Camino Inglés: de Neda a Pontedeume

Camino Inglés: de Neda a Pontedeume

Welcome to Day 2 of my Camino Inglés: de Neda a Pontedeume. If you missed Day 1, you can catch up here.

On Day 2 of our Camino Inglés, we had planned to walk from Neda to Pontedeume, but the weather forecast was not good. In fact, we were on orange alert, with gales and heavy rain… or temporal, as we call it in Spanish.

 

Neda

We woke up to strong winds and grey skies. We checked our weather app again and the chances of lluvia (rain) during the morning seemed to be slim. The owner of our pensión looked quite sceptical when I commented that we might be lucky and make it to Pontedeume with no rain. But, in any case, we decided to leave and see how things went.

Neda was still asleep. We refilled our bottles at the fuente (fountain) outside the concello (town hall in Galician) and kept going.

Iglesia de Sta. María de Neda

We were in Paradise!

Refilling our bottles

For things to see in Neda, click here.

The second day was the complete opposite of the first one. On the one hand, there was the issue of the weather. The rain held off until we make it to Pontedeume (phew!), but el viento (wind) was so strong that we could hardly walk at times. We would just hold on to each other so that no one fell, and we tried to keep moving.

This was not one of the windiest moments of the day

 

On the other hand, the terrain was quite different too. While Ferrol-Neda was mostly flat, Neda-Pontedeume was a bit of a rollercoaster, constantly going up and down. And I discovered that walking uphill is not one of my specialties!

My youngest daughter tends to be a fast walker. My husband is not, generally; but today he was in a hurry to make it to Pontedeume as soon as possible, before the rain started pouring. So the two of them walked in front.

Between the uphills and my tendency to stop and take pictures, I was constantly behind. My older daughter (the grumpy teenager), was kind enough to slow down and stay with her poor, slow mother. And that’s how we walked most of the time.

For me, the only good thing about the uphills is that, occasionally, you get rewarded with stunning views like these:

This stage was mostly through rural areas, either tiny aldeas (villages) or forests.

 

**Warning: rant ahead

A lot of the forest areas we crossed today were full of eucaliptos (eucalyptus). I often read other pilgrims’ posts in blogs or social media, about walking through an eucalyptus forest: it’s always about the wonderful smell, how nice it is and how much they love it.

Sorry, but I can’t agree on this one. I do like the smell of eucalyptus, but not in Galician montes (forests)! For me, eucalyptus equals economic interest, destruction of native vegetation and increased risk of fires, among other things. In short, a total disregard for the environment. So, walking through an eucalyptus forest (in Galicia) saddens me greatly **end of rant.

 

To stop or not to stop

Anyway, after going up and down a few times, we got to Fene, a larger town with cafeterías and other services. We took a vote and decided to continue.

More uphills, villages and eucalyptus. After one of these uphills through eucalyptus, we came to a couple of yellow arrows painted under a bridge, that seemed to indicate that we had to get off the path we were following. That didn’t seem right. So, after a couple of minutes’ deliberation and checking maps, we decided to stay on the path. Good decision: after a bend, we could see a stone marker a few metres ahead.

Shortly after, we came to an industrial state (Polígono Vilar do Colo) with a big Gadis supermarket and a bar-restaurante on the other side of the road. So we crossed and enjoyed a well-deserved break. Once inside we realised the place is linked to a petrol station (or gas station, depending where you are from) and small convenience store.

After the break, we went back out into the wind and continued our walk through some more villages until we came to this crossroads:

 

More decisions

Again, like in Day 1, we had to decide: continue on the “regular” Camino (right) or take the Camino complementario (left). The latter added almost 2 km to our day, the first one included a dangerous spot, according to the information panel.

Yesterday we were all in agreement: skip the Camino complementario.

Today, it was hard to decide. On the one hand, nobody wanted to add unnecessary kilometres to our day. But we didn’t want to take risks either. Or at least, the more responsible adults didn’t; teenagers didn’t really agree. So, we took the longer route, which includes plenty more uphills. Yay!

