Madrid, Spain — August 24, 2017

There is not much to write today, and there are no pictures. I spent a good part of the day yesterday sitting in a train traveling from Santiago here to Madrid.

For most of the journey, the train traveled slowly, 40 to 60 miles per hour. Although Spain has very high-speed trains, the track though the mountains to Santiago is full of curves and has to be taken at a moderate speed. Also, it is one single set of rails, which means that trains traveling in opposite directions can only get by each other in the stations, where there is a short stretch of double track.

However, as we got out of the mountains and onto flat ground, the train entered the main rail network, and the speed picked up to 150 miles per hour. That’s not up to the speed of the Ave, the Spanish bullet train, but it’s plenty fast for someone used to the more primitive infrastructure of the USA.

The passenger sitting next to me on the train was a German woman who had hike the Camino. She spoke very little English and no Spanish, and wanted to know how to get to the airport. I asked the other passengers in Spanish how to get to the airport from the Charmatin rail station and translated the information into German for her.

The train arrived at one of Madrid’s large train stations, Charmatin. (The other big one is Atocha, and there are scores of smaller stations for regional trains.) I was disoriented when I arrived. Charmatin is a huge and very busy station with scores of trains arriving and departing each hour on the station’s many tracks. I needed to take the metro to get here to the hostel, and Charmatin has no metro station. I had to ride a regional train (Circanías) for one or two stops and then switch to the metro. But which one? The information on the departure boards was sparse, and I could find no information window.

Finally, I saw that one of the trains would stop at Minesterios, and I knew that there was metro service at that station. So, I hopped that train, rode one stop and was able to access the metro system, with which I was more familiar. I bought a ten-trip ticket from a vending machine, which would not accept my US credit card, because almost all US credit cards have not been upgraded to the latest security standards, which European banks adopted years ago. However, the machine did accept cash.

There is not much more to write. I just had the included breakfast here at the San Fermin hostel. The hostel is very spacious. It’s time for  my morning shower and shave, and then it’s off to see the city.

The Coast of Death — August 23, 2017

In reality, I am writing this blog post in Santiago de Compostela, but the post is about the Costa de la Muerte or the Coast of Death which I visited yesterday. It has that name because of the many fishermen and sailors who lost their lives in the sea just off the coast. The sea was calm when I visited yesterday, but I am told it can get very rough.

This post is likely to  be a bit brief, because I catch a train to Madrid this morning, a seven-hour ride, but I will post a few of the many pictures I took.

The first photo is of what is purported to be the prow of a stone boat. When Saint James (Santiago) preached in Galicia, legend has it that he became depressed thinking that he had done a poor job. The Virgin appeared to him in a stone boat, told him he had done an excellent job, and added that it was time for him to go back to Rome. Unfortunately,  he took that advice, because in Rome he was beheaded. His body was later brought back to Galicia where it is said to rest beneath the Cathedral of Santiago, and prow of the stone boat was left here on the coast. It’s up to you to decide if you think that stone is really the prow of a boat.

Below are the rocks at Muxía where the final scene of the movie The Way was filmed. It’s the place where the pilgrim, Tom, scattered the ashes of his son in the sea.

The building below is the lighthouse at Finisterre, which means End of the World. The Romans named it when they arrived, because they believed that it really was the end of the world. Looking out at the horizon, where the sea meets the sky, it’s easy to convince yourself that the world really does fall off a cliff there.

Incidentally, this is claimed to be the first lighthouse in Spain that used electricity to power its light.

The waterfall pictured below is where the Ézaro River empties into the ocean. It is said to be the only river in Europe that enters the ocean by means of a waterfall. In reality, it doesn’t empty directly into the ocean; it is at the end of a small inlet that I image the river has carved out over the millennia.

Not all of the water goes over the falls. Much of it is diverted through several enormous pipes to a hydroelectric plant located behind the spot from which I shot this picture.

The structure shown below is an hórreo. You see hórreos all over Galicia in people’s back yards and beside the road, but none of the others I have seen are more than a fraction as large as this one. This is said to be the largest in Galicia, which means that it’s the largest in the world. Galicia is the only place where they were constructed.

Hórreos were once used to store the harvest. They have slots to let the air in but which are too small for birds to enter. They sit on pedestals to keep the contents off the damp ground. You will notice the disk at the top of each pillar. They were there to keep rodents from climbing the pillars to eat the food stored inside.

