Day 19: Gijon (departure)

The Day in summary: a beautiful day spent walking, drinking, swimming, and lounging by both of Gijon’s beaches (they are very different you know?). Indeed, actually getting slightly sunburned in the process….like true Brits on holiday!

Looking out from the headland – early morning (ish!)





Sun-on, Gi-jon

No Strava today (I didn’t set it), but Jacks assured me that we walked almost 15km, although that was per her ‘Optimist-bit’ as I refer to it (I think the correct term is ‘Fitbit’).

So, as you may have gathered, we saw a fair bit of Gijon today, so deep breath….here’s a snapshot summary:

  • Breakfast – very uninventive, wound up at the café under our hotel…but as the
    Coffee, cake, and OJ

    old Camino saying goes, ‘Places near bus and train stations serve the best coffee’ – OK, so I made that up, but it’s been proved true time and time again for us…and so it was once again, with little cute miniature pint glasses of orange juice and a free square of cake on the side – excellent!

  • Morning walk – started at ‘our beach’ (the west side), then along and through the old quarter, up to the headland, and past the impressively-located church (next to the equally beach club on the rocks) to the ‘other beach’ where everybody was walking. Remember thinking it was strange why nobody was sunbathing on this beach, but the locals were putting their towels down on the concrete slipways leading down to the sand from the promenade….strange behaviour?
Oh, looks a bit like the Gernika…by the coast
The ‘other’ beach
Heavenly coffee

Morning Coffee – a wonderful little place, opposite the promenade with tables outside a’working’ church. Watched a huge police convoy come round the corner….followed by about 1,000 ‘fun’ roller bladers – how cool is that for a Saturday morning eh?


  • Afternoon sunbathe – after returning to check out of our pension and stash our bags (luckily it only takes about 5 minutes to pack nowadays – stupid of me to do some washing on the prior evening though!), we headed over to ‘our beach’ for a couple of hour of unadulterated….nothing! Quite fun just to see how the Spanish go about chilling in the sun…very chic and understated.


  • Lunch – taken Spanish o’clock (about 3pm) in a square in the Old Town, watching the groups of (very well-behaved) stag and hen party clad in matching t-shirts cavort around…even the respective stag and hens were relatively demurely dressed – a matador here, a nurse there, but nothing too risqué. Hmm…my brother is getting married Sep-17…don’t expect to get off so lightly though Chris!


  • Afternoon stroll – back to the ‘other beach’….which by now had turned into a giant paddling pool! The tide had come in, and now those canny locals on the slipways had the prime spots, with kids jumping off into the lagoon-like clear water – bliss! So it was back to ‘our beach’ and our ‘cafe’ where we could watch the triathlon event taking place (in about 35° heat), chill, finish our writing, and take some final rays before catching the bus to the airport…..and goodbye to part 1 of the Camino del Norte!
….and the winner is!



Summary: Accommodation, Eating & Drinking on the CDN (part 1)

Arrival San Sebastian (22/5)

*Bus Bilbao S.Sebastian 2×€17: very easy, buses go every hour and take about 75 mins, dropping you off at the underground bus station, about 1km walk up to the old quarter

*Lunch: Restaurante Itzalian, Paseo de Muelle 12, 2x€18 set menu – lovely position overlooking the harbour and very good food….with a complementary Pacheran (the local digestif) from the waiter we’d got talking to.

Arrival - lunch




*Dinner – it was San Sebastian so it had to be tapas hopping from bar to bar. In fact, the best one we found happened to be right around the corner from our pension, on the road leading onto the church.






*Accommodation Pension de la Marinera €49: centrally-located in the Old Quarter so great position

Day 1 (23/5) San Sebastian – Zarautz


Late breakfast – Orio

Cafe stop – first place we saw was a good 14km after San Sebastian in Orio (Zaharren Babes Lekua) – quite a few places in the square on the banks of the river. First coffee of the day tastes very good…at 11am!



Charly’s – lunch

Lunch – loads of bars/restaurants on the promenade on the seafront – we plumped for one called Charly’s, mainly because we were food-watching and theirs looked particularly good. So it proved – around €11 per person set menu – excellent value!


Hotel Norte, Zarautz

Accommodation: Hotel Norte, C/Amerzti 1, €40 double room. Tried the youth hostel up the road (full and expensive – they seem to be reserved mainly for school parties), and the other albergue listed was in a ‘working’ school which only turns into an albergue in the summer… it was either walk on to Getaria or find something here. We stumbled across this one on our way back from the albergue – what a Godsend! Very nice, clean, white, spacious – perfect!

Day 2 (24/5) Zarautz – Izarbide

Breakfast Getaria

* Breakfast – Getaria paderia (Nausia 6):Breakfast coffee x2 = €2.6




Coffee Zumaia

*Coffee – Zumaia (Camelo Tzapartegi Barinaga – Angeles Sorazu 1): coffee x2 = €2.9 + tosta con mermelada €1.30 (absolutely delicious – thick white, almost sweet bread, toasted with lashings of marmalade!)



Tosta con mermelada!





Coffee (Beer!) Itziar

*Drinks – Salegi Jatetxea, Itziar – coke/beer @ €2 – a welcome relief from the afternoon heat on a shaded cobblestone street opposite the church



*Accommodation: Albergue Izarbide €25 each for bed, dinner and breakfast (I think…might have been €23, €24 each….doesn’t really matter though does it?!). On the basic front with 2 dorm rooms (1 male, 1 female) about 20 beds in each, but a little bar and plenty of outside seating made this a very welcome stop, especially after the slog up from Deba which appeared to have very limited pilgrim accommodation. Plus this took about 5km off the next day in our guidebook..a monster hilly 32km otherwise from Deba to Zenarruza (27km from Izarbide…still tough though!). Oh, and nowhere to eat or drink until Markina, about 20km from Izarbide, so best to take lots of water and advantage of the pre-ordered breakfast (handed out in jiffy bags at the evening’s meal – reasonably basic but good and hearty –  complete with your own little pod for the DIY coffee machine!)

Evening meal at the albergue






Izarbide Aterpetxea….or sanctuary as we called it






Day 3 (25/5) Izarbide – Zenaruzza

*Lunch – Markina….can’t remember the bar (oh yes, it was Vega, Abesua 2 – just looked at the stamp in my compostella!), but there are a few on the main square as you come into town – decent tapas over the counter for the starving pilgrim arriving o’er the mountains!

*Accommodation: Zenaruzza albergue – like last night at Izarbide, there was an all-in offering on bed, dinner, and breakfast for roughly the same price (€25 each-ish). Very nice modern albergue, set about 200m below the monastery – big terrace with plenty of seating and an expansive bar, so great place to relax with a beer at the end of a hard day. Dorm room bunk beds, but only x6 to a room, so as the place was half-full, we were kindly allocated one to. ourselves. Really good evening meal,definitely a step up on last night’s (nonetheless tasty) chicken and chips offering, with salad, cod, excellent wine…etc. A most recommended stop!

Albergue rehydration!
The albergue ‘beer’ terrace (deserted – ’twas late when I took this!)






Day 4 (26/5) Zenaruzza – Gernika

Oh yes…don’t mind if I do!

