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Cycling the Camino de Santiago: Roncesvalles to Santiago

By Guy C., Jun 01, 2012 – Jun 14, 2012

Tour begins in Pamplona - Shuttle to Roncesvalles

Day 1

Jun 01, 2012

It is official! We are underway. We left Pamplona at 3 pm this afternoon and arrived in Roncesvalles around an hour later. After getting luggage into our rooms and changing into cycling gear, we got our bikes fitted out, and then went for a test ride. We were free to ride as we chose, subject to getting back in time for our team meeting, but we chose to take a short climb (about 2km) to a point where we could look across to France. (We could have ridden to France, but would have had a climb of about 3000 feet to get back up.) The bike seems great and I am looking forward to a day of serious riding tomorrow.

After our short ride, we went to the pilgrim office and picked up our pilgrim credentials or passports, as well as our "conchas," the scallop shells that identity the pilgrims. Technically, we are stretching things since we are supported by a van and are not carrying everything that we will need on the journey, but ....

This week we have only five riders, along with our three guides. We will be very well supported! The other four riders are two couples from Ft. Collins, CO, who frequently vacation together.

We will be having our first meeting at 7pm (in about 20 minutes) where we will go over logistics and the details of tomorrows ride. Then we will attend the traditional mass that commences the pilgrimage (very short, we are told) and then dinner.

Along with hundreds of other “peregrinos” (pilgrims), we attended Mass – Catholics and non-Catholics alike – which ended with a blessing of the peregrinos. Suitably blessed, we moved on to dinner.

Our group fit perfectly at a table for eight in a large dining room with several groups of different sizes dining together. We had innumerable first courses, served family style, including white asparagus, a type of pate, regional sausages, croquettes, squid, salad and a couple of things I have probably forgotten. For entrees, we had a choice of peppers stuffed with cod (delicious) or a duck confit, followed by a choice of desserts. I had the flan de cuajada, similar too but not exactly the same as the traditional flan. It, too, was excellent (I think it may be the same dessert I enjoyed on our Barcelona trip in 2003.)

After dinner we briefly went over tomorrow’s route. While the walking peregrinos go straight through Pamplona, we will give it wide berth on our way to Puente la Reina. We will do 48 miles with just under 2500 feet of climbing. Upon arrival, I will pick up this narrative. But now, it is bed time.

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Roncesvalles to Puente la Reina

Day 2

Jun 02, 2012

I am still not sure if I will have WiFi tonight, but I
will write this knowing that it will get posted sooner or later. We had a good breakfast at 8:30 followed by our safety briefing and some last minute preparations, so it was about 10:45 by the time we hit the road. Traveling conditions were excellent. It was warm, but not too hot; sufficiently overcast to shield us from the sun, but not to make the day gloomy. A chance of rain was in the forecast, but we never ran into it.

At Santa Maria de Eunate
The ride trended downhill, although there were two short easy climbs. The roads had little traffic and lots of pleasant scenery. The only real stop en route was at the small church, Santa Maria de Eunate. This is one of the most important Romanesque monuments in Navarra. It was closed when I arrived, but the caretaker opened it for a few minutes for me and the four other pilgrims that were there. I had an opportunity to chat with a Dutch woman who was cycling the Camino with her husband. They had started in Holland three weeks ago, and estimate another three weeks to finish.

From there it was a short hop to Puente la Reina, our stopping place for the day. I arrived some time after two and was ready for lunch. They offered six tapas for 10 Euro – that was more than enough food, and it was absolutely delicious. I shared a table with another woman pilgrim from Holland – this one traveling on foot. She also started her home, and has been walking for a few weeks already.

We were told this morning that there would be lots of opportunity to meet and talk with people from all over the world. This is certainly proving true. One thing that surprises me however has to do with the local cyclists (not the peregrinos). At home, we commonly wave to a cyclist heading in the opposite direction and get a return wave. Here, I have found that only about one in three or four cyclists returns this greeting. Cycling pilgrims, however, are invariably friendly, even when we only have a few words in common.

