Thursday, November 7, 2013

November 6th and 7th

6-November-2013 - Porto to Coimbro by train: We walked through a public market in Porto then had breakfast and caught a train to Coimbro and got there around noon. We found a recommended restaurant, O Bizarro, and had goat stew, salad and wine for lunch and then found a small hotel (Hotel Domus). It was a bit old but clean, convenient and inexpensive. We did a self-guided walking tour of the town and university. Coimbra University was founded in the 13th century and is one of the three oldest universities in Europe. The students wear capes on campus! At 6pm we attended a Fado do Coimbra concert in a small venue -- perhaps 25 people and the three performers. Fado is a Portuguese music style (guitars plus vocalist) and the Coimbra style developed at the university over the past 200 years. Then we had dinner at Adega Paco do Conde and enjoyed visiting with the owner.

View of old town Coimbra, Portugal from the river

Coimbra University building

Coimbra University - historic square and student in traditional cape.

Fado concert.

7-November-2013 - Coimbro, Portugal to Salamanca, Spain by bus: We caught a bus at 10:15 and it took 6 hours to reach Salamanca. This is another very old town and has a university dating back to the 1300's. The Plaza Mayor (i.e. city square) is one of the nicest in Spain and we are staying at Pension Los Angeles located right on the square. After getting settled in we walked through the old town and scouted out the things we will see tomorrow, had dinner - tapas at several places.

City square in Salamanca, Spain

View from our Pension room window - Salamanca's old town

City square after dark.

We saw pigs grazing in acorn orchards along the freeway. Above is their eventual destination.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November 4th and 5th

4-November-2013 - Santiago to Porto by bus: Had breakfast at our hotel and 30 minute walk to bus station where we caught the 10am bus for the 3.5hr ride to Porto. Portugal is one hour behind so arrived at 12:30. Took the metro from the bus station to metro stop near Sao Bento train station and grabbed a quick lunch and then walked to nearby Dixo's Hostel. It is in a 5 story narrow old building but very newly painted, neatly decorated and very nice and run by young brother and sister. Unfortunately, it was raining but not too bad. We walked downhill to the river (4 or 5 blocks) and over the bridge to the Port warehouse side of the Douro river (actually a separate town) where all (i.e. 100%!) of the world's port is stored and aged. The grapes are grown 100 miles upstream where the terrain and climate is much different. After crushing and a brief fermentation, alcohol is added to kill the yeast and then the wine is shipped downstream to Porto for aging. We toured the Taylor facility and tasted three different port styles. Then walked back to the train station where the walls of the big hall are covered with hand painted tiles celebrating events in Portugal's history. Dinner was at a place recommended by the hostel and very difficult to find even though nearby. The dining room was interesting and the food good. However, we are unused to dining in this new county so ordered too much food and perhaps the wrong things. It was tasty, local specialties and we had a nice bottle of local white wine.

View of Porto from the top floor terrace of Kixo's Hostel - looking across the river.

View of Taylor port aging warehouse across the river from central Porto. Below is a view looking back across the river towards Porto. The boats were traditionally used to ferry the barrels of Port 100 miles downstream from the vineyards.

5-November-2013 - Sightseeing in Porto: The hostel has free breakfast in the 5th floor dining area so we enjoyed the view while having coffee and rolss. They also offer a free guided walk twice each morning so we did that at 9:45. The tour was excellent (although not quite "free" since the guide works for tips) and we learned a lot that we could not have on our own. After the tour 7 of us had lunch together and sampled the local "guilty pleasure" sandwich called a Francesinha - two slices of white bread with 3 kinds of meat inside, topped with melted cheese, cooked egg and drenched with spicy red sauce and usually served with fries. Then we walked around, saw Henry the Navigator's birth house, churches and museums, had a port wine tasting, visited the Majestic Cafe (along with a famous bookstore we saw this morning, was in Harry Potter books), did a blind tasting of 5 red wines at Touriga wine shop -- wines ranging from 4 to 14 euros and all were good and we each chose "correctly" the best wine. The wine shop manager recommended a neat local neighborhood restaurant, Taberna Sao Anthony, what was filled with locals and had good inexpensive food and wine and wandered back through the mist to our hostel.