*Lunch (Sakone, C/Aita Luis VlllaSante 7, Gernika) 2 x €12 menu: located right next to the albergue which didn’t open until 1:30pm, so as we’d got there early and had had no breakfast, we thought, ‘what the heck!’. Very nice too – one of the ‘posher’ meals we had.



*Dinner (Jatetxe Julen,  Industria 14 Kalea, Gernika) 2×€12 menu: in the lively Kalea area near the central fountain, loads of restaurants on this stretch, but this was full of locals and was very good (as well as being listed in the local information as one of the best restaurants in Gernika…cheaper restaurants that is!)

*Accommodation: Albergue Gernika €18 bed & breakfast. Rather a souless place on the edge of town and somehow incredibly busy – not sure whether other walking routes crossed here or this was just a natural stopping point, but our dorm was packed, and with about 20 beds all very tightly squeezed together and a very hot night, it wasn’t the most pleasant of places. Breakfast was help yourself to a chunk of baguette and butter….but about 50m down the road was a very nice paderia offering a €1.50 coffee & pastry option so I guess you make your choices…..still, on this occasion we’d have been better off paying €5 between us for a pension in the middle of town as there were plenty of places available in Gernika and it’s a lovely centre.

Wakey wakey sleepy head!
Functional but not exactly inspiring






Day 5 (27/5) Gernika – Lezema (Bilbao)

* Cafe stops: nice little cafe as you come down from the hills to Goilolexea, which is also the first place you can catch a bus from (A3223 goes on the hour to Bilbao, but there are more buses as you walk on the road towards Larrabetzu and Lezama, where there are also plenty of cafe stops)

Cafe + sun = stop






*Dinner: we were lucky enough to be staying with friends in Bilbao, who took us out to the Plaza Nueva in the evening for a meal – very lively indeed, loads of bars around the plaza.

We stopped for drinks at Cafe bar Bilbao (Plaza Nueva): Pintxos @ €1.95 each, and the choice was pretty limitless! Oh, excellent metro system as well to get around on – very modern-looking, very cheap, very efficient.

Plaza Nuevo, Bilbao


Day 6 (28/5) Bilbao

Coffee: Erreka, Plaza Nueva: 2 x€1.7 cafe con leche

Dinner: Cerveceria Arriolane, B Saratxaga 10, Plentzia – fantastic chicken and beer restaurant out near the coast – chicken €10.1, jug of beer €8.7, salad €8.4. We then drove from here to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a church perched atop a rock out on a bay, accessed by a spectacular causeway and series of steps….and soon to feature on #GOT so likely to be mobbed in the near future!

Beer + chicken = finger lickin’!






Day 7 (29/5) Bilbao – Castro Urdiales

Metro La Duestra – Portugalete (zone 2) 2 × €1.8. The camino crosses Portugalete, so rather than walk 10km or so through the suburbs, we hopped on the metro….very easy walking! Bit boring after that, all cycleway walking alongside the A-8 until just before Pobena on the coast, but nice coastal walking after that.

Yup, that is a beach behind the balustrade…

Cafe stop: beach at Pobena – pleasant enough place next to the beach; this is the first stop we saw since Portugalete





Coffee (Bar La Gaviota, C/la Correira, Castro Urdiales 17) 2×€1.3

Snacks/Dinner : Meson Marinera, C/la Correira 23) €15.6 drinks and pintxos – nice bar/restaurant overlooking the old harbour under the cover of the stone palisades, full of older blokes watching bullfighting on tv. Beware though! The nicer looking raciones at the bar though – a decent chunk of merluza (hake) served with pimentos pardons cost us €10, the same as our 3-course set meal that evening….with a decent bottle of red wine!

Beware the tasty but expensive merluza tapas!
Bull fighting…from a seated position






Day 8 (30/5) Castro Urdiales – Laredo

Save that seat!

* Breakfast – Paderia €6 (x2 coffee, tortilla, pain au chocolate) – when all the workmen & older blokes are standing at the counter ordering their breakfast it’s generally a sign it’s a good place….wherever possible, bakeries like this are the way to go!


* Cafe stops – Playa Arenillas, Islares – campsite coffees €2.60 – the only place we saw to stop after Castro Urdiales (about 7km).

* Leido beer & coke €4.00. Would thoroughly recommend the alternative coastal path into Laredo rather than the road-based route – absolutely spectacular scenery!

*Laredo beach beers: Cafeteria Bahia (C/Lopez Sena 28), the only bar we found overlooking the beach…albeit from behind plexiglass! 2x €2.2 = €4.40. Plenty of places to eat and drink in/around the old town, beers a bit cheaper at €2.00 each.

Beach beer (well from across the road)






* Dinner: Laredo, Restaurant Guti, Ruamayor 7 2×€12 – decent meal but awful bottle of house wine which came with it which we couldn’t drink. Ended up ordering a bottle of Txakoli off the menu for as much as the meal (€12) but the waiter wouldn’t have it that the house wine was off and wouldn’t discount anything for the extra bottle….but hey, it was a good meal so chill!

*Accommodation – Albergue El Buen Pastor 2×€13= €26. Lovely little place run by the Franciscans, right next to the Old Town – we had a twin room, and there is a kitchen there…not that we used it!

Day 9 (31/5) Laredo – Guemes

*Foot ferry to Nojas – 2x €2 – beautiful way to start the day…thoroughly recommended!

A rather pleasant morning’s commute








* Cafe stop – main square in Santoña – excellent coffees plus picked up tortilla to go to help sustain us on the way!

Pilgrim rush hour…almost!






*Lunch: Noja – El Bon Vivant, Plaza de la Villa – excellent menu del dia €12 each, in the square overlooking the church – nice sunny terrace in the afternoon

Most welcome shade

*Accommodation – Alb la Cabana del Abuelo Peuto (donativo) lovely setting, slightly eccentric with a group meeting in the evening before the meal at which the priest gives you a history of the place, how he came to be here, his journey….all translated line by line from Spanish into English, so a good 45 mins or so. Communal meal with wine – basic but hearty, plus a decent ‘bread-based’ breakfast the next morning.





Day 10 (1/6) Guemes – Santander

*Breakfast: Cafeteria La Catedral, Plaza Atarazanas – tea & coffee €2.3,

*Drinks – Surf Cafe, C/Las Quebrantas 14, Somo – 2x€1.5 cafe con leche

Tiring business all this waiting….

*Los Regines footferry to Santander – 2×€2.80




* Lunch – Cos & Cos, C/Calderon de la Barca 4: 2 x €13 – lovely set menu, on the front in Santander overlooking the promenade

Oh yes!!!

*Accommodation: Pension Plaza, C/Cadiz 13, €45 double room – very well-located, close to the Cathedral and to the station






Dinner: somewhere in Santander…can’t remember exactly where….but we did have a nightcap at the Cafe de la Catedral opposite the…wait for it….cathedral!







