You don’t have to be religious to walk the old pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela in the north of Spain. With hostels that charge about five Euros a night at every 20km or so, following in the footsteps of this more than 1000-year-long tradition won’t break the bank. The Camino Portugues is a less crowded alternative to the main route coming from France. It follows old Roman roads through vineyards and ancient oak forests, past beautiful rias (as the coastal inlets here are called) and historical towns such as Barcelos and Pontevedra. The 295km from Porto can be covered in about a fortnight.
This 'gastronomic space' is in fact on the tiny side - only 12 people can squeezed in to sit on high chairs round the narrow and high table. The sense of exclusivity is quickly confirmed when food and wine arrives. The tasting menu has so many small courses that I lost count, the wines are from small producers and excellent matches for the food. Courses are 'announced' on the discreet flat screens at either end of the table. The price is around €40 per person all included, which must count as one of the great bargains in this city.
It is tucked behind the main market of the old city on a back street. The market itself is closed at night.
Mercado de Santiago de Compostela
Rua de Ameas
+33 981 576 145
Google map: bit.ly/bOOjp8
The As Artes, tucked away by the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in Spanish Galicia, is the perfect city B&B, right at the heart of one of Europe’s most beguiling destinations. The seven bedrooms are prettily decorated, breakfast is substantial but leisurely, and the whole atmosphere is charming. Crucially, the beds are comfortable, the showers impressive, while the rooms - with obligatory wooden shutters - are well lit, spacious and quiet. To quote from the website, “the zones of leisure are sufficiently remote, which guarantees a calm rest.” The cathedral, in the Plaza do Obradoiro, is the final destination on a 1000 year old pilgrim’s route which stretches from France. Afternoon tea at the nearby five star Parador is the perfect spot to observe pilgrims limping past, some with donkeys. When I was there, Stephen Hawkins came trundling across the cobbles, due to lecture at the University. There is enough to explore for days amongst the medieval squares, convents and cloisters. The Museo do Pobo Galego is well worth a visit for its unusual double-spiral staircase alone.
Then, after an evening’s tapas-grazing, it’s much nicer to wander back to this intimate B&B than an anonymous hotel cell -and far cheaper.
Trav. de Dos Puertas 2, 15707 Santiago de Compostela
As a former student of the local university, I had been many times to the cathedral but being up on the roof showed me a lot of things I didn't know about the cathedral.
They will take you to the cathedral stone roofs (don't wear high heels!), where you get great views of the old city.
€10 for 30-45 minutes, everyday 10am to 2 pm, 4pm-8pm. Booking recommended (especially in summer), entry via Pazo de Xelmirez, Praza do Obraodiro.
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