Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 19.9.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain

This was a day when a lot went wrong and then a lot went right. Essentially because information on this camino is sparse. Accurate information is even more sparse.

Suffice for now to show you this foto of a school in Madrid, supplied my my friend, the lovely Lucy:-

Actually, it's near my daughter's flat in Madrid, she tells me. Must look out for it. Unless it's really a brothel . . . .

Monday, September 18, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 18.9.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.


Yesterday was a day of sighsteeing in Segovia, travelling (by bus) to Ávila and finally a bit of sightseeing and wine-drinking in the latter city. So, no much by way of s story to tell. But here goes:-
  • Walking Saturday on the Camino Schmid towards - in theory - the Camino de Santiago at Fuente de la Fuenfría, one meets this sign . . .

Not seeing anything different from so far on the trek, I naturally wondered where this danger might lie. Which is when I tripped over a tree stump and would, but for my walking poles, have landed on my face. I am a great fan of poles, even for flat terrain.
  • Hotel prices differ enormously in their value for money. In Segovia we had a much lower quality place than our hotel here in Ávila, for only a 10% lower cost. The latter is an ex-palace in the Cathedral Square and rather more luxurious than in our - admittedly well-located - place in Segovia.
  • Once you get out of Madrid, wifi reception is poor in your room, whatever the establishment claims. At least for my laptop, if not for my 4G phone.
  • In contrast to the more popular French and Portuguese caminos, there are no baggage transport companies on the Camino de Madrid or on the Camino Levante to take your bags to your next hotel. You have to use a taxi and the fare will usually be the distance in km x 2 x €1. Not bad if there are 6 of you but expensive if you're walking alone.
  • Gaseosa (lemonade) apears to be unknown in In Segovia. So, if you want a shandy(clara) it has to be with a lemon drink such as 7-Up or Fanta. No idea why.
  • The traditional tapa item in these parts - or one of them, at least - is a sort of crispy pork scratching. Delicious. Unless you're a vegetarian.
  • If your Apple Mac charger comes apart and the prongs stay in the socket, leaving 2 long wires sticking out, it's not a good idea to try to pull the prongs out by grabbing one of these wires. Using a penknife ro prise out the plastic bit works well, though. But then - when you have re-assembled it - you have to prop up the charger with whatever is to hand, so that it doesn't fall from the wall. Or buy an extension cord, so that the charger will be vertical on the floor.
  • It's a tradition on our caminos that one of the group snaps me when I am zizzing. Here's this year's pic. Possibly the least flattering:-

Finally . . .  At the request of a reader, I've returned to allowing all comments, even anonymous ones. Which means you don't have to register or have some sort of account with Google. Don't go mad.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 17.9.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.


If you're going to do the Cercedilla-Segovia stage of the Camino de Madrid, here's some practical advice:-
  • Don't assume that the very steep first 8km can be avoided by going up the CL-601 to Puerto Navacerrada and starting from there. If you do, everyone you ask where the Camino de Santiago starts will give you the same answer: Ni puta idéa. No fucking idea. And also look at you as if you're an idiot. If you're lucky - as we were - someone in the café will tell you you have to take the Camino Schmid until it links up with the Camino de Santiago at Fuente de la Fuenfría. See this map and imagine a line drawn from the CL-601on the right to this place at the highest point of the walk on the left. A considerable detour on a planned walk of 23km from this latter point. Which is Fuente de la Fuenfría.
  • Don't assume that anyone walking on one of the myriad tracks (caminos) in this mountain valley knows of the existence of the Camino de Madrid/Santiago, or that it coincides with one of the other tracks. Even if they're actually on it! It doesn't seem to be well known locally. To say the very least.
  • Be aware that, once you do get to Puerto de la Fuenfría, you should not take the track downhill designated GR-10.1, as you will end up back on the CL-601. Ignore the would-be helpers who blithely tell you to take this - wrong and very difficult - track. It'll add at least another 8km to your day, as you make your way back up to where you should be on the Camino de Madrid at Fuente de la Reina, several kilometres after Fuente de la Fuenfría. Meaning that, by the time you reach Segovia, you'll have done rather more than 30km, not the 23 you planned.
  • Take note that 95% of cyclists – of whom there are a lot on Saturdays – are bastards who give you no warning of their arrival and no thanks for you getting out of their way.
  • Take note also that there might be a foot race of 102km taking place from Madrid to Segovia on the day you do your walk, meaning that bastard cyclists are not the only people you have to get out of the way of.
  • Take note also that the kilometre markers on the Camino de Santiago - when you eventually get to it - are there for some other purpose than information. Amusement or even bemusement perhaps. My walking time between them varied between 5 and 17 minutes and some numbers where repeated, while some were omitted. I decided that those responsible for the markers had given 31 people one marker stone each and told them: You must put these in the right order but, after that, you can put them where the hell you fancy. Can anyone come up with a better explanation for a bizarre situation I've not found on any of my previous 8 caminos?
  • Finally . . . If you're staying in a hotel, don't assume that no one will come in at 4.40am making as much noise as if it were midday, stand chatting in the corridor and, all in all, displaying the Spanish lack of consideration for others I've oft cited over the years. Of course, I've also said things change if you establish a personal link with such people. My experience suggests this can be done simply by shouting 'Shut up' from the bed in your room.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia:16.9.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain
  • Here's something from Newsweek on the future of bullfighing in Spai
And here's a rather caustic article on the EU by someone who isn't a Brexiteer.


