Tag Archives: Credencial

Airport Hotel Happiness

Ribadiso to Lavacolla
Tuesday 2 December

That Liquor No. 43 was not a good idea. I did not feel my best this morning, but was keen to hit the road. Could I make it to Santiago today? I was keen to try, and would walk as far as I could. There is an alburgue twenty kilometers before Santiago, and another four kilometers before. Too short or too far. There are some hotels near the airport, about twelve kilometers out of town that seemed a reasonable distance. We shall see.

It was a three kilometer walk until coffee this morning. As usual, I needed coffee. I saw a garage, crossed the road and in my daze bought a chocolate milk, and was flicking through a magazine left on the counter. The English musician arrived and commented that I was looking at men’s farm porn… I started to focus, and realised he was correct. The magazine was a tractor catalogue.

I continued to the next bar, a mere thirty meters ahead, and had coffee and a proper breakfast. Several others from the previous evening arrived… But I was on my way.

Today I happily walked alone, having had a fix of company. At first my pace was slow. The landscape was mostly eucalyptus. Give me a home among the gum trees. I then began to speed up to my now regular faster pace. Soon I was thinking of lunch. I didn’t want to linger, as had a later start, so thought a sandwich would do. Rounding a bend, the Korean from last night’s group, jumped out yelling my name, insisting I stop. There was a bar in the middle of nowhere, just when I needed it. And what a great bar. The ceiling was covered in hanging T-shirts – Camino cast offs and souvenirs, graffiti, and a very friendly host. It seemed it was party time again. Shots of a golden liquid were being poured, that looked suspiciously like No. 43, except this was homemade. I declined. I ordered a cheese sandwich. More people arrived. Another round of homemade drinks, this time a coffee liquor, so I tried it. Sweet nectar. The others had settled in for the afternoon, as their destination was not so far, but I had places to go. When I went to pay, the barmaid said the drinks were on the house, and made a small drawing in my credential as my stamp. Nice.

I continued walking, but as the afternoon faded, my big night was starting to catch up with me. I had passed the airport, but hadn’t seen any hotels and was getting tired. I found a hotel, but it was closed for winter. I had another fifteen or more kilometers to Santiago, but was too tired to walk that far. I saw another hotel from the back entrance, so was hard to see if it was open. I saw a light which looked promising, and happily it was open. It was a little more than I had planned to pay even with the pilgrims discount, but I was tired, so checked in. The room was large, well heated, and had a bathtub! Yes, a hot bath.

The hotel had a large, but almost empty Resturant. The pilgrim’s menu was a bit more expensive than usual. I wasn’t holding my breath that the food would be good. To my surprise, it was possibly the best meal I’ve had in Spain. Scollops for entrée, a paella, overflowing with fresh seafood, and the now ubiquitous Santiago cake, an almond tart. This was homemade, moist, and delicious. They also served cheese, and a very good bottle of wine. Full, tired and content, I retired to bed.

Dinner Date Disaster

Villar de Mazarife to Astroga
Saturday 22 November

After breakfast in the downstairs bar, my Dutch friend and I continued our Camino towards Astroga. We had a fairly long walk today, more than thirty kilometers. Our first coffee stop wasn’t the best, and there was no food available. We were a little peckish, but a nearby shop provided us with some very tasty homemade tuna pastry things. The landscape was improving, but the weather was not. It was rainy, but not too cool, which mean a little sweaty in our rain gear.

Our next stop was nearing lunchtime. I wanted a snack, but wasn’t that hungry. We stopped in a bar. I wanted something cold, not sweet and not alcoholic, so thought I would try the local non alcoholic beer. It wasn’t bad, and came with tapas, as drinks in this part of Spain do. A small plate of paella. Wonderful! The best paella I’d had so far. Spicy, lots of seafood, even in the tiny tapas dish, and just the right balance of flavours. I asked if I could order a whole plate. Alas, it was only available as tapas – so I ordered another drink. My Dutch friend was still sorting out his existential crisis, and wanted more space, so left me to walk alone.

