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Our Portuguese Camino: Day 2 Redondela - Pontevedra (21km)

We had a pretty good night's sleep until about 6am when I woke up to the distinctive hum of a mosquito. Groan.. We'd left the window open and had been joined during the night by a couple of hungry mozzies. I naively hoped I hadn't been bitten but luck wasn't on my side and by that afternoon I could count 25 bites. Luckily for Phil I barely mentioned the itchiness! ;-) After two days he'd a system in place where he fined me a €1 every time I moaned about them. Chancer!

So...back to the point. The nice people in Torres Agrello dropped us onto the Camino after a hearty breakfast. It was a gentle enough stroll out of Redondela, under a rail viaduct, alongside a busy road through forest track - so a nice mix of terrain. 

Arcade is lovely, very picturesque and would make a great alternative stop to Redondela, although it is about 6/7km further on than Redondela.  Our book (John Brierley) said that there were some places to swim in Arcade.

There is a little river-side beach in Arcade but we didn't think the water looked very enticing so we gave it a miss. Maybe there's another spot we missed.  Nevertheless we stopped in Arcade for our morning coffee in the little place on the far side of the Pontesampaio bridge over the Rio Verdugo and it was perfect.

 

There was a steep enough hill coming out of Arcade but it didn’t last long.

The rest of today’s walk was a mix of quiet roads and pathways. We took the alternative route into Pontevedra to avoid the busy main road. This was delightful, easy terrain alongside a small river and beneath trees.

 

Finally we passed underneath this bridge and arrived into Pontevedra.

There is quite a long walk into the old City so don’t be disheartened by the outer edges of the town. Once you get into the older part it’s lovely. In fact I believe the city was to hold a Medieval Festival the following weekend. We met other Peregrinos later in our trip who had been there for it and said it was great so that could be worth looking out for.

We stayed in Hotel Boa Vila. The staff were kind and courteous and our room on the 3rd Floor was perfect for the price we were paying. The main bonus of this Hotel is it’s central location; it’s in the heart of the Medieval area.

We ate lunch in a Tapas/Wine Bar called Boavina Enoteca and I’d highly recommend it, the food was delicious.  

There’s lots to see and do in Pontevedra, explore the medieval centre (Barrio Antigo), have a beer in the Praza de la Peregrina, visit the 19th century Sanctuario de Peregrino, etc. The Museo de Pontevedra was closed but it sounded like it would be worth a visit. There’s loads of little squares to sit down and sample the local tapas and wine – which we did! All in all we had a lovely evening in Pontevedra.

 

Our Portuguese Camino: Day 1 Tui to Redondela

How we got there: We flew with Ryanair from Dublin to Porto, overnighted in Porto, spent the following morning sight-seeing in Porto then took a lunch time bus from the Bus Terminal in Porto (Casa Musique, Goeuro Bus - €36 including taxes for the two of us) to Tui. Duration: 2 & 3/4 hrs. 

When we went: Early September 2016. The weather was unseasonably warm with temperatures averaging 30°C.

Tui

We arrived in Tui and walked the 1.5km to our hostel, Hostal Albergue Villa San Clemente, where we had booked a private room for €40 (for two). The room was fine, no air con - just a very noisy fan (not a super night's sleep) and we shared a bathroom with two other rooms.

We had a lovely time exploring Tui. It's a beautiful town on the Mino River with lots of nice bars, parks and cafes. 

We had drinks in a funky bar called Bar Central and ate in a restaurant just around the corner from the Cathedral. All very good. 

Anywhere to swim?

River Minho

We saw people swimming in the river and also spotted what looked like a public pool in the main park. There was a small 'dip' pool in the garden of our hostel. 

Credencials:

We picked up our Credencials from the Cathedral in Tui. We had read on-line that you could only get credencials up until 2pm but we arrived at 5pm and had no problems. They cost us €2 each. 

Day 1: Tui to Redondela (took us 34.8km and 7.22 hours)

Our first day on the Portuguese Camino...in Spain! Up and on the road for 8.15am. It was a beautiful morning and 20°C already. The first few kms were off-road, walking along a forest path.

Underfoot it was a mix of gravel path and we walked over this beautiful stony bridge. 

After about 10km it started to get busier. We hadn't had food yet and our stomachs were rumbling so we stopped at a roadside cafe beside a busy factory a few kms outside Porrino. Breakfast consisted of a tasty roll with serrano ham, coffee and juice and it hit the spot. 

In your guidebooks there is a lot of talk about the industrial estates on the way into Porrino but now you can bypass that. There are lots of signs indicating a detour that enables you to avoid the section into Porrino that takes you through the industrial areas. We chose to take the detour and it was quite pretty, walking along the rio Louro and through woods again. 