To properly complete the camino, you are supposed to get at least one passport stamp per day from one of the many places along the way. In addition to the one that I got last night when I picked up the passport, I got three more today – at last night’s hotel, at Santa Maria de Eunate, and at the pilgrimage hostel (“alburgue”) here in Puente Reina.

Dinner is at eight tonight, so I have almost three hours to see if I can find an internet connection to get this posted.

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Puente la Reina to Laguardia

Day 3

Jun 03, 2012

Today was a fantastic day, and at 10:30 in the evening, I am not sure how much of it I will be able to describe. but first, a brief note about last night. After yesterday's ride, I washed out my cycling clothes and put them to dry outside my window. They were almost dry by dinner time, but I decided to leave them where they were. Of course, it rained while we were at dinner -- back to square one. (They actually finished drying pretty well by morning.)

Today was a 53 mile ride with 4,740 feet of climbing, most of it in one long hill. Although long (about 15 km), it was not too steep. Most of the time it was at 7% or less, with a few pitches at 10-12% (all this assumes you believe the Garmin GPS on the bike). The scenery was fantastic, and the weather was generally cooperative. For most of the time we had a good cloud cover which protected us from the heat and sun, but the sun seemed to come out just at the right moments, such as when we visited the monastery in Estella and during lunch at Santa Cruz.

The first major stop was the Monastery of Irache, a 12th century Benedictine Abbey.. Before visiting the monastery, we had to stop at the famous "Fuente de vino," the fountain which dispenses wine (courtesy of a local vintner) instead of water -- "to provide strength to the pilgrims for their journey. [We have now entered the famous Rioja wine district of Spain.] We then spent some time touring the impressive monastery and adjoing cloisters.

We stopped for lunch at Santa Cruz and ate light since we had the long climb ahead of us. We bellied up to the bar, ordered one or two tapas apiece as well as something to drink, and then took the food outside to relax for a few minutes.

After the aforementioned climb, we had a magnificent descent on a beautifully paved rode with no traffic and superb vistas. Another short climb brought us to the town of Laguardia in the hear of the Rioja Alavesa wine region. We were treated to a special winery tour of the Bodega Carlos San Pedro. Our host provided a most informative presentation. The town of Laguardia has 300 caves all designed for wine storage -- practically one under every house.Most of our tour was in the cave.

Our hotel is in a "castle," constructed in 1932 from stones taken from a much older castle torn down by its rich and eccentric owner (at least, that is how I understand the story). The room are exceptionally well appointed (unlike last night's accommodations which were adequate, but sparse).

Tomorrow will be a shorter ride -- about 29 miles, and relatively flat.
We have five riders (Pat and Larry, Mary Kay and Bob, and I) this week, as well as three guides (Belen, Philipp and Enrico). Next week, we will be joined by four more riders.

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Bicycle Laguardia to Santo Domingo

Day 4

Jun 04, 2012

Since today’s ride was relatively short, we took our time in the morning. After a leisurely breakfast (see photo in previous post), we took a walk around the walled city of Laguardia. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk the entire perimeter, but the views are impressive in every direction.

It was about 10:30 when we set off at a leisurely pace. Not far into the ride, we found the police operating a sobriety checkpoint. Apparently some of the winery tourists get a very early start.

We stopped in the small city of Haro for a leisurely coffee and enjoyed a variety of cookies that Philipp and Enrico had bought the night before in Laguardia. We sat on the terrace at Café Suiza and simply enjoyed the beautiful day. Incidentally, the weather was perfect – sunny, but not hot. At Haro, and then again at a smaller town, I saw storks who nested atop churches. Apparently we will see lots more along the way. (I don’t think that I have ever seen a stork in the wild before.)

From Laguardia to Haro, we were riding primarily through vineyards. The “bodegas” or wineries were of varied and very elaborate architecture. After leaving Haro and crossing the Ebro river, the agriculture was varied, although most of it was wheat fields. Along the way, we spotted several small cities and villages, each clamoring to have its photo taken.

