International Walking Encounters – Cataluña

The Project – part 1

June/July 2022

The first part of The Separation and Unity Project between Edinburgh and Cataluña takes the form of walking, walkshop and outdoor performance as part of WALKING ARTS ENCOUNTERS, Walking Arts and Relational Geographies

There is a spiritual-political-geographical link between Edinburgh, Scotland where I live, and Cataluña in the Iberian Peninsula where the Encounters are taking place (Girona, Olot and Vic). In both countries, we have long been engaged in matters of self-determination, with debates over separation and unity, community, national and inter-national relationships. Whilst primarily represented as a battle fought in law courts and parliaments, or between opposing protesters on the streets, this has often been a binary approach. It is necessary to spend time listening, sharing and making work with artists and members of the community in order to understand each other better and find possible ways forward.

Europe is defined, in many ways, by borders. They speak of crumbled empires, shifting boundaries – most of them, …. speak of unimaginable suffering.

Kerri ni Dochartaigh ‘Thin Places’ p17

As a walking artist, secular pilgrim, feminist and outdoor performer, I will carry the awareness of these issues from the Scottish hills to the Cataluñian mountains, from Edinburgh’s extinct volcanoes (Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill and Castle Rock) to the volcanic land of Olot, and between Oak Wood in the Lammermuir Hills and the oak trees of the Plain of Vic.

I have been walking the St Margaret’s Way through the carboniferous volcanic rocks of the Burntisland area in Fife, Scotland, and will be able to carry my experiences with me on the ancient spiritual path which unites each of the three conurbations where the Encounters are happening, the Camí de Sant Jaume (Camino Catalán).

Co-mingling of Oak and Beech

Separation and Unity

This is the artistic focus

  • in the human experience (notions of belonging and alienation, shared feeling and dislocation);
  • consideration of the other-than-human and our relationship to that realm; and in the landscape.

Documentation:

  • Impromtu performance
  • Collecting words, images, marks, and sound segments
  • Mapping.
  • Film and pamphlet on return to Edinburgh.

Collaboration with delegates during the International Encounters will take the form of walking sections of the urban camino together in each of the three locations. This ritual series of three mini pilgrimages will be a way of considering the spiritual aspect (in the widest sense of the word), and the trinity of psychogeographical outings will form a unity between the three sites for the purpose of comparing sensations, ideas and feelings. Each walk will start with an embodied exercise for individuals, a group game for unification, and prompt = one hour in each place:

  1. Girona: starts at the Catedral de Girona to Pont de L’Aguia 9pm for 40 minutes
  2. Olot: starts at Plaça Major to Pont de Sant Roc 6.30pm for 30 minutes
  3. Vic: starts at Catedral de Sant Pere de Vic to L’Atlàntida Centre des Arts (35 mins 6.30pm
Co-existence and mutual reliance

I will be making contact with women for whom this focus is pertinent, both in Scotland and Cataluña. As always I will seek Shiatsu practitioners with whom to exchange.

#walkingandrelationalgeographies @naucoclea #artdelcaminar

Via de la Plata Camino

Via de la Plata camino (The Silver Road, it is sometimes called)

Via de la Plata camino day 1 Seville to Guillena

Guillena to Castilblanco los Arroyos

Castilblanco de los Arroyos to Almaden

Almaden through El Real to Monasterio

Seville, starting place of the Via de la Plata, Spain

Monasterio to Fuente de Cantos

Fuente de Cantos to Zafra

Zafra to Villafranca de los Barros

Villafranca de los Barros to Torremejia

Torremejia to Merida

Merida to Aljucen

889 kms to Santiago de Compostella, Spain on the Via de la Plata camino

Aljucen to Alcuescar

Alcuescar to Aldea de Cano

Aldea de Cano to Caceres

Caceres to Casar de Caceres

Casar de Caceres to Embalse de Alcantara

Embalse de Alcantara to Grimaldo

Grimaldo to Galisteo

Galisteo (to Oliva de Plasencia) to Aldeanueva de Camino

Aldeanueva de Camino to Calzada de Behar

Camino Frances credential and iconic scallop shell with memorabilia

Calzada de Behar to Fuenteroble de Salvatierra

Fuenterroble de Salvatierra to Pedrosilla de las Aires

Pedrosilla de las Aires to Morille

Morille to Salamanca

Salamanca to Calzada de Valdunciel

Calzada de Valdunciel to El Cubo

El Cubo to Villanueva de Campean

Villanueva de Campean to Zamora

Zamora, Spain

Zamora to Montamarta

Montamarta to Tabara

Tabara to Santa Marta de Tera

Santa Marta de Tera to Vilar de Barrio (coming soon!)

