Sunday, 22 July 2012

Cardiff

We had a lovely sunny weekend in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. It is mainly a fairly young city from the Victorian age as it was a coal port. The bay area has been redeveloped over the last 15 years or so with some great modern architecture.
The national museum was really good with both an archeological/historical origins of wales section and a well curated fine art collection. They have the largest collection of impressionist paintings outside of Paris apparently. The welsh landscape section made me understand where NSW got its name.
We enjoyed walking along the parks and river Taff pathways as well as through the covered arcades with their little interesting shops.
The bay now has wetlands with swans and other bird life and some fantastic public buildings(plus shopping and dining district). My favorite was their parliament building with its central stem carrying light down into the central meeting chamber.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

In Oxford

I have had my first successful full day at work in Oxford today. Only a day after I was supposed to start, a relative victory over bureaucracy.
Everyone is very nice and helpful and there is even a pretty view of allotment gardens and houses out of the department windows and even our office.
I'm living with good people in the hospital flats which makes not moving to our own place for a couple of weeks not so much of a chore.
More on our trip through Spain and Portugal soon!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Santiago de Campostella

Our camino to Santiago finished on 4 July after 31 days walking and 3 rest days. We celebrated our arrival outside the ornate facade of the cathedral with our friend Victoria who had walked down from the Monte de Goyo (hill of joy) with us.

After the mandatory photos and admiring of the occasion with the collection of walkers, cyclists and tourists in the square we went and were awarded our Campostellae complete with Latin names.

The hostal Suso has been a great base as we walk the cute stone streets of town and celebrate with people we have met along the way.

We were lucky enough to have the huge incense burner the botafumeiro swinging through the nave right at us in pilgrim mass (they don't do it every day). It is a bit of a tourist extravaganza which I tried not to let take away from the moment with all our fellow walkers and cyclists.

The best part of the journey and the last couple of days has been sharing the path and a part of our lives with so many wonderful people we have met along the way which has out stripped any memories of scenery or places I have. The last few days has been like one long family dinner like Christmas with the various arms of our "camino family".

We went and visited finesterre and Muxia on the coast. It is amazing to think these rocky cliffs were once the end of the earth to the people who visited. The experience of covering 200km there and back in under 5 hours by bus was surreal after the walking of the last month.

And so the journeys continue; on to Vigo tomorrow and then Porto in the days to come. More photos to follow.

Monday, 2 July 2012

O Coto

After a good night at Pension Manuel we had an exciting morning. If I had thought the trails were crowded yesterday I hadn't seen anything yet! 140 high school students set out at the same time as us and many other pilgrims. It was like walking into a football final at the scg but went on for about 5 km! In the up side, we now have a taste of what a holy year must be like and were lucky enough to only meet them now as they have walked from ponferada in the Bierzo valley.
With relief we stopped for coffee and to share the experience with friends who've been with us since France.
After that we had the small team advantage and could get up and going faster than a group of 30+ can.
The trail wove through little hills covered in pine, oak and eucalypts past some small hamlets and lone houses to Palas do Rei.

Over the last few days I have been fascinated by little narrow huts/sheds that are raised about 1.5 m above the ground with slatted sides. Some have ornate finials on them. I had all sorts of theories but they are infact for drying and curing Jamon, cheese etc. only in Spain would almost every large house have one!

In Palas do Rei we had an excellent lunch at Meson Fourxe (I think it means forge) right on the camino for 9 €. Octopus, paella and fish all really well prepared. Thus fortified, we decided to continue on an extra 8 km to O Coto, and enjoy staying "off stage" to have the trail to ourselves a bit more. We passed Louis from Belgium. He gave us a listen to what he had playing in his Walkman. It was dance music. He said it was his "turbo drive". Not bad for someone who just had their 62nd birthday.

The b and b has a nice terrace and yard to enjoy the evening in. The owners are a very friendly older couple. She makes lace to the delight of the American women here tonight who haven't seen it done before.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sarria and Portomarin

The mornings have been very atmospheric the last few days with mist filling the valleys as if we are walking in clouds.
The valleys continue to be lush and green and dotted with little stone villages. The churches are less ostentatious with simple interiors. One had cute geraniums attached to the outside.
Sarria is built up a hill topped with a crumbling turret. We stayed in a lovely new alburgue - mayor. For a change from routine we had lunch at matius- run by an Italian who came on camino a couple of yrs ago. Very tasty.
Today we are inside 100km to Santiago and feeling it. There are now crowds and at times it feels like walking in procession. All of us that have come from further back have sensed it acutely. The reason is that you "only" need to do 100km to get the campostella. So lots of people join the train here in big community and youth groups.
Portomarin is in festival fever for Santa Isabel and the soccer. There's been bands and traditional dancing to bag pipes. It's an interesting spot over a dam. The original town was flooded but they are said to have moved the church up the hill stone by stone.
We had a great time watching the EuroCup final and the spaniards with Vern and Nancy and Victoria from NZ as Spain wiped the floor with Italy 4-0.