In Santiago: Day 2 - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

September 19, 2019

In Santiago: Day 2

I was awakened, not for the first time, by some noise outside.  We had left our window open in the night, so I got up to close it and noticed an impressive structure illuminated in the distance.  I grabbed the camera, took a photo, and after noticing that it was out of focus looked up to take a second shot.  The sky was black.   Looking at the clock, I saw that it was 1:01 AM.  I was up just early enough to precede lights-out.

The view from our room at 12:59 - The City of Culture of Galicia. One minute later, the lights went out.
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At 6:50, not for the first time, we were awakened again by street noise.  Even with the window closed, shouting and reveling in the street continued well into the night.  It felt a bit like we were sleeping in a sports bar, although whenever I looked out the window I could never see the source of the commotion.

Between the noise and the jet lag we’re both pretty groggy when we head down to the dining room for breakfast.  It’s just past seven, but already the joint is hopping with early rising wanderers.  One couple, Joy and Tim, strike up conversation while we’re queued up in front of the espresso machine.  We decide to share a table, and start the day with a delightful conversation.  They’re an inspiring couple of roughly my vintage, just at the conclusion of their Camino walk.  Two walks, actually.  They began their journey by walking the Camino del Norte from Porto to Santiago; and then caught the train to Leon to walk back to Santiago again from the east.  Today they take the bus back to Porto for their flight home.

People are so often full of surprises that you wouldn’t expect at first.  Joy, as it turns out, has done a bit of bicycle traveling herself - including a 7,000 kilometer ride across Canada.  She’s quite an inspiration, and is the first person I ever recall saying she hopes to keep leading her current lifestyle until she turns 100.  She figures they’ll just keep dialing down the distance and intensity of their days as she and Tim age, and thinks 100 is a reasonable horizon since her mother lived to be 110.

Our breakfast companions this morning: Tim and Joy, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
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After breakfast, Rachael and I decide to go our own way for the morning.  She elects to take a long walk out of town, and ends up at a spectacular mirador north of the city.  With her GPS in hand to help her find her way back, she’s fully confident about setting out on her own like this.  For the record, we’ll note that she packed in an 8 mile trek with 2,000 feet of climbing this morning.

The view south to Santiago from the observation point atop Monte de Deus.
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Rachael’s reward for her eight mile hike this morning.
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Big surprise, I decided I’d rather spend my morning wandering through the old city again.  I knew I wanted to go back again to the large square on the eastern face of the cathedral.  We walked rather quickly through it last night on our way to dinner, but didn’t really slow down to look around at all.  It was obviously worth a longer exploration.

The skyline in Santiago’s old city is striking from almost any angle.
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The facade of Raxoi Palace, the imposing neoclassical building that lines the western edge of Prazo do Obradoiro and is the site of city hall and the Galician government. Facing it, behind us and in the shadows, is the cathedral.
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Taming some unlucky Moors, atop Raxoi Palace.
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A heroic scene.
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One half of the long portico of Raxoi Palace.
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At the end of trail, pilgrims rest and admire the cathedral from the front of Raxoi Palace.
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Obradoiro Plaza teems with sights like this of walkers and cyclists celebrating their arrival at the end of their pilgrimage.
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Contemplating the cathedral in Obradoiro Plaza.
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The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, one of the greatest religious structures in Spain. Construction began in 1075, and in its current form reflects many architectural styles from revisions and additions over the centuries.
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A detail from the western face of the cathedral.
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The portal of the parador, at the north end of Obradoiro Plaza between the Palace and cathedral. Known as the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, the structure was built in 1499 as a royal hospital to accommodate the arriving pilgrims. It is regarded as the oldest hotel in the world.
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Finally tearing myself away from Obradoiro Plaza, I circled my way back toward the hotel, randomly zigzagging through the streets of the old city.  It’s a fascinating place, with one impressive facade after another.  There must be a dozen great structures here that each by themselves would merit a visit to Santiago.

