Alison Edwards & Simon Benson
Holidays in Spain and Portugal
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We have moved on from walking the Camino frances to being on holiday here instead. After stopping walking at Arzua, and taking a bus into Santiago, we went straight to the station and got on a train to Ourense, south-west of Santiago and the third largest town in Galicia. Alison had read that it was a good place to visit, and she was absolutely correct. Apart from not swarming with ex-peregrinos and the people trying to sell things to them, it has the bonus of lots of thermal pools to soak in. The day we arrived, with temperatures in the hihg 30's, this was not so attractive; but the next day it was. There are various pools along a 5km stretch of the river, with some being right in the middle of town. And most of them are free to use.

The day we went there it was cooler and drizzly. This did not matter to us at all; lying in a hot pool in light rain is very pleasant. And the rain was not a huge issue. And the town was very good to just wander around, as well.

We returned to Santiago for a couple of days, running into some people we knew from walking - though not as many as we did last time we walked to Santiago. Here, there was a festival on; there were lots of free events in the street, and we found ourselves the first night listening to a performance of "Scheherazade" by the Royal Philharmonia of Galicia (very impressive) and the next day listening to the Banda de Lalin. And finding time to go on a tour over the roof of the Cathedral as well.

Then we got on a bus for the 3½ hour trip south to Porto, in Portugal. We had three days here; it is very hilly, and very touristy in parts, but another good place to visit. Alison (who acts as my tour guide) researched "free" walking tours (not really free - paid for by a tip at the end). The first one was very ordinary, and rather boring for a lot of it; but then the next day we went on the "Worst Porto Tour" run by an architect; it was excellent! We had to leave straight after for our Ryanair flight to Madrid, which I'd been a bit worried about but was very straightforward - and they even didn't fuss about my 15kg of check-in luggage weighing 16.5kg!

We got to the airport hotel around midnight, feeling hungry - and were thankful for the late hours they keep here because we were able to go out and find an open bar to feed us something. Nothing brilliant,but... it was food. The next day we returned to the airport to take the train into the centre, where we found our airbnb address easily and moved into our little apartment. We had a day trip to Toledo, then were taken around some magnificent areas near Madrid by Jose & Juan Carlos - 2 Madrilenos we'd never met, but who left a book (in Spanish) on an aeroplane while they were in Australia last year, which I bought at a sale and found their details inside! We had a great day with them seeing things we never would have, and ending up past midnight with an early departure for the airport the next day. But it was well worth it.

 

Simon's_Journal