We arrived at tonight’s destination, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, in time for lunch (by Spain’s standards), but I decided to skip it in light of the cookies and coffee in Haro. Around five, I decided that I needed a little ice cream to tide me over until dinner at 8:30 this evening.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada has a famous legend going back to the early 12th century. The following version is taken from our daily ride sheet:

A family of German pilgrims was spending the night in Santo Domingo de la Calzada when the innkeeper’s daughter propositioned their son. The son spurned her and the embittered young woman took revenge by arranging to hide some of the church silver in the young man’s pack. The next day she notified the authorities, who arrested the pilgrim and found the silver. The young man was hanged for theft. When the family returned from Santiago, they stopped in Sto. Domingo to pay their respects to their dead son who was left hanging as a warning against sin. But when they approached his body, they found him alive, exclaiming that St. James saved him from death due to his innocence. The parents ran to tell the mayor that their son was still alive. The mayor, about to enjoy a chicken dinner, scoffed at the news and said the boy was no more alive than the chicken he was about to eat. Naturally, the chicken sprang to life and ran away cackling.

You can still find live chickens in a glass-encased chicken coop inside the cathedral, which I visited this afternoon. Legend has it that they are descendants of the original. I visited the cathedral this afternoon and saw the chickens. The cathedral also has a fascinating museum.

I wonder what we are having for dinner tonight.

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Santo Domingo to Burgos

Day 5

Jun 05, 2012

Now, to the chronicle of another superb day. The ride was 56 miles with 3763 feet of climbing. I took off a little before the rest of the group and spent the morning riding solo and simply enjoying life. To borrow a phrase from my friends from Fort Collins, I found a "happy gear," put my legs on autopilot and just enjoyed the ever-changing scenery. For the most part, we were cycling through wheat fields although we passed extensive acreage devoted to peppers and other crops. Since we had a stiff breeze, all day, I gained a new appreciation for the phrase "amber waves of grain." Of course, at this time of year, they are green, but the breeze blowing through the fields created the beautiful illusion of waves.

As we entered the province of Burgos, I was struck by the immediate change in the quality of the road. We went from superb pavement with good shoulder to relatively bumpy road with no shoulder, and then to a stretch of construction for a few miles. After that, the roads improved considerably.

First stop of the morning was the town of Belorado where I got my passport stamped and then stopped at a small market for a chocolate bar and some bananas which I intended to be my lunch. Next stop was the small church of San Juan de Ortega. I got another passport stamp, took some pictures and was about to eat my meager lunch when I saw the rest of our group who had brought along a substantial picnic (also purchased in Belorado). My chocolate bar was now chocolate soup, and I was glad to join them for a lunch of varied meats, cheeses, breads, peppers, olives, and fruit.

After lunch, we had less than 20 miles of gently rolling road to Burgos (except for one short and very steep hill). The entry into Burgos can only be described as spectacular, as the cathedral came into view. It is a real treat to have a hotel room with a window facing directly onto the cathedral. After showering, I toured the cathedral which is simply breathtaking.

The entire group convened in front of the hotel for a quick briefing on tomorrow's ride (even longer), and then adjourned to La Mejillonera for some appetizers of mussels. This was a fun adventure. We sampled mussels prepared in several different ways -- simply steamed with lemon, "marinera" (with a garlic sauce of a creamy texture), picante (with a spicy red sauce), and with vinegar, oil and chopped peppers.

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Burgos to Carrión de los Condes

Day 6

Jun 06, 2012

We have seen windmills everywhere in Spain, and today was proof that they have been a very great investment for the people of Spain. We had strong headwinds all day, except for the last fifteen miles or so when we had strong side winds. The ride was almost exactly 100 km (62 miles) with about 3200 feet of climbing. Fortunately the climbs were not steep at all, but the wind added to the level of difficulty. Nonetheless, we all finished together in reasonably good time.