If my notes are right, this is the entryway to the university of Santiago. Established in 1495, it is one of the oldest continuously operating universities in the world.
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I’ve lost my notes on this, but I think it must be the eastern face of the Hostal dos Reis Católicos.
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Pilgrims enter the church of San Francisco
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The Quest lives on! I’d welcome suggestions on what this colorful, white blossomed tree is. Some sort of laurel?
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I’m not certain, but I think this is an entrance to the Benedictine San Martino Pinario Monastery, the second largest monastery in Spain. It isn’t open to the public through this entrance, which is confusing because it isn’t well signed. The public entrance is a small door at the far eastern end.
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The choir, San Martino Pinario monastery.
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Another feature I lost my location notes on. It could be from any of a dozen sites in this astounding city.
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Back at the room, I set in on the main work of the day - reassembling the Fridays and shipping our luggage forward to our final destination in Valencia.  For a nice change, reassembly goes completely without incident - maybe the easiest and fastest reassembly yet.  No crushed down tube collar to be repaired, no broken derailleur to be replaced.  Assuming that everything still seems fine when we take them out for a spin tomorrow, this seems as good as it gets.  After five tries now, perhaps I’ve finally fully debugged packing our new bikes.

Four bike selfie
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Shipping our suitcases ahead also goes perfectly.  We’re taking the same approach we did in our tour two years back from Bilbao to Sete, by turning the suitcases over to UPS at one of their Mail Boxes etc. outlets.  Based on two experiences with this now, I think it would always be our solution of choice when it’s available.  Nothing could be simpler - just wheel your suitcase down the street (only a block and a half, which was a consideration when we booked ourselves into Hotel Gelmirez) and hand it over to the UPS agent as-is.  

What could be easier than this?  I think we were back at our hotel room again no more than fifteen minutes after we left it.

What could be easier? Roll your suitcase a block or two down the street, and hand it over to your friendly UPS agent.
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Weighing and sizing each suitcase, in preparation for assigning the rate. Shipping our two suitcases to our final hotel in Valencia set us back 71.90 euros. They’ll arrive tomorrow. In back are two bikes with panniers, on their way to America for a trifling 1,000 euros each.
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Jen Grumby1,000 euros?! Outrageous.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyEach. One more compelling argument for Bike Fridays.
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2 months ago

After that, we decided to just stay around the room for another hour until dinner, and then walked back to the old city to an Italian restaurant that caught our eye yesterday.  We enjoyed a fine meal, and the luxury of eating at an early hour - something we don’t expect to find much of in the coming months.

From the next table, we’re startled by the sound of a newly opened bottle of red wine striking the stone floor.  Watching the red wine flow across the floor and around the lady’s white sandles, I remenisce over the few times I’ve spilled a few drops myself - once, memorably, in Tossa Del Mar almost 25 years ago, I dropped a bottle of Sangre de Toro on the cobblestones beneath our outside table.  Biking on a much tighter budget than we do today, I greatly regretted the loss.  No sense crying over spilt blood though.

Somehow this led us into reminiscing over memorable days in New Zealand, our first overseas tour.   Even though this month-long tour was almost 30 years ago now, at least 10 of its days immediately come to our minds when we relive it over dinner.  It is incredible how enriching bike travel can be - I’m not sure I can bring back to mind that many distinct days from my entire professional career.

After dinner, we picked up an ice cream from a sideline stand and slow-walked our way back to our room by way of beautiful Alameda Park.  What a magical city Santiago is!

First food photo of the tour! We’re dining at an Italian restaurant tonight (Puglian, from the photos in the walls). We figure we won’t see many of these, so we’d better jump at the opportunity.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesFood photos - almost as good as cow photos!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonThanks for the reminder. We’ll start watching out for some comely cows for you. Been thinking of you up there in rainy BC, hope you’re both well.
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2 months ago
The oak grove, Alameda Park. With the open understory littered with leaves and acorns, it reminds me of a beech forest.
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I’m not sure, but I think these are either the sessile or pedunculate oak, two similar species that are both native to the region.
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Bruce LellmanLeaf shape is more that of the pedunculate oak, I think. Also known as the English oak or common oak. I think the sessile has smaller, tighter lobes and not as deeply cut.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanThanks! I saved off links to. Ohh trees, but mostly focused on the acorn shapes. Really a beautiful forest.
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2 months ago
A couple trading secrets along the wall, like talking through two tin cans and a line.
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One of a pair of massive eucalyptus trees, Alameda Park.
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In Alameda Park.
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Bruce LellmanI like your reminiscing of your very first overseas bike trip. Coming right at the beginning of this trip, so many years later, it shows that you are doing exactly what you love. Something all of us who cycle tour should be cognizant of at the beginning of our trips as well. It's a way of thanking the universe. And thank you for this.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonIt felt like that to me too. I think we’ll be reminiscing about New Zealand again in the coming weeks, because we’re in for an extended spell of wet weather.
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2 months ago