🥾 Return to Santiago 🏰 & Ascension Party 🎉 2019

Hard to believe that by the end of today we’ll be standing in Cathedral Square.

It’s odd – I do / but don’t want to get there. Unlike on the French way this recent green Portugués detour means we still have the route pretty much to ourselves and a few fellow peleginös

We’re only 7k out and we think , just maybe we can see the famous Cathedral towers …….. zooming in later ; same view below – we are right ! It’s just in the skyline – to the right of the vast Ferris wheel at the Ascension weekend fair.

Motivation 🤣 even from traffic signs

….. on this route we avoid the modern suburbs – well most – and soon are in the old town of Santiago

And SHOCKINGLY- from a narrow side street we are here !! Praza do Obradoiro – the Cathedral square – the end to all Caminos . Earlier than most travellers – but still surrounded by emotional cheers as each party arrives . 100 or more Spanish / Italian / French / teenagers – a huge group send chills as they arrive singing in amazing tones – marching fast and strong the last steps .

We’re laying on on our backpacks 🎒- just staring at this magical place , Sun still rising as stories unfold around us – when this moment occurs – dusty boots , big and and not so big , seems to sum up a family Camiño – the little girls have been amazing – Ciara strong , positive, engrossed in the physical and spiritual, they’ve made a million friends ……… who will soon catch up .

Just perfect . 💕

……. then across town to the Pilgrims Office to show our Credentiále / Pilgrims Passport – the multi stamped record of every town and sleeping place we passed through – To be awarded our Compostela- the elaborate illuminated certificates. Here in the peaceful garden of the Pilgrims Office.

…. We get a 📞 call so back to the square again …….

The Sun’s properly up as we head back to greet some of our extended Camiño family. Here – Sarah , Sam , John ( Charlotte N.C. 🇺🇸) Rachel ,Chris & Charlotte (California🇺🇸)

Great catch up late lunch – and later with our new member – Jess’s loudly mooing Galician Cow – 🤣

And – the girls drag us off to the huge Ascension 2019 fair .

And that Enormous Big Wheel – we saw 7k away this morning .

With a final tired 💤 flourish we’re back to our home for 2 nights –

But with a view like this from our roofline Family flat – it’s a end to our arrival day we won’t forget .

💤 💤 💤

Xxxxxx

Day 7 : Popping to Padròn

Sun rise ……. The whole country seems to be holding its breath – people moving slower . It looks like a triple moon , some type of minor eclipse ……. or it might be just too flippin’ early 🙄

We’re used to the hour and start seeing people we know – all with that same wonderful camaraderie but now all with the same second objective – finished before 1.00pm if you possibly can 🙏

Woodland paths , past natural springs , villages with bars just opening for breakfast – take us past the 32K marker.

And sure enough – by late morning we are past the “unlovely” outskirts of Padrón.

We discover a “natural wonder” an entire promenade shaded by a deep green canopy- Huge .

The temp’ outside this shady refuge is ridiculous. We’re close to our Hostel- best stay here then ! 🤣

So second breakfast ( now an official term ) turns into an early lunch . Fresh warm tortillas and a real treat – Padrón peppers roasted in olive oil and sea salt – eaten in actual Padrón . Yum

General giddiness 🤣 – it’s a symptom of effort rewarded , and occurs when you have a Dad who is content being a figure of fun. ( 😆I’m crying on the inside 😉)

Onwards – ( we left quite some time later 😁👌) a couple of K to the Hamlet of L’escivatude .

Our booking at the cheerful place nearby had been lost .A quick check nearby found a Casa Rural – the Casa Grande da Capellanía . Ideal – just 2 rooms left – they appeared to be unaware of the heat .Basil on reception says “swimming pool closed Senór ” – really ?? “Yes only open in Summer ” – it’s 36 degrees out side – when would you like summer to start ? – “2 days time – June 1st” – ahh gracias Senör Fawlty.

And dinner in a generous roadside restaurant named “Buen Camino” – friendly people where the dish below – loads of chicken wings all round – was in fact the free tapas !!

End of Day – can’t believe it’s last day walking tomorrow 😴

Xxxxxxx

Day 6 : Hot Foot to Caldas da Reis

You can see that one of the main influences that is changing our daily routine is the amazing weather – with that comes some unseasonably high temperatures.