Our hotel is a converted Benedictine monastery that dates back at least to 948 A.D.! It is very well appointed and has some beautiful commons rooms, such as the dining room where we had dinner tonight. Philipp, one of our guides gave us an overview of the history and architecture of the monastery and the church that is here.

We left the province of Burgos today and entered Palencia (not to be confused with Valencia, an entirely different area. For a good part of the day, our route was the same as, or parallel to, or criss-crossed the route used by the hiking pilgrims, so we saw many of them. We also saw our first pilgrims doing the Camino on horseback. Many of the peregrinos do not stay in nice hotels as we are doing, but in "alburgues," which are simple and relatively inexpensive shelters. Because of the large number of people doing the Camino, there is a priority for obtaining one of the available spaces in these shelters -- first the walkers, second the bicyclists, and third those on horseback. (In many cases these are not feasible for those with horses because of the need to shelter and feed the horse.) Many of the shelters fill up early in the afternoon, so we see far more hikers in the morning.

We stopped twice today -- once for coffee in the morning at Hontanas. While there we saw an interesting phenomenon (which we also saw a couple of other places). A vendor of a certain type of food -- a butcher, or a vegetable seller, or a person selling bread and eggs, will enter town in his small truck, with his horn blaring to announce his arrival. Because these villages are too small to support a full time grocer, seller of fruits and vegetables, or bakery, people will come out and buy from the mobile seller. So, in Hontanas, for example, we saw a woman come out with her egg carton and buy 10 eggs, the owner of our cafe came out to get butter, and another cafe owner came with two large paper bags to lay in his store of bread.

The second stop was originally planned as a very quick "see if we can get our passports stamped" visit, but we ended up buying a few sandwiches and tarrying a while before heading back into the wind. Fortunately we had good cloud cover all day, and the temperature was actually quite cool. I did not take my jacket off until 1 pm -- it was simply too cold (especially with the wind) before that.

514 kilometers to go (more or less)
Tomorrow's ride is another long one -- 110 kilometers -- that will take us to Leon. We will have our only rest day after arriving there, and will also pick up and additional four riders who will be with us for the remainder of the Camino.

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Sahugún to León

Day 7

Jun 07, 2012

Once again, an easy winner for the photo of the day. (Doubly easy since I didn't take many today). When we began the tour, we were each given an Experience Plus hat. Our objective is to find someone along the way to give the hat to -- someone who would enjoy it, who would share a special moment with us, and who would pose for a special picture. The recipient of my hat today was the adorable proprietor of the small cafe in El Burgo Ranero -- she was just full of life and really enjoyed serving us a memorable lunch of tapas (the sardines with onions were great), olives, and french fries!!

Our first coffee stop was at Sahagun. They were barricading the streets, in preparation for the running of the bulls. I think we were all surprised to find that Pamplona is not the only place where this tradition is carried out.

The ride will be memorable for a long time because of the wind. Philipp, who has done this tour many times, says that it was the windiest that he has ever seen it on this stretch. It was a long stretch, too. We rode about 66 miles with a headwind or strong side wind for the entire distance, except for one quarter of a circle as we went about a roundabout. Because of the wind, we rode in a close pace line almost all of the day -- not for speed, but to protect some of the riders from some of the wind some of the time. No one would mistake us for a breakaway from the Vuelta de Espana, but we got the job done, arriving in Leon around 5:30pm. On the way in, we passed the Cathedral -- another magnificent edifice -- which we will tour tomorrow. In the meantime, we have checked into another great hotel.

Hotel NH Plaza Mayor, Leon

As were about to set out for dinner, we met two of the riders who will be joining us for the second week of the tour: "Siggy" and his daughter Edda from Iceland. They joined us for a pleasant dinner at El Llar, where we all shared first courses of Serrano Ham, crogquettes, and baked potatoes stuffed with mushrooms. All were excellent. For a main course, I had the specialty of the house which was a dish of codfish cheeks with mushrooms, red peppers and small potatoes. It was superb.

And now, at 11:30, off to bed. Thankfully, tomorrow is our rest day, so I can sleep in.

