A little time by the sea

Having left Granada in cold windy weather we anticipated better weather in Malaga. As it worked out we still had breezy conditions, but warmer temperatures, when we stepped off the ALSA bus, and thankfully no rain. Over time the windy conditions moderated and the blessed sunshine warmed us as we explored the old city. It has been great fun catching up with friends from Santiago who have been sheltering here for a bit of the winter. It has been a wonderful whirlwind tour of churches, restaurants, bars, narrow pedestrian alleys, many good chats, lots of laughs, and even a beautiful seafront walk, where the blue Mediterranean sea competed with the azure sky for best of blue of the day. It was all a great joyful experience for Robin and I, thanks largely to the warm hospitality of our two good friends from Santiago. Gracias amigos. Off to Lisbon in the morning and then home to a snowstorm on Saturday. Ugh….But, for now think Spring like conditions in Malaga and let a smile 😊 break through. Malaga will have that effect on you. It certainly did for us.

A side trip to Granada (Andalucía)

We sadly left Santiago last Thursday to continue visiting friends and exploring new areas. Our first stop has been in Granada where we have expat friends from Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately, they live up in the Sierra Nevada mountains and local weather prevented us from connecting. Instead we decided to visit the Alhambra, an Arab fortification and a later palace, which was completed for the Sultan of Grenada in 1333. It is a stunningly beautiful study of Arabic architecture, design, and art. It is all set in beautiful gardens that were not as striking in early February as they would be in the Spring and Summer. But, still worth a visit as the throngs of tourists attested to. Off by bus to Malaga (and warmer, dryer weather 😊) at noon tomorrow.

Hotel courtyard

The journey that never ends

Walking the Camino de Santiago has always has always moved people in different ways. Many people claim a renewed sense of faith, others marvel at the natural beauty they have witnessed, still others blithely check off another hike from some bucket list. Whatever the reasons are that bring people to the Camino one thing is almost assuredly true, they don’t forget it. In fact, I think part of the Camino’s increasing popularity lies with its ability to draw people together both during their time walking, and after they have gone their separate ways. There is this longing to return to that place where we all discovered that life can be much less complicated and yet more beautiful that is so compelling. So, we walk, we discover, we approve, we repeat. Along the way we also try to incorporate as much Camino wisdom as we can into our daily lives at home. A simple formula that often is sadly so hard to get right. Therefore the journey joyfully continues as pilgrims are no strangers to hope.

Camino de comida

Crossing into Ponte Ulla

Mussels in salsa Gallego/Ajada
Leek, salmon and avocado vinaigrette
Grilled cuttlefish
Warm strawberries in an orange, cinnamon sauce
Clams and rice

We are now just one day’s walk from Santiago de Compostela, where we will finish this pilgrimage. It has been another remarkable journey and one that has had many highlights. It is always easy to look to the old friends we have reconnected with, or the new friends we have made, or the beautiful countryside we have walked through when summing up the high points of a Camino. Certainly they were all in play this year as well, but we also found another passion, food.

Robin loves to cook and has wide ranging interests regarding food. Korean food, for her, is first in her heart, but there is room for much more after that. This Camino we were fortunate to discover a number of great restaurants that challenged the belief that Spanish cooking lacks imagination. We discovered time and again great flavorful meals prepared with care and attention to detail. Yes, the typical menu del día, can seem quite uninspiring, but at 10 to 12 euros for three courses including wine or water, it is filling and quite a bargain. However, there is a new world awaiting those who seek just a bit more. This is the space we seem to have moved into on this particular Camino. Today was a great example. We set out walking from the village of Bandeira bound for the small village of Ponte Ulla. This particular stage is one of the nicest ones on this Camino. It is quiet, rural, scenic and a pleasure to be on. It also has another surprise and that is the Restaurante Villa Verde. Once you cross the River Ulla you turn right and go up maybe 100 meters and on the right you will find this gem of a restaurant. We dined here last January as well, and I am happy to announce that the food is still fantastic. The space is clean, the staff is attentive, the presentation is wonderful, and most importantly the food tastes great. So if you need just one more thing to help you decide if walking the Camino is right for you, perhaps the knowledge that a great meal can be found after a hard day’s walk might just be all it takes to tip the balance 😋. Buen provecho and Buen Camino.

