First impressions of Oviedo are that it is a real gem of a small city. There are lots of elegant 19th century buildings and a sprinkling of historic old structures , not least the beautiful Cathedral of San Salvador . There is a definite ” old money ” feel about the place , much like my favourite Spanish city San Sebastian. It is extremely clean ( it’s renowned for this apparently ) and very pedestrian friendly. I had a wander around this morning and noticed the abundance of statues. Someone in authority definitely has a statue fetish as there seemed to be one around every corner and there were lots in the park , including one of an Argentinian cartoon character that was perched on a bench. Just opposite the main park I stumbled across a statue of Woody Allen and my wackiness barometer was going off the scale. I had a look in the guide book and it seems he has had a bit of a love affair with the city having used it as one of the locations for his film Vicky Cristina Barcelona. He is quoted as saying that Oviedo is “a delicious, exotic, beautiful, clean, lovely, tranquil and pedestrianised city. It’s like it doesn’t belong to this world , as if it did not exist.Oviedo is like a fairytale”. No wonder they built him a statue !
Well I arrived in Oviedo yesterday evening for the latest chapter in my Camino addiction , a serious affliction that I have passed on to others since I walked the Camino Frances in 2012. I returned in 2014 and spent an idyllic week walking the first section of the Frances with our youngest daughter Sally but did not update the blog then for fear of repetition. As this is a new route for me and is walked by relatively few Pilgrims in comparison to the Frances I have brought the mini iPad and will write a few pages as I go along . By all accounts it is a hard route through the Cantabrian mountains with a great deal of climbing and descending so I will light a candle for my knee joints when I visit the Cathedral in Oviedo later this afternoon.
Apologies for taking a while to get around to writing some reflection on The Camino but my feet haven’t touched the floor since my return from Santiago nearly 4 weeks ago.
I have certainly missed the daily routine of the Camino and it has take me a while to adjust back to my normal life , a great deal of which is spent sitting in front of a computer screen. For me the Camino experience was a joy and I returned from Spain as fit in body and mind as I ever have been. I cannot tell you how much of pleasure it was to know that all I had to do for 5 weeks was to get up every day , go for a walk and only have think about where you might eat and sleep during the course of each day
Well I finally made my way to Finisterre on the 9.00am bus yesterday , a day later than intended. It is 90km to Finisterre from Santiago and I didn’t have time to walk the 3 days it would have taken. I said a sad goodbye to Lou and double Felix at breakfast as they were setting off to walk to Finisterre this morning. Before leaving they presented me with a small model of a Horreo that they had clubbed together to buy me as a leaving gift. They had all been amused by my obsession with photographing the Horreos and I had joked with them that I was going to get one put in the garden at home , which could then serve as my own ” Refugio”. I was touched , they no doubt think I am too. I will miss them all as they’ve been great company over these weeks of walking and staying in the Refugios.
I had every intention of going to Finisterre today but I was feeling a bit delicate to say the least. After 5 weeks of 10.30pm curfews , sometimes earlier , we were like a bunch of teenagers let out on the town for the first time. I will update the blog later when the fog clears from my brain.
After getting our Compostelas yesterday we booked into a hotel just around the corner from the Cathedral , the San Martin Pinario . All the rooms on the fourth floor of the hotel are available to Pilgrims at a special rate of 23 euros per night. Forrest decided to treat himself to a couple of nights in the very posh Parador Hotel , the Hotel Hostal dos Reis Catolicos , and was given a special Pilgrim rate of half the usual cost. This hotel also provides free meals to the first 15 Pilgrims who turn up at mealtimes every day as long as you have a copy of your Compostela to show you’ve completed the pilgrimage.
Well the moment finally arrived around 10.00am this morning. Thirty four days and 500 miles after setting out from St Jean we walked into the Praza Obradoiro and gazed up at the the Western facade and the towers of Santiago Cathedral. Lou , double Felix and myself had walked the last few km together and were soon joined by Forrest and other familiar faces. There were hugs and congratulations all round and a few tears too. Peter ( he of the Shepherd’s desire ) was there , having reached Santiago 2 days ago , and was just about to set off for Finisterre. We also saw Joan and a host of others I’d not seen in a few weeks.
Forrest , Felix and I set out whilst it was still dark at 8.00am in order to put some miles in early. Our intention was to walk as far as Monte do Gozo and stay in the Albergue there tonight , giving us a short 5km walk into Santiago on Saturday morning. We had been in touch with Lou and ” big ” Felix by text and hoped that they might catch up with us during the course of the day. We seem to have lost Jack , who was last seen playing his Ukulele up in the mountains.
It dawned another beautiful day and we made plenty of ground early on. As I commented in a recent post there are many more Pilgrims walking since Sarria. The ” new ” Pilgrims are easily recognisable as they tend to walk in larger groups , have a spring in their step and talk non stop. Most of them seem to be Spanish and are just carrying daysacks. Those of us walking since St Jean have large rucksacks , varying degrees of limp , walk slowly and talk only intermittently. I can’t help feeling that we left the ” real ” Camino behind before Sarria.
Arrived at Arzua around 6.30pm. Forrest and I are having a lie down on the bunks. Felix has gone off to ” Skype ” his girlfriend. Sounds a bit rude but I’m assured it’s all good clean fun. We’ll be going out for Dinner soon so I’ll update the blog tomorrow.
We all enjoyed our stay in the very friendly Albergue Casa Domingo and had a good sleep , setting out again around 9.00 am this morning. It was an overcast but mild day. We crossed 6 shallow river valleys during the course of the day and walked a good bit through woodland paths.
As ever there was a small , ancient Romanesque Church present in every village but , disappointingly , we have found very few of these open during the whole course of The Camino. I’ve posted a picture of a carved stone tympanum of the Virgin and Child situated over the main door of the 13C Church of Santa Maria in Leboreiro , but the Church itself was locked. We walked on to the town of Melide where we stopped for lunch. The town has a famous 14th C stone cross , reputed to be the oldest in Galicia , the Crucero do Melide .
After the glorious sunshine of yesterday we awoke to low cloud , mist and rain. It rained fairly heavily at some stages and didn’t let up until evening. As a result we couldn’t see much of the scenery and just put our heads down and walked.
The number of Pilgrims has noticeably increased since Sarria. It is the main starting point for people who are just walking the last 100 km. A Pilgrim on foot has to have walked at least 100 km in order to pick up a ” Compostela ” in Santiago. Starting at Sarria will cover ( just ) the requisite 100 km. When we arrive at Santiago we present our stamped Credential to the Pilgrims Office and a Compostela certificate is issued ( still written in Latin and confirming the completion of the Pilgrimage ) . After Sarria we now have to get two stamps a day in our Credential so due to my stamp collecting tendencies I’ve run out of space in my original rather battered looking Credential and have had to acquire another.