Finisterre: The End of Earth No More!

sailboat, cross, Fisterra, cape, Finisterre, Atlantic Ocean, tourism, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, Galicia, España

A “short” 90-km walk from Santiago de Compostela, where the famous Camino (Way of St. James) ends, is Finisterre.  Finisterre is a town but the more famous Finisterre is the cape that signifies “the end of earth.”   Back when folks assumed this was the end of earth, hence the name.  (Note:  It is also known as Fisterra in the local dialect, Galician or gallego).

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo

The town of Finisterre from a distance

Many pilgrims who do the Camino, keep going past the end point, the city of Santiago de Compostela.  I did not when I went because the end goal of the Camino, in my book, is entering the Plaza del Obradoiro and then going to Mass at the massive and old Cathedral.

Camino, Way, Santiago, Compostela, pilgrimage, travel, mile marker

While 0k for the Camino is in Santiago, this is 0 km too

Finisterre, Fisterra, cape, Camino, Spain, España, Galicia

Posing with friends – and friendly photobombers!

However, I highly recommend hiking or somehow making it to Finisterre.  I personally loved walking the rugged terrain past the lighthouse.

Fisterra, cape, Finisterre, Atlantic Ocean, ilivetotravel, tourism, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The Atlantic Ocean at Finisterre

sailboat, cross, Fisterra, cape, Finisterre, Atlantic Ocean, tourism, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, Galicia, España

Water activities abound in the area

Camino, Atlantic Ocean, Finisterre, Fisterra, cape, Spain, Galicia, tradition

Pilgrims leave articles of clothing upon reaching the end of their Camino

It reminded me when I went to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa (check it out here), maybe just a little less spectacular here but impressive nonetheless.

Finisterre, Spain, Camino, The Way, photo, travel lighthouse

Finisterre lighthouse

If you drive from Santiago, there is an inland route, more direct, and a route that hugs the shoreline.  I recommend the latter on the way over to Finisterre so you can see Finisterre from the distance and see the beautiful coastline.  I am sure in other times of the year this coastline is slightly less hospitable but on the beautiful July day I went, it was nothing short of spectacular.  On the way back, we did take the fast route back – and that was fine with me.

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

The Cape (top left) and the town of Finisterre to its right

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

A small coastal town watched over by windmills, a common sight around there

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

Beautiful waters!

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

A small town along the route

Windmill, Finisterre, Fisterra, Galicia, Spain, coastline

Smart to rely on these guys given how windy it is!

On the way over, before getting to the coastline, we stopped at a small village by the Rio Tambre to visit a charming town right of CP-0201, not far from Santiago.  The Ponte Maceira crosses the river into the village and forms part of the Camino as witnessed by the many pilgrims we saw cross it.  The village is graced not only by the bridge but by a chapel, an old mill, and a very approachable riverside.  Definitely a “must stop.”

Ponte Maceira, Rio Tambre, Galicia, Spain, España, old mill, Olympus, travel, photo

Pilgrims crossing the Ponte Maceira (Maceira Bridge)

Ponte Maceira, Rio Tambre, Galicia, Spain, España, old mill, Olympus, travel, photo

The Rio Tambre

Ponte Maceira, Rio Tambre, Galicia, Spain, España, old mill, Olympus, travel, photo

The village by the bridge

Ponte Maceira, Rio Tambre, Galicia, Spain, España, old mill, Olympus, travel, photo

The old mill and an approach to the river

The only bummer for my visit was that there was a small festival (for the Feast of St. James) going on near the Cape and we could not stop.  I would have so loved to eat fresh seafood and mingle with the locals.  I hear any of the towns along the shore will have incredible fresh seafood.  I believe it!

If you do have time to explore the area, don’t just go to the cape.  Not that it is overly touristy or that it isn’t spectacular, but there are other parts of the coast that are well worth exploring.  The Rias Baixas (which you may know if you know Spanish wine…), just south of Finisterre, are a series of estuaries/inlets from the Atlantic Ocean that create a mini-ecosystem rich in marine life and with many beaches and water activities, a magnet for tourists from Spain.  While certainly not the French Riviera, it also lacks the over-touristed ambience of places like that, making it more relaxed.  So, give yourself an extra day or two and enjoy Finisterre and all that the area around it offers in the region of Galicia!