A bookstore, considered to be one of the top 10 most beautiful in the world (actuall #3) - used as a setting in Harry Potter novels.

Interior view of tiles in Sao Bento train station

View of Port warehouse area -- all Port wine must be aged here.

City view.

Famous local sandwich - Francesinha.

We tasted 5 local red wines at this shop - Touriga.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 2nd and 3rd

2-November-2013 - Bus trip to Finisterra: WOW - we have gone 44 days without using any kind of mechanical transportation, no cars, buses, taxis, trains, airplanes or even bicycles, elevators or escalators. Today we took the bus from Santiago to Finisterra. It was a slow, windy and beautiful 3 hour long ride with most of it along the Galician coastline. FInisterra was somewhat of a letdown as was the lighthouse at the "end of the earth" but we were glad that we went. We had nice seafood for lunch and a nice dinner at a German place. Our room was on the 5th floor and had a view of the harbor and ocean. We had talked about walking the 20 miles from here to Muxia tomorrow but I've come down with a cough and the long walk doesn't sound so good anymore.

Marker and view from Cape Finisterra, "The end of the earth".

View from hotel window in Finisterra.

3-November-2013 - Finisterra to Santiago by bus: We had a relaxing morning and then took the bus back to Santiago where we bought tickets to go by bus to Porto, Portugal tomorrow morning. We went back to our favorite wine bar, O Biero, where we had Galician Cava (champagne). There was a tour group there from Hawaii and they were quite impressed when we told them that we had walked the Camino. After walking with fellow pilgrims, who are all doing the same thing, it was fun to find someone impressed with what we had finished. We had a very nice seafood dinner.

Waiter at O Biero, our favorite wine bar in Santiago.

Navajas ("knives"), Galician razor clams above and baby scallops below.

Tasty grilled fish - cooked just right!

Day 44 (11/1) - Santiago

Nice to sleep in and enjoy a relaxing morning. Went to the cathedral shortly after 10am even though the pilgrims' mass isn't until 11:30. Today is All Saints Day and a big deal at the cathedral. The archbishop and other "bigshots" are attending and officiating the mass and they will be swinging the botafumeiro! That's a large silver incense burner that they swing back and forth across the nave -- it weighs 70 pounds or so and it takes 8 guys to manage the rope and swing it. We had front row seats and it was swinging past and over our heads and almost to the top of the nave. This tradition is 300+ years old and must have been very impressive to those old time pilgrims. Now they only do it 13 times a year unless someone (e.g. tour group) makes a significant donation. We were so fortunate to see this and lucky to have great "seats". The mass was interesting and I imagine much more elaborate than normal due to the holiday and the fact that the archbishop was officiating. Afterwards, we had lunch and relaxed and then out for dinner. The seafood is awesome in Santiago and the restaurants lively.

The burner would swing almost over our head and up near the top of the nave.

You can see the team of guys working the rope to swing the incense burner high in the air.

The archbishop.

Above and below - two different preparations of small squid - chiparones. One of our favorites and delicious with a bit of lemon and mayonnaise.

Mussels are good here. These are "picante".

These clams are called navajas (translates as "knives") and must be why we call our northwest surf clams "razor clams" as that's how they appear on English menus here. These are shaped like the old fashioned straight razors. Haven't had them yet but definitely on our "to eat" list.

Pulpo - octopus.

Local cheeses called "tetillas" - guess what that means. :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day 43 (10/31) Arca O Pino to Santiago (20km)

