Continued from Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis
Stage: Caldas de Reis to Padrón
After my fifth night in a municipal albergue, I was getting used to the routine of putting my earplugs in to sleep through the “snorchestra.” Municipal albergues are the cheapest accommodations on the Camino: I paid just five euros for the first three nights in Portuguese albergues, and six euros the last two nights after crossing over to Spain. That is just thirty dollars at our current 1.12 Euro-Dollar exchange rate (the best exchange rate I have ever seen!). There is a range of comfort to match every budget on the Camino. I chose to stay in municipal albergues for two reasons: (1) to meet other pilgrims on my short Camino, and (2) because that is one of the requirements of being a hospitalero (volunteer) on the Camino.*
I couldn’t help but wonder what pilgrim life was like on the other side, like staying in a private room with ensuite bathroom and real sheets. Sure I could tolerate the sleeping above a different snoring man each night, but I was getting tired of the odd bathroom situations. The albergue in Caldas had an awkward setup and was lacking in good shower and sink facilities. Everything was shoddy and wobbly. I was thinking about how this would have driven my husband crazy. He grew up working in his Italian grandfather’s hardware store and learned many skills from the tradesmen. He even fixed a toilet in an old hotel room we stayed at in New Orleans!
Albergues are all different, and some are a little on the grungy side. For the low price, you get what you pay for. Nonetheless, Caldas de Reis was a beautiful small village that I would like to return to someday and stay in the hotel with the private thermal baths. Below is a 360° video I shot on the old Roman bridge by the albergue and fountain.
All the locals were filling their big water bottles from that fountain, so I filled mine.
Now, in case you were wondering about the delay in my continuation of this stage, I have a good reason. When I reviewed my Camino photos on my iPad, the only photos from that day were these two below.
Cheeses in a market at Caldas de Reis. On the left, the boob-shaped Tetilla, Galician for “small breast”, which describes the shape of the cheese.
Padrón peppers and pulpo at dinner that night in Padrón.
Gasp! What happened to all the photos I took between these two foodie shots? Without realizing it, a batch of photos from my walk that day did not successfully transfer from my iPhone to my iPad, and I deleted them off my phone to save space for the next day’s walk. Sigh. I scoured both devices hoping that the missing photos would appear. They did not. Yes, I have cloud storage drives for backup, but they require strong Wi-Fi. On the Camino, I relied too much on Apple’s AirDrop which worked perfect for the entire trip, but this was the one time it failed me. Another lesson learned: double check your photo backups!
Sure, I could write an entire post about boob cheese and Padrón peppers, two of my favorite Galician specialties. However, as you know by now, I like to be thorough in my posts and give readers a taste of what life is really like on the Camino. So I accepted my mistake and called on a higher power for an answer. It came to me in the middle of the night. I met people on the Camino who walked that same stage and thought perhaps one of them would be able to email me photos for that missing stage. Bonnie Bloeser, one of the Americans I met at the Parador in Pontevedra, came through! Bonnie is an Adjunct Professor at San Diego State University who was also walking solo on her first Camino. She is a Camino angel for sharing her photos from the very same path I walked between Caldas de Reis to Padrón. Bonnie’s photos brought back memories, for I took some of the very same snapshots.
My walk that day was very pleasant, through more vineyards, small farms, and picturesque villages. I walked for a while with a father and son from Sevilla, Spain, who started from Tui. Later in the afternoon, I met a nice Aussie who was walking with her 70-year-old father, who happened to be way ahead of us! We had a great conversation about the Camino and Australia (on my wanderlust list). She and her father told me about a new private albergue in Padrón that they pre-booked. For 16 Euros, they also do your laundry! I kept seeing signs for this Albergue Corredoiras and thought I would break away from my municipal albergue lifestyle and give this private albergue a try. I was lucky to get a bed when I arrived because the beds quickly sold out. The owner gave me a tour of new facilities, then asked for my dirty laundry. I was happy to comply and gave him everything that needed a wash, including my sleeping bag liner. For that night I got to sleep in cotton sheets on a nice firm mattress in a private cubby with a curtain.
Giddy with excitement about the newness of this place, I took a shower, put on my dress and headed over to explore Padrón. I walked up to the mountain where it is said to be the place where St. James preached. At the top of this peak, there is a pile of big granite rocks with a statue of St. James and a cross. It is the most significant spot on the Camino Portugués and is even featured on the cover of John Brierley’s guidebook.
This photo is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I saw the Aussie and her father, and three of the other American women I met at the Parador in Pontevedra. We were all exhausted from the day’s walk, but so happy to be in this spiritual place. Here is an excerpt from the Brierley guide about the monument to St. James:
Nearby is one of the best kept Santiago secrets and little visited Monte Santiaguiño. Here, legend tells us, is where St. James first preached the gospel message. Standing imposingly above the river it is not difficult to envisage him delivering Christ’s message of unconditional love and forgiveness from this remote and peaceful place. It is accessed, somewhat inconspicuously, between two houses on the road to Noia (just beyond the Fonte do Carme). Adjoining Santiaguiño Mount is the small chapel of Santiaguiño with a stone motif of the apostle baptizing a pilgrim with water poured from a scallop shell. While it is located less than a kilometer from the town center, it is a very steep climb up the stone steps along the Stations of the Cross but well worth the effort to this most significant of Jacobean sites that forms the front cover of this guide. Just as the vast majority of pilgrims (as well as the population at large) believe there is only one Camino de Santiago, they also mistakenly believe that St. James arrived in Spain dead—not alive. They therefore miss, perhaps, the most important part of the Santiago story—his life and teaching rather than his death and burial.
For this reason, I urge all pilgrims, no matter how tired your body is from walking, to climb the mountain and see this monument. I was happy to see that Bonnie made the trek.
I wandered back through town, stopped at a bar for a beer and saw Miguel whom I met in Caldas. He was staying at the municipal albergue and invited me to dinner with another peregrina from Croatia. We enjoyed the namesake of the town, an order of Padrón peppers. I could not believe when the Croatian girl refused to try one! But okay, there was more for Miguel and me to enjoy. We also shared a plate of pulpo and a bottle of red wine.
The three of us went back to the municipal albergue and saw Karin, who had just finished a communal meal with pilgrims there. We had more wine together and caught up with our walks since we last saw each other the day before. Instead of staying in Caldas, Karin stayed in a newly opened albergue all by herself!
I went back to my modern albergue where my fresh clean laundry was perfectly folded and stacked on my bed. I slept like a baby that night in luxury. Here are a few photos from the Albergue Corredoiras website.
I highly recommend staying there, especially if you are tired of the municipal albergues. But make sure you pre-book because there aren’t many beds. Earplugs were still needed, by the way.
I am so grateful for Bonnie’s sharing her photos of this stage. This collaboration is yet another example of the spirit of the Camino, and how the Camino provides.
Up next, Padrón to Santiago.
*According to the American Pilgrims on the Camino hospitalero page, “you must have overnighted in at least three non-private (municipally-, parochially-, or association-run) albergues on the Camino.”