Day 11 (2/6) Santander – Santillana del Mar

Last night’s drunken bikes?Go figure

*Breakfast, El Hostel & Co: Train station coffee, breakfast & take out €10 – probably not the cheapest, but very pleasant cafe in the main train station, festooned with hanging bikes for some reason?! (think it must have been mainline v the local station we caught the train to Mogro from right next door)


* Train tickets Mogro – €3.90 (only €1.95 each for a 20km journey….try that in the UK?!). However, it was a very misty day, so you couldn’t see anything and when you could, it was all industrial chemical/construction….so you’d be forgiven for taking the train all the way out to Barreda, right next to the giant Solvay plant, and walking 7km from there to Santinilla del Mar, stopping there for a mid morning snack, then continuing on 25km to Comillas (if it was a nice day).


Oh go on then…just a little nibble…it’s carbs isn’t it?

*Cafe stops – think it was Cudon (will have to check my compostella as I did get a stamp here), pleasant little cafe bar with free snack of fried bread dipped in sugar on the counter (quite typical in these parts) – great walking boost on a damp, misty day.



Dinner & drinks: shame as I can’t find the receipt, but it was on a cobbled street (ah, that doesn’t help does it…all the streets in Santillana are cobbled!) with an impressive courtyard out back – very good set menu for €12 though!

Impressive pouring…rubbish tasting (cider)
Dining view from the courtyard
Dining view not from the courtyard!






Day 12 (3/6)  Santillana del Mar  – San Vicente del Barque

Front porch breakfast

Breakfast: some random lady’s front porch/garage coming into Ciguenza – nothing open before then! Very welcome stop, small coffees €1, tortilla €2. There was a cafe about 30 mins later when we came into Cobreces….but hey, you take it whenever you can on the CDN!


Seafront lunch

Lunch: La Perla Negra, Paseo del Muelle no5 – 2 x €14 set menu. Nicest place (we reckoned on the sea front) even though it was a grim day…and became progressively grimmer as even us Brits were forced inside from the outside (under canopy) tables. Really excellent food – squid in black ink, proper fish..etc


Beachfront coffee

Cafe stop – think it was Playa Amarilla in  Traserna, on the Playa de Oyambra….quite a big place, a surf school nearby. But it was raining hard, so we just wanted a warm coffee!



Dinner: El Puerto 2 x €13 set menu (we were bored!) – not bad; restaurants on the sea front were pricier than those on the main street…but not the best either. Champions League Final in the background was probably the highlight, and the waiter did give us another bottle of wine…after we’d pointed out that we’d had 3 set menus but had shared 1 bottle of wine between us to that point….gotta watch these things!

Galeo albergue

Accommodation: El Galeo Albergue €10 – situated high up, right next to the (impressive) church. Quite functional with everybody in 1 big dorm, but pleasant and communal breakfast the next morning on the big table in the lounge with toast in baskets was very welcome…especially as it was foul outside!

Day 13 (4/6) San Vincente del Barque -Buelna

Communal breakfast…get in quick!

Breakfast: small cafe in Pesues, about 100m off the Camino – it was warm and served very good coffee and tortilla…so ticked all the boxes for us!

….ah 2nd breakfast…but it was 11am!






Accommodation: Alb Santa Marina €30 double room (I think). This had been advertised extensively in posters along the Camino that day….so we decided to break our journey there, almost 30km from San Vincente, all in foul weather. We were encouraged to go for the all-in meal & breakfast package, which brought the total up to €46 (special deal for 2 apparently)….although the evening dinner was the most basic ever – salad, tomato pasta (with very little tomato) and a saucer of rice pudding….obviously cost control was a priority here. That notion was backed up by the much-advertised sauna, which we were encouraged to try, but then told afterwards it was €4 each! Given the whole place was rather cold (and the sauna wasn’t exactly hot!), we didn’t pay the demanded extra. Breakfast was (like dinner) basic, but it was now sunny, so quite pleasant on the wide terrace (overlooking the main road) – all in all, not the best stop on our tour….not terrible…but definitely not great.

Hmm…a touch of trading standards advertising here….






Day 14 (5/6) Buelna – Llanes

Cafe stop – quite a busy local bar in Cue, with large wooden tables outside and (apparently) very good cheap food…but we just had a coffee

Lunch: Restaurante Sideria Bar Colon, C/El Muelle 3, Llanes: lovely little bar overlooking the harbour, just off the main road – 2 x €12 menus + 2 x €1.2 coffees

Ice cream van…top of the beach…you can’t miss it!

Accommodation Gran Hotel Paraiso, C/Pidal no 2 (€45 room) – probably the poshest place we’d stayed in to date, a ‘proper’ hotel, and situated right over a chocolateria with churros, very close to the centre of town



The churros that got away!

Day 15 (6/6) Llanes – Ribadesella

We like Poo Coffee!

Breakfast – cafe opposite the train station in Poo de Llanes. Always a good place to stop we’ve found – cafes opposite train or bus stations, as the coffee tends to be hot, quick, and very good. This was no exception.


Lunch – roadside stop, somewhere near Cardoso as we’d missed the Camino branch that runs parallel to the road for a few km…so decided to stick on the AS-263. Restaurant/Cafe/small store combo…but served excellent soft white bread for our DIY  sandwiches!

Dinner – lots of places in the ‘old town’ which is on the east bank of the Rio Sella. However, not much by way of menu del dias – this is quite a touristy town. We did find a €12 menu del dia just off the main square, but probably one of our worst meals of the Camino (it wasn’t ‘bad’ in that sense – just that the usual standard was so good!) with pretty shoddy service to match…if only I could remember the name, but our Canadian friends picked up the tab so no receipt I’m afraid…and I was a bottle or so to the good by this point!

G&T sundowners on our ‘terrace’

Accommodation – Arena Hotel (€40 room…I think), on the road near the youth hostel, but on the west bank of Ribadesella, so it’s probably almost a 2km walk from there to the ‘good’ part of the old town. Still, very nice, self contained appartments with a small garden out front.


Day 16 (7/6) Ribadesella – Cologne

Headland picnic at La Isla

Drinks: Rio, C/Avelina Cerra – drinks up on the terraced row after the church when we first arrived in a baking hot Colunga; Beer €2.2 each

Dinner: Las Palmeras €28.6  (as you enter, big terrace with red chairs on the left before the church) substantial hamburgers €3.4 – €5.0 with decent Rioja at €2 a pop and the house white Rueda at €1.4!


Accommodation: Las Palmeras as well (€30 room)…but the rooms were across the road and up a 2 flights of stairs – basically the top floor of an extensive ‘house’, with huge rooms complete with french doors opening onto the church opposite. Very nice.

Hotel window view








Day 18 (8/6) Colunga – Villaviciosa last! It took us until Day 17 though!!!

Dinner: Cafeteria Montserrat – as you enter the town, a nice little passageway with 2 cafes face to face. We’d had churros at the other one in the morning and opted for this one in the evening. Platos combinados rather than an evening meal; €18.1 with a €9.5 combinado, €3.7 hamburger and wine at €1.7 a glass





Drinks: Cafeteria Avenida, So 54 – lovely street terrace bar for a nightcap, very nice barman served free tapas to our table with every drink we ordered; decent wine (Albariño and beer) €2.00 a pop





Accommodation: Hotel Casa Espana, Plaza Carlos I (€40) – we’d hit a rich seam of pension/hotels recently, and this was no exception. More like a suite, with its own balcony overlooking the square and a cafeteria downstairs. Very very nice

Lunch on our balcony…yes balcony!
Emperor Matt!