The reason this hórreo is immense compared to others is because this one did not belong to an individual family but to the local parish church. The agriculturists were obliged to contribute one tenth of their harvests to the local Catholic Church, so the Church needed a large place to store all of the booty.

Well, time to get packed and walk to the train station. For the first time, I will have to carry my luggage on my back. Until I arrived here in Santiago, my trusty Trek touring bike carried my pannier bags.

Santiago de Compostela — August 22, 2017

Tomorrow I leave for Madrid. Today I am taking a group bus tour to Finisterre whose name means End of the Earth. At one time, many Europeans believed that it was exactly that, and it was common for Pilgrims to Santiago to continue to Finisterre after reaching Santiago and to bring back a clam shell to prove that they had reached the Atlantic. The clam shell (almost always a fake one these days) is still the symbol of the Camino.

I don’t normally take group tours, and if I had been thinking, I would have ridden my bike to Finisterre after reaching Santiago. This way, I will at least see it as well as Muxía, the place on the Atlantic where the pilgrims in the movie The Way finished their pilgrimage.

Yesterday I walked around Santiago and snapped a few photos. The following is a traditional Spanish drinking fountain. You find them in many towns and cities as well as along the Camino. Yes, the water is advertised as potable, and I saw a number of people drink it without falling over dead, so that may be true. I have drunk from many of these fountains during my three Caminos and many additional trips to Spain and am still here to tell the tale.

The following  photo shows the side of the Cathedral that is being restored. The stones of the steeples above the scaffolding look new, so I assume they have been recently sandblasted to remove centuries of grime.

Below is a shot of the cathedral’s main entrance, which is now closed off. it may be closed merely due to restoration work, but I suspect the real a more important reason is to force visitors to enter through two smaller doors where it is easier to charge admission.

I see this little tourist trains in every Spanish tourist city that I visit. This one was jammed full of people who did not get much of a chance to view the cathedral. The train pulled up to it, made a U-turn, and chugged off to the next attraction.

I hope to take some more interesting pictures today on my trip to the End of the Earth — if I don’t fall off that is, and if I don’t forget to take my camera.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain — August 21, 2017

I spent most of yesterday walking around the city away from the busy area of the cathedral, stopping now and then sit in the shade and read a few pages from Tom Sawyer, a book I hadn’t read since my boyhood. I had forgotten how good it is, even for adults. Admittedly, it portrays race relations as they were then, which many people today think is politically incorrect. I downloaded it free from the Gutenberg Project, a site that has umpteen thousands of electronic versions of old books whose copyright has expired.

I made the mistake of going out for breakfast at about 7 am. No coffee shops were open. I had forgotten that the Spanish start their day much later than other nationalities. I went out again at 8:30 and was able to have my morning coffee with a giant slice of toast with butter and jam. That’s a typical Spanish breakfast.

When I left the coffee shop, I snapped the following picture. The reason I took it is that this woman was the first solo female cyclist and the first female road cyclist that I had seen on this trip to Spain. I have seen women on mountain bikes with male companions who were apparently from other countries and had cycled the Camino with their husbands or boyfriends.

I felt like giving this woman a cheer, but she would have probably misunderstood my motive. Notice that she’s riding out in the left lane, claiming her right to be treated as an equal to those operating a motor vehicle.

Santiago is littered with green spaces. There are parks everywhere. Although Spain does a better job than Arizona at maintaining streets, roads, and public transportation, parks and public buildings are neglected. When it comes to parks, that may not be a bad thing. It is nice to see vegetation growing wild and untrimmed in the city.

The largest park that I have visited is named Alameda. I walked to and through it this morning. It is on a hillside and slopes down a point not far from the city center. I took this photo at the top of the hill near the center of the park in the early morning, hence the long shadows. There were not many people in the park at this hour. The few that I saw were mainly joggers getting in an early Sunday morning run.

At the very center of the park stands this poorly neglected church. As you can see, the door is covered with graffiti. If you enlarge the picture or look closely, you will also see that at least two panes of glass are broken in the window above the door.

I think that almost no one among the hordes of tourists in Santiago are aware of this almost-hidden path. Both ends of the path are accessed through a narrow opening between buildings. They look as if they lead to someone’s backyard. I discovered this path through greenery in the heart of the city only because it showed on Google Maps. It was both a convenient shortcut and a welcome break from the bustle of the city.

