Caldas de Reis to Herbon: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Day 13, October 1st 2019

Leaving Caldas de Reis

Caldas means hot springs and although a foot fountain was right outside my hostel, there was no encouragement to bathe mine as they dissuade you for hygene reasons.

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Towering palms beside the Igrexa de san Tome Becket (the British St Thomas a Becket), Caldas de Reis, Spain

There is a Bishop’s mitre on the door and otherwise I cannot find out what the connection is between St Thomas a Becket and Caldas de Reis – although of course he may have made pilgrimage here.

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Street art, Caldas de Reis, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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One of the many beautiful stone fountains you can see on the Portuguese Camino. Here emblazoned with the shell symbol of paths meeting at Santiago de Compostella
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Walking out of Caldas de Reis, I looked down a long valley, the view spoiled by a pylon, Spain
huge orange feild pumpkins
Field pumpkins. Although there were squash everywhere in the fields and gardens, I never saw them offered on a menu
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Reflections in the traditional, central washing area with what appeared to be self-seeded white lillies randomly dotted around. Carracedo, Spain

Further down the road were clumps of pink lillies growing wild on the banks like the lupins do in Scotland along the motorway between Edinburgh and Perth.

Iglesia San Clemente de Cesar, outside Caldas de Reis, Spain
edible plants in growing situation
Tall brassicas growing in O Cruceiro, Spain
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Three Bird Toadflax (Linaria triornithophora). I used the Leafsnap plant identifier app – free)
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Memorial and location of Albert’s ashes, left by his friend. They had planned to walk the Camino together, but Albert had died on the operating table beforehand. Camino Portuguese, Spain

There are many such places to be found along the paths of the Caminos de Santiago.

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Cemetery, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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Sunshine in the form of canna lillies with their buxom seed pods, Spain
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Gourds (used for carrying water by early pilgrims) and a camino shell on a rusty metal cross with plants and inscriptions, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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Prickly pears, Spain

Pontecesures (on the way)

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Coming into Pontecesures with its industrial pollution, Spain
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This cafe was recommended in a guide which I read. It was truly idiosyncratic, run by one man who has his own way of doing things, takes offence easily, and is dedicated to the Camino. Pontecesures, Spain

Just before crossing the River Ulla, on the right at a corner (if I remember correctly) is the place in the above photo. With makeshift furniture and varying quality of food, it is a somewhere to sit out of the sun and get refreshments. It appears to be donativo, but the maitre d’ expected payment and it was obviously a rather random affair. He was not chatty with me, but did serve up the ‘last’ bowl of vegetarian stew (it came recommended). He took a liking to the young couple who came in later, but sent another man who asked questions, packing! The flags and the individual nature of this place reminded me of Manjarín on the Camino Frances.

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The Rio (river) Ulla, Pontecesures, Spain
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The Glory Bush (Tibouchina urvilliana) flower. (Thanks to Name That Plant on houzz.com)

After crossing the bridge at Ponte(bridge)cesures and climbing up the other side in full, hot sun, the path took me along the banks of the River Ulla towards the San Antonio (St Anthony’s) Monastery of Herbón.

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These kiwi fruit were drooping off the stalks and there were acres of them, on the way to Herbón, Spain
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The route wound along the banks of the River Ulla, sometimes amidst the undergrowth, although the signs were pretty clear, Camino Portuguese

This time I did not bathe as I was keen to get a bed for the night in the monastery on the opposite bank.

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Weir, River Ulla, Spain
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Red as well as yellow arrows here. Up and down I went, towards and away from the river, before crossing and climbing uphill away from it. Camino Portuguese, Spain
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A small salamander basking in the sun!

Herbón Monastery

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Walking around the walls of the Herbón Monastery looking for the entrance I spotted this shrine, Spain

I was pushing myself (not great for the still-painful foot) because of spening time over lunch and knowing that there is always competition to get a bed at the Herbón Monastery. I passed a couple who were clearly needing some ‘romantic’ time by the river. They were in no hurry to get there before me.

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And there was the queue stretching back from the entrance in the wall – only two spaces were left and approximately four hours to wait before opening time, Herbón Monastery, Spain

It was nice and warm and there was plenty to see (photos below). People came to join the line, but were too late and left again – it was a little way into Padrón because it is a detour to get here.

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Old friends met up and new ones were made while waiting, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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The church of the missionaries, Herbón Monastery, Spain

The young couple sauntered in after quite a while, but were too late and went off again.

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Seriously old trees – all knarled and full of character, Herbón Monastery garden, Spain

There were others with injuries far worse than mine. A small group decided to leave, calling a taxi, whereupon exactly the same number arrived late (after others had already turned away) and so they found that there were spaces for them. It just goes to show!

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French map (1648) on the wall of the reception area of the Monastery at Herbón, showing the many caminos converging on Santiago de Compostella.

Eventually, after a light shower, we were let in and welcomed by the volunteers. It was very efficient. The accomodation was in small cubicles of two bunks each, ranged along a corridor. (That’s my mess on the bottom bunk!)

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Franciscan Seminary 1891-1991. This monastery is in danger of being shut down because there are no young monks coming into the Order, but they do a lot in the village, so it is hoped that it will survive. Herbón Monastery, near Padron, Spain

After a break in which I spent time meditating in the sun, we were taken on a tour of the chapel, cloisters and other parts of the building. This is practically compulsory and very interesting. The monks were missionaries, sent overseas to spread the word of God, and those left at home ran a school on the premises.

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The sparkling golden altar, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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I loved these little angel heads with wings holding up the column, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Cloisters, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Stone statue and cross in the garden, Herbón Monastery, Spain

The large garden sports vineries (there is no-one to keep them going now, sadly), kitchen garden (partly in use, as far as I could see), water which has been tested and found to have lots of minerals in it so is truly healing, and various levels and attractive sections making it really interesting.

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A place of meditation, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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View from the garden, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Healing waters at Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Dry, brown Autumn leaves and sweet chestnut prickles bursting open
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Untended vines, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Wall shrine and fountain, Herbón Monastery, Spain

To reward us for such a long guided tour and talk, we were given a good meal (included in the 6 euro price) around long canteen tables and there was a lovely atmosphere there.

Note: There is always a decent vegetarian option at the shared meals on the Caminos

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Yours truly, Herbón Monastery, Spain

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