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.
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.
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.
There are many such places to be found along the paths of the Caminos de Santiago.
Pontecesures (on the way)
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.
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.
This time I did not bathe as I was keen to get a bed for the night in the monastery on the opposite bank.
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.
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.
The young couple sauntered in after quite a while, but were too late and went off again.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
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
Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 9 and 10, September 27th – 29th 2019
Mos to Redondela
Walking this Camino was a prize for the long year I had spent writing my first book and the exciting but stressful dash to submit the manuscript to the publishers by the end of August. I had sat down – researching, typing while travelling – and eschewed long distance walks for that reason. Today, as I was ambling along, I realised that there was now some space into which a new project might come – and it came! The great Camino de Santiago forum is absolutely chock-a-block full of interesting information about pilgrimage in Spain and elsewhere. There is a mind boggling amount of collective knowledge in it, submitted by enthusiasts from all over the world, and when I am on the road I often consult it for hostel information, path directions and more. My searches the previous evening had led me to interesting topics related to my previous explorations and that then trickled through my mind as I made my way towards Redondela. Walking is such a great way to allow those creative thoughts to flourish!
Food and Wine on the Portuguese Camino
What, you may ask, can a vegetarian eat while walking the Portugues Camino, when meat is such an important part of the local diet? You can usually find eggs and vegetables (though they are often cooked rather longer than we might do them in the UK) and of course salad galore, though if we are walking out of season we might find we are served the packaged iceberg which is familiar back home. What we can never eat unless we beg at someone’s front door (no, I haven’t done this myself!) are the wonderful tall greens which so many grow in their front gardens, but which are not to be found, not in local shops, supermarkets or restaurants.
So, look out for Padron peppers (very small and grilled ones which are not really from Padron, but more of that in another blog), caldo verde (warming cabbage soup) which is usually not made with a meat stock but check, and also be careful that they don’t garnish it with sausage; bread and olive oil of course; roasted chestnuts (see below); and you most definitely can eat pastel de nata (the most delicious bijou custard tarts) as long as you are not vegan because they have eggs in them.
Conventual deserts: Traditionally, eggs whites were used in convents to starch the priest clothing and the nun’s robes. Left with the egg yolks and time to kill, the nuns had to get creative. Making the most delicious and famous desserts became a tradition in Portugal.” From Authentic Food Quest
If you are pescetarian (that is, you also eat fish, but not meat) you will have no trouble because Portugal is well known for sardines (although very attractive, don’t buy the smartly decorated tins as they are many times more expensive than the ordinary ones – make sure they are Portuguese) in the smaller shops or supermarkets); bacalhau (salted cod fish – variable, some stupendous, some just salty), octopus (pulpo, see above) and other delicacies from the ocean.
Finally, these stages of the Camino Portuguese are close by the Soutomaior, one of the sub-regions of the DO (denominacion origen) the vineyards of the high-quality, light-bodied white Albarino wine, produced by the Rias Baizas.
There are 42 beds, it costs 6 euros, opens between 1-10pm and is open all year round.
Because the room opened straight into the middle of the town, it was extremely loud with revellers late into the night and early hours of the morning.
Redondela to Pontevedra (almost)
This was a good day despite my foot /feet still hurting. Such wonderful scenery and sun! That’s why I love to walk like this – to be in nature, to be surrounded by beauty, to be amazed, step-by-step.
I left just after dawn, the lights still on under the aches of the bridge.
Saturdays are very busy days on the Camino with cyclists and local walkers as well as those who are making their way to Santiago de Compostella.
The Puente (Ponte) San Piao: ‘It is here where a decisive battle for Spain’s independence was held against Napoleon’s troops in 1809 which ended the five month French occupation.’ from Santiago-Compostella.net
The final stage of this day’s walking through the Valley of Tomeza and Salcedo, took me through a riparian area (a wetland by a river). The ground is peaty in places (as in Scotland – there are many connections between Galicia and Scotland), moist forests of alder and willow, oak, ash, birch, chestnut, brambles (blackberries) and even cherry blossom (Prunus padus or Cerdeiro de acio in Galician) and hops can be found (as in my native Kent). The sign said that the presence of otters is a sign of good water quality. It certainly looked bubbling and clear, but sadly, I didn’t see an otter.
This last part was particularly gorgeous – green, verdant and peaceful apart from the trickling water and birds chanting around me.
Accomodation: The previous evening I had come across an air bnb called Casa A Grade online and tried to find out if there was a space, unsuccessfully. I had even phoned and the woman said they did not have any single beds. Well, as I was walking through these wonderful woods, there was a hostel sign. I crossed the quaint bridge and wound my way through what turned out to the the end of the garden. There I came across a plunge pool glittering in the hot sun and it was the same place. And they did have a single bed for me!
I lay in the garden, dipped into cool water, washed and hung out my clothes (which dried in the scorching sun), bought vegetables from their garden plus bread and prepared food for the evening meal. Breakfast was included in what i think was the 25 euro price. All the beds were full – a family room was taken by a mother and father who were accompanying their daughter to a Rhythmic Gymnastics competition – she was a champion), and 4 singles (2 pilgrims and 2 holiday makers) along a corridor and separated by curtains. There is one bathroom and everything was clean. The owners were very friendly and helpful.
Finally, it was only 40 minutes into Pontevedra, but that was another day!
Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 3 and 4, September 21st – 22nd 2019.
Vila do Conde
20 kms from Porto; 24.95 kms to Esposende
It was in this cafe that I accepted a cap and guide book which belonged to a woman who I had been seeing at hostels along the way. I assumed I would see here agin and so took it with me for her. Guess what? I carried them to Santiago but never did see her.
Link to the municipal hostel in Esposende/Marinhas. The Albergue San Miguel is one of the hostels that you have to walk through the town and almost out the other side to reach. The building in front, nearest the main road, is not the hostel but the Red Cross centre (the 2 organisations are connected through the Marinhas council) and the people there are used to exhausted pilgrims trekking through by mistake!
Nearby, and within very easy earshot, was an annual festival venue with bands, demonstrations of rural activities such as threshing, and more food than you might have ever seen in one long hall. People flocked from far and wide to sit around long tables in large family groups and have a good time. It was not possible to sleep, so as they say, when you can’t beat em, join em!
I walked through Monte, Lugar de Cima, Outeiro, Barros Sao Fins, Santo Amaro, Estrada,
I am reliably informed that this plant is one of the food plants for the Monarch Butterfly, in Australia. They prefer this, and another alien, over the native milkweeds.
The way was made up of large boulders and unevenly sized stones, some wet. I went fast to keep up with him which was exhilarating, but I wonder if I twisted my ankle without quite noticing.
And then the heavens opened. Before I could find a place to stop and take my backpack off to cover it and myself (even though I had, minutes earlier, been immersed in cool waters), I was soaked through. It was torrential. And steep, uphill. At the top I sheltered in a bus stop and watched the rain running down in torrents. More and more pilgrims joined me in that tiny space. There was a mobile shop on the Green opposite, but it was a bar – alcohol only, no hot drinks.
Despite their appearance, I was assured that they would not be ripe for eating until December at least.
The way into Viana do Castelo is across the Limia – a long, metal bridge. The hikers share it with the vehicles, although there is a narrow shaft where we walked. I could see the water’s of the Lima River far below through the grid I walked on my walking shoes clanging. The width of one person, there’s no possibility of stopping to rest and as I was limping by this time I must have slowed because I was aware of a queue of others behind me, having to go at my pace. I kept doggedly on with no choice.
I allowed myself to be persuaded to take an extra trip that evening despite my sore feet. What a mistake! Although the sights were inspiring, my physical health suffered and I paid for it for many weeks to come.
Designed by Miguel Ventura Terra, this church venerates St. Lucy of Syracuse.
I am indebted to the people on the houzz.com forum who have an immense wealth of knowledge about plants and are so willing to help.