Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 38 Santiago to Finisterre (April 25)

We took the bus for 12 euro each and it took about 3 hours.  It was a nice drive and we welcomed the ocean views.  The bus made quite a few stops on the way, but we weren't in a hurry.    When we arrived we were surprised there wasn't a big bus station, this is the end of the earth after all.  There was an organized run going on so the bus dropped us off on a corner in town.    There were a lot of folks waiting to board the bus.  We thought we'd find the tourist office to get info on accommodations but there wasn't an official tourist office instead we were directed to the albergue which acts as the tourist office.  They were very helpful in recommending the Casa Velay, a nice pension as well as a restaurant.  They also had bus schedules to our next stop, La Coruna.  The double room with bath was 36 euros.  Once we were settled we decided to walk up to the lighthouse.  We ran into Urtzii in town before starting.  The walk was about 6 km round-trip - all on the road.  When we got to the lighthouse the view was wonderful.  I was surprised at how few people were there.  Not many tourists at all.  There were a couple of fires burning so Cullen added our items for the obligatory burning ritual; a sock of mine and his clothesline and clothespins.  When we got back into town we decided to look for the restaurant recommended to us by Jose Andreas, the famous Spanish chef. When we were at his book signing back in December he had recommended that we go.  Turns out the chef at the restaurant is married to the sister of the lady who runs the pension where we are staying.  It was about 1 km, right on the beach.  The name of it is Tira do Cordel.  We didn't have reservations so they seated near the grill where they do most of the cooking.  Of course we loved that!  The food was great-razor clams, a scallop which Cullen thought was the best thing he had ever eaten, and  sea bream cooked perfectly.  The cooking grills were huge and they were built so the chefs could lower or raise them over the hot coals.  The fish was brought in fresh from the ocean.  We also had a great Albarino wine.  When we finished we walked back to town and saw a few pilgrims we had met on The Way (Ramon, Marc, Urtzi, a young German woman).  We chatted with them for a while and had a nice evening on the waterfront.  Thus ended our Camino adventure.  We now begin our tourist adventure traveling around Spain and ending up in Rome.       

As an update we had a chance to check out our photos when we visited our friend Iker in San Sebastian and much to our horror it appears that when Cullen dropped the camera on day 21 most of the subsequent pictures are out of focus. Once we get home we'll post. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wines from Spain

I had wanted to taste many good wines while we were in Spain. Unfortunately I was a bit naive as to what I could accomplish. While walking the Camino, I stayed away from the high.end and middle end wines focused on the vino de la tierra and vino de la mesa. I had many average wine and a few good wines but sorry to say I found nothing spectacular. Then We went to Finisterre and we had our first WOW wine at the restaurant called Tirra do Cordel. The wine was an Albarino called Marques de Vizhoja. The next time we had a great wine was while we were visiting our friend Iker in San Sebastian. It was a txakolii called Txomin Etxaniz. While in Sevilla we decided to eat at La Taberna del Alabardedo, which is also in Washington D C and we tried two wines from Andalucia which were fantastic. We are now in Sanlucar de Barrameda, where we just finished a "private" tour of the La Gitana winery and I must say we were really impressed with the sherries, as every sample we tried came right out of the barrel. We have two more weeks in Spain before we leave for Rome and hopefully we will try a few more outstanding wines. Of course all these "wow" wines I will need to tell my friends at The Wine House in Fairfax, Va, and hopefully they can add them to their wonderful selections of Spaniah wines!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 37 Santiago de Compostela (April 24)

Last night was the most noisy night we've had in Spain. Our room in the Hostal Girasol was on the street side and there were a lot of people partying (pilgrims) until the wee hours. I thought I was done with earplugs but I had to dig them out of my backpack at 2 am. When we got up around 8 we packed up and headed over to the Hotel Windsor where they told us we could store our bags until check-in. We headed back to the cathedral area and had coffee then entered the cathedral to look around before the noon pilgrim' mass, but by this time it was nearly 1000 so we decided to stay for the 10 am mass with the intention of staying for the 1200 pilgrims' mass as well. There were a lot of people at the mass who were obviously with tour groups.  Many of them were quite noisy.  So much so that the priest had to ask for "silencio" several times.   We enjoyed the mass and when they started to swing the Botafumeiro,the the giant incense burner, it was very thrilling for us.


