceptance. I was in a trance the whole time trying not to miss what was being said. When the priest called people to the communion, I jumped up so automatically it surprised me. I got in line and some how hoped that that one simple communion would have all my sins forgiven. Yes, I did hope for that and why not? After the mass, I got in line and to touch Santiago at the altar and that point I was feeling more like a tourist then the devout catholic that I am not.



Day 7: Pilgrim's Office

Time to get the Compostela. I lucked out because there were no lines at all when I arrived at the Pilgrim's office.  First one in! I was a bit out of it. Tired I guess. I heard the guy stamping my credential and asking me for my passport. I told him the correct spelling of my Dad’s name since it's misspelled in my passport. He handed me the certificate with my first name in Latin. Done. Walking outside, I met two nice ladies who were the 'Friends of the Camino'. They offered me a cup of tea and took me upstairs to tell me about the work they are doing.  They were offering a nice friendly place for pilgrims to unwind after arriving. Turned out they were nuns and we had a nice chat. Then, one of them went downstairs and grabbed two more people. We all chatted and it was nice hearing completely different experiences from mine. Weird?? You betcha!! But a nice welcome break with a nice cup of tea. They offered me to stay at a convent for €20 a night. The convent was a lovel…

Day 7: Arriving in Santiago de Compostela

With only 9 miles to go you'd think it was a breeze getting here. Not!!! I walked slowly, as slow as it gets, just like a turtle!! Yes! I made it. I took my time and I got here. First impression coming from the Portuguese Way!? Goddam Spanish people sure like some hills. Steep, steep climbs on asphalt really sucks!! Don't they know that?? It hurts – A lot!!! Only those who done it for miles know it. But then again I walked right by a hospital, you know, in case you can't walk anymore and need to be taken in. After that, I started a descent through the new town - not so attractive, to be honest. It was way too modern for someone expecting an old charming European town. But then I spotted the Cathedral - ha, the Cathedral!!! And somehow after walking 100+km without a map, only following the yellow arrows, I lost the Camino. Seriously!! How lame is that!?? I walked all the way here without a problem, finding arrows on tree branches, faded asphalt, made up signs, trash cans, e…

Day 7: Ames - Santiago de Compostela

I am sitting at this beautiful dinning room right by the window looking at the grey sky outside. The hostal owner has made me a beautiful breakfast with coffee, tea, orange juice, breads, cakes, cold cuts and marmalades. I am a total sucker for cakes so she might regret having placed a whole cake by my side. Last night, I ventured again up the hill through some cold rain to have a glass of Mencia at the local and only bar. The bar lady had seen me in the afternoon, when I walked in asking for some hot tea to go with the paracetamol I bought at the pharmacy. She poured the wine and I asked for a bocadillo. She walked out and I heard the machine slicing the chorizo on the back. She comes back with four bocadillos and says four makes one!! I ate a couple and I ran back home right before the sky was completely dark, having a mini heart attack every time a large dog came, running and barking, to the gates I was passing by. This house is beautiful but so cold. I am here contemplating the …

Day 6: A night in Ames

I am so close but I had to stop in Ames for the night because of the pain my on left foot. The walk here was beautiful though. I am walking slowly so I have time to enjoy the little things along the Camino. Can't wait to get home so I can post all the pictures (and correct all the typos).

Today, I walked through A Esclavitude, A Picaraña, Faramello and Milladouro. Each little town is a bit different but it's all very green, full of flowers and postcard worthy. I saw people working on their land, hanging out, taking a walk and walking their dogs. Watching Gallegos having a conversation is like watching a telenovela - it's so animated... They're voices raise up, go back down and they get all excited. As you walk by they all say hi and continue talking as if they never interrupted the flow of the conversation by saying hi.

The weather is much colder today and I had my rain jacket on from the time I left Padron. I walked long stretches coming in and out of the woods. Not as …

Day 6: Padron - Ames

I left pretty late this morning. I wasn't too concerned about walking later in the day. The weather has changed so much and it is now much cooler. I didn't manage to miss the rain this time but it tuned out to be very enjoyable walking on the rain today. My left foot still bothers me a lot and I can feel the blisters on my hills at all times. The cotton socks I bought in Calda dos Reis don't seem to be too much of a problem. Although I could feel my feet getting sweaty along the way so I stopped few times to add more Vaseline. No problem there - better be safe than sorry.

