The Way – part 13: Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis

After a day off in Pontevedra, it was time to be back on the Way today. We got up early, had our bags in the hotel lobby and were having breakfast by 7:30, and we set out a little after 8 a.m.

It was a cool start to the day, with a light mist suspended in the air, just grazing the rooftops as we made our way through the old part of town in a vaguely northward direction. Most of the shops and cafes were still closed, and the city was quiet in the morning twilight. At one point a lone fisherman cast his line into the river as the morning commuters slipped slowly by.

We walked alongside the river in the cool of the morning, enjoying being in motion again. It was peaceful, although there were many more perigrinos than had been the case even two days ago. A number of different pilgrim routes have converged now, and the paths – and the cafes – are often crowded now.

We opted to have a picnic lunch today, picking up a bocadillo of Serrano ham, queso and tomatoes, which we ate in the shade near some grape vines.

We encountered a number of cats, some of whom were keen to be picked up and held, purring like little motors.

We chatted with other pilgrims along the way, from Brazil, Ireland, Denmark, Australia and the U.S.

There were no big hills, and the temperatures remained manageable throughout the day. The threatened thunderstorms never materialized.

The hotel in Caldas de Reis seems grand from the reception area, but the room is plain, with little in the way of conveniences. It will be fine, though, for the night. Tomorrow we are on our way again: the penultimate day of walking. We’ll arrive in Santiago on Friday.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned not to do on this trip, it’s to think to far ahead. It’s best to just stay in the moment. And at this moment, it’s time to go find a drink before dinner.

The Way – part 12: hitting pause in Pontevedra

When we booked our Camino, back in the spring, we took the advice of a friend who had done this route the years before. ‘I wish I’d had an extra day in Pontevedra,’ she said, so I had Portugal Green Walks arrange it so we had that. I’m glad we did.

Having walked for nine straight days, covering roughly 170 km, a rest was a good thing before tackling the final 70ish km. And Pontevedra, with its superfluity of cafes, bars and restaurants, is a good place to do that.

We’ve found an excellent place just a couple dozen metres from our hotel, called Lola. We had an excellent meal of tapas there last night, and excellent coffee there this morning.

Cafe lifestyle is all too rare in North America, and nearly entirely absent in Vancouver. Even in those rare neighbourhoods where you find something resembling it, the experience is sadly not all that similar. It’s something I wish more urban planners considered when designing neighbourhoods.

Today we explored some of the historic centre of town, and did some looking in shops. The key site was the Convento San Francisco de Pontevedra, a beautiful old church occupying one corner of a large plaza.

Aside from that, it’s been the quiet sort of day we’d hoped for. Tomorrow, when it comes, will be another 22 km walk, this time to Caldas de Reis, an old spa town, with natural hot springs. In the meantime, there is still to rest, and to watch the world pass by from a table outside a cafe.

The Way – part 11: Arcade to Pontevedra

We are in a city now, not a village. The sounds of dogs and roosters have been replaced with motorcycles, cars and trucks, raised voices and an occasional siren. Pontevedra is the modern, bustling capital of Galicia. Although only a few hours walk from Arcade, the two places couldn’t be more different.

When we arrived in Arcade yesterday, I was a sweaty mess. We showered, spent time in the hotel’s outdoor bar with some friends we’ve made among our fellow perigrinos, and had a quick nap before dinner, which we ate in the outdoor bar. The food was delicious, the night was cool and quiet. The sun set as I drank my after dinner espresso.

If you’re ever in Arcade, dinner at the Restaurante Duarte is a safe bet. We had lagostina prawns, a caprese salad, and grilled pork, plus wine, dessert and coffee. It was delicious, and cost us under €40.

I slept like dead until 4 a.m., then woke and could not regain unconsciousness. Thank god the coffee was good at breakfast! Two americanos had me ready to face the day.

Me before coffee

Of course, it was a thankfully short walk today. More like a saunter, really, for most of it, once the 250 m incline at the start was out of the way. We walked through village lanes and along rural roads, past ubiquitous cornfields, until we reached the outskirts of Pontevedra.

Here, on the edge of town, we had a choice between the traditional, more direct route, through increasingly urban streets, or a detour along a dirt path through a forested area. Since we had lots of time, and since the cool shade and soft, unpaved track through the trees was more inviting, it wasn’t a hard choice to make.

We arrived at our hotel around 12:30 p.m., ahead of our luggage. We cleaned up a little and then went downstairs to the cafe for lunch, and to await the arrival of our bags.

We seem, once again, to be in a different hotel from some of our walking companions. This would likely have been our last night together in Spain, as we’ve arranged an extra day here in Pontevedra. Tuesday we’ll have a day off from our pilgrimage, and Wednesday we’ll set out again, this time for Caldas des Reis.