May 14th, 2018 – Day 8
Padrón to Santiago de Compostela
One of our longer days on this Camino at 29 kilometres made longer by an error in the distance markers at O Milladoiro. We set off early from Padrón with the sun yet to rise on a wet and drizzly morning. But hey! we were in Galicia! Our minds were set on Santiago and arriving in the Praza!
The first interesting village of today is Iria Flavia. This was an important Celtic settlement. Later the Romans gave it municipal rank as a Roman road passed through it. The Collegiate Church of Iria Flavia was built between the 12th and the 17th century over an old church that dates back to the 1st century. This was the first cathedral in Galicia.
The path meandered through villages, rural areas, and some lovely woodland paths. We stopped at a cafe just off a main road in A Escravitude. The owner treated us to large tostadas and cafe con leche at quite a reasonable price. Well done there! Across the road from the cafe is a large church. Unfortunately, it was not open at the time and we walk on. We walk away from the main road for a while until we reach Picarana.
From here to Santiago, the Way is most asphalt, a mix of pathway and cobblestone. We arrive at Milladoiro and the route in is straightforward. Our pace quickens as we are eager to reach Santiago. We arrive in via the south and not under the archway. The Praza is buzzing with pilgrims. We check into San Martin Pinario before catching our collective breaths. It was Ray’s first time in Santiago and found the whole time extremely positive. We decided to wait until the following day to collect our credentials. It left me with some time to meet some people in Santiago – especially Nate and Faith in Pilgrim House.
The following day, we attended the English Mass in the Capilla del Pilar. I was happy to be asked to read at this Mass. Back at the Pinario, we reluctantly packed and made way for the airport. I’m not sure what Ray’s plans are for the return to Santiago, but I will be back next year.
May 13th, 2018 – Day 7
Caldas de Reis to Padrón
Another short day at 18km, we were on the homeward stretch. Thoughts of Santiago were becoming more frequent and it was just a matter of time before we arrived in the Praza. Ray knew little of what to expect and I suppose it is good going in blind. It had been 7 years since I walked into Santiago, so that feeling may as well be new to me.
We left Pension Caldas in the mid-morning and wow we took our time. We were in no hurry. Today was a relatively short 18km through some spectacular woodland areas. 50% was on forestry trails, mostly dirt or gravel. The other 50% was on asphalt. There was always a threat of rain from the off and we received a smattering of showers right through the day. It wouldn’t be enough to wet you through though. One of the highlights of the day was passing the old Iglesia Santa Marina de Carrecedo at Crucerio-Carracedo. There was a mass on at the time and some pilgrims decided to stop off and listen in.
We arrived just short of Padrón and stayed at Albergue-Pension Flavia. It is located beside a football stadium, so we didn’t get a chance to check out Padrón fully. Maybe another time.
24km to go before Santiago.
May 9th, 2018 – Day 3
Nigrán to Vigo
It was a short day and a day away from the traditional Camino. While many pilgrims stay inland from A Ramallosa, myself and Ray decided to stick to the shore until Vigo. Instead of following yellow arrows, we would be following green arrows and walking along beaches. Not that there was a problem with that!
We left Pension El Retiro in Nigrán and made our way to the coast. That meant consulting Google Maps and searching for signs with “Playa”. It wasn’t too long before we met the sea and walk along Paseo Marítimo. The Paseo has a wealth of cafes open for breakfast. A half an hour people-watching and coffee-sipping later, we were ready for another few kilometres walking. Panxon is a fine town and one that must be buzzing during the summer months. The trail sits along the beach but cuts away from the coast if need be. We walk on pavement for the day, but it is a nice feeling to walk on sand if those green arrows ask us to do so. Various surf clubs share the Camino with pilgrims, we all get along! There is a lack of pilgrims however, it is a quiet route and it is not until Redondela before we meet other souls.
We do encounter our first distance marker, however, in the town of Prada. We have no less than 115 kms left to Santiago and we are getting a little bit excited. But, we have this day to complete yet!
The terrain remained flat save for one or two short climbs but nothing too stressful. It was a very enjoyable day and it was nice to have the sea on my left-hand side walking into Vigo. Walking on the Playa de Samil, a long stretch of beach, we passed a fully open beach park while tiny drops of rain fell from the sky. We were lucky that it didn’t materialise into heavier rain.
We made it to Vigo shortly after midday. Our walk into the city was made through the port, passing dozens of workers unloading items from trucks. Talk about scenic!! I passed the remark to Ray that this Camino is in honour of many medieval pilgrims who sailed into this port centuries ago. While the day was enjoyable, the particular part of Vigo we had stayed in was as Camino unfriendly as you can get. As I had checked into Hostal Real by the port, we spot a large ferry docking. But we try not to get too negative and think of tomorrow.
May 8th, 2018 – Day 2
Oia to Nigrán
Our 2nd day on the trail and it was almost a shame to be leaving Oia. I would love to go back there again, there is such a sense of community about it. But we are on Camino!
Today, we walked to Nigrán, just over 22kms north of Oia and a little bit closer to Santiago. We would walk along the coast for the first hour or so, but we would be faced with a decision later on – either walk up and over a hill to reach Baiona or walk along the coast, the Senda Litoral. You can make the choice to continue on the PO-552 to create your own Way. It is much longer than shortcutting over the mountain, but you won’t have to climb the hill.
