Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 11 and 12, September 29th – 30th 2019

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How many kilometers between Pontevedra and Santiage de Compostella?

Pontevedra to San Mamede de Portela

I left the Casa A Grade air bnb (see my previous day’s walk for details) in the almost-dawn, and continued along the Rio Tomaza into Pontevedra, a 40 minute walk.

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Glorieta de Compostella – Fuente de los Niños (Fountain of drinking children) at the interseccion (intersection) Rúa (Road/street) Peregrina con (with) Rúa Fray de Navarette 36001 Pontevedra, Spain
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The Capela (chapel) de Peregrina (of female) pilgrims, Pontevedra, Spain
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Detail showing St James, The Capela (chapel) de Peregrina (of (female) pilgrims, Pontevedra, Spain
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Convento (convent) do San Francisco, Pontevedra, Spain

The Top Ten Things to Do and See in Pontevedra website (not mine)

Leaving the city, I once again rejoined the Via Romana / Portuguese Camino

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Via Romana XIX and yellow arrow / iconic signposting for the Camino de Santiago, Spain
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The Virgin on decorative tiles, Spain

Being a Sunday, the cyclists were out. When you are walking quietly, focusing on the way your feet meet the ground, allowing thoughts to meander in and out, and then a cyclist shoots past your left elbow with a whoosh and, very occassionally, a Buen Camino, it is a shock. When it happens over and over again, it’s more akin to a small trauma and there is no possibility of resting in your rhythm and pace, you must stay alert.

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Sunday cyclists on the Camino Portuguese, Spain
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It rained on and off as I passed a cemetery, near San Mamaede de Portela, Spain

Shortly afterwards, it poured and it was not possible to take photos. Arriving at the hostel of San Marmede de Portela in the middle of the countryside, there was no-one to greet me, just a couple already drying off. Thank goodness the door was open! I was soaking, wet through. It was a large dormitory and I chose a corner away from the door, not knowing that there was no heating and that by the end of the day the room would be completely full to overflowing (there were pilgrims sleeping in the eating room etc). It was also very dark and although some of us tried to open windows, they were always immediately closed by others.

Wet walking clothes are stinky, especially when there is no drying room or anywhere to hang clothes / store boots except narrow corridors. If you sleep on the bottom bunk and they are like drapes all around you, there is no getting away from the smell. People were using one hair drier between 20 or more, but it takes a long time to dry sodden socks with one. There is a big garden and other buildings outside, but the weather was too terrible to contemplate unless you arrived very late in which case I did see folk sloshing across, seemingly with no other opton, but I didn’t know where they were going.

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I am not good at these sorts of photos but you can see the world map on the wall on the right and the numbers of hikers who have written on it, plus the table laid and the scrum of diners waiting to eat

Run by volunteers, this is a donativo hostel and the men who came along later knew what they were doing and were well prepared. Being well away from shops or restaurants, a great meal was produced and tables and chairs arranged and rearranged to fit everyone in. Sitting alongside all nationalities, it was a jolly occassion (there was nowhere to get away from it if you had wanted privacy). There was wine and hot soup, vegetarian tortillas with salad and, if I remember rightly, a desert too. Clearing up was a communal event and the partying went on, as ever, late into the evening.

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All ages, all nationalities, many fixed on screens. Other than the bunks, there was nowhere else to sit until we were given permission to be at the table. Hostel San Marmede de Portela

San Marmede de Portela to Caldas de Reis

The next day it was still raining, but luckily it cleared. Ugh, putting on wet boots and clothes is one of the worst things after a broken night!

I walked through Santa Maria de Alba, A Cancela and Albergue de Briallos.

There was a most unusual cafe where many of us stopped for a hot drink that morning (some were taking shots of orujo (a sort of grappa) with their coffee, perhaps a way of warming up from the inside). There was only one, older and innovative man serving us all. It looked as if he had used his garage for this purpose and, after serving us, I noticed that he disappeared through a side door. On further investigation, I spied huge vats of grapes steeping.

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Crowded with pilgrims ready for morning coffee, A Cancela, Spain
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A garage reimagined as a cafe, A Cancela, Spain
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And winery in a side room – the smell was amazing as he stirred the great vats releasing the aroma of rotting and ripening grapes. A Cancela, Spain

I am always coming across dead animals on the camino, but today’s fox was still alive. I crouched down and whispered to it, knowing that it would not live long, wishing it well on its journey.

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I thought perhaps you would not want to see a photo of the fox, but this was nearby, always a reminder, Spain
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It continued to drip and drizzle, puffy rain clouds on the horizon, some walking with umbrella, past vines heavy with fruit
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I can never resist a chat with a donkey

My In Praise of the Donkey blog

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Black grapes heavy on the vines, Camino de Santiago, Spain
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Letter box and bread slot
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A speckled, camouflage-yellow canna resplendent against a dull sky
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Caldas de Reis, a most attractive place at the confluence of the Rivers Bermaña and Umia, Spain

I stayed in the private Albergue Peregrinos Posada Doña Urraca and I do not recommend it, despite the fantastic location. It was dirty and crowded, the rooms are almost at the front door so anyone can walk in and out. The photos on the website do not show it as it is – do not be deceived. It is not a municipal one – I have never seen a government-run hostel be filthy like this.