Vilar de Barrio to Xinzon to Ourense (again)

Xunqueria de Ambia – Vilar de Barrio

Ourense – Xunqueira de Ambia

And the few days before that: Laxe – Castro Douzon – Cea – Ourense

The last few days, which I walked first going backwards from Santiago de Compostella – Outerio – Bandera – Laxe. In the direction of Seville (north to south)

Galicia, Spain in December 2016

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

La Guarda to Mos: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 7 and 8, September 25th – 27th 2019

La Guarda / A Guarda, Galicia, Spain

La Guarda is in Spain, even though it is a town on the Portuguese Camino. I was happy to be back in Galicia, one of my favourite parts of Spain. I should have liked to see the Celtic hill fort and village of Castro de Santa Trega which connects with Scottish history (I live in Edinburgh) on the top of the hill that La Guarda sits beside, but I was not comfortably ambulant.

In the morning, I walked a short way (30 minutes, 2 kilometers) from the Albergue Municipal in La Guarda where I had spent the night, to visit the churches, but it was a strain and took me much longer than it should have. As a result of the pain in my foot, I decided to turn back and take a different route.

church architecture and detail
Santuario de San Roque, Parroquia de Salcidos with Saint James in the front

Saint James in traditional costume
St James carrying his crook with wearing his hat with the camino shell on it. Also with an angel and a dog. Apologies for the quality of the photo, but I thought they were charming tiles

The two churches (above and below) are almost next to each other and I was the only one there. A few people were on their way to work and school, on the main road, and the churches were closed as they always are unless there is a service on. However, I admired their grandeur and solidity, the Santuario de San Roque having seen many pilgrims over the centuries.

Church architecture
Igrexa Parroquial de San Lorenzo de Salcidos, Portugal

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The mountain was just visible above the clouds as I looked from Salcidos, a borough of La Guarda, Spain

Then I rested for 20 minutes and took the bus. It runs from Salcidos to Tui (get off / on near Repsol gas station (estacion de servicio) on N-550) regularly and takes around an hour. This was the second day that I could not walk, something that had, thankfully, never happened to me before, and it was very hard to accept. The journey took me through urban areas with grey stone buildings boasting elegant balustrades around the windows, along the northern side of the River Miño, and deposited me opposite some public gardens bright with bougainvillea and sporting a grand metal statue of cantering horses, the Monumento al Caballo Salvaje.

horse statue bougainvillia
Monumento al Caballo Salvaje (wild horses monument) in the park, Glorieta de Vigo, Tui, Spain

Tui

Tui is a busy city, full of hustle and bustle and with all facilities you could possible need. There is an excellent market, with cafes and shops galore. Not far from the Albergue is a friendly eating place / hostel (Albergue Ideas Peregrinas – not the cheapest, but with a European atmosphere and great, healthy breakfasts, including vegan food), and that is opposite one selling crêpes, and so on…! All tastes are catered for and many people holiday here even if they are not hiking. There is an extensive Natural Park to the north west with hills, Monte Aloia, for excellent views of Baiona, Vigo and the whole region.

I picked up a copy of Jim Crace’s The Melody in the hostel the night before and made the most of my enforced resting time to have a good read. Described as a meditation on grief, it connects with all my recent writing on the subject – there’s no such thing as a coincidence!

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See St James peeking out from behind the column where Arzobispo (Archbishp) Lago Gonzalez (1865-1925) sits. His high cheekbones and benign expression make him look as if he is listening to a child telling him a story.

urban and rural vista
The location of the Albergue de Peregrinos is magnificent with views from the rocky hill across the river Miño and hills of northern Portugal

Chapel architecture location
The Capela da Misericordia is right next door and only slightly uphill (Rua Parroco Rodriguez Vazquez) from the Albergue de Peregrinos. Situated at the back of the Santa Maria Cathedral of Tui, it is simpler and almost unadorned. Spain

location city establishments
The hostel is wonderfully situated in this historic city. Elegant cafes are to the right of the Plaza da Concello, opposite the Concelo (the government offices of the social security finance department) and the Police. The side of the Santa Maria Cathedral is in the middle (in the background) and just past the flags, on the left and down the steps is the Albergue de Peregrinos, Tui, Spain

Roman and Medieval architecture cobbled street ancient arch
Through and archway in the eleventh century city walls you can see the old Roman street which predates it, giving a sense of the elevation of the town, Tui, Spain

signage albergue hostel
Entrance to the Albergue de Peregrinos with the typical Galician government, metal sign of a cartoon-type pilgrim with her water gourd over her shoulder, Tui, Spain

I was early into the town from La Guarda and encountered a difficulty: the hospitalera behind the reception at the hostel was talking animatedly to a gentleman who was lounging nearby. On seeing me, she launched into an attack on pilgrims who pretend to be walking, but actually must have come by public transport because they would never, otherwise, have arrived by this time. She laughed, he laughed, they compared notes and got increasingly irate about such behaviour.

I was dying to get the weight off my back and feet, and trying to explain in Spanish that I had not done this before, but had no choice with my foot pain. She ridiculed me and said I shouldn’t be carrying such a heavy load. It was most upsetting and as I became distressed she started to shout, saying that she wasn’t being nasty, just that ….

