The Road to Santiago.

November 2, 2004

Photo of la Casa de los Moreno.
La Casa de los Moreno

Ribadeo to Barreiros

I got up a little earlier than usual. I wanted to be in the town by 9 a.m. to stop at the Internet salon one last time before moving on. I was the last one out of the albergue because Tepani had gone yesterday and one other pilgrim who came in last night had left before daybreak. I think that Arturo was sad to see me go since he would be alone again for who knows how long.

As I left the albergue, I realized that the one night rule was actually a good one. Also I see the wisdom of keeping the place as Spartan as possible. A person could get too comfortable staying in one place. The longer the stay, the greater the inertia. In Gijon it took a great effort for me to focus on leaving and to convince myself that walking six hours a day is “no big deal.”

Conversely, once I get back into the groove of walking, I wouldn’t want to stay very long in any one place. In many towns there were sights to see that would have been interesting, or events to participate in that would have been fun. But the impulse was to move on. In many albergues, I wouldn’t even bother to open my backpack. All that I needed were my medicines and night toiletries. Those I kept in pockets which were easily accessible. In albergues that had blankets or heat, I might not even unpack my sleeping bag. With my pack still intact, I was able to get a quick start in the morning.

I remember that Corey, the young guy with the bicycle, back in Cadavedo, was reluctant to stay in the albergue because he had gotten used to his tent. Even Tepani mentioned that he was afraid that staying in albergues had spoiled him and he would have trouble after Santiago to get used to being back on the road.

Photo of Pulpo y calamari.
Pulpo y calamari

Near the Internet salon was a mercado de los abastos (produce market) which hadn’t been open during the weekend. I decided to stroll through it because it’s a good way to learn the names of the produce that is commonly on menus. Galicia is famous for its seafood and I soon understood why. The variety of pescado (fish) and mariscos (shellfish) was something to behold. The fish included hake, cod, tuna, salmon, trout, snapper, monkfish (goosefish), among others. I saw at least five different types of sole. And the shellfish included oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops, as well as shrimp, lobster, spiny lobsters, langostinas, prawns, and three types of crab. While some markets back home have squid, Spanish markets have at least three types of squid along with cuttlefish and octopus. They also have something I have never seen in a U.S. market — gooseneck barnacles. Called percebes, these are considered a prize delicacy.

As I left Ribadeo, I followed the highway. I had no choice because there was no marked trail. Instead of heading directly for Lourenzá, which was 30 km (18 miles), I decided to go to Barreiros, which was 22.8 km (14 miles).

I had learned from an announcement posted in the Ribadeo albergue that there was a new albergue in Barreiros which had a kitchen and 40 beds. Los llaves (the keys) were available from the last house in the pueblo (village), it stated. On my map, Lourenzá looked to be about 16 km (10 miles) from Barreiros, which would make a comfortable walk the next day. Besides, Barreiros was on the coast and this would be the last time I could walk along the ocean before turning south into the mountains.

The town was on the edge of a big estuary known as the Ría de Foz. This was a very popular resort area as was evidenced by billboards and advertisements for hotels and seafood restaurants.

About 1:00 p.m. Elaine, a friend and the mother of Angelica, my goddaughter, called to give me a report on Halloween. It was about 7:00 in the morning in Boston and she was going to vote after she dropped Angelica off at school. She asked me how I thought the presidential election would turn out. She was floored to hear me say that I hadn’t an opinion — me, a political junkie who listens to talk radio and the “talking heads” on TV news shows on Sunday mornings.

But it’s hard to stay informed about U.S. politics in Spain. There is very little American noticias (news) in Spanish periódicos (newspapers). When there is, it’s only in relation to how it affects Spain. Generally, international news is way in the back of the paper, just before the sports pages. The front page usually has stories of import to the region while those of the Madrid government appear three or four pages back. Imagine, a country where the central government doesn’t control every aspect of its citizens’ lives!

Photo of whale hotel.
Whale hotel

I saw a sign for one named el Restaurante Moby Dick. I wondered to myself whether or not the Spanish knew that Moby was the name of a whale, not some old fisherman.

I wasn’t sure where I should go to find the albergue, but then I saw a sign indicating a tourist information office a few kilometers ahead. But when I got there, it was closed during el invierno (the winter).

Finally I came to the town of San Cosme de Barreiros. The village of Barreiros was still a couple of kilometers to the northwest on the edge of the ocean. But I didn’t know how to get there. That was when I started asking for directions to the albergue. No one seemed to know where it was. Well, after all, it was new. Then I saw a sign in the window of a bar. It had the outline of a scallop shell and the words, “Estampos credencials de Santiago” (We stamp pilgrims’ passports).

It was the bar of a bicycle club and it was a stopping point for pilgrims that were heading to Santiago by bicycle. Apparently, the other route is mountainous and difficult for bikers. So I asked the bartender where the albergue of Barreiros was. He said “en el sur, venticinco kilometros” (in the south, 25 km). I asked if he was sure and reminded him that it was a new albergue. He agreed but insisted that it was in the south. Mira (look), he said, it’s like Nueva York (New York) — Nueva York, la ciudad y Nueva York, el estado (New York, the city and New York, the state). It seems that I was in San Cosme de Barreiros and the other Barreiros, where the new albergue was located, was 30 km to the south.

Photo of Barreiros.

Fortunately, this bar/restaurant had a hotel associated with it. I decided to stay here for the night. The bartender, a man named Xesús, and his wife, Monserrat, were the owners of the establishment. They were very nice to me and I was able to get a great room for 18 euros ($23) and a meal for 9 euros.

Xesús is gallego (the language of Galicia) for Jesús. In castellano, the name is pronounced Hay-zus but in gallego it sounds like Shzay-zus. It took me a couple of tries before I was able to pronounce it correctly, but he was very gracious about my stumbling with his name.

The hallways in the hotel were decorated with beautiful beach photographs. Xesús was the photographer and he told me that the area had las playas mas bonitas en el mundo (the most beautiful beaches in the world). But he didn’t want me to tell anyone because he didn’t want many tourists, which would result in over development.

I hadn’t planned it, but I ended up on election night with a TV in my room. Spanish TV networks didn’t have any special coverage for the U.S. election beyond mentioning it in the news. But at least I would be able to see the results in the morning. I went to bed on election night watching an episode of el Comisario (the Commissioner) in Spanish, of course.

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