Eventually, we joined the “regular” Camino, walked through Cabanas and crossed the bridge that gives Pontedeume its name.

We had booked a couple of rooms at Pensión Luis, so that’s where we headed. All the rooms have private bathrooms and the price is €15.00 per person.

After dropping our mochilas in the rooms, we had lunch at the restaurant they have downstairs (menu for €9.00; tasty and abundant).

After lunch we went out with the intention of exploring Pontedeume, but it soon started raining and rain gear was back at the pensión, so we went to our rooms. Good excuse to go back to Pontedeume.

Anything is possible during the Carnival. While we were having lunch, a group of ancient Romans came into the restaurant. They parked their vehicles outside. Later, while the Romans were still eating, a gust of wind dragged chariots and horses all over the street.

For more info about Pontedeume, click here.

Theme of the day

On Day 1 we say at least 6 “tanque de tormentas”. I must admit I don’t remember ever seeing one of those and I had to check our what they were. Apparently, these structures generally hold water from storm water runoff and release it gradually, reducing damage from erosion and other physical changes.

On Day 2, we kept seeing a different type of construction: lavaderos. Women used to gather around them to do their laundry in the past. According to this article, Cabanas council has been repairing some of them, not just because of their historical value, but also to turn them into meeting points and rest areas for pilgrims.

Day 1: tanques de tormentas

Day 2: Lavaderos

It was again a lonely day. I think we encountered a couple of people only: a woman in Fene saw us while we were deciding whether to stop or to continue, she thought we were lost and showed us the way. And later, we saw a guy on a tractor. That was it! And we saw horses again.

Will the weather improve for Day 3? Will there be a new theme? All will be revealed in the next post.

 

Today’s words

 

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Camino Inglés: de Ferrol a Neda

Camino Inglés: de Ferrol a Neda

Before I start my account of day 1 on the Camino Inglés: from Ferrol to Neda, let’s get some practical info out of the way.

 

Guidebooks

 

  • For a more “traditional” guide, with very detailed information on the route and background information, I bought The Confraternity of St. James‘ Guidebook, by Johnnie Walker.

I bought both of these books in the digital version. Then, at the last minute, for some reason, I decided to buy a paper one, in Spanish. Don’t ask me why… I’m not really sure. Of course, I am aware of the advantages of digital books in terms of space and weight, but I still prefer browsing through a paper one. I think that was why.

 

  • So I got “Guía del Camino de Santiago: Camino Inglés”, by Antón Pombo. It does include a whole chapter about Santiago (around 20 pages) and also the route from Santiago to Fisterra and Muxía (close to 40 more pages). So there was a lot of book we were not going to need on this occasion, but I still decided to take it along. Being a book lover, I struggled with the idea of tearing the book apart and taking only the pages we needed, as I’ve read that some people do.

 

Accommodation

  • Ferrol: we stayed at Hotel Real Ferrol (calle Dolores, 11). We chose it because it was one of the few places that offered a family room and the location was great too. We paid €45 for the four of us in a very spacious room with 2 double beds and a private cuarto de baño. All new and clean… the perfect choice for us!

 

  • Neda: Pensión Maragoto, not far from the albergue. As well as the rooms, they also have a cafetería-restaurante, where you can have a menú del día for €9.50. They open at 8.00am in the morning. We had our breakfast there before heading off to Pontedeume on Sunday.

 

Sábado, 2 de marzo. De Ferrol a Neda

After el desayuno (breakfast) and a bit of walking around Ferrol (check Empezando el Camino Inglés), we headed towards Muelle Curuxeiras, the starting point of the Camino. Despite reading about it before, my initial instinct was to look for the stone marker closer to the water. I had read on forums about previous pilgrims having trouble locating it and others explaining where it was exactly and I was still looking for it in the wrong place. Then I remember and so we crossed the road… and there it was!

But before we started walking towards Neda, there was one more thing to do: pick up our credenciales from the tourist office, which is conveniently located right next to the stone marker. There is also a farmacia there, in case you need to get any last minute tiritas (plasters) or paracetamol. And if you haven’t had your desayuno yet, there are also a couple of cafeterías here.