Knowing this tradition has been carrying on since medieval times is very moving.  We thought we'd stay through at least the beginning of the next mass just so we could hear "two pilgrims from the United States walked from Saint Jean Pied de Port", but it was only 1100 so we headed outside thinking we would just head back in at 1145.  When we stepped out there were so many people waiting to get in, we knew there was no way for us to get back in for the 1200 pilgrim mass.  We saw many of our fellow pilgrims (Kaija, Tomas, Enrique, Luis) who were also frustrated at not being able to attend due to the number of tourists.  It is really sad that the cathedral folks do not make some kind of provisions for those pilgrims that have walked long distances.  Missing the pilgrsass just seemed to take away from the Camino experience.  

Afterwards we did some shopping and stopped for a coffee with Patricia and her husband who joined her in Santiago from France.  We returned to the cathedral square we met Duke and while we were talking, Rebecca and Ants arrived in Santiago.  We were so glad to see them!  We walked a bit and found the Three Amigos sitting outside enjoying a drink of herbal orujo, so we joined them.  Afterwards we bought them a sol y sombra.  A religious procession comprising of a band of drummers passed by. It was quite dramatic.  There were a couple of dozen players of different ages, men and women, dressed in white robes.  It was very exciting.  We made plans to visit Tomas and Enrique as we travel through Spain the next 5 weeks.

Next stop is to the end of the earth - Finisterre, but this time we are going by bus!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 36 Arca - Santiago (April 23)

We got up, showered, and were on the road by 8.  We stopped immediately for a coffee.  We saw a few familiar faces on the way ; young Annie and Andy.  The weather is quite overcast and the path is moist dirt - not mud.  Just outside of Arca we had a little bit of an ascent and then we paralleled the airport for a while.  We passed a bar so we stopped for a cafe con leche, as someone mentioned it might be the last place to stop before Santiago.  The way to Santiago is very crowded.  About 4 km from Santiago it started to drizzle.  We walked past a fairly large nature preserve.  As we did we ran into Tomas, Luis, and Enrique.  We walked with them for a while then they stopped for something to eat and we kept going and going and going.  We didn't stop again until we reached the cathedral.  It is a long walk to the cathedral once you arrive in the city. As we got closer we saw the 2 Spanish women.  They had just gotten their compostelas and were so happy.  They told us there was no line.  We saw Urtzi, the young Mexican couple and their friend- all of them had their compostelas and pointed us in the direction of the pilgrim office.  As we worked our way there we saw Dieter.  He was the first Pilgrim we had met way back in Valcarlos and to end our pilgrimage together in Santiago was just perfect.  We had a short celebration and then the three of us went to the pilgrim office together and got our compostelas.  Next we checked our backpacks for 1 euro and got in line to enter the cathedral. We waited for about an hour to hug the statue and see the saint's tomb where we left the prayers and intentions written by our friends and family members.  While we were waiting on line we saw Kaija, our Finnish friend.  Dieter needed to find a place to sleep for 2 nights so we went to the tourist office and they were no help.  Cullen remembered seeing the Pilgrim Travel Center on our walk into the city so we went there and they gave us a couple of places to check and they also told us getting rooms was very difficult because the Iceland volcano had caused a lot people to postpone their departure from Santiago until air travel resumed.  We were able to help Dieter find a place for 2 nights.  We had made a reservation for ourselves for 1 night at the Hostal Girasol, but had trouble getting a place for the second night.  After calling a dozen places we went back to the tourist office and they suggested we go to the Santiago Office of Tourism and indeed they were very helpful in finding us a room at the Hotel Windsor.   Once that was settled we walked around the city and ran into Tomas, Luis, and Enrique.  Tomas suggested we have dinner at the El Pasaje restaurant, which we did.  It was expensive, but delicious and we thought we should treat ourselves and celebrate our successful pilgrimage. Right before we left we saw Tomas, Luis and Enrique come in for dinner. Hopefully they did not spend as much as us!! We're looking forward to attending the pilgrim mass tomorrow.  

