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Posts from the ‘travel’ Category

Towns Along the Way – “M”

This post will be slightly longer than the previous ones as I try to cram the towns beginning with “M” together into one post. Hopefully, the information provided will be of use to you. There are 9 in total from the province of Navarra right through to Galicia. Again, if you have stayed in any of the below towns, please comment and let me know of your experiences!

Mañeru (map)

I had to search for my guidebook before I could write about this town. It is not one that springs to mind. Mañeru is a small village located between Puente la Reina and Ciraquai in the province of Navarra and you would be forgiven if you had forgotten about it. It has a population of just over 400 people. It is a Basque-speaking zone and on reaching this town, you will have 100 km walking completed from St Jean Pied de Port. I have not stayed here however, there is an albergue here if you did wish to stay the night (Gronze). On two occasions, I chose to stay in the larger Puente la Reina, one town previous, when I walked through Navarra in September 2014 and again in 2018.

Manjarín (map)

Manjarín is a very unique place. It is mostly desolate and is situated between the Cruz de Ferro and El Acebo, high up in the Leon Mountains. At present, one of a few permanent inhabitants is Tomás, and according to him, he is one of the last Templar knights. In the mid-twentieth century, like many other mountain villages in Spain, Manjarín remained abandoned until 1993 when Tomás, mentioned above, took on the work of many other hospitaleros along the Camino de Santiago. He currently serves pilgrims during the whole year, even during winter, feeding and providing them a place to stay for the night. I would consider saying hello to him when you pass his refugio, even if you don’t plan on staying there.

Mansilla de las Mulas (map)

After a good amount of road walking, arriving into Mansilla de las Mulas is something to look forward to. Having walked through Castilla y Leon on two occasions, I have stayed here once and loved it. Mansilla de las Mulas is a town in the province of Leon. It has a population of about 2000 inhabitants. The town lies on the River Esla and you will notice that on leaving the town. Mansilla is a walled town, just like Leon further on, and it is difficult not to notice these ruins on walking through the town. On arriving in Mansilla, you will see the monument of three worn-out pilgrims taking a rest. I took a rest with them in this picture..I’d say quite a few others did too. There is a wealth of albergues and pensions to choose from in Mansilla (Gronze). I found the Municipal albergue to be perfect. On leaving Mansilla, you are 19km away from Leon.

Melide (map)

Melide is quite a large town in the province of A Coruna in Galicia. It has a population of 9,000 people and is one of the largest towns in Galicia. On reaching Melide, you will have 50km or 2-3 days left to reach Santiago. The history of this village is deeply linked with the pilgrimage to Santiago. Also during the last few centuries, like many villages in inner Galicia, it has suffered from a vast emigration. My only encounter with Melide was in 2011 when I walked from Sarria to Santiago. I stayed in the relatively plush surroundings of Hotel Carlos and had my pack transported for me. I walk a different kind of Camino nowadays, so Melide may shine a different light on me when I pass her next. For starters..there is so much history here (church of San Pedro and the cruciero of Melide – pictured). Melide is also famous for it’s pulpo, available at Casa Ezequiel. There are a vast array of albergues, pensions and hotels in Melide (Gronze).

Mercadoiro / Marcadoiro (map)

Did you know that when you reach the 100 km marker on the Camino, you don’t actually have 100 km to walk? The true 100 km distance point is at a little Galician town called Mercadoiro. For such a tiny town, it has a well-recommended albergue (Gronze) that can act as an alternative to the more popular town of Portomarin.

Molinaseca (map)

Ah..Molinaseca, one of my favourite towns. After a rough 6-8 hours walk up and over the Leon Mountains, Molinaseca is a small oasis. At the entrance, you will see the shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows. The medieval pilgrims bridge, which has been recently restored, crosses the River Meruelo and you are then left at the start of Calle Real. The buildings in Molinaseca are typical of those in the El Bierzo region of Leon. It has a population of just under 800 people. I have stayed in this town twice, preferring it to Ponferrada, 8 kms further on. It is not rare to see pilgrims lying down by the river and soaking up the atmosphere. Some may even take a swim. I would gladly stay there again. I have only good memories of walking from Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca and staying there. There are many albergues and hostels in Molinaseca (Gronze) also. The main albergues are located on the main road as you leave the town, Albergue Santamarina being well recommended. Now, you have 220 km until Santiago – not long to go!