We went through the arch into Rúa Carmen Curuxeiras. I’ve been trying to find out who this woman, Carmen Curuxeiras, was; but apparently it is unknown. Also, in case you are wondering and getting confused, rúa is the Galician word for calle (street). You may see both used.

Anyway, this part of town is called Ferrol Vello (Old Ferrol in the Galician language) and it really lives up to its name! Almost the first thing you see after walking under the arch is a few collapsed buildings (or about to collapse).

 

Walking through Ferrol Vello

These are not too bad!

Out of Ferrol

So we walked through Ferrol, past the Parador and iglesia (church) de San Francisco, along the rúa Real and cantón de Molíns, and past iglesia de las Angustias. The last stretch out of Ferrol was not particularly appealing, with modern/boring buildings on our left and army property on the right, blocking the view of the sea. Eventually, you get to enjoy the view, walking by playa (beach) de Caranza.

Then, it’s a busy road for a while until you reach an industrial state, where you have to turn right. There is a Lidl supermarket here, in case you need to buy anything. We already had some fruta, galletas and frutos secos (fruit, biscuits and nuts), so we kept going, but not for long, because we got to a leisure area with benches and we decided to take a short break, have a snack and enjoy the view.

According to this, there’s a cafetería behind Lidl where you can get your credencial stamped. Well, the sign actually says you can get your Compostela stamped; I guess that’s a mistake. It also says it’s the cafetería of a tanatorio or funeral home. None of us needed a toilet break and we were not too keen on hanging out at a funeral home, so a bench outside was good for us. There’s another bar right on the Camino if you keep walking just a bit longer.

After the break, it was not so nice again, going through an industrial area with busy roads and roundabouts, before walking through villages. We passed the monasterio de San Martiño but it was closed, so we kept going.

Monasterio de San Martiño

We kept walking

Decisions, decisions…

After going through a forest area, we came to this:

Left or right?

Map detailing the 2 options

The Camino complementario on the right was longer (it adds close to 1km) and the main reason to take it was to see an old water mill. We’ve seen a few of those before, so we took the “regular” camino on the left and over the bridge. After the bridge, you have to go down some stairs and then you are in a nice promenade by the water. We had almost made it through our first day!

 

Neda

Now we only had to decide which bridge to cross

The old bridge?

…or the new bridge?

We went for the old one and so we got to see this 300 year old magnolia tree:

We quickly found our accommodation, left our mochilas in our rooms and went to have lunch.

A couple of games while waiting for the food

Calamares a la romana

After lunch, a rest and a ducha (shower), we went to have a look around. The park area across the bridges has one of these “playgrounds” for adults, with equipment to exercise instead of slides and swings. Well, the girls still had plenty of energy to play around and compete to see who could jump higher or do more pull-ups. I really envy them!

Up the road from our pensión, there is a Día supermarket. If you are not stopping for the day in Neda, you will pass it as you continue on your way. If you are spending the night in Neda and need to buy anything, don’t leave it till the next morning, as it will be closed.

 

 I didn’t know this, but apparently Neda’s bread is famous and they even have a monument to it!

On company and weather

I think we only encountered one person during our walk, an old man keeping an eye on his sheep. Our company during the day… horses, cows, sheep and goats!

Day 1 was a nice and easy start to our Camino Inglés. Despite the rain the previous night, the weather was bright and sunny, with very pleasant temperatures… not really what you would expect at the beginning of March. The forecast, however, was not good. There was an orange alert for the next couple of days, with gales and heavy rain. In fact, we could already see it changing in the evening: it was becoming increasingly windier and the sky was getting grey. According to our weather app, there would be no rain the next morning, at least not any significant amount. We were a bit concerned about walking through forests and branches falling… but that’s for Day 2.

 

Today’s words

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Empezando el Camino Inglés

Empezando el Camino Inglés

Empezando el Camino Inglés means “starting the English Way”. Why starting? you may ask. Well, because I didn’t get the chance to finish it… yet. And because I’m not telling you the whole story today. But let’s start from the beginning.

