November 10, 2002
Sarria to Portomarin
|About 4:00 p.m., I spotted the whitewashed
town of Portomarín. It was on the hill on the opposite side of
the valley. I groaned because it meant that I would have to climb another
hill. Then I spotted a bridge and felt relieved. Beneath the bridge was
an embalsa (dam) which created a large lake that filled part of
the valley. As I crossed the bridge, I made the mistake of looking down.
It had to be at least 90 feet down!! My vertigo started to kick in. I
turned to head back when I saw Eduardo, Fiona, and Rafael coming down
the slope. I couldn't let them see me like this, so I turned back, stared
straight ahead, and walked briskly forward.
When I got to the other side, I came to a steep set of stairs that had three tiers up to the town. Is my fate in life to always climb upwards?
|Portomarín is an interesting
town because it consists of almost all new buildings. But the plaza
mayor (main square) and the iglesia (church) are medieval.
How can that be explained? Well, the old town of Portomarín is
under the lake down in the valley. But before the dam was completed in
1966, the façades of the major buildings around the plaza were
saved and transported to the present locale. Even more amazing, the entire
Iglesia de St. Nicolas was disassembled, stone by stone, and reconstructed
at one corner of the plaza. You can still see the individual numbers on
|Stone by stone|
|In the early evening I found
a bar that had Internet connections. I read my email and answered some
of the more urgent ones. Later I had a glass of wine with Christine, the
French woman. I decided that the bar wasn't the type of place that would
have good food, so I left to look for another place for dinner. I asked
Christine if she wanted to join me, but she politely declined citing other
plans. I found a bar that posted a pilgrim's menu. As I entered the dining
room, I saw Eduardo sitting by himself and he invited me to join him.
We had a pleasant meal and talked about the types of cuisine found in
various regions of Spain. I mentioned that I enjoyed the torta de Santiago
(almond cake) which was famous in Galicia. The waiter then informed me
that almost all tortas de Santiago sold in Spain were made right
there in Portomarín.
After dinner, Eduardo wanted to find a bar with a TV. He was a soccer fanatic and his team, Bilbao, was playing that night. When I got back to the albergue, I found a small group sitting around the dining room table drinking wine. Not wanting to appear unsociable I joined them for a few glasses. Somehow the discussion got around to the United States and the various cities that the others knew about. They were surprised to learn that I had once spent some time in San Francisco. I mentioned that I was an aging hippie. This thought seemed to amuse them. Suddenly a joint appeared from somewhere and started to circulate around the table. I took the obligatory hit and passed it on. From then on I declined, using my various medicines as an excuse. The real reason that I abstained was that I didn't want to get stoned with strangers, in a strange place, and, most importantly, in a strange country. I went to bed with a clear head — I must be getting old!