Continued from Friday night in Santiago.
When I woke the next morning in my bunk at the crowded albergue, I could not wait to pack up and move to the room I reserved at the Hospedería San Martín Pinario. You never know how a place will be when you book online without seeing the rooms in person, but this place is listed in the Camino guidebooks, and all the reviews on booking.com were glowing (ranking: Fabulous 8.6, Location 9.7). They had me at fabulous!
When I got there, I knew I made the right choice. It is adjacent to the cathedral’s side entrance, just around the corner from the stairwell that the opera singer performed in the day before. Location is everything! There is also something to be said for that feeling you get when you get to stay in a very special place—in this case a sixteenth-century monastery!
Continued from Walking Day 6: Padrón to Santiago.
On May 27th, when I arrived in Santiago after the longest walking day yet, I wrote this on my Facebook timeline, “Friends and family. I made it to Santiago around 2:30 today. I have a heart full of gratitude and a credential full of stamps. Lots of memories. . .”
It was surreal to finally arrive! I kept a lookout for a “Camino de Santiago” sign to signify the achievement with a photo op, but the Portugués route does not have a landmark sign like the Camino Francés has. If I were not so exhausted, I would have stopped in Plaza del Obradoiro and taken a victory shot in front of the Cathedral, holding my backpack high. Alas, the skies were getting darker, and it was starting to rain. All I could think about was finding a bed for the night. I did not book an albergue in advance because I had no problems finding a bed over the past week (now I know better!). Yes, Santiago has many accommodations for pilgrims and tourists, but it was a Friday, and pilgrims were pouring into town to attend the Friday pilgrim mass at the Cathedral.
I stopped in the tourist information center, which was buzzing with excitement. A friendly attendant said that almost every albergue was booked, but she checked and found that there were two private albergues with available beds. She called the closest one, they confirmed they still had one bed left, so she gave them my name and handed me a map to navigate to albergue La Estrella de Santiago. It was about a fifteen-minute walk from the center, north-east of the Parque Alameda. Looking at the bronze shell markers in the stone pavers, that was my victory moment. They read, “Europe was made on the pilgrim road to Compostela.” I have heard this saying before, but it was amazing to see this etched in different languages on my walk to the albergue.
Europe was made on the pilgrim road to Compostela.
This was my official “Welcome to Santiago” landmark. Finally, I arrived. And even though I was exhausted and wet, I was so grateful that I made my 100+ mile journey without injury or incident.
Continued from Caldas de Reis to Padrón
Stage: Padrón to Santiago
For all the modern amenities the Albergue Corredoiras in Padrón has, it lacks in the coffee maker department. Groggy pilgrims were taking turns using a small Italian-style stove-top coffee maker.
Cute kitchen, but they need more coffee makers
In the adorable-but-not-functional Ikea-like kitchen, I looked in every cupboard for a French press, hot water kettle, or even an American-style drip coffee maker, to no avail. I finally got my turn, made a stove-top pot of coffee, and shared it with the Aussies and they shared their milk with me. This coffee was enough to get me out the door. I knew I could get another caffeine fix later.
On my walk through Padrón there were detour signs. I did not think this would add much to the overall kilometers that day, but it ended up being the longest walk yet! Brierley’s guide showed 24.9 km for this stage, but my AllTrails app showed 27.4 km.
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.
A light rain was falling when I arrived in Ponte de Lima around 8 p.m. after my train and bus rides from Lisbon.
A lone kayaker gliding along the river
Approaching the beautiful arched bridge built by the Romans in 1125, I heard jazz playing. I wondered where the sound could be coming from, because the small village seemed rather quiet and empty of people. The music became louder as I got closer to a street light on the bridge, and I realized the jazz was coming from speakers concealed inside the lamppost! I was mesmerized by the beauty and the feeling of that moment—crossing a bridge and being serenaded by jazz. It was as if the Camino had rolled out a welcome mat and said, “Come here child; we’ve been expecting you. You are exactly where you need to be.” Continue reading
You’ve seen my reviews of the backpack I used and the apparel I wore on my Camino Portugués in late May. This post covers the remaining items from my packing list, that is, gear, accessories, and toiletries.
Reflections on Walking the Camino, and Beyond
Reverend Beth Lind Foote is retracing her third Camino on her blog One Footestep at a Time. We met each other at the St. James Day Celebration on July 25th at Newman Hall in Berkeley, an event organized by the Northern California chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino. We chatted about Camino stories and shared some blogging tips while enjoying a lavish potluck lunch with Spanish wine. As Beth said, “It was fun to ‘talk Camino’ and be with fellow Peregrinos.”
Beth intended to walk the Camino Frances all in one go, but ended up walking it in three trips over three seasons, in 2013 and 2015. In her latest post, Beth shares lovely photos of the Mansilla de las Mulas countryside, marvels at an unattended burn pile, and enjoys the “best bed on the Camino.” She contemplates the remaining 18 kilometers until finishing “the missing link.” Continue reading