When I first decided I HAD to do the Camino, my first question was: which one?

 

Why the Camino Inglés?

Somehow, the Camino Francés didn’t sound so appealing. Maybe because it’s so popular… I don’t know. I’ve always had a tendency to go against the flow and NOT do stuff for the simple reason that everybody else was doing it. So maybe that was it.

Then, the obvious choice was the Camino Portugués, as it passes almost right in front of my doorstep. I’ve walked parts of it, although just as day trips or hikes, and not as a Camino experience. But I still was not convinced.

And then I started reading about the Camino Inglés and my decision was made! The English Way was the one followed by British, Irish and other northern pilgrims from the 12th century onwards. So, in a way, it made perfect sense for me to walk this route, since I lived in Ireland for 15 years.

Anyway, “where?” was clear. But “when?” was a bit more complicated. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but I’ve had to cancel this Camino a couple of times. And now the Carnival gave us a few days off; the perfect opportunity to finally do it.

The plan was for my husband and myself to walk for cinco días (5 days) and leave our dos hijas (2 daughters) with their grandparents. But… all of a sudden, a week before our start date, plans changed and that was not an option anymore. So, we could either cancel (again!) or take the kids. And we went for the second option.

 

Change of plans

The decision to take the girls affected our initial plans in several ways:

  • First. We were not able to walk for 5 days, because they needed some time to do homework and study for exams before going back to school el jueves (Thursday). So we walked tres días (3 days) instead: sábado, domingo y lunes (Saturday, Sunday and Monday), starting in Ferrol and finishing in Betanzos. El martes (Tuesday) we did a bit of sightseeing around Betanzos before returning home.
  • Second. Our 2 mochilas were a bit heavier than planned, because we split the girls’ stuff between them. The girls only carried a small day-bag with some snacks.
  • Third. We pre-booked all our alojamientos (accommodations). There being four of us and two of them being girls close to adolescence, we thought that was the best choice for us (one of them turned trece (13) this week and the other one had turned once (11) a week before our Camino).
 

 

Getting to Ferrol

We made our way to Ferrol el viernes (Friday), March 1: train to A Coruña and then bus to Ferrol. The train and bus stations in A Coruña are very close to each other, so it’s an easy switch. There are trains going from A Coruña to Ferrol too. However, we found that they took longer than the bus and they were not so frequent.

Empezando Camino Inglés: waiting for train

For train routes, schedules and tickets, you can check RENFE‘s website. And you can find buses covering A Coruña-Ferrol (but also Miño, Betanzos and Pontedeume), on ARRIVA‘s website.

Anyway, el viernes was a school day. So, by the time we got to Ferrol it was dark already. It was also raining a bit. That means that, basically, all we did was find our hotel, do a bit of last minute planning for the next day and go to sleep early.

El sábado we got up early, got ready and went out looking for a place to have breakfast.

Breakfast in Ferrol

We had company while having breakfast in Ferrol.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this really was a sign of how our Camino was going to be: we encountered more animals than people…

After breakfast, we walked around Ferrol for a short while, before we headed to the starting point of the Camino. Some parts are a bit run down and in need of a lot of care, but there’s still some amazing and interesting architecture. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Ferrol

This is the stone marker signalling the beginning of the Camino, quite close to the tourist office, in the port area. From there on, the route is very well signposted. You can’t get lost!

We bought our credenciales from the tourist office.

For more tourist information about Ferrol, you can check https://visitferrol.com

And that’s it for today! Don’t forget to come back for the rest of the story…

Read all about Day 1: Ferrol-Neda, Day 2: Neda-Pontedeume and Day 3: Pontedeume-Betanzos

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

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¡Buen Camino!

El Camino Inglés

El Camino Inglés

It was the fifth Camino in number of pilgrims last year (https://oficinadelperegrino.com/en/statistics/). In 2018 it continues to grow its popularity. I’m talking about the Camino Inglés, or English Way.

