Adiós España, Ciao Italia

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Spain / Italy
5 days in Positano
October 8 – 12

Positano, Italia

After one last look at the courtyard outside of our room at the beautiful Parador in Santiago de Compostela, we arranged for some of our Camino clothing and gear to be shipped back to California, and we departed this amazing country. The first time I came to Spain I was 17 years old. I was mad at my parents for the timing of our trip, because I had to miss my friends’ High School graduation. I quickly got over it, because my month in Spain was magical; it was then that I fell in love with the country and her people.

It would be another 30 years before I made it back to Vizcaya and Spain, this time with my husband Mike for a month. He too loved the country, my Basque Family, and all of the people that we met. And here we are, 14 years later, after spending more than a month in Spain, sad to leave, but certain that we will return. Mike has promised my cousins here that we’d come back every 2 years. He also wants to do another Camino. I’m on board, but I’d make some changes now that we know what to expect. I’d pack less, approach other peregrinos more, take more pictures of the people that we meet, go into more churches and Cathedrals, allow more time in each destination to explore. We’ll do a “what we’d do again, what we’d change” list to help us to remember for next time, and to share with others who might consider doing a journey similar to ours.

We took a few pictures of Santiago from the plane, one or two more of Madrid, and finally, Italy, as we approached Naples. The ride from the airport to Positano on the Amalfi coast was lovely ~ not one that would work if you happen to suffer from motion sickness. Our driver was happy to share all of his recommendations with us, and he invited us to come to his house for dinner with his wife and 5-year-old daughter Fabiana. When we realized that he worked very long hours and that he barely spent time with his family, we thanked him for the offer, but we’d have to make it another time.

The concierge at Le Sirenuse, Leonardo, is a character, warm, always cracking jokes…. Telling us that he is arranging for us to get Visas to stay in Positano. He assumes that if we stayed in Spain for 38 days, we should stay in Positano for at least the same amount of time. When we woke up on Monday morning I thought that we were in a fairy tale. The views of Positano are spectacular. It’s hard to believe that most of the shops and restaurants will be closing in a week or so.

We hadn’t made any plans for our time here. We did a little shopping on our first day, bought hats, because…. Italy; had mani/pedi’s and massages, ate some spectacular food, and drank equally delicious wine. Mike was happy because the hotel has a gym. He worked out, determined to lose another 5 pounds after already losing quite a bit on the Camino. We made arrangements to have a guided hike on the “path of the gods” on Tuesday. That deserves a post of its own.

I believe that we will be back here in Positano. It’s easy to love.

Santiago: Cathedral, Park, Mass

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Camino de Santiago del Norte
Days 35 & 36 of our Adventure: Santiago de Compostela
Friday & Saturday October 6-7, 2017

Santiago de Compostela

We are still in awe of this beautiful city and its ever-changing occupants. We finally made it to the Pilgrims’ Mass last night. It was in Spanish, so we didn’t understand much of what was being said. But you know, the Roman Catholic Mass is the same everywhere, with just a few minor differences, so it was pretty easy to understand where we were in the service. The Mass was concelebrated by about 8 priests. Hard to say, as we were seated way in the back. Note to anyone who wants to attend Mass in Santiago: Get there an hour and a half early. One of the shopkeepers said that getting on line by 7:00 (for the 7:30 PM Mass) would be fine. We should have been there an hour earlier. The Cathedral was packed!!

Before Mass there were several announcements about photos being “forbidden” during the Mass, until after Mass is over. My photographer is normally a rule-follower; but he’s not Catholic…. So, enjoy the pictures of the amazing Botafumeiro swinging from ropes.

The Botafumeiro (‘censer’ in Galician) is one of the most famous and popular symbols of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is a large censer (filled with burning incense) that swings from the central dome of the Cathedral, from which it hangs by a system of pulleys, to the side naves. Eight men are required to move it, who are known as the tiraboleiros, as it weighs 53 kg and measures 1.50 meters; it is suspended at a height of 20 meters and can reach a high speed.