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

Beautiful coastline

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

More of the coastline

Santiago de Compostela: Food, Charm, and “New” Family

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

I wrote earlier about my arrival in Santiago de Compostela as a Camino pilgrim and the activities related to the end of the pilgrimage (getting the Compostela certificate, Pilgrims’ Mass, etc.).  Though my stay in Santiago was brief (less than 24 hours due to needing to bring the group back to Madrid), there were some noteworthy things to share about my brief second visit to this incredible city in northwest Spain‘s Galicia

Food

As ANYWHERE in Spain, food is spectacular.  In Santiago, I had a quick lunch at a local tapas bar before going to meet relatives.  I love tapas bars.  These are not the unreasonable facsimiles in many U.S. cities that offer tapas.  I loved sitting at the bar and looking at the tapas on display (salivating at, to be more accurate) and then making my choices.  That and an adult beverage made for a quick and delicious lunch.

tapas, food, foodporn, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Galicia, Olympus

A splendid array

tapas, food, foodporn, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Galicia, Olympus

One of many had…

Later that evening, after dinner with my group, a couple of us took off in a chase for some hot chocolate and “churros” (fried sticks of dough and sugar; a favorite of mine from my childhood).  Let me tell you, this hot chocolate is not of the watery style.  It is THICK – and delicious.

churros, hot chocolate, food, foodporn, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, Espagne, travel, photo, Galicia, Samsung Galaxy

Churros and hot chocolate – the real reason the pilgrims came!

Great vibe to the town – charming architecture and streets

The great Cathedral of Santiago is not the only main architectural piece in this city.  I love its side streets with or without arcades and the many small and big plazas all around.  In fact, it is the whole town, not just the Cathedral or the plaza in front of it that is a World Heritage Site!

Plaza de Platerias, south facade, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

Hanging out at Praza de Platerías along the south face of the Cathedral

university, north facade, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

University building facing the north side of the Cathedral

Dakar, Santiago de Compostela, café, architecture, travel, food, photo

I ate at this café called Dakar 20 years before!

Santiago de Compostela, café, architecture, travel, food, photo

Small plaza and cafés near the Cathedral

The grand plaza in front of the Cathedral is named Praza do Obradoiro, which best I know means plaza of the workshop.  It is large and pretty plain except for the buildings around it:  the Cathedral, a palace, and a hostel built by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, back in 1492!

Plaza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, architecture, travel,photo, Canon EOS Rebel, arcade

Entering Praza do Obradoiro from the northeast corner

Plaza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, architecture, travel,photo, Catholic Monarchs, inn, Olympus

The inn built by the Catholic Monarchs, now a parador

Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, España, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

Looking around the Praza do Obradoiro – Rajoy Palace

From here, once can admire the façade of the Cathedral (which was undergoing repairs/restoration) and then go into town in any number of directions.  The site of the Cathedral has been the site of a church since the 9th century.  Construction of the current church began in 1075 (!) and the church was consecrated in 1211 – THAT is patience!  Of course, it has been added to in the many centuries since.  It looks like a massive complex.

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, façade, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

The massive west façade of the Cathedral

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Olympus

Looking closer at the main façade ‘s exposed towers

Praza do Obradoiro, Cathedral, west facade,Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, World Heritage Site, travel, photo, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel

Detail of the Cathedral from the side

We stayed at a monastery-seminary called Hospedería San Martín Pinario next to the Cathedral but not within the Praza do Obradoiro – great location!  The rooms, as can be expected, are spartan but clean and functional.  Aside of the massive size of the building, I was surprised at the VERY wide hallways.  I wonder why they made them like that?!