I’ve decided that when I arrive in Madrid on Wednesday, I’m going to spend the remaining week of my vacation there. Even though I’ve been to Madrid several times, there are still plenty of things there that I have not seen.

Santiago de Compostela — August 20, 2017

I finally bicycled into Santiago yesterday morning. Most of the route was an uphill grind, but once I reached the outskirts of Santiago I was able to get off busy Highway N550 and ride calmer city streets. Here is the first sight I got of the steeples of Santiago Cathedral, the building where Saint James aka Santiago is allegedly buried and which is traditionally the goal of all religious pilgrims to this city.

When I got close to the hostal (something between a hostel and a hotel) where I am staying, I stopped for coffee, but I was tempted by something I haven’t eaten in years, a so-called American breakfast. Usually I eat a crescent roll and drink a cup or two of coffee for breakfast when I am traveling in Southern Europe. However, this was enough to hold me well through lunch. In addition to the bacon, two eggs and toast, there is a small pancake hidden under one of those pieces of toast. If they would put me in charge, I would have served hash-brown potatoes instead of the pancake.

I know it is intolerant of me, but I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of this couple eating outside the café. There are not as many heavy people in Spain as there are in the US and the UK, but the number of overweight Spaniards does seem to be increasing. Let them be a reminder to me not to eat too many of the restaurant’s American breakfasts.

After breakfast, I coasted on the bike down the street to the hostal, which was only a half block away. It was too early to check in, but the hostal personnel let me put my bike in a locked room just off the underground car garage and allowed me to store my pannier bags near my room. I then wandered off to see a bit of the city, stopping first at the railway station to print the ticket from Santiago to Madrid that I had bought online. I have the ticket on Renfe’s (Spanish Railways) cellphone app, but I feel more secure having a paper copy as a backup.

Here’s a snapshot of the station, at the  bottom of a two-story suitcase. If you walk to the station from the main part of town, you lug your luggage (is that where the word luggage came from) down the stairs, and of course, you have to lug it up the stairs if your are arriving. There are no escalators and no elevators. The station was obviously designed before the days of suitcases with wheels.

There are streets leading to the station for those who take a taxi or have a friend to drive them.

Here is what the Cathedral of Santiago looks like from the plaza in front of it. If you’ve seen the movie The Way — and I recommend that you do — you will remember that when the international group of four pilgrims reached the cathedral, they walked right in, and there were very few other people inside.

In real life, it’s not like that. There are two lines to enter different parts of the cathedral, and in each of them, you must stand for hours behind hundreds of other people. You only see part of the line in the picture; it goes to the right and snakes back and forth in the plaza to the right of the church.

This is the second time I have made the pilgrimage to Santiago, and I’ve never been inside the cathedral.

I went inside the church shown below instead. It’s the Church of San Francisco or Saint Francis. (I’m not sure which one; there are at least two saints with that name.)

When I got inside the church, mass was about to begin, so I took a seat near the front and attended the mass. There were only a handful of people there as yesterday was Saturday. Attendance was nothing like the films I have seen of mass in the Cathedral with the giant incense burner swinging back and forth in the nave above the heads of the congregation.

I was raised Catholic as a child, but I am no longer a believer. For me, the occasional mass I attend when traveling in Europe is a cultural event, not a religious one.

I leave Santiago on the 23rd. That’s the earliest I could get a train to Madrid. In the meantime, I’ll walk the streets of this city and take pictures. I’ll also blog every day until I fly home on September 2. Tomorrow, Monday, I plan to ride my trusty old touring bike down to the Red Cross and donate it. It is about 40 years old and not worth the cost of shipping it back to the USA. When the airlines see a passenger with a  bicycle, dollar signs start to flash, and the intercontinental shipping companies are even greedier.

Faramella, Spain — August 19, 2017

I could have easily made it to Sanitago on the bike yesterday, but I stopped short and will have an easy ride today. It was raining very lightly in Tivo when I got up, but by the time I had breakfast and put the panniers on my bike, it had stopped. I left in the dusk of morning with a flashing headlight and taillight.

Oh, a digression — if you’ve read my earlier blog entries, you know that Portugal and all of Southern Europe was suffering a heat wave when I arrived. I’ve now learned that it has a name, Heatwave Lucifer.

The afternoon before I left Tivo, I had taken this picture of the Camino just after the hostel. The path also serves as a village street, apparently constructed before the automobile age and never widened. The grapes vines on both sides bear Concord grapes, some of which were ripe. Yes, I sampled one. As to the crucifixion, it is very weathered and must have been there for centuries. Yesterday morning I cycled down this path before rejoining highway N550, which I then followed all of the way here.

