We spent a week in Lisboa before starting the Camino. Below I’ve attached a few photos of Lisbon along with photos from the first day of our walk. For some reason they are a bit out of order. But if you click on a photo, a caption will pop up.
From April 16 and 17
After a restful night in the dorm in Alpriarte, (soothed by the sonorous snores of sleepmates) we hit the trail around 8:30. A lovely cool and misty morn welcomed our first hours of trekking.
It burned off around 11, as our host at the albergue said it would.
The hike alternated between bucolic and industrial, ending with a walk along the Rio Tejo on the way into Vila Franca de Xira. We have a private room tonight at a hostel for the low cost of 35 euro and that includes breakfast!
Walking along, my mind wanders and while I try to keep track, I don’t. I will say that I find that a way marker shows up exactly when I need/want it to and that keeping that faith, small though it may be, means something. I also find the gift of the wandering mind is that the discomfort of walking with 18 pounds on my back gets wandered out of mind.
I also recognized today just what an endeavor this is. We have completed just 24 miles of the 397!
One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. I tend not to think of these things in advance. Probably a good thing. For me anyway, it works.
Fabu dinner tonight in Vila Franca de Xira of dorado fish, green beans, cheese, sausage, bread and a bottle of wine. A fantastic deal. I mean the wine was €2.70! I’m in love with Portugal. And not just because of the fabu wine price.
Oh, and earlier we had to sit for a drink in the Praça Alfonso de Albuquerque in Vila Franca de Xira!
On Apr 20, 2018
Here are a few things I’ve jotted down over the past few days – with a little followup elucidation/clarification or maybe muddle-cidation. Yes, I’ve had some wine. And a tiny amount of aguardiente /schnapps.
The first few days we really had to bolster one another with our commitment to walking the caminho. Kind of like the first few years of marriage. How are we going to make this work? There’s a reason we’ve decided to take this path, this way together.
Now, we’re getting used to the work that comes along with the beauty. The beauty is easy to take. The hard going requires patience and honesty and forgiveness.
We’re going to make it – of this I’m sure.
After a particularly difficult 3rd day I had to reconsider – what am I going to think about while walking, besides the pack? I came up with a few things. I believe that in addition to the body getting used to the weight, I’ve also more actively engaged my mind. Such a balancing act.
It’s easy for me to be aware of the beauty of the natural world, even when it’s tough going. But when it’s tough going and there’s not so much beauty, then I have to call in reinforcements. What are they? Really, just being more in the moment – what is happening around me? Maybe I practice Portuguese. Maybe I think of people I love and say a prayer for them. I do that too when I visit churches. Do you know that churches here always have fresh flowers in them? It’s remarkable!
I think about things like – how does it feel when you think you are closer to your destination and then realize you are off and have to recalibrate. And then when you know you are close, how much lighter the pack is, how much easier the going.
I think about what is in my pack and whether I’m willing to let go of any of it. So far – no. And as my body gets stronger, I think of that less.
I think of how much bread I’ve eaten! It’s so good. And the butter – so delicious ! Will I actually GAIN weight while I hike 12-15 miles a day? It’s possible.
Oh, I absolutely delight in the aroma of orange blossoms which have been perfuming the air these past days. It’s heavenly ambrosia. Reminds me of jasmine.
However, there was a short trek of about a thousand feet today that informed us of the natural material used to fertilize the fields. Pungent.
Santerem, where we rest tonight, is a sweet, small town on a hill that was settled by the Romans, taken over by the Moors, and then won back by the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques, in 1149. It seems quite prosperous. I attached a few photos of the wall that protected the city and a few pics along the way today.
Twas a quite easy day, though the last few kilometers climbing into Santerem were a bit challenging. So, I paid attention to the trees on the hillsides, the frogs (lots of frogs here! Why are they so charming?!), the flowers growing out of roofs, the old and new homes and apartments and architecture of all of them. And when we arrived we had energy and desire to explore the city!
I never am quite sure if I should post or revisit. Then I go ahead and post. Tonight, too!
Lots o love. Paula
Saturday April 21
Leaving Santarem/N1 Hostel
Got a late start because breakfast at the hostel was late. Started walking in the rain around 9:30. Such slippery going! First photo is where we enter the Caminho in Santarem. Then a photo of the largest nasturtium leaves I’ve ever seen. Then, Ed/Charlie making tracks,
Then a look back at the muddy, wet route we slipped , slided, and squished our way through. What a grueling few hours. Well, not really grueling, just slower. Funny, you think that walking is already slow going and then you get this! And, oh yeah – this is when you learn that the water proof boots ain’t. And that the rain jacket purchased at big box also ain’t. I think a return is in the offing.
Also interesting how a narrowed field of vision due to rain hood affects the experience. For the good, since it was necessary to really focus on foot placement. But also encourages a more inward pondering. And a recognition that laughing out loud is the best option available – so I did.
