Walking & talking on the Camino

Walking & talking on the Camino

I did it again. I walked the Camino with another group of strangers. Sort of.

 

Let me explain.

In 2019 I walked the Camino Inglés with another Spanish teacher and a group of total strangers who wanted to improve their Spanish. The truth is, I hadn’t even met the other teacher in person until we both arrived in Ferrol the day before we started walking. Despite all my fears (and I had many), the experience was so amazing that we were planning to do it again in 2020. But we all know how 2020 went…

Fast forward to 2022. The idea was to give the plan another try. A different route, though. But, again, things didn’t go according to plan. This time it was the other teacher, who had to pull out of the project, quite unexpectedly, for personal reasons.

That left me wondering, should I go ahead by myself? Or should I just forget about the whole thing? So many changes of fechas (dates), cancellations, and other setbacks… maybe it was not meant to happen again after that first wonderful experience.

After much thinking and some ‘consulting with la almohada’* I decided to do it.

Since our original dates were too close, I moved forward to September. I also made the decision to take a smaller group (4 or 5 max.).

As you can imagine, the group changed a lot since we originally planned this Camino in 2020. And even from the time I decided to go ahead with it and the time we actually started the walk.

The walk

We ended up with a very balanced group: 2 hombres (men) and 2 mujeres (women); 2 with previous Camino experience and 2 who were walking their first Camino; 2 I knew, and 2 I had only met once briefly when they were inquiring about this experience. That would require some adjusting and getting used to each other’s quirks, I thought. But we got on quite well and I soon felt like we had all known each other for a while.

We all met in Tui, our starting point, on Sunday September 25. We started walking the Camino Portugués the next day. The plan was to walk for 6 days, and arrive in Santiago on Saturday, October 1.

It was still quite busy on the Camino at the end of September. We kept seeing other pilgrims along the way. 

Our destination for the first day was Porriño. We didn’t know this, but there was a local festival there, with everything that entails: lots of people, busy bars and restaurants, loud music, etc. It was hard to rest after lunch, due to all the noise. And we were worried we would not be able to sleep at night. But we were lucky and they didn’t finish too late. Phew!

The weather

The weather forecast for the week wasn’t bad. The first 2 days, the weather was perfect for walking: dry and not too hot.  The forecast for the third day was confusing. Depending on where we looked, we could make it to Pontevedra without rain… or not. 

We made it to Arcade in dry weather. But when we left the café where we had stopped for a break, it was raining. The rain was light at first, but it soon became heavier. I had good memories of the section between Arcade and Pontevedra from the previous time I had walked it. But I can’t say I enjoyed it this time. The rain was relentless; I was roasting under the poncho; the group got split and I ended up in the middle, losing track of the ones ahead of me and not seeing the ones behind me either. Kind of stressful. We eventually got reunited, and at some point I decided to take off my hood. It was either getting my head wet or passing out from the heat. Getting wet sounded like the best choice.

It stopped raining a couple of miles before Pontevedra. It rained heavily that night and we feared we would have another very wet and miserable day, but it didn’t rain that much while we were walking between Pontevedra and Caldas de Reis. No more rain after that. We got loads of fog between Caldas and Padrón and the last day was just perfect!

Into data?

As I mentioned above, we all had different backgrounds and interests. So, while I’m not too interested in data, we had someone in the group who gave us a daily report. That’s how I know we walked for 29h 44min in total. We covered a distancia (distance) of 121km, at an average speed of 4.07km/h. The day we walked in heavy rain was our slowest. The day we walked in the fog was our fastest.

The day we arrived in Santiago, 2897 Compostelas were issued.

The talk

Almost 30 hours spent walking, plus breaks, mealtimes, etc. That’s a lot of speaking time.

The good news is that we never lacked topics for conversation.

Some conversations were serious; some, funny (or even ridiculous! 😂). Some were happy; some, sad. Some were very informative; some, full of useless facts (thank you, Andy, for the ‘useless fact of the day’).

We talked about life, death and everything in between. We told jokes and scary stories. We discussed books and films, history, family, food, sports… even politics and religion! All in Spanish. All flowing naturally. It wasn’t perfect. In fact, we may have coined one or two new Spanish words… But that was not the point. Or the goal.

The point was to communicate, to learn new things, to make connections. And we certainly did that. We even had a couple of Camino moments!

And the connecting part did not just happen among ourselves.