I knew I wasn't going to make to Santiago today and I'm okay with the extra day. I walked slowly and enjoyed every single minute of my walk. There were a lot of hikes though some beautiful landscape. Also, a lot of rain at some points but it was very quiet and peaceful. I found many encouraging signs along the route and even met the two German ladies again along the way. We agreed to meet in Santia…

Day 5: Calda de Reis - Padron

Today I walked by myself. This was a very long rainy day. The rain didn't bother me as much as the pain on my left foot. I actually enjoyed the rain very much. It made for a nice cool walk with a much different feel from previous days. It was also a bit darker and somber. I am not sure the insoles I bought last night were helping or making it worse. The pain was so much I couldn't tell the difference. I walked slowly through all 22km but took few breaks because there weren't a lot of sheltered places to stop. 
I saw again the group of students that I keep seeing all week. Their guide cheered me up as I walked by them and told me I was about 7km from Padron. Nice of him to say but it made me cringe because there was still so much ground to cover with all the pain. The kids caught up to me after their break and I walked a little faster to hear them singing and watch them playing. They were having a lot of fun and it was a nice distraction to have. I kept marching on and mad…

Day 4: Pontevedra - Calda dos Reis

Today I walked with the Brazilians. We had breakfast before leaving the hotel and left early trying to avoid the rain. We took very few breaks and I walked at their pace which was a big mistake. About 40 minutes till Calda dos Reis, I had to stop walking. My feet were killing me and I could tell I had blisters on the heels of my feet. I stopped walking. I told them I would meet them later at their hotel. I ended up staying at the same place they did because it was the first hotel as I walked into town. I walked to my room, removed my shoes and called them to inform them that I had arrived. I didn't see them anymore. I went into town, got some water, stopped at a bakery and went to the supermarket to get a few things. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at a sports store and bought three pairs of socks. They are cotton and I am scared to wear them but I have no choice because wool wasn't available. I also stopped by an orthopedics store and bought some very cushy insoles. I…

Day 3: Redondela - Pontevedra

Walking with my pack wasn't so difficult now that it seems my body has adjusted to having the extra weigh and the backpack has been sitting at my hipbones. My shoes are not so comfortable though. With every step I keep thinking I need to return them to REI. They do have a one year return policy after all and at over $100, it's worth at least thinking about returning them. I really can't see can not see myself wearing these shoes ever again once I return to the U.S. After leaving Rosa's, I kept walking with the Brazilians, Sr. João and his daughter Giovana. Nice people and walking with them kept me on a fast track. Since I came to Spain with no hotel reservations, I stayed at the same hotel they did in Pontevedra. Later in the evening we took a walk around the city and stopped at a bar to try some Galician pulpo and Albariño wine. The wine was really good and the company even better. We start early tomorrow to avoid the forecasted rain on the way to Calda de Reis.




Day 2: O Porriño - Redondela

I learned my lesson from yesterday. This morning I had breakfast: café y croissant a la plancha con marmelada. I enjoyed my breakfast while watching Spanish news. Obama was on TV discussing the US-Cuba Relations. Before leaving the city, I stopped at charcuteria bought some cheese and chorizo. Then, I stopped at a market and bought some bread and water. The day was warm but not as hot as yesterday. Today I had my backpack and had to learn how to adjust it so it sits on my hipbones like it's supposed to. I walked slowly and took many breaks. The first 25 minutes felt like one hour. There were a lot of climbs, long descends and lots of concrete. I saw one of the guys from the albergue, Carlos, he was walking super fast with a friend. Even if I wanted to, I could not keep up with them. I also saw the two German ladies that stayed at the albergue in Tui and greeted each other. They seem very friendly but their English was not very clear. Getting into Redondela was very tiring because…