Moratinos (map)

Moratinos is a small town in the province of Palencia. It has a population of just under 100 people and is situated in the meseta, just between Terradillos de los Templarios and Sahagun. When you enter the town, you will be greeted by a number of “bodegas”, or wine cellars, dug into a hill. There are a number of albergues and pensions here also (Gronze). I haven’t stayed here myself, but I would recommend Albergue Hospital San Bruno as they serve an amazing breakfast!

Morgade (map)

Another town that you can walk through very quickly. I walked through Morgade back in June 2011 and have yet to pass through it again. In a few years I will. How and ever, Morgade is situated in Galicia between Sarria and Portomarin. It is very typical of hamlets along the Camino in Galicia. This part of Spain is covered in green, just like here in Ireland. You are walking through farmland, in essence. It tends to rain a lot, so be prepared for inclement weather. I remember stopping here briefly in Casa Morgade for a cafe con leche and a sello. It was so welcome at the time as the walk from Sarria to Barbedelo is tough but worthwhile. If you are starting out your Camino in Sarria, it’s probably a little too early to stop for the day, but you should consider if your Camino starts earlier.

Murias de Rechivaldo (map)

Murias is situated just under 5 kms after Astorga in the province of Leon. It is a beautiful village with it’s building constructed in the style of the La Maragatería. The parish church of San Esteban dates back to the eighteenth century. Just over 100 people live here. I have passed through this village on two occasions – 2012 and 2015. The problem with staying in Astorga and starting out early (like I do!) is that nothing is open when I pass through it. Murias was home to one of the most talked about cafes on the Camino Frances – Meson El Llar. Run by Pilar, El Llar is unfortunately closed but was very popular with pilgrims. There are a number of albergues and hostals here to consider also (Gronze).

Stay tuned for N and O shortly!

Towns Along The Way – “F”

Welcome back! I hope you are enjoying this series and your memory is being refreshed! It certainly is helpful for me and interesting to see the many different types of accommodation being provided since I started walking way back in 2011. Hopefully, this won’t be the last “TATW” post of 2019 as I am on a bit of a roll.

Today, I will talk about F. Again, let me know if you have stayed in any of these towns.

La Faba (map)

Yet another village I haven’t stayed in but keep meaning to, La Faba means The Beans in Spanish. It is a small mountain town between Villafranca del Bierzo and El Cebreiro. It has a population of just over 30 people. While the name of the village doesn’t stand out, there is quite a lot of love for it from the pilgrim community and it has one of the best albergues on the Camino Frances; Albergue de la Faba. I have not stayed here myself, preferring to walk on to O Cebreiro, another 5km on. Once you reach La Faba, and it’s a long climb, you won’t have far before arriving at the Galician border.

Ferrerios (map)

One of many many small Galician hamlets that you will pass through while on the Camino. This particular town has 50 or so inhabitants and is approximately 14 km from Sarria. There is nothing very eye-catching in this town, however, keep an eye out for the Iglesia de Santa María de Ferreiros which has an unusual cemetery. The scenery is very shire-esque and when passing through, make sure you stop at Casa Cruceiro for a cafe con leche and sello. There are a number of places to stay there also (gronze.com). Just another 104km to go to Santiago.

Fillobal (map)

Another Galician town and one so small I almost considered leaving it out from the list. Fillobal is situated some 4 km before Triacastela and has a population of just 9. The town does hold a cafe and an albergue for pilgrims however at Albergue Fillobal. On walking through here in 2012, I was so focused on arriving at Triacastela and the albergue. I passed Fillobal in the blink of an eye.

Foncebadón (map)

From Galicia, we move to Castilla and the Leon hills. Like Fillobal, it has a small population. It is situated between Rabanal del Camino and Molinaseca. More and more people are choosing Foncebadon to finish walking for the day. It is very close to the Cruz de Ferro and watching the sunrise from there is pretty special. The climb up to Foncebadón can be challenging but the views are worth it. When you walk in to Foncebadon, it looks like a town in ruins, but the Camino is bringing growth to the area. During the summer months, it can be busy and there are accommodation, albergues, and bars (gronze.com). I haven’t stayed there myself, choosing to stay in the town beforehand, Rabanal del Camino. Maybe next time.