It is true that the municipal Xunta (the Galician council) albergues are for the pilgrims and that, increasingly, people are either not carrying their own packs or are taking buses and trains some or all of the way. It may have been an external voice, too, uttering the very words which I was hearing inside my head, and been part of my having to come to terms with being human and not always strong. Anyway, I said I would go away and then she started calming down and took me through the familiar process: passport check, credential stamp, payment (cash), and bedding. I was shaken.

It is a large hostel with solid wooden bunks. Although there is a sitting area where you can eat inside at the back, the kitchen is across the little garden and so I sat there for my tea as the sun set and it cooled down.

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I delighted in the little face peering over as if she was having a chat with what look like two shepherds (there is a lamb at the feet of the right hand character). Catedral (cathedral) Santa María, Tui, Spain

You can see the beautiful cloisters and internal gardens of the Santa María Cathedral de Tui in the photos on their website.

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The very grand entrance to the Santa Maria Cathedral on San Fernando Square, Tui, Spain

The tourist information is also in San Fernando Square and the staff are extremely helpful and kind there.

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The seventeenth century, richly attired King Fernando carrying a sword and globe with a cross on it representing the might of the expansion of his Catholic empire around the world

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The Virgin with a halo of golden stars, robes flying and cherubs dangling in the interior of the Cathedral Santa María, Tui, Spain

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Market stall with salami and cheese – local products of the area, Tui, Spain

Tui to Mos

It is 25 kilometers to Mos and even though I had rested up for 2 days (well, a lot less walking than usual), it was too far, so I took a bus part of the way and trekked the rest (only 8 kilometers) to see whether I could manage. It was such a beautiful day and I was so happy to be on my feet again under the blue sky.

rural Spanish Galician landscape
Vines loaded with dusky black jewels are spied between tall, thin trunks with mountains in the distance

I am walking along the Via Romana XIX linking Braga and Astorga, enjoying listening to the birds and smelling the countryside after being in towns for the last few days. Sometimes the signs are hidden amongst pink roses. In the distance the open fields are empty now after harvest.

rural landscape plants
Ferns and lush farmland. The Mos population is spread across the region, with no one major centre. It is at a relatively high altitude commanding open views

Catholic shrine by the road
This quiet area has a respectful energy about it with fresh lillies and roses decorating this wayside shrine

rural mountains village church houses
Belltower of the Iglesia (church) Santa Eulalia. Nearby there is a very tall column with a crucified Christ at the top. It is a well-to-do area in places with carefully kept gardens (white camelias were spotted) and expensive cars, not like some parts of Galicia on the Camino Frances

close up flowers
Beautiful tall flatsedge, nutgrass or umbrella sedge (Cyperus eragostis)

There is a native, milky coloured drink called horchata de chufa or horchata de Valencia which is the region where I first came across it. It is made from the tubers of the nutsedge (not the type in the photo above). (Thank you to floral_uk on the ‘name that plant’ forum of houzz.com for this information). It is similar to a Mexican version except that the latter is made from rice, not this sedge.

Mos, Galicia (Redondela Region)

I stayed at the Casa Blanca hostel near the Santa Baia church where I sat in the evening. The albergue is new with a bar that serves ice cream and snacks, and there is a restaurant oppostite which cooks wonderful Padron peppers and does breakfast as well as evening meals. The accommodation is in a separate building and all are situated on quite a hill. There is a coin-operated washing machine and I shared a load with others after much negotiation, however there is not enough room to hang the clothes to dry outside and, anyway, it was already cold at night so my things had to come in at bed time to avoid being damp by morning.

I went up looking for a fruit and veg shop. Instead, I saw a man on the top of a ladder picking grapes who told me I had gone in the wrong direction. On the way back down a woman pulled up in her car and spoke to me in French. She took me through to the back of her gradmother’s house (derelict) into the stepped garden full of fruit trees and picked figs. We stood and chatted over these juicy fruits and then she introduced me to her husband. He filled my shopping bag with massive bunches of black grapes for sharing with the other pilgrims back at the hostel. I laid them on large fig leaves in the self-catering kitchens for folk to help themselves.

El Camino de Santiago con correos (post) blog

El Camino de Santiago blog (a different one)

Another way to Santiago blog showing a picture of the hostel at Mos

Colin Davies, Tui to Santiago blog

Tavira, Portugal

October 2019

The Algarve of Portugal, the southernmost region, is best known for its beaches, and spectacular they truly are.

Impressive cliffs Algarve
The magnificent cliffs and expansive beaches of the Algarve, Portugal

However, there is a wealth of interest inland too, with small villages in the foothills and spread along rivers, all linked together with expanses of citrus orchards and olive groves, random whitewashed properties with terracotta rooves, and a not inconsiderable bus / road / rail network making touring a manageble and enjoyable experience.

Winding roads and scrubland of inland Portugal, Algarve
The typical whitewashed villas of the hills of inland Portugal, near Tavira

Getting there

I arrived in Faro (capital of the Algarve) by bus from Seville (and before that from the north of Spain). The bus (Terminal Rodovario) and train (trem) stations are a few minutes walk away from each other so I was able to amble from one to the other to comare prices.