As luck would have it, we wanted to take a tour of the Cathedral today, and they were letting people in this afternoon. I thought that was odd, since the 12:00 noon Pilgrims’ Mass was in progress. We quietly walked around the outer chapels, and then we got onto a line to climb behind the altar (mind you, people were doing this during the Consecration). We eventually climbed up some stairs, hugged the huge statue of Santiago (St. James), and said a silent prayer. We happened to reach this statue during Communion. It was very emotional, and I’m glad that we were at the right place at the right time.

And THEN, we could see that the eight tiraboleiros were starting to take their places around the Botafumeiro. We were right under it as they started swinging it! Mike took pictures as I recorded a short video. Mostly I wanted to capture the beautiful hymn that was being sung during this experience of a lifetime. I’m having trouble uploading the video from my phone (too large), so look at it on Facebook. Or here (from an internet search).

Besides the spiritual lift last night and today, we also ran into one of our Camino compadres, Garrett from Ireland last night! He had reservations for dinner; we were just going to grab some tapas. So instead, we joined Garrett, and we had a really fun dinner, talking about our shared and separate experiences on our journeys. Garrett had done the Northern route before, and we talked about how arduous some of the stages were.

We went for a walk in the Alameda Park…. So beautiful!! And of course walked all around the streets and alleys of Santiago, eating tapas, drinking café con leche and wine, doing a little shopping. Some of the photos in the Plaza around the Cathedral were taken very early in the morning before the crowds arrived and before the sun prevented us from fully capturing the beauty of the buildings. We will hate to leave here tomorrow, but a new adventure awaits!!

Thank you for joining us on our Camino. We hope that you enjoyed the “Northern” Way of St. James through our eyes. Words and pictures don’t come close to capturing the experience. Maybe someday you’ll do your own Camino! Love to all of you.

Lisa & Mike

Santiago de Compostela ~ Tears of Joy

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Camino de Santiago
Day 34 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Thursday October 5, 2017

25km / 15 miles / 5 hours
Total Ascent: 1000 ft.
Total Descent: 1200 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 2; Waymarking 1
Scenery Rating: 2

O Pino to Santiago de Compostela

We’ve arrived!! We left Rúa at 7 AM, an hour and a half before dawn, hoping that we’d get to Santiago in time to get our credentials stamped and make it to the 12:00 noon Mass. HA! The walk was much longer than we expected; and we were traveling at break-neck speed ~ in spite of the hills, our empty stomachs, and no caffeine before we started.

The sight of the Cathedral, the throngs of peregrinos arriving in the Plaza, the enormity of what we accomplished, what tens of thousands of people before us had accomplished, was overwhelming. We took it all in for a few moments, and then tried to figure out what to do first. It was obvious that we were too late for the Mass, so we checked into our hotel, the Parador de Santiago de Compostela. We stayed here in 2003, but I don’t remember our room being this luxurious. I was emotional enough, and I almost wept for joy when we stepped into our room. Our accommodations for most of our trip were very comfortable, but this place… well, let’s just say that we made the right decision to stay here for 3 nights.

Once we dropped off our backpacks we asked for help to find the office of credentials. We got on a very long line that started outside and wound through the halls of the building. We heard that the wait was 2 hours. If only…. Turned out to be more than 2 and a half, but people were in happy spirits, and we befriended Peter, a very tall Hungarian man, who seemed to enjoy practicing his English. As we were leaving, a young woman asked us about our Camino, specifically what our favorite part was. I said seeing my family in El Pais Vasco, and arriving here in Santiago. And then I started to cry. (Still…..)

After we finished the “business” part of our journey, we went to grab a bite to eat and to drink a glass of wine, unpacked our suitcases, took showers, and walked around Santiago. We mistakenly thought that the evening Mass was at 5:30, but it turned out to be 7:30, and we had already made reservations for dinner at a fabulous restaurant, A Horta d’Obradoiro. We’ll go to Mass tomorrow night, now that we know what to expect (the lines for the noon service were insane… we’ll get there really early!).

Mike took pictures of his shoes next to the ones that he DIDN’T use on the Camino. These are the exact same shoe ~ one pair with almost 500 miles of wear, the other with maybe 20 miles. And then he put them outside, where they belong.