We’re talking 10 degrees above average on some days .

At 1.00 pm today ……it was 33 and it ended at 36 degrees by 4.00pm

It’ll be this way for 2 more days – so we plan our days around this ….. 😅

Starting with Breakfast on the trail at 7.00am in a bar with a handy full size Grizzly! – ….. bizarre .

The way takes us through vine shade paths , past simple ancient crosses.

And due to a good pace , by mid morning we were on second breakfast at the Soooo welcome O’Cuthberto Bar / Café.

Here’s what happens when you’re told you’re only 45 mins from your destination , and it’s only 10.30am ! 🤣😆🤣👌

Joy , Happiness and Duck impressions using Pringle crisps 🤣 – Try it !

And something i wouldn’t normally notice but ‘Bel’ & Jess’ thought was remarkable – A horse sheltering a sheep from the heat – inseparable- as the long mares tail waved the flies away .

And onward – Steps lighter knowing we are almost there .

And before you know it – an unknown mid market conference hotel – chosen only for that rare Camiño addition for this trip ……?

A Piscina !! …… one of only two in town – we were all right in there – bloomin’ Marvellous in this climate 😁

I had spoken so enthusiastically about the special treatment Pilgrims receive that we had booked for dinner the Santiago trail version of Menu del Dia.

I’ve got to say that the simple walkers carb and protein loaded 3 courses inc Wine & Coffee was the best served Menu Pelegríño I’ve had . At €9 Euros – we actually felt guilty 😉

Note the wine bottle with no label 😅👍

Card games on the bar after. ( plus the world “connect 4 ” trials ) and we’re done fir the night .

I’m sure Caldas de Reis – has some nice parts . After days like this – with babies in tow – Did we see any ? – NO .

Can’t say I missed it really 💕💕💕

Xxxxxxx

Day 5 : The Way to Pontevedra 🏰

We leave “The Goat ” just after Sun Up and head through Arcade which is again a place you could spend a few Hours getting to know – but it’s getting hotter each day and we find the girls are getting uncomfortable by 1.00pm so plan to walk Sun Up to Lunch each day with plenty of stops , hotels with pools and still cover our planned Camiño route .

Arcade ( Arr-Car-Da ) . We’re here by 8.00am ; Entirely downhill From Alto Blanca – There is – however a downside to this upside ( or is it the other way round 😆) Meanwhile its a fine small medieval town …..

With a dozen bars open for Desayunó . Cool by the river at this time .

And sure enough the downside is evident as we head up and up through the villages leaving the river valley . Ciara & Jess here.

Things have to get pretty tough to call in the “Pole-Train” . The ultimate in motivational 6 wheel drive . 🎶 Singing Yellow Submarine 🎶 helps too 👍😉

Terrain soon flattens out as shade returns and a chance for a break in tbe woods.

And we finally reach Pontevedre . Early enough for a long lunch and the Junior Hiker Award 🥇/ Motivation Carrot is soon revealed . ………..

The girls have tried so far this trip (In order – starting with the Simplest )

Alberque ✅

Hostal ✅

Hotel ✅

What’s left ? ……..

Parador ✅

Tbe Barons House in Pontevedre . As far as their Camiño – a mid point , high point

A lush base to explore another characterful town .Designed over centuries to beat the heat – Cool squares, Fountains, Shady Bars and Places of quiet contemplation.

Sleep 💤 never an issue when the last thing you see from your window is this . 💕🙏

Xxxxxxxx

Days 3 & 4 – 🥾 Tui ~ Porriño ~ Redondela ⛱

As promised – to give the girls some recovery time ; the day started 8:30 am – in an Artisan Tui backstreet café – Coffee , Juice , croissants, pasties all bakery fresh , bread and croissants, Serrano ham and strong curado cheese .

A short Hop from town – we arrive at a decision point – the guidebooks and blogs make a lot of this being difficult. It really is simple – either keep right on the original Camino through heavily industrialised outskirts or take the new recommended rural left route . Local bars and Hostels on the original route fought this – blacking out new yellow arrows , trying to redirect Pilgrims with their own arrows and signs !!! . From what we saw they shouldn’t have worried – 70% of the pelegrinös we saw still took the original (slightly shorter) route .

