Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos |

Day 3 was the last day on our Camino Inglés… for now. When we decided to take our daughters along on this adventure, we thought that maybe walking 20km from Pontedeume to Betanzos would be too much for them. We still wanted to see Betanzos and so that’s where we booked our accommodation for Monday night. We thought we could walk around 10km up to Miño and then take an autobús (bus) to Betanzos (arriva.gal). But we didn’t make any definite decisions.

Day 2, we stayed at Pensión Luis, in Pontedeume. They open their café at 9.00, but we wanted to leave earlier. One of the guys there told us of a cafetería around the corner that apparently opens at 5.00am: a place called Martiño. We certainly didn’t go there at 5.00 to check if they were open. But they were open at 8.00am when we left the pensión to start our day. So we had breakfast, bought a couple of extra things to take with us and left.

Before I started walking this Camino, I had never paid much attention to stage profiles. Whenever I was hiking, maybe I would read a general description of the route and that was it. I just showed up and walked. Profiles were not usually present in what I read and, even if they were, they felt somehow abstract.

Walking from Neda to Pontedeume they suddenly started making sense. So I wasn’t looking forward to walking out of Pontedeume when I saw the profile. And the uphill didn’t disappoint!

 

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
 

The climb is over… for now

After we finished climbing, we walked through a lovely forest. The weather gave us a break. It was not as warm as Day 1, but the wind had died down and, again, rain was not expected until later in the day. El sol (sun) was shining and los pájaros (birds) were singing. Quite idyllic!

 

After this, we crossed a road and found ourselves going through a golf course. I wasn’t expecting that and it felt somehow weird and out-of-place. Or maybe it was just me. What I wasn’t expecting either was the hard climb we had to tackle next, through a forest on this occasion. There was a woman on a tractor waiting at the bottom of the hill… I was very tempted to ask her for a lift up to the top!

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

 

We then continued on paved roads through rural areas for a while until we decided to had a short break at one of the many picnic areas we saw today, by the medieval puente (bridge) over the río (river) Baxoi. We refilled our bottles at the fuente here and ate the churros we had bought earlier in Pontedeume.

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

After this bridge we walked for a few minutes through a forest area under the motorway bridges before we entered Miño, a lovely coastal town with plenty of tiendas (shops) and cafeterías.

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Graffiti under the motorway

We stopped for a toilet break and to drink something that was not water. After eating the churros, we were not hungry and so we didn’t order any food. But we got a pincho de callos with our drinks.

Callos is a typical Spanish stew. As is usually the case with all traditional recipes, there are almost as many versions of callos as cooks. But they all have the same 2 main ingredients in common: beef tripe and garbanzos (chickpeas), as well as a bunch of spices.

I must say the callos tasted heavenly, like pretty much everything else we ate during those 3 days. I guess that’s one of the side effects of walking for hours.

 

So, now we were in Miño and we had to decide whether to keep walking or skip the rest of the stage and take a bus. And we took a vote: it was still early, the weather was holding up and our energy levels were OK, which means we decided to continue walking up to Betanzos (guess who was the only one who voted against it? Hint: teenager).

The rest of the stage, from Miño to Betanzos, goes through tiny villages and it’s mostly (or all) on paved roads. Just like days 1 and 2, it was lonely out there, our company just the odd caballo (horse) or perro (dog).

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Ingles: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

Betanzos

When we finally made it to Betanzos, our first priority was to find a place to eat, because it was getting late. Restaurant kitchens usually close at around 3.30 or 4.00pm and we didn’t want to wait until la cena (dinner) for a proper meal. There are many places to eat on two narrow streets off Praza Irmáns García Naveira. We tried one of them (I think it was Mesón Sabín) and they agreed to serve us, although I’m sure they were getting ready to close. ¡Gracias!