We also took a picture of our “helpers” along the Way: Honey Zingers gel and chews for instant energy, salt sticks for electrolytes and to prevent dehydration, Kinesiology tape (which was a godsend on my knees!), IsaGenix e+ energy shots and vitamins, Ibuprofen, Arbonne skin conditioning oil, a SkyRoam hotspot, and Compeed blister solutions. I had to dispose of my ankle braces because they finally fell apart; otherwise they would be in the picture as well.

On our way back from dinner we ran into some of our fellow travelers: 2 guys from southern Spain, and a young lady from Russia. We saw them almost every day on the Camino Primitivo, and I wasn’t really surprised to see them in Santiago even though they finished the day before.

Looking forward to the rest of our time here in Santiago de Compostela!!

Arzua to O Pino (Rúa)

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Camino Francés
Day 33 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Wednesday October 4, 2017

18km / 12.5 miles / 4.5 hours
Total Ascent: 984 ft.
Total Descent: 738 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 2; Waymarking 1
Scenery Rating: 2

Arzua to O Pino (Rúa)

We’ve been leaving close to the same time each morning, and it seems to be much darker than when we started our Camino on September 6. Of course, the days have been getting shorter, and we’ve also been walking westward for 4 weeks. Turns out that sunrise on Day 1 in San Sebastián was at 7:38 AM. Tomorrow, in Santiago de Compostela, sunrise will be at 8:36 AM. There is a 26-minute difference in sunrise times just by virtue of being 435 miles west of our starting point, and another 32-minute difference due to the seasonal change.

The sunrise isn’t the only difference! The sheer volume of people is astounding. A whole parade of young people passed us about an hour and a half into our walk this morning. Besides the “kids”, the numbers have increased exponentially. The first few bars that we came to were packed with people, and we decided to bypass those in favor of a quieter stop. Interesting décor they had there…. We shared the trail with cyclists, a few of whom almost ran into us. No warning bells, just these guys who zoomed past, 3 abreast. I yelled after them that they need to ring their bells.

As we continued to walk, the crowd thinned out, and when we were less than a mile from our stop for the night we passed those same kids. One was on the ground with heat exhaustion. A second group was sitting on the ground, resting, and a third was waiting for the others to catch up.

We walked through a few aromatic eucalyptus groves today. The day was warm (82°), and we appreciated the shade. We also walked past a “Wall of Wisdom”, with dozens of questions printed on sheets of paper.

We are at our final stop, Hotel O Pino, before tomorrow’s walk to Santiago. Our plan is to leave early (with headlamps) to try to get to the Cathedral in time for the Mass at noon.

I made a list before we started of various people we’d dedicate each day’s walk to. Some of them were special, private intentions. Others were more general. The dedications included:

  • My sisters, survivors of decades of family vacations
  • My U.S. Power-Arano Cousins
  • My Basque Uncles and Cousins who live in Berriatua, Ermua, and Isla
  • My Dad and his Mother, Bernardina Arano Power
  • First responders, victims, and families of the 9/11 attacks
  • A friend whose sister died recently
  • My Mom, on the day that we walked to Santillana del Mar (because she loves that town)
  • Our 3 children, Michael, Angela, and Gregg
  • Our grandson Nathan
  • My (Lithuanian) Kanzler grandparents, Ben & Alice Kanzler
  • My Godfather, Uncle Don, who walked parts of the Appalachian Trail, and my Aunt Judy
  • Various friends whose birthdays fell on our walking days
  • Specifically, Grace Garcia, who was celebrating her birthday on the Camino Portugués
  • My Power Aunts and my Dad who were afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease (on the day of the Alzheimer’s walk in Point Pleasant, NJ)
  • Tomorrow’s walk is dedicated to Margie Clifford, who fought (and recently lost) a quiet and valiant fight against cancer, and who never gave up… I thought about her tenacity as I sometimes struggled to make it up a tough hill, or to walk those final 4 km on a long day. Her birthday was 5/5/55, and we are walking into Santiago on the 5th. Margie, thanks for the inspiration.