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 35 Arzua - Arca (April 22)

We got up around 7 with the group in our room.  I slept - thank goodness for earplugs!  We left the albergue and stopped for a coffee before starting out for the day.  The weather looked cloudy so once again we draped our ponchos over our packs.  We decided to stop at every bar along the way this morning and that may sound like a lot, but it really isn't.  The path itself is just great.  Dirt paths through forest.  Of course there are some muddy parts and some manure, but not much.  We ran into Kaija and 3 others from Finland at the first bar stop.  We ran into Anne the elder German woman  and three Filipino-Americans from Boston at the second bar stop.  At the third stop we ran into the three amigos.  Anne walked with us for a while but she must have stopped for a break.  Just before arriving in Arca there was a tourist office where we ran into Kaija, the young Mexican couple and their buddy.  When we arrived in Arca we saw Urtzi and the 2 Spanish women we've been seeing on and off since Molinesca.  The 3 of them were having foot/toe problems.  We found and checked into our Pension Arca.  We have great double room with bath for 40 euros.  There is a nice kitchen and outside area.  We walked back into town and had lunch at the restaurant right next door to the Guardia Civil building.  We had a very meal with the 3 Amigos which included spareribs.  Tomas treated us to the meal.  We had called Becky when we arrived in town and she called us back and said she was a couple of villages away and would call when she arrives.  When we got back to our room Becky called and she is staying at this pension as well.  She saw Dieter in Melide yesterday so we're hoping to see him today or tomorrow.  We are very excited about getting to Santiago tomorrow but sad at the same time that our pilgrimage will be coming to an end.  We had a nice dinner with Becky at the same place we had lunch.             

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 34 San Xulian - Arzua (April 21)

Got up around 7 and took our time getting ready because we want to stop in Melide for lunch (famous octopus) and since it's only abut 13 km we don't want to get there and have to wait for the place to open.  There are lots more pilgrims on the trail today.  When we started out there was kind of a clump of us. I really don't like starting my day with noisy pilgrims behind me.  Yes there are noisy pilgrims.  Pilgrims talking on cell phones, or talking loudly with each other.  So what I like to do if they're behind me is to just pick up the pace a bit to put some distance between us.  It was looking cloudy today so we draped our ponchos over our packs for easy access.  The trail itself was great today.  Through pine and eucalyptus forests.  Of course the wildflowers are all over!  The cuckoo bird continues calling, I think it's getting on Cullen's nerves (smile).  Today I saw rhododendrons in bloom for the first time which remind me of home in Virginia.  Happy cows are in big green pastures.  It started raining and it rained on and off.  We stopped in Melide and got to the restaurant Exequiel mentioned in the Brierley guidebook and it was already busy.  Saw lots of Pilgrims there including Rudy and Connie.  We had the pulpo (octopus), bacalao, potatoes, bread and vino for two for twenty euros.  The rain contined as we left Melide until we reached Arzua and then the sun came out.  We checked into the Albergue Via Lactea. The proprietors were very friendly, helpful and welcoming.  The albergue itself is quite nice; nice showers, nice outdoor area, good kitchen, Internet and it's close to bars, restaurants and shopping.  We know everyone in our room tonight - Connie, Rudy and their Spanish friends.  We went to the supermarket to pick up a snack.  Arzua is famous for it's cheese-making so we bought some and some bread and wine.  For dinner we went to the Casa Theodora and had a 
nice meal.  As we were leaving we ran into the 3 amigos; Tomas, Enrique, and Luis and it was like running into old friends since we've been seeing them since Fromista.  They advised us to make a reservation for the next town (Arca) which we did.  When we got back to our albergue we found there were now 40 middle schoolers staying here.  Luckily none are in our room.