It’s so called because it was mainly British and Irish pilgrims who followed this route. From the 12th century onwards they used to travel by boat to the Galician coast and then they would continue their pilgrimage a pie (on foot). After the 15th century, when king Henry VIII separated from the Catholic Church, the number of pilgrims choosing this Camino decreased dramatically.

These medieval pilgrims arrived at several ports along the northern coast of Galicia, A Coruña being one of the main ones. However, A Coruña is less than 100km from Santiago (and 100km, as you probably know already, is the minimum distance required in order to obtain a Compostela). So, in recent times, Ferrol has become the most popular starting point, since it’s over 100km from Santiago.

 

Can you still start the Camino Inglés in A Coruña?

But that doesn’t mean you can’t start in A Coruña anymore. In fact, you can. And you can still be eligible to obtain a Compostela. How is this possible? You can can walk the first 25km in your own country or area.

If you are planning to do this, don’t forget to get your credencial stamped during that first stage. You will need evidence that you’ve completed the required 100km in order to get your Compostela.

Whether you start in A Coruña or Ferrol, you should remember that you need to get your credencial stamped twice per day if you are planning to get a Compostela once you arrive in Santiago.

Galerías in A Coruña

Galerías in A Coruña

Torre de Hércules. A Coruña

Torre de Hércules

For things to see and do in A Coruña, check this: Turismo Coruña website.

 

You can complete this pilgrimage in six days or less (check my review of Susan Jagannath’s guidebook). So the Camino Inglés could be a good choice if you only have a few days to do your pilgrimage.

This is not a particularly difficult Camino, although there are a couple of hills that could prove a bit challenging. Also, it goes mostly through rural areas and small villages. So there are some long stretches without bares or tiendas (shops). Make sure you have plenty of agua (water) and some snacks with you!

 

The Camino Inglés from Ferrol

As I mentioned above, the most popular starting point these days is Ferrol, where you can find a stone marker signalling the beginning of the Camino quite close to the tourist office, in the port area. For more info on Ferrol: http://www.turismo.gal/que-visitar/cidades/ferrol?langId=en_US

After you get out of town, you will be bordering the Ría de Ferrol, which provides stunning views. If you prefer to make your Camino shorter, you can walk up to Pontedeume on your first day (31km). If you’d rather take things slower, then Neda is the best place to stop (15km).

 

After Pontedeume, your next stop is Betanzos, an interesting town with a lovely old quarter. If you have time to explore a bit more, you should consider going to the Parque do Pasatempo, an astonishing place built by the García brothers.

These two brothers emigrated to Argentina (1870), made a fortune there and returned to Betanzos. Here, they created schools, hospitales… and this park where you can find all sorts of unexpected things (https://www.galiciamaxica.eu/galicia/a-coruna/pasatempo/#respond).

 

Oh! And let’s not forget that in Betanzos you can find the best tortilla in Spain: http://www.expansion.com/fueradeserie/gastro/2018/08/06/5b617442ca4741f5728b45e0.html

 

After Betanzos, you will go through Hospital de Bruma and Sigüeiro before you reach Santiago. Hospital de Bruma takes its name from an old hospital for pilgrims that does no longer exist. The current albergue is beside the spot where this old hospital used to be.

 

Some parts of the Camino Inglés have been rerouted recently, but don’t let that concern you: it is well signposted and you will not have any problems finding your way.

 

Do you think this could be the Camino for you?

 

Well, it is the Camino for me! You can start reading about my experience on the Camino Inglés in Empezando el Camino Inglés and Walking with strangers.

 

Today’s Spanish words

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

 

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¡Buen Camino!

Vía de la Plata

Vía de la Plata

The Vía de la Plata crosses Spain from south to north, making it one of the longest Caminos in Spain. It starts in Sevilla, in the region of Andalucía and continues through Extremadura and Castilla y León, before entering Galicia.

The distance covered is around 1000 km, depending a bit on the variant you take. You have two options:

  • You can walk up to Astorga and then join the Camino Francés for the final stages (260 km).

