Finding food on the Camino

Finding food on the Camino

How often did you have trouble finding food on the Camino?

This is a complaint that comes up on a regular basis in Camino groups. It usually has to do with one of these 2 scenarios:

  • Pilgrims are trying to get cena (dinner), but restaurants are closed and no one is serving hot food.
  • Pilgrims want to buy supplies on a domingo (Sunday) or festivo (public holiday).

To avoid either of these situations, you must understand how things work in Spain.


So, what do you need to know to avoid not finding food on the Camino?

Let’s start with the second situation: domingos y festivos.

Most businesses are closed on those days.

Bars and restaurants are usually open. So, eating out on a Sunday or holiday should not be a problem. At least, not at lunch time. Dinner could be tricky.

Panaderías (bakeries)  will open in the morning. But supermarkets and other shops in general will be closed. So, you could get fresh bread and pastries in the morning. But, if you’re hoping to buy something else… well, ¡buena suerte! (good luck).

In smaller towns you may find that shops close on sábado (Saturday) evening too.

Something else to keep in mind: buses and trains are less frequent on Sundays and holidays, but that’s not our topic for today, so let’s focus on food.


Finding food when it’s not a Sunday or holiday

Now we know what happens on Sundays and holidays. But what happens the rest of the week? Why do some people struggle to find food? And no, the answer is not siesta, in case that’s what you’re thinking.


The first thing you need to understand is that there are specific times for each meal in Spain. Finding a place that serves hot food outside of those times is a rare occurrence. You can find snacks, but not a proper cooked meal. 

For more info on what you can find and where, check ¿Dónde vas a comer?

Breakfast is the least important of all our meals and, as such, it’s more flexible. Most Spaniards will have a cup of coffee and a tostada (toast) or a couple of galletas (biscuits or cookies, depending on where you’re from) before heading off to work. A second breakfast, pretty much like the one pilgrims have, is common.

Lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain. And lunch happens typically between 1.30-4.00pm. After 3.30 (or 3.45 at the latest), the kitchens in the restaurants close and they don’t reopen until dinner time.


When is dinner time?

Late, for other countries’ standards. Having dinner at 9.00, 10.00pm or even later is perfectly normal. But not such a good plan if you’re starving because you’ve only had a few snacks throughout the day. Or if you need to be back at the albergue before 10.00pm. 

Finding food

Restaurant kitchens usually reopen at 8.30pm for the dinner service. 

In this restaurant they have their kitchen times posted outside. You can see that their kitchen opens 30 minutes earlier, for both lunch and dinner, than what I said above. 

Not every single restaurant opens and closes at the same time, obviously. But finding a place that starts serving dinner before 8.00pm and lunch before 1.00pm is the exception rather than the norm.


What can you do?

Your best bet is to try the Spanish way: have lunch as soon as you get to your destination for the day, as long as you finish walking before 3.00pm. You can shower and rest after you’ve eaten. And then you can have something light for dinner, like a drink and a tapa or two.

Doing it like this will also give you more options, since the menú del día is usually available for lunch but not for dinner.


If having your main meal earlier in the day does not appeal to you, you have 2 options: starve until dinner time or find a shop selling food and buy something to help you make it until dinner time. 


Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of siesta (and for an explanation of why siesta is usually not the answer), check 5 things you need to know about Spain.

For the pronunciation and more info on what menú del día is and how it works, check Menú del día.

For the pronunciation of tapa, check ¿Dónde vas a comer?



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¡Buen Camino!

Walking through Galicia

Walking through Galicia

Once you start walking through Galicia, you’ll start seeing several new architectural elements, some of them quite frequently. They’re not exclusive to Galicia. But they are more common here.

In this post I’m goign to tell you a little bit about 3 of them. Two of them are ubiquitous. The third one, not so much. But I think it’s quite interesting, and that’s why I included it.



A common question I see in Camino groups from pilgrims once they enter Galicia:

Combarro, on the Variante Espiritual

‘What are these structures?’, accompanied by a picture similar to the one here. Sometimes they add a guess or two as to what these might be.

