We arrived in Portomarin today just in time to celebrate Alex’s 22nd birthday! Our walk today was quite a bit more crowded than normal as Sarria is the last town you can leave from and still receive the Compastela in Santiago. In the words of Suzanne, it was very similar to navigating the streets of Manhattan. I also managed to slip in some cow droppings in one of the small villages along the way, though I was lucky and kept my balance enough not to completely fall in.
Before giving the class a tour around the town, I decided to explore a bit myself to ensure I wouldn’t get lost. On my way back I was stopped by a fellow pilgrim who asked if I lived in the town and knew where some street was. Though I couldn’t actually help him, I felt pretty accomplished that I managed to look like a local. We started our tour of at the Cathedral San Nicolas, a romanesque church that was moved uphill stone by stone in the 1960s so that Franco could construct the Belesar reservoir. Unfortunately, the hours on the door of the church lied and we were unable to take a look at the interior. Many other buildings in the main plaza were also moved though many still have most of their original construction from the 12th century. When the water if the reservoir is low enough, you can even see the original foundations of the medieval buildings.
After roaming around the town, we all gathered at the albergue to celebrate Alex’s birthday with Tarta de Santiago, a local almond cake that is decorated with a powdered sugar Santiago cross. Thanks to Suzanne and Nikos we even had trick candles for the birthday boy. In the evening the majority of the group went out to get augardente, a local unregulated liquor that is used in the town’s Easter celebrations. Hopefully we were able to make Alex’s 22nd birthday one that he won’t forget!
p.s. I have tons of photos from the trip that will be posted once we complete the Camino, so be sure to check them out!