Paper map of Faro, Portugal
Map of Faro

Tavira, to the east, was my first stop and you can get there by both modes of transport: train is quicker (30 minutes), but more expensive, and buses (taking 1 hour) seem to be more often. This website is an excellent source of information.

Town buildings of Tavira with Roman Bridge (Ponte Romana) across the river Gilao
Ponte Romana (Roman bridge) de Tavira, River Gilao, Portugal

There are two bus stops in Tavira: Porta Nova and Tavira, but you must stipulate which destination when buying your ticket (always buy in advance), as they are slightly different prices.

High rise apartments in Tavira, Portugal
The apartments of Tavira, Portugal

Tavira

There seem to be two sides to Tavira: the old town and the newer developments (above) where lots of the ex-pats live. Most people I speak to really like this place and there is not only a lot to see, but good beaches and good countryside restaurants nearby as well if you have a car, so no wonder it is popular. For cyclists and walkers, it is a great setting-off point – there is a network of cycle routes and you can now walk from Tavira to Santiago de Compostella. The locals are geared up to having vistors around all the time and are courteous and understanding, speaking excellent English.

Church of our Lafy of Learning or Saint Paul, in leafy square with statue, Tavira, Portugal
Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda ou de Sao Paulo (Church of Saint Paul), and the Jardim (Garden) da Alagoa, with statue of Dom Marcelino Franco, Bispo (Bishop) of the Algarve 1920, in the Praca (Square) Dr Antonio Padinha, Tavira, Portugal

This beautiful square has lots of cafes and restaurants where you can sit outside and enjoy the leafy view.

web link church Igreja of the da Misericordia, Tavira, Portugal
Tracy and the Igreja da Misericordia

Building in Tavira showing the blue and white decoration, balustrades and tiled exterior, Portugal
Typical Portuguese blue and white decoratedhouse, Tavira, Portugal

Decorated exterior of building with blue and white tiles in Tavira, Poetugal
Tiled exterior of Tavira architecture, Portugal

Tavira riverscape
The River Gilao, Tavira, Portugal

decorated floor market Tavira
Mercado (market), Tavira, Portugal

baskets Tavira
Basket stall, market, Tavira, Portugal

unknown fruit
Cherimoya, custard apple native to the mountains of Equador and Peru

Fish on market stall Tavira
Fish stall, market, Tavira, Portugal

overhead view gardens Castelo do Tavira
The gardens of the Castelo (castle), Tavira, Portugal

Castelo do Tavira ramparts
Tracy on the ramparts of the Castelo do Tavira, Portugal

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The blue potato bush or Paraguayan nightshade (Lycianthes rantonnetii (previously Solanum rantonnetii). Poisonous, evergreem lightly fragrant flowers followed by red berries

english and latin name of plant
California or Arizona Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera)

palm tree hibiscus
Date palm and hibiscus, Tavira, Algarve, Portugal

Pedras del Rei

The Tavira area was the first place I ever went abroad when I was a young teenager with my parents. It was memorable for a number of reasons, not least the trip to the beach which was reached by a little train and boat. When I accepted Tracy’s kind invitation, I had no (conscious) idea that her new place was near this early holiday destination, so you can imagine my pleasure when I was taken for a late afternoon walk only to be faced with a sign saying Pedras del Reí. The memories came flooding back!

passenger train to beach Tavira
Train to the Praia do Barril beach, Pedras del Rei, Tavira, Portugal

train engine Tavira
Train engine, Pedras del Rei, Tavira, Portugal

path in woods Praia do Barril beach
Walking along the boardwalk towards Praia do Barril, Tavira

Praia do Barril

anchors in the sand Praia do barril beach
The beach is stunning and memorable for its anchor graveyard and ex-tuna fishing buildings

Praia do Barril beach, Tavira, Portugal
Praia do Barril beach – kilometer upon kilometer of golden sand

Sunset marshes Barril
Back across the marshes to Tavira from Praia do barril beach

The evening light turned the saltmarsh cordgrass (correct me if I am wrong) golden

Fabrica

I also visited the beach across from Fábrica and the small village of Cacela Velha, both located in the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Like much of the coast in this area, the beach is situated on a spit of land which is separated from the mainland by a strip of water, so we took a boat across.

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Taking the boat across from Fabrica to Casela Velha beach

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Looking back towards Fabrica where there is a smart restaurant and a small cafe

Casela Velha – beach and village

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Cacela Velha beach

Cacela Velha is a small village in the parish of Vila Nova da Cacela on a hillside next to the Ria Formosa, between Tavira and the town of Monte Gordo.

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The popular outdoor market at Casela Velha

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The Parish Church of Casela Velha

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The easternmost lagoon of the Ria (river) Formosa

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Parish Church of Casela Velha, Portugal

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Just before it rained! the village of Casela Velha in the hills outside Tavira, Portugal

From there I returned by car to Faro airport (thanks to Tracy and David, wonderful hosts), and took a bus to Albufeira. The posters at the bus stop do not all contain truthful information as far as I could tell, so careful!