Finding a place that was open for desayuno (breakfast) in Porriño was complicated. According to Google, there were many to choose from. The reality was that only one of them was actually open.

And that’s where we had our first encounter with a very lively group of Spanish ladies. They were sitting at this café, all wearing the same jackets and being quite loud, we thought, at that early time. The camarero (waiter) was reciting a poem to one of them, the others were recording with their phones and making jokes. In short, they were having a blast.

We met them again, later that day. Some of our group got to talk to them a lot (all in Spanish), learn about their story and bond -something they couldn’t have done if they didn’t speak Spanish.

We learned that these ladies were from Valencia and belonged to the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer (Spanish Association Against Cancer). They took part in many activities together, like singing in a choir… and they did sing a lot while walking. It was their way of keeping the spirits up of those who were struggling with serious health issues. They were a lovely group, always happy and positive, and it was a joy to meet them day after day, including the day we walked into Santiago. 

There are so many anecdotes and we shared so many moments (good and not so good) that I could keep writing and writing. But I don’t want to bore you. I may write another post about the experience. Or not. Can’t promise anything.

Anyway, the video below will give you an idea of some of the special moments we shared.

Today’s Spanish words

*Consultar con la almohada is the Spanish version of the English expression ‘to sleep on something’.

 

For more details about each of the stages and the towns we visited, check my previous posts. I had walked this route before, at different times, with different people, and I wrote a post about each of the stages. You can start here.

Interested in the next Walk & Talk experience. To get an idea of what to expect and join the waiting list, read more the details here

 

¡Buen Camino!

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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

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).

 

Tui-Porriño

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.

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!

Camino Portugués: Milladoiro-Santiago

Camino Portugués: Milladoiro-Santiago

We finally make it to Santiago! After several Sundays of walking the Camino Portugués, we finish our pilgrimage with a very short stage: O Milladoiro-Santiago de Compostela.

 

If you’ve been following the previous posts you’ll already know this, but in case you don’t:

I walked part of the Camino Portugués (central route) between October and November 2021, with a group organised by the Asociación de Amigos del Camino Portugués. Every Sunday, a bus would pick us up in Pontevedra and take us to our starting point for the day. From there, we would walk a stage of this route; and then the autobús (bus) would take us back home.

 

This particular Sunday we walked the final 7-8km into Santiago, from O Milladoiro. A few more people than usual joined us for this last stage, so we had 2 buses instead of one.

We were again very lucky with the weather: another bright, sunny day. In fact, the weather was unusually good for most of noviembre (November). Since we didn’t have to walk that much, we left Pontevedra a bit later than usual.

 

We gathered outside Capilla de la Magdalena for the prayer and group pictures.

 

Milladoiro-Santiago group

Group picture before we started walking, as usual. Outside A Magdalena chapel.

 

O Milladoiro

There is not much to see in O Milladoiro, apart from this chapel. A few years ago, O Milladoiro was just a small aldea (village). But high housing prices in Santiago pushed many (young people, mainly) out, looking for more affordable options. O Milladoiro is quite close and well connected through  the N-550 road, so it has experienced tremendous growth.

 

There are 2 theories about the origins of the name of this town.

  • According to one theory, it comes from Latin humilliatorium, which makes reference to the fact that pilgrims used to kneel down here, when they could finally see Santiago, and the cathedral, in the distance.
  • The second theory says it comes from the Galician word miradoiro (mirador in Spanish, view point in English) because from this high point you can see Santiago and the cathedral for the first time.

Either way, the name of the town is linked to Santiago de Compostela and its cathedral. 

 

O Milladoiro-Santiago de Compostela

I was familiar with the routine by now. But there was something new this time: they brought the association’s banner that had been created for the 1993 Holy Year.

This banner was carried by different people throughout the stage.

The short stage and the banner meant that the group didn’t spread out so much this time. We also walked at a slower pace than usual, because the idea was for the whole group to stay behind the banner. And the constant change of standard bearer meant lots of stopping and picture taking.

 

Apart from that, the stage was quite uneventful: walking through small villages and some forest areas, with no important climbs or descents and Santiago getting closer and closer. We soon reached the Alameda, where we stopped to regroup and take some pictures before we marched, together, to the cathedral.

It was my first time back in Santiago in a very long time. First time inside the cathedral since they finished renovating it. I would have loved to see the Pórtico de la Gloria or do the rooftop tour, but they’re not open on Sunday evenings. What a great excuse to go back to Santiago!