Well, they are called hórreos. And they are granaries. Not chicken coops. Not mausoleums. Granaries.

Mostly, they store maíz (corn).


You’ll see them everywhere while walking through rural Galicia, where every house used to have one. They’re also common in Asturias and the north of Portugal.


Hórreos vary slightly depending on the location. In some areas, they’re built in a combination of wood and stone. In some other places, they’re fully made of stone. They usually have a rectangular shape, although in some places, square hórreos are the norm.


What they all have in common is that they’re raised from the ground by pillars. This helps keep crops dry. On top of each pillar there is a flat stone designed to keep rodents out. That’s also why access stairs are separated from the hórreo. Their walls have slits to allow ventilation. The roofs usually have some decorative element, such as a cruz (cross), a pinnacle, a weather vane, cones (you’ll see those on the Camino del Norte), etc.


The oldest reference to an hórreo in a document dates back to 1219 and it refers to a certain hórreo in Betanzos, on the Camino Inglés. However, different versions of hórreos have been in use in Galicia since pre-Roman times. 


In the 17th-18th centuries, hórreos became common and they became also a symbol of status: the bigger the hórreo, the richer the family. In fact, some of the biggest hórreos in Galicia belong to the Church.


There are several of those in the Fisterra area, like the one pictured below, in the town of Carnota.

Walking through Galicia hórreo


You can see another one on the Variante Espiritual of the Portuguese Way, next to the Poio monastery. Also on the Variante Espiritual, you should check Combarro, with the highest concentration of hórreos in Galicia.



Another common element of the Galician landscape is the cruceiro (in Galician) or crucero (in Spanish). A cruceiro is a high cross, made of stone. Cruceiros can usually be found in churchyards, crossroads or ancient pagan worship sites.


There are more than 12 000 cruceiros all over Galicia. The oldest one is in Melide, next to the capilla (chapel) de San Roque, and it dates back to the 14th century. There’s another one from the same period in Neda, on the Camino Inglés.


There are several superstitions linked to cruceiros.

Some of them were built in places where a violent death had occurred. The purpose of the cruceiro was to try to save the soul of the deceased and stop it from wandering around the area and from harming passers-by.


Cruceiros also offered protection against the Santa Compaña.

The Santa Compaña is a procession of the dead (or of tormented souls) who wander through the paths after midnight, wearing hooded cloaks and holding candles. The procession is led by a living person, who is under a curse. This person is carrying a cross (sometimes a cauldron too). He or she will not remember anything in the morning, although they will feel very tired.


The only way to be free from the curse is to get another living person to carry the cross. If they can’t do this, they will feel weaker and weaker and become sick for no apparent reason. There are several ways to avoid being cursed if you encounter the Santa Compaña. One of them is to step onto the base of a cruceiro.

Cruceiros were also the chosen location to perform magical practices, like curing certain deseases or fertility issues.

In some places, babies who had died before receiving baptism were usually buried at the base of a cruceiro. 


Petos de ánimas

Peto de ánimas roughly translates as souls’ money box. This is actually the Galician name but, to be honest, I have no idea if there’s a name for them in Spanish.

They are little shrines devoted to the souls in purgatory, and they can be found at crossroads or near churches. Most of them were built in the 18th century. 

Petos de ánimas can vary a lot, but tend to have 3 common elements: 

  • A base, usually made of stone.
  • On top of the base goes the niche, with a stone carving depicting souls in the fire of purgatory.
  • Under the niche, there’s the peto or money box where people used to leave their alms for the salvation of those souls.

Nowdays, it’s not common to leave money, but you will still see other kinds of offerings such as flores (flowers), maíz, or velas (candles).

walking through Galicia peto de ánimas

This peto de ánimas is in Tui, on the Camino Portugués. It shows souls in the fire of purgatory, with the dove/Holy Spirit watching over them.

You can see remains of flowers and a candle that someone offered for the salvation of the souls in purgatory.