Porrino is a popular place to stop for a lot of people. However we had chosen to walk on to Redondela so we walked straight through Porrino. The Old Quarter looked quite pretty but no where was calling to us as a lunch spot!

By lunch time temperatures were up at around 30degrees...hot!

The next stretch from Porrino to Redondela was a lot of road and concrete footpaths. Not so nice and quite monotonous.  We eventually arrived in Mos which was a lovely surprise. Cute little village with a super cafe (the first one you see as you come into the village). We stopped here for lunch and enjoyed a delicious tortilla, patatas bravas and a tasty beer.  There was a beautiful view down through the valley and off to the east. 

Onwards, we had about 10km to take us to Redondela. There was a solid uphill out of Mos and then a steep down hill to Redondela which was hell on the knees. 

Redondela seemed quite nice but we had booked a hotel about 5km outside the town so apart from a quick stroll around and a post-walk beer we didn't get much time to explore the town properly.

We were staying in Pazo Torres Agrelo which is a beautiful old estate.  The staff from Torres Agrelo very kindly picked us up in the town centre which was super handy.  We checked in and were shown to our room which was lovely, it had a bath, a comfy bed and best of all it overlooked the pool which we promptly hopped into! Such joy after a long hot day!

We had pre-arranged that we would eat in the hotel  which was a good decision as we were too far to walk into town.  The meal was very good.  It was a set menu so no choices but all courses suited our palettes. Delicious breads and olives to start, then scallops served in a sort of curried carrot puree. Followed by monkfish and pepper kebabs which were really tasty. Dessert was the only let down, a local delicacy of a dry sponge with whiskey poured over - interesting though. 

That night we stupidly left the window open and Laurie got destroyed by the Mozzies....25 bites...not that she counted. So top tip - CLOSE THE WINDOW. 

Our dinner, b&b cost €130 including wine and an after-dinner drink - for the two of us. That was great value compared to Irish prices.

Day 6 Camino de Santiago - Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada - 21km

Our last day of the trip. :-(

You leave Najera by wandering up the road to the left of the Cathedral. The route was quiet today, we wondered where everyone had gone!  Scenery was lovely, vineyards and olive groves.

6km from Najera you come to a little village called Azofra, where as usual we stopped for a tortilla/coffee breakfast. 

Azofra

On we went through gentle rolling countryside. No big hills today!

We approached Santo Domingo too soon....sad that our Camino was over for another year.

Nearly finished our Camino

Santo Domingo is a lovely town. We had rented an apartment for our last night. To be honest it was a bit big for just the two of us, if you had a group it would be better value. I booked it because I was having trouble finding anything else. 

This is where we stayed - Apartamento San Francisco - €66 for the night. 

There's lots to see and do in Santo Domingo - including posing like this!

The cathedral of San Salvador dates from the 12th century and inside you will find Santo Domingo's mausoleum.  It's the only cathedral I've ever been in that has a chicken in it! At the rear of the cathedral there is an ornate chicken coup, the permanent home of a cockerel and a hen (which are rotated with their buddies once a fortnight).

We pottered around for an hour or two, visiting the Cathedral and the tower. 

We decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner tonight. There's a couple of Michelin recommended restaurants here. We ate in La Cancela and it was wonderful, the best meal of our trip, if you're there treat yourself. 

In an ideal world and if you'd lots of money there is a Parador hotel in Santo Domingo which looks fab, so if you're going to treat yourself this would be a good town to do it in.

So that's it for our 2015 Camino trip, hopefully we'll be back again next year to pick up where we left of.

 

 

Day 5 Camino de Santiago - Logrono to Najera - 29km

Up and out early the next morning as we had a long enough day ahead of us. We found our way easily out of Logrono and joined the Peregrino pack again. The walk out of Logrono is through a big park and quite pleasant, even if it was a bit drizzly this morning.

Walking out of Logrono

Walking into Navarette you are surrounded by Vineyards and you pass a big winery on the way in. After that you will see the ruins of the Hospital de Peregrino which was founded in 1185. We stopped in Navarette, 13km's from Logrono for brunch. 

From Navarette it's a pretty flat route into Najera. We stopped about 5km out at a little roadside van for a coffee. Walking into Najera it seemed like a dreary enough town but it got a lot nicer as we approached the river (River Najerilla) and the old part of town. 

We had booked into Hostal Hispano (€50 private room and bath) and it was lovely. The room was a little old fashioned but spotless.  The lady who manages the place was so nice and welcoming, she gave us maps and told us where to go, what to see etc - highly recommend it. 

It was cold! We had our down jackets on as we set off to explore. If passing through you have to visit the 16th century Iglesia de la Asunción in the centre of the town. It has an amazing gilded Baroque altarpiece and a cave at the back where the Virgin Mary appeared, which is why they built the church there. 