The new route is a little longer but cool and green as it follows riverside and woodland paths .

Past miles remarkable granite fencing – Granite houses , Granite everything Porriño is famous for mining it – it’s cheaper than wood here .

Lunch today is carried by Ciara for a riverside picnic later.

Takes us into industrial Porriño, small square , fairground , little architecture, to mention , super welcome from everyone in this dusty Granite based hard working town trying to establish tourism here – with a railway running through it. Engines dragging 10.000 ton Multi Car wagons . Reminds me of a rust belt American heartlands .

And after diner at a corner Caff’ – lovely people . Prices a fraction of fashionable Tui – an early Alberque night – Girls actually enjoyed the bunked ,curtained off sleeping pods – all part of the adventure.

The following day ……… as we leave – feeling this has been an memorable authentic experience – NOT – Everything can be chocolate box pretty – I hear 2 couples saying that on an organised tour when they walk Tui to Porriño they then get 🚌 bussed back to Tui for a second night as nothing suits the tour companies here ! They THEN get 🚌 bussed back to Porriño AGAIN ! to restart their walk – bless.😉

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Let’s head to Redondela – the Tweenager Bonus today is that allegedly it has a beach 🏖 ! – let’s sea if it’s true 😆🙏 .

A climb up to the lovely village of Mos-

Great little bars and craft shops ……

Where we meet up Cris &Charlotte from California. Part of our “wave” – that’s people we keep meeting up with , regardless of how fast or slow we all go.

Top of the hill and first sight of the coast .

And into Redondela – we are staying 5k the other side in an Alto Quinta – in what looks to be a Characterful place – but first the search for the beach 🏖!

It’s not easy to find – they don’t appear to feel it’s a tourist attraction and it takes us another 40 minutes to find this deserted picnic spot – but well worth it just to be here for an hour or two.

A memorable picnic and escape from the Midday sun –

But by now we have walked 23k including an extra 4K to find the beach and are way off the Camino . It’s too much to leave this lovely place to climb another steep 2 hours to our hill top farm for the night . Sooo – ………. TAXI 🚕 !!!

And smiling with relief we are whisked to the top of Alto Blanca . The Casa Rural named As Chivas ( the Horned Goat ) is stunning –

Vine shaded and cool – we 4 have a super separate farm building . It’s pretty big – often used for weddings and the Kitchen has a good reputation.

Over the course of the next few hours we tested their Complimentary Tapas , Cold Beers , Childrens Cocktails , G&T’s , Wild coloured burgers , Padrón Peppers, Fresh Fish and laid back hospitality. Thanks to our host Ursula x

It’s been a long day . We crashed asleep 💤 before 10.00pm surrounded by soft rural silence

Xxxxxx

Day 2 – Rubiães 🇵🇹 to Tui 🇪🇸

We’re excited to see what the day holds – a forecasted 29 degrees means we’re out before 7.00am . The modern Café & Patisserie oddly alone in countryside opposite the Alberqué in Paredés da Coura offers Up first breakfast.

And a “Camino Moment” occurs – 7.30 am – far too early for this – BUT – I’m intrigued to find from the milestones that I’m sharing my way with several other routes most thrillingly- the “Via Romana” – Santiago has a mere AD 800 birthdate – this is the full 2000 years old . Bridges and cobbled roadways set with 1/2 ton stones worn by a million feet and iron shod carts.

The early – pre 11.00am steps are fine ……

…… after this soaring temperatures mean we all seek frequent shady recovery moments. 🙏

Passing humorous Alberques who share the distances to our goals as well as the origins of their guests .

Before we enter Valenća and cross the bridge into Tui and Spain 🇪🇸!! . Never tired of the “half in – half out” game 🤣

I recall the first time I crossed a border – amazed at an ACTUAL difference a simple line could make. In this case it’s not simply cultural – its also Climate , Soil , Vegetation: ~ { Lush to Dry } – …….. this being Galicia it won’t be dry for long .

It’s been way too long a day – harder even than the first days ascent. The final 30 mins is desperate, hot , silent , trudge .

We’re staying in the old town of this medieval city . Highest Street , Top Building , Top Floor , …. it’s a killing last few metres .