After just a few kilometers of pedaling, I stopped at a café with decent WiFi internet access and uploaded yesterday’s blog entry. The café was jammed with pilgrims, and it was difficult to work and juggle my coffee. I had to share my small table with three other pilgrims, and there were people standing. Had I just gone 200 meters further, I would have found a café with no customers whose owner would probably have been delighted to sell me a coffee and have me use the WiFi.

I entered the town of Caldas de Reis by crossing the Ullma River on an ancient bridge that had been resurfaced and widened to handle two-way automobile traffic plus a narrow pedestrian walkway on each side. I snapped this picture of two pilgrims on the bridge, one of whom just had to take a picture of the scenic river.

Ahead, the bridge curved to the right, so I was able to photograph the arches that support the bridge. These ancient arches were well-enough build to support the automobiles and semi-truck that cross the bridge today. Yes, I cycled over those arches, completing with the heavy traffic on the narrow but busy roadway.

I next passed this poor old church in a state of neglect with two women sitting beside it. There was a sign to the right of them announcing that ice cream was sold inside, and the rusty sign on the front of the church advertises a tobacconist’s shop. Under the arch just behind the rusty sign there is an ancient fountain from which I imagine pilgrims were once glad to drink. No one was at the fountain when I stopped to view it. I am not religious, but it saddens me to see an old, historic building neglected this way.

Incidentally, sections of the highway that I cycled today were very busy, and often there was no shoulder, so I had to ride out in the traffic lane competing with cars and trucks. It wasn’t a problem. Spanish drivers are incredibly tolerant of cyclists and treat them as a normal part of the traffic flow. As I mentioned in earlier posts, when passing a cyclist, almost all drivers wait until they can safely pass while giving the cyclists at least the required 1.5 meters (about five feet) of clearance.

If you’re wondering why I photographed this road sign, it is because of the town to the left, Os Anxeles. That is the Galician spelling of Los Angeles. Although people in this region seem so speak Spanish more than they do Galician, all of the signs along the roadway are in the latter language. It pays to know a few words of Portuguese here as well as Spanish. Galician has a lot of similarity with Portuguese.

My final photograph is of the hostel where I spent last night and from where I will publish this blog entry and eat breakfast. It’s a combination pilgrim’s hostel and restaurant called La Calabaza del Peligrino. Calabaza can mean either pumpkin or gourd. I suppose the idea is that this is a place where a pilgrim can find refreshment, just as ancient pilgrims filled their gourds with fresh water. There is a huge patio in the back where my bicycle is patiently waiting for me to reclaim it after breakfast.

Today I cycle to Santiago de Compostela, the end of my cycling journey. I have a room (bathroom down the hall) reserved for three nights, and I hope I can extend it to four. August 23 is the earliest I could get a train out of Santiago to Madrid. From Madrid? I don’t yet know. I will have more than a week left before my plane leaves from Madrid, so perhaps I will spend a few days in Córdova and then a night or two in Madrid again before I fly home. Whatever I do, I’ll post it daily on this blog. I will plan it and make reservations from my room tomorrow. I also have to decide what to do with my old touring bicycle. It’s not worth what the airlines would charge to fly it home. Perhaps I should just leave it on the sidewalk with a sign on it reading “gratis,” free.

Tivo, Spain — August 18, 2017

Again I am writing with Microsoft Word in the hope of uploading this blog entry later this morning at a café on the way. There is theoretically Internet access here at the Cartro Canos Café y Albergue in Tivo, but it is so slow as to be unusable. I can barely access the blog site, and uploading pictures or writing is impossible. I would like to catch up on the Trump news, but the connection is too slow for even that.

[Later, I was, however, able to follow the terrible terrorist attacks in and near Barcelona.]

I cycled directly north on the N550 highway yesterday. I left Redondela at about 8:30 am after breakfasting and updating my blog at a café across the highway from the hostel. When I started cycling, the light was still not very bright, but I had a blinking taillight and was able to cycle on the highway’s shoulder almost the whole way. The street was narrow in Redondela and again in Pontevedra, where I arrived at about 10:30. Pntevedra would have been a sensible place to stop for a pilgrim on foot, but of course, on the bike I make a lot better time.