Among other things, Betanzos is famous for its tortillas de patatas. We got to taste one of them and a few other things as well. Again, everything tasted delicious!  (http://www.expansion.com/fueradeserie/gastro/2018/08/06/5b617442ca4741f5728b45e0.html)

After food, we headed to our accommodation. Shortly after we had arrived, it started raining, although it was not as bad as the previous day in Pontedeume.

As I explained before, we had to go back home on Tuesday in order to allow the kids some time to do homework and study for exams they had right after this short break. So, we got up early and explored Betanzos a bit before taking a bus back to A Coruña. There is a lot to see in Betanzos! (click here for more info).

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

My plan is to go back at the end of this month to complete it. So you’ll have to wait a bit for the rest of the story…

 

Today’s words of Spanish for the Camino

 

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¡Buen Camino!

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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A conversation with Julia

A conversation with Julia

This week I’ve been chatting to Julia, a German pilgrim who walked the Camino Francés after she finished college. Read the whole conversation to find out how the Camino changed her life.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Julia, I am 35 years old and I am from Northern Germany. I’ve been living in Spain now for four years in a small town called Oliva, which is on the eastern coast, with my husband and our two children. I am a German teacher and I run an online language agency: www.milengua.com

When did you first hear about the Camino and why did you decide to do it?

I’ve always been up to traveling and especially to hiking and trekking. After finishing my university degree in German Philology I decided to go on a trip on my own and among all the different long distance trekking roads I chose the Camino de Santiago as it seemed to me physically not too difficult but very interesting. Besides, I wanted to get to know Spain, where I hadn’t been before. Also, I had a friend who did a part of the Camino and he highly recommended it.

 

Did you prepare either physically or mentally? How?

Basically, I got prepared by hiking on every possible occasion. Moreover, I was into running and biking at this time so I found myself in physically good condition. Mentally?  I don’t know. I had a book with the single legs of the way. But to be honest, I just started the journey without thinking too much about it. I was just excited about being outside everyday and walking as far as I could.

 

Tell us about your Camino. How was your experience?

It was certainly one of my best experiences ever. I met a lot of wonderful people and even though you only shared a couple of days together until each one went on at her or his speed, it felt always like a lifetime. You get to know people that deeply in an incredible short time and I remember almost all of them now 5 years later.

Another deep impression that I will bear forever is the feeling of freedom and peace of mind. You only have to walk. That’s your only mission for several weeks. Enjoying the simplicity of life and the beauty of nature made me feel really “light”.

 

How did it change your life? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

My anecdote is a romantic one: I met my future husband here, to be precise, in Molinaseca near Ponferrada. From there we went the remaining way together to Santiago and later to Fisterra, where we separated. More than 2 weeks together on the Camino, that’s like 2 years in real time. We stayed in contact ever since but it took us 18 month until we met again. Soon after that I decided to move to Spain  – and I stayed.

 

Did you learn any Spanish prior to the Camino? Did that have any impact on your Camino?

Actually I didn’t know any Spanish before. I learned quickly how to order breakfast, to ask for free beds and to wish a “buen camino”. But it was actually a pity not to be able to talk to the locals. One time I met an older man walking with his dog and as we went the same way for quite a while, we started a conversation. He didn’t speak English so we communicated with gestures, by pointing at things; he showed me photos he had in his wallet and we drew in the sand with sticks we found.  I wished we really could talk as he seemed to be a very interesting person.

Without any Spanish you stay mainly with other pilgrims but you will miss the option to talk with the locals which is basically an important aspect if you want to get to know a country for real.  Another point is the medical assistance, if needed. Whether it’s at a doctors or just in the pharmacy: Some basic vocabulary to explain what’s your problem is more than helpful.

 

 

Julia’s words

I usually ask my guests to pick 5-10 Spanish words or phrases: the ones they think every pilgrim should know before their Camino, the ones they knew, the ones they learnt… Julia chose what she learnt on the Camino,  mainly food orders and one phrase that the Spanish pilgrims liked to say when they had wine for dinner: El vino te pone fino, peregrino.
 