Melide to Arzua: Shortest Walk on The Camino

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Camino Francés
Day 32 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Tuesday October 3, 2017

14km / 8.7 miles / 3.5 hours
Total Ascent: 951 ft.
Total Descent: 1575 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 3; Waymarking 1
Scenery Rating: 3

Melide to Arzua

Anticipating another sunny and warm afternoon, we left Melide relatively early, even knowing that our walk would be less than 9 miles. The weather was perfect for walking: a little overcast, cool (maybe 60°). We continued to see some of the same traveling companions that we’ve been running into off-and-on since we switched from the northern (del Norte) route to the Camino Primitivo in Oviedo.

We arrived in Arzua ridiculously early, even after stopping for a café con leche at a bar for half an hour. Tripadvisor has been pretty reliable for finding good restaurants, and we went in search of the top 1 or 2 on their list so that we’d know where to go for our mid-day comida later. (We ended up going to Casa Teodora. The salad and Garlic Shrimp were delicious; the “medium” beef was way too rare for me, which is normal for Spain.) And then we schlepped about 2 km away from the Camino to our darling “pazo” (Manor House). Pazo Santa Maria was originally commissioned for the family formed by Maria Micaela de la Rue and Gregorio de Barrio y Figueroa in 1742.

The views from the hillside are beautiful, as are the gardens. Even though we had to walk 4 km round trip into town for lunch (and will need to walk an extra 2 km tomorrow to get back onto the Camino), this is a lovely place to spend the night.

We’ve been talking about our feelings about finishing our journey. We’re kind of sad, and the anticipation of arriving at Santiago de Compostela is very emotional. Our bodies are tired each day, and I am looking forward to walking fewer miles in Italy and when we get back to the States. Meanwhile, Mike is trying to figure out how to keep me in the habit of walking a crazy amount of miles when we return. (Insert eye roll here….)

The Camino Francés is different from the Caminos del Norte and Primitivo. It seems that people have vandalized the waymarkers on this route, removing the beautiful scallop shell tiles, writing on the stone pillars. The messages, most of them written in English, appear to me to be in the “holier than thou” genre that have given some sects of Christianity a bad reputation. Prior to this stage the messages on signs and on billboards were subtle, humble, giving, and forgiving (if that makes sense). More and more the messages are almost nasty. I’ll take some photos of what I mean as I see them.

There are a lot more people on the Camino now than we’ve seen since September 6 when we started our journey. We met a couple from Atlanta, and 3 women from Oakland and Pomona, California this morning. Although we are far from home, our hearts are breaking with the news of yet another mass murder, a domestic terrorist attack, this time in Las Vegas. Two Manhattan Beach residents were killed in that rampage, a civilian employee of the police department, and a special education teacher at our middle school.

Ferreira to Melide – a “Walk in the Park”

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Camino Primitivo
Day 31 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Monday October 2, 2017

20.6km / 14 miles / 5 hours
Total Ascent: 1216 ft.
Total Descent: 1508 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 3; Waymarking 2
Scenery: 2

Ferreira to Melide

“Galicia at its finest!” Compared to the past few days, and certainly the past 21 days, this was a walk in the park. We had time for breakfast at Casa da Ponte in Ferreira (I love the Innkeeper, Estelle ~ she was blowing kisses as we were leaving) before starting on our way on a very cool and misty morning. We met up with one of the peregrinos that we’ve seen off and on since we left Oviedo on the Camino Primitivo. Xavier from Lyon, France injured his knee at the very start of his journey with his Mom, sister, and wife. We think of him every time we hit a tough downhill patch. He has figured out that walking backwards is easier. Personally I’d fall on my butt if I tried that, but he’s become pretty proficient. He left 2 hours ahead of his family, and then he takes a rest while they eventually catch up. It was nice to see him again!

For the most part we walked on well-trodden dirt paths that passed through aromatic eucalyptus groves. We also saw lots of chestnut trees. The chestnuts are in these fuzzy round balls which are everywhere. Yesterday we saw 3 women gathering them in their aprons. We walked on pathways that were filled with acorns. I found out the hard way that acorns are very slippery when you walk on them. I fell as we were chatting with a nice man, Nizar, who is from Lebanon and now lives in Ottawa, Canada. I was not hurt, and the pile of acorns provided a soft landing.