BUT ……. I’m astonished at how a couple of hours rest and some crisp , cold Albariño wine wipes that memory away

A good dinner …with some great company – Ciaras’ Australian possé – Jean and Geraldine -.

and some far reaching views from the restaurant terrace ……

………… ends the day on the roof of our Pension – right next to the Cathedral with Jess and I – A 💕 lovely moment

To make it fair on ‘Bel & Jess – I’ve already changed tomorrow’s plans – late breakfast , half the distance , picnic lunch and a cool river walk. – got to keep Morale high !

Xxxxxxxx

👋

Day 1 – Ponte de Lima to Rubiães

The hidden story behind today is the ascent of the Alto de Portela Grande . I must admit to being worried about what I am about to take my youngest children through.

Team Harrison 💕 6.45 AM

It’s a hot, long , 20 K gradual ascent , 30,000 steps introduction to the Camino – with warnings that after the first 4K there are no places to stop – so stock up with water and provisions before you leave.

The legendary café Nunês an hour out of town – is a good place for second breakfast before the incline really kicks in.

Because of this baptism of fire I have a small surprise waiting for them with this nights accommodation 😀👍

Before that – we pass Frenchmans cross about three hours later also known as the “the Cruz de Muerte” 💀- probably best to move on !!

The alto steepens and the path is rubble and crumbling inclines. Everyone is holding up really well – it’s an interesting walk and the girls seem to skip all the way through it until we reach …………. an astonishing view . The opening of the Portela grande – the view across the rest of Portugués Camino

Our first Beer at Lunch stop 40 mins later -very welcome 👌🍺🙏🎶

Our Quinta for the night is a welcome sight – Lovely low bungalow that you share with other guests – A slightly posher version of the usual Camino hostel at €20 per head!But a just reward for a tremendous effort by the little ones .

it has the surprise in the garden

Our fellow guests Mariaka & Jacob from Holland and retired Joseph from Arizona (Worked as technical director with the great Robin Williams including on Mrs Doubtfire) – are great company and the communal meal in the evening is just fabulous – Menu Pellegrino –at a simple packed local restaurant at the usual €10 per head for three courses including wine! – It’s good to be back!

Last few minutes of day one from our Alburgé

Xxxxx

“Bom Caminho”

Spelt that way it can only mean one thing – we are back on the original way – this time the Camino Portuguese .

This small town on the wise River Lima is a little jewel. Beautiful well preserved buildings – riverside vineyards and parks. It’s a great place to start your Camino if you only have 10 days over school half term.

First taste the night before as we walk through the narrow streets of Portuguese specialities the Alborhiño green wine and Bacalhaö dishes.

We stay at the Arc-Otel opposite the Municipal Alberque. I have not subjected the girls to their first Hostel – yet !! Especially as the first day is so difficult and warns about it in all the guidebooks

A good nights sleep 💤 needed to tackle tomorrow.

Xxx

🍒 B+ Positive 🍒

Timing is everything – a week either side and you’ll miss it ………. the all consuming annual cult of Sakura !! 🍒 It’s ….. Blossom Time !

Vast resources dedicated to it …… like this long range forecast.

People fly 000’s of Miles to see it . I love the enthusiasm, the odd unquestioning delight , the “well they can’t all be wrong ” aspect to something that’s a natural beauty for sure ….. BUT …….you know …….. as far as understanding the furore 😜 – Do I get it ?… Would you ? .

Am I …….🍒B+Positive or 🍒B-Negative ?

For this I’ll need experienced Blossom Doctors , the best Tokyo guides 👍 their amazing hospitality will ensure I get Sakura …….. or Not .

The first signs ….. can’t see what the fuss is about …….maybe it’s a little early –

…….. and mmm , yea , I can see the B+ quota going up – but ….. Trees , Small Blossom More Trees ,Trees along roads , …… some paper lanterns . Mmmm 🤔

I think I need an B’intervention ……..

So I asked around , Local knowledge from the Jingu Urban Tree Collective …… and even an actual Blossom Concierge

……. and slowly …….. things started to get a little clearer …. Rivers , Roads , Day & Night

I felt a subtle presence behind me ……….. 😋

The spirit of Sakura began to show itself …. Blossom EVERYTHING – Walls , Kimonos , Lanterns

A complete , fan driven city takeover , Rosè Wine , Champagne , Pink Food , Pop-Up Bars …..