Many thanks to the folk on the houzz.com plant forum for help with plant identification

Montamarta to Tábara, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 21 (Montamarta to Tábara). Tuesday 10 April 2018. 27.5 kms.

I took the Camino Sanabrés rather than passing back through places on the Camino Francés (Astorga etc) which I had visited the year before.

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The best view of the day – unless you count the sight of the albergue in Tábara when I eventually got there.

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Telling you all about Montamarta – not somewhere I ever want to go back to I must say.

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Just like yesterday, except duller.

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Yep, under another motorway tunnel.

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I took the right, turned back and went straight on, then retraced my steps and went around the motorway flyover.

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Kilometer after kilometer on the tarmac with road works as a view.

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Spring primroses amongst the rubble and stones.

There was a small village strung out along the road, not so far from Tábara, with a cafe.  I sat on the bridge and sunbathed – it was glorious.

Once I got going again it started to rain and I stopped, de-rucksacked and covered up. Then there was a rumble and a thunder and it got dark. The lorries were roaring past and spraying and I was ducking in and out of the ditch at the side of the road to avoid it when there was a fork of lightning at my left shoulder. I have never been so close. I wondered what I should do. Looking around there was nothing and nobody – just trees. I did think perhaps the metal batons weren’t such a good idea, but I couldn’t exactly abandon them and they had rubber handles and tips to earth me. I hoped. (Two days afterwards I met up with the American women and one of them did throw her sticks into the fields because she said she was so scared of being struck.)

Then the hail started and brought about a total landscape transformation.

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In two seconds flat the road was covered in white, the traffic had completely ceased and a hush came over the world. I walked on, telling myself ‘it will be over soon’.

It did stop eventually and on and on I went, every part of every mile seeming an age. I was very wet, too sopping to be able to get the map book out. Then again, there was only the one road to choose from.

There was a service station on the outskirts of Tábara and I stumbled in to get some cover and ask for directions to the albergue. There was pandemonium in there because the electric storm had shut down the till and no-one could pay for their petrol. I waited with heaviness on my back and realised how exhausted and hungry I was. And I waited.

In the end, I did something I have never done before: I took a chocolate bar off the shelf, sunk to the ground, sat with my legs splayed out in front of me like a rag doll, and devoured it without paying for it first. It was wholly necessary.

To my horror it was a further 30 minutes walk to the hostel and I had thought I was at the complete end of my energy. Hey, I simply had to find more.

It was uphill and a very long road, and just as I was despairing that it would not end, there was a shriek and who should I see coming towards me but Marie-Noelle and her smile, someone I had not seen for several days. She gave me a big and welcome hug on her way to the bar.

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The hospitalero made me a cup of tea when I needed it most, and proceeded to cook for us all that evening. He describes himself as a ‘spiritual author’, is resident at the hostel all year round, and something of a Camino VIP.

There were 10 people round the table drinking wine and eating simple fare. Some I had met before, some I had not, each of us from a different country, and of course we made ourselves understood – a true camino experience at the end of a most trying day.

 

 

 

Zamora to Montamarta, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 20 (Zamora to Montamarta). Monday 9 April 2018. 19 kms.

There was a deal of road walking on this leg of the journey.

Here are predominantly photos as the notes app on my phone failed and all were lost despite it promising to back-up. Aim: to find a way to reinstate it!

Walkers, be careful soon after leaving Zamora, because there are arrows off to the left to the Portuguese camino!

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The tracks of the dog who went before me on the path.

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Cars stacked up beside the road. There are many car dealers in this area. The camino is not all beautiful countryside and olive groves.

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In fact, this part has long straight tracks of red earth between arable fields. Cloudy skies herald more rain.

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On the cross is a quote from Pablo Neruda: amar es vivir la existencia desde el corazón del otro which means something like, we live to love and be loved by others, to be in each other’s hearts.

 

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These statues of fairy tale characters were in someone’s front garden in Roales del Pan as I walked through.

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St James watches over the children’s playpark.

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Big puddles on the chemin, and a row of diddy little trees.

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Gobble, gobble, gobble, gob.

The owners of the private hostel Tio Bartolo also have a bar and work at the Covitan supermarket where you get the keys. It looks good in the photos and was recommended by the hospitaliere in Zamora, but I picked up some sort of infection walking barefoot on their floors. There were two American women and myself in the large dormitory under the roof, and we huddled in our beds and in our sleeping bags (there were blankets available). The weak, free-standing heaters which the landlady found us because all our clothes were wet, shorted the electric circuit and anyway, when the husband discovered she had given them to us (because he had to come and switch things back on) he shouted and swore and took them away. There were people in the small rooms downstairs who paid much more than we did (15 euros including breakfast which was left in the cupboards by the long-suffering wife and was not up to much at all).

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The hostel was on this street and I would absolutely not recommend it. Run by a kind woman and her angry husband, the rain came in downstairs and it was extremely cold.