  

 

 

Day 4 Camino de Santiago - Torres del Rio to Logrono - 20km

Had a bit of a sore head after our night with the two Germans in Torres del Rio so we were a little slow getting started today. Last night there was plenty of talk about meeting on the Calle de Laurel in Logrono for tapas/pintos tonight but at this stage I didn't feel I could face another glass of wine for a couple of days. After a couple of km walking we began to feel a little brighter. See...feeling pretty positive here!

Wasn't a long day so we took our time, stopping to take lots of photos.

Torres del Rio to Logrono

You can see in the pics the weather had started to get overcast, it was still warm enough for shorts and t-shirts but no sun. To be honest, I'm not great in the heat so I was happy with this. 

Today we walked through Viana which had another pretty amazing Church. Stopped here for some sight-seeing and coffee. 

After Viana I had to attend to my blisters....damn you soft feet! I always get them, but a couple of compeeds and, on a bad day, a paracetemol and you're feeling good before you know it. Next year though I am definitely going to spend some time toughening up my feet before I go - barefoot for the summer, that should go down well with customers in the shop....

 As you walk on from Viana you are in the Rioja region...wine yummy! You cross over a big highway and spend a couple of kms near this road.

Phil on the way into Logrono

Logrono is a biggish city. About 150k people live here. The Camino enters the main part of Logrono over the impressive “Bridge of Stone".

Here you go, here's us blocking the view of the bridge. 

Bridge of Stone entering Logrono

 We were staying in a hostal just over the bridge and up a couple of streets. It was called Check in Rioja. We got a double room (shared bathroom) for €40 which was good value. It was clean and bright and perfect for our needs.

We then headed off to explore Logrono which is a really nice city. Sat in a little square outside the Cathedral de Santa Maria de la Redonda, got joined by a fella who seemed a little worse for wear from a lifetime of drug abuse, he had very little English and our Spanish is poor but he was keen to chat....and chat....and chat. He tried talking soccer to Phil, but Phil's more of a rugby man but they persevered.  Cut to an hour later and the owner of the cafe was not happy about his hapless guest so we moseyed on. Poor guy, didn't seem to have had much luck in life. 

We had a lovely evening wandering around Logrono enjoying tapas on the Calle de Laurel. Kept an eye out for the German lads but no sign so a heavy thunderstorm sent us scuttling for our beds at 11pm.

 

Day 3 Camino de Santiago - Estella to Torres del Rio - 32km

Longest day of our trip, about 32km but we were pretty excited about the wine fountain “Fuente del Vino” at the Monastery of Nuestra Senora la Real de Irache. Yup, free wine fountain! Granted it was 9am when we reached it so we weren't too psyched about drinking wine at that time but we gave it a go...we're good like that (and yes that is a bottle in my hand that we filled up for a tipple later!).

Bodega Irache Wine fountain We walked on to Azquata which is a lovely hill-top village. Had some brekkie there, standard fair of Tortilla, bread and coffee...perfect.  

Azquata breakfast

It's a long haul from Azquata to Los Arcos, a lot of the guidebooks say there is nowhere to get water or food on this stretch but when we were there an entrepreneuring person had set up a little cart about halfway through this 10km stretch.  This section is nice and flat, surrounded by pretty countryside. 

Los Arcos was our lunch-stop. It seems like a nice town so if you didn't fancy a 32km day you could easily stop here for the day and I think most people do.  Our reason for driving on to Torres del Rio was the hostel we had booked had a pool and we were dying for a dip!

After lunch, we walked on to Torres del Rio. The miles got eaten up as we chatted to a nice couple from San Francisco (she had written a book about a maid of Emily Dickenson who was from Tipperary, so she'd visited Ireland before..interesting!) and before we knew it we had reached Torres del Rio. We were staying in Hostal Rural San Andres and I'd highly recommend it. The village itself is tiny but lovely, a handful of Hostals all of which also serve dinner. 

The rooms in the Hostal are lovely but we immediately headed for the pool and had a dip - fab. Met two lovely guys from Germany who we joined for dinner and whom proved to be excellent company. 

Gear note: Shoe wise Phil and I both wore Columbia Conspiracy Outdry Hiking Shoes. They are nice and light. I got the odd blister but Phil was fine, I'm prone to blisters anyway so I can't blame it on the shoes, more likely my wimpy feet were the cause.

Day 2 Camino de Santiago - Puenta la Reina to Estella - 21.7km

One of our shorter days walking. We left Puenta la Reina early to avoid the heat of yesterday. The walk through Puenta la Reina is lovely. Lot's of lovely doors, you just want a peep inside!

Walking out of Puenta la Reina you cross the Pilgrim's Bridge. 

