It’s time for another Camino (2023)

Last November, while soaking up the Caribbean sun, we decided we’d like to do another Camino. Yes, we had just finished Camino 2022 in October, our 8th, since 2012 … but the operative question was when. We looked at each other, realizing that as seasoned septuagenarians, we needed to decide sooner rather than later.

We had already made reservations to spend September 2023 in Provence France (Vaison la Romaine) during the wine harvest. So, we began our planning around that trip and in tandem to avoid the cost of two European flights.

We also had booked trips to our favorite island for May/June and Oct/Nov, so that left July and August for the Camino. July and August are the peak months for Camino traffic, so we began making reservations for places to stay and transportation in January and completed the final bookings the last day of April.

Being seasoned “pilgrims”, we know what we need to take and since it will have to fit in our backpacks, we have already gathered most of our stuff and set it aside. For simplicity, this will also include a few additional items for our month in France after the Camino.

We’re leaving for our beach trip next week and will wait until we return in late June to finalize loading our backpacks and beginning Camino 2023 in early July.

Camino 2022 …. reflections

Our trip home from Madrid went smoothly. Our daughter, Amy, met us at CLT and took us to our awaiting car. After a brief chat and some nice hugs, we belted up and made the 80 mile drive back to Greenville and found our home just the way we left it…. our Camino complete.

Camino 2022 was just what the doctor might have ordered. All our post-Covid symptoms were eradicated by the first several weeks of our walk and by the time we reached Santiago, we had regained our pre-pandemic status, both mentally and physically.

In summary, for us, the Camino not only “provides” it “heals”. Buen Camino.

Santiago to Madrid

We donned our backpacks at 7:00 and walked the half-mile or so down to the train station. Our train leaves at 9:09 so we found a seat and ordered breakfast in the station cafeteria.

As we were slow-walking breakfast a couple asked if it was ok to sit at our table and of course, we said sure. It turns out that they were from Charlotte and had walked the Camino from Sarria. They were traveling with a group.

We chatted until the train arrived, boarded, and made the 4 hr trip to Madrid without incident. The trip from Santiago to Madrid is interesting because of the dramatic changes in scenery. Unfortunately it was quite foggy most of the trip so the view was limited. This was not a problem for us because our memories were still strong from previous trips.

We also had some interesting seat mates on the train. When we purchased our tickets to Madrid, the train was nearly sold out, so we didn’t get to sit together, not even in the same railcar. Linda sat across from a man who had recently had 7 surgeries on his arm and shoulder and several pins were visibly sticking out of his arm. Jim sat next to an American lady who had just finished the Camino and was living in French Polynesia. She had been living on a sailboat and ended up in her current home because she was sailing near Panana when the pandemic hit and after sailing to various islands in the Pacific, Polynesia was the only place she could gain entry.

We didn’t see the Charlotte couple again until exiting the train at the Madrid-Chamartin station, waved from a short distance and assumed we’d see them again on the plane trip home.

Yuwen, our friend whom we met at the Pamplona bus station in August,

….finished the Camino several weeks ahead of us and we have been staying in contact via email. She went on to Finistere ( the “end of the earth”) after finishing in Santiago and then traveled to Madrid where she had been staying in a hostel.

We learned in an earlier email that Yuwen was leaving for Barcelona on 11 October. When we made our final reservations and changed our return day from Madrid to the 12th, we contacted her and made plans for a rendezvous in Madrid.

Yuwen found a restaurant near the Chamartin station and we met her there a few minutes after our arrival and had lunch together.

Yuwen, our friend from Taiwan.

After lunch, we said our goodbyes , promised to keep in touch via email and parted at the metro station entrance, where Yuwen left for her hostel and we got a taxi to our hotel.

We stayed at the Madrid Hilton Airport. We like the hotel, it has free, short transport to MAD and we used Hilton Honors point to significantly reduce the cost. It’s at least our 4th or 5th stay!

our room in the Madrid Airport Hilton

We spent two nights in Madrid and continued our transition process.


We walked up to the old city to photograph the Catedral. Every time we have been here before the Cathedral has been under some sort of repair both inside and out. Today it was at its finest and the Saturday crowds were taking it all in.

