Zero Day in Pontevedra
Our Airbnb last night was fantastic. It had a washer and drier which was perfect because I needed to wash everything I brought. It is also getting a lot colder and we noticed the place had no heat. Brian texted the owner asking about heat and a half hour later, the man showed up at the door with a heater he ran out and bought! What a great guy!
Last night, while reviewing the next day’s hike, I made the decision fairly quickly that I’m going to take the day off. The tendinitis in my right ankle is fierce and I can only pop so many pills. Plus, I looked at the hike from Redondela to Pontavedra and it includes two large climbs, each about the equivalent of what we did yesterday and a 7 mile stretch with no stops. Meanwhile, it continued to pour outside. So it didn’t take long for me to come to the decision that I’d like to enjoy this vacation and not completely crush my spirit! So I plotted out how to get to a train station and planned to spend the day in Pontevedra until the guys get there.
In the morning, we left together and I walked about a kilometer of the Camino until we crossed the train station. I wished the guys a Buen Camino and headed up the hill to the train station. But when I got there, it was just a stop with no station and I wasn’t sure how to purchase tickets. I sat for a while trying to purchase tickets online but was unable to figure out how to do it.
Two pilgrims from Prague came by and said they didn’t know how to buy tickets either. They were on their way to Santiago. We decided to walk together to an Information office they saw a sign for. I wasn’t confident it would be open that early in the morning but not having any better leads, I followed them. They began walking down this dark ally with only about 2 feet between a block of buildings. My creepy sensors went off and I stayed in the main street just to observe them. They walked all the way through to the street on the other side of the houses and found that the information place was closed. So they crawled back through to my side of the alley.
We also passed a Camino store which we are seeing more of lately. They’re filled with Camino paraphernalia and they usually issue stamps for your passport. I went in and asked the young girl working there if she spoke English. She didn’t.
I’ll spare you the details but between me, the Spanish employee, and the two Check women who barely spoke English, we had a TERRIBLE time communicating. It was so awful and of course suddenly my phone wouldn’t work at ALL. My translator wouldn’t work, my maps wouldn’t open and I had no data. I had to restart my phone and only got partial functionality back. I texted brian and he said at stops with no station you just get on the train and pay the conductor. But he also said if that’s not how it works here, they’ll just throw you off at the next stop. That did not sound like the kind of day I wanted to have. In the meantime, the check women were becoming increasingly agitated, the Spanish woman was losing interest in helping us, and I suddenly had to go to the bathroom so bad I was about to abandon them all.
So we learned there was another train station over a mile away we could walk to and the one woman asked if we wanted to share a cab there. I had already asked the employee to call me a cab because even though it would cost a lot more, it was easier for me just to take a taxi to the next town. I offered to share my cab and go with them to the train station but the other woman was frustrated and told her friend she just wanted to walk. So I wished them a Buen camino and waited for my cab which I wasn’t entirely sure the employee actually called. Eventually, a cab pulled up and I showed him the address of my Airbnb. I thanked the young employee for helping me like 20 times. It was such a rough morning.
I was SO relieved to be with Alvero, the older man from Uruguay. He had the same translator I had on his phone except his was actually WORKING! I explained my situation and that I’d like to find a nice cafe to spend a few hours in until my husband arrived. He told me he would take me to all the places I would miss on the Camino today.
In three parts of our drive to the next major town, he turned off the timer on his taxi and took me to scenic places along the camino. He explained that this is where Jules Verne got his inspiration for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Treasure Island. I lost some of it in translation but apparently that area by the water was called Treasure Bay because it’s where many ships wrecked during a battle between the Spanish and Dutch. I took a picture of the modern bridge and the little island.
Then he took me to a Roman bridge the Camino crosses and said it was where the Spanish fought Napoleon, an important part of their history. Finally he took me to a small chapel that has been around since the 1600s! I learned and saw more on my cab ride than I have on the whole camino! He even waited for me to remove my Camino passport from my pack and get my stamp for the day.