Day 1: Tui - O Porriño

I made to O Porriño this afternoon. I started walking before 9am and it was cold. As the sun moved up temperatures did too. The walk here was a combination of nature and concrete. Pretty country followed by a very industrial stretch with a huge Cotroën parking lot. No big deal but the lack of shade was a bit bothersome. My feet are fine and getting some much needed rest for tomorrow's walk. Edit: Since I had to microwave my socks, I wasn't sure they were completely dry. I called TuiTrans and had them transport my backpack to my destination to avoid blisters on my feet. Needless to say I have no idea how this walk would feel with my backpack. Today I only had my small string pack on. The sun was harsh and I made a stop to ad more Vaseline to my feet because of burning spots. The whole time I was a bit hungry because I didn't have breakfast before leaving Tui. I was also running out of water by the time I got to Redondela because I didn't find any fountains along the w…

Day 1: Camino Rule Number One

Do not wash, all at once, every single pair of socks you brought to the Camino with you. Period. Don't. Just don't - even if you have to wear dirty, stinky socks. I broke rule number one. In the morning all my socks were wet! So I proceeded to break rule number two, which says: If you microwave your wet socks, do not walk away from the microwave while it’s on. Yep, I set my socks on fire. I guess a combination of water and Vaseline made for a perfect combustible good. The socks were burnt to a point of no return, with big black crispy holes in them. Luckily, I didn't set the albergue on fire and no one noticed my mess. Now, I have one pair of socks left. I had to microwave these as well because I could not walk 16km wearing wet socks. I watched them closely and they were mostly dry after just a few minutes.

Edit 1: The same people that own Tuitrans own Albergue El Camino. Lourdes, the hospitaleira at Albergue El Camino, had shared Tuitrans information with me the night be…

Day 0: Porto - Valença / Tui

I took a bus this morning from Porto to Valença, which borders the town of Tui in Spain. This is the official and most traditional staring point for the Portuguese Camino. The ride here was very pleasant, hugging the coast of Portugal and through so many beautiful towns. Many of which are a part of the Portuguese Camino Coastal route. As I got off the bus, I noticed an older man place his backpack on a bench preparing to get ready to walk. I walk to the bench to fix my own backpack and repack a few items I had removed for the bus ride. I was rushing a little because the old man looked like a pilgrim and I figure I’d follow him till we get into town. My guess is he picked up my vibe because he looked at me and asked if I was there to walk the Camino. He tells me his is heading to Tui for the day so he can start his walk early tomorrow morning. We leave the station together, go up a hill and he starts pointing at yellow arrows as soon as we leave the station. The yellow arrows mark th…

A day in Porto

Today, Manuela, the Italian pilgrim and I walked around Porto together. This was the last day of the Camino for her. She started her journey in Lisbon and walked to Porto through the coastal route walking 30+ kilometers a day. This is her second Camino so she's well acquainted with what it takes to walk long distances. It was a fun walk. Having a conversation in English, Italian and Portuguese all at the same time made it even more interesting. Although she spoke English well, she didn't know a few words here and there so she used the Italian equivalent, while I used the Portuguese equivalent to help carry the conversation. Walking and chatting, we visited many churches and different sites before realizing that we were starting to see some of the same places again and again. So after 17km, we headed towards Palacio de Cristal just a few steps from where we stayed for the night. I am staying there again for two more nights in a private room (pilgrims are only allowed to stay…

Lisbon - Fatima - Porto

Yesterday, on my way to Porto I made a stop on The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima. As the bus made its way into the station I saw the top of the Basilica, which rises 65 meters high. When got off the bus, I walked there on the main road not realizing I had just missed the town of Fatima to the left of the road. The sanctuary was nothing like what I expected. Or, I guess I had no idea about what to expect. I thought I would see one Basilica. However, the sanctuary is a large complex with many buildings and monuments. The Basilica sits at the top overlooking a huge open plaza with a monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the center. To the right is the open air Chapel of Apparitions. At the opposite end is the Church of the Holy Trinity and at the end, on the left, the Chapel of the Sacred Laursperene. I only had a couple of hours so I walked around and lit a couple of candles. Then, I sat in line to visit an exhibit not realizing that the people in line were enough to fill the spac…

Porto - Oporto!!