We passed through small villages filled with stone houses. Many of them had the horreos (granaries) that are common, especially in Galicia. These are much smaller and shaped differently than the horreos that we saw in Asturias; many have been restored.

We happened to be right in front of a farmer who was herding his cows into the barn, probably for milking. It was about that time, based on what we’ve observed… who knew that we’d learn so much about cows’ schedules on this trip?

After finding the Pension Berenguela and dropping off our backpacks, we headed to what would turn out to be one of the top 3 meals that we’ve had on our Camino. O Tobo do Lobo is a guest house and a restaurant, and when we walked in we found that our fellow traveler Nizar was about to have his mid-day meal. We joined him and had a wonderful conversation (without falling into a pile of acorns!) and a wonderful meal and bottle of wine as well.

This is where the Camino Primitivo joins the Camino Francés. Major changes that we expect starting tomorrow: there will be bars and cafés in nearly every village, and waymarking difficulties will become a thing of the past. We will have a very short walk tomorrow, less than 9 miles to Arzua. Really looking forward to that!!

Lugo to Ferreira

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Camino Primitivo
Day 30 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Sunday October 1, 2017

28km / 18 miles / 7 hours
Total Ascent: 1476 ft.
Total Descent: 1017 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 2; Waymarking 2
Scenery: 2

Lugo to Ferreira

Another really long walk….. a long day following peaceful country roads, and then ~ lest we become too comfortable ~ what seemed like never-ending hills, and then once again through generally flat, wooded terrain. After yesterday’s long walk, everybody we met was dragging their butts. It was slightly cloudy, which kept the temperatures a little lower.

The terrain has definitely gotten less dramatic. Still really pretty rolling hills. Still plenty of cows (phew!), and churches. We were very happy to reach Casa da Ponte! Before we even took our showers we had some jamon, queso, and vino tinto. This is a darling place in the middle of nowhere. The only place to eat dinner is here at the “Casa”. We are looking forward to it!

Our walk tomorrow will only be about 13 miles, so we’ll sleep in for a change!

O Cadavo Baleira to Lugo: Long Walk / Worth It!

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Camino Primitivo
Day 29 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Saturday September 30, 2017

31km / 19 miles / 8 hours
Total Ascent: 1017 ft.
Total Descent: 2034 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 3; Waymarking 2
Scenery Rating: 3

O Cadavo Baleira to Lugo

Longest walk of the entire trip…. The guidebook says that it’s “all downhill, including a very steep 300m [985-ft.] drop in less than 3km [1.8 miles]”. There was only 1 place to stop en route, and it was a seating area with vending machines. We did stop there to rub our tired feet and have a soda and the peanuts that we packed for today’s journey. This is what one mapping app looked like (a little different from our walk, but you get the gist.)

Camino Day 25 O Cadavo Baleira

We were starving when we arrived in Lugo ~ had a wonderful meal at Restaurante Campos. There was this group of men playing instruments and singing all through the mid-day meal time. They cleared out at about 4 PM, and then the same group reappeared at 8:00 at the bars in the Plaza.

A major crossroads in ancient times, Lugo was founded by the Romans and built upon a Celtic castro, or fortified hilltop. The Roman walls (nearly 2000 years old!) completely encircle Old Lugo and are an amazing sight. They extend 2 km, are 30-45-feet high, 15 feet thick, and have 10 entry gates. Unique in Spain is the sentry path that runs around the top of the walls. It’s great for a stroll (unless you’ve just walked for 8 hours straight) and contemplating the city, the Ancares Mountains, and the Río Miño. We did walk part of the wall, took a few pictures (the one with the balcony is our room at Hotel Monumento Pazo de Orban  ~ note the hiking shoes), visited the Cathedral, and then we stopped for a glass of wine in the Plaza.

The Cathedral is amazing. The Rosary was being said; we didn’t stay for very long, as we didn’t want to be disrespectful. Also, the Blessed Sacrament is perpetually exposed in the Cathedral, and there are some strict rules. Not sure about taking pictures during the Rosary, so we didn’t take many.

