(From our walk in late February to early March 2020)
From Triacastela you have a choice of routes. The two markers at the end of the main street tell you all you need to know, but still there are people ending up on the wrong one every year, probably every day. Rule of thumb: turn left for Samos or right for San Xil. Samos is a huge old monastery which used to be very powerful, and many want to see it for themselves or even stay there or in the village. I have been once, and now I prefer the shorter route through San Xil, with lots of countryside walking and a visit to Art’s Art gallery. So, off towards San Xil!
Once when we walked past this chapel looking building not far from the El Beso albergue in A Balsa, I noticed a small sign saying England and a tiny stained glass window. We stopped and commented, and a voice from outside said hello in unmistakable English and invited us for a cup of tea. This was Art, who had just renovated this old cow shed (!) with a cross on the roof, and made an art studio/gallery and a small flat. The Scouse Spouse helped him carry his mattress into the flat and we had a good chat. We were hoping to see him again, but the gallery was closed. Next time!
So we carried on through a tiny village, with lots of free range chicks and a tiny, glorious chapel just before the start of the hill. The door is closed, but you can take photos through the bars. Well worth a peek!
The camino winds up through a typical Galician wood with lots of gorgeous, old trees. It is nearly always muddy, I think it doubles as a brook. When you get to the shell shaped fountain, you are almost at the top. Almost.
By the time we made it up that last hill to San Xil, we could have done with a sit-down and some refreshment. As luck would have it, it looked like there was a brand new one in the first house on the left, but this being February, it was of course closed. Or maybe not quite finished yet. There would be another bar open, surely?
But no, the hippie shed bar, with sofas, guitars and donativo snacks and drinks, was closed. Or, there was a car there, probably someone preparing something for the new season. We had to make do with photographing the stone circle and admiring the landscape.
The barman in the Xacobeo, where we had breakfast, assured us that the Casa Franco in Furela would be open. I like the Casa Franco. We met one of our few fellow walkers, a 70+ year old Spanish man called Javier, in there on our honeymoon. He treated us to a coffee and a chupito to celebrate, and although his English was as rubbish as my Spanish, we managed to have a good laugh. He walks from León before Easter every year, and stops at Casa Franco to chat to the owner and flirt with his wife. So I pay for a coffee and a chupito for him every time I walk past in September, and the owner writes it on a note behind the bar. Javier hadn’t been by last time so I wanted to know if they had seen him this year – maybe he was there right now? Maybe we would see him again?
But the Casa Franco was closed. Again there was a car, and we heard someone banging and clanging inside, but there was no answer when we knocked and shouted. Thanks for leaving the outside loos open though …
The Casa Ines was also closed. And the Taberna do Camiño. No hot coffees or chupitos for us, then.
The chapel wasn’t open either, but we could look in through the bars, just like the one in A Balsa. I like these much better than gilt churches.
Carrying on, the Pousada de Raquel was closed, as was the Paloma y Leña in San Mamede. By now we were so close to Sarria it didn’t matter.
Finally, Sarria! I have to admit we walked around the corner and took the pavement up rather than tackle those steps.
We had a room in the hotel Novoa next door to the Mesón O Tapas, in fact it turned out we could walk from one to the other in our slippers – perfect!
Even though the photos look sunny enough, it was definitely getting colder and a nice long hot shower was very much appreciated. As was the hairdryer. Then downstairs to the Mesón for some hearty soup and chunky ribs at the table near the fireplace, and a bottle of red to warm the cockles of our hearts. When our cockles were warmed through, we got the lift back up to our lovely room and the wonderful central heating.