You can see some pictures of this O Milladoiro-Santiago stage in the following video:

The Pilgrim’s office

I didn’t get a credencial or collect stamps for this Camino. I started walking in Porriño, which is right at the 100km mark and qualifies for a Compostela. But I knew I was going to skip a couple of stages that I had already walked before. So, I didn’t bother.

 

When I walked the Camino Inglés in 2019, the waiting time at the Oficina del Peregrino (Pilgrim’s office) was at least 2 hours… and I didn’t feel like waiting in line for so long. So, I didn’t collect my Compostela back then. But it occurred to me that being November, the waiting time would be short. And so I took my old credencial with me, to see if I could get a Compostela for my 2019 Camino.

 

After a few pictures at the Praza do Obradoiro*, some of us headed to the Pilgrim’s office. The old ‘join the queue when you get there’ system is gone, partly due to covid, partly to avoid long queuing times.

So now there is a QR code outside. You scan it and it opens up a page where you can register your details. After you complete this step, you receive a message with a code. You show this to the person at the entrance and they give you a piece of paper with your number.

There were not many people around that day, so I was able to enter the building straight away.

 

Most of the people in my group were older (in their 70’s, on average) and not very tech-savvy. They were struggling with this new system and the security guard standing outside wasn’t very helpful, to be honest. There was a man, for instance, who didn’t have a smartphone. There was someone trying to help him, I hope he was able to get his Compostela. I managed to help a lady who did have a smartphone, but couldn’t scan the QR code to start the registration process.

 

In short, lots of frustration for these people who were looking forward to receiving their Compostela, and probably some were not able to. Not having to wait in line for hours during busy times is good. But making it almost impossible for those who are not so tech-savvy is not so good.

 

Anyway, I managed to get my Compostela. It has 2 fechas (dates) on it: I day I collected it and the day I finished my Camino Inglés (they added this by hand, under the other date).

 

Hostal dos Reis Católicos

There were a couple more activities organised for the day: a guided tour of the Parador, lunch (at the Parador too) and misa del peregrino (pilgrim’s mass) at 7.30pm. I couldn’t stay that late, due to family obligations. But I did join the visit to the Parador before I returned home.

Paradores are part of a chain of luxury hotels, managed by a state-run company. They are usually located in historic buildings such as castles or convents.

In Santiago, we have the Hostal dos Reis Católicos**, right beside the cathedral. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century by Isabel de Castilla and Fernando de Aragón, los Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs) as a hospital that cared for the pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela. It’s built around 4 patios, all of them different. Construction began in 1501 and lasted 10 years. The Hostal dos Reis Católicos is considered the oldest hotel in Spain.

You can enjoy a few pictures from my visit:

 

Today’s Spanish words

* Praza is the Galician word for plaza (square). You can listen to the pronunciation of plaza in Santiago de Compostela. You will also find misa del peregrino there.

** Reis is the Galician word for reyes (kings or monarchs). 

For the pronunciation of autobús, check En autobús.

For the pronunciation of Alameda, check Pontevedra.

For the pronunciation of credencial, check ¿Cómo vas a hacer el Camino?

For the pronunciation of noviembre, check Samaín.

 

 

Have you read about the previous stages?

Padrón-Milladoiro

Caldas de Reis-Padrón

Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis

Redondela-Pontevedra

Porriño-Redondela

 

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¡Buen Camino!

Camino Portugués: Padrón-Milladoiro

Camino Portugués: Padrón-Milladoiro

A new domingo (Sunday), a new stage of the Camino Portugués: Padrón-Milladoiro.

 

Again, I walked with a large group organised by the Asociación de Amigos del Camino Portugués. We could have walked to Santiago. In fact, most people do that.

 

But the Asociación had some things organised for the arrival in Santiago and a shorter walk suited those plans much better. That’s for the next post. Today we focus on Padrón-Milladoiro.

 

After several stages, I’m familiar with the routine now: we get on the bus early in the morning; we’re dropped at our starting point; we gather in front of an iglesia or capilla, where one of the organisers says a prayer; we take group photos and start walking. It was a chilly morning but there was not a cloud in sight and 0% chance of rain.

 

We covered a distance of around 19 km, mostly flat with some ascent in the final part.

 

Padrón-Milladoiro

Group photo outside iglesia de Santiago borrowed from the Asociación’s blog.