Fonfría (map)

From Leon, we return swiftly to Galicia and not too far from Fillobal. Fonfria is some 9 km from Triacastela. Again, it is a typical Galician town with green the predominant colour and many of the buildings are made of stone slabs. This is rural Spain at it’s finest. The town does have a selection of albergues and pensions also (gronze.com). On leaving Fonfria, you have a steep climb to Alto do Poio and then a further 150 km to Santiago! Enjoy your final few weeks!

Frómista (map)

Iglesia de San Martin in Fromista

The final town beginning with F and close to 450 km to Santiago is Frómista. It is situated in the province of Palencia and has a population of just under 1000 people. It has everything that a large town would have so many people choose here to lay their heads for the night (gronze.com). One of the main attractions of the town is the Iglesia de San Martin (pictured). I prefer to stay in Boadilla del Camino. You will be close to the halfway point at this stage on reaching Fromista, although the official halfway point is just before Sahagun.

The next instalment will feature towns beginning with H including favourites of mine Hospital de Orbigo and Hontanas. If you have stayed in or have any comments about the above towns, please comment below.

Camino de Santiago Android Phone Apps

Just before I start, I must point out that this post is not for everyone. When it comes to phones or technology in general on the Camino, there are different types of pilgrim. There is the pilgrim who leaves his or her phone at home and wants to get the full Camino experience. There is the pilgrim who leaves his or her phone off whilst walking and uses it at the end of the day. And then there is the tech joy pilgrim. I am somewhere in the middle of the latter two. I usually have my Phone with me and use it as a Camera and a browser in wifi areas. However, there are more and more Camino related phone apps created with the pilgrim in mind. They have been developed with up-to-date information on the route and on albergues. Here are some of the best I have used while on the Camino. I own an Android phone so unfortunately, I can’t provide links for Apple devices. Here are just a few I have tried while in Spain.

Buen Camino de Santiago Pro (download)

Buen Camino de Santiago Pro

Buen Camino has sold thousands of guides of the Way of St James and continues to make available to pilgrims all the information required to complete the Way: maps, profiles, all types of accommodation and points of interest. You will find a profile of the route and maps, GPS of all types of accommodation and points of interest.

You can download the Camino de Baztán, Camino Francés, Camino Aragonés, Camino del Norte, Camino Portugués from Tui, the Camino Primitivo, and the Route extension to Fisterra-Muxia.

MAPS.ME – Offline Map and Travel (download)

An incredibly easy app to use. Download it and through wifi, download the maps that you need, whether it be Galicia or La Rioja or the whole of Spain. Then you will have offline maps on your phone before you go and save on mobile data. You also have the ability to create bookmarks which is handy.
It is also very useful if you are walking a quieter route.

Camino de Santiago Eroski Guide (download)

The Eroski Consumer guide shares all the secrets of the Way, exact kilometres of each route and stage, updated pictures, monuments and all the detailed description of the itinerary so you know at all times how to organize, what to see and what to do.
In the app you will find all the information the French Way (from Somport and Saint Jean Pied de Port), Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, Camino de San Salvador, Basque Way of Interior, Road Baztanese, Portuguese Way, English Way, Way Catalan by San Juan de la Peña, Via de la Plata, Camino Sanabrés and to Fisterra and Muxía.

The Wise Pilgrim Collection (download)

Along with the printed selection of guidebooks, there are a wide number of apps to choose from. There are apps for a number of routes. That said, I prefer the guidebook in this case and do tend to carry the WP guide with me when on Camino. But it is entirely your choice. The guidebooks can be bought at www.wisepilgrim.com.

Camino de Santiago Companion (download free demo)

Camino Companion is a guide for your Camino on the French Way. It lists more than 1,300 important waypoints (with 1,360 photographs) from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Muxia. 
The free demo covers the 42-mile (68-km) segment from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Pamplona. 
In-app purchases include:
– The 557-mile/896-km Camino Frances from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Muxia. The guidebook lists every waypoint in order by distance along the trail and how far away you are from each waypoint. The guidebook also includes a detailed town guide for major resupply points, towns, and services along the Camino de Santiago. 