Below are some photographic highlights of what we saw:

That’s us in the Obradorio Praza with you know what behind us.
The Platerias (silversmiths) facade and the Tower of the Clock (east door)
North Door
Obradorio facade and Portico of Glory
the line for access to the Crypt of St James
the altar from the back of cathedral
A Cathedral service kept us from getting any closer to the altar… zoom in to see three versions of St James: Santiago Matamoros (Moor-Slayer), Santiago Peregrino and Santiago Apóstol.
The cathedral was started in 1075 and finished in 1211 in a Romanesque style.
Baroque adornments were added to the altar in the 1700’s along with other both interior and exterior additions.
half of the magnificent organ
Santiago Apóstol (a little fuzzy with iPhone11 9x zoom)

We’re enjoying our Camino decompression, but also looking forward to returning home.

Day 52- Lavacolla to Santiago

Walked Today: 6.9 mi /Camino2022: 348 mi

We left Lavacolla at 6:45 hoping to avoid a long wait in line for our Compostelas once we arrived at the Santiago Catedral.

It was very dark as we walked across the bridge over the legendary stream, but saw no bathers this morning… maybe all pilgrims have warm showers these days.

Our walk for the first 3+ miles with flash.
Our walk without flash.

Only a handful of pilgrims passed us during the 3.5 miles on the way to the Santiago city limits… all in the dark. Also, each of the three bars we had visited for breakfast in previous years along the way to Santiago, and everything else, was not open, by 8:30!

We finally got breakfast in the cafeteria for a huge futbol camp on the edge of a now bustling Santiago, with people on the way to work, cars filling the streets and young, very young pilgrims emerging from everywhere.

our first view of Santiago this morning at 9:00am, after breakfast.

The final 3 plus mile walk to the old part of the city and the Catedral was familiar and exhilarating as we were about to reach our destination after 52 days and 348 miles of walking.

on our way to old Santiago .. note “sub-sidewalk”… OSHA would have a fit!
streets narrowing, getting closer, first view of Cathedral in distance

We walked past the Catedral and on to the pilgrim’s office which opened at 10:00 but when arrived at 10:15, had only several pilgrims congregating at the entrance. We were given our place-in-line tickets, #111 and #112, got into line only to notice that #86 was now being called to receive their compostela!

We made it!!

We waited in line for about 10 minutes, chatting, smiling, laughing with similarly happy pilgrims, saw our numbers called, submitted our credentials with stamps from points visited across northern Spain since August 15 and just moments later were presented with our 4th Compostela for the Camino de Santiago de Compostela!

Our Compostelas… all in Latin.

We purchased a tube (2€) for carrying our documents home, left the office, gave each other a high five and walked to a nearby bar to celebrate with a cup of hot chocolate.

At 11:00 we decided to return tomorrow to visit the Catedral, take photos and revisit a now familiar old Santiago. Our hotel room not likely to be available til noon or later, we began the 20 minute walk to the train station to purchase tickets for our ride to Madrid, three days from now.

After purchasing our tickets, we made our way back toward the old city, stopping at our hotel and we able to check-in at 11:45.

We got familiar with our room and the Nest Style Hotel for a few minutes. Since our backpacks won’t arrive until around 2pm, we headed out again to get our bearings established for our new base for the next three days … found a nice restaurant for lunch. We had a delicious meal and subsequently identified a good place to return during our next two days in Santiago.

As we were returning to our hotel we spotted the transport van, which probably had our packs. We got to the hotel lobby, took a seat and three minutes later, the van driver walked into the lobby carrying our packs. We flagged him down and he delivered them to where we were sitting!

We returned, with everything we own, in Spain, to our room and began a somewhat bizarre afternoon with nothing we have to do for tomorrow.

So this concludes our blog for today. We’ll return tomorrow and Sunday with photos and reflections, etc.

Life is good!

Day 51- O Pedrouzo to Lavacolla

Walked Today: 3.8 mi /Camino2022: 341 mi

Today was a very short day. By staying at CHE, we picked up the Camino outside of Pedrouzo and joined a large flow of pilgrims that continued all the way to Lavacolla.