 

A strange stage

This was kind of a strange stage for me. My dad is from this area and I grew up going to some of the places we passed through. In fact, we walked in front of 2 of my tío (uncle) and tía‘s (aunt) houses; we also passed the cementerio (cemetery) were my paternal grandmother is buried and the church were I attended several family occasions like bautizos (christenings), bodas (weddings) and funerales (funerals).

But that was a long time ago.

My uncle and aunt have long been muertos (dead); there’s a big age gap between my primos (cousins) and I, so we were never very close; I lived abroad for 15 years… in other words: I’ve lost contact and haven’t been in the area in years.

And then, there’s also the fact that I always went to those places by car. Walking there gave me a totally different perspective.

But let’s talk about the stage.

 

Padrón

Our starting point was Padrón. When we got there, people were setting up the Sunday market. Lots of activity there, but obviously not crowded like the previous Sunday, when the market was in full swing.

 

As I mentioned in my previous post, about the Caldas de Reis-Padrón stage, Padrón is a very relevant place in the history of the Camino. According to legend, the remains of St. James first arrived by boat here, when they were brought back to Spain by his disciples. The stone they used to moor their boat, called Pedrón, can be found today inside the iglesia de Santiago.

 

At the tourist office or municipal albergue you can obtain the Pedronía, a certificate issued by Padrón’s town council stating that you have visited the place where St. James’ remains were brought ashore. More info on how to get the Pedronía here.

 

If you have time, cross the Santiago bridge to the Convento del Carmen and, from there, the 132 steps up to Santiaguiño do Monte, another significant location in the history of the Camino. According to tradition, St. James was preaching there in the year 40 a.C. There is a cross and statue of St. James there now.

 

There are also other things worth checking, not related to St. James or the Camino.

 

You will see many references to Rosalía de Castro (1837-1885), one of the most important writers in the Galician language. She was from Padrón and one of the first to write in Galician after centuries of the language being banned from public life. Her house has been turned into a museum. You will see signs for it as you walk out of Padrón.

 

Padrón also has a beautiful botanic park with more than 300 species and a nice walk along the river.

 

And last, but not least, I must mention the famous pimientos de Padrón (Padrón peppers). As the name suggests, they come from here. And, as the saying goes, uns pican e outros non (some are hot and some are not).

 

 

Padrón-Milladoiro

Right after we left Padrón we passed the church of Iria Flavia. Iria Flavia is the birthplace of Nobel Literature Prize Camilo José Cela (1916-2002).

 

Lots of walking through villages in this stage, some of them familiar to me, as I mentioned earlier.I walked mostly with the same people I met on my first day walking with the group (Porriño-Redondela).

 

But many other faces were becoming familiar and I also got to chat for a while to a couple of ladies who volunteer at the albergue in Pontevedra. They were sharing stories about different pilgrims who stayed there and caught their attention for one reason or another. This led to a very interesting conversation about cultural differences between different countries.

Miracles

Five or 6km into the stage we came to a very familiar place for me: Santuario da Escravitude. Despite the unusual name, this church has nothing to do with slavery. In 1732, a man was on his way to the hospital in Santiago, looking for a cure for his health problems. He stopped at the spot where the church now stands, drank from the fountain here and asked the Virgin Mary for help.

 

According to legend, he was cured 3 days later and expressed his gratitude for being freed from ‘the slavery’ of his disease. This started to attract other people looking for miraculous cures and, eventually, the church was built.

 

Getting to Milladoiro

After this, we kept walking mostly through villages, some forest areas too, chatting about all sorts of things. We were so engrossed in our conversation that at some point we missed one of the yellow arrows and went the wrong way! Luckily, there were people behind us who saw us and alerted us.

The hardest part of the stage came in the final part, before Milladoiro. Nothing difficult, really. But not what you’re looking for at the end of your walk, when you’re tired! But we made it, with time to spare before the bus brought us back home.

 

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of domingo, check Está cerrado.

For the pronunciation of iglesia, check Finisterre.

For the pronunciation of capilla, check Redondela-Pontevedra.

 

 

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¡Buen Camino!

Camino Portugués: Caldas de Reis-Padrón

Camino Portugués: Caldas de Reis-Padrón

It’s the turn of the Caldas-Padrón stage of the Camino Portugués today.