Hostels and facilities

There are many facilities in Montamarta including a municipal albergue which had been shut for a while and opened the night I was there, but I had been told it was closed so didn’t try to find it. It is now rennovated and had good reports from the people I spoke to the day afterwards. There were two others mentioned in my book – El Bruñedo and El Asturiano – neither of which were open.

I had decided to go to Montamarta because otherwise it was a very long day (33 kms I think) and the pains I had been having in my feet dissuaded me from such a trek. I found a bar that wasn’t owned by the proprietor, on the main road, and charged my phone. The waitress was very kind, but it wasn’t somewhere I could stay long.

That was a really low few hours, and I used Facebook to send out a message to my friends, ‘Should I just go home?’ Some said yes, some no! I kept on going. And you know what? It got a whole lot worse the next day – in a different sort of way!!

 

‘But my business is unlearning, not learning, and I’ll change with the world but I won’t change it.’ from Ursula le Guinn’s Left Hand of Darkness.

 

Calzada de Valdunciel to El Cubo, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 16 (Mérida to Ourense). Friday 6 April 2018. 20 kms.

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I am walking in Castilla y Léon and this part is very flat with a deal of road. The albergue in Calzada de Valdunciel is on the opposite side of the town, making it very simple and quick to find the way out in the dark.

‘Lodging facilities were generally provided outside the city walls to enable travellers to come and go after the gates of the town were shut at night’. The Pilgrimage to Santiago, Edwin Mullins.

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The long straight path  was not overly attractive but as the sun rose, everything changed colour, even the barbed wire fence took on a precious shine.

I came across a small forest of teasal, all turned towards the sun. They stood tall and prickly in the light, old and brown but glowing at the same time. I have never seen so many of them at once. Perhaps because I knew I would be walking past a prison later in the day, they reminded me of inmates pressed against the boundary fence (there was not enough light to take a photo).

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Plant of the day: the red catkin one – after searching the internet it could be Black Cottonwood

Opposite the sun, in the same cobalt sky, was less than half a lint moon, a wafer-thin gauze of a slither. Where the warmth had not reached it, the grass was still stiff with the haw frost.

I followed the footprints of the people who had gone before me until a significant detour due to flooding. I was under a motorway bridge and the warning signs were easy to see except they were back-to-front, so first I took the left fork, met with the un-passable path and retraced my steps. Then it was not easy- arrows everywhere – and it was counter-intuitive winding back and over where I had already been. It seems that this diversion has been there a long time.

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I ask myself, what is the person like who leaves these prints?

Soon it was lovely and warm. Straight, straight on, cars rushing past and I somehow missed Huelmos, the only pueblo between setting off and my destination. Shame about the sore feet. This type of stage often seems much further than it actually is, but I revelled in the wild flowers: the same selection from last week. I had hardly seen any since then and I wondered if the wheat spraying was responsible for the lack of them.

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A typical, simple, Spanish local church.

This time the accomodation, a private hostel, was just off the first road I came to on entering El Cubo, sort of round the back and next to what looked like a derelict area. It had a spacious garden surrounding it and those strips of plastic hanging in front of the front door.

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Albergue Torre de Sabre, Calle Traversís de la Ermita, El Cubo, Spain.

As there was no answer I phoned and the owner appeared very quickly, offering me a welcome beer. The books say people are welcome to pop in for a drink and a seat – a nice idea that I had not come across before. As I sun-bathed, I remembered that I had forgotten to leave a donation at the Salamanca donativo hostel and resolved to ‘pass it forward’, as the cyclist from Malta who came briefly by for a coke and to fix his bike, suggested.

Later I went into the village to buy my tea and next day’s breakfast. Two women sitting on a bench outside their house pointed me in the right direction. I am now familiar with shops which are in apparently residential dwellings. In Edinburgh it is the opposite – many of the old shops have been made into homes. White doves flew up from the church.

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See the St James scallop shells decorating the base of the cross – eternal symbol of the camino.

Being private, there was no pilgrim’s kitchen but the retired owners allowed us to sit at the table alongside the others who were eating the supper provided. There were six of us including a young couple who are walking the camino, weekend by weekend, travelling by car from home on Friday nights, to the start of each stage, walking for two days, and then returning to their vehicle on the Sunday night for work the next day. It was a really enjoyable meal and the wine flowed freely – a delicious local white for the starter, red for the main – which I was (happily) encouraged to sample.

I was still meeting up with the duo from Seuil regularly. They always cater for themselves, being on a strict (almost impossible) budget, and the youngest is an avid footballer (he played for Rennes when he was younger) so despite walking every day, he goes out for football practice every evening – E, his ‘accompanying adult’, is consequently improving his moves!

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A plain, modern house with attractive decorative tiles.

They also washed our clothes for two euros, and there was plenty of hanging space in the garden. Unfortunately, having bought almost all of my stuff in before the storm except my double-layer socks which dry very slowly, I left them out all night. I padded out in bare feet through the puddles in the early hours when I remembered, but it was too late for them to dry for wearing that day.