Day 19 (9/6) Villaviciosa – Gijon

Breakfast – just around the corner from the hotel in Villaviciosa

Coffee: 1st stop next to the hotel, 2nd stop in Peon down in the valley after ascending and descending a rather large hill…hence 2 coffees required!

2 coffees…and a couple of bar snacks for good measure

Drinks: La Boedguita del Medio, c/Rodriguez Sanpedro – beach bar, a bit down from the Tourist Information – nice terrace, step right out onto the beach (the one that you can sunbathe on in the afternoon, as opposed to the other side of the headland which turns into a gigantic paddling pool!): Wine €2.4 a pop, coffees €2.0


Gijon beachfront bar


Snacks: Arosa Restauarant, C/Llandes no 2 bajo -churros €2.7, beer €2.0

Dinner: Arosa Restauarant, C/Llandes no 2 bajo – opposite the bus station and recommended to us at the hotel as a good cheap place to eat. It was OK – we ended up each having a plato combinado at €7.5 each, with wine at €2.1-€2.3 each and coffee/tea only €1.3

Accommodation: Pension Plaza, C/Decano Predes Pando (€45) – very central,about 1 mins walk from the bus station and above a very nice cafe (la Casa del Cafe). Rooms were small, but clean and convenient.


Day 20 (10/6) Departure

Loving the mini OJ!

Breakfast:  La Casa del Cafe (under our Hostel Plaza, nr the bus station: Prendes Pando 2) – great coffee + croissant (with some cake on the side and a teeny thimble of OJ! ) 2×€2.85



Coffee: La Bodeguita del Medio, C/Rodriguez Sanpedro 43, 2x€2.00 cafe con leche: wonderful pavement coffees spill out in front of the church overlooking the seafront


Heavenly coffee





Lunch : Entreplazas Restaurant, Pza Mayor 6 – 2 x €18 set menus…although I think you’re charged extra on the terrace, so almost €20? Still, very nice food indeed, and great view over Gijon harbour…and more to the point, all the stag & hen do’s milling around Spanish style; i.e. dressing identically in tour t-shirts…but quite refined!

Nuff said….So long CDN…for the time being

Bus: 2 x €8 to Gijon airport – about 45 mins, leaves from lane 2 bus station

Day 10: Guemes – Santander (15km)

Sitting on the dock of the bay…Santander style

The Day in Summary: A very serene morning’s walk, befitting of the monastic albergue we departed from that morning. About 5km of country lane strolling before 15 kilometres of sumptuous cliff-top walking, finished off by a foot ferry from Somo right into the heart of Santander.


You can teach skills but you can’t teach attitude

The dawn chorus meets the Camino chorus!

It was a beautiful morning…which I got to experience fully on account of the Camino Chorus, which began playing very early in the morning….or maybe it was late at night – even a pair of earplugs couldn’t deaden this particular rendition!

It sounded like I was in a room with mating beasts!

That was the Korean girl’s comment to me this morning as we were walking to the wash room post last night’s snoreathon. Very heavy metal….of the German variety.

Still, we did get a breakfast included, albeit with a final speech by the eponymous ‘buen pastor’ (who built the albergue 18 years ago). Very sweet, but the fact that he still doesn’t speak a word of English, and everything has to painstakingly translated line by line does tend to make his speeches ‘drag a bit’. Or maybe he speaks perfect English and just likes a captive audience….?!

Walking out of Guemes

Very easy walking to Galizano, near the coast, where we stocked up on caracoles (a chocolate-type pain au raisin, which the Spanish call a ‘snail’!) as we knew there would be nothing until we reached the port of Sumo about 15km later.

It was spectacular headland walking (I know I’ve used ‘spectacular‘ a few times before…but I’m not sure which other words sum it up better – thesaurus time methinks!), looking down onto schools of surfers in secluded bays and cliff-nesting birds diving in on the sea breeze.

I could have picked so many coastal shots…but this one had pretty flowers as well!

Hooked up with Dangerous Dave again as we took off our walking boots for the last 2km walk along the beach, right into the aptly-named ‘Surf Cafe’ where we found a great spot in the sun to demolish our caracoles along with a few cafe con leches and then…what the heck…it was lunchtime and we’d finished walking for the day, a nice cold beer. Well, I did at any rate, as neither Jacks nor Dave were drinking.

What a beautiful way to arrive into a major city! I think all other major cities in the world should take note…no smelly bus journies or crowded honking highways, just a small passenger ferry which drops you off right in the middle of town, no hassle, no stress – it’s definitely the way to travel.

City commuting

We’d already pre-booked into a central pension, just between the cathedral and train station, so bade goodbye to Dave, and trotted off to check in. As with most city hotels, it was compact (read small), but absolutely fine for our needs…and a step up on the albergue which would have cost about €5 less between the two of us. We always try to chose a pension in a big city, as you can check in early (some city albergues force you to queue outside with your rucksack until they open at, say, 2pm) and hence make the most of the city.

Had a great set lunch on the promenade, and after the customary menu del dia bottle of wine, Jacks retired to bed for the afternoon, whilst I undertook a recce of Santander; the bars, the train station (we’d planned a Camino shortcut for the following day) and the sights in general.

Genius thought! Chris (my brother) used to work for Santander Bank, and I know he’d had to come out to Spain a few times – surely he’d have some great recommendations for us, some hidden gems…?

Chris – you’ve been to Santander a few times haven’t you? We’re here now – any suggestions for the evening?

[Chris] Whilst Santander was formed there, it wasn’t the HQ – that was Madrid.

[Matt] Ah OK….

[Chris] There are plenty of piazzas with bars and restaurants just off the city centre….

[Matt] Yup, just had a good recce – reckon I’ve got most of those. Thx.

[Chris] There are big squares where people go and eat as well…

[Matt] Yup, I think I found them too!

Who needs Tripadvisor when you’ve got Chris-advisor eh?

There were all manner of fantastic-looking places to sit and eat. It was lovely to watch Santander ‘come to life’ in the late afternoon/early evening, as the families, businessmen and students all gathered to chat and drink – very sociable, very relaxed, very cultured….no boorish behaviour whatsoever. Hmm…not always proud to be English eh?

Having ‘sampled’ a few establishments  (they were only little beers after al!), we’d arranged to meet up with Dave, and found a nice little bar to share raciones of calamares, croquettes, and patatas – all very Spanish, topped off with a drink under the lights of Santander cathedral….which seemed almost pilgrim-ish!

Evening worship

Strava recap


Day 18 Villaviciosa – Gijon (23km)

The Day in Summary: Oh…a little surprise for us on our last day of walking! Started off pleasantly enough on quiet country roads (although Jacks narrowly avoided detouring off to Oviedo!), then the road started to go up…a lot! Then down..then up again…and finally, a long run into Gijon – phew!

I have often marvelled at the thin line which separates success from failure

-Ernest Shackleton

Leaving Villaviciosa…reluctantly!

