Sunday May 8: Portomarin
Our First Day’s Walk
The taxi was scheduled for 8:30. I scheduled breakfast for 7:30. I wanted to get prepared for the day before breakfast, so I set the alarm for 6:10. This might have been a touch early.
I was sleeping soundly when the alarm went off, but I got up and took a shower. We then prepared for the day.
We went down for breakfast a bit before 7:30, but they were not ready yet. We wandered outside. It was rather foggy, and the sun was barely up, but it was hard to tell from the fog/overcast. We went up to the wall to see the sights, and we saw a jogger going along the wall.
We came down and had breakfast. It was the typical European one, which we are not fans of: cheese, sliced meat, bread. They did have yogurt, which I had, and a box of Special K cereal. It was a rather dry and unimpressive meal. I had a banana (the most yellow one I could find) and took a granola bar for a snack.
Sam had already gone up to the room. I went up there myself, brushed my teeth, and did final packing. I was just about to do the final check of the room, when the phone rang. It was the front desk telling us that the taxi was there.
We went down and loaded up the taxi. He would drop us off on the Camino and then continue on to drop our luggage off at the next hotel.
The courtyard of the hotel was interesting. They had various planters (some large ones with trees) set up, along with tables and chairs. They then put a number of mannequins in various poses around. At night, they apparently pull all of the tables and planters into a corner, and then chain a fence around them. I'm not sure how they move the large planters.
The taxi drive was uneventful. I spoke more Spanish than the driver spoke English, which isn't saying much for his English.
He dropped us off at the start of our portion of the Camino. This is a popular starting point. To get official credit, you have to walk at least the last 100km of it, and this is the first big place after 100km (actually about 110-115km from Santiago).
I thought that there might be something memorable there, but no. There was just the Camino crossing a street, and he left us off there. As he was driving off, I felt sort of like I did when I started the 3-hut hike in the White Mountains, and Amy drove off. I thought that there goes most of our belongings, everything that isn't on our backs. We are sort of committed to getting to the next stop now.
Of course, we aren't. We could always bail, order a taxi, and get over there that way, but this is sort of what it felt like.
The way led out of town, across an old stone bridge, and then into rolling hills of farmland. Near the beginning, we had to drop down into a valley, and then a short while later climb out of the other side.
I was glad for the early morning and the lack of sun. Climbing out of the valley warmed us up, and a short distance later we took off our outer layer down to a tee shirt. At this point, there were lots of people, speaking many languages, and going at various paces. I briefly chatted with a group that spoke English. One guy was from the UK, the other was from Canada, and the third guy was Polish.
I had been hoping that there might be other people doing the same tour from the same company as we were, so that we could hang out together, but no such luck. We briefly chatted with two older ladies (Mary and Peggy) from the US. They were part of a larger group. We chatted briefly, but they were more interested in talking with each other, and they were going at a slightly faster pace than us, so it didn't last long.
At one point we heard a cuckoo out in the trees, but while we heard a lot of birdsong, we rarely saw the birds.
The trail is incredibly well-marked, and between that and all of the people going in the same direction, it was about impossible to miss the path.
We passed a number of places where you can get your Camino passport stamped. These places typically also offer food (for a price) and a selection of Camino-related trinkets. A shell to put on your pack is common.
Around 12:30, we reached one such place. Sam wanted to eat lunch there. I thought that we were not yet half-way, and it was early for lunch by Spanish standards, but when I sat on the bench, I suddenly got a bit dizzy. (I'm guessing perhaps low blood sugar.) I ate half my granola bar to tide me over, but then I reconsidered. Sam was hungry, I was a bit dizzy, and this seemed like about the nicest such place we had seen. So we went in and had lunch.
In the Spanish style, we opted for the meal of the day rather than just a sandwich. I got a soup while Sam got a salad. We both had fried chicken breast with fries, and then a chocolate tart for dessert.
The chicken was sliced fairly thin and fried. Mine was fine, but Sam's was a bit tough/chewy, so Sam gave up about 3/4 of the way through.
Lunch lasted about an hour.
I thought that we were early by Spanish standards, but apparently not by Camino standards. We were about the last to leave the place, and there were not a lot of pilgrims anymore. We would run across groups here and there, but for the most part, the afternoon walk was just Sam and myself. Personally, I liked it better with more people around--it gave me more of a sense of sharing some experience with the group, even though we weren't really a part of any other group.
