Tag Archives: Spain

Camino Day 38 – Melide to Arzúa: Just another pleasant day

Tuesday 26 September 2023 – Our Cunning Plan for a somewhat later start was, in the end, a sound one, but got off to an unimpressive start. We were assured that Jacotrans, the company which has so effectively and accurately transferred our suitcases from place to place ahead of us, wouldn’t collect until 9am, as opposed to the 8am deadline which other places (and Jacotrans themselves) have specified. So we rose later than usual, but still in time to get our bags down to the hotel lobby at about 8.30. Just in case.

Trouble was, it seemed every other bugger in the hotel decided to take breakfast at the same time. The hotel’s breakfast room is small and was absolutely jammed, making it difficult for punters to navigate the buffet and for staff to keep the buffet properly stocked. It was chaotic and not very satisfactory.

Afterwards, I went out in search of an ATM to replenish our supplies of cash. Conveniently, there was one next door and I returned – triumphant with both cash and the card – at 9am, to see (a) our bags being taken away by a chap with a van and (b) a quiet and peaceful breakfast room.

Ah, well…

As usual, if you’d like to see the summary of the route and pictures, you can watch the Relive video.

The way that WalkTheCamino.com has booked our accommodation is actually, according to our friend who walked the Camino last year and who therefore Knows These Things, a fairly standard tactic among Camino walkers to avoid post-Sarria crowds. An author, John Brierley, sadly recently deceased, has written many books about all the Caminos; his detailed description of the Camino Francés breaks it into 33 chunks, the “Brierley Stages”, which many people use as their guide to planning their daily walks and destinations. The result is that every day, waves of pilgrims start out from each of the start points of the Brierley Stages and, equally, arrive at the destinations in waves. This makes for “pulses” of pilgrims along the way and, apparently, can make booking accommodation more difficult due to the popularity of these particular destinations – particularly from Sarria onwards. Neither Lestedo nor Melide are end points of Brierley stages, and this is the main reason that our journeys yesterday and today were so relatively quiet. Our Cunning Plan of leaving a bit later? Probably irrelevant, actually, in comparison to our location.

Another consequence of the “Brierley Stages” is, of course, the “Camino Family” idea. If certain places are popular to stay overnight and people start out at around the same time each day, then one is almost bound to encounter and re-encounter familiar faces over the days; we’ve certainly seen evidence of this. While we haven’t forged any major conversational bonds since we last saw Lara, there are certain familiar faces as we go along and we do the Very British smile and nod thing to show we recognise them.

The Brierley Stages and the Camino’s own 100km rule also combine in a less positive way. Before Sarria, encountering fellow pilgrims was a relatively rare event, and so the various greetings and wishing of “Buen Camino!” were, it seemed, a reflection of genuine fellow feeling and friendliness. After Sarria, not so much. The number of people on the route means that the “Buen Camino” greeting is used so frequently that I think people do it from a sense of duty, rather than because they genuinely give a toss about the other people. I have certainly practically given up using it, but Jane heroically and stoically takes on “Buen Camino!” duty for the pair of us and I am grateful for that.

It’s similar to our experience walking in England. Out in the country, it’s relatively uncommon to encounter other walkers and the exchange of greetings tends to be cordial, unless they’ve unleashed their dog on you or some such. However, when walking in towns, where there are so many more people, it’s much rarer to be acknowledged by others as you pass.

Whatever, we started out at about 0930 in misty conditions, with relatively few pilgrims about.

We didn’t have the same long periods by ourselves as we luxuriated in yesterday, and it wasn’t long before we caught up with a wave of pilgrims.

However, we were never really bothered by the numbers of people around us, and quite often had the trail almost to ourselves.

All in all, it was a pleasant day’s walk amid the pleasant, familiar but unremarkable Galicia farmland scenery. There were a couple of fairly steep ascents which, gratifyingly, we found were not at all difficult, and, once the mist

had cleared there were some nice scenes along the way.

Pleasant and unremarkable the landscape may have been, but the walk was not without interest. We passed a few noteworthy vignettes: some mischievous graffiti;

the 50km distance marker;

a house with some nice models outside it;

Cunningly used for delivery of the post (left) and bread (right)

retail opportunities beyond simply bars and restaurants;

engaging decoration of houses;

and a (an?) hórreo which was open, displaying what it was being used to store.

Probably the most interesting thing we passed was early on in the walk – a lavadoiro: a public clothes washing place.

You can see that it’s well-organised, with a reservoir of water being refreshed and overflowing into a nearby stream, and a passage around it so people could gain access to the washing stones. We had seen mention of these in descriptions of previous villages and thought of them as relics of a bygone age; so we were amazed when a lady came up with a trug full of clothes and started drubbing away at them.