Perhaps our last night's stay in an albergue for this trip and not too bad. The "free" breakfast was very minimal and we went out again pre-sunrise. Not as many pilgrims on the trail as we expected and the walk through the forest was very quiet. We stopped and had a breakfast, walked more and had coffee and were surprised that the last half of the walk went soooo slowly. Finally reached the outskirts of Santiago and it was a pretty long walk on sidewalks before we reached the older part of town and finally got our first glimpse of the cathedral. We stopped for a really nice lunch at "la flor" -- ravioli, wonderful rich and creamy risotto and a bottle of white wine. Then on to enter the square in front of the cathedral and that was a very emotional ending to our long journey -- 500 miles and 43 days from when we started in St. Jean Pied de Port. We ran into other pilgrims who we had not seen recently, stood in line at the pilgrims' office to get our certificates and then settled in to our rooms at Hotel Suso that was just down the street and a short walk from the cathedral. We went back to the cathedral and did pilgrim things, toured a nearby pilgrim museum with a neat model of Santiago in the 13th century and then found a wine bar.
They were very nice and we had glasses of nice local white and red wines -- 2 different types of each for comparison. A nearby street was lined with restaurants so we wandered up and down and then found a place for a light dinner. We were pleasantly surprised to see more familiar pilgrims and everyone was so pleased to see each other and to share the feeling of accomplishment.

We decided to stay two nights in Santiago and that Santiago is a fitting end to our walking -- and will take a bus to the ocean and Finisterra. Our bodies are tired but otherwise in good condition so we are thankful for that!

Typical paths for first half of the day - later was sidewalks and city so no pictures of that were taken.

"la flor" - delightful lunch spot just before our destination. Note the "halloween" decorations. Tomorrow is November 1st (all saints day) and we are curious how they celebrate.

Arrival at the square in front of the cathedral. Definitely an emotional moment!

Happy fellow pilgrims!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 42 (10/30) - Ribadiso to Arca O Pino (23km)

It had been awhile since we got up in an albergue. Getting up in a dark room and getting backpack, etc. organized while lights are out and others are still sleeping is a bit of a challenge -- having things organized the previous evening is the key. Anyway, we got things together and went to the bar/cafe across the path and had breakfast and then started walking. It was clear above us and foggy/misty all around -- very beautiful and just the way I like to start my day. We went through Arzua and then stopped for second breakfast after 9km and lunch after 14km. We have been seeing several of our pilgrim friends every day and had lunch and coffee with several of them -- we even caught up again with two Australian women who we had not seen for several weeks ( Glenyce and Dawn from Melbourne). The walk was very pleasant and along quiet roads and paths until the last few miles. Arca is a fairly ordinary city and we checked in to a new albergue (Albergue Cruceiro de Pedrouzo) that is definitely new but may not be a very nice place to sleep - we will know more in the morning. It's hard to believe that we have one more day walking to reach Santiago and I'm not sure how it will feel to arrive. In fact, I think I want to keep walking to the coast.

Starting from last night's Albergue just after sunrise.

Typical morning pathway.

A nice edible mushroom specimen.

30km left and counting!

Reconnecting with Glenyce and Dawn from Melbourne.

The shot glass is a complementary sample of Spanish liqueur.

20km remaining and counting!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 41 (10/29) - Palas de Rei to Ribadiso (26.6km)

We left our pension around 7:30am, grabbed breakfast nearby and hit the trail. Again, it had rained before we got up and we were pleased that it had stopped and the morning was quite nice. The sky was clear and the fog and mist on the fields was quite lovely. We walked 8km and had second breakfast and then continued on another 7km to Melide where our guide book had highly recommended stopping for lunch and having Pulpo a la Gallega -- we were not disappointed. A large plate of octopus was only 7 euro and we added Caldo Gallego soup and pimientos del padrone (roasted green peppers with olive oil and sea salt) along with two glasses of white wine apiece for a total of 21 euro. We had a few small rain showers, stopped again for refreshment and then ended up at Ribadiso. For us, it was a fairly long day, but the path was easy with gentle rolling hills. In Ribadiso, we found private "Albergue Los Caminantes I" so will spend anther night in bunkbeds, something we wanted to do again as that is part of the pilgrim experience.

Early morning mist shortly after leaving Palas de Rei

Morning pathway - typical pathway for much of the day. We also spent time on dirt/stone track.

Typical farm.

Our guidebook recommended that we stop in Melide for Pulpo de Galego (octopus Galicia style) and we were not disappointed. A large plate cost 7 euro.

Pork humor (above!) -- Mike at the 50km marker (below!).