At Pedra Rubia, there is a chance to get a sello from a chap at the side of the road, so we didn’t hesitate there. You are faced with that choice at As Marinas – either move up and over the hill or stick to the coast. It was still early morning and bright and we were in no hurry so we followed the ocean until we arrived into Baiona. We would be following green arrows, if any. It was so strange to be off the Camino, and even watching pilgrims walk up the hill made me want to change my mind. But I think I made the right choice.
We were in Baiona in an hour and we stopped off for a stamp in the tourist office. Fun fact for the day: the coastal route was made official in 2016. We chilled out by a cafe and had some tapas, watching life go by. I love the castle in Baiona and I suppose if I had time I would go visit it. It reminded me of Ponferrada.
We wouldn’t be finishing here however as Nigrán would be our destination – another 2 hours. It was worth noting we had been walking on pavement all day and there was no hint of a trail away from a road. I suppose that’s one of the criticisms of the Portuguese Way. We had no injuries anyway so far. We kept ourselves amused by looking for arrows and while there was a distinct lack of them up to Baiona, they became more prominent from now on.
We manage to find the puente romanico in A Ramalloso, which was built in the 13th century. We ventured back on the PO-552 to walk into Nigrán and found our room for the night. Tomorrow we would be walking to Vigo and getting to know the sea a little bit more.
May 7th, 2018 – Day 1
A Guarda to Oia
Our first day would be a short day. 14km to be precise. And you would be right in saying that we didn’t wake too early either. We left the hotel just after 7am. It was a bright, clear, sunny Monday morning. Pilgrims were leaving the solitary albergue located in the town. but there were not too many of them. The Portuguese Coastal route is a quiet route. We noticed that on our first day. It was just the two of us for the first few hours until we reached Oia.
For the first hour after leaving A Guarda, we walked along the coast. The sea guided us. There was no need for arrows. The ocean was our soundtrack for the morning. I remember saying to myself it is better than the constant chatter of eager pilgrims and clacking of walking poles. Solidarity! We pass one or two fishermen on our way. That would be it. Occasionally, the trail takes you away from the sea and towards the main road. The PO-552 is a busy road and we watch ourselves as cars pass at speed. So when the Camino veers back to the coast, I am glad.
We arrive in Oia at the very early time of 11am. Crazy, right? Just in time for second breakfast! Oia is a fantastic little town right on the Atlantic Ocean. It has a golden beach below it and overlooking the own is the Monastery de Santa Maria. We see there is a tourist office here also and ask where we can find a pilgrim menu. Thank you to Ana in the tourist office in Oia. She was a great help. So first, we checked in at Casa Puertas, a smashing place in the village. Then headed off for second breakfast. Next, we must have walked a further 5km to track down a store and a pharmacy for the next day’s walking.
The evening was spent chilling by the sea, having a pilgrim menu and meeting fellow pilgrims, before packing up before the next day. Tomorrow would be longer, but not by much.
It may as well be April. The clocks have gone forward and already the first sign of summer is in the air. Friends have reached Santiago already (Buen Camino L!) which only increases my urgency to return to Spain and search for the yellow arrows. But the next few months are busy. You could say I have started my Camino…but I have not yet left my home.
As mentioned previously, the first annual Celtic Camino Festival kicks off in Westport in Co. Mayo from April 13th. I will be attending for the weekend. I have the train booked, the hotel arranged and all events booked. April 13th sees the screening of excellent “The Camino Voyage” directed by Donal O Ceallachair – A crew including a Writer, two Musicians, an Artist and a Stonemason embark on the Camino not on land, but by sea, in a traditional boat that they built themselves on an inspiring, and often time’s dangerous, 2,500 km modern-day Celtic Odyssey. April 14th will see presentations, discussions & workshops by internationally renowned Camino experts. A Gala Dinner will follow with Spanish music and dance. And April 15th, there will be a Celtic Camino Pilgrim Walk of up to 25km along the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail & Tochar Padraig, including Mass in Ballintubber Abbey. It promises to be a fantastic weekend and we hope to see you there!
If this interests you and you wish to attend, Camino Society Ireland along with Irish Rail are offering you the chance to win free travel and tickets to all events for two. Just go to this link to enter http://www.irishrail.ie/fare-and-tickets/camino-festival.
Following the weekend, it is just a matter of weeks until I set off to A Guarda in Southern Galicia on the Portuguese Camino. From there I walk to Santiago with my brother and it will be his first time on any Camino. What a trip for him?! Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog if you want to be kept updated while I am on my Camino in Spain as I will be updating the blog.
I haven’t left you, you’ll be glad to hear.
I can’t believe it’s nearly a month since I last wrote here. Time flies so fast. I keep thinking of writing however. I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year.
I think about my upcoming Camino everyday. Some days I have concerns, some days I feel everything will be ok. I leave for Vigo in just over 100 days with my brother and we make our way to Santiago. That is May, however, and so much has happened in the meantime.
I have been busy assisting with the brand new online e-zine for Camino Society Ireland members. Members should have received instructions on how to view the e-zine yesterday. It is packed with articles and I must thank the contributors for their work. April 2018 and the Celtic Camino Festival is next on the radar. If you wish to subscribe to this new e-zine, you can become a member at www.caminosociety.ie. You get so much more other than the e-zine, just to let you know.
So that explains my short term absence. I will be posting a lot more as the time draws closer to my departure to Spain.
One other thing, I am hoping to meeting the author of The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain on Thursday, the 25th. Victor Prince has written an excellent book, and while I have not completed it yet, it is different to your average book on the Camino. It is a combination of a travel guide and an invaluable set of lessons for success in life at home and at work. I’m looking forward to meeting him for a chat.