During the weekend, Andrea and I did a two-day Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago is a network of ancient pilgrimage routes that lead to the tomb of Saint James in the cathedral of Santiago. It is a popular destination for hikers, cyclists, and spiritual seekers from all over the world.
We started from our home city of Pontevedra and hiked the last stretch of the Portuguese Coastal Way. It is one of the less crowded and more scenic routes of the Camino. The official distance with no detours is 70 km. We planned to do it in two days, which is a bit ambitious but not impossible.
Day 1: Pontevedra to Padrón (43 km)
We set off at a civilized hour of 8:40 on Saturday morning, having fortified ourselves with a light breakfast at home. We then followed the yellow arrows and scallop shells that mark the way of the Camino. Andrea, being an emergency room doctor, was setting a brisk pace of 5.5 km/hr, or what I jokingly called “Andrea speed”. I had to keep up with her, not that she would have left me behind.
The first day was a pleasant stroll, with only a few gentle hills and bridges to cross. We walked on charming paths or dirt tracks through the woods, admiring the rural scenery and the quaint villages. The air was crisp and fragrant with the smell of firewood, and the only sounds we heard were the birds and the streams. We encountered only three pilgrims that day, which gave us a sense of solitude and serenity.
We made a worthwhile detour to see the waterfall at Parque Nacional Ría Barosa, which was a sight to behold. We also took advantage of the facilities there, and had a snack of cashews and whole-wheat cookies.
We arrived at Caldas de Reyes around 2:30 pm, after covering about 43 km. Caldas de Reyes is a spa town with natural hot springs and a river.
We stumbled upon a cozy restaurant called Gurmet Diferent-e, which promised traditional Galician cuisine. We ordered a feast, consisting of toast with pulpo (octopus), a ham and cheese platter, a mixed salad, pastries, and of course, beer. Everything was delicious and satisfying. We felt like we had earned it after walking so far.
We continued our journey to Padrón, where we had booked a hotel online. We reached there before 7 pm, with only a little daylight left. We were tired but happy. We had a lovely dinner prepared by Chef Rivera, which was also the name of the hotel we stayed at.
Day 2: Padrón to Santiago de Compostela (30 km)
We woke up around 8:30 a.m., and had a croissant-and-coffee breakfast at our hotel. We packed our bags, checked out, and hit the road again. The second day was more challenging than the first, as there was more elevation gain, and we walked slower. We also saw more traffic, especially around Padrón, which is a larger town and a popular starting point for many pilgrims.
But we also saw more animals, including charming cats and lazy dogs. Some of them followed us for a short stretches or asked for some attention. We also saw some horses, cows, sheep, and chickens. We enjoyed the rural scenery and the friendly encounters.
The weather was warmer and as sunny as the day before. The mornings were chilly. Good thing Andrea brought a plaid blue blanket to use as a scarf to keep her warmer. It was also great that the weather prognosticators’ claim of 0% chance of precipitation was true as we didn’t have any rain gear.
We reached the outskirts of Santiago around 2 pm, after walking for about four hours. To take a break and celebrate our achievement, we stopped at a bakery that had a terrace in the sun. We ordered some cañas (half-pints of beer) and toasted to our camino.
We resumed our walk and elected to go through the neighborhood of Conxo, where Andrea had done some rotations in a psychiatric hospital as a medical student. Then we entered the historic center of Santiago. We followed the yellow arrows until we reached the Plaza del Obradoiro, where the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela stands. The cathedral is a magnificent building, with a Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque style. It is where Andrea had her graduation ceremony for medical school over a decade ago. She was happy to see it again and to share it with me.
In Santiago, we had a dinner of doner kebab, a contrast to the Galician cuisine we had the day before. I enjoyed the spicy and savory flavors and the casual atmosphere.
We took the bus back to Pontevedra, which took about an hour. There was still time to take a bath and rest before the Super Bowl. The game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles was very exciting, and I managed to stay awake to its conclusion despite ending at 4:15 a.m. Spain time. It was a perfect way to end the weekend.