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Accumulated dirt in one of the 2 tiny bathrooms at the private Albergue Peregrinos Posada Doña Urraca, Caldas de Reis, Spain

There was some lively conversation around the table, however, from the US as well as Germany, and a crowd of Polish pilgrims (I have not met people from Poland much at all on the Camino) at the hostel.

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Caldas de Reis, Spain

It’s a busy and normal town despite all of us traipsing through, with friendly local people and lots of facilities – a big supermarket, cafes and loads of banks. I tried the three cashpoints in one street – one was charging 3.50 euros, one 1.50 and the third nil, so watch out for this when getting cash out. It wasn’t my bank which charged me, nothing to do with getting money from a British finance organisation, it was the cashpoint machine company and I found this all over Portugal and in some parts of Spain. (I use a Post Office Travel Money Card via an app on my phone which charges for the exchange, but doesn’t have an additional service charge like the Bank of Scotland does if I use my everyday debit card when I am abroad).

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Stunning bridges, some reminiscent of Oxford or Venice, and clean rivers in Caldas de Reis, Spain

Have you walked the Portuguese Camino? Maybe you are planning to? Leave me a comment to let me know 🙂

Mos to Pontevedra: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 9 and 10, September 27th – 29th 2019

Mos to Redondela

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I walked along avenues of acers only just starting to turn yellow where it rained slightly (as it is prone to do in Galicia)

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!

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Typical Camino de Santiago stone with the familiar shell and an unidentifiable coat of arms with a stemmed rose and daisies
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Another sign of grief? Stone statue of a woman covering her eye

Food and Wine on the Portuguese Camino

Local food
Pulpo (Octopus ), a Galician delicacy, on a stall outside

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.

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Tall brassicas growing in O Cruceiro, Spain

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.

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Lea and friend, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal (not on the Camino Portuguese da Costa) with whom I shared 100s of roasted chestnuts – yum!

Fun Fact

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

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Field pumpkins. Although there were squash everywhere in the fields and gardens, I never saw them offered on a menu

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.

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Moss Rose (Portulaca gradiflora, a semi-succluent) with red and yellow flowers indicating a mixed seed bed. Thanks to the helpful folk on houzz.com for identifying this for me

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.

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The Concelo (government offices) de Redondela, Spain
Xunta sign entrance outside Pilgrim Hostel
Albergue de peregrinos rennovated 16th century Casa da Tore, Redondela, Spain

There are 42 beds, it costs 6 euros, opens between 1-10pm and is open all year round.

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View from the hostel window with a large blue and yellow camino sign, typical stone balconies and showing the narrow streets of the town, Redondela, Spain

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.

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Metal bunks in crowded rooms, full to bursting in late September 2019, Xunta (municipal) hostel, Redondela, Spain

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.

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This part of the Camino Portuguese, Spain

I left just after dawn, the lights still on under the aches of the bridge.

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Heavy mist in the valley making the view mysterious and other-worldly, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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Water stop – natural, fresh water from the fountain at the junction, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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Shells and other Camino paraphernalia, Camino Portuguese, Spain
Long view of river and Arcade
Looking down onto Rio Verdugo and Arcade, Spain
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Eucalyptus catching the morning sun
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Down now to a welcome stall set up by local weekend volunteers offering tea and snacks (for donations). You can see the partially wet ground from the regular showers of rain, Spain

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.

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A town which celebrates the Camino and its pilgrims – silhouette cut-outs on the walls of this hostel, Spain
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A way-side grotto with Camino knick-knacks, Spain
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The first horreo (stone shed for storing maize over the winter, on stilts to keep out the rats and the wet) with plenty of religious protection, Spain
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I crossed the Verdugo river by the Ponte Sampaio (or San Paio) bridge getting a good view of a more modern one further along, Arcade, Spain

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

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Another horreo – blue skies at this stage and so it was hot for the climb up the hill on the other side of the river, Arcade, Spain
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Back into the countryside and more paths made up of large stones which would be running with water and very slippery if the weather hadn’t been fine, Spain
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Pine and other mixed woods, trees towering over me, Spain
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Deep in the woods was a rare peregrina (female pilgrim) statue and lots of shells. There was no difficulty finding the way, Spain
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Plastic chairs ready for resting and enjoying the dappled surroundings, Galicia, Spain
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I spotted huge slugs of all shapes and sizes amongst the sweet chestnut prickles and ferns, Galicia, Spain
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If you look carefully, you will find little mementoes in the rocks, Camino Portuguese de Santiago, Spain
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Actual crowds of pilgrims in great chattering groups, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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I crossed the Fatima Camino here: Santiago in yellow, Fatima in blue

Fatima travel blog link

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.

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Ponte da Condesa (stone bridge) over the Rio Tomeza, near Pontevedra, Spain

This last part was particularly gorgeous – green, verdant and peaceful apart from the trickling water and birds chanting around me.

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Rio Tomeza near Pontevedra, Spain

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!

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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!