Fun in the almost sun

No rain, yippee. Off we went this morning under cloudy skies with no rain in the forecast, and blessedly calm winds. We dropped down onto the river walk for a bit (quite nice) and then popped back up on the 525 where would spend most of today’s walk. It was relaxing (until the traffic thickened up) and enjoyable as we moved on towards Silleda. Today’s walk was just a bit shorter than yesterday’s as we were looking to stay at a hotel we had enjoyed before, the Hotel Via Argentum. We arrived there around 2:15, grabbed a quick shower and headed off to lunch. The 5th floor restaurant offered splendid views of Silleda and the surrounding countryside. We settled in for a nice relaxing lunch. Our waitress couldn’t have been more helpful. We navigated the menu, selected a nice wine and simply enjoyed being where we were. It was another beautiful day walking the road to Santiago.

Pass the pig

Yesterday’s wet weather continued into today, so it was on the road again. But, two factors eased the journey. First, there is an service road that parallels the highway all the way from Rodeiro to Lalín that protects walkers from the heavy highway traffic, and second it was only a ten mile walk.

We had toast and coffee at the Hostal O Guerra in Rodeiro and pushed off uphill to Lalin. As we were just following the road today navigation was not an issue. This was a good thing as gusty winds dogged us for most of today’s walk. I have to admit that combatting the wind was more draining than dealing with the constant rain. Terrain wise it was also quite straightforward. Half the walk was a steady climb and the other half a steady descent. We called into a roadside bar for a coffee break about 6 kms from Lalín. The lady at the bar was quite welcoming and made no fuss as we dropped our wet gear on the floor and happily claimed a table. We were able to get our credentials stamped so we now have our two credential stamps for today. Two stamps a day are required once you are within 100 kms of Santiago, regardless of the Camino you are walking. If you are walking the Camino Invierno that would be from Monforte de Lemos onward.

Once out of the bar and back on the track we made best speed for Lalín where we arrived at the Restaurante Mouriño at 1:15, just in time for lunch. Just a quick word about Lalín and its fascination with all things pork. This is a pig crazy town that has all sorts of festivals that in one way or another promote the consumption of pork. One local favorite, and the reason we called into the Restaurante Mouriño, is a dish called Cocido. It consists of a large platter of boiled potatoes, greens, and chick peas and a second platter of pig parts (don’t ask just eat). It is a hearty fun meal that, due to the broth the veggies are cooked in, is also very flavorful. So if you are ever in this part of the world ask for Cocido, and please pass the pig 🐷.

We finally moved on to the Hotel Villanueva where we are encamped for the night. Robin is enjoying a nice Ribeiro white while tending the spider web of clothes lines (by choice, I might add), and I am in the bar sipping a glass of fine Mencía finishing up today’s blog post. It’s a tough job, but… off to Silleda in the morning. Rumor has it we might even see the sun ☀️. Things are looking up.

Let’s just call it wet

Today we only walked about 11 miles in a little over four hours, but it seemed like it was a lot more. We caught a lift to the tiny village of Penasillás which lies right at the foot of Monte Faro. We stepped out of the taxi into a cold steady rain punctuated with occasional strong gusting winds. It was going to be one of those days. Our very first step was up a steep incline and many other steps followed suit. The road up the mountain for the first part just went straight up, no switchbacks. So we just settled into a slow steady climbing cadence and 1h 10m later we were at the top, soaked with sweat from the exertion. Here we peeled off to the right and walked another 1 1/2 hours along a gravel road paralleling a wind farm. Here the body rocking gusty winds tirelessly tried to penetrate our hard shells seeking our sweat drenched shirts, trying to chill us. We countered by keeping our pace up to keep our cores warm. I just didn’t want to peel off in those conditions and change into a dry shirt. In the end it worked out, but in short it was an exhausting, cold, wet day. By the time we came off the mountain, and dragged into Rodeiro, Robin and I were thankful to call it a day. We are staying at the Hostal O Guerra, a wonderful respite for weary pilgrims. We presented ourselves at the bar (leaving some small puddles), confirmed our room and moved directly to the comedor for lunch. The people who run this place are very kind and gracious innkeepers. We stayed here last year, and once again we have been well cared for. Our room is crisscrossed with drying lines as we try to get ready for another wet day tomorrow. But, as always, we have much to be thankful for. Yes, it was a challenging day, but one that still put a smile on our faces especially as we continued to thaw out in front of the pellet stove in the bar. Food, wine, heat and dry clothes are the touchstones of a happy winter pilgrim, and yes, we are very happy 😃. Off into the rain again tomorrow. Who cares 😉. It will all work out. Closing in on Santiago.