Matt; Very reluctant to leave our ‘Presidential Suite’ first thing this morning, but needs must…the last day of the Camino was calling (for this particular leg of the adventure at least). Still, at least we knew there were cafeterias open nearby serving hot coffee and breakfasts – no way were we going to trouble the Camino Coffee Gods unnecessarily!

It was a fairly uneventful first few km…apart that is, from the

…just liked the way the early morning sunlight caught this door

‘Greek Yoghurt Disaster’…which I’ll let Jackie tell you about…..

Jackie: I am not sure I can write about this in a blog but it was probably the funniest story on route so far. It has me cracking up almost all everytime I thought about it. Let’s just say it involved Matt and his delayed reaction to eating the greek yogart a sweet German guy gave us at breakfast. 

Going uphill….

Matt: I had warned Jackie there was a hill…a big hill…well, a small mountain actually. I don’t think she was paying attention at the time (wouldn’t be a first!), but after much puffing, panting, and the occasional moan, she fell behind me on the mountain. Still, we had the 3 T’s rule for stopping: ‘Turnings’, ‘Thirst’, and if those didn’t apply, then ‘Top’. As they didn’t, I waited dutifully at the top for Jackie…although even by her standards, she was quite a long time, as a succession of pilgrims came past me until finally, a couple of Australians (with whom I’d previously had a ‘firm but friendly’ directional dispute at the bottom of the hill/mountain about 45 mins previously) came by to tell me that ‘yer missus is waiting back there for ya!’. Goodness knows why, but Jacks had decided to stop a way back and wait for me….even though I was…erm ahead of her? A quick international phone call later, contact was made, and a while later she trudged (not to happily it must be said!) up to the top.

….still going uphill

Jackie: Yes the idiot had walked up too far and I thought he might be lost, had another greek yogurt attack or had to stop because of his leg and I missed him! Nothing like that had happened luckily. Anyway it was a hell of a set of hill! Very testing for our last day of walking. I had one of those – jesus how do I do it moments!

Ah…we’re there!

Matt: It was all downhill from there. No, really, it was downhill…steeply downhill, until Parilla (about 15km in for the day) where we had our first much-needed coffee break of the day.

OK, then it was uphill again, but only half as much as last time, before a long hike (and a quick jog!) downhill towards Gijon, where we hit the city outskirts and almost immediately, spied a bus stop, followed shortly afterwards by a bus. Well, the Camino Rules state that once inside a city, all public transport is allowed (ok, so I made that bit up…but still, sounds fair enough eh?!), so we hopped on the bus, braining a few OAPs with our rucksacks in the process (Jacks is currently deciding whether to sue over a cracked tablet screen!), before terminating at the bus station which was about 3 minutes walk for our pension – result!

Look, look…it’s the Camino Bus!!!

Jackie: We enjoyed yet another round of churros and chocolate in a nearby cafe before walking down to the beach to have a few sun downers whilst finishing off our blog! ( Perfect!)

Met up with Dangerous Dave again…he truly is ‘Dangerous’ when left on his own!

Jackie: So we have come to the end of our walking of the Camino Norte for now. We will come back to complete the route. It has been wonderful and I would highly recommend it. To get the most out of an experience like this you do need to go with the flow and be flexible. There will be ups and downs ( hills and valleys) There will be sunshine and rain. There will be wind ( and in Matt’s case a lot!) A sense of humour helps.

The spiritual experience is a personal thing. Each journey will bring with it the insights each traveller on the way most needs. 

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Day 17 Colunga – Villaviciosa (20km)

Morning sunlight (we were going the wrong way at this point…JackNav!)

The Day in Summary: Meandering country lanes which slowly climbed inland, overlooking lush orchards and tiny hamlets, before diving down on cobbled lanes to join the busier roads leading into Villaviciosa.

Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all

-Ernest Shackleton

Matt: To say I was apprehensive about today, would have been an understatement. Not because it seemed difficult – far from it, 20km and less than 500m climbing ranks as an easy day on the Camino Del Norte by anybody’s standards….but those standards tend to presume 2 good legs, and as of last night, I only had one of those.

So, there was a spot of weight distribution which took place between myself and Jacks. OK, maybe ‘redistribution‘ would be a better word, as Jacks merely took back her make-up/toiletries bag and her blanket which she’d first off-loaded onto me over 400km ago in San Sebastián. This did make quite a considerable difference (not that she uses much make-up…obviously!)

Jackie; Just to say that is a little exageration on Matt’s part, but as I felt sorry for him with his sore leg and didn;t want him to not beable to stuggle, I took back the few things he had been carrying for me. As it happened the slightly slower Matt was quite nice to walk with. 

Matt: The tone was thus set for the day – I would plod on, tortoise-like, whilst Jacks skipped around a bit, all bouncy and happy…until she had to go and ‘water the verges’ , whereupon I would overtake her. There must have been a fair bit of watering going on, because when I looked around, I was about 500m ahead!

Matt: Lucky we had already fuelled up in Colunga first thing, as there was nowhere to stop and eat/drink along the way – we even managed to miss the designated albergue stop in Sebrayu, so just kept right on going to Villaviciosa – 20km in 4 hours! So, we were there by noon for churros con chocolate, which we’d been promising ourselves from about 5km out (and these were our very first churros of the entire trip…so good that we even. had to return later in the evening for seconds!)

Jackie: Just as well Churros and Chocolate were introduced so late in this trip, otherwise I may be coming back looking like one. They are such a great pick up after a long walk. I am not sure we needed the late night munchies version .. but they were really good!

Matt; Lucked out with a fantastic room in Villaviciosa, overlooking one of the plazas, with double doors leading onto a small balcony;  the sound of Spanish cafe life drifting up from down below and a very talkative parrot perched on one of the opposite balconies, commenting and whistling on everything going on around him (or her?)

Bumped into our customary Austrian drinking buddies in town and saw quite a few other pilgrims milling around – Villaviciosa seems to be a collecting point for them!

Departed from our customary menu del dia routine, mainly because there did not seem to be many offers around…or perhaps it was just because pilgrim o’clock and Spanish eating times do not coincide all that well?!

So, we went more Spanish-style – a number of smaller meals in different establishments, culminating in a couple of glasses of chilled white Verdejo on a cafe terrace with the Picos de Europa mountains reaching up into an azure blue Asturian sky….quite spectacular!

Jackie: It was a lovely historic town and perfect for our 2nd to last night on this trip. The hotel was perfect too (Hotel Espania on for only 44 euro’s) A 2 star which was more like a 4 star. You can find such gems when you walk. I booked it in the cafe we stopped at on the way in, in the morning.  We would probably never have come here on holiday but to walk in and have this experience was really special We made the most of the hotel – lunch on the balconey and a Spanish Siesta .. ( it had to be done after all that walking!)

Last day carrying ruck sacks tomorrow! ( I am quite ready to let go of the complete load I have been carrying even although it really has been the minimum this time.)

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Day 12 Santillana del Mar – San Vicente de la Barquera (35km)

The Day in Summary: Longest stage to date….much of it either in drizzle or non-drizzle (i.e. pouring rain), so most of the coastal views and sandy beaches were somewhat lost on us!