Finally met some other pilgrims today, at a café in Matalpino - two Frenchwomen and an American girl, who'd met at the local albergue. The latter told me she was thinking of walking to the north coast via Sahagún and León and then walking south again to Santiago on the Camino Primitivo. I told her, in not so many words, that she was mad and suggested she concentrate on the Camino Invierno she was also considering.

Oh, and we saw, at the reception desk in our hotel in Cercedilla, a French couple we'd seen at breakfast  in our hotel in Manzanares, 2 days previous. It's getting crowded on this camino.

Here's some practical advice for those pilgrims coming after us from Manzanares . . . When you get to the car park at start of the national park, go left and look for real yellow camino signs and not the 'phoney' yellow sign you see soon after you enter the park. We were lucky and, confused by the absence of more signs, sought advice from a group of local walkers who guided us back down to the real camino. If not, we'd have ended up - pretty pissed off - at the top of a mountain, far from our actual destination. As it was, we had a very pleasant trip down to the camino we should have been on and then a delightful walk to Matalpino and then Navacerrada. After a huge lunch there, the slackers among us chose to do the 7km to Cercedilla by taxi, while 2 of us decided to continue on foot. And were rewarded, firstly, by a long and steep urban climb to the outskirts of the town and then an extremely pleasant bosky wall to Cercedilla and a not-so-pleasant 2km walk through the town to our hotel by the railway station, Here's the bosky bit:-

Finally: I was intrigued to note, as we sat taking a tiffin next to the church in Manzanares that - although I go on an on about Spanish noise levels - I've clearly developed filters in respect of screaming kids allowed to do what the hell they like by parents sitting at a nearby table. My colleagues, though, haven't and were rather pissed off at having our tranquillity pierced by a boy on a bike on a slope. Which be noisliy careened down numerous times. Such is life. In Spain, at least.

Anyway, here's the church we were sitting next to. Initially in peace and quiet . . . Note the stork nest.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Thuoughts from Galicia: 15.917

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain

These first 3 items here are filched from yesterday's Business over Tapas:-
  • Here's my fellow-blogger, friend and Business Over Tapas author, Lenox Napier, on the question of why the Spanish aren't a nation of consumer complainers. As he put it:  After almost forty years of democracy, the DNA of the Spaniards still does not incorporate the culture of claiming their rights as consumers. So, guess what happens.
  • Despite her apparent leadership in the economic recuperation of Europe, Spain is the European country where wages have lost the most in purchasing power.
  • Spain’s position in the World’s health stakes has fallen precipitously. Thanks to the high consumption of alcohol and cigarettes and to childhood obesity, her ranking has dropped from 7th to 23rd position
  • During Spain's euro-driven phony boom of 2000-2007, the banks opened branches with what used to be called gay abandon, each with its expensive complement of staff behind desks to give the face-to-face service preferred by Spaniards. Come La Crisis, many of these have now been closed. Indeed, Lenox cites a report of 16,000 branched closures in recent times, with the loss of around 82,000 jobs.
These are someone's idea of the 10 dishes you must try if you're visiting the UK:-
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding
Pork pie
Omelette Arnold Bennett
Scotch eggs
Golden syrup steamed sponge
Rice pudding
Welsh rarebit
Fish and chips
A 'Full English breakfast'
Afternoon tea
I've actually eaten some of them. Well, most of them, really. The Full English Breakfast is, in fact, exactly the same thing as a Full Irish breakfast and a Full American breakfast. If you're unlucky, a Full Scottish breakfast might add a bit of haggis.


Manzanares is not as pretty as references in Spanish would have you believe, though its location at the foot of the Guadarrama mountain range is impressive.

We had the misfortune to arrive on a local holiday, to find many shops and, more importantly, the imposing castle, closed.

The fiesta, by the way, was in honour of the town's patron saint. This turns out to be Jesus Christ, Which seems to me to be a false reading of the word saint. But perhaps not. You certainly couldn't choose a more powerful one to intercede on your behalf with . . . well, Himself.

As Madrid didn't exist for hundreds of years after the original pilgrimages began, the walk out of Colmenar Viejo isn't a genuine camino – but how many of these are there really? So, it shares its trajectory with one of the many long walks which dot this part of Spain. This means you meet other walkers coming into and going out of Colmenar Viejo. 

And then there are the cyclists. Some of these are polite but many ride, at top speed, as if they own the path and can do that the hell they like, provided only they shout a warning at you when they're 5-10 metres behind you and approaching at a rapid rate of knots. One of these individuals actually loudly berated my colleagues yesterday for not getting out of the way quickly enough. Which led to some choice words in his direction on my part. And a threat of fisticuffs on his when I finally told him to eff off and shove his bike up his backside. 

But, anyway, after this incident I acquainted my colleagues with my tactic for inconsiderate cyclists on the pavements of Pontevedra. Which is to hold one's walking stick or poles horizontally, leaving just enough space between it/them and the wall to allow a cyclist to get through. In theory at least. In practice, they slow down against the possibility they won't make it. Should they complain as they go past – more slowly than they'd planned - you can always adopt the Spanish approach – feign innocence and apologise profusely.

Finally . . . I'm still struggling to avoid unwanted notices in Google Alerts. I did finally realise that I had to add the exclusions alongside the inclusions - rather than as separate items - but this hasn't worked completely. Adding them as separate items preceded by a minus sign actually increased the volume of unwanted reports on, for example, Super Boat Galicia.

By the way . . . We didn't meet a single other 'pilgrim' en route yesterday. But we did enjoy fireworks at the early hour of 10pm, as we walked back from a super supper in a Moroccan place we'd stumbled on when taking fotos of the castle.

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