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Follow here my journey and stories around the World. 


Filtering by Tag: Lugo

Day 13: Samos - Palas de Rei

Ivan Blanco

Glorious Cebreiro cheese breakfast!

Español aquí

Day 13 of my Camino de Santiago was on the rise and we had a wonderful breakfast in the same place we had dinner the previous night. As local as it can be, we had the Cebreiro cheese with some honey for breakfast, and again, it simply was glorious (check back on day 12 to know more about this particular Galician cheese).

Fourteenth recommendation for the Camino: every region in Spain has its special products, dishes and customs, give them a try, you won't be disappointed.

To what at this point was almost becoming routine, I was to start my ride late again, but as Gandalf the magician from Lord of the Rings so eloquently said: "A wizard [or bike pilgrim in this case] is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to".


On the road!


This time I went back to the monastery to find a monk whom I could interview for my photo project, that's when I found fray Lorenzo, who at first was surprised and then happily agreed. He even went further by introducing me to a fellow pilgrim, Antonio, who is well known on the whole Camino. He actually lives on it and thanks to people's beautiful generosity and help, he walks it back and forth and was planning to reach Rome very soon... but I won't reveal too much, since the photo project is one that will have its own frame and context.

Before doing these interviews, I saw again Alessandro and Daniela, bike pilgrims I had met some days ago together with another Italian, Alex, the long bearded pilgrim from day 4. Suddenly, while I was interviewing Antonio, I met another bike pilgrim too, Marcos, who asked me if I was a journalist or something. He is a real journalist himself and this wasn't going to be the last time we'll cross each other's paths... keep reading.

Into the Wild

At last, starting to do the thing for which I embarked myself into this adventure, I hit the road of the Camino towards Santiago, but not without a quick stop in Sarria. Since this Camino town has it's own history with me, I couldn't pass by without saying hi to my ex-girlfriend's lovely grandma, who made me many times dinner, hosted me and always had a smile for me. Unfortunately, since I'm a late starter, I missed her while she was shopping in town, I said hi to the dog and cat though, and left a small note.

The Real Camino Milestone... and an example of how you shouldn't ruin historic pieces

Going on with my route, passing over rail tracks, deep forest passage ways and almost reaching the 100 km marker to Santiago, I got reacquainted with some early encounter, I catched up with Marcos, the journalist from that same morning. He started his Camino in Madrid and had a limited number of days to do it. However, he joined me up to Palas del Rei and together we reached that final 100 km mark, but be aware... you might be fooled! There's a Km stone marker which is tricked by some Bart like minded person (check "The Simpsons" for further reference) to look as it were the 100 km before you arrive to the actual one. Therefore, you either wait 1 km to see the real one, or just do like us, a picture with both :)

Colour explosions in one unique sunset

Seeing the sunset almost about to start, a quick call to the rest of the "Ondiñas" team confirmed our day's final destination and the booking for an extra member. When we finally arrived in Palas del Rei, we reunited to be one of the biggest bike pilgrim group in my entire Camino, so many, that we filled up an entire room just with ourselves.

Talking about sunsets, although this little town hadn't much to offer, it gave us one of the best sunsets in all our Camino. The colours and light were simply magnificent and with everyone gazing, the star of the moment (take that as the perfect analogy) was the sun. Palas del Rei also moved me to buy a new T-Shirt to cover my loss in Navarrete on day 5, good thing I did, because I had all my other clothes being cleaned in the washing machine when we went for dinner. But, oh dear, the washing machine... 

Stay tuned to my next day and learn what surprise this wonderful invention was going to give us...

Day 12: Villafranca del Bierzo - Samos

Ivan Blanco

Español aquí

Leaving the day before with one casual thou glorious pilgrim family dinner, a new day was about to start and new heights were to be conquered!

Cozy albergue dining 

Sleeping in a lovely cozy house, with about other 30 pilgrims per room, it's not rare to be woken up at early hours by some plastic rattling and pilgrims waking up early (check day 3). However, this time a rather uncommon sound woke us up everyone at the same time. Imagine yourself sleeping tenderly among fellow pilgrims, wrapped up in your sleeping bag and all cuddled up when... SUDDENLY, a big BANG wakes you UP! In addition to this, someone cries out anxiously "Oh Dios mio!!!" (=Oh my Gosh!) with a strong English accent. Being the room pitch black, making sure it wasn't me and not hearing anyone complaining any more, in a mix of startled and sleepy situation... I soon went back to dreamland.

With the first sun rays hitting my eyes I finally woke up and we all discovered the night's mystery, there was a person who literally fell down from one of the higher bunk beds, which was what made that big noise. However, the "Oh Dios mio!!!" wasn't the same person, it was someone else bewildered by the banging noise. Mystery still surrounded on who was the person who fell down... that's when an "Ondiñas" member confessed: Carla fell down! Even with a slim body as hers, the bang was an impressive one and although she didn't cry it out, the "Oh Dios mio!!!" jokes didn't stop during the whoooole day :)

After this revelation we soon attacked our breakfast in one of the loveliest albergue dining rooms I've ever seen. The breakfast itself was glorious too, to Andrew's rejoice, they served us bacon and eggs on delicious bread. I also caught up with Fee, the Danish pilgrim from day 11 and I could do another of my famous photo interviews with Blanca, who works at the albergue where we stayed. This made me yet stay behind again, but it wasn't just that, awed by Villafranca's charming beauty, I couldn't leave without a photography moment, check it out below.