By endurance we conquer

-Ernest Shackleton

Camino Jacks motors along the highway…

Camino rule-breaking

Matt: Broke Camino rule #2 and declined the albergue €3 breakfast as this didn’t start until 7:30am and we wanted to be off early since this was a long stage. Turned out to be correct on the 2nd count…not so sure about the 1st though as all the indicated coffee stops per the guide book turned out to be no-goers. This meant about 9km walking on empty until the Camino Coffee Angel finally answered our calls in the shape of a Spanish lady’s front porch area which she’d turned into a makeshift cafe. Very enterprising as not especially cheap but most welcome!

The Spanish equivalent of ‘Open All Hours’….Arkwrightio?

Jackie: Yes, it was a very welcome coffee stop after a few hours walking with no fuel! It was me who heard her calling for hungry pilgrims! (she didn’t have a sign up) Her tortillia was excellent! You always seem to get what you need on the Camino Routes! The universe has always provided for us which we are thankful! Simple things can mean so much when you really appreciate them.

Guide dication

Matt: Chatted with an American guy called Matt here who was in

….not sure if some previous pilgrim drowned in this field?!

the process of dictating a guide to the CDN on behalf of a friend who was looking to publish a book on it. Interesting – all voice text nowadays and surprisingly accurate (although ‘asphalt’ did evidently keep coming out as ‘ass hot’!) combined with way points..etc. As discussed with Dangerous Dave later in the evening, the physical guidebook could be in danger of becoming obselete in favour of apps….personally I think there will always be a need/want for hard copy guides, but the trend is definitely towards apps, which can be updated by everyone…kind of a Camino-pedia?!

I was told off more than once for muttering ‘Not another bl**dy church’!, as the Camino snaked this way and that….on a veritable episcopal expedition!

Jackie; It was a day of  churches.. lots of them. I was tempted to go in and hide! 

Matt: It was pretty grey, murky and ‘spitty’ all morning, with constant rumbles of thunder just out to sea and by the time we reached Comillas it was looking distinctly threatening…so we veered off-route, down to the old harbour and settled on a €14 menu del dia at ‘La Perla Negra’ (The Black Pearl – very Tintin-esque!)

Whilst we were eating, the heavens truly did open, so we sat there feeling quite smug eating out meal….until it dawned on us that the heavens weren’t in a mood to stop anytime soon. Suddenly not quite so smug….

Oh yes! Please can we walk another 10km after a nice lunch in the pouring rain…please?!

Jackie: Time to get the rain cape out again! Ahhhhhhhhhh and dig deep to just walk and find things to still enjoy about it. Errrrr lovely countryside … wild coastline … a hot green with a sea view. Dreaming of eating chocolate chirros beside a roring fire!

A wet suit would have been preferable…..

Walking humour

Matt: There followed a 12km rain slog, interspersed by a quick coffee pit-stop at a rain-lashed surfer’s cafe (they were ok – they were wearing wet suits!) and the, by now customary, ‘where-on-earth-is-the-albergue’ hunt, as the posters which had dotted every km of the stage to date, suddenly disappeared as soon as we hit town. A combination of resourcefulness (simply asking strangers!) and common sense (if in doubt, always head for the church spire) paid off, and we checked into the ‘Galeo’ high up, at the top of the town.

Dangerous Dave caught up with us, and we headed off down into town in search off a menu del dia and a tv to watch the Champions League final. Then, back up to the church for a few scenic photos of the Picos de Europe (having not been able to see the tallest mountain range in Spain all day because of the low-lying mist!)

View from next to our albergue….at least we could finally see the Picos!


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Day 11: Santander – Santillana del Mar (21km)

The Day in Summary: The 1st grim day’s hike to date, even after we ‘city-skipped’ the first part by train to escape the suburbs of Santander. No such luck though! It was one series of grim suburbs after another on a very grey day, culminating in a giant chemical plant! The final section was all road hard shoulder which was quite pleasant by comparison….that pretty much sums it all up!

A good laugh doesn’t require any additional weight, but counts for so much on any expedition

-Ernest Shackleton

Matt: Being right next door to the train station, we were of course, running late for our train (Jackie o’clock rearing its head once more….just saying!). However, we had the wrong station – we should have been next door – and so gained an extra half hour’s grace, which meant we did have time for breakfast after all, which meant a considerably happier Jackie.

That was the highlight of the day. The rest of the walking was either heavily misted over, or alongside industrial plants in grotty suburbs. We should have taken the train a lot further!

Regarded Le belle Cemical Plant!

Jackie: Maybe we had been spolit over the last days with brilliant weather and no need for our plastic ponchos (although Matt refuses to wear one no matter how hard it rains!) Anyway Matt and I passed the time a bit with some bite sized spanish lessons for me! 

Anyway at least we can do this together despite the weather! I like the fact that we can and things don’t have to be perfect to still be fun! I was however looking forward to our place of rest that evening. 

Matt; Santillana del Mar (our endpoint) was the exception to the

A bit kitsch…

day’s rule though – a perfectly preserved Spanish stone village…almost too perfectly preserved if truth be told with no ‘useful shops’ whatsoever and a preponderance of American tourists.

‘Thar be tourist round these parts ‘ere….!

The albergue was the other high point of the day. An old stone building (well, every building here is old and make of stone) and having pre-booked, we fluked a triple room to ourselves. Having leap-frogged ahead of other more ‘dedicated’ pilgrims, we were here by 2pm and so got all our washing done, caught up on some of our blogs, and managed a quick kip before the other walkers started to dribble in. Guilty? Nope, not at all!

Jackie: We were rewarded for our efforts of the day with a lovely room in a 16 century aubergue. ( it actually was one of the best we have stayed in) and at only 30 euros, excellent value.  We also enjoyed some local tapas and an excellent menu del dia in a very nice restaurant. I had langostinos again! 

View from the courtyard of our restaurant

To enjoy a trip like this you have to be easy going enough to cope with the highs and the lows. The sense of adventure and flexibility are essential, especially if you are travelling together. Matt and I do make this work. I tend to manage our accomodation booking if we need to get something organised ahead of time and Matt does the route and timing plan. We also go with the flow and can change plans if the circumstances require it. ( A plan is useful but you also need to listen to your body and the weather forcasts)

The other thing that happens is that you do end up walking mostly in silence during the day. This is because walking the Camino is a meditative experience and if you are talking all the time you risk reducing the impact. I have my way and Matt has his. I have heard this from others who are walking together. There isn’t a need for much chat on route. We tend to do that when we stop. You do go inside yourself and your own experience but at the same time it is nice to have someone special to share it with at different points during the day. Also for me it is great to have Matt’s brain on the daily plan, as without that I would definatley be the wandering pilgrim. ( luckily there are always signs to follow) 

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Day 13. San Vicente de la Barquera – Buena (21km)

The Day in Summary: Another overcast drizzly day which turned into a downpour and then back to drizzle….and just as we reached our albergue, back to a downpour – thank you Camino Gods (I think!). Not much to see – on a good day, the Picos del Europa are visible as a spectacular mountain backdrop. This was not such a good day!