When we got to Pontevedra, he said the center of town is beautiful and he would take me to a nice cafe only 500 meters from my Airbnb. When we arrived, after all those stops, my cab ride was only $25. I gave him 40 and he didn’t hesitate to take it. It was money well spent and I was so grateful to meet someone so kind and so proud of his country.
The cafe was full of wonderful goodies. It didn’t have a menu so I had to ask what all the things that were in the glass class were .and my Spanish was good enough that I was able to order something I really liked. A family came in shorty after and ordered full sandwiches though that I didn’t know the cafe made and I couldn’t figure out how to order myself. That was ok though because I was full on the spinach and ham turnover I had and the free baby Croissants the nice lady threw in for me.
I strolled around town for a few hours just getting lost in the streets and window shopping. There were so many stores and shops, some big names like H&M and some small mom and pops full of gadgets, clothes, toys, vegetables. I slowly headed in the direction of my Airbnb and even walked a good section of the camino through town. There were no other pilgrims there at that hour. Since this is a major stop along the way, most people either left here early this morning or were well on their way to here from the pervious stop.
The urge to buy something totally random was pretty intense but I already have a 3 and a half pound unicorn onesie I’ll never wear again weighing down my pack.
My ankle was starting to act up a bit and since this was supposed to by my day off, I found a lovely cafe with outdoor seating right on the Camino. Outside, a man sang and played his guitar. It sounded SO soft and beautiful, I ordered a cup of cafe con leche and sat outside listening to him play. I didn’t buy any food since I’m not walking today and don’t want to overeat but the free goodies they give out in Spain is insane. I was just enjoying my coffee when the gentlemen brought me a free piece of chocolate cake! It was so good but man I’m going to overeat even if I try not to.
As I sat comfortably eating my free cake, a very young homeless guy sat across the street from me. At first I considered giving him my cake but it became clear after a few minutes that he was not mentally well. He came up to me several times and was singing and reading the sign near me loudly but he never spoke directly to me. I went from wanting to offer him cake to being very uncomfortable very quickly. Fortunately, the waiter came outside and a few pilgrims showed up and the man went away. I went back to enjoying the beautiful music. Meanwhile, there was a flower shop right next door. So I took in the scent and watched a man prepare dozens of sunflowers slowly and gracefully. Before I left, I bought a piece of red cake with coconut flakes on top to go and gave the man playing music $5. Euros seem to have no value to me. I throw around money here like I have an endless supply. But my coffee and cake (plus the free piece they gave me) were only $4 so I figure $10 for a pleasant morning was worth it.
I heard from Brian around 1pm saying they were close to town. So I found a restaurant with outdoor seating right on the camino not far from our Airbnb and waited for them. I ordered wine in Spanish but the waiter was super annoyed because I knew just enough Spanish to make him think I was Spanish but not enough to understand he was telling me he would serve me a wine local to the area. He rolled his eyes and was like “do you speak English?!” Lol. Yes. Sorry. Sometimes they like it when you attempt to speak their language and other times their like, “just stop.” The wine was ok but I prefer Rioja which is a region of Spain just east of here. I walked through it on my first Camino.
I really enjoyed this time for myself and I had fun exploring this town. I was also getting excited knowing that in just a few minutes, I would see my trail family rounding the corner.
They ordered lunch at the same place and we sat outside under the awnings while it rained all around us. They said some of the hike was decent but that I would not have been a happy camper if I chose to hike today. I also would have arrived at least two hours later. Eventually, the guys got really cold, sitting still in their wet gear so we left.
Our Airbnb was AMAZING!! On the main floor, Brian and I got a beautiful bedroom and bathroom with a long patio overlooking the Camino and Vegemite got the entire upstairs. We all joked that now we don’t have to share our stink. The guys are doing their afternoon naps. I suppose we’ll venture out tonight for dinner and to see the Basilica.