After walking and moving daily for about a month and a half, one gets a bit tired of having laundry hanging everywhere, eating random foods that will fit into the leftover spaces in your backpack, and the mental stress of figuring out when and where you will sleep the following day. We HAD planned to visit Morocco after completing the Camino. We HAD planned to walk to Finnisterre after the Camino. We HAD planned to do more…but plans change. We wanted to slow down the race and visit a place more than a few hours. So we spent one more day in Santiago de Compostela with friends and then took the slow train to Porto, Portugal.
Porto started out annoying and struggled to get better. We couldn’t find lockers to store our packs until the boardinghouse opened up, it was raining, and the Mercado Bom Sucesso was relocated/closed for remodeling. We did manage to find a locker at a different train station and then walk in the rain to the São Beato train station to enjoy its beautiful blue tiled walls and ceiling. The murals are old (1905 – 1916) and depict scenes from the Battle of Valdevez (1140) and the Conquest of Ceuta (1415).
We also tried to visit the Lello & Irmão bookstore , but we had failed to procure tickets for the bookstore made famous by J.K. Rowling. The lines were long even in the rain.
Along the way, we sampled an IPA from Lavare Brewing. It was the best beer we had in Porto.
From there we walked to temporary location of the Mercado Bom Sucesso to get some cheese and fruit. We collected our bags and checked into the boarding house. Friends told us of a few places to visit and porto makers to sample. The easiest way seemed to be through a “Yellow Bus” package. We got a tour by boat, double decker bus, a porto maker tour, and few other random things.
The Yellow Bus tour started badly. The email said that you could start anytime and you just met at a local monument. There was nothing but tourists at the monument. A long call to the package organizer made it evident that they weren’t able to reach to the bus company. Temperaments were short when on the way to the train station we spotted a sign for the same tour. A conversation with the business owner helped us locate a random signpost to stand near to catch the next bus. What a pain. The boat tour and the port tour were good despite the sound system crapping out on the boat and only 3 samples of port (I mean come on!).
If it had rained earlier, it dumped the following day. The cleaning staff knocked on our room to tell us it was raining in the hall. Water was sluicing down the walls, dripping out of electrical fixtures, and forming a small lake on the floor. We decided to go to lunch instead of risking death by electrocution. The slopped street out front was a raging river. I stepped in a shallow spot and it caused the water to leap up my leg and fill my shoe. We found a close restaurant and ate.
After enjoying the rain in Porto, we decided to aim for a dryer and sunnier Madrid. We went to a favorite of all dirt-bag backpackers, the long distance bus station. Where local bus stations have people trying to get to work or a market, long distance bus stations have people trying to figure out how indoor plumbing works and how to beg for change in 5 or 10 languages. We chose ALSA as they had cheap tickets across Europe. The bus company didn’t label the stall for which our bus would appear, but the bus did require exact change to use the restroom. That should have been disclosed before reaching cruising speeds.
Using a variety of guides, websites, black magic, and rumors, we wondered the streets of Madrid. We tried no less than 4 times to get churros and chocolate sauce, but each time we failed. Once at the famous Chocolatería San Ginés, we waited in circus line only to flub the order and get bland churros and coffee. Unless you want to wait in line again, you just leave. The churros didn’t even have cinnamon and sugar on them…disgusting. Another time we waited for 15 – 20 minutes at a restaurant in a park but the wait staff pointedly ignored us. After that I started to understand that we are cursed.
On 22-10-19, we ditched Madrid for Granada. A four hour bus ride brought a warmer climate and a nicer city. We got a great spot in the downtown and started enjoying the smaller and older feel of Granada. On our second day in Granada, we walked to the Alhambra. Since we didn’t plan (where’s the fun in planning 6 months out?!?!) we couldn’t get the much coveted Palace tickets, but we did get the Alhambra Gardens and “Generalife” tickets for the next morning.
We wondered the castle and grounds for the day. The Muslim architecture and gardens were interesting. Great pains had been taken to channel water to the gardens and buildings via ingenious methods. The castles had formidable walls and fortifications. Together, it helped Granada endure to be the last Muslim stronghold in Spain. Only hunger finally drove us to leave the lush gardens. We dined on Mexican food for dinner. It was OK, but expensive.
The following day we wanted to learn more about Flamenco dancing. I can’t be sure if it was someone’s sense of humor, the only available museum space in the region, or just coincidence, but the Flamenco exhibit is in the Torture Museum AKA “Palacio de los Olvidados” . The exhibits bounced back and forth between the various types of music that fused into modern Flamenco and how the Inquisition used various methods to torture people (mostly suspected Jews and Muslims) into either confessing, death, or both. The top floor had a display of photos to add to the WTF aspect of the whole place. In the evening, we went to a Flamenco show. The show was impressive. The dancers can really stomp their feet.