 

  • Or you can head towards Galicia before you reach Astorga, through the Camino Sanabrés. Granja de Moreruela (in Zamora) is the town where you must decide which way to continue.

 

The Vía de la Plata is not a difficult route in terms of terrain and elevations, but you will be facing other challenges such as the weather. It is not advisable to walk it during the months of julio (July) and agosto (August) due to the extreme heat. You should still be careful in junio (June) and septiembre (September). The best months would be marzo, abril, mayo (May) and octubre (October).

The distances between towns are long and the services are few, so you need to be prepared and make sure you have enough agua and snacks to make it to the next town. It might be hard if you are planning to do shorter stages.

The signage is not as abundant as in other Caminos but it’s adequate. The Vía de la Plata follows old Roman roads, so you will also see many Roman milestones

I think I’m not making it sound very attractive, but that’s not true. It’s just not the Camino Francés, so you should adjust your expectations and be prepared. It is a much lonelier Camino (only 3.04% of pilgrims chose this route in 2017 according to the Pilgrims office statistics)* and you will be walking a lot through pastures (with lots of cattle). Some of the best cured hams come from this part of the country.

 

What to see on the Vía de la Plata

But it’s not all cows and pigs. The Vía de la Plata also goes through wonderful cities. In fact, it is the Camino with the highest number of towns on UNESCO’s World Heritage List:

 

 

 

 

But these are not the only interesting places to see. Zafra, in Extremadura, is a lovely medieval town worth a visit. And Zamora, in Castilla y León, is full of Romanesque arquitecture and also worth a visit.

So, do you think this is the Camino for you?

 

*Source: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/estadisticas/

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

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El Camino Primitivo

El Camino Primitivo

After a stop for a tapa de pulpo á feira, we’re back to our series about the different Caminos. This week, I’m writing about the Camino Primitivo.

 

The Camino Primitivo (Primitive Way) is so called because it’s the first Camino pilgrimage of which there is a written record. It follows the route taken by king Alfonso II of Asturias in the 9th century when he visited the sepulchre of St. James, which had just been discovered.

 

The Camino Primitivo is one of the shortest Caminos, as it covers around 320km from Oviedo (in Asturias) to Santiago de Compostela. It is a route of amazing natural beauty, but it is also the hardest of the Caminos. That’s probably why only 4.5% of pilgrims chose this route in 2017, according to the Pilgrims office statistics).*

 

It is well signposted and there are albergues and other services all along the way, but there is a lot of going up and down through mountains on dirt paths, loose rocks and mostly difficult terrain. Sometimes, the albergue is the only available service in town, so make sure you check ahead of time and plan accordingly.

 

The weather in Asturias and Galicia is quite rainy so there will also be mud much of the time. As well as lluvia (rain), you can also expect viento (wind) and niebla (fog) in some areas. It’s not advisable to take this Camino in winter, due to nieve (snow) in the mountains.

 

The Camino Primitivo route

 

  • There is a variation called Ruta de los Hospitales, starting at Borres and so called because of the remains of several old mediaeval hospitals. This is allegedly one of the most beautiful sections of the Camino. It covers around 24km but if you are planning to do it you should be aware that it has no services at all. The weather can also be treacherous. So make sure you are well equipped and stay safe!

 

The Camino Primitivo in Galicia

  • The Camino Primitivo enters Galicia through O Acebo pass (1300m altitude) and from there it descends to Fonsagrada (700m).

 

  • The second biggest town on the Camino Primitivo is Lugo. It was founded in the year 25 b.C and it was one of the most important Roman settlements in the Iberian Peninsula. Its Roman walls are mostly intact and they surround the historic centre. They were added to UNESCO’S World Heritage List in 2000 (see https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/987). Definitely worth a visit!

 

  • From Lugo, this Camino continues towards Melide, where it joins the Camino Francés for the last stages.

 

 

Do you think this could the be the Camino for you? If you’ve done it, please share your experience!

*Source: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/estadisticas/

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

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¡Buen Camino!