The Way of Saint James – CaminoTool (download)

Another handy app that will help you find something on the Camino. CaminoTool helps you find what you need whilst ensuring the best quality and service: accommodation, restaurants, food, bars, pharmacies, podiatrists, dentists, hospitals, souvenir shops, footwear, excursions, taxis, bookshops.

miCamino – my Camino de Santiago Mobile (download)

Through miCamino you will discover the different routes that make up the Camino de Santiago.
You will learn information from 5 different routes ranging from accommodation to GPS.
The app connects with all major social networks too so you can share your experience.

Towns Along the Way – Navarra #2

We continue on our journey…

Uterga (map) – 710 kms to Santiago.

utergaUterga is the first town you arrive at after descending the Alto de Perdón. The descent can be perilous at times, especially during bad weather. I remember walking into the village in September 2014 and initially spotting its large town hall. It must be the tidiest village I have seen. It is home to 2 albergues and a hostal (Gronze). Albergue Camino del Perdón is perfect for a stop off after the tough climb and descent. However, many choose to walk on to Puente la Reina, another fine town.

 

Villatuerta (map) – 685 kms to Santiago

Villatuerta is a town of just under 1000 residents located 4 km outside of Estella. Although probably of Roman origin, the greatest development of Villatuerta occurred in medieval times and, as a consequence of the Camino de Santiago. Since then it has retained its Romanesque bridge over the river Iranzu, the river that that divides the town into two neighbourhoods. The parish church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, also of Roman origin, it had to be rebuilt in the 15th century. There is the one albergue here, Casa Magica (Gronze), which is well recommended.

Villamayor de Monjardín (map) – 653 kms to Santiago

VillamayorDMonjardinIn 2014 I encountered this village in Navarra. I had stayed just outside of Estella the previous night and had left early that morning. Unfortunately, there were no cafes open in Villamayor when I passed so I had to make do with the wine I picked up in Irache earlier. I wasn’t complaining :). Villamayor de Monjardín is a small town located at the foot of the Castle of San Esteban of Deyo. The fortress walls are well conserved. The main site visited is the Romanesque church of San Andrés, from the 12th century. You should have no problem finding somewhere to stay here (Gronze).

Torres del Río (map) – 636 kms to Santiago

TorresdelRio

Torres del Rio is one of the final towns you will pass before entering La Rioja. This small village, located at the side of a hill, hosts of one of the most characteristic monuments of Romanesque architecture in Navarre, an octagonal church of the Santo Sepulcro. I was unlucky not to witness the inside of this church as it was closed the day I passed through Torres del Río. There are three albergues here (Gronze). I really enjoyed my stay in Casa Mariela. The following clip shows you the church of the Santo Sepulcro.

 

Viana (map) – 625 kms to Santiago

Viana is a town that will surprise pilgrims for its rich architecture, wine cellars and, above all, for its extensive history. The last town in Navarre is situated just seven kilometres from Logroño. It has a fortified square, surrounded by a medieval wall, which served as a defensive stronghold during the Middle Ages against the ancient Kingdom of Castile. Its narrow streets, many monuments, and the majestic church of Santa Maria are highlights. The importance of the Camino on the evolution of Viana is evident by the six refuges for pilgrims, of which several traces still remain. Viana often hosts fiestas and is known to have a ‘running of the bulls’.

Outside-the-Iglesia-de-Santa-María-Viana-Spain-Camino-de-Santiago

Outside the Iglesia de Santa Maria in Viana

Leaving Viana brings us to Logrono and the new province of La Rioja…

 

¡Buen camino! documentary on TVE

I first became aware of the above programme on Spanish TV channel “RTVE” last weekend when it popped up on my Facebook feed. I immediately went to the channel’s website and watched the first episode which is available for streaming for quite a while. The programme is broadcast each Thursday at 12.25am but is uploaded for viewing online right after.

download

I then saw a post by Cathy Seitchik Diaz on the Facebook group September, 2017 – Camino de Santiago. Cathy has just returned from her 3rd Camino and I wanted to know how she got on, so I messaged her. When she replied she told me that she had been interviewed by the producers of ¡Buen camino! and she is due to be on Episode 6. I thought Wow!!