Enlightenment isn’t found with a full stomach, or on a soft pillow

– Conrad Anker

Looked like an ark….would have been appropriate!

Matt: We bumped into a tall elderly Frenchman (as you do) first thing in the morning as we were setting off from our albergue after a (surprisingly good) communal breakfast, and as it was damp and drizzly, jointly decided to take the shorter highway version than the longer scenic version (spoiler alert – you couldn’t see much anyway), and so walked with him for a while.  That was, until he declared “I shall take the lead for a while”, and sped off like his pants were on fire – so much for our stimulating conversation!

Jackie: Actually this Frenchman was 71 and had only stopped running marathons 5 years ago! ( that is our excuse for trailing behind anyway!)

Matt: After about 10km (in a rattling 1h 45m) we reached a dreary crossroads in Pesués, but with the welcoming lights of a cafe bar set against the ever-darkening sky. Ended up spending well over an hour here as it started to rain with intent outside, and then congratulating ourselves on our foresight, walked off again…only to get properly dumped upon!

Jackie; Matt tried get me out of the cafe bar .. but I was sure it would stop raining and was enjoying my coffee and a bit of writing. So luckily for me it did stop eventually … for a while anyway.

Matt: Dangerous Dave had caught up to us once again, so walked and philosophised for a bit with him (well , Jackie did at any rate) then lost him as we stopped for grocery provisions in Unquera.

It might turn out nice again….???
Very wet pilgrim

Matt: We were soaked by now, and all thoughts were turning towards a warm albergue and a hot drink, hence the final 10km or so were a bit of a struggle. The much-promised albergue at Buelma wasn’t quite as nice as we’d imagined, but it was dry and the owner eventually agreed to put the sauna on for us (we didn’t agree that he was subsequently going to try to charge us €4 each for the privilege!) but we soon dried out and warmed up.

Matt: The communal dinner that evening was ‘rustic’. By ‘rustic’, I mean basic – salad and bread for starters, a thin tomato pasta for mains and a custardy offering for dessert. This wasn’t helped by the fact we were surrounded by 7 Germans who spoke limited English and the wine wasn’t great….so all in all, not an evening to linger over. Oh well, we’ve only got a short (14km) walk tomorrow.

Jackie: We are pilgrims .. so the above is really what we should be getting .. we have obviously been spoiled by our 3 course menu del dia’s which really have been gormet pilgrim food, certainly by the above standards. We had a short walk down to the beach close by.

The day has been affected by the news of yet another terroist attack in the Uk ( London bridge this time) Enough is enough. (Teresa May’s words) There have been 2 since we have been away. We can do nothing more than send love and carry on. It just doesn’t seem enough. Horrible to see this on the Spanish TV for the 2nd time this trip.

 We are leaving a little later in the morning for LLanes. We are promised the sun!

JackieI am sharing insights and messages from my ‘Voice of Slow’ which I first heard when walking the Camino Frances in 2015 in my In Pursuit of Slow facebook community. These messages are best shared as they happen. If you would like to join this private group please send me you email address and I will add you to the group, or you can find it on facebook and send a request to join from there. It is called In Pursuit of Slow Community.

Strava Recap

Day 16 Ribadesella – Colunga (23km)

The Day in Summary: An ouch! Day. Started off serene and beautiful, along the beachfront in Ribadesella, then through a succession of secluded coves, via eucalyptus forests and alpine meadows….until something went pop! in La Isla. In my right leg to be more precise. Hence a painful final 5km hobble to Colunga…fingers crossed it was just a muscle spasm – would be horrible to ‘fail’with only 45km to go….

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy

– Helmust von Moltke

Yes Jacks…you do look smaller!

Matt: What a beautiful morning! After a great night last night saying goodby to Doug and Donna, we slept in slightly (well I woke up at 6:45am which meant that Jacks….let’s just say she was still fast asleep) although Ribadisella beach at 8am was still as dead as a doornail. Unfortunately, that also meant no cafeterias or bars were open, which meant no cafe con leche…we would just have to pray to the Camino Gods of Coffee to deliver us a miracle.

Praying to the Camino Coffee Gods!

To be fair, they nearly came up trumps. We had just left Ribadesella when we both noticed a fantastic smell at the same time, looked up, and there on a mountain track in the middle of nowhere, was a little bakery, evidently one which supplied bread to restaurants. We poked our noses inside, inched around the industrial machinery, and then the owner beckoned us inside, and sold us fresh pain au chocolates and a warm baguette, just out of the oven. Result! No coffees though alas!

We had to wait until La Vega for those, and as is often the case on the CDN, the more heavily promoted a place is via posters, the more disappointing it turns out to be. So, having counted down the kilometres, when we arrived it was nothing more than a glorified village shop with a tetchy automatic coffee machine and a grumpy young owner who insisted that it was working OK…until I showed him the milky residue and he shoved his hand in the machine, wiggled it around, claimed the beans were stuck and tough luck!

Jackie; It was another beautiful coastal route today. It is easy to start taking this for granted, but the reality is in 4 days we will be back in the UK with no time to spend whole days walking and soaking up the beauty and energy our natural environment provides. So lets make the most of it I said. We are so lucky to be able to do this.

Matt: Later on we got caught in a 20 motorhome convoy, all travelling to Santiago de Compostella (in style!), who tooted their horns at us, fellow pilgrims, as we weaved in and out of them on our way to the beach path. From there, it was one stunning vista after another – I’m not sure that pictures can do it justice as all the views look the same…spectacular!

Windy headland picnic

So, all was going swimmingly until, as we were coming into La Isla, on a non-descript bit of pavement, I suddenly felt my right leg tighten, as if I had cramp. However, the more I tried to walk through it, the worse it got, so I ended up limping onto the beach (in not the best of moods it must be said!) and we had a rather grumpy (Matt not me!) picnic, buffeted by the onshore wind and smoked out by a nearby garden fire.

Jackie; Yes, poor Matt – hurt his leg. It does just show you that appreciating absolutely everything as you have it is so important. Things can change in an instant and if you don’t have your health, strength and well being it changes everything. I tried to help him but he just gets moody when he is in pain. So I just sent him a bit of secret Camino healing energy to help him on his way. 

Matt; The last few km of highway walking into Colunga were hot, long, and painful. I guess for the first time I realised the pressure of having somebody else walk on up the road ahead of you and have to wait for you, so perhaps I should be a little more understanding in the future when I give the ‘hurry up’ towards the end of the day!

Jackie; Hey yes that is right .. but actually I would say I have kept up most of the time. I have found the distances much easier this time round. The only time I have got a bit slow is at the tail end of a 30 km plus day.

The mirage on the horizon…Colunga materialises!


View from our window

Matt; However, Colunga was quite a find. At first sight, a sleepy market town – the guidebook said that the weekly market was a highlight… the local bar owner shrugged his shoulders and said ‘It’s only a little market – nothing special!” But, we chanced across Las Palmeras because it had a nice wide sunny terrace, enquired, and were told we could have a double room for €30. We were then taken across the road, down a side street, up 3 flights of stairs, and basically given the run of a top floor apartment with a beautiful double room, it’s French doors looking out directly onto the church opposite. Thank you Camino Gods!

