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John Brierley Camino Frances Guide
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Ponferrada to O Barco de Valdeorras: A Few Updates

Last week, before things got even more complicated, I walked a few stages of the Invierno (for the umpteenth time!). Here are a few updates:

Toral de Merayo:
Bar El Puente is being reformed. The other cafeteria in the Plaza is still open (from 09:00h).

Santalla del Bierzo:
If, for any reason, you don’t want to walk all the way up to Cornatel Castle, you don’t need to do any road walking on that nasty stretch up to the Slate Factory at the top.

Instead, carry straight on at the Ermita de la Virgen del Carmen (but be careful: don’t follow the path round to the right; ten metres past the chapel head upwards. It’s fairly steep for about 200 metres, then you cross the N-536, and head up the slate mountain (!) for another 150 metres to the top. It brings you out at the confluence of roads (N-536, the one coming down from Villavieja, and the one that takes you down to Borrenes).

Borrenes:
Marisol and Saturno have closed down the Bar Marisol, but there is now a wonderful new bar/restaurant/garden attached to the hotel. The bar/restaurant is really beautifully decorated and there’s an open fire. The food is excellent.

Special pilgrim prices, and Marisol and Saturno are so friendly and helpful.

Saturno is busy building an extension of an apartment.

Las Médulas:
Casa Socorro is closed down (hopefully just temporarily) due to family illness. The new albergue turístico (La Senda) showed no signs of life at 11 o’clock in the morning, but it is functioning, apparently.

Puente de Domingo Flórez:
Café Los Arcos in Calle el Toral has closed down.

Bar El Cruce is still as pilgrim-friendly as ever.

There are three decent places to eat/drink near the Día supermarket on Calle Chao do Marco:

Restaurante Thais was closed, as they function as a pub at night and hadn’t been able to obtain a licence to open.

El Bom Vita, just round the corner, does a menu del día and has a large terrace.

Mesón La Colmena, in the street parallel to Restaurante Thais, has a nice garden terrace, and does excellent free pinchos. They also have a fairly large number of ‘raciones’ available.

Sobradelo:
The conflict between the Centro Social Pontenova and Bar Mar is still ongoing, unfortunately. To be honest, unless you are planning to stay the night in one of the rooms that Manuel has in Bar Mar, Pontenova is a much better place to drink or eat. Excellent free pinchos and an extensive cheap menu del día. Practically all of the locals eat there, which says a lot for me.

Éntoma:
Bar Martillo has new owners, but they’ve closed down, hopefully on a temporary basis.

O Barco de Valdeorras:
Hostal La Gran Tortuga is closed for the moment.

There’s a newish hotel, Malecon. It’s very modern, but probably too expensive and - in my view - quite impersonal. Extremely convenient, just off the river walkway.

Anyway, I hope this helps any of you who are planning to walk this marvellous camino, once things get back to some sort of normality.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
To be honest, unless you are planning to stay the night in one of the rooms that Manuel has in Bar Mar, Pontenova is a much better place to drink or eat.

Even if you are...and unless their renovation is a stunning success, Bar Mar's rooms are ...umm... not the best.
Too true.

The place doesn’t inspire me with confidence. The bar is dirty and very run down

I stopped in Bar Mar on my last Invierno, having been in the Centro Social for my earlier Inviernos, and just wanted to check it out. The price of a tiny Fanta was abusively high, maybe just for foreign pilgrims, and I did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the owner. Absolutely nothing inappropriate or threatening, but it was kind of a sense that this was someone who was kind of in the charlatan category — professing effusive and undying love for pilgrims while really just trying to take advantage. Sort of like César after Ourense. He insisted on taking a picture for his facebook feed, and I should have said no because I felt like it was all for his business. I have no problem with people making a living from and on the Camino, but this was one of those places I felt taken advantage of. Thankfully those places are few and far between on the Camino.

Next time I will go back to the Centro Social, where I have always felt quite welcomed.
 