When a soul is saved and goes to Heaven thanks to your offering or prayers, they will later intercede on your behalf, so you can go into Heaven too. Keep it in mind when you’re next walking through Galicia and you see a peto de ánimas.


Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of cruz, check Tarta de Santiago.



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¡Buen Camino!

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño |

Last week I got an early birthday present: a new pair of zapatillas de senderismo (hiking shoes). So, I decided to test them the next day… by walking a stage of the Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño.

That’s one of the advantages of living on the Camino. If you wake up and feel like walking, you can do it.

I had walked from Porriño to Santiago before, at different times and in different company. I had also been to Tui several times in the past. But I had never walked the Tui-Porriño stage of the Camino. So that’s what I did.

The plan: drive to Tui and leave the car there; walk to Porriño; take a taxi back to Tui (and the car) and drive back home.

The weather has been quite hot and dry this verano (summer). The forecast for the day we walked showed yellow warnings: 50% risk of tormenta (storm) and 60% chance of light rain.

Well, it was sunny and quite hot, like the rest of the summer. Not a drop of rain and no sign of storms either.



Tui is the first Spanish town after you cross the puente (bridge) over the river Miño, which serves as a natural border between Portugal and Spain.

Tui has been inhabited since prehistoric time so, as you can imagine, it has a lot of history.

In mediaeval times, Tui was an important trade centre, with a very active puerto (port) and a hospital for pilgrims. It was also the capital of one of the 7 provinces of the Kingdom of Galicia.

One of Tui’s most iconic monuments is the Santa Maria cathedral. It has the appearance of a fortress and its construction began in 1120, although it has some later additions, like the main entrance or the organ.

Not far from it is the Museo y Archivo Histórico Diocesano (Diocesan historical archive and museum). The building dates from the 18th century and it used to be a pilgrim’s hospital.

If you keep following the yellow arrows through Tui, you will see the convent of the Poor Clares (or Clarisas, in Spanish). It’s also known locally as convento de las Encerradas (convent of the locked up ones), because this is an enclosed convent. You can buy delicious fish-shaped almond biscuits from the monjas (nuns).



We started at the cathedral, walking through the old part of Tui, and passing by all the places I  mentioned above.

We were soon leaving Tui, walking through a mixture of forest areas and roads.

It is not a difficult stage. I was still half asleep when we left the house and I forgot to take bastions (hiking poles), but I didn’t miss them.

What I missed was more places to stop for a break. And I mean bars and cafés. We saw one not long after Tui, too soon for us to stop. And then nothing until we were almost in Porriño, slightly off the Camino. We had plenty of water and some snacks too, so this wasn’t a problem. But it would have been nice to be able to stop sooner.

At Orbenlle, you can follow the official route (through an industrial estate) or the Camino complementary, through the woods. You can’t miss Orbenlle because it has become a Camino landmark, thanks to 3 large paintings: the Pórtico de la Gloria, St. James and an elderly pilgrim.

There are two milestones and a map indicating the 2 routes from Orbenlle. The riverside walk through the woods is the one on the left. Going right will take you through the industrial estate. As you can guess from the pictures below, we took the alternative route.

The last section goes through residential areas, but it’s still nicer than an industrial estate, I think.

Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño

We saw many chestnuts during our walk between Tui and Porriño.


I read in a guidebook that there’s also an alternative route into Porriño, along the river, but we didn’t see that. So, we took the classic route, which was not particularly pretty. In fact, if there’s something for which Porriño is known locally, it’s for not being particularly pretty.

It is an important logistic centre in Galicia and, as such, it’s quite industrial (remember the big industrial estate right beside the Camino?).

But there are also some interesting buildings. The most important one is, by far, the ayuntamiento (town hall), built between 1919-1921 and designed by local architect Antonio Palacios. His most famous works can be found in Madrid, like the Palacio de comunicaciones (current town hall), and even the logo of Madrid’s metro.

And that was the end of my adventures on the Camino Portugués: Tui-Porriño. Lunch in Porriño, a taxi back to Tui and drive back home… and no problems with the new shoes.

Here are some of the pictures I took:

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of Tui and Porriño, check El Camino Portugués.

For the pronunciation of puente, check El juego de la oca.

For the pronunciation of tormenta, check Weather on the Camino.

Por the pronunciation of Pórtico de la Gloria, check Santiago de Compostela.


Go to the next stage of the Camino Portugués: Porriño-Redondela.

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¡Buen Camino!

It’s hot on the Camino

It’s hot on the Camino

 It’s hot on the Camino |

¡Qué calor! (it’s so hot).

We’re experiencing extremely hot weather in Spain (and Portugal) at the moment. It’s not the first ola de calor (heat wave) of the year, but it is the worst so far. It has even reached Galicia.

I don’t remember having temperatures over 40ºC here on the Galician coast ever in my life. El verano (summer) around here is never this hot. Until this week. So, our main concern has been to keep as cool as possible. Not easy!


It’s 38ºC outside right now, as I write this. Plus the humidity, which is always high in Galicia. Let’s just say it has been a slow week: staying indoors most of the day, drinking lots of fluids and sweating from the effort of bringing the bottle of water to my mouth.


It’s OK for me, because I can choose to stay at home. But this is a busy time on the Camino. And walking right now is dangerous. 


A 48-year old Belgian pilgrim died earlier this week of golpe de calor (heatstroke) after his first day on the Camino. So, this is not something that should be taken lightly.


I’ve heard of several pilgrims who decided to stop their Camino and finish some other time when it’s not so hot. Wise idea.


But if you are going to walk in this kind of heat you should be extra careful. The last thing you want is to end up with insolación (sunstroke), golpe de calor or agotamiento por calor (heat exhaustion).


What to do when it’s hot on the Camino 

Although there are some differences between sunstroke, heatstroke and heat exhaustion, they should all be taken very seriously. The best plan, of course, is to prevent them. So, what can we do?


  •  Check the forecast. You can use el or aemet. Both pages allow you to search for specific areas and get a more accurate report. It can be hot even if overcast.
  • Start temprano (early). Very early. And finish early too. Avoid being out in the sun during the central hours of the day.

  • Protect yourself. Wear a gorro (hat), crema solar (sunscreen) and light coloured clothes, and cover exposed skin.

  • Prevent dehydration. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty; it’s better to take small sips constantly. So, make sure you drink enough and you replenish your electrolytes too. You can take salty snacks or, if you need, you can ask for electrolitos at any pharmacy.

  • Keep humidity in mind. Temperatures in Galicia are usually not as high as in other parts of Spain (although that’s not the case this week!) but humidity  makes you feel fatigued and dehydrated faster than in dry heat. 

Worrying signs

As I mentioned earlier, there are some differences between sunstroke, heatstroke and heat exhaustion, but all should be taken very seriously. 

Remember  you can always contact the emergency services if you (or someone you know) are not feeling well. The number is 112, it’s free to call and it offers 24/7 emergency service to anyone in Spain. Operators speak English as well as Spanish.


So, what are the signs that you might be suffering from heatstroke or heat exhaustion?

  • Calambres, or muscle cramps.
  • Dolor de cabeza, or headache.
  • Nausea and or vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Disorientation.
  • Either heavy sweating or lack of sweating in the case of heatstroke.
  • Rapid heart rate.

This is not an extensive list of symptoms and I’m not qualified to give medical advice. So, be careful out there and, if you come across someone who might be suffering from either heatstroke or heat exhaustion, seek medical attention immediately.


To finish on a lighter note, please don’t say estoy caliente  when you want to say you’re feeling hot. That’s not what it means and you might get some unwanted reactions. I’ll leave it there and let you figure out what estoy caliente means…

The cathedral rooftop

The cathedral rooftop

We’re going on a tour today. In Santiago. A tour of the cathedral rooftop.

I’d been wanting to take this tour for a while. I was finally able to do it a couple of months ago and I was not disappointed. It was fantastic and I highly recommend it.