I must confess I’d never heard this phrase before and it can be interpreted in several ways, as it plays on the meanings of the word fino, as well as a couple of expressions that contain it. It could simply mean that wine makes you drunk. But it could also mean that wines makes you wittier!
 
 
If you would like to know more about either the menú del día or menú peregrino, check this post.
 
 
The word cigüeña means stork and Julia learnt it because she was surprised at how many of these birds she saw while on the Camino. According to her, there are not many storks left in Germany.

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¡Buen Camino!

Yes. You do know some Spanish already

Yes. You do know some Spanish already

You know some Spanish already |

You are planning your Camino de Santiago. If it’s the first one, you probably have tons of questions:

How much should I train?

What mochila should I get? How much stuff should I pack?

What are the perfect shoes?

Should I get a guidebook? Or maybe an app?

Should I learn some Spanish?

Most of these questions don’t have just one right answer. What works for me might not work for you and what works for you might not work for me. So read and listen to as much advice as you want, but then do what’s best for you. Make the Camino your own.

 

However, the last question, should I learn some Spanish?, is a different story. Of course you can survive without any knowledge of Spanish. Well, the truth is that you know some Spanish already, even if you don’t know it yet. But, anyway, when you go through the pros and cons of learning the language… there are no cons, really! It’s all benefits:

 

  • First of all, learning another language is good for your brain: it slows down aging, it improves your memory and your decision-making skills, it boosts your self confidence… and the list goes on.

Those alone should be enough to convince you to start learning a new language now!

But let’s concentrate on the benefits of learning Spanish for the Camino 

Not everybody in Spain speaks English. English speakers are easier to find in the bigger cities, but you’ll be going through a lot of rural areas and small villages populated by older people who do not know a word of English.

 

  • The locals will be more receptive to you if you try to speak Spanish (and they might even invite you to whatever they are doing) just because you made the effort. 
  • Learning at least some basic Spanish means you don’t need to rely on other people to communicate your needs.
  • It also means you are not dependent on technology either (my phone’s battery tends to die just when I need it most!) 
  • The fact that you don’t need to rely on other people or technology will make you feel more confident and independent; it will reduce the stress and anxiety you will feel if you need to get an important message across (maybe you have a health issue, you need to book accommodation…).

 

OK. So, you are convinced now and have decided to learn a bit of Spanish.

For some reason, when we start learning a language we focus on all the stuff we don’t know: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation… And it can be overwhelming.

 

What if I told you that you know a lot of Spanish already?

Yes, there are many words that are the same, or almost, in English and Spanish. Maybe a tiny spelling change. Most likely a different pronunciation. But still very similar. Let me give you a few examples:

Hotel, teléfono, restaurante, menú, taxi, chocolate, delicioso, animal, doctor, kilo, local, municipal, región, religión. 

Did you need the translation? I didn’t think so.

 

A few weeks ago I interviewed Kelli, an American pilgrim, about her experience on the Camino. In the second part of my conversation with Kelli, she gives you a tip to automatically increase your Spanish vocabulary:

 

Words in English that end in -ity will be the same in Spanish but replace the -ity with -idad.

 

So electricity becomes electricidad; spirituality > espiritualidad; tranquility > tranquilidad and security > seguridad, just to mention a few.

 

The good news is that this is not the only tip to increase your Spanish vocabulary:

 

  • Many English words ending in -al are the same in Spanish. Again, the pronunciation will be different and there might be minor spelling changes but nothing that will prevent you from recognising the word. You don’t believe me? Check these examples: 

hospital, normal, dental, total, inicial, oficial, profesional 

 

  • Some of the English words ending in -ist will end in -ista in Spanish:

dentista, ciclista, especialista, realista, turista, racista

 

Warning! You will find exceptions but they’ll be mostly words you won’t need for the Camino. So, what are you waiting for to start increasing your Spanish vocabulary?

 

Can you think of any other tips? Please share them in a comment.

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

 

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¡Buen Camino!