About halfway to Pontevedra, I crossed a bridge where I stopped and snapped the following picture. I wish I could tell you the name of the river, but without reliable Internet access I cannot look it up.

Leaving Pontevedra, I passed a DIA supermarket, one of the biggest chains in Spain, where I bought two bananas and some chocolate croissants for second breakfast. As I sat on the curb of the parking lot eating, and old man passed carrying his basket of groceries to his car. ¿Alemán? he asked me. German? I told him I was from the USA, and he said I looked light skinned like a German. Are Germans lighter skinned than the rest of us of European descent? One thing I like about Spain is that, being fluent in Spanish, I can gossip with all the locals along the way.

Some enterprising locals make a business of setting up a temporary café along the Camino and selling refreshments and snacks to the pilgrims. The pilgrims are grateful for the break. Of course, everyone who wants the pilgrims’ business offers to stamp the pilgrim passport, the document that is required to stay in the pilgrim’s hostels and which will get you a certificate of having completed the Camino when you reach Santiago if you have at least two stamps in it for each day that you walked the final 100 kilometers. Businesses along the way are grateful for the requirement.

Here’s a picture of the awning of a sandwich shop that I passed. I was struck by the name, O’Peereio. If the O in front of the name looks a bit Irish, it’s because the Galician region of Spain was settled by Celts, even if the modern Galician language is derived from Latin

Usually, the path that the pilgrims on foot walked was away from the highway, but there were times when they were forced to share the shoulder with me and my bike. The pilgrims in the following picture had just crossed the highway to the opposite shoulder. A bit further on, they left the highway on a cobblestone path to the left.

Below is a picture of the hostel where I am staying. If it looks like it’s way out in the country, I suppose that it once was. However, this little village of Tivo is surrounded by the sprawl that extends from the nearby town of Caldas de Reis, even though the latter reportedly only has about 7,000 inhabitants.

After I showered and changed clothes, I thought I’d better wash some clothes. When I asked where to do it, I was told in Spanish, “Here we wash the traditional way, out in the fountain in the hamelt’s square.”Here’s a picture of my laundry spread out ready to wash including my Arizona State University cycling jersey.

To anyone thinking of following in my wheel tracks, I say that cycling in Spain is very safe. There are rare exceptions, but for the most part, Spanish drivers are very respectful of cyclists and their right to the road. Big semi trucks will pull way to the left to pass a cyclist, and if there isn’t room to do that, they will slow down and patiently drive behind you at your pace until it is safe to pass. I wish I could say the same about Arizona motorists.

Redondela, Spain — August 17, 2017

I’m starting to write this the night of the 16th on Microsoft Word to upload on the 17th whenever I find a café with WiFi. There is no useable WiFi here at the hostel. There is a WiFi service of the type where you have to give the company your cell phone number, and in return you receive a text message with your login and password. Then they have your phone number and can send unlimited spam text messages. However, I was willing to undergo even that to get on the Internet, but after following the procedure, I received no text message. Perhaps they don’t want USA cell phone numbers.

On that subject, I am using Google’s Project Fi cellular service, which works worldwide, and I am very pleased. If I’m connected to WiFi, calls to the USA and Canada are free. Calls inside North America are all free, and calls made in Europe using the cellar network are 20 cents a minute. Cellular data costs $10 US per gigabit worldwide, and there’s a credit carried over for all unused data. Many times I have been in a place where I could not connect to WiFi, and I’ve been glad to be able to connect to the Internet to plot a course to a destination on Google Maps, and despite that, I have yet to use a whole dollar’s worth of data.

The downside is that it only works with Android phones, officially only with Google phones, but I managed to get a free SIM card from Project Fi and get an old Samsung Android phone to work. I’m not trying to sell the service, but if someone refers you who is already a customer, you get a credit ($20, I think) on the first month’s bill. If you’re interested in a referral from me, email me at jack (at) azroadcyclist (dot) com.

Back to the Camino. I road yesterday from Tui here to Rodondela. I stopped early, because I have learned that the pilgrim’s hostels start filling up as soon as they open. I’m staying at Casa da Torre Rondela, which you have probably figured out is Galician for House of the Round Tower. It is a Xunta hostel, pictured below, and run by the Region of Galicia and very cheap, five euros for the bed plus the obligatory purchase of a disposable bed sheet and pillow case for another euro.