The documentary follows a Spanish pilgrim, Marta Márquez, as she walks from Villafranca del Bierzo to Santiago on the Camino Frances. On her way, she meets many pilgrims from all over the world. We hear about their experiences and the reasons that led them to do this challenge. There are also short segments about the different Caminos, how to achieve your Compostela and what kit to carry. The first show started on July 13th and it will continue for a further 9 weeks – each week for each etapa.

The program discovers stories such as ……
– Cathy (above), a teacher from San Francisco, California, who carried her mother’s ashes with her;
– Irene and Sam, a mother and her 3 year old son riding a bicycle. They discover landscapes and areas of Galicia that they will never forget;
– Derek, a former Irish soldier stationed in Iraq. He found on the Way the remedy for its nightmares and disturbing visions.

You can view the 2 episodes shown so far by clicking on the links below –

¡Buen camino! Episode 1 – www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/buen-camino/buen-camino-programa-1/4114558/

¡Buen camino! Episode 2 – www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/buen-camino/buen-camino-programa-2/4125643/

The episodes are broadcast in Spanish however there are subtitles. If you do know of a way to change the subtitles to English, please let me know. For me however, having subtitles as it is, it is a great way of improving my Spanish as I understand most of what is being said when I read it.

I’m looking forward to seeing Cathy following our chat and I would love to have her contribute to our “Your Stories, Your Camino” series sometime in the future.

Buen Camino!

PS…please read Cathy’s comment below if you wish to change the subtitles to English. Her instructions are extremely helpful. I will upload a post about Cathy’s recent Camino shortly. Keep your eye on this space! 🙂 

Another Weekend Walk..

Last weekend, myself and some from the Free Camino Prep meet-up group met up and walked a section of the Grand Canal Way. We decided to meet outside of Dublin in a little town called Hazelhatch. The great thing about this trail is not only is it way-marked but it is serviced well by Irish Rail, so myself and my brother caught an early train to Portlaoise from Heuston Station in Dublin. We were practically the only people in the carriage so this was a novelty considering it is exactly the opposite during the week! We arrived in Hazelhatch Station, just outside of Celbridge just after 10am and waited for the remainder of the walkers. By half ten, we were 9, including the both of us, and we decided to make a start. We had 600 metres to reach the start of the trail so it wasn’t far. The Grand Canal Way actually starts in Lucan in Dublin but I chose this 12 km section as it is the easiest to get to and it is the most scenic. It isn’t difficult either, in fact, it is all flat and didn’t cause any of us any bother.

The route is well maintained and it passes many towns if you want to stop for a snack or a coffee. The Grand Canal itself is used to this day by boats and barges making use of the 117km river. We saw plenty of kayakers flying up and down the canal as we walked westward. The trail passes the Lyons Estate with it’s boutique hotel and cafe. €183 will get you a room for a night! After the 12km, we arrived at the town of Sallins. We grabbed a coffee and made way to the train station for the next train Dublin-bound.

I really enjoyed this walk but it lacked any ascent or descent for that matter. If you want an easy walk with good scenery, I would recommend this trail. But as practice for a Camino, I would give it a miss. It can be walked from start to finish in 5/6 days and many people carry tents if they were to walk it as a whole.

Tomorrow, a number of the group walk from Dun Laoghaire to Killiney Hill and back. I will write when we complete that. Follow me on instagram (@clearskiescamino) for some photos as the day progresses.

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The White Spinc Trail – Glendalough

Another beautiful day and another trip with the Camino prep meet-up group. Each time I meet with them, I feel like I have stumbled across a pot of gold. Yesterday, we took on the Spinc trail at Glendalough. As some of you may know, Glendalough is home of St. Kevin’s church and monastic site. The Wicklow Way also passes through this area.

Walk-of-the-Week-1-May-Glendalough-Claires-map-1024x668

We arrived at 10am and started on a short walk to the trail head. At that point, we were greeted with a long and steep climb. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though as there were steps to aid us..near on 650 of them! It wasn’t long before the calves began to give in! After a half hour, we reached the top and were met with a fantastic view above the upper lake and Glenealo river. After a quick breather, we marched on, taking advantage of the boardwalks. A short time later, we reached the top of the Spinc. Boy, was that tough! But for all the aches and pains, we were rewarded ten-fold with amazing views. Looking down over the cliff-face, you can see the path on the other side of the lake. We would be walking this in a few hours.