I had a rather luxurious night: although I was in a shared room and had arrived first, picking the less expensive bunk, the whole establishment was full by 8pm and I was moved to a double bed – presumably because I was the matriach!!

Salamanca to Calzada de Valdunciel, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino, day 15 from Salamanca to Calzada de Valdunciel (on the Mérida to Ourense section). Thursday 5 April 2018. 15 kms?

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Cathedral, Salamanca, Spain.

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Plaza Major, Salamanca, Spain.

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San Marcos, Salamanca, Spain.

I woke really early and crept out of the female dorm where I slept with 2 others. I had been warned that walking out of Salamanca would be frustrating, and it was. The start was straightforward: to Plaza Major, then onwards, the roads getting wider and more industrial as I went. But then there is a left; straight on at a supermarket (Carrefour); a hotel which would not let me use their toilets; a stadium which I crouched behind as a result; and motorway roundabouts. No paths nor pavements: terrible. I even saw a man spitting which although it is very common in Britain, I had never seen before here in Spain.

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However, I could not help but be elated with the lovely buildings and the sunlight, even if it was mixed with frustration at getting the rucksack comfy, trudging along thinking about past relationships and sorting things out in my mind.

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Finally there was a clay camino by the motorway and despite the ice on the ground it was starting to warm up.

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It looks more orange in real life!

I was getting a very different feeling from people in this part of the country: in the bars they were polite but gave us half a glass compared to the Spanish, and charged more; on the street, on the other hand, people were kindness itself, helping with directions despite my beginners Spanish.

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For a while I walked amidst the green and earth – the plough had created gracious curves around the hills. Then more by road – I thought, ‘You must be joking’, but the challenge was to stay quiet inside and enjoy what was there. It worked! Very soon I was back off-road, and from then on it was a smooth, flat and ochre-coloured path.

Yesterday I walked in one long stretch of countryside with nothing to break it up, offering a chance to do a walking meditation. Today it was warmer and there were little hops from village to village and there was the spire of a church ahead in Aldeaseca de la Almuña. It was a square bell tower with a shallow triangular roof and a little blob of stork on its nest on top.

I passed one of the women I had seen the previous night. She was sitting outside a village supermarket having a quiet smoke. I chose a lovely wee shop round the corner, full of delights such as an unexpectedly wide range of perfume as well as the sweet things I was ready for even though only it was only 11am.

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There was a tiny arrow between the church and the medical centre but I only saw it when I went back in and the shop-keeper pointed it out. There was a sign that the library bus visits on Mondays. I exited past the sunshine yellow play-park.

I admitted to myself (after my experience near Lake Tajo) that I am somewhat nervous of meeting single men on the outskirts of towns, and at the next village sure enough there was a car which went slowly. He hooted and later approached me, but it was fine – I walked on, did not look at or answer him, and he got the message.

There were new tulips out, a hoopoe saying bou bou bou, and wood pigeons coo cooing. Luckily my book said to walk on the right side of the road, and there was a path between the trees although I did not see the arrows. Later I discovered that others had continued along the road, and I was happy that for once I had found the gentler way.

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I love these wide open spaces. They are one reason why I walk.

Although in this flat land there are not a lot of places to snuck down for a pee!

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More than once I thought I saw a castle in the distance and then realised it was irregularly stacked hay bales.

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This footbridge is what we caminantes appreciate.

Oh the sweet peeping of the small brown bird with a white belly! I had never seen the vino tinto-coloured catkins before: they were all over the ground.

Then, another first, I had to take my boots off and wade through the water which was blocking the way.

I crossed the very busy main road once more, using the motorists’ signs to help me: there are far fewer arrows in this region, though there are the more modern Castilla y León pillars encompassing a variety of directions.  Here there were the same miniscule scarlet succulents growing in the gravel which were all over Extremadura. I was walking beside what you might call a posh housing estate, along a smaller road parallel to the A-one, into Castellanos de Villiquera. (The Valencia one I went to has security guards on call 24 hrs a day)

There were glimpses of turquoise swimming pools through hedges and I wondered for the 100th time, why I walk. We have forgotten the way people used to walk from town to village if they did not have a horse/cart. My favourite parts of the film Captain Corelli’s Mondolin are when the people wend their way out of the village down that zig-zag road, taking their time and following tradition. Now I hear that in America you are advised not to go on foot at all in some cities. I am fascinated by the quietness of this mode of transport, not for the sake of a romantic revisiting of a lost era but because it feels better. I see and hear more. If I am not in a hurry (as I was for the first 50 years of my life it seemed), then there is somehow more time for my soul to catch up with my body.

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At the water tower in Castellanos de Villiquera the yellow arrow tell me to go straight on.

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The road forks at the Parish Church of Castellanos (Spain) and there is almost no wind so I can go on in a T-shirt.