I did not realize it when I registered, but the Xunta hostels will not accept cyclists until everyone else is accommodated, and the woman working registration said later that she did not realize that I was a cyclist. As I was already registered, she said I could stay if no one complained. So far, no one has, and there is a sign hanging outside the hostel stating that it is full, so I think I’m safe. I’m going to avoid Xunta hostels from now on.

I left Tui yesterday without breakfast and didn’t find an open café until I reached the outskirts of Porriño almost 10 kilometers from the start. I ordered a coffee, and I was served two small cakes with it. So I ordered another round, and those two coffees plus four tiny cakes were breakfast.
Below is a picture of my bike patiently waiting for me outside the café.

When I reached the hostel here, it was not yet open, but there was a line of backpacks before the door. At the front of the line, I recognized the sign from the Italian woman who gave me a free hug two nights ago. She had left her backpack in line to go see the town, but when she returned to check in, she immediately opened her arms and gave me another hug. Now that I think of it, the only hugs I received while walking the Camino francés a few years ago were also from Italian women. Hugging must be an Italian thing. If so, it’s a big plus for Italian culture.

The only other picture I have to share today is the one below of one of the buildings in the center of Redondela.

Tui, Spain — August 16, 2017

I left Ponte de Lima, Portugal yesterday before 7 am thinking that I had a rough road ahead of me. The road between Ponte Lima and Rubiães crosses a mountain pass, and I had been warned that the climb was very tough. That turned out to not be the case. The road did climb for kilometer after kilometer, but the climb was gradual, and there was very little traffic. The N201 is a national highway, but there is now a limited-access highway running almost parallel to it, which takes most of the north-south traffic. In case anyone else is contemplating cycling the N201, below is a picture of what it looked like. I snapped the picture after crossing the pass over the mountains.

Breakfast was served at the hostel at 8:30 am, which was much too late for me. I arranged he night before for a sack breakfast to be waiting for me at the reception desk, and I ate it before leaving the hostel just before 7 am. It wasn’t much, so after riding over the pass, I stopped at a café for some coffee, without which I have a difficult time starting my day. Here’s what the café looked like from the outside. It was before Rubiãs, just after I had enjoyed a long downhill descent from the mountains.

If it looks like a farmer’s café out in the countryside, that’s exactly what it was. Of course, there was no chance that anyone there spoke English, but I managed to get by in my basic Portuguese and finally get a café americano.

In Rubiãs itself, I stopped again for another cup of coffee and a second breakfast. After I ordered in Portuguese, the man behind the counter responded in perfect English.

Below is a picture of what the “countryside” looked like after I got out of the mountains. While crossing the mountains, I really did feel that I was out in the countryside in the middle of the woods, but the lowland areas are very built up.

It was too early when I arrived in Rubiães to stop, so I decided to continue to Valença, the last city on the Portuguese side of the Spanish border. I passed through the town of Pedreira when I had a decision to make. The map showed the N201 curving to the left and joining the highway N13, which looked on the map like an important highway and could be carrying heavy traffic. The map also showed a rural road, which not only promised to be quieter but also shorter.

I’ve learned not to trust Portuguese farm roads. They are usually paved with cobblestones, have incredibly steep hills, and turn into dirt tracks without warning. So, I decided to get some local advice about whether the road was passable on a heavily-burdened road touring bike.

I spotted two gentlemen and asked them if they spoke English. They told me that they did. They didn’t! So, in basic Portuguese I asked them if the rural road to Valença was doable on my bike. They said that the road didn’t go to Valença and that I would have to take the main highway. That wasn’t what the map showed. Then they told me they would get a man who spoke better English. He didn’t! However, he did know the road and told me in Portuguese slowly enough for me to understand that the road was perfectly suited to my bike and added information about which turns to take. That turned out to be true. The road was perfect for cycling.

Just to prove I did make it to Valença, I took this picture at the city limits.

I decided that rather than stay in Valença, I would cycle across the bridge to its sister city, Tui in Spain. Here’s a picture of the  bridge. There is a second bridge for the freeway a bit to the left of this one.

As you can see, there was no room for cars to pass me as I cycled across the bridge,  but that wasn’t necessary. Traffic was slow enough that I was able to keep pace with the cars in front of me. In any case, motorists in this part of the road respect cyclists’ right to the road and are willing to follow a cyclist for a considerable distance waiting for a chance to pass.

The municipal pilgrim’s hostel in Tui is located behind this Roman style cathedral shown below. It was only noon, and I was early, so I was sure of getting a bunk. No! It wasn’t noon. When I had cycled across the bridge, I had also cycled into a different time zone. It was 1 pm in Spain.