……. Blossom Coke , Blossom Starbucks

And the only time this ultra polite society drinks outside as “Hanami” – Blossom picnic parties spread across city parks ……. it’s popular due to bylaw to drink Jim Beam bourbon from plain 3 litre containers ……. with the inevitable day after consequences. Handily pointed out by Deb from the running crew 🤣 .

I’ve always loved niche enthusiasts – whether its Steam Trains or Stamp Collectors , Wind Surfing or Spoon Whittling. My admiration driven by the calm satisfaction , the general (overused word ) wellness it creates.

Their originality in swerving the Mass Permitted Enthusiasms.

Outside of this I’m enthusiastic about enthusiasm ; and I’m beginning to see the Blossomistas in this way.

Motivated by the Buddhist comparison between the brevity of blossom and life or the all too rare satisfaction of group appreciation with family and friends .

All peaceful , all in Tokyo , all surrounded by 38 Million people ; – remarkable.

The “Pinker” photos above – not taken by me – I didn’t have a drone handy that day .

However ……. the progress of the blossom at home , ( 🍒 photos by Jess age 11 ) at our road in Southport means I won’t feel too dispirited about leaving Tokyo behind .

Same tree – same branch over 6 days – cool eh ?

…….. and a drive by – also by Jess … 💕

I end this post with my fellow niche enthusiasts – undeniably B+ Positive.

However I’m Blossomed out now 😆 …… so until next time . XXXXX

Cats , Cars , Saké & Kochi

Coming to an end of the parts of the 88 Temple route that we chose to take . Back to Tokyo after this .

Nothing can match the Temples for the real deal – but the enthusiasm, belief and joy shown by the people who shared the following with us makes them as much a part of this aspect of the journey .

Cats !

😁 An entire temple – Cats , 20,000 or more not on our track but the lady who ran our B&B so wanted to show us – it’s a matter of local pride – that she drove us there and gave us a tour 💕 .

…… and showed us the villages and valleys nearby …..

Saké Brewing

Ancient and super traditional. Modern and aspirational. Religious and Commercial. A “Gin Akin” Resurgence in Rinky Dink Renaissance Bottles.

Sold in Family Mart at 200 Yen – (£1.40p) and Ginza Six at 20,000 . Sparkling Saké , Cloudy Saké , Sweet Saké , Creamy Saké, or high end Gold Flecked , It’s Omnipresent 🤣

A wailing wall of colour saturated Saké barrels in a Tokyo Park – and a low tech brewery in Shikoku ……

Kochi

The overnight stop in Kochi city before we fly back to Tokyo has 2 memories .

Izakaya

An Izakaya – I suppose is a type of informal Japanese Pub , casual places for after work drinking. A Japanese version of Irish pubs , Pinchos or Tapas bars.

The food – cheap , hot , fast , delicious- made in front of you – £0.70p to £2.00 a dish ✅

The stafffast and fun . We weren’t allowed beer until we had succeeded at playing the children’s game “Pop up Pirate”! 🤣🤣🤣

The longer we took , the more expensive the beer would be!…..Serious Panic 🍺😆🍺

A great night out !

Home of the Kochi Shoguns

Before we left – we read about one of the best preserved castles in Japan. It didn’t disappoint – beautiful – almost a cliche.

With complimentary Vertigo it’s main defender 😬

Cars

Tiny Boxy Emasculatronns , Chromed Magpie Mobiles , Silent Hybrid Spaceships. Next decades face of KWh over BHP ?

Clean ? Green ? Speed ? ….. Sure : These silent assassins are upon us . Touching the back of your knees before you knew.

Where to go in this temple of tech’ for a Breath of fresh air tinted with high octane sculpture. Just look at this thing of beauty ……. found at Nissan Crossing. Shibuya!!

Powering a Nissan GTR black edition – Yum! ……Now THIS is high art .

And if you find the Art analogy a little hard to follow …….. this engine is signed by the artist ! 🖋 All in a glass walled midtown cathedral and free to the converted ✅

…… and where else can you be thrown around in a VR race car , a rictus grin , sweaty Palms and then offered a placatory cappuccino with your face lasered into the foam !! 🤣🤣🤣🤣 Yes – an Odd town .

A bounce around Tokyo to follow ……. 😘