The trails were full while we walked as many took advantage of the Easter season and took in a hike. There were many tourists out also. I was really impressed to see children of all ages run up the ascent with no bother! A further hour passed and after a descent (in some parts dangerous) we reached the old Lead-mine ruins. We all stopped here for lunch and a breather. We weren’t far from the end, with another 4 km on the flat left. On arriving back to base, we grabbed a coffee and a snack in the Glendalough hotel. I was really happy with the day and having no rain was a bonus! The next few weeks’ walks will keep me busy as I have the Howth Bog of Frogs planned with the Camino Society of Ireland on Saturday, followed by the same on Sunday with the Camino Prep Meet-Up group. The next Saturday (29th April) we have decided to walk from Hazelhatch to Sallins along the Grand Canal Way. Let’s hope it is fine that day too.

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Camino By Sea / Camino Na Saile

February 19th sees the start of a new series on Irish TV called Camino na Saile (or Camino by Sea in English). It will be shown on our Irish language TV channel over the course of 3 weeks. It documents the journey of 5 men who sailed from the south of Ireland to A Coruna over the course of 4 years. For 800 years, people have sailed from Ireland to A Coruña in Northern Spain and walked to Santiago de Compostela from there. These men have done their own version of this historical voyage in a Naomhóg (or a currach) they built themselves in this Modern day Celtic Odyssey. Stage 1 of the journey follows the crew on a journey across the Irish Sea and the English Channel to reach Brittany in Northern France.

 

Now I understand that the majority of my readers live outside of Ireland, and will be unable to watch it, however you can do so online on www.tg4.ie/en/player/home or via the Mobdro smartphone app. If you download the app at www.mobdro.com on your phone and search for TG4, you will have no problems viewing the series.

It starts at 8.30pm GMT on the 19th of February and continues each Sunday after that. Happy watching!

 

 

So what’s been going on..?

The last few weeks I haven’t really been motivated to post. I have been waiting for a moment to pick me up and put a pen in my hand, so to speak! I think today I had that moment! Last week I found a Camino group on Meetup.com and instantly joined. The first meetup was today – “Have you ALREADY been on the Camino? Let’s have coffee”. So today I ventured into a cold damp Dublin city – quite the opposite of a typical day in September on the Camino. I met some great Camino veterans from around the Dublin region. I get a real buzz talking to others who have walked different “ways”. It was great to learn about the different routes. A half hour turned quickly into two hours. Everyone I met have planned, or are in the various planning stages of a return to Spain this year. We bounced ideas and hints off each other – what’s the best guide book (or is there a need for one?) – where to get the best gear? – what’s the best and worst experience we have had? At present, there are 150 in the group and most haven’t walked the Camino yet. Hopefully it is successful and more and more join in the future. If you are reading this and are looking to meet some folks from around Dublin, click on the link above and hit that join button!

In other news, I am meeting J and C; my Camino friends from 2013, on Friday. Since breaking my wrist, I haven’t walked any great distance and hopefully these few days will get the ball rolling for September. They are returning to Spain in September also to walk the full Camino. This will be a perfect opportunity to try out my Pacerpoles.

 

 

April becomes September..

So I posted before before Christmas that I had planned to walk from Leon to Santiago. I couldn’t wait to heal up after my broken wrist, so I booked my flights and bought any other gear that I needed. There was much anticipation which is usually the case when I think about returning to Spain. I had decided on April as a good time as it’s not too warm and it’s not that busy at that time of the year.

Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons, I felt it would be better to postpone and cut short my Camino. I have a number of things that I need to give my attention to over the next 3-4 months and unfortunately, a trip to Spain isn’t high on that list. So I am putting it aside until September 4th when I fly to Madrid and catch a bus to Astorga. I have made a booking in Hotel Gaudi which I am looking forward to. The next morning I hope to march on to who knows where! I had to grin and bear the charge for changing flights but that’s a small sacrifice! I look forward to the Leon hills, the Cruz de Ferro, the Bierzo valley and of course, the climb to O Cebreiro!