Galicia, Day Two: Peaceful Morning, Dark Night

Today started off well, at least. Technically, the training schedule said to take today off, but if I must do something, ride for 50 minutes. With my wheel in the shop, I decided to take the day off, but if I could ride later in the day, I would. With a free morning, I decided to visit the nearby Monastery of San Xoan de Poio, which was on my short list of things to do during my stay.

I slept in, again until a whopping 8 a.m. (usually I’m up before 5 a.m. during the week and no later than 6:30 on the weekend). After my self-made room service, I headed downstairs to see if the WiFi would work any better in the morning than the night before. Trying to input text into my blog proved impossible last night. The Internet here is impossibly, maddeningly slow. My French neighbor eventually gave up trying to view the course map for the Paraduathlon route.

I’m sitting at a table in the “cafeteria” for about 20 minutes, waiting for a page to load, when a woman from the hotel comes up to me saying something about the breakfast. I couldn’t understand a word. Finally, she darts away and comes back with a loaf of bread that reads “Sin Gluten.” Oh! “101?” she asks. “Si,” I respond, confirming my room number. She really did get my note asking about gluten-free breakfast options! I’ve gotten so used to taking care of myself I just assumed they would have no options. The woman made me two pieces of gluten-free toast and showed me the carton of gluten-free (?), lactose free milk (not sure if it was almond, soy or cow). Good to know I have another option in the morning!

I gave up on the WiFi after about an hour and headed to the monestary. What a treat. A gentleman gave me an English language brochure and in Spanish, pointed the way to where I should start and continue. And then he opened a heavy wooden door to this:

The processional cloister
The processional cloister
Closer view of the fountain
Closer view of the fountain











The processional cloister was the central point for the gate, the church, the orchard, the kitchen and the refectory. The Renaissance structure was finished in 1600. I had the whole place to myself. All I heard as I stood under the ribbed vault was the sigh of the wind, the gurgle of the fountain and an occasional chirp from a bird.

At one end of the cloister, I stepped into the grandiose church and was immediately taken aback by the cool air and the absolute serenity. Built in the mid 1600s, the sanctuary reflects Baroque and Renaissance styles. The high altar dates back to 1631. A nave to the left features a smaller, but similarly ornate, alter, as well as the stone grave of Santa Trahamunda.

The high altar.
The high altar.

Each of the stone tiles on the floor are numbered to mark the people buried underneath: two hundred adults, 100 children.

I wanted to extend my stay in Galicia to take in the history and the culture of the region and this monastery is certainly a key landmark of the region. I sat in a pew and said a silent prayer.

Unfortunately, the upstairs of the structure, which features one of the largest libraries in Galicia, was closed to visitors. But what I did see was spectacular.

Content, I drove down to Bici O Con, picked up my wheel, which looked quite nice, and returned to my little abode to get ready for the Team USA meeting. The bike shop manager said that they glued the tire with Continental’s cement (?) which has a shorter drying time. I would be good to ride in the evening. Great! I could join the Team USA group ride of the bike course. So I packed up my cycling gear, my computer (in hopes of faster WiFi) and ventured into downtown Pontevedra. Of course I made a couple wrong turns, in traffic, despite the GPS. I could not find parking. I hate traffic, I hate driving, the narrow roads and traffic were making me more anxious by the minute, so I ducked into the Galicia Hotel’s parking lot knowing that I wasn’t really allowed there.

As soon as I pulled my bike out of the tiny rental, the lights in the garage went out and the door slammed shut. Wha? I was in, but there was no way out! When I did get in, more panicked now, I learned that the hotel had locked the door for our meeting so that a couple hundred athletes wouldn’t try to park there. I got in early, by accident.

My anxiety level was through the roof at this point. I calmed down a bit after sitting through the meeting (where Tim Yount, USAT’s COO, went through most of the logistics), but I didn’t think I had the mental strength to ride in a large group on an unfamiliar course. After a collision with a car while riding my bike last year, my tolerance for traffic, be it two-wheeled or four, is limited. I made an appointment with the team chiropractor instead and slowly calmed myself down again.

Leaving Pontevedra proved another navigational challenge, with more stress. And I still hadn’t ridden my bike. When I got to Hotel Paris, traffic was still nasty so I kept on going. I thought I would drive and drive until I found wider roads, a shoulder and/or less traffic. None really materialized on A-308, which hugs the Ria de Pontevedra. I finally got sick of driving, found a passable stretch of road and pulled out the bike. Dropped the chain, fixed the chain, then discovered that the shifting was all out of wack. The derailleur probably got banged in transit along with everything else.

So, back to Bici O Con I went. It was about 7 p.m. at this point. The mechanic fixed what appeared to be a bent rear derailleur and 5 Euro later, I was on my way.

Now I am comfortably back at Hotel Paris and am not leaving the area until tomorrow night when I have to go back and check in my bike. I also plan to ride a little tomorrow, traffic be damned. I’ve seen a fair amount of cyclists on these narrow, shoulderless roads. The upside is that the motorists don’t seem to mind.

Other random observations: I appreciate that the public bathroom doors are actual doors that go to the floor, not stall doors where everyone can see your feet.

This country is very energy conscious. The lights in hallways and many public rooms stay off until you enter. I walk in the dark a lot because I can’t find switches.

I think I saw a meat vending machine.

I haven’t seen any SUVs. I see mostly small hatchbacks, an occasional sedan, random work vans, but no SUVs, trucks or Hummers. Maybe only Americans have the ego or the gas money to drive such monstrosities.

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