Jackie; And this happened all because I took a little time to suss out where might be the nicest place to stay.  You just need to relax and not stress about not finding anywhere, as we always do. Matt is sometimes in more of a hurry than me ( especially when he has a sore leg) It is usually me that can tell when a place has a good vibe or not! ( Patience Mattie!) Anyway as a result of not going into the very first place we saw, we found a great place, a Spanish Wallingford with Thames House accomodation. We are enjoying writing our blogs in a little cafe accompanied by some rather nice local vino!

JackieI am sharing insights and messages from my ‘Voice of Slow’ which I first heard when walking the Camino Frances in 2015 in my In Pursuit of Slow facebook community. These messages are best shared as they happen. If you would like to join this private group please send me you email address and I will add you to the group, or you can find it on facebook and send a request to join from there. It is called In Pursuit of Slow Community.

Strava Recap

Day 15 Llanes – Ribadesella (32km)

The Day in Summary: A looong one! Sometimes though, when you know it’s going to be a long day, you can pace yourself better..and so it was today, at least until up to the last 7km or so when the legs did start to protest a little! After some early morning cliff top walking, quite a bit of inland road, and some bumpy forest trails, we finally stumbled into Ribadesella…and not a moment too soon!

“When things are easy, I hate it”

-Ernest Shackleton

Matt: So sad to leave Llanes – such a lovely little seaside town, definitely one of our favourites!

Bit windy and overcast…but still one of our favourites!

Meandered onto the GR route to take in the cliff tops and so ‘gave a km or two back to the Camino’, before descending into the hilariously funnily-named ‘Poo de Llanes’. What a brilliant little town – every sign a potential comedy moment!

Jackie: Yes .. definitely Matt’s 2nd home town!

It is a great coffee and breakfast stop in Poo – the kind of cafe you could stay in for hours just drinking coffee and writing. Sadly I had to be dragged out after my mini hot bacon and egg bocadillo! 

Oh….should’t have mentioned that!

Matt; It was then in and out, and around the coast, via the ‘Isolate Castro de Poo’ (loved that one!), and across a bay overlooking the ‘Isla de Almenada o de Poo’ (I’m telling you…you couldn’t make it up!), until finally we reached Celorio and the ‘Poo’ jokes unfortunately came to an end (but not before the nudist beach signs – cue more hilarity!)

Jacks was somewhat overcome!!!

Matt; Gets a bit blurry after that – caffeine deficiency kicking in, having worn off from the ‘Poo Station’ cafe (see, I’m not quite done yet!), so we found a bar in Niembro to stop and refuel and ran into our Austrian drinking buddies.  ( they do the drinking not us) At least, they always say ‘hello’ to us, and they’re always drinking, whatever the time of day. Very happy fellows, don’t speak hardly a word of English….wonder if their good humour is connected with their alcohol intake???

Matt; Walked through some lovely little villages, including the self-professed ‘Prettiest Village in Asturias’ called Nueva de Llanes – I always think that is a tad boastful, to self-proclaim in such a fashion, although to be fair, it was very nice indeed. Passed by the Austrians there….still drinking…top lads! Jacks has remarked, on more than one occasion, that it’s a good job none of them speak any English, otherwise I’d be ‘led astray’ by some new drinking buddies (did I mention that I can get by passably in German…?)

Ended up walking with Doug and Donna for quite a bit, the Canadian couple we’d first met on Day 2 in Deba, and run into off and on since, but we thought we’d lost them. However, we encountered them again on some random park bench overlooking Playa de San Antolin de Bedon (sadly, we’d exited the Poo zone by now!) as they were stopping for a rest. They were lovely company and we chatted with them for quite a few km (Jackie can pick up the story) until we parted company with about 7km to go.

Jackie: It is funny how you meet up again and again with various people on route, Doug and Donna were one of those couples. Doug reminded me of my good friend Derek (Del) but I am not sure Del could be found walking the Camino Ways. (Del if you are reading this .. you might enjoy a gentle 5k .. and the evening activity but the rest not really your thing!) Anyway Doug and Donna struck me as such a postive couple. They have been on many adventures like this together. ( their first one was back packing around Canada when they were 16 and 18 years old) They have been married over 40 years now and built and ran a business together. They carry their own heavy packs and walk so well. They say the secrert is to give each other space. They really seemed to enjoy being with each other which is so nice to see. 

Sensing a fellow social drinking buddy that spoke English, Matt asked them if they would like to join us for dinner in Ribadesella our stop for the night.

We walked over 30 km that day and it was the first time that I could say that I was getting weak wobbly legs at the end of the day. But I still made it over the finishing line.

Matt: We’d booked into a pension in Ribadesella so weren’t too fussed or worried coming in there, hence found time to stop for a beer and get our bearings. Unfortunately, we were on the ‘wrong side’ of town (i.e. Where there was nothing of interest apart from appartments and hotels) so I left Jackie recovering and went to explore the ‘right side’ of town, to suss out a place to eat that evening, having arranged to meet up with Doug and Donna for their farewell meal (they were due to catch a train to Santiago de Compostella the next day and then walk to Finisterre). However, this involved  a 2km walk over to the ‘right’ side, then a 2km walk back to the ‘wrong’ side to fetch Jacks, and repeat for the evening meal…all this after 32km of walking beforehand!

Matt; As it happened, I met Doug and Donna on our pension doorstep, having stopped off to fuel up with lemon, tonics, nibbles, and ice in the supermarket beforehand, so we had a very refined sundowner on the black wicker chairs in the little garden by our pension, waving at the people in the tourist choo choo train as it chugged by on regular occasions.


Matt; Luckily Doug and I were of the same persuasion, so we held our positions in a bar drinking wine while the women went to suss out the best restaurant to eat in. Luckily this took a long time, so we were at least 3 glasses to the good by the time they returned, with Doug hungrily eyeing the top shelf of brandies, whiskies and other Spanish unmentionables! ( Jackie; Del I said that he reminded me of you )

Matt; As it was, Doug got quite excited during the menu del dia and started ordering other ‘off menu’ bottles of wine (the house stuff coming straight out of the freezer – never a good sign…especially when it’s red!), then had a good go at the miserable waiter who’d been ‘serving us’ all evening; “Hey buddy – there’s still meat on that plate….come back with it ‘ere!!!” After a couple of pacherans it started to get a bit blurry, and Donna was issuing sharp “Douglas!” commands with regularity, so we took our leave (after they very kindly insisted upon paying for us – thanks guys!) and wandered back to our pension….somehow, with Rioja legs, 2km just seems to fly by!

Jackie; It was a great evening, we got on well with Doug and Donna ( as I said before kind of like our good friends Del and Wendy who live in Canada too.) They are both good fun and have an interesting story. We shared a lot of common insights and values about the experience of walking the Camino. It would be nice to stay in touch and if you are reading this blog Donna, you and Doug are welcome to visit Thames House in Wallingford if you come to the UK on another adventure. 

Crossing Ribasdella bridge at night (for the 4th time!)

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Strava Recap