We remembered from 2019 that walking from CHE cut some distance off the walk but with the app maps we were using, there was no way to calculate it. When we totaled up the distance after our walk is was nearly two miles shorter than expected because of leaving from CHE and not Pedrouzo.

It was dark when we started at 7:55. We walked uphill continuously, for the first mile, but were surprised because we didn’t need to stop for a breather along the entire stretch. The incline was just enough for a workout, but not enough to get us winded.

As the path leveled out a bit we could see part of a brilliant sunrise through the trees and off to the left, part of a runway of the Santiago airport.

We next began walking along a main highway into Santiago and passed a 11 km mileage sign.

a motorized pilgrim

The path continued until we reached San Payo, where we stopped for breakfast.

the church of San Payo

The hamlet of San Payo and the small church is dedicated to the 14 year old Christian child, who was kidnapped by the invading Muslim troops, taken to Sevilla and ultimately martyred to pieces and tossed into the Rio Guadalquivar, for refusing to convert to Islam.

interior of San Payo
leaving San Payo on a steep section of pavement
then back on the gravel path
last than a mile through the forest before reaching Lavacolla.

When we arrived at our destination we were much earlier than expected, but the owner let us into our room after a few minutes wait only because the recently mopped room floor was still drying.

Pension Xacobeo in Lavacolla, right on the Camino.
our very comfortable room
nice, new bathroom, great shower

Our backbacks had not been delivered by noon, so we walked to a nearby restaurant and had lunch, then returned to the room to do our afternoon chores, including washing(2€) and drying(3€) our clothes, anticipating that similar facilities might not be so conveniently available in our Santiago hotel tomorrow.

Menu our lunch restaurant
Iglesia de Benaval in Lavacolla center

Lavacolla literally means “wash private parts.” Medieval pilgrims seldom if ever bathed along the journey (and “ridiculed Muslim and Jewish enthusiasms for personal hygiene,” so apparently took advantage of the small stream to cleanse themselves for arrival in Santiago.

We skipped the bath in the cold water of the creek and opted instead for a nice, warm shower in our brand new bathroom. Being a pilgrim has come a long way.


Day 50- Salceda to O Pedrouzo

Walked Today: 6.0 mi /Camino2022: 338mi

On our way out this morning we caught Santiago in the breakfast area and wished he and his family good health. He opened his arms and gave Linda a big, emotional hug. As he shook Jim’s hand, with both of his, he wished us and our families good luck and good health. It was a wonderful way to start out the day.

We took the short cut Santiago showed us in 2015 and dove-tailed into the Camino a half-mile later. The scenery today was much like what we have seen the past few days:

Along the way we did spot some different items:

First time we’ve ever seen something inside a Hórreo… and this one is being loaded up with corn for the winter.
Another first, for us: yellow and white hydrangeas along a wall of a nice home.
We both dislike spiders but like to photograph spider webs! Jim spotted this one just before leaving the forest,
walking out of the forest and onto the path leading into O Pedrouzo… pilgrim tour bus in the background.
Just as we were walking into O Pedrouzo , we observed a bunch of “pilgrims” who just got off a bus associated with Regency Cruises called, laughingly, “Following the old James road”!
Walking into O Pedrouzo… tour bus just dropped off pilgrims and waiting to pick them up further down the Camino. At this point pilgrims are only 12 miles from Santiago.

We’re staying at Pencion CHE. It’s located outside of O Pedrouzo and so we checked at the Pensíon Platas in town. The lady at reception suggested we get lunch in town, then return, and they would arrange for transportation to CHE… which we did and they did. While we were in town we stopped at a small mercado for some snacks and then Jim stopped at a feed store and bought some Padron pepper seeds to try to grow back home.

We then checked in at the property and our packs were delivered just as Jim paid for the room. We then took a tour of the property to get our bearings for finding the Camino in the morning, etc.

We stayed here in 2019 as it was opening and it is about the same… somewhat remote, hard to find or get directions to and missing a few things like a full menu and nearby food options, but the room is comfortable and clean and it has laundry options and a pool (nice if here in warm weather).