And it’s back to walking with the big group from the Asociación de Amigos del Camino Portugués. The number of people was roughly the same as when we walked Porriño-Redondela. A couple of new faces, others missing, but mostly the same.

 

Another Sunday morning, as usual. It had rained the previous 2 Sundays, the ones I skipped because I had already walked those stages. The forecast for the day was good. Chilly in the morning. But that’s to be expected in November. Otherwise, bright and sunny. ¡Perfecto!

 

We got on the autobús at the usual spot, beside the capilla de San Roque in Pontevedra and left for Caldas de Reis. It’s a short drive from Pontevedra, so we were soon in Caldas, taking our group pictures outside the Santa María church.

Caldas-Padrón

Group picture borrowed from the Association’s blog.

Caldas de Reis

After the fotos and the oración, we started walking. We crossed the bridge over the río Umia into the town centre. One of the first things you’ll see is the fuente termal (hot spring), that Caldas de Reis is famous for. In fact, the town gets its name from the hot springs present in the area: Caldas comes from the Latin caldus, meaning hot.

So, if you’re stopping in Caldas, look out for one of its 2 balnearios (spa). Caldas’ thermal waters are meant to be good for your respiratory tract, rheumatism and skin conditions, among other things.

 

Another thing to do in Caldas de Reis: visit its botanic garden. It contains species from almost every continent, as well as a carballeira (that’s Galician for oak grove). Unlike the eucalyptus, which is an invasive species in Galicia, carballos or robles (oak trees in Galician and Spanish respectively) are native to Galicia. But they have been decimated, so carballeiras such as the one in Caldas are hard to come by these days.

 

The second part of the name, Reis,  means kings in Galician. This was added to the name in 1105, after future king Alfonso VII was born here.

 

But Caldas de Reis goes much further back.

 

There is evidence that the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. In 1940, a group of local farmers found several objects made of gold while working on a viña (vineyard). They kept the discovery secret and started selling pieces little by little… until they were discovered a few months later. The remaining pieces (36) are known as Tesoro de Caldas (Caldas treasure) and can be seen at the museum in Pontevedra. They weigh around 15kg and it’s one of the biggest gold treasures found in Europe. They date back to 1500-1600 b.C.

Later, the Romans built 3 puentes in present-day Caldas. We crossed one of them on our way out of town.

 

On our way to Padrón

As a whole the Caldas-Padrón stage is my favourite stage of the central Camino Portugués in Spain. Other stages have nice stretches, of course. But this one goes mostly through gorgeous bosques (forests) that are virtually eucalyptus-free.

I’ve heard so many pilgrims mention how much they love walking through eucalyptus trees on the Camino. Sorry, but I can’t agree. Walking through eucalyptus trees makes me sad. They smell good. I agree. But the nice scent is not worth the environmental damage they’re causing in Galicia.

Anyway, I’ll leave the rant for another occasion… But walking through these native forests felt awesome. It was a little tiring on the legs, because of constant ups and downs. Nothing too difficult, though.

 

Before you get to Padrón, you have to go through Pontecesures. If you decide to take the Variante Espiritual after Pontevedra, Pontecesures is where you join the central route again.

 

Padrón

After you cross the bridge in Pontecesures, that’s it. You’re in Padrón. That was my memory of going through Padrón with my parents as a child, either on our way to Santiago or to see family. Well, the Camino takes longer, as I discovered that day, because it takes a detour away from the main road. So, when I thought I was already there, I still had to keep walking for a while. Not what you’re wishing for at the end of your stage. But nicer and safer than walking along that busy main road.

 

I eventually made it… with time to spare before taking the bus back home.

Remember this was a Sunday?

Well, there is a very busy mercado (market) in Padrón every Sunday. One of the biggest markets in Galicia, in fact, with more than 600 stalls where you can find all sorts. From socks to legs of ham. Vegetables, clothes, shoes, tools, crafts… you name it!

 

It was a bit of a shock to suddenly walk into so many things on display and so many people after the idyllic walk in the forest seeing only the occasional person and listening to the sound of birds. One other disadvantage: I didn’t know where our meeting point was, so I was following someone from our group… but I lost them in the crowds. I had a second of panic thinking I wouldn’t be able to find it and I would miss the bus. Just a second. Truth is, it wasn’t very hard to find.

By the way, we met in front of the Pementeira (in Galician, pepper lady) statue. Of course. Who has walked the Camino and not tried Padrón peppers? This is where they come from. Well, they come from neighbouring Herbón, to be precise. But we still call them Padrón peppers.