The hotel is located right next to the ancient wall, and people were out partying ALL NIGHT LONG. It is now 7:00 in the morning, and they are still talking very loudly outside of our bedroom window. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep last night. We’ll definitely come back to this beautiful city But we’ll find a quieter place to stay).

A Fonsagrada to O Cadavo Baleira

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Camino Primitivo

Day 28 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Friday September 29, 2017

24km / 15 miles / 7 hours
Total Ascent: 1476 ft.
Total Descent: 1903 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 4; Waymarking 2
Scenery Rating: 4

A Fonsagrada to O Cadavo Baleira

When we checked into our “Pensión” yesterday, we forgot to ask about breakfast. We assumed that we’d have to either find someplace in town that is open at 7:00, or we’d have to wait until we arrived at our first stop on our walk (usually about 3-4 hours into it). We were surprised and delighted to find that not only was there food (and coffee!), but it was probably the best breakfast that we’ve had since arriving in Spain on September 3rd. We had the lightest, fluffiest scrambled eggs, thinly sliced jamon, freshly-squeezed orange juice, café con leche, toast, and pound cake. My friend Grace, who did the Camino Francés in April & May, said that “the Camino will provide”. This was one of those times.

We had a variety of walking conditions today, including a few surprisingly steep sections, rain off-and-on, and some brutal descents. We saw some wonderful examples of rural Galician mountain villages. The Hospital de Montuoto, a former pilgrim hospital, was founded in 1360 by Pedro I ‘El Cruel’, and remained open until the early 20th Century.

We continued to track the mystery of the waymarking signs. The signs on the left all face outward, with the “sunbeams” pointing toward Santiago. The signs on the right all face the opposite way. The km markers show the number of kilometers, followed by meters. So, the marker that says 149,558 indicates that we are 149 km + 558m from Santiago de Compostela. We are currently 129 km (just over 80 miles) away!

We arrived at Hotel Moneda and ran into a few of the pilgrims that we’ve been seeing on our journey. We will need a good night’s rest, as tomorrow we will have our longest walk (19 miles) of our entire Camino.

Windmills and Galicia: Grandas de Salime to A Fonsagrada

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Camino Primitivo
Day 27 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Thursday September 28, 2017

26km / 16.2 miles / 7 hours
(We did it in 6 hours)
Total Ascent: 1706 ft.
Total Descent: 853 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 3; Waymarking 2
Scenery Rating: 3

Grandas de Salime to A Fonsagrada

After walking in the dark for an hour, and in the fog for about 2 hours, we experienced another ascent to hill-top windmills, “an excellent climb” (according to the guide book) to more sweeping panoramas and rewarding walking. Meaning that the effort was well-rewarded. The walking itself felt more difficult, and we’re not sure why. (18 days of walking, perhaps?)

We walked through Castro, where the Chao de San Martín, a well-preserved prehistoric settlement [founded in 800 BC] was recently excavated. It was too early to explore, so we continued our climb up to the windmills.

This route took us into Galicia, the final region of our journey. Some (not all) of the signs for Santiago face the opposite direction when you enter Galicia. When you have two information technologists walking, you can expect an analysis of the signage. It seems to us that when the waymarking signs are on the left of the trail, they face “outward”, meaning that the outer part of the scallop shells (and what looks to me like sunbeams) face Santiago. When the waymarking signs are on the right side of the trail, the “inner” (or hinge) part of the scallop shell faces Santiago. We’ll keep an eye on it and report back. (And searching for answers online doesn’t clear it up.)

After walking without a break for 5 hours we were happy to find an open bar where we had a cheese bocadillo and some caffeine. The ascent into A Fonsagrada was extremely challenging, even with the break. We groaned when we were at the bottom of a very long uphill trail, because we could see how high up the town was. As always, we were very happy to reach our destination!

According to legend, St. James was attended in A Fonsagrada by a poor widow and, struck by her poverty, turned the village fountain’s water into milk. It thus became the fons sacrata (“sacred fountain”).

We are staying at Pensión Cantabrico, and we have a HUGE room. Always nice to have some extra space to sprawl. Tomorrow we will walk to O Cadavo Baleira, a similar walk to today’s.