Crossing the Pilgrim's Bridge in Puenta la Reina

Outside of Puenta la Reina you reach the first and only major hill of the day. It's about 1.5km uphill but with fresh legs you'll power up in no time. 

The first village you reach is called Maneru, we stopped here for coffee. We then walked on to Cirauqui where we visited the Church of San Roman, which was fab and well worth a visit. The grandeur of the churches in these small villages throughout Spain is pretty incredible. 

Puenta la Reina to Estella

All day we walked through gorgeous rolling country-side, crossing small bridges into which we dipped our hot feet. This pic was taken outside Lorca, River Salado

 River Salado on the way into Lorca on the Camino

We wandered on through Lorca and Villatuerta. Passed some pretty cool Sunflowers...Phil was a fan. 

Sunflowers on the Camino

Reached Estella at around lunchtime and just as a massive thunderstorm started to hit. Our hotel for the night Hotel Yerri, Estella, was another 1.5km walk from the entrance to the town (to be honest it's a bit of a haul to get there but we found out after we left that they run a shuttle bus to and from the Camino route...although that's kind of cheating isn't it?). We took shelter in a little bar and had a lovely lunch, reading our books and watching the lightening. Then pulled on our water-proofs and started to hoof it to the hotel. 

The hotel is nice and clean, wifi etc but as I said above, a little far off the Camino. That night we walked around Estella, found a crappy restaurant, had a not very nice dinner but enjoyed ourselves none the less. Day 2 done and dusted.

Gear Note: We're both wearing Icebreaker Merino Wool Tech Tees. Merino wool can be worn for days without getting smelly. Highly recommend them.

Day 1 Camino de Santiago - Walking from Pamplona to Puenta La Reina

Round two ding ding! Last year we had our first foray on the Camino, in four days we walked from St Jean in France to Puenta la Reina in Spain and we absolutely loved it. So this year we decided to go back for more. Also, so many of our customers are walking it that we wanted to make sure we knew what we were talking about when selling them gear!

Last year we finished up in Puenta la Reina. This year we flew out of Dublin on a 7.00am flight, arrived into Bilbao at 10am, made our way from Bilbao Airport into Bilbao Bus Station. We'd booked a bus (www.busbud.com) from Bilbao to Pamplona at 11.45am and we made that with time to spare. It was a very easy and straightforward trip. 

We arrived into Pamplona at 2pm. I fished a map out of a bin (classy bird!) and realised that the Camino route was only a couple of blocks away - score! Filled up with water (only 1 litre between the two of us...not enough!) and we were on our merry way. Promptly walked 2km in the wrong direction...damn you map but after turning ourselves around we eventually found the familiar Camino markers. 

Now, setting off in 34 degrees heat with half a litre of water each is a bit stupid but we clearly remembered from last year that there was a shop in a town called Cizur Menor 5km outside of Pamplona.  We tramped out of Pamplona, happily spotting the familiar sights of the University grounds as we retraced our steps from last year.  

When we got to Cizur Menor the shop was closed....no water! Dum dum dum. Still, it was only another 5km to the next town of Zariquiegui. It was all uphill, now it's not particularly steep but in the heat and without enough water it was tough. 

I won't go into the full details of my moaning and groaning as we went up that hill, I won't tell you that my hands started to swell into lobster hands in the heat - my Irish blood is not good in the heat....suffice to say Phil was very patient with me and he dragged me up in a pleasant manner!  

 We eventually reached the little town of Zariquiegui, 10km outside of Pamplona. There we joined other late Afternoon Peregrinos who all agreed it was mad being out in the heat. We'd stopped in a little Albergue that served food and most other folks were calling it a day here and staying for the night. After a bite to eat and a delicious glass of wine we were raring for road again.

One last haul up the top of the pass and you arrive at a bunch of statues of Peregrinos. Stopped here for some pics ....

It was now around 5pm and we had roughly 11km to go, most of it was down-hill. We trucked along merrily, walking through a couple of little towns - Uterga, Murazabel and Obanos but we didn't dilly dally...there was a cold beer with our name on it in Puenta La Reina.

Arrived into Puenta La Reina at around 7pm. Now, we are definitely not hard-core Peregrinos, last year we tried out the Albergues but this year we figured we'd opt for private rooms where we could. We also booked ahead, the Camino is pretty busy in early September. We stayed in Hotel Jakue, the first place you reach on your way into Puenta La Reina. It's lovely (we'd stayed there last year) and they do a good value buffet (serve until 10pm but try and get in before 9.30pm as they start tidying stuff away around then). 

So day one down. Gear working well so far. We especially love our bags. Both of us are carrying Lowe Alpine Trek Plus 35:45L (the girl version is 33:40L)