The Camino must be very busy, the señora at the reception desk pointed to a sign saying completo, full. I asked her which pilgrim’s hostel she would recommend, and she touted the Alberque Villa de San Clemente. I asked her if she thought there was room, and she offered to phone ahead for me.

I’m glad that she did, because when I arrived here, the door was locked and there was a sign outside reading completo. Not again? However, I rang the bell several times, and finally a man opened the door. I mentioned that I was the cyclist that the Municipal Hostel had phoned him about, and he invited me in. He had saved me a bed. Like most Spanish, he was very friendly and greeted me as if I were an old friend.

This hostel is pretty snazzy and very spacious. Here’s a picture of the garden behind it or the “back yard,” as we Americans would call it. The path leading to the back in lined with large stone statues.

Yesterday was a religious holiday of some sort in Tui. I don’t know what was celebrated, but just before sunset there was a large procession of inhabitants, all carrying candles. They were proceeded by a band playing bagpipes and drums, very related to Irish and Scottish music and in tune with the Gaelic roots of this part of Spain, called Galicia. Later in the procession four men carried a life-sized statue of a religious figure.

I’m uploading this blog entry before leaving Tui. I don’t know how far I will cycle today. I only have two weeks left before my plane leaves from Madrid, and I would like to visit Finisterre, which some Europeans once believed was the end of the Earth. I would also like to spend a few days in Santiago and a few in Madrid before I fly home. I also have to keep in mind that I crossed into a different time yesterday, and the sun will come up an hour later today than it did in Portugal.

I’ve pretty much decided to abandon my trusty old Trek touring bike in Santiago. It is about 40 years old and has served me well, but it isn’t worth the cost and hassle of transporting it by train to Madrid and then flying it back to the States. I have too many old bikes in my house that I should have gotten rid of decades ago.

Ponte de Lima, Portugal — August 15, 2017

After I upload this blog entry, I’m headed north on the bike and hope to at least reach the town of Rubiães still in Portugal. Instead of waiting until 8:30 for the hostel to serve breakfast, I’m taking breakfast with me in a plastic bag to eat on the way. If things go well, today will be my last full day in Portugal. I should cycle across the border into Spain tomorrow.

Perhaps I should have ridden yesterday instead of stopping a day here, it was not as hot yesterday as the day before, especially in the morning when the sky was overcast for a change. However, I’m glad I spent a day walking around the Old City. When I do these pilgrimages, too often I walk or cycle through a community without getting to know it.

Almost all of the old buildings in the city are in the Old Town and only a few blocks from each other, clustered around this side of the Medieval Bridge. The building pictured below is the Torre São Paulo or Saint Paul’s Tower. It’s one of the remnants of the old city wall, constructed in the 1500s.

You’ll note the woman walking down the staircase near the top. The staircase leads to a locked door. If the door had been open to the public, I would have walked up there for a look around.

People were crowding around to get their pictures taken with a bronze statue of a bull, so naturally I fell in with the crowd and asked a Spanish woman if she would take my photo. On one of my walks on the Camino francés two years ago, my longtime cycling buddy Ed McGee remarked that I have too many “bronze friends.” I guess I do have a habit of having my picture taken with statues.

As you can see, the downtown area of Ponte de Lima is quite attractive with many beautiful buildings and a few small, well-kept parks. I didn’t find the outskirts that attractive, but then, the suburbs around most cities tend to be bland.

There are a number of churches in Ponte de Lima, but this is the main one. It is the Church of Our Lady of the Guia, whose construction began in the 17th Century. Like almost all ancient churches in Europe, it was built onto and modified during the years, so it has a mixture of architectural styles.

I took this photo inside the church using my cell phone. I am finding that my cell phone takes clearer pictures than my digital camera, and the cell phone will also take photos in dim light without a flash. The only thing that keeps me from throwing my camera away and using my cell phone for everything is that its battery charge will not make it through a day of heavy use.

This ancient clockwork was on display inside the church. No, it was not operating. I could find no information on where the clockwork came from. That tiny clock dial is much too small to have been in the church tower.

PS/I didn’t get a chance to upload this until Rubiães, so I’m here, and it’s not yet 10 am. The route through the mountains was much less difficult than I had feared, so I’m going to try to reach the Spanish border today.

by Jack Quinn, Phoenix, Arizona USA paybay1(at)mosmicro.com