 

Padrón is quite a relevant place in the history of the Camino, but I’ll leave that for the next post about our Padrón-Milladoiro stage.

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of río, fuente, puente and autobús, check De Pontedeume a Betanzos.

For the pronunciation of oración, check Camino Portugués: de Porriño a Redondela.

For the pronunciation of Pontecesures and Variante Espiritual, check Variante Espiritual.

For the pronunciation of bosque, check De Pontevedra a Caldas de Reis.

 

 

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¡Buen Camino!

Camino Portugués: Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis

Camino Portugués: Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis

Camino Portugués: Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis |

Back in October I walked from Porriño to Redondela, on the Camino Portugués with a large group organised by the Asociación de Amigos del Camino Portugués (details about that stage here). I skipped the next 2 domingos (Sundays) because I had already walked those stages.

I walked Redondela-Pontevedra in 2020, right before the confinamiento (lockdown). And I have walked Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis twice now. Both times in julio (July), a year apart. It is my little contribution to the Luz del Camino project.

 

The first time I walked the Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis stage of the Camino Portugués was in 2020. I was part of a small group of 5 pilgrims, so I wasn’t alone. But it was a very lonely experience: there were no other pilgrims around and everything was closed.

The second time was in julio 2021. Again, I was part of a small group. But it was a very different experience. This time around, there were lots of other pilgrims walking too (mostly españoles but other nationalities too). Bars and cafés were open for business. The Camino felt alive again.

 

Peregrina Pontevedra

We had a very hot day in 2020, so we left at 6.00am, in the dark.

This time around, the weather forecast was not as hot. There was no need to start so early.

We left from the Peregrina Church in Pontevedra at 7.30am.

We crossed the bridge, and once out of Pontevedra and Lérez we met the first pilgrims of the day. It was a group of cinco polacos (5 Polish people) who wrote a message on the notebook that travels inside the mochila de la luz.

After Alba, I noticed an improvement on the route. There was a stretch where pilgrims had to walk on the side of the carretera (road). They’ve now added a new pedestrian path away from the road. Much safer than before.

 

Meeting other pilgrims

And then we crossed the road and quickly got to one of my favourite parts of this stage, a beautiful forest area. We met several other pilgrims here.

One of them was a Spanish woman who was walking from Tui by herself. She had wanted to walk the Camino for a while but could never find the right time. A few weeks before we met she found out she was embarazada (false friend alert! This means pregnant, not embarrassed). And she thought that she probably wouldn’t be able to walk for a long time if she waited until the baby was born. So, she packed a few things, got her partner to drop her in Tui and started walking.

 

We ended up walking together most of the rest of the stage and talking about all sorts of things. We got along quite well and the conversation kept flowing naturally.

Roughly halfway to Caldas we took a café con leche break. The place where we stopped was so busy! Full of pilgrims. So different from 2020.

 

After the break, we kept walking through bosques (forests) and aldeas (villages)… and meeting more pilgrims. Not what I’m used to. I know the July 2020 experience was kind of extreme, with everything closed and no pilgrims at all. But I must say I wasn’t used to meeting so many other pilgrims on the Camino. It actually felt crowded at times, especially coming out of a strict lockdown and over a year of so many restrictions and not socialising that much.

 

When the Camino joins the busy N-550 road (5 or 6km before Caldas de Reis), I recommend you cross it and take the short detour to “Parque Natural Río Barosa”. It’s a beautiful place with waterfalls and old watermills. There’s a picnic area there. It’s a popular spot for the locals to go for the day. It’s about 500m off the Camino, but it’s well worth it. That’s what we did again, although our stop was shorter than the previous year.

And before we knew it, we were in Caldas and we all went our separate ways. Somehow I lost sight of my new friend and couldn’t find her again. I would have liked to say goodbye and wish her luck with the rest of her Camino and with her pregnancy too. No pudo ser (it couldn’t be).

Read about the Caldas-Padrón stage here.

* Caldas de Reis and Caldas are the same place. Caldas de Reis is the official name of the town, but we usually refer to it as just Caldas.

 

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of cinco and domingo, check Empezando el Camino Inglés.

For the pronunciation of mochila, luz and confinamiento, check La Luz del Camino.

For the pronunciation of julio, check Vía de la Plata.

 

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¡Buen Camino!