The gorgeous Villafranca del Bierzo

Stopping by a small village to quickly sip a coffee, to my surprise the unstoppable Andrew arrived behind me, he got slowed down because he walked with some pilgrims he found on the way. Riding together, he told me a story that happened to him: he was simply riding on the road as usual pilgrims do, with his luggage rack, bike and all when he suddenly sees at some near distance a group of cyclists, quite a bunch of them! When he neared more and more, with his weight and all, he saw it was a cyclists peloton that were taking part at the Cycling World Championship we saw the day before, in Ponferrada. The thing is, he had at some point to overtake these professional guys riding 10.000 € bikes... the funny thing is that the guy in the car told Andrew to "back up, back up", to which he simply answered: "Well, they've got to ride faster then!" Yep, the amazing Mr. Andrew with a heavy trekking bike and loaded, was faster than World cycling champions... what a rider! (we then guessed the team leader didn't probably want to discourage the riders from being overtaken by a heavy loaded bike pilgrim ;) ).

Climb and you'll get rewarded

Thirteenth recommendation of the Camino: follow your way step by step, don't fear the big players, sometimes you even overtake them!

We later entered the beautiful area of "Los Ancares" where Andrew took the lead (try to keep up yourself after the story I just told you). Therefore, I rode mostly alone on the way up to Cebreiro, until I encountered two Basque men doing the Camino on foot, we had a fun chat and I went on for a last push and climb the 1098m heights of the first Galician village. With unplanned perfect timing, I found there the "Ondiñas" team, who had taken the main road vs. the secondary one I did. I actually already knew Pedrafita do Cebreiro quite well, it was one of the places I used to bring friends to visit and specially see the traditional dwellings called Palloza. Besides of this, they also have one exquisite gastronomic delicacy: the "Queixo do Cebreiro" (= Cebreiro cheese, more info here; Spanish only). It's a bit like a ripened soft cheese, that you can almost spread on bread but not as soft as French Camembert or the other Galician cheese "Tetilla" (read more about the "little breast" cheese on my day 10). I then convinced Andrew to stay there a bit longer and visit this small village, it wasn't difficult to do so, he happily agreed by ordering two beers while I got us one piece of this cheese, bread and some delicious home made raisin marmalade; mmmmm delicious!

Delicious Cebreiro cheese and my favourite beer

After yet another gourmet moment, what wrongly looked like a smooth ride down, soon became another steep hill to be conquered. We even adventured ourself to a typical narrow trekking path... which was becoming an impossible task, to such an extend that pilgrims almost overtook us and we nearly fell down twice on that rocky climb. However, this made the arrival to the top even more rewarding, once there, we mingled with three Brazilian pilgrims who were amused by our exhausted faces. Lucky thing too, there was a nearby bar where we had a few well earned beers: cheers to that!

Happy rainy rides!

Fully recharged, we hit the road again to dive into the magnificent landscapes of my beloved home region Galicia; hills, cows, trees, fresh air and unique views were welcoming us to one of the greenest areas of Spain. Of course, in a region that is similar to the French Brittany or Ireland, we couldn't be welcomed without one of its most outstanding elements... the RAIN! This source of life poured on us in its most natural form and in just a few minutes we were completely soaked up, which, contrary to general belief, made us happier and have even more fun on our ride down. 

The "Ondiñas" team in the Samos Monastery

After this fresh downhill, we finally arrived to another unique place: Samos! Its most noteworthy point of interest is the wonderful "Monasterio San Xulian de Samos", a medieval monastery belonging to the order of the Benedictines, dating back to the 6th century with examples of three different architectural styles: late Gothic, the Renaissance and Baroque. Among the likes of the Cathedral of Santiago, Samos is on its own rights one of the most beautiful places of my home region.

The Monastery's Church

When we reached our final destination of the day, Andrew and I had a great welcome from our "Ondiñas" friends that arrived just a few minutes before. Settled down in the nearby albergue, after a quick shower, we went to the Monastery and enjoyed a guided visit of the grounds. In the visiting group there were some people who didn't speak any Spanish, so, since no else offered, I did them the translation into English. Both non-Spanish speakers were really grateful for my assistance and even fray Horacio, who was our tour guide, wanted to recruit me for the congregation. Before leaving, he even told me "Think about it!"... it was a funny anecdote for something I will... not do ;)

The amazingly tasty Zamburiñas

In a whole: good cheese, magnificent green landscapes, rainy rides, one beautiful town, people and our "Zamburiñas" (like small scallops) dinner, made again for another wonderful Camino Day.