(She was quite happy to be photographed, by the way, just in case you wondered.)

Just over half-way along our journey, we passed the village of Castañeda,

which – you’ll remember, because you were paying attention, weren’t you? – was the place where pilgrims were enjoined to drop off the limestone they’d picked up in the Triacastela area to be fired to make the lime used in the building of the Santiago Cathedral.

The final village on our route was Ribadiso,

proud owner of a medieval bridge

and an interesting back story.

The Ribadiso da Ponte Hospital, or Santo Antón de Ribadiso Hospital, was built here, beside the bridge, to receive and serve pilgrims, and run by the Franciscan monks before passing into the ownership of Santiago ‘s brotherhood of silversmiths, known as St Eligius. In 1523, the Brotherhood rented the house to Rodrigo Sanchez de Boado, a native of nearby Rendal, for one half silver real a year, with the condition that he keep the buildings in good condition. There are other historical references to the hospital buildings and they were all restored by the Xunta de Galicia in 1992-1993 for use as a pilgrim hostel.

At a guess, this is why Ribadiso is the destination of one of the Brierley stages, but our journey took us on a couple of kilometres further, to the town of Arzúa. The town itself is not particularly prepossessing

but it does have one of the Estrella Holy Year posters

and a few other cute corners.

It also has the very lovely 1930 Boutique Hotel,

which we were lucky enough to be staying in – another excellent choice by the crew at WalkTheCamino.com. It’s delightful inside

and out

with very charming hosts, Adrian and Andrea, who, apart from welcoming us very, erm, welcomingly, mentioned that they also owned a nearby restaurant, Casa Nené, which was still open for lunch!

After a quick refresh in our room, we hied ourselves thither and had a Nice Lunch, which was a pleasant appendix to a pleasant walk.

Our stats for the day: we covered a modest 14.6km, and so now our total distance stands at 769.3km, or 478 miles. Given that the official mileage of the Camino Francés is 480 miles, one is permitted to wonder why our actual is going to exceed the official version. We have taken a few diversionary routes – still official Camino trails but maybe not the exact ones that give this official figure. We should hit the 500 mile mark a couple of miles outside Santiago, which is an invigorating thought.

However, let’s not celebrate until we actually achieve, eh? We still have two stages to go. Tomorrow takes us about 20km to Arca, which is actually one of the Brierley Stage destinations, implying that our last day, Thursday, will be spent elbowing our way through mobs of pilgrims all, erm, hell-bent on reaching Santiago for the prized Compostela. The tension mounts (yes, it does), so tune in again a couple more times to this channel to witness the exciting denouement!

Camino Day 37 – Lestedo to Melide: Just This Day, You Know? (But Nice)

Monday 25 September 2023 – Not a huge amount to report today that’s anything out of the ordinary, to be honest: got up; had breakfast; went for a walk in nice weather; had a late lunch. You can see a Relive video of the day here.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves, because we did. The weather was lovely, with some mist contributing to nice morning views

and the outlook was for sunshine and temperatures in the low 20s. What was really nice, though, was the almost total lack of pilgrims around us when we started out.

There was a group of four as we turned our first corner, but we overhauled them immediately; and there was a couple resting by the side of the track. Apart from that, we had the trail to ourselves, and it was lovely. We think that the reason for this is that the standard destination after Portomarin is Palas de Rei, some 4km further long the Camino than our accommodation.  This seems to have put us between the waves of pilgrims setting out from Portomarin and those setting out from Palas de Rei. If this was the intention of the good folks at WalkTheCamino.com, then they are to be applauded for a very thoughtful piece of planning. Whatever, it meant that the first hour and a half of walking was in the sort of solitude that we’d been used to before reaching Sarria. Wonderful!

We passed another example of yesterday’s Mystery Object.

We were able to get close enough to verify the information provided by a friend that it was, indeed, a water tower; this one appeared to be there to drive an irrigation system.

Palas de Rei

was very quiet when we got there (presumably because the major waves of pilgrims had already buggered off). As we passed the church of San Tirso

we wondered whether it was open, and then heard music from within.

The church was indeed open, and this enabled us to get our first of the two Credencial stamps we need every day between here and Santiago.

Palas de Rei is also known for its statue of Dancing Pilgrims

and we joined in the spirit of joy as we danced along the trail until we caught up with the wave of pilgrims in front of us.

Ah, well…

This section of the Camino is well-served by coffee stops, and we passed a couple by without pausing because we hadn’t walked far enough to feel we qualified for refreshment. But we eventually passed one after about 8km, in a village called O Cotón.