Leaving the small town, an elderly gentleman stopped me in the street and asked me to wait. He went into his house, and returned with a handful of homemade biscuits for me, wishing me Buen Camino. I love the kindness I have encountered on my way.

It was still drizzling, but I was enjoying the walk. Rocky, craggy stunted trees, we were climbing in altitude, heading into more mountainous regions. A few hours later I caught up with my friend, and we walked into Astroga together.

The Municipal alburgue at the beginning of town looked nice, but again we wanted to avoid the crowds, so walked to the other end, unsure if the other alburgue was open. It was closed. We considered sharing a hotel room, and went to the Gaudi Hotel opposite the Cathedral to enquire. They had a room, the price was reasonable. We went outside to discuss. My Camino Angel was there. She said the Municipal Alburge was nice, and she was in a room with only four people. We thought that sounded fine, and we really didn’t need to spend the money on a hotel. Walking towards the alburgue, we met some other pilgrims, who we also staying there. They said they were in a room of twelve. Mmmm, not so good. We would see.

We arrived and asked if we could have a small room. We were asked if we were a couple, then we could have a room for two. We said no, but did this room have one ore two beds? It had two. We could be a couple for tonight! Please? I promised I wouldn’t touch him. The hospitaliro opened my credential, and was very impressed that I had started my Camino in Paris. I said it wasn’t as impressive as my friend who had started in Amsterdam. She was even more impressed, then led us to our room… The room with two beds! We high fived, and I did a little jig. No snorers. Well, for me anyway, my Dutch friend informed me I do snore. Just a little.

As we had saved on the temptation of a hotel room, we decided to celebrate with a nice dinner. We wandered the town in search of a resturant. There were several, but nothing appealed. I wasn’t that fussy, but my friend was getting hungry and a cranky that we hadn’t made a decision. We thought the hotel we had visited earlier may have a nice resturant, so walked in that direction. We passed another four star hotel, and settled on that. Bad decision. We had one of the worst meals, with bad service, for the highest price yet. We resolved that later in the Camino, if we meet again we would splash out on a very nice meal together.

Cycle Path Psychopath part 16 – A Pilgrim Party with the Templars

Bordeaux to Le Barp
Thursday 23 October

My host had to leave early, so I packed up and also had an early start. I considered checking into a hotel, so would have a bit more time to discover Bordeaux, but decided I was more in the mood for quiet country roads, rather than the delights of a cultural city, so started towards Le Barp.

It was a straightforward route out of the city to the next small town… Then I got a little off track and ended up in a forest, which was rather lovely. I continued down small roads and paths, getting smaller and smaller as I headed again into the countryside. Then my road turned to sand. Thick sand. Thick sand that was impossible to ride a bike through. Google said it was a further 4 km down this path. I got off and pushed, my fastest rate was 4km per hour… If would take an hour of pushing the bike through the sand… Then after about a kilometer the road became firm again. I happily road on to Le Barp. On the way I saw another pilgrim on foot, he was also heading to Le Barp, and asked my to buy him some supplies, as he would probably arrive after the shops closed.

Tonight I was staying in a municipal Gite, open to pilgrims. My host had called ahead for directions and instructions. I had directions from the church and the code to get in. I went to the church and there was a workman installing a plaque, and an man looking on nodding. I said bonjour, and they asked if I needed help. I indicate that I was just looking at the church. They then saw my shell, and said there was a place for pilgrims to stay here – I said I had the code, but was just looking for my instructions of how to get there… The man said to follow him, as he drove around the corner. He asked if I would like a stamp in my Credencial, I said I would so followed him to his house. I wasn’t sure if he was the priest, but then his wife came out, but he seemed associated with the church in some way. They offered me coffee and biscuits, and I sat down for a chat – he had some English. He knew quit a lot of the history of the local area, and asked if I would like to visit an ancient Templar church, and explained the history of the Templar knights in the area, indicating that were still alive and well. I said I would be very interested, and he said he would come by the hostel later, and whoever was there was also invited for a tour.

I road back to the hostel, entered the code, and there was another pilgrim already there, a French man with hardly any English, we had a difficult, but friendly conversation, and he told me there was a young girl, also on her way, so we would be four tonight – a full house! I went to the supermarket for some supplies, and when I returned everyone had arrived. I told them about the offer to see the Templar church, but only the girl was interested. The others said they would wait for us for dinner.

The gentleman arrived and first took us to the birthplace of a former queen of France, married to one of the Henry’s, but all that remained was a small hill, and a rather kitsch statue. He said that during WWII, the Germans were convinced that the hill concealed treasure, so ordered the locals to dig it away, so really, it was just half a hill, with a nearby pile of sand. There was no treasure.

I was asking the fellow pilgrim about the origins of her unusual name, Quitterie – She said it was French, but our friend had also never heard it. She said it was actually a Saints name, form this very area. As she said this – she exclaimed and pointed to the street sign – we were in Rue Saint Quitterie!

We then went to the 10th Century Templar church – it was dusk in the forest, and the light surrounding the simple rounded building was lovely. We entered the darkened church, it was cold the only light was from the stained glass windows. The gentleman handed us candles, and the three of us made a procession to the alter and placed candles all around the church in front of all the statues, it was rather spooky and mystical – fitting for this secretive order.

Returning to the hostel, I showered and the others were preparing for dinner. I had been under the impression we would all go into town for dinner together, but the group had pooled their snacks of bread and fruit. I said I need a proper meal, so would cook if anyone would partake – they were all happy to eat. We had melon and some duck pate to start (not together), I opened a bottle of wine to share… and cooked up lentils with vegetables I had leftover. It was fun and relaxing to be in the company of other pilgrims, and we all had stories to share.

Cycle Path Psychopath part 11 – A Real Pilgrim Hostel

Lusignon to Aulnay
Friday 17 October

Again, I hadn’t procured accommodation for tonight, but had the phone number of a pilgrims’ hotel in Aulnay, only problem when I called, no one spoke English, and I couldn’t make myself understood in French. The very friendly Hotel manager in Lusignon offered to call for me, but there was no answer. She called the Marie in Aulnay, and got the details of where to get the key, and who to contact when I arrived. She also wrote down info for a couple of B&B’s if I had any trouble.

I wanted to avoid busy roads today, so planned a route following back roads to Melle, where I would stop to look at some churches, a very pleasant ride. I had wanted to find somewhere for lunch in Melle, but was a little late leaving Lusignon, so opted for the bread, cheese and wine option by the side of the road. A good plan, as I didn’t arrive into Melle until almost 2 pm, when everything was closed. I went to the tourist office to see if they could call ahead for my pilgrims’ accommodation in Alunay, they did, and it was arranged that I would stay. They also gave me a very nice stamp in my Crediencial.

I then when to look at a couple of churches in Melle, the first one was lovely, but no longer a functioning church, the second one was the sublime UNESCO World Heritage listed Saint Hilaire. I was photographing some magnificent carvings of a pilgrim on horseback, surrounded by scollop shells, when an elderly gentleman pointed that the door was open and I should go inside, as it as ‘nouveau’… It was sparsely renovated with a layered, almost topographical white marble alter, which I later learned was the work of French designer Mathieu Lehanneur, who has transformed and enhanced the Romanesque church into a contemporary minimalist masterpiece. It was beautiful and unexpected.

I had asked for directions to Aluny at the Tourist office, and had asked if the road marked in red on my map was particularly busy, as it was the most straightforward way to get there, the other routes would have added an hour or more to my journey. She said it would be fine on a bike. It wasn’t. After about 15 minutes avoiding big fast trucks, pulling over ever time I saw one In my mirror, I cranked up the Google machine to see if there was an alternative and a way to get off the busy road, even if I had to add two hours to my trip, it would be better. I had to continue another 30 minutes along the busy road before there was an exit, but such a relief when I found one.

It was a long ride, and I didn’t arrive in Aulnay until after six, but waiting near the corner of the hostel was the elderly lady who had the key. She was very sweet and with some charades and sign language gave me instructions for all the facilities at the hostel. And what a charming place it was! Light filled and comfortable with a fully equipped kitchen, washing machine, and dryer. There were two other guests – Pilgrims! A couple from Austria, doing their third Camino, walking from Amboise to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. They were kind and helpful – it was nice to chat to someone on the same path.

I showered, did some laundry, and went in search of dinner. There only seemed to be one Resturant open in town, and it didn’t have much on offer, just a set menu, which had a pork main. They offered to make me an omelette instead, so I sat down to the delicious buffet starter including all kinds of salads and quiche, the omelette and then a chocolate mousse for dessert. It was filling and tasty. I returned to the hostel and the other guests offered to share a bottle of red, which I happily obliged.

Cycle Path Psychopath part 8 – Meeting Saint Jacques

Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine to Chatellerault
Tuesday 14 October

I continued to Chatellerault on a join-the-dots route from small village to small village, where I had another CouchSurfing host to meet. Of course there was a roundabout as I entered the town, and took the wrong exit through an industrial area, but manage to make it into town without further problems.

My host was still at work, but invited me to meet her. She worked as a nurse at a local high school. I stored my bike, and went in search of the Church of Saint Jacques, with the wooden statue of said saint covered in scollop shells. I pulled out my camera, and managed one quick snap before the lights were flicked and the church was engulfed in darkness. I did, however find someone to add a very nice stamp to my now growing collection.

I returned to the school and was surprised to see many school students smoking outside, apparently common among teenagers in France. I rode home with my host (she too had a bike), and then we went walking to discover the local area. We climbed some old factory chimneys which had stairways and platforms for a birds eye view of the city, then visited the local circus school, with which my host’s school was associated. Her school was a vocational performing circus arts school, and had many students from all over France, some graduates making it to world famous circuses such as Circus de Soleil.

Another winning CouchSurfing stay, a cosy house filled with art and treasures, with a sweet sun-filled back garden. A very generous and charming host, who cooked me a delicious pumpkin quiche, and entertained me with interesting conversation. We made potential plans for me to return to France and do the whole Loire a Velo route together. A great night!

Cycle Path Psychopath part 7 – Another Pilgrim!

Tours to Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine
Monday 13 October

My first stop this morning was the tourist office, as I wanted to see if they had cycling maps that were as good as those for Loire a Velo. They had some that would get me as far as Chatellerault, but they weren’t very detailed, but in combination with my road maps and Google, I’d be fine… Until I get to the roundabouts. I then went to the Cathedral for a quick look inside, and a stamp in my Credential. It was open, and there was actually someone scraping the wax from the candles who was able to give me a stamp – things were looking up for the bad pilgrim.

Leaving Tours, I managed to follow the maps until I crossed the river, then I hit several roundabouts and was soon disorientated and lost… Time for a bit of Google help. But Google wasn’t very helpful and kept telling me to make a U turn… I’d go a few meters, than be instructed to make a U turn again… I could have been there all day. I soon figured out where I was on the map… And continued down the road. Now the Camino signs were becoming more common, just when I thought I’d taken the wrong turn, I saw one.

Today’s ride took me through lovely rural villages and forested paths. I was riding up one of these when I noticed a figure in the distance, was it a scarecrow? Then it moved, I hadn’t encountered anyone else on these off road paths until now, and was a little apprehensive. As I approached, a woman came into view and she pointed to my shell and said that she too was following St Jacque de Compostelle… A pilgrim! She lived in a nearby village, and said that every year she did a small section of the walk. She then pointed out that the at place we had stopped was a small Virgin Mary shrine in the tree. She gave me a postcard as a souvenir, and we departed.

I continued on to Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine where I’d booked a hotel for the night, the first on my trip! It was an older style room, fairy simple, but comfortable, however the staff spoke no English and weren’t particularly welcoming. The attached resturant however was well worth the stopover. Mussel soup, followed by duck with figs, fromage, local wine, and dessert. A wonderful meal, although the service again a little brisk.

Another Castle, Another Cheese Plate

Tours
Sunday 12 October

A rest day in Tours, we went to the local produce markets to help with the weekly shopping, and enjoy the local atmosphere. After lunch with seven different cheeses on the fromage plate, a result of our market visit, our host suggested the other guest and I catch the train to visit Chateau de Chaumont. This was my first French intercity train – French trains are a little different from Indonesian trains, perhaps an understatement – they are bloody marvelous!

Perhaps as it was Sunday, or perhaps that this is just a lovely chateau, it was rather crowded with tourists. We bought tickets, added a stamp to my Credencial, and I opted for the audio tour. I hadn’t had time in the other chateaus I had visited to take the tours, and usually enjoy them. Today I had a little more time. Chateau de Chaumont was once the home of Catherine de Medici, and is fully furnished and in exquisite condition in its shape as a museum. The kitchen was a wonder to behold, the BEST kitchen I’ve ever seen, encompassing five rooms, with giant mechanical rotisserie over the wood fire, that could probably roast a whole venison, and numerous shinny cooper pots and pans. I wanted to move in.

After looking around we wandered the gardens, including a lovely maze. I’d always wanted to have my own maze as a kid, so this was a childhood fantasy come true. I was a little concerned that if I went too far in I’d get lost and miss the train, but the hedges had been cut really low, so it was easy to find your way.

We made our way to the train station, where we waited with the only other passengers, a mother and her adult daughter. On the electronic board, it announced that our train was delayed by 15 mins. A train arrived minuites later, but my Coushsurfing fellow guest informed us all that it wasn’t our train, as ours was delayed. When the train departed, the board removed our train from the list – it had been our train, only seconds late. The next train was two hours later. We chatted to the other passengers, and soon were laughing an having fun, the time passed very quickly. By the time the train arrived and we were back in Tours, my fellow guest had decided he wanted to be adopted by the woman. We said our au revoirs, and headed back to our host’s for a late dinner.

Cycle Path Psychopath part 5 – Wine, Cheese and Castles

Suevres to Limeray
Friday 10 October
Fog engulfed the Loire as I headed off this morning, backtracking a little as I wanted to visit my hosts’ friend, and visit Chateaux Chambord. I rode over to Domaine de Croc du Merle at Muides-sur-Loire, arriving as they opened. I asked for my hosts friend, who offered wine tasting? Mmmm wine and cheese for breakfast? Why not! He explained that their cheese was all from happy cows, that the milking system was fully automatic, and cows wandered into be milked whenever they felt like it. The system produces more, and better quality milk, and consequently very delicious cheese. I tried 7 wines, and ended up buying a bottle of a Chardonnay Sauvignon blend, and a cheese – lunch for the next few days.

Wobbling towards Chateaux Chambord, I rode past a of group army men, one of which recognize my shell and wished me a good Camino. Arriving at the Chateaux, I took a wrong turn, and circled the fairytale castle in the fog before finding somewhere to park my bike. The chateau is a World Heritage French Renaissance marvel constructed by King Francis 1 of France around 1519. A quick visit with a stamp in my Credencial, then on my bike… Only to get lost exiting the castle, I circled again, and again before finally finding the road to Blois, passing a couple of women cyclists several times. We ended up, on the same road, and seems they had been lost too, and were heading in the same direction. Finally back on the marked path, only to be interrupted by some road construction and a detour. I asked directions in broken French, and got us back on the correct path. I soon left them, as I had further to go after my, ahem, breakfast detour.

Arriving at Blois, I regretted that I hadn’t arrange to spend the night there, as it looked quite magical across the river, but I had booked to stay at a campsite further along the Loire, at Limeray. It was much further than I had anticipated, so pushed the pedals a fast as I could to make it before I got dark. With detours and getting lost I ended up doing 88 km that day, the most so far. I arrived at the small campsite, that was not quite what I had expected… Situated between a busy highway and a train line, it ended up being the nosiest night in had spent in France! The facility’s were good and clean, and after I set up my tent, had a lovely hot shower I heated up a quiche I had bought earlier and opened my bottle of wine, before snuggling down for an early night.

Cycle Path Psychopath part 4 – The Delights of the Loire

Saint-Jean-de-Braye to Suevres
Thursday 9 October

Leaving Saint-Jean-de-Braye, I was now on the Loire à Vélo path, all the way to Tours. Following the Loire River through wonderful landscapes punctuated with magnificent chateaus, along well marked cycle paths – this was truly a delightful ride.

As I was coming into Orleans, my brake cable suddenly came loose, and my brakes didn’t work. I stopped and fiddled for a while when an elderly trio, stopped and were the first to recognize my scollop shell on my bike, asked “Saint Jacque de Compostelle?”, I nodded and the gentleman, saw I was having trouble, and fixed my brakes. The sun had decided to shine today, making the ride even more enjoyable. Continuing on, I saw my first marker for the Camino, confirming I was actually on the correct path.

I stopped for lunch in the picturesque medieval town of Beaugency where I managed to get another stamp in my Crediencial, albeit a boring municipal one from the tourist office, as everything else of historical significance was closed. This was truly a delightful stop, I circled the town several times taking in the atmosphere, before settling on a small brasserie for lunch. Again another gastronomic delight – goat cheese and tomato flan, followed by Poached fish with capers. These menues are good!

Continuing on to Suvres, I passed fields of wild flowers and stopped for a photo of the biggest fungus I had seen, and saw my first wildlife – three pheasants in the bushes. My hosts were not going to be home until 6.30 – I arrived around 5.30, so headed to the local Tabac for a coffee. They soon sent me a message, as they arrived earlier than planned. I love CouchSurfing! Again my hosts were charming and their house was an absolute delight. An old sprawling farmhouse, that had been converted into a modern comfortable home completed with skateboarding rink! A delicious home cooked dinner, fromage, wine, and good conversation, warm shower (with ‘disco button’), and washing machine followed by a contented sleep in a comfortable bed. She worked in local tourism, so directed me to some sights not to be missed the following day, and his hobby was making film clips for the French reggae band he performed in. They had a friend who was a local wine and cheese producer, so called him to arrange a visit for me the following morning.

The Bad Pilgrim

Orleans
Wednesday 8 October

Until now the only stamps I had in my Credential the ones I’d procured in Paris – my host commented that I was a very bad pilgrim, and that as Orleans was a very important stop on the Camino, I should be able to get one at the Cathedral. However, when I went there, there was no one to be found. A bad pilgrim indeed! I headed to Joan of Arc’s house, as this historic town was her birthplace, and asked if they knew where I could get a stamp. She said she didn’t, but said she knew someone who would know. There was an old priest and nun waiting in the reception area, who tut tutted in French when she asked them – it turns out I could get a stamp right there.

Next I went in search of ‘the menu’ again, but I was a little late, and all choices today were with beef or pork, which I don’t eat. I found a small place offering a plate de jour of Poullet with thyme, and it didn’t disappoint. The rest of the afternoon I spent wander the town, enjoying the atmosphere.

My host was busy working that evening, and had told me about a small Resturant that served mussels, so of course I had to go. The heavens opened on my way, and I was soaked, but a warm bowl of mussels can cure anything. Later I met my host in town, and we cycled together along cycle paths back to Saint-Jean-de-Braye. Such a joy to cycle at night without risk of cars running you down.