A woman beats a mat outside her house; in contrast the small tweety birds flutter their wings like hovver flies. A racing 3-year-old spaniel, wet from leaping through young wheat, and her owner (approximately 80 years old) stop to say, aren’t you cold? I said no, not after 15 kms, and we had a nice chat. He wished me a Buen Camino when we parted ways. It seems to be a very popular pastime for the retired, walking on the outskirts.

No-one overtook me today. I suspect the two men who left earlier are going for 30 kms or so. Planning each day involves looking at the distance between hostels and taking any main towns into account. It is certainly tempting to go further, and this is a topic of very regular debate both in my head and with others, but today’s tricky 60 kms to Zamora can be comfortably divided into 16, 23 and 21 which is much more relaxed.

I traipse through Calzada de Valdunciel, right to the other side, past a wall where there is an oficina virtual de turismo ie, not real people, but a digital tourist information. And arrive at a 12-bed, cute little albergue which shares a wall with a noisy metal-cutting factory (blessedly, they take a long lunch break!).

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It was deliciously sunny and I spent all of the rest of the day outside in the paved space in front.

I am there first and although deserted, the door is open. One-by-one the others arrive: the 2 men from Seuil who I have been getting to know for a few days, came first, followed by others who looked and decided to move on, and, finally, the woman I saw that morning and she had to be turned away because by then we were full. There is a little kitchen with a stove and a string of (what turns out to be plastic) garlic. And a little bedside table.

Later I took a turn around the streets and met the same woman for the fourth time. I discovered that she was waiting for an ambulance outside that supermarket because she had come over all giddy. I had noticed her having coca cola and coffee for breakfast in Salamanca before her cigarette, so when she said she did not know why she had felt so ill we had a chat about it. Much later I got to know her well and heard her story. There is always a story.

Aldeanueva del Camino to Calzada de Béhar, Via de la Plata

Walking the Via de la Plata camino, Spain.

March 31st 2018 10 kms 2. 5 hours then a bus to Béjar and a shared taxi (6.5 euros each) to Calzada de Béhar.

At the large hostal in the centre of the busy town, I had a couple of very interesting conversations with an Irishman, and an Englishman who lives near me in a Fife forest, both of whom are wild campers and walking with tents etc. This is something I have been thinking about for a while as it eliminates the need for finding a free bed every night. (See yesterday’s blog for a good example of how hard it can be unusual but worth knowing about if you are considering walking the Via de la Plata).

The remains of the rain from the day before lay over the mountains.

The dormitories are warm and the kitchen well equipped. It was swarming with peregrinos I had seen before and so was a friendly place to be.

After the escapades of the day before, I set off as usual, walking to Balneario which was all along the road.

Once there, I immediately saw the sign to the terma, the hot baths, and thought that would be a lovely treat but…

I entered a bar to find my companions already partaking of their morning coffee. One said he was staying behind to visit and after telephoning the hostel we were heading for, both for myself and 3 others because I spoke the most Spanish, I decided to stay as well.

The Roman baths were booked up ahead of time (this was the Saturday of Easter weekend and very busy with tourists) but the kind woman at the desk showed us around.

Benito, a German with a propensity for delight in all things.his is the old Roman bathroom, now a museum.

Then we went over the road to the modern baths and took advantage of the Pilgrim Discount (4 euros) for a leisurely swim and laze around on loungers, with a huge blue bathrobe thrown in for good measure. It was a small pool with one fountain and the only others present were a family with 2 young daughters, so reminiscent of my own in days gone by. I had a good sleep and after an hour and a half my feet were barely aching at all. Wonderful. (They are open until lunchtime and then reopen later in the day. )

Modern baths in Balneario.

We had a nice meal back at the bar (he had salad with orange and goats cheese; I had salad with gulas and prawns which turned out, despite my thinking it was a seafood salad by the title on the menu, to be sprinkled with thousands of tiny pieces of bacon which I laboriously separated from every mouthful before I ate it.)

Note to self: always check for the presence of meat before ordering!

The town is beautiful, tucked right in under the mountains and, on account of its height, very windy.

Street art in Balneario.

We managed to find a sunny corner to wait for the bus, before being driven to Béhar (only two buses that day at 12-something and 5pm) – an idea which the Tourist Information adviser had come up with. He said we could walk from there. It was lovely and warm and we wound our way up, higher and higher, through spectacular scenery, to the main town of this region, on the edge of Extremadura.

The centre of Béhar.

Once again we visited the Tourist Information and discovered it was further than we we had been led to believe and, it being close to the evening, my companion suggested we take a taxi – ending what was essentially a rest-day, which after all was day 10 and so a sensible time to take it.

Camino friends had already arrived at the albergue after a very steep climb, and the hospitaleros were most accommodating. There is a a garden overlooking the wonderful scenery, and loud music coming from a closed outbuilding which I was told the next day was where they were training horses to dance.

Albergue, Calzada de Béhar, Spain.

There were two very large sittings for the evening meal which consisted, for us vegetarians, of salad, omelette and flan. The usual, but all cooked on the premises and delicious.

Very sadly I forgot to take my swimming costume off the washing line the next morning.