Hospederia San Martin, Santiago de Compostela, hotel, seminary, monastery, travel, photo, Olympus, spartan

Room at the Hospedería

Hospederia San Martin, Santiago de Compostela, hotel, seminary, monastery, travel, photo, Olympus, spartan

One of the massive hallways, this one in the lobby

And the family connection

I mentioned meeting relatives earlier.  The story behind that is that my great-grandfather was born right outside of Santiago in a rural village named Bastavales (made famous in Spain in a song).  I had visited the hamlet 20 years earlier but, unprepared and not having a car, I got to see the church where he likely was baptized and walked past houses in which he and other relatives likely lived.  Years later, I made contact with the parish to see about getting a copy of the records of his baptism, etc. and got some good information, courtesy of the local priest.  I guess he told some of my great-grandfather’s local relatives about my inquiries – years later they reached out to me and we got to meet by letters, email and a phone call.  So, I made it my purpose to go meet them in this trip.  After the tapas lunch, I headed to a house in Bastavales using a taxi.  Back in 1994, I had taken a bus and had taken a while.  Now, with a brand new highway, it took about 15 minutes to get there.  Sweet.

It was really neat to meet one of my grandmother’s younger cousins (only two were alive at this point; my grandmother had been born in Cuba and never got to go to Spain so she never met any of her Spanish relatives), a lovely lady with blue eyes named Flora.

family, Bastavales

My grandmother’s cousin and her granddaughter (my 3rd cousin?)

I also met one of her sons and two of her grandchildren.  She shared some family history and showed me some photos.  Also, she pointed at a distance at the house where my great-grandfather had been born.  I only had a couple of hours to spare and they did not have a car readily available so I had to be satisfied with having seen the house from a distance.  I also saw the church I had visited 20 years earlier and noticed that I had walked in front of the houses she was pointing to after I got off the bus and walked a few kilometers to get to the church…

vines, green, Bastavales, Galicia, Spain, photo, Olympus

The side garden of their house has vines! Beautiful spot

wine press, Bastavales, vineyard, Galicia, Spain, photo, travel, wood, Olympus

Showing me the old wine press they used to use – pretty cool!

This week some other relatives have contacted me and have sent me photos they scanned of my grandmother.  Apparently, she kept in touch with them (though her dad died in Cuba when she was a toddler) and sent them pictures of her as a young woman.  They actually sent me a copy of the little “souvenir” with her baby picture issued when she was baptized; her dad must have sent it to Spain!  I realized with the info they gave me that she had been sending pictures and writing to them because her grandparents were still alive.  I was glad to hear she had some contact with them.

——————————————————————————————————————————

This was a special way to end the Camino:  a pilgrimage to meet relatives my grandmother never met. I love Santiago de Compostela and now I must return to meet these other relatives that have given me such a wonderful gift.  And this will give me more time to explore Santiago more and keep enjoying tapas, hot chocolate and churros!

On the Camino de Santiago: Day 2 from Barbadelo to Portomarín

Portomarin, Camino, Santiago, view, rose, rio Miño, Spain, Miño river,scene, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Finally, the first long day of our Camino started on Day 2 in Barbadelo.  Day 1, as I wrote about, was really a “baby” hiking day.  All good; ’twas for a good reason (like getting to see O Cebreiro).  But I (along with my fellow trekkers) were really ready to tackle the ‘mino.

I enjoyed breakfast with jamón serrano (Spanish ham), cheese, fresh bread, OJ, and my café con leche.  I was well-fueled for the day!

As luck would have it, it was raining that morning.  And with my cheap rain poncho, I was looking like a Camino fool on a tear!

Camino, Santiago, Spain, rain, poncho, Olympus, travel, trekking, hiking, photo

Yep, this is me in my rain gear…

Once again, the trails are well-marked with yellow arrows (or the kilometer markers with the seashell).  Rarely did these markers fail us!

yellow arrow, Camino, Santiago, Spain, travel, photo, trekking, Samsung Galaxy

The ever-present yellow arrow!

Camino, Santiago, fountain, fuente, art, Olympus, travel, photo, water

Art mixed in with function after leaving Barbadelo

The trail is so varied all along the Camino.  I loved that because it kept me looking forward to what else we would see.  And it kept me paying attention to my surroundings – which made me not take the scenery for granted.

Camino frances, trail, Camino, Santiago, Spain, travel, photo, trekking, Olympus

The Camino’s paths are very diverse.

