Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 21.9.17

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
  • Interested in buying an entire village here in Spain? Click on this:
  • Set against the slow pace of innovation in Spain, it's realy quite remarkable how early British supermarkets - and I guess, their US counterparts - are in introducing new products and methods of payment. The latest is identification via your fingerprint.
  • Somethingthat doesn't happen every day, even in Spain.
  • The Spanish language: Here's The Local's view of the 11 most annoying false friends for English speakers.
  • Cataluña: Here's (unsurprisng) news from The Local (in English) and here's the perspective of Matthew Bennet on the latest developments there, in Spanish. Boy are things warming up. Not just a mere war of words, as betweeen Trump and the fat guy with the strange haircut. It's a good job Barcelona doesn't have much by way of military hardware.

Do you like to use cash sometimes? Well, you might not be able to do so for much longer. Click here to see why I say this.

The EU: As I regularly say, Richard North is a long-time opponent of British involvement in this and is, of course, a Brexiteer. But one with a difference; he has long had a flexible plan (Flexit) for a gradual withdrawal. He is still pulling his hair out at the stupidity of both the British media and the British political class. Click here to find out why. BTW . . . Those Remainers who moan about 'lies' used during the referendum campaign would do well to read North's fascinating book on how Brits were conned into going into the EU in the first place. The Great Deception, it's called. You can guess why.


None. It ended yesterday with sightseeing in lovely Toledo and we all depart for home today. I might just come back to it tomorrow.

Meanwhile . . .  Here's a (poor) foto of the stunning railway station in Toledo, which I've just returned from, with tickets for tonight:-

And here, finally, is a foto of my refined procedure for charging my laptop. For the technically minded, the pins are now kept in by a strip of elastoplast, replacing an elastic  band. And there is a sachet of sugar under the top of the spout, to attain the correct height for the charger . . . . 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 20.9.17

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.

I did finally write a short blog late last night. Scroll down for this . . .


I'm now in Toledo, for a day's sightseeing before returning to Madrid tomorrow morning and then to Pontevedra on the train (I hope) tomorrow night. Reader Q-10 has requested a map of how I got here, so here it is:-

This doesn't show our actual walking route, as this was on camino tracks, not the roads shown by 
Google Maps.

Why this odd trajectory on 2 caminos - the Camino de Madrid going north and the Camino de Levante going south? Well, it's because our long-established practice is to combine 5 or 6 days walking with 2-3 days sighseeing in Spain's major cities. This time round it was a ratio of 6:3.  Madrid wasn't actually included and we set off, as shown, from Colmenar de Viejo, having taken the cercanias train to that starting point. And we didn't walk from Segovia to Ávila but, rather, went by taxi, along with our luggage. Not our original plan but an enterprising taxi driver en route to the bus station convinced us it would be worth the premium. Which wasn't exactly a tough challenge given that we could divide the price by 6.

Neither of these caminos is well walked. In 3 days on the Camino de Madrid, we saw only 5 other people, 3 of these in the same place and the other 2 in our hotels in Colmenar and Cercedilla. In 3 days on the Camino de Levante, we saw absolutely no one. As someone has written - in a classic bit of understatement - This camino is seriously solitary. 

An additional problem is that - as is surely clear - heading south to Toledo and not north from there is walking the Camino de Levante in the wrong direction.

But the biggest problem is that there's very little practical information available for either camino, especially the Levante. And reading about the stages in Spanish and trying to 'work backwards' from the text can lead to errors.

So it was that, yesterday, we mistakenly thought we had to pass thought Cadalso de los Vidrios en route to Almorox, where we planned to get a 15.30 bus to Toledo. 

But this wasn't our biggest problem. At some stage in the last few years the route north from Almorox to Sanmartín de Valdegleisias has been changed. Unwittingly, we followed the old route until the yellow camino signs suddenly stopped when the track hit the N-403, leaving us in total confusion. In error, we made our way alongside this busy N road northwards and then took the M-507 west to Cadalos de Vidrios, 7km off the camino. What we should have done is walk southwards alongside the N-403 directly to Almorox. In our defence, I cite this paragraph from a relevant forum:- Beware between Almorox and Sanmartín de V. My guide book advises that, after crossing the N403, about 6k after Almorox, the path goes into woods and turns north and continues straight to M507, about 1-2k later. What they don't mention is that there is a cross-roads where [like us] I could find absolutely no signs. So I continued straight and, like an idiot, I kept going and in the end I finished back on the N403 2 hours later. I would add that a site - Gronze - which offers good information on the Madrid camino gives nothing on this stage, saying simply that they are updating their understanding. They're very probably pretty confused as well.

Anyway, we lost so much time that our chances of getting the 15.30 bus into Almorox went up in smoke. Worse, when we arrived at Cadalos de Vidrios, it was to find - as in every one of our stopovers except Segovia - that a fiesta that day or the day before or even the previous week meant that most of the bars and restaurants were closed. Clearly, late September is not a good time to be doing the 2 caminos from this point of view. Though it is as regards the weather.

But we struck lucky in Cadalos. An old lady took us in hand and finally found us a bar that was open. As it belonged to her son, we wondered why she hadn't taken us straight to it. We checked on bus times from Almorox and found there was no bus after the 15.30 one we'd already missed. So, we had no option but to go to Toledo by taxi. But there was no taxi company in Cadalos and a phone call to the only one in Almorox established it would cost us €150 to get to Toledo in 2 taxis, there being too many of us for just one. So, I asked the barman if he had 2 friends who had a car and would take us to Toldedo for €50 each. He said not. So I then asked if there was anyone with a 7-seater car. The only guy in the place volunteered he had a 9-seater and accepted my offer of €80 to take us to our hotel in Toledo.

So, here we are - ensconced in a very pleasant Hotel Medina, very close to the centre of the city. More about that tomorrow.

To end on 2 positive notes:-
  • Our hotel in Sanmartín de V - Casa de Labranza - was a truly delightful place, with a very pleasant owner. And:-
  • There was ony one restaurant open in the town and this was only a few metres away from the hotel - Cafe Teatro. We entered this unpretentious place with misgivings but the food was great and the service even better. We went to bed very happy. But, then, we had no idea of the calvario which awaited us the next day . . .
By the way, as for every place I've ever stayed in, the reviews for Casa Labranza range from Excellent to Terrible. We certainly come down at the positive extreme, finding the enchantment of the place more than enough to compensate for its deficiencies.

I'm aware that the above will bore many readers to death. So, here's a foto of my latest success in getting my Mac charger to work:-

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.

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