Friday, May 10, 2013 -- Caldas da Reis to Padrón
It was a wonderful day for walking. I was full of energy and walked alone most of the day until reaching Padrón. In Carracedo we found a nice place called the Cafe Esperon where we had coffee and sandwiches. The owner allows patrons to write on the walls and we each took a turn signing our names. I finished well before the others and decided to head out on my own since I wanted to visit the Convent in Herbón, something my friends didn’t want to do. My guidebook says that the way is well marked in the town of San Miguel de Valga but I got lost once again climbing a hill that led to nowhere. At the top, a man told me that I had to go back down in order to find my way back to the path. Eventually, I found the path and walked steadily the rest of the morning all the way to Pontesecures. Stopped at this interesting place offering drinks and trinkets to pilgrims only to have the owner tell me that the Convent in Herbón was closed until June. I walked past the Iglesia de S. Xulián de Requeixo with its cruceiro and across the bridge into the suburbs of Padrón. According to tradition, it was here that the Apostle Saint James first preached during his stay in Hispania. Soon after his death, his disciples Theodore and Athanasius brought his head and his body to Iria Flavia (now Padrón) from Jerusalem in a stone boat. They moored the boat to a pedrón (Galician for big stone), hence the new name given to the place. The two disciples remained in Iria Flavia to preach after burying the Apostle in Compostela. The legendary pedrón can be seen today at the parish church of Santiago de Padrón. There are several imitations scattered around town and used as flower boxes like this one just across the bridge from Pontesecures. This is the Igrexa de Santiago. It is a Romanesque church which dates back to the 12th century. Inside are some wonderful pieces of religious art including a fine 16th century pulpit with an image of Santiago Peregrino, and in a glass case, the image of Santiago Matamoros, slaying the Moors. Perhaps the most popular tourist attraction inside is the original stone O Pedrón from which the town takes its name. It is located beneath the altar and as you can see, people toss money at the stone hoping that if their coin lands on top their prayer might be answered. In front of the church is a paseo lined with trees. At its center is this statue to famous Spanish poetess Rosalia de Castro who was born here. Immediately over the bridge on the western bank of the Rio Sar is the Fonte do Carme from the 16th century. It depicts the arrival of the sarcophagus of Saint James with his disciples Theodore and Athanasius as well as a scene of the conversion and baptism of the pagan Queen Lupa. Standing prominently above the city is the imposing façade of the 18th century Convento do Carme. The albergure is beside the convent. It has one large room lined with bunk beds and although it is well kept, it lacks a sufficient number of bathrooms and electrical outlets to charge camera batteries. Of course, I arrived in town before the others and the albergue had not yet opened its doors. I waited for everyone at a small café nearby and ordered some beer and a pizza for everyone to share when they arrived. After we checked ourselves into the albergue, we spent the rest of the afternoon taking in the sunshine along the paseo in front of the church. If you are going to visit Padrón don’t miss out on their famous peppers served fried with olive oil and coarse salt. Most taste sweet and mild, though some are particularly hot and spicy. After exploring the town, we took a hike to the top of the hill behind the albergue called Santiaguiño do Monte. According to the tradition, the Apostle James preached here. Every summer, this place holds a massive pilgrimage festivity with a Xacobean touch that begins at the fountain at the bottom of the hill and ascends through a staircase of 150 steps. While we were trying to find a place to have dinner, we ended up going inside a cafe run by a man named Manuel. Although he was especially kind and very interesting to speak to, his establishment was one of the filthiest places I'd ever seen. He showed us many of his pilgrim guest books and asked us if we would please sign our names in the most recent one and pose for a photo with him behind his bar (where it was even filthier !). Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of the photograph but I did take a picture of what an earlier pilgrim drew in one of his guest books. Padrón has its own pilgrim statue where we posed for a group photo. I have to say that this is my favorite picture from the whole Camino. I had such a great time with these four guys ! We then had our dinner at the same place in the plaza of town where we hung out all day--nothing special but at least it was a warm meal and not too expensive.