Comfort food for dinner – Bacalhau com natas – fish in a cheesy, creamy sauce with potatoes. It’s like scalloped fish. LOVED it.
Up late last night, so tonight will be early.
Sogni d’oro. (Sweet dreams – learned that from Italian pilgrim, David)
Our 7th day of walking the caminho! Pretty easy day with light rain and sun. I’ll attach a few photos of sights along the way. Our route was from Azinhaga to Atalaia, via Vila Nova Barquinha. They say this area is the horse capital of Portugal. We happened upon an equestrian show with kids riding in Vila Nova Barquinha.
Along the way we stopped for a break and a coffee in Golega. We ran into Sophie from Belgium again, who also stayed at the same place in Azinhaga. And, she was sitting with Helene, our host there. We sat together and Helene graciously treated.
I really enjoyed sitting at a local café in Atalaia – Ponto Encontro – and watching what goes on. I pretty much do that anyway, but tonight was a particularly busy local. I also ordered food based on what I saw others eating, by asking, Como é que disse? Or, Que é este prato? And Ivê picked up that the way to order a half litre of vinho de casa is to order uma maia (tinto o branca). Noticed that no one was on cell phone. Same true for the night before.
I also enjoyed time with the brindle that lives on the property here. I was soaking my feet and calves in the pool (yes, a pool!) and this cachorro comes up and deposits a rock on the edge – looking at it the way dogs do, in expectation that it will be thrown and they will retrieve. So I obliged. Over and over. Dogs are like little kids – “again!” I was amazed that this dog could always find the same rock – and would look for it until that very rock was found. Also surprising that it was a rock!
Accommodations tonight are in an awesome setting. Will Attach photos or send later if too many.
Boy, did my socks from yesterday’s walk in the muck stink! I know you wanted to know that.
Kinda zonked right now from today’s hike – some steep climbs and lots of sun.
Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 2:47 PM, pgsteele <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Wow. Here we are in Tomar – seat of the Knights Templar! We spend 2 nights here – no pack tomorrow, yay! Had quite a bit of elevation gain today, adding to the workout. It was sunny and warmer than it has been, except for day 3 from Vila Franca de Xira to Azambuja. And it was lovelier – lots of walking through eucalyptus forest, through small towns. In fact, arrival in Tomar felt like it was a big city compared to where we’ve been the past few days.
Hey, I don’t like to turn on a light when I get up in the night to use the bathroom. Result – I peed in the bidet. Okay, that was a random thought.
Relaxing in our pensione, writing this, enjoying a tawny port.
Cigarette packages here don’t just have the written warning. They also have photos of mis-shapen bodies due to the health risks of smoking. For example, a face missing part of the jaw. Doesn’t appear to make a whit of difference. Young and old alike, smoke.
It’s curious. I often fantasize about taking up smoking in my old age. (Though I don’t quite know what I imagine my old age to be…) But one day, in Lisbon, I was watching someone smoke – inhale deeply and exhale – and it was not at all appealing. Revolting even. I was surprised by that. I hadn’t had that reaction to smoking ever. I have watched others smoking since without that particular response.
We managed to make it through the day with only one ham and cheese sandwich. It seems to be the go to food for breakfast and lunch. At least the bread is usually good. Today though it was more like plain old white bread. Still, when you know you’ve got several miles to go and that is your option, you take it.
I never had imagined that I would add jam to my ham and cheese, but anything for a bit of variety.
I did buy a fresh green bell pepper today and a small round of cheese for the road. It was a nice change. We’ll buy our food for the road more often now.
And yet, I compare my life of “pilgrimage” with that of a pilgrim in days of yore, and know that I still have a life of luxury, comparatively, or even compared to how so many people alive today. I get my own room at the end of the day (usually ) and a warm shower, a good meal and wine. I’m really pampered!
Though I do look forward to some day in the future when we bring our clothes to a proper laundry instead of washing things out in the sink and wringing them out by hand and hoping they dry by morning. And when they don’t, hanging them from the pack or lightly lying them within to then take out and try to dry again at day’s end. Sometimes a thing or two will need a rewash… like those socks from the mud walk.
Here’s one thing I wonder about – where in hell are most of the matresses in Portugal made?! Last night I had to sleep on top of the blankets to get a bit of cushioning. Like I said – pampered. I literally felt like I was the princess and the pea.
I’m probably supposed to be writing about where we’ve been and taking note of the towns. And I am! I’ll say that Antonio at Cafe Moço in Asseiceira was a sweet heart. When he learned that we were from the states, he said, inquiringly, “No wall?” We responded in agreement, to smiles all around. He has a book for pilgrims to write in. Of course I added to my comments, “Não muro!
Okay, enought of my ramblings