As expected, the sun burned off partway through the morning. At lunch, I took the legs off of my pants to make shorts. A bit later, I convinced Sam to put sun-goop on. She reluctantly agreed. I don't think we put enough on, because I think her ears got toasted.
Eventually, we caught sight of Portomarin in the distance. Sam thought it looked pretty close, but it took us about an hour and a half to reach it.
On the near side of the river, there was a “libery bell”, but it had nothing to do with the US Liberty Bell. Then we crossed a high bridge to reach our destination for the day. At the end of the bridge, there was a big stairway to the center of town.
We climbed up the steps to the center of town and found our hotel. Our hotels are split between 2-star and 3-star hotels. The first night had been a 3-star. This was a 2-star. It was fairly new and serviceable, but nothing to write home about. It features an outside patio with a view of the river, but it was hot, so we turned on the A/C and stayed inside.
I decided to take a shower then, rather than in the morning. I figured that I was gross from walking in the heat, and I could use the cleaning then. Besides, if I got clean the next morning, I would just get gross again fairly soon thereafter.
Sam took a nap while I took a shower, talked with Amy, and then wrote this up.
Dinner is at a local restaurant, because this hotel doesn't seem to have a restaurant. They had scheduled our dinner at 8:30, although I would have preferred 8 (or earlier if it was available).
We now have a bit less than an hour to kill for dinner. There is a supermarket in town, and I want to see if it is open to try to get some snacks for Sam. I also want to see if there are any picture opportunities,
When I read the sign pointing the way to the "super mercado", it sounds really big. When we got there, we found that it was open but rather small. Forget your normal large grocery store back home. This was a bit bigger than a 7-11. Still, we were able to get some snacks for Sam.
After we dropped off the snacks at the hotel room, and looked up the name of the restaurant, because I hadn't checked before, we went out to dinner.
It was a very nice dinner--perhaps to make up for the so-so nature of the accommodations. I'd say it was the best dinner that we've had here so far, but then this is only our second dinner, and the first one was less than awe-inspiring.
The place looked fairly spiffy. We got the usual 3-course meal choice: appetizer, entree, dessert. They sat us on the same side of a central table, away from other people, so that we both had a good view of the large windows overlooking the river.
I got scallops for the appetizer, while Sam got asparagus. The scallops were four small ones, each on its own shell. (I like scallops, and I figured it fit in with the motif for the Camino.) Sam got some cold, *white* asparagus. According to Sam, it was pretty good.
For the main course, we got a "BBQ" special, that was to be shared between two people. It was a hot metal pan with some cooked meat on it. There were three pieces, each sliced into chunks. The middle one was my favorite, but unfortunately, it was fairly small. I didn't really care for the right one, and the left wasn't too bad. The left one was beef. I'm not sure if the right one was beef that was cooked differently, or some other animal, but I think the latter.
It was strange eating a meal that was completely devoid of any vegetable matter.
For dessert, I got a coffee flan that was very good, and Sam got an almond cake.
The meal came with beer or soft drinks, but not wine. I ordered a glass of red wine anyway, which went well with the beef. I would have liked a coffee with dessert, but they don't do decaf over here, and I definitely didn't want a cup of high-test just before going to bed. Dinner ran almost 2 hours long, so we didn't get back to the hotel until 10:15 or so.
I found out later in the trip that apparently at least some places have real decaf. They didn't on our first sabbatical trip 16 years ago.
At the end, I asked for the check. He said (in broken English) that it was already paid for. I said that it was for the wine, but he said "no, that's OK", which was nice of him.
Sam is now taking a shower. Afterwards, I need to brush my teeth, etc., and then hit the sack. I would rather not eat and go to bed so quickly, but I would rather not stay up for no reason.
We are looking forward to tomorrow's place. The guide describes it as:
The accommodation is a hotel boutique located in a 300 years antique building that now offers 11 rooms gifted with all kinds of services to provide our guests the ultimate comfort all with terrace or balcony. There is a restaurant with a cuisine based on truly authentic produce of the area and a spa zone, where you will be able to relax and recover from the Camino.
Sounds pretty nice. I guess we'll find out tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow, it should be even hotter than today. The high is forecast for 85, although the normal high is 65. Strangely, it shouldn't get that hot until about 5pm. The morning should be significantly cooler.