About the rooftop tour

Let’s start with the practical stuff.

You can book your entradas (tickets) online in advance (up to 60 days), from the cathedral’s website. There are several visits available here. The rooftop tour is the one called ‘Cathedral museum, decks and Carraca’s tower’ in the English version of the website.


The visit includes access to the museo (museum), Pazo de Xelmírez, Torre da Carraca and a guided tour of the cathedral rooftops. You need to choose a date and a time slot. This is for the guided tour. You can visit the museum in your time, either before or after the guided tour.


When I took this tour, it was available in Spanish only. I heard there used to be English tours in the past, but I don’t know if they’re coming back.


Pazo de Xelmírez

The visit starts in the Pazo de Xelmírez (or Palacio de Gelmírez, in Spanish). You enter through the door that is located between the cathedral’s main staircase (in Obradoiro) and the arch to the left. 


This building is named after the archbishop who ordered its construction and it’s one of the main civil constructions of the Romanesque period in Spain.


One of the highlights of this visit is the big  ceremonial hall, on the first floor, built in the 13th century.

The stone carvings on the arches depict a banquet. 

part of the cathedral rooftop tour

From this room you keep going up to the rooftop. There’s a total of 105 steps. La escalera (the staircase) is not super narrow, but the steps are higher than usual.

You finally come out on the tejado from one of the towers, the one on the left as you face the cathedral from the square. 

I was lucky to do this on a clear, sunny day. The views of Santiago are amazing! And you can also see all the plazas that surround the cathedral.


A couple of interesting stories

Did you know that the cathedral’s bell ringer used to live on the cathedral rooftop?

Yes! Up until 1962, bell ringers and their families had a house in the area next to one of the towers, the one with the bells.


The last bell ringer lived there with his wife and 3 children. They had a vegetable garden, 3 goats and some chickens too. That’s right, a family of cinco (5) with their goats and chickens living on top of the cathedral and growing their own vegetables up there too. Can you imagine?

The house is no longer there but I would have loved to see it…


The rooftop is made of stone slabs. There used to be ocho (8) torres (towers) and battlements. Out of those 8 original towers, only 2 are left, although you can still see where they used to be. A balustrade replaced the battlements. 


What else is up there, apart from the amazing views?


A big stone basin with a ram a a metal cross where apparently pilgrims used to burn their clothes.

Some scholars think this may have originated during a plague, as a measure to prevent transmission of the disease. There are no records of how common cloth burning was or when it stopped.



The clock tower is known as Berenguela after Archbishop Berenguel de Landoira, who ordered its construction in the 14th century to defend the cathedral. That’s the reason why the lower part of the tower is quite sturdy. The upper part, where the clock is, is finer. It was added 3 centuries later.


This top part has 3 main elements:

  • the main campana (bell).
  • the reloj (clock).
  • the lantern.

The bell in this tower is also known as Berenguela and it’s the biggest in the cathedral. It weighs 7 tonnes. The bell we see nowadays is not the original. That one had to be taken down in 1990 because it was cracked. It’s kept in the cloister. 

The clock was added in the 19th century and has one peculiarity: it has one hand only.

The top part had a light that was kept on at all times to guide pilgrims to the cathedral. Nowadays, the light is on during Holy Years only.

You can see the light at the top of the Berenguela tower on this picture. 

Berenguela guiding pilgrims

Torre da Carraca

After the guided tour of the cathedral rooftop, you go up to the Carraca tower. If you stand on Obradoiro square, facing the cathedral, this is tower on the left.

The one on the right has bells. This one has a carraca (rattle) instead. This huge rattle is used on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, instead of bells.

From up here, you truly have a 360 degree view of Santiago. 


You know what they say… am image is worth 1000 words. So, I’ll let the pictures speak. Enjoy the views!


Today’s Spanish words


*entrada means entrance too, as well as ticket.

For the pronunciation of plaza, check this post on Santiago de Compostela.

For the pronunciation of cinco, check this post on the Holy Year.



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¡Buen Camino!