Day 23 – Tchau Portugal! Hola España! – Rubiães to Tui, Spain! (26 September, 20.3km, 6 hours)

For the first time I’m my life, I am experiencing walk-lag. It’s the same as jet-lag but it hits you a little slower. There is a one hour time difference from Portugal to Spain so when we crossed that bridge over the Minho River, our afternoon became one hour shorter. In Spain, restaurants often don’t open for dinner until 8:30pm, but that is okay with us because our body says it is 7:30pm.  The problem will be trying to wake up tomorrow at 5:30am because that is 4:30am in Portugal.

Last night was our first night in a real albergue on this Caminho. We stayed in them almost every night on the French Route two years ago but there are not really any south of Porto and we got used to pensaos and residencials (grungy B&B’s). The youth hostel in Tomar didn’t really count as there were only six of us in a large room and we slept in that rest day. The albergue in Rabaçal doesn’t count either as they put only two people in each room even if there were five beds, like in our room. Last night, I was reminded of the snore-fest, the grouchy people who insist on going to sleep in a silent, dark room at 7:30pm, the people who come in drunk and loud at 11:00pm and who can’t find their bed, the early risers with the torches and packing at 4:30am, the grouchy late risers who shhhh you at every tiny sound, the queue to the two toilets, the lack of space to hang your laundry, the smell of the boots and unwashed clothing, etc. Wow, I miss those days.  I slept okay because of ear plugs and I don’t understand people in albergues who complain about noise and don’t use them.  Melanie did not sleep well at all as she was cold. She only had her long sleeved winter pajamas, a heavy silk sleeping sack and a fleece sweater wrapped around her head. I was okay though in my shorts and lightweight silk sack. If anything, the rubber pillow case is what woke me a few times.

The walk today was lovely and easy with only a few small climbs at the beginning. Most of it was on back roads or trails. It was very chilly at the start, just on the edge of my comfort level so tomorrow, I may wear a cap and arm warmers. We did most of the walk with Italian Adriano who we met with Marcelo a few days ago. Time flies when you are having a good conversation. A few times we were passed by the fast walking / often stopping Irish girls and I rushed along to chat with them for a few hundred meters or so until I was out of breath.  At one point, Adriano said that he was amazed. He knows his English is not so good but we communicate well with each other. When he doesn’t know an English word, he uses the Italian one but often I get the meaning.  His tenses and pronouns are all mixed up but you can tell by the context what he is saying. He understands me because I am used to speaking to non-native speakers. I speak slower and use simple language. Getting back to his amazement, he said that when I started to speak with the Irish girl, he tried to listen in but could not understand a single word either of us said. Funny that. I guess my Irish accent fooled at least him.

When we crossed the Roman bridge at the very beginning of the walk, Adriano was unimpressed. It was a very small bridge over a small stream that you could almost jump over if not for the backpack. He thought his countrymen could have built something a little more impressive. I figure something that lasts two millennia is at least built well.

We decided, because of the long walk tomorrow, to go through Valença to Tui but the walled, hilltop Valença is an absolutely stunning town. At every turn, our gaping mouths gaped just a little bit more. Just walking through the gates in the massive fortified walls leave us breathless.  Parts of the city date back to Roman times but the fortress has been updated to at least the 17th century. You can just image the battles that it could have seen. It certainly is a popular place with tourists though so we moved on without too much regret. I love it in Tui and I’m enjoying speaking my poor Spanish with the people here. They tolerate me as much as they help me but I swear, if I say “obrigado” or “bom dia / tarde” one more time over here, I’ll scream. The Spanish forgive me though and understand that pilgrims may have already spent three weeks in Portugal. Old habits die hard.

The place we are staying today is a small residencial right near the cathedral, O Novo Cabelo Furado. It’s 50€ for a very nice, modern apartment within a very old stone edifice. It would compare with a 4 star hotel in the USA if only we didn’t have to sit on the stairway to get wi-fi.

The cathedral is impressive for several reasons.  First, it dates from 1120 which was before even my grandparents were born. Second, its Gothic interior and exterior are magnificent to behold.  Third, they charge 6€ to visit it so, again, I stuck to my principals and just said a prayer inside the entrance and left. I have trouble paying to pray or visit a church while on a pilgrimage. Just down the hill from the cathedral, there is a modern church, at least by comparison as it is from the 15th century.  This church houses the remains of the great San Telmo who died nearby here while returning from his own Camino de Santiago. In those days, you walked both ways so he had it tougher than we do.

For those following us, there is an albergue, Quinta Estrada Romana a little over half way from Rubiães to Tui. If you want to or need to walk past Rubiães, this is a better option than walking all the way to Tui. There are lots of signs leading to it and it is right on the Caminho although you my have to google to find the exact location / distance from Rubiães.

We are heading off to dinner now and there are many, many options in this town. I can’t wait.

Walking along the trail near Fontoura Fuente

An unusual altar in a chapel near Fontoura

The entrance into Valença’s old walled town

A Back exit out of Valença’s old walled town

Part of Valença’s defences

The bridge over the Rio Minho into Spain

Tui’s 12th century gothic cathedral

The doorway to the 12th century gothic cathedral in Tui, Spain