“Â¡Buenos dÃas!” said a friendly-looking man, waving at me from the other side of a fence.
The greeting broke me out of my reverie. I had headphones in and my mind was miles away.
I removed my earbuds and smiled, looking around. The man was standing in a yard and appeared to be surrounded by a bunch of young children.
“Â¿De done eres?” he asked, which means Where are you from? in Spanish.
“Los Estados Unidos,” I replied, which means The United States.
“Which city?” he asked, switching to English.
“I’m from Seattle!” I said, grinning. I wondered if he knew where that was. I’ve been traveling around the world for two years now and some people have never heard of Seattle. Then again, some folks I’ve met have traveled extensively in America and know it almost better than I do.
“Oh great!” he said, beckoning me over. “You’re our first pilgrim from Seattle. That’s wonderful. This is a kindergarten school and we are teaching our children about geography around the world.”
He reached into a case and pulled out a beautiful shell necklace.
“How do you feel about doing us a little favor?”
Table of Contents
Caldas de Reis Street Market
A few hours earlier, I began the day at Caldas de Reis. This was my 14th day on theÂ Portuguese Camino (Camino PortuguÃ©s) and I was getting very close to the finish line now. Soon I would finish my pilgrimage and reach my goal of the magnificent cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
Caldas de Reis is a cute little town with Romanesque architecture and a charming river which runs through the village center. Apparently, the town is known for its thermal hot springs. Many pilgrims seek out the springs in order to soak their feet after a long day of walking.
Unfortunately, I did not find the hot springs. But I did find an amazing street market as I left town. The market was impossible to miss as it was located along the Camino route through the center of town.
Church of Santa MariÃ±a
After walking through the countryside for a while, I reached the village of O Campo. The highlight of the Camino through this section is the Church of Santa MariÃ±a. It is situated on the top of a hill and I could see it for some time until I finally reached it.
There are some lovely benches in the shade here. It is a great spot for a break.
An Open Window to the World
It wasn’t long after my break at the Church of Santa MariÃ±a that I encountered the kindergarten. The school is located right next to the Camino and so the children must see pilgrims go by all the time.
I soon learned that the teacher’s name is Professor QuinÃn Freire GarcÃa. He started a program called Una Ventana Abierta Al Mundo, which means An Open Window to the World. The goal of the program is to teach the students about new places around the world by connecting them with pilgrims on the Camino.
To achieve this, the children make shell necklaces and hand them out to pilgrims passing by. In return, the pilgrims promise to take photos of the shells at their home city when they return from pilgrimage.
Apparently they don’t have any photos from Seattle yet. This is why he was so excited to meet me.
I explained to Professor GarcÃa that I’m not planning to return home until next year sometime. But I would be happy to take photos with the shell from other locations until I returned.
He said that was fine, and then called one of the students over. She smiled shyly at me.
“This is Naia,” he said, holding her up to my level. Naia handed me a shell necklace over the fence, along with a paper about their school program.
My heart melted. I would definitely treasure this souvenier! I couldn’t wait to take photos of my new necklace in new and interesting places around the world.
For more information about the program, check out the Recuerdos De La Ventana Facebook Page.
You can also track the status of the shells around the world here: Â Â¿DÃ³nde estÃ¡n las conchas peregrinas?
After leaving the kindergarten school, I put on my new necklace and headed north. The path led through some more charming farmland before eventually leading to Bar Pardal. I was ready for a break so I popped in for a meal.
After lunch, the path followed along the highway for a while before climbing a small hill in a forested area.
Buen Camino Bar
By mid-afternoon, I arrived at the Buen Camino Bar. This cafe is popular with pilgrims due to its excellent location across the street from the Igrexa San Miguel de Valga Church.
I considered whether or not to stop. Did I really need another break? I had eaten lunch not that long ago.
Then I checked the map. As it turns out, I was making excellent time today! It really wasn’t that much further until my final destination.
So I decided to treat myself to a nice relaxing break and a cold beer.
While most pilgrims choose to spend the night in the town PadrÃ³n, I decided to stop at Pontecesures instead. PadrÃ³n is a bit closer to Santiago de Compostela, so it’s a better choice for pilgrims who plan to complete the final stage in a single day.
I planned to take two days to complete the final stage, however, so I wasn’t in huge hurry. Plus I found a cute guesthouse called Casa de Horreo that was located right on the Camino not far from the RÃo Ulla (Ulla River).
As I walked into town, one of the most noticeable landmarks is an enormous factory along the river. I could see the giant towers belching smoke (or maybe steam) into the air from miles away.
Later, I learned that it actually a Nestle factory which produces condensed milk. Who knew?!
Dinner at Casa Farrucan
After settling into my room and showering, I headed across the N-550 bridge to a small restaurant called Casa Farrucan.
When I arrived, I happened to find Natalia sitting at a table with a glass of wine. So I joined her for a drink while we spent some time chatting and catching up.
She couldn’t stay long as she planned to continue to PadrÃ³n for the night. So I waved good-bye and settled in to order dinner.
I was the only patron at the bar, except for a few other local men who quietly sipped pints of beer. The owner was watching an American crime drama on television that had been dubbed into Spanish.
So, we all watched the show together in a quiet camaraderie while we sat at our separate tables. It was a fun evening and one that I’ll likely remember for a long time.
Portuguese Camino Stats
Date: Monday, October 18
Starting Location: Villa Galicia in Caldas de Reis
Ending Location: Casa de HÃ³rreo in Pontecesures
Camino Distance Walked: 10 miles/ 16.1 km
Distance to Santiago: 16.9 miles/ 27.2 km
AllTrails Map Recording
Here is the recording and map for the distance traveled today:
Note: the distance in this recording doesnâ€™t match my Camino distance because it includes some off-route walking.
Stamps Collected Today
- Previous journal entry: Portuguese Camino Day 13: Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis
- Next journal entry:Â Portuguese Camino Day 15: Bed Bugs on the Camino
For more information about my pilgrimage along the Camino PortuguÃ©s, visit my Portuguese Camino web page.