I stopped in Bar Mar on my last Invierno, having been in the Centro Social for my earlier Inviernos, and just wanted to check it out. The price of a tiny Fanta was abusively high, maybe just for foreign pilgrims, and I did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the owner. Absolutely nothing inappropriate or threatening, but it was kind of a sense that this was someone who was kind of in the charlatan category — professing effusive and undying love for pilgrims while really just trying to take advantage. Sort of like César after Ourense. He insisted on taking a picture for his facebook feed, and I should have said no because I felt like it was all for his business. I have no problem with people making a living from and on the Camino, but this was one of those places I felt taken advantage of. Thankfully those places are few and far between on the Camino.

Next time I will go back to the Centro Social, where I have always felt quite welcomed.
I was a bit worried about posting negatively about Bar Mar, as I've always read good things about the place and how it was incredibly pilgrim-friendly and excellent value.

After reading what you and VNwalking have posted, I feel justified now, then, in saying that it is definitely NOT the perfect place to stop/stay.

As far as I am concerned, Centro Social Pontenova is THE place to stop for a snack, drink or meal. And I STILL haven't eaten in the Restaurante Museo down the other side of the bridge in Sobradelo!
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Since 2014~to~ Until I can walk
It is very useful information. I stopped in Bar Mar and took a photo for their facebook in 2018 . I felt welcome from them, even I thought that stay there one night in next camino. Well~~ Probably not. Thank you all of you.
 
It is very useful information. I stopped in Bar Mar and took a photo for their facebook in 2018 . I felt welcome from them, even I thought that stay there one night in next camino. Well~~ Probably not. Thank you all of you.
It's interesting that 3 of us (peregrina2000, VNwalking and yours truly) have more or less said the same about Bar Mar (although I'm sure that there are others on here - KinkyOne, for example - who would say the opposite).

It's the only place to spend the night in Sobradelo, so if your stage ends there you have no choice.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
It is very useful information. I stopped in Bar Mar and took a photo for their facebook in 2018 . I felt welcome from them, even I thought that stay there one night in next camino. Well~~ Probably not. Thank you all of you.

I know many people who feel like you do, @Juliana Kim. People have good days and bad days, too, so maybe we were unlucky when we were there. The one fact in the midst of all these opinions is that prices, at least the prices for me and several other non-Spanish pilgrims, are higher in the bar than in the Centro Social. And as @Charrito points out, taking a look at where the locals spend their time is also an indicator of something.
 
2021 Camino Guides
Most all Camino authors have decided to use 2020 guides for 2021, with free PDF files with updates coming in the spring. Get yours today.
John Brierley Camino Frances Guide
This guide is one of the ones that has been around for over 15 years. Updated yearly. Please read the reviews.
I stopped at Bar Mar for coffee and had a nice experience. The young woman at the bar was very welcoming. Along with my coffee, she brought a delicious little fruit tart to my table. She said the tart was on the house. I had a nice conversation with her - she was curious about my walk. As I was about to leave she brought the stamp for my credential and asked if she could take a photo.
 

filly

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
And is there also a museum? 🙃
(Joking, but you never know - a slate museum or something...?)
OK.... point taken! I’ll check it out next time! As I am ‘jubilado’ museums are often free or nearly so. Quiet, sometimes surprising places.... with clean loos!
 
I stopped at Bar Mar for coffee and had a nice experience. The young woman at the bar was very welcoming. Along with my coffee, she brought a delicious little fruit tart to my table. She said the tart was on the house. I had a nice conversation with her - she was curious about my walk. As I was about to leave she brought the stamp for my credential and asked if she could take a photo.
Nothing unusual there. It's standard practice to provide a free cake or biscuit with your coffee, or a free pincho with your wine or beer.
 
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Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
I stayed at Bar Mar in late Oct. 2019. The weather was rainy, dark and unpleasant and my room was comfortable. I was very grateful for a bed.
 

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