We enjoyed a coffee and shared a Santiago cake whilst watching the queue of pilgrims getting their Credencial stamps from the local church of San Xulián.

The onward track was very pleasant, but quite unremarkable, passing through what is now familiar Galician farmland.  One place we passed

had a very impressive shell decoration on display;

and another village’s name had a familiar ring to it.

“Casanova” is another of those words which sounds much more exotic in Foreign, like Quattroporte or Ferrari. The name of the famous adventurer Giacomo Casanova translates simply to “James Newhouse”.

A noticeboard in the village there showed us that what we had originally thought was a kind of childish mural attempt to represent a pilgrim actually had some official weight.

We once again found that we were almost alone on the trail, which was, again, very pleasant

and the scenery continued to be agreeable.

As we approached a village called O Coto (I wonder if they get many letters addressed to O Cotón and vice versa) we passed a sign publicising a possible coffee stop

which puzzled us for a while. “Café-Bar” is clear enough; but did “ultramarinos” imply that it was a Blues Bar*?  We didn’t stop there, because we were seduced by a prior refreshment stop, where we partook of beer and crisps.

The quiet contentment of relaxing with a beverage in pleasant surroundings was rudely, and I mean rudely, shattered by an Italian woman of a certain age, part of a group of three and owner of a praeternaturally loud voice, who decided to do a video call on her phone. I think this is shockingly bad manners, particularly when conducted at a few decibels above the pain threshold. I was very tempted to stand in her line of vision and video this woman while she was shouting at her phone to demonstrate my anger at her lack of consideration for others by underlining the very public setting for her boorishness. But Jane robbed me of that pleasure by giving me One Of Her Looks.

As we moved on, we passed an interesting vignette

of an elderly lady pushing her own wheelchair, presumably so she could easily take a rest of needed; she offered Jane a lift, which amused both of them. We also passed today’s Mystery Object:

any ideas about why the basket’s wearing a bad wig, anyone? – and our third Matched Pair of Pilgrims

as they crossed the Puente de Magdalena, Spain’s answer to Oxford’s Magdalene Bridge.

We approached the outskirts of Melide, passing a scene which was not particularly rural Spanish

and went through a village called Furelos

before arriving in Melide proper. We had a bit of a drag through the town’s streets, past another Estrella (beer) advertising mural from the last Holy Year,

but eventually arrived at our hotel, the Lux Melide, which is posh enough to have a lift to help us take our bags up to the third floor and sympathetic enough to the needs of pilgrims to have a self-service laundry, so we now have enough clean socks and knickers to last us the rest of our holiday travels. Only three more walks to Santiago, and nine days until we get home, my goodness!

Today’s stats:  we covered exactly 19km today, according to Relive, and so our total has reached 754.7km – 469 miles. The information we have to hand about our remaining walks is that they cover 53km; and the official direction posts back this figure up; so it looks like our total distance will be over 800km. Imagine that!

All in all, we probably spent two-thirds of today’s walk in our own company, which was a delight. Given that the weather prospects for tomorrow are as nice as today’s, the plan is to conduct an experiment. If we start late, the reasoning goes, the bulk of the pilgrims will have left before us and so we might have a chance at more time by ourselves as we walk. The destination is Arzúa, which is only about 14km away, so there’s no time pressure on us. Check back in and find out whether our Cunning Plan actually worked, won’t you?


* Disappointingly, “ultramarinos” means “groceries”.  “Ultramarino” in Spanish means “imported”, “foreign” or “from overseas”. Nope. Still don’t get it.

Camino Day 36 – Portomarin to Lestedo: Up and down

Sunday 24 September 2023 – Even if I was going to feel outraged at the crowds on the piste, at least the weather outlook was OK for today’s walk. We shared a breakfast table and pleasant conversation with two American ladies, sisters from Washington State, before girding our loins and heading out into the throng at a few minutes past eight. You can see the Relive summary of the day here.

The weather gods did their best to protect us from the mob by shrouding everything in fog. We also discovered that the bit of the church that loomed over our hotel’s courtyard had its very own stork’s nest.

Our route took us out of Portomarin via The Other Bridge

(the upper one in the photo, as the lower one appears not to be in use any more, but serves very nicely as a creator of abstract lines for photography purposes) and headed steeply uphill

to get out of town and on the way to today’s destination, which was not actually Lestedo itself, but a tiny hamlet just past it called Os Valos. This appears, from Google Maps, to feature just one establishment capable of providing food, Hosteria Calixtino; our profound hope was that there was a bed for us, too.

The mist was slow to thin, and gradually revealed the expected throngs of peregrinos

including some on bicycles

whom we’ve occasionally seen referred to, rather charmingly, as “bicigrinos”.