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Rest day in León

Day 8

Jun 08, 2012

I slept in until 8:30 this morning, and it really felt good. After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, I caught up on email and so forth until it was time for our guided tour of the Cathedral. We had a local guide who gave a very detailed and fascinating presentation on the Cathedral as well as the Church of San Isidoro and a Gaudi building which we also visited.

The Cathedral in Leon is the greatest in all of Spain in terms of its stained glass, and second only to Chartres in France in this respect. Some of the stained glass is currently being cleaned -- a project that began in the late 1990s. To clean the stained glass, it must be removed temporarily from the Cathedral. At this point, no one knows whether there will be enough money to finish the entire cleaning. Other restoration works are in progress as well. It is hard to believe that the entire Cathedral was built in less than a century.

After a visit to the nearby Church of San Isidoro, we passed by one of only three buildings outside of the Catalan region designed and built by the architect Antoni Gaudi. (Kathleen and I had visited his famous Sagrada Familia (still unfinished) and Gaudi apartments in Barcelona on an earlier visit to Spain.). Here you see the building, now occupied by a bank, as well as me sitting on a bench with Gaudi himself.

The city is very quiet now, since it is siesta time (generally about 2pm to 4:30pm). The streets are nearly deserted, so I took advantage of the quiet to come back to the hotel and catch up on this blog. Who knows -- I may even take a nap before our evening meeting and dinner.

A word about the passport that I have mentioned in many of these blog entries. At the completion of the journey, a pilgrim who has walked or ridden on horseback at least the last 100 kilometers, or bicycled at least the last 200 km, receives a certificate or "compostela." The proof of completion is the passport which you can get stamped along the way at principal churches monasteries, alburgues, as well as many hotels and cafes. You need at least one stamp a day, but this is not difficult. As you can see, mine is nearly full.

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León to Astorga

Day 9

Jun 09, 2012

We awoke this morning to find the Plaza Mayor in front of our hotel converted to the weekly (or is it twice weekly?) market. The entire square was filled, primarily with sellers of fruits and vegetables, but also a rank ot trucks with fresh meats, cheese, and fish. Since we were not going to start cycling until 10 am, we had time to explore the market and take a few photos.

Pimientos frescos

The ride today was almost like another rest day. We did only 40 miles, with very little climbing, almost no wind, and lots of cloud cover. There was one fairly long stretch as we finished our crossing of the meseta with almost nothing but trees, and then the remainder of the trip was a series of villages all very close to each other. Along the way I saw several fields with a crop growing on strings attached to very tall poles. I think this was probably hops -- it looked just like the hops fields in the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. (Much of the this trip has reminded me of Eastern Washington, especially the wheat fields.)

We did have a very pleasant coffee stop in Hospital de Orbigo next to the medieval bridge (sombe original, some reconstructed) across the Orbigo river. This bridge figures in the Don Quixote folk traditions of Spain. It was quite cold today, so we had our coffee and croissants indoors.

We are in the town of Astorga, staying at an excellent hotel/spa. Since I have a massage scheduled in ten minutes, I will pick this up later.

The massage was wondeful! Too bad that we don't have this option every day. For half an hour she worked on my habitually painful shoulder, as well as the quads. I feel great now, if a little tired.

Back to Astorga. It is not clear why this town sports a new and well-appointed spa hotel such as ours. This is the first time that Experience Plus has used it, but it seems great. The room is ultra modern -- it took me several minutes to figure out all the controls on the shower!

This town has another of the Gaudi buildings outside of the Catalan region. This one is a bizarre "Bishop's Palace," built for a local bishop. The locals so disliked Gaudi's design that the controversy brought construction to a halt for over 50 years. It was finally finished in 1963 and today houses a fascinating museum dedicated to the Camino pilgrimage route. There are an astonishing number of paintings and statues dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Next to the Bishop's Palace is the Cathedral with its own museum. I had time to visit both before returning to the hotel for the massage.