Camino frances, trail, Camino, Santiago, Spain, travel, photo, trekking, Olympus Camino frances, trail, Camino, Santiago, Spain, travel, photo, trekking, Olympus

As lunch time was nearing, we passed Ferreiros, a small hamlet with a cute little church with an accompanying cemetery.

Ferrieros, Santa Maria church, Camino, French Way, Camino Frances, Santiago, trekking, architecture, cemetery, Olympus, photo, travel

The Church of Santa Maria in Ferreiros

But all wasn’t pretty landscape and charming little churches.  Lunch time was a time for rest, and a time for good food.  And, occasionally, a glass of local table wine or a glass of beer (I normally did not drink but a couple of times did have a glass of wine).

Camino, French Way, Camino Frances, Santiago, trekking, architecture, cemetery, Olympus, photo, travel, wine

Lunch on the Camino: wine is always near!

After what felt like a very long day, we finally spotted the Miño River, which meant we had arrived at our destination for the day:  the town of Portomarín, one of the largest we went through at over 2,00o or so inhabitants.  The original town (with a long history with the Camino) is now under water as it was flooded when a dam was built downstream – so the town we stayed in is fairly young.  However, it is worth noting that key buildings, like the main church, were moved before the old town was flooded to a new spot in the town.

Portomarin, Rio Miño, Minho, river, Spain, Camino, Santiago, French Way, Camino frances, trekking, hiking, travel, bridge, photo, Olympus

The Río Miño – and our destination on other side!

Portomarin, Camino, Santiago, street scene, photo, travel, Samsung Galaxy, brudge

About to enter Portomarín!

Portomarin, Camino, Santiago, street scene, photo, travel, Samsung Galaxy, brudge

A choice of stairs OR a riverside road to get to our hotel…

Portomarin, Camino, Santiago, street scene, photo, travel, Samsung Galaxy, bridge

Not that I was tired and trying to hitch a ride to Santiago!

Portomarin, Camino, Santiago, street scene, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

The charming streets of Portomarin

A festival had just taken place and there were some types of branches strewn about the main square and down the main pedestrian street.  The main street was cute and colorful and clearly well-lived by the locals.

main plaza, Portomarin, Gallicia, Camino, Santiago, street scene, photo, travel, Olympus

The main plaza after a festival

Portomarin, Galicia, Camino, Santiago, street scene, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Colorful balconies and one seemingly bored local

Portomarin, Galicia, Camino, Santiago, street scene, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

The reminders of the festival make for a beautiful carpet on the main street

The Church of San Juan (San Xoán) was moved, as I said, from the old town to a new spot.  It is late Romanesque and feels like a church and a castle at the same time.  We went in as we found out it was open to stamp pilgrims’ Camino passports but, unfortunately, there was no Mass scheduled for that evening.

Church San Juan, Portomarin, Galicia, Camino, Santiago, architecture, photo, travel, Olympus

The moved Church of San Juan

The interior was simple without being plain.  I found it very peaceful.

altar, Church San Juan, Portomarin, Galicia, Camino, Santiago, architecture, photo, travel, Olympus

Main altar of the Church of San Juan – modest

After our first full day of hiking, I was glad to enjoy a nice meal, some vino, and a nice peaceful view from our room at the hotel.

Portomarin, Camino, Santiago, view, rose, rio Miño, Spain, Miño river,scene, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

The end of the day offered this reward from the balcony of my room.

On the Camino de Santiago I Went – Another Pilgrim

Camino, Santiago, St. James, The Way, pilgrimage, Europe, routes, travel, trekking, journey

The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is an ancient pilgrimage indeed with a timeline of over 1,000 years.  Pilgrims from all over Europe would come from far and near to visit the place where St. James (or Santiago) is buried:  under the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain (Galicia, to be more precise).

Camino, Santiago, St. James, The Way, pilgrimage, Europe, routes, travel, trekking, journey

A map in O Cebreiro showing the many routes pilgrims took from all over Europe to get to NW Spain

In modern days, though, not all who “do” the Camino are necessarily doing it for spiritual reasons but I would find hard to believe that most don’t get something spiritual out of the sacrifice and effort doing the Camino requires.