Our hearts leapt at one stage when our Google Maps Black Line led us straight on when the hordes swung left; were we to have some quality time in a degree of solitude? Alas, the answer

was “no”, as the stream just debouched ahead of us, having simply been diverted for a short while.

Happily, I felt a great deal less outraged at the presence of the assembled masses than I had yesterday – not difficult, this. I suppose it must simply be that my expectations were more in line with reality. Anyway, the weather was perfect for walking and as we climbed up, the view back into the mist was great.

We noted a lot more British accents among the pilgrims at this stage of the Camino; before Sarria we had hardly heard an English accent, but now there were several Brits taking part. One wonders what to take away from this: are the British too hard-working to be able to take the time off to do the whole thing; are they too poorly-paid to be able to afford it; or are they just lazy buggers?

The scenery was enjoyable to walk through, particularly in the perfect weather we had today. The scenery was in most cases unremarkable, being a continuation of the sights and smells of Galician farmland – careful footwork still occasionally neeeded as we picked our way along the paths.

We did pass a few notable scenes, though: some charming statuary outside a house here;

a traditionally built, slate-roofed building there;

and, as we hit the heights, some nice landscapes.

In the final picture above, we saw a fresh plantation of eucalyptus trees; we saw plenty on the day’s walk, and wondered what purpose these fulfilled. Apparently, the tree was introduced privately in the mid 1900s and subsequently supported by the government as a fast-growing source of timber (e.g. fpr pulp) that deals well with fires; there are worries now that it is spreading and displacing native trees.

The landscape photos above were captured from atop one of the principal Interesting Sights, or even Sites, of the day; an Iron-Age fort called Castro de Castromaior. This was inhabited between the 4th century BC and 1st century AD, and parts have been excavated to show where the buildings originally stood.

Surrounding it is a very obvious ditch and wall

and in the centre is something that might once have been the basis of a tower.  The site is one of the most important archaeological sites in the north west of the Iberian peninsula. The recent excavations have discovered up to three different occupations, the last one being the fortified site, around the beginning of the Roman conquest.

The site is well-signposted, with the distinctive pink signs used in Spain to indicate a site of special interest. However, the hordes of pilgrims just walked past, paying it no attention at all.

Immediately after moving on from the site, we came across a scene that at first looked sinister or worrying – a Guardia Civil van, patrol car and several uniformed officers, surrounded by a crowd of pilgrims.  However, the truth was much less alarming and much more charming – they were stamping pilgrim Credenciales – including ours!

We passed through Ligonde

where there is a building that was once a pilgrim hospital and, a bit further on, a field which was once a pilgrim cemetery

for the times the hospital care wasn’t sufficient, I suppose. And the final village was Portos with a beer stop

named “A Paso de Formiga” – the path of the ants.

A beer was necessary whilst we pondered a significant decision: should we take a diversion off the path to see the church at Vilar de Donas, particularly to look at the 15th-century Gothic frescoes inside it? We’d already covered 21km by this time; did we want to do an extra five – 2.5km to the church and back? The available information about its opening times was conflicting, but we passed a sign to it on the road

with a notice next to it telling us that from Wednesdays to Sundays it was open from midday to 6pm.  So off we went.

The journey to the church was not without interest.  We saw today’s Mystery Object

and would be grateful for any kind of steer as to what the actual heck this is; and an intermediate village even had its own (small) horse racing track!

We got to the church

and inspected its admittedly impressive and artistically significant door

but the fucker was locked. Thrashing seven bells out of its centuries-old, original Romanesque door knocker produced no action, and neither did phoning the number on the adjoining noticeboard (which also contained a duplicate of the note advising us that the church bloody well ought to be open) although Jane did leave a message expressing our annoyance and disappointment.


We wended our way back to the Camino route and completed our journey to our hosteria just in time to miss the lunch service, as we’d been set back over an hour by our abortive diversion. So there was nothing for it but to rest up until we could take an early dinner.

It was a nice dinner, rather than a Nice Dinner, and the service was dispensed with considerable style and élan by a Spanish lad called, of all things, Nelson. After that, all we had to do was to plan for the morrow.

Before that, though, today’s stats.  because of our diversion, today’s walk was, I’m pretty sure, the longest so far;  Relive tells us that we covered 27.3km today, of which around 5 were the fruitless diversion to Vilar de Donas. We therefore have now walked 735.7km on the Camino – 457 miles. We also climbed 603m in total, so got a decent workout as we walked.

Tomorrow, we head for Melide, a shorter walk of around 19km, with less ascent and more descent. The weather forecast is for more great walking weather and I seem to be more at peace with dealing with the masses out there. Tune in shortly to see whether my termperament holds….