In Astorga

Another Pilgrim in Astorga

It is almost time for our evening meeting and then we are on our own for dinner. Last night's dinner was a welcoming dinner for our new riders and was a marathon affair. We got the restaurant to seat us "early" at 8:30, and the food was still coming at 10:30. Just one delicious course after another. I have a feeling that I will be very unhappy when I get on the scale at home. But until then, life is great....

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Astorga to Cacabelos

Day 10

Jun 10, 2012

First, the numbers: 399.24 miles pedaled so far. Four more days to Santiago. 146 pictures taken today. 47 miles biked today, including 3772 feet of climbing and a whopping 5029 feet of descent.

We had a long and relatively steep climb up the Montes de Leon where we encountered the Cruz de Ferro. Those who have seen the movie The Way will recognize it. This is the place where pilgrims heap stones (representing the weight of the sins they are carrying) at the base of the cross. We each picked up a stone early in the morning to leave here.

This was another windy day, but fortunately we avoided rain. Philipp, the guide who went out early and marked our route today, was not so lucky. He encountered heavy rain.

Our descent after leaving the Cruz de Ferro was quite difficult because of the large amount of sand and gravel on the road (due to recent repaving), and the heavy winds. We all made it safely, however.

I mentioned the movie, The Way(theway-themovie.com/) Along our "way" today, we met an older man who
had a bit part in the movie (he claims). He was selling small wooden shells that he had carved. We all bought one from him.

We have a group dinner tonight,

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Cacabelos to O'Cebreiro

Day 11

Jun 11, 2012

Today’s ride was short (just 24 miles), but dominated by a sustained climb, which brings us into the province of Galicia We gained just over 2000 feet of elevation in the last five miles, which averages out to a 7/5% grade for the whole stretch. Parts were considerably steeper. I think mathematical principles would require that some parts were also less steep, but I don’t remember them.

The weather was changeable, but we had rain more often than not. I wore a full rainsuit most of the time. Just to make it interesting, we also had some wind, although not sustained. Even with the rain, the views were spectacular. I did not get a lot of pictures because (1) the cameras were sheltered from the rain and hard to get to, and (2) I didn’t want to interrupt the climb too often for fear that I might not have the will to start again.

We finished up at O’Cebreiro (elevation approximately 4300 feet), where Spain’s first snowfall of the year is usually reported, often as early as September. With the wind and rain, it is quite chilly. There are fires in the fireplaces and we have heat in our Spartan rooms. The restaurant attached to our lodgings has a delicious “Caldo Gallego,” a hot soup of potatoes and some green leafy vegetable (kale?) – it really hit the spot today. Accompanied by an order of freshly cut french fries I have enough sustenance to hold me until supper.

This small and isolated village is quite charming. It has only 21 residents, but has several small places offering accommodations and meals, as well as two stores with lots of souvenirs for sale. There are several pallozas (mortarless) stone huts with thatched roofs, a style of architecture used by the Celts. A Franciscan monk sits in the small church, interrupting his meditation as need to stamp the passports of the peregrinos.

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O'Cebreiro to Portomarín

Day 12

After yesterday’s tough ride ending in the long climb in the rain, I slept wonderfully, and awoke to – more cold wet weather. I dressed with multiple layers and all of my foul weather gear and set off in the fog. Throughout the day we had a mixture of weather. We had occasional sprinkles, but no real rain; we had fog which made the wet weather gear useful, and (near the end), we had wind.

In this first picture taken shortly after leaving O’Cebreiro, I am standing with bronze sculpture of a larger than life pilgrim. Notice the amount of clothing. It was taken for me by a Japanese pilgrim; of course, I took one for her with her camera as well. There is a universal language for “will you take my picture, please?” which needs no words. We use it often.

Today had a lot of climbing – over 4600 feet, but nothing really difficult. Most of it was “rolling,” although tougher than what we usually consider to be “rolling hills” because of the length of both the descents and ascents. The momentum from the downhills doesn’t last long enough to be of much help on the uphills.In fact, in Spanish they call them “rompepiernas,” or “leg breakers.” After a pleasant lunch in Portomarin, we had a sustained climb for about seven miles, but it wasn’t too steep. It was just a matter of grinding it out and hoping that the rain would not return – by now we had shed most of our rain gear and maybe an extra layer as well.

In Portomarin

Portomarin would normally have been the end of the day’s ride, but because they were unable to book hotel rooms there, we continued on to Monterroso which is good for two reasons. First, we have the long climb out of the way, and won’t have it to start with tomorrow. Second, we are staying in a delightful “casa rural” where we are experiencing the true Gallician countryside. This small complex of four buildings used to comprise an entire village. The old buildings have been beautifully restored. On our way in, we had to stop and wait for a small herd of cattle to pass along the side of the road.

Our Gallician dinner was combined with a birthday party for Larry. It was a festive affair with huge quantities of food. For starters, we had an excellent tortilla (typical Spanish omelet with potatoes), jamón, salad with wonderful fresh tomatoes and lettuce, crusty bread. The next course was an array of grilled vegetables. This was followed by roasted chicken, Gallician style. We then had the typical “tarta de Santiago” (purchased by our guides in Portomarin) as Larry’s birthday cake. This gluten-free cake is made solely from almonds, sugar and eggs. It was excellent. Then we had the planned dessert of a local flan. Finally, an after dinner “witches brew”which had been flaming on the side board for an hour or so was served (after appropriate ceremonial incantations read by Belen). This consisted of a grappa-like drink in which lemons, oranges and coffee beans had been soaking. The Gallician name for this is “queimada.”

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Portomarín to Touro

Day 13

Probably the best day yet. I have to say “probably” because each day has been special with several great moments. But today had it all, with great weather, beautiful scenery, roads that seemed to push the bicycle along, and a very special lunch.

Because it was a short day, we enjoyed a late breakfast and a leisurely pace, mostly along small country roads. Our lunch target was Melide, and we were concerned about arriving too early because yesterday’s extended right took several miles off what would normally be today’s ride. Normally it is hard to find a place serving lunch before noon (often much later). But when we hit Melide shortly after 11, our target, the Pulperia Ezequiel, was open and starting to handle the luncheon rush.

What’s the big attraction, you ask? Octopus! Pulpo is octopus, and pulperia is a restaurant specializing in octopus. Somewhow, all the pilgrims hear about this place, and all find it a “must.” Even those who have never tasted octopus try it and fall in love with the delicious, tender morsels. Trust me, when you are in Melide, you must eat here and try it.

After lunch, we had three short climbs through increasingly rural farm country, until we arrived at our lodging for the evening, a traditional country house (similar to a B&B). This one is a restored manor house from the 16th Century. It has a small chapel (apparently no longer used) which is now being used to store our bikes.

Tomorrow’s ride will be even shorter, and will take us to our final destination – Santiago.

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Arrive in Santiago de Compostela

Day 14

Jun 14, 2012

As you can see from the photo above, we have arrived safely in Santiago. We are standing in front of the cathedaral (partially obscured by a few raindrops on the camera lens).

Today's ride was only 25 miles, with some modest climbing. However, we had "Seattle rain" most of the morning, necessitating rain gear most of the time. We grouped at a cafe a couple of miles from the Cathedral so that we could navigate the city as a group.

Our first stop was the pilgrim office where we produced our stamped passports, and received our compostelanas -- the certificates (in Latin, including our names) attesting to our successfully completing the pilgrimage along the way of Saint James -- the Camino de Santiago. We then had a brief visit to the cathedral, including a walk behind and above the altar where we could touch the statue of St. James which adorns the altar, and then below the altar where St. James is entombed.

We then adjourned to the hotel (nice and modern again), said good bye to the bicycles that served us so well and prepared for our final day together. We have a group dinner tonight and then go our separate ways after breakfast tomorrow. For most of us, tomorrow will include the Pilgrim's Mass at noon (Larry and Pat have an early flight tomorrow, so they biked to Santiago earlier than the rest of us, and attended the Pilgrim's Mass today).

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