The Camino is a joy not only for the experience of trekking these ancient “ways”.  I have to admit that the social and culinary were also part of my Camino.

croqueta, food, Spain, Camino, foodporn, foodie, delicious, travel, photo

One of my favorites from my childhood re-encountered in the Camino: croquetas!

I will aim to share about the experience in a couple of different ways in this and upcoming posts:

  • The first way will be to simply share what everyday was like using photographs and other thoughts – whether you ever plan to or want to do it.
  • The second will be by sharing what I did to prepare and do the Camino, in case you are yourself hoping to, or actually planning to, do the Camino.

Why I went

I first learned more about the Camino when I met a co-worker back in 2003 who had just done the Camino from St. Jean Pied de Port – so about 30 days’ worth of trekking (close to 800km or 500 miles).  It all sounded hard and just too much time.  Over the years, as we became good friends, I enjoyed hearing stories about what the Camino was like and the friendships he struck along the way.  It made me curious about the Camino though I never thought I would want to “walk” for 30 days.

Years later, as I got more into trekking/hiking, I started thinking that I -some day- would want to do it (or part of it, to be more precise).  Watching the movie “The Way” helped inspire me but not tons more.  The coup de grace was when an organization I do treks with, Trekking for Kids, announced they would do a trek to do the Camino in the summer of 2014.  That sealed the deal.  Combining both my desire to do the Camino with the mission of Trekking for Kids (to improve the lives of orphaned and at-risk children around the world) was the perfect reason to go.

Trekking for Kids, trek, Bayti Centre, voluntourism, Essaouira, Morocco, travel, photo

The group of trekkers and the children and staff of the Bayti Centre in Essaouira

How we did the Camino de Santiago

The Trekking for Kids trek mixed a few days at a center for at-risk children in Essaouira, Morocco, called Bayti Centre, followed by seven days on the Camino (read more about our time at the Bayti Centre here).  Because the overall trek had to be kept to less than two weeks, the starting point of the Camino had to be picked such that we could do the minimum required distance (100km for those walking; 200km for those cycling) to be able to get the “compostela” (or the certificate issued in Santiago de Compostela that validates that you did the Camino) yet stay within the desired overall trip duration.  In addition, it had to allow for the travel day or two between Morocco and the start of the hike.

The preferred route was the traditional Camino Francés which is sort of parallel to the northern coast of Spain but further inland.  It is likely the most popular route of all though I wonder how the other routes are (and secretly hope I can check out some day!).

This meant we would need to start the hike at the last possible point we could and still meet the minimum walking requirements:  the town of Sarria, which meant we would do more than the 100km minimum (at least, 110km).  There were, however, a couple of important towns right before Sarria that were worth seeing (O Cebreiro and Samos), yet we did not have time to hike through them (would have required one or two more hiking days) – so the itinerary included driving through these towns before being dropped off on the trailhead from which our hike would start.

Our Camino route

Our hiking itinerary was as follows (click on the Day to read the post for that day!):

  • Day 1:  Begin at Sarria.  After a very short (“warm-up”) hike, we would overnight at Barbadelo.
  • Day 2:  From Barbadelo to Portomarín
  • Day 3:  From Portomarín to Palas del Rei
  • Day 4:  From Palas del Rei to Boente
  • Day 5:  From Boente to Salceda
  • Day 6:  From Salceda to Lavacolla
  • Day 7:  From Lavacolla to Santiago.

The map that follows highlights in a blue oval the town of Sarria, our starting point (immediately to the right, you will see Samos; further to the right, you will notice O Cebreiro).  The purple line that connects the blue oval to Santiago de Compostela to the west (left, on the map) is the route of our itinerary.Galicia, Camino, Santiago, Compostela, camino frances, Frenc route, Sarria, map, pilgrimage

On to Day 1!

(You may want to subscribe to this blog so you receive an email when each article is posted.  Don’t worry, this is no more than three times a week so it is only three emails from ilivetotravel on a given week!)

 

%d bloggers like this: