We’d stopped at a Carrefour in Lugo and picked up dinner supplies there, so we set up at Camping As Cancelas, had our meal, including a bottle of that nice white wine we’d discovered in Pamplona, and then made our way down to the restaurant/bar of the campground to check out the ambience and the quality of the Wi-Fi. Both were nice and I would spend each night there, working on the blog and taking care of house keeping matters.
Into Santiago the next day in the car, we parked close to the historic old town and in search of the TI, stopped for a bite to eat at a small coffee shop nearby. As had been the case in Spain, and would become even more so in Portugal, when you had a chance to visit one of these off the regular tourist track types of establishments, the food was quite good and very reasonably priced. We had two Café con Leite’s, a sandwich and a pastry and the tab came to 5.7 Euros or about $8.
We walked up the narrow street towards the Cathedral, passing a long line of Peregrinos waiting to get their passports stamped to prove that they had walked at least the last 100 miles of the Camino.
Not realizing we’d approached the church from a little used side, we entered it and spent roughly an hour touring the inside using our Steves guide as a reference. We stopped in to view the remains (supposedly) of St. James and marveled at some of the architectural features.
We exited and then worked our way around the perimeter, trying to locate the well known Plaza Obradoiro on the western side, which has a symbol of a sea shell embedded in one of the bricks and is the official place that you visit if you’ve finished the Camino. Upon finding it, we stopped to catch the view, and as had been described in the St. James bike book, were asked by any number of exultant Peregrinos to take their picture to document their accomplishment.
We entered the museum doors (under the western façade) to purchase tickets for the museum tour; complete with audio guide only to discover that included with the tour was additional commentary on the interior of the cathedral itself. The museum tour ended up being quite extensive, so much so that when we finished we returned to the Cathedral interior only briefly to catch up on a few of the highlighted items we hadn’t quite understood during our earlier visit.
As we were just about done being tourists for the day, we decided to stop in at the recommended O’Beiro Vinoteca, a wine bar, to sample a glass or two and hopefully try a plate of Octopus (Pulpo), which Santiago is known for. We sat outside in the warm sunshine and chatted with our friendly waiter, who helped us decide on our first round of wines, both very good and reasonably priced at about $3 each.
We ordered some food, a Toast with Iberian Ham and tomato and Octopus prepared the traditional way, which is boil it for a bit, cut into big pieces, place in a big pan in with some olive oil and bake for a short time with various spices. A second glass of wine went down smoothly and we finished up both dishes, sopping up the extra olive oil with bread from the basket (when they bring the bread here, if you ignore it, they don’t charge you for it. Eat one piece and you’ve bought the whole basket). We finished up the evening back in the bar at camp, drinking some of the local white wine, enjoying being indoors.
Determined to get a ride in, and feeling as though we’d see most of Santiago the day before, we took off on the bikes from camp figuring that we’d locate the Camino coming into town and ride the bicycle portion back out east. It seemed like a simple thing to do and indeed we had gone about a mile, connecting with one of the small cities listed in the bike book when we made a turn at a round about and rode for about thirty minutes, up and down the foothills surrounding the city, not really sure where we were but convinced we weren’t on the Camino.
Sure enough, after a fairly long hot climb, we found ourselves entering the Santiago city limits and before we knew it had plunged ourselves into the densest, most traffic heavy part of town. Faithfull readers of this blog will not be surprised at this turn of events, discouraging or hilarious (take your choice) though they may appear. We wandered around for quite some time, got on what appeared to be a bike path that looped the city, but lost it after a short time, so finally tried to climb up a hill opposite historic Santiago to see if we could get to an intriguing set of buildings at the top.
That turned out to be a false lead and as we continued up the road we discovered that through blind luck, we’d landed on the street that brought us into town. We reversed our direction and sometime later made it back to camp, hot and tired after a somewhat stressful 18 miles. Not discouraged by our failed attempt, we arose the next morning, put bikes on the car and drove roughly 90 kilometers out to Fisterra, or the end of the world, as early pilgrims knew it. Although Santiago is typically the end of the St. James way, true pilgrims have been hiking out here to complete their spiritual quest for centuries.
We passed through the small town itself and drove up a long climb to Cape Fisterra, where we parked the car. It was a gorgeous day, blue skies, and mild temperatures, not much of a breeze. We ended up riding 22 challenging but rewarding miles with a few lengthy climbs, and a couple of nice interludes riding through charming coastal port towns.
Although intimidating in appearance when we first drove up it, the long climb back to the car was manageable, and we finished up feeling very good about a nice day out on the bikes.
We prepared a simple dinner in camp, a spaghetti Carbonara using ham instead of bacon and crème fraiche, a hard to come by ingredient in the states, but one that makes for simple preparation. Lacking Romano cheese, fresh broccoli added in made for a perfect complement. We slept well that night, prepared for the next step in our journey, our first exposure to Portugal. What new adventure awaited us there?
Camping AS Cancelas: http://www.campingascancelas.com/
Cathedral de Santiago: http://www.catedraldesantiago.es/
Crème Fraiche: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cr%C3%A8me_fra%C3%AEche