So why ‘Walking and Wine’? Well this little adventure has been in the pipeline now for over two years. I have researched, planned and plotted over Covid lockdown and
been looking forward to the ‘open road’ and walking on the Camino (one of the world’s oldest and most famous pilgrim routes)for months now.
My Spanish friend Veronica trekked over 400kms when she was 19 years old and now just a few years later (ok, maybe 30 years), she inspired a few more of her friends to join her and have a go! Of course, I added a few extra days so we could explore San Sebastian, the northern Spanish coast, and then to have a relaxing few days to recover in Santiago de Compostela, the official ending of the 500 trek.
It’s safe to say we have had a few glasses of wine every day, sometimes just one when we had a long walk to do the next day but have enjoyed some of the best French rosés and for me I am now ‘hooked’ on a glass of Albariño. It’s been so worth the wait and instead of my usual ‘Foodie Friday’ I am very pleased to share a food and travel blog which for future reference will be known as ‘Walking and Wine’.
We left London shortly after 9am on the Eurostar. It was already a busy day at St. Pancreas and we were pleased to find a coffee and our seats. It’s been a while since I have used the Eurostar but it is incredibly easy. Before we knew it we were in sunny Paris and having lunch near to the Eiffel Tower at the Café Trocadero.
Researched from Seat 61, we then caught the double decker train from Paris Montparnasse to Hendaye just over the border in Spain. This was again easy (we did try and move a family from their seats – to discover we were all in the wrong carriage!). It also took me a while to cool down and relax as I had ventured off about 30 mins before the train to the nearby Monoprix supermarket to find it seemed to be a huge store and my simple picnic purchase had me running to catch the train!
The train really had great views, sunflower fields and plenty of beautiful chateaux.
We passed through Bordeaux Saint-Jean, Biarritz then into Spain arriving in Hendaye. As we had read before it was a quick change onto a little local train into San Sebastian and we arrived around 9pm. Would have been easy to jump into a taxi but as we had all been sitting most of the day it was a really lovely walk to our Air Bnb near the old town and beach. This time of night was very pleasant walking along the water and seeing a few sights lit up!
It was a lazy first morning and we were very pleased to have a lovely breakfast place just round the corner, where I certainly over indulged. At the Polka café I had – ‘’tostada con jamón, aguacate, tomate, croissant y café con leche”.
We spent Saturday exploring San Sebastián. We walked to the end of La Concha Bay, had a local beer at a little café on the beach before taking the funicular up Monte Igeldo. This is a place where the past meets the present. You can relive your childhood years by visiting the traditional fairground or, as we did, travel back to 1912 when the funicular railway started (making it the oldest funicular railway in the Basque Country), taking us all to
marvel at the most iconic views of the city. The Igeldo funicular is a cog railway with wooden carriages which takes you from the lower slopes of the mountain to the fairground at the summit.
At the summit, we were all so impressed with the stunning views of the city as well as part of Gipuzkoan coastline and the immense Cantabrian Sea.
Once back in town we timed our ice cream so well as the one day bike race taking place across Spain finished in San Sebastian. One of the group is a huge cycling fan, so it was fun joining the crowds lining the streets, and cheering on the UK cyclists pushing to the finish line.
We then managed to squeeze in the catamaran boat trip around the island and the San Sebastian bay, lovely for a different view, before our ‘tapa crawl’. I had read one of the main reasons to travel to San Sebastian was the food and I could not believe the number of Michelin starred restaurants I saw. It really is a gastronomic paradise where I could have stayed for several nights.
However, we were leaving the following day so we made the most of Saturday night and enjoyed a ‘tapa crawl’ or Tikiteo. This not only allowed us to enjoy as many small plates as we could, but was also a great opportunity to visit different bars and cafes. We agreed amongst us our favourite was Txuleta – famous for its steak croquette!
Sunday, we were off to Bilbao and where we headed to the famous Guggenheim museum. Once we had our rental cars sorted out we explored the beautiful drive from Bilbao to our destination for the night - Oviedo.
Oviedo pronounced ‘Obiedo’ we discovered was the city of cider. In Calle Gascona (Boulevard of cider) there are sidrerias after sidrerias. We sat down in Alterna Sideria
Rosal with a 5 star trip advisor rating we were not knowing, the etiquette or what to expect…
Focusing forward the bottle is raised over the pourers head and the glass is tilted at their waist. The pourer does not look at either the bottle nor the glass but straight ahead and starts to pour. The idea for this is to aerate the cider by creating bubbles, but don’t be surprised if some is spilt.
Only a small amount is poured from the large bottle. You are then handed the dry, partially still, cloudy cider which may also include sediment to enjoy, and enjoy we did.
We enjoyed strolling the old town with bars stacked high and shelves of green cider bottles, We ate just outside the Cathedral, in the square with our very Spanish and lovely waitress Marta… I noted we ate a delicious tomato salad and Bonito fish ‘Ventresca debonito’. The underbelly of a type of tuna called Bonito.
On Monday we left the city of cider to arrive and dine in the ‘Street of the wines’ in Lugo. This is a walled city and much more appealing than I had expected. We strolled the old, narrow streets and found there to be a great atmosphere and again incredible food. We went for tapas plates again!
We then were all happy with an early night as we left the following morning on our 4 day Camino adventure…
Day 1 - Lugo
We left our Lugo Air BnB at around 6am, although we did get faster at heading off before the sun was up! It was already 18/19 degrees and as I had explained to the girls we had about 21 kms to walk. I had misunderstood the map and actually this first day turned out to be one of the longest walks of the trip over 30 kms in total.
I won’t lie, it was tough. We enjoyed our first rural stop, in a garage with a coffee machine for a euro and a welcome toilet stop. This is where we first saw a fellow walker, carrying his guitar on his back, who walked much faster than us! This was our first stamp too, and as we didn’t have the official paperwork I used my roadmap of Spain which is now well and truly stamped! To explain at every coffee stop, albergue or sometimes a random point in a village you could collect stamps to mark your journey.
We met Mark while we munched our picnic lunch. We had bought some fruit and bread back in Lugo and it was most welcome with a cold drink. Mark, Dutch with the necktie,
seemed to have walked every corner of the world and was full of advice to us beginners. He warned us the first three days would be the worst and I didn’t really manage to explain we were only doing four in total! Anyway we waved goodbye and knew we would see him at our overnight accommodation that night. We arrived at Albergue Pointe Ferreira at 3.15pm. We had to play seriously loud music to get us up the last few hills which seemed to last 4/5kms. It seemed to help walk with a beat… With the help of Ed Sheeran we made it and were so grateful for a refreshing shower and to sit in a deckchair. However getting up an hour later when the last of the group arrived, was a real struggle!
Ria, owner from the Albergue Pointe Ferreira and I have been emailing for over 2 years now so it was so nice to finally meet. She and her husband served a really nice vegetarian meal for all her guests and I think there was about 14 round the table for supper. We really enjoyed meeting the American University Professor and his partner and a Dutch couple that looked as tired as we were! There was no rocking required as we all fell in to our bunks
hoping that dawn did not come too soon.
Day 2 - Melide
Luckily for me, Kate (one of our group of girls) was talking to me again after a good night’s sleep as we all set off in the dark. It was slightly drizzling and the scenery we experienced walking to Mellide was very surprising. We walked through more farms and past more fields and fields of corn but also we climbed up on to what I can only describe as the ‘moors’. I am sure in blazing sunshine, a few hours later it would have been different but in the early morning and being misty it felt like we were in Dartmoor or on the Yorkshire moors back home!
As we entered the town of Melide, Veronica introduced us to the lovely Lola who was preparing white beans outside her house. She had a little allotment right there and
proudly explained what she grew and why. She had just picked the bowl and enjoyed chatting to us, well Veronica as it was the most fluent Spanish! As we turned
to say goodbye, explaining we were staying in town for the evening she not only recommended where we should eat but she invited us all to a picnic at “Las Catedrales” (Lugo river beach) with her family - Rex. We really did meet such friendly people on our walk!
Lola recommended the Garnacha octopus restaurant which, coincidently, we had looked at the night before. Melide is famous for its Galician octopus and as most of us love to eat it, we had to visit this restaurant. The ‘Pulpeira’ explained that she boiled an average size
octopus for about thirty minutes, then left it in hot water till it was needed. Then she cut it in to pieces with scissors, added coarse sea salt, paprika and then bathed it generously in olive oil. It really was the best I have ever tasted, so tender and delicate a real treat!
Day 3 - Salceda
Thursday we were off bright and early again. We met a Nicaraguan family who had stopped to decide which direction they would take and advised us too! Would it be the traditional primitivo or the new maybe slightly longer route.
That morning a couple of children came up to me and they wanted to play a game – swap something for something else. I got a banana and carefully counted out my last
few sweets in exchange. We stopped for a really good ‘café con leche’ at an Auberge, owned by a German couple. We met the American Professor again, and several other Dutch who had been on the road for several months.
We walked through Arzúa, known for its cheese, and finally the walk and wait had been worthwhile as we came across a recommended organic café.
This was such a jewel to be found and we really enjoyed spending time resting and refueling!
We had beautiful salads, sandwiches that the owner lit on fire, so to melt the cheese, local traditional Galician coffee (boiled for over 3 hours) and and homemade tarte de Santiago, the traditional almond tart which we all agreed was the dessert of choice!
Thursday night we were in another hostel or auberge. This time we had the dormitory to ourselves so it was much easier to get up in the morning as we could put a light on and leave in the dark without disturbing any other sleepers.
Day 4 - Santiago de Compostela
This was again a long day and I walked quite a while on my own as we all found different paces. What I love is when you are walking by yourself you tend to chat to more walkers and I knew my friends would be waiting at the next stop for a coffee or cold drink.
As I walked through the towering eucalyptus forest, I knew I wasn’t far from a rural village as I seemed to be following the local bread delivery.
We walked into Santiago de Compostela, earlier than anticipated. As a group we had all done so well to achieve more than 100kms in just four days!
As we stumbled the last few kilometres to the Cathedral I chatted to a Dutch guy who had been walking for 93 days. He had started in March and had a few stops along the way and still wasn’t sure if he was stopping or continuing his journey. Maybe the toy monkey on his shoulder made the final decision!