I arrived in Porto last night and walked, with my backpack, about 35 minutes to Seminario de Vilar where I spent the night. Up and down cobblestone roads I went. Two conclusions came out of this walk. One, my backpack was way too heavy even after leaving stuff behind with John at the airport. Two, following Google Maps GPS directions eith a Portuguese accent sucks. I arrived on a bus that was nicer than coach on Lufthansa Airlines. However, I didn't have the luxury of finding an information desk right outside the gates, so I had to rely on my phone for directions. I get to Seminario de Vilar and the clerk and I had the same conversation we had on the phone earlier. The room I reserved was available and the Pilgrim Albergue was also available. The choice was mine: private room at their hotel or donation based room at the hostel. This hotel was inaugurated in January of this year to accommodate the pilgrims that start their journey in Porto. It's a brand new facility with three…

Another morning in Lisboa

This time though I can't sleep. Woke up 2:30am and it's now 5:30-ish. My alarm is set for 6:01 so I can take the 8:00 comboio to Fatima. Not sure it's gonna happen. I had an excellent day yesterday. Slept till 11am. Had coffee and sopa de grão at The Black Corvus. Then I took a walk to Elevador de Santa Justa and climbed to the viewpoint to take a few pictures. What a beautiful view! (I'll add pictures when I get to computer). Afterwards, I walked down through Carmo and back I by the water side. I stopped by Praça do Comércio and lots of people were lying around and hanging out by at the promenade enjoying the weather which is now much warmer. Looking at a map, I saw that Torre de Belém was 6.5km away walking by the water. So I walked there stopping along the way only to take in the views. The walk took about 2 hours - fairly easy without my backpack. By 5:30pm the weather was much cooler, the sky was grey and overcast. The temperature had dropped to a very comfortab…

Good Morning Lisbon

It's morning in Lisboa and I slept like a rock. I am going to stay one more night at the same place so I can get over the jetleg before going to Porto. I also have plans to make a stop in Fatima and perhaps Coimbra but I haven't made up my mind yet. My backpack feels heavy even though I removed so much from it before leaving home. I'll walk around today and do some sightseeing.

Edit: The weather was overcast when I started walking, but it got much nicer later in the day and walked for a few hours snapping photos with my cellphone.



















Arriving in Lisbon

What. A. Long. Flight. After waiting for my hiking poles to be delivered to the odd size luggage carrousel, I went to the Information Center where I learned I needed to take the Aero Bus 1 to City Center for €3.50. I got off on Praça do Comércio and walked to Cathedral da Sé to get my pilgrim credential as planned. Before I left the airport, I bought a €20 Vodafone SIM at a store which sits right across from the Information center. I also took some cash from the Multibanco ATM machine. I was only allowed to take €200. It was raining as the bus made its way through the 10 stops between the Airport and Praça do Comércio. I quickly got geared up for the rain as my stop was approaching. The walk to the Cathedral was wet and very slippery. My new trail shoes suck on the cobblestones, specially on the white kind... not sure why but the black cobblestones are less slippery. I had to walk on the asphalt on the road to preventing myself from going down the hill on my butt. After the Cathedral,…

REI

I love online shopping and by that I don't mean I love shopping. It's actually quite the opposite. Because I dislike shopping so much, I love online shopping. It's easier and way more convenient. No driving, no parking, no lines, no humans involved. Just a computer, lots of clicks and I am done. Two days Amazon Prime shipping and free returns is just icing on the cake. But then again, when you need help, when you actually need to talk to someone who understands about the products they sell and can help you making a better, more informed decision on what to buy, there's REI. The store in Berkeley is awesome but it gets crowded. When I want to buy something at REI, I usually get there right before the door opens at 10am on a weekday. I walk straight into the department I am interested without taking any detours. That's what I did to buy my Camino backpack. It took two trips, lots of trials and two excellent REI members to get the right pack for this trip. First mem…