… nice pool but too cool to indulge today
… our double room with bath in Pension CHE.


Day 49- Arzúa to Salceda

Walked Today: 7.2 mi / Camino2022: 332 mi

Breakfast, at Bar Teatro, just across the street from Pension Luis, got us off to a good start this morning as we walked out of Arzúa in the perfect-for-walking 54F at 8:30.

starting on the path out of Arzúa.

There were more pilgrims passing us today but not in an unpleasing way. The majority of these pilgrims seem more serious/mature, more focused and still noticeably happy and excited as we get closer to Santiago. Its a good mixture of 100km walkers and those who have come much longer distances like us. Buen Caminos were exchanged with most every pilgrim that passed us.

The scenery and terrain were also pleasant and distracting from an occasional hard pull up a small hill or cautiously restrained pace of a steep decline.

Most of the time we were walking in forests or in tree shaded paths along farm fences. We spent much less time along roads, either large or small.

We even passed a couple of vendors along the way selling items and offering to stamp credentials… sometimes for a donation. We passed on both but were more amused by the third member of the enterprise, who heehawed us as we passed.

It’s common to see vendors with their crafts and souvenirs along the Camino these last few kilometers into Santiago.

As the sun began to rise, unlike our normal mode of seeking shade to walk in, we steered to the sunny spots to warm us in the high 50-low 60F air. But by mid morning, jackets were off and we were back in short- sleeve shirts again.

The less difficulty in today’s walk led us to be more observant of our surroundings and to compare changes in this part of the Camino compared to what we remember from 2019. The changes included new bars and albergues, new or repaired fences and walls and many more Kilometer-stone distance to Santiago/directional markers at every place a road or path intersects the Camino. This has been a continuing theme throughout our walk throughout Galícia, but was especially apparent today. These are relative changes as compared to our perception of the lesser amount of change in the SJPDP through Castile walk. It’s no surprise that because most, nearly 4 times as many, pilgrims walk only the last 100 km, this is where the keepers of the Camino would put the most effort into upgrades in infrastructure and services.

This is a new bar that someone put in their yard next to their house. It is closed probably for the winter or maybe the owners are taking time off. It wasn’t here in 2019.
This is a section of the Camino that locals have spruced up with an upgraded wall and new fence that wasn’t here in 2019. A new bar is just down the path.

We arrived in Salceda and at Albergue Turistico Salceda around noon and had lunch in the restaurant while waiting to check-in at 1:00. This us our fourth visit to this property and we have a special affection for the owner, who helped us when Linda was struggling with some spider bites in 2015. His name, appropriately, is Santiago.

During lunch we had a nice chat with a pilgrim couple from Colombia. He is a retired dairy farmer and he and his wife are walking from Sarria to Santiago.

exterior of Albergue Touristico Salceda with yard, pond and lounging areas.
modern looking bar with same stone as on the rest of the property inside and out.
second floor hallway and elevator
Double room with private bathroom (59€).
contemporary dining area
Dinner was great. We both has a vegetable soup then for second course, Linda had baked chicken and Jim had pork cheeks. Both had a chocolate mousse cake for dessert. Yum.

We had several nice exchanges with Santiago and his daughter, Liudmila, reminiscing about our previous 3 visits. It was a very special reunion.


Day 48- Boente to Arzúa

Walked Today: 5.6 mi / Camino 2022: 324 mi

As we left Boente we stopped at the Iglesia Parroquia Santiago de Boente. A young priest, seated just inside the church stamped our credentials and explained that during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, Santiago was closed, so this small church became the end of the Camino until the epidemic was over.

The walk today had a lot of ups and downs but they pretty much balanced out. The finish into Arzúa was a nice flat dirt path separated from the road by a hedge. Overall it was a good workout, but not too much.

steep uphill
very steep uphill
A short break from hilly path to flat pavement on the way into Castañeda

We took a short break for OJ at Albergue Santiago in Castañeda, We’ve stayed here twice before, but the husband and wife owners were not to be seen and we didn’t ask. In the outside terrace were thick overhead vines with a plentiful fruit. A closer look revealed them to be kiwis. We asked a local pilgrim who said kiwis grow very well in the Glacian climate and soil.

Kiwi fruit overhead
downhill out of Castañeda
a long, not-so-steep, grade for a half-mile
two big dawgs… looked like St Bernards… ignored us … it’s a good thing cause that wire wouldn’t hold’em for sure.
… one final stop at Bar Manuel, surrounded by farmland, on the hill going into Ribadiso da Baixo. The owners live above the bar.
Following a pilgrim that looks a lot like a backhoe over the bridge into Ribadiso da Baixo.
Ribadiso has origins in the 6th century and housed a pilgrim hospital in the 16th century. The hospital was converted to an albergue in 1993 and the rest of the village has grown with new buildings and albergues added each time we pass through.
the shaded path on final leg into Arzúa.
A monster of a wall painting going into Arzúa highlighting the Camino Holy Year of 2021 (extending thru 2022 because of pandemic)
our room at Pension Luis in Arzúa, with sunroom!
some places we’ve stayed didn’t have soap, toilet paper or drinking cups… this one has very nice amenities.


Day 47- Coto to Boente

Walked Today: 7.2 mi / Camino2022: 319 mi

It was 52F and almost cloudless when we started from Coto this morning. It’s supposed to be warmer today so Jim went back to his short sleeve tee and carried a jacket just in case. Linda was not so brazen but still went to a lighter jacket.

Only a few minutes into the walk we passed through Leboreiro, a well maintained hamlet including Iglesia de Santa María de las Nieves.

A church legend says that a mysterious spring appeared that glowed in the night. In searching for the source of the spring, the villagers unearthed a statue of the virgin and took it to the church. But that night the virgin went right back to the spring. After a few days of back and forth, a clever sculptor interpreted her move as a desire to be outside and carved an image of the statue and placed it over the church door and the statue has remained at the church altar ever since.

Note the carving of the virgin positioned outside the church over the front door.

We can see the statue of the virgin over the church door, but we can’t confirm that the statue of the virgin is inside this Sunday morning or any of the other 3 mornings we have passed the small church, because the door has always been locked.

Positioned just outside the church yard was a Horreo type structure called a “cabaceiro”. As we walked out of the village, we looked back and captured this interesting sunrise.

Walking on toward Melide, we enjoyed the different methods of buffering the path from warehouses and other commercial buildings. This tree lined section was actually quite pretty.

We also walked on gully-like paths like this seen so frequently on the Camino, formed by wear by millions of walking pilgrims and erosions over hundreds of years.

We stopped in Melide for breakfast at a relatively new place called “Cafeteria Alborada“. And we hearby declare it has one of the best if not the best tostadas on the Camino. Linda also inspected the ladies room and declared it was hands-down the nicest, cleanest, well equiped and most pleasant ladies restroom on the Camino. Jim then did a followup and checked out the mens, which without-a-doubt is the best men’s public restroom on the Camino.

one of the best tostadas on the Camino
The nicest, spotless, odorless public men’s bathroom on the Camino

We shared our assessments with our waiter who seemed pleased and speechless, so we decided not to elaborate.

Our inspection completed we got back to our walk through Melide which led back into the forests and farmland toward Boente. The following are some scenery we observed along the 3 mile stretch:

A single pilgrim up ahead… we encountered less than a dozen pilgrims today because of our starting location and the timing of our walk.
A decorative but still functional Hórreo in the front yard of an upscale home. Note the two doors, one for mail and the other bread delivery.
A picturesque creek crossing
…some uphill workouts through the forest…
nice canopying for Galacian sun
Back and forth from forests to farmland
Pretty homes and yards
Our stopping point for today at the Albergue el Alemán in Boente.

Tomorrow morning we leave Melide behind and begin our final 5 days on Camino2022. One additional reason we chose Melide as a base for three days was its reputation for Pulpo (octopus) and Padron peppers. We’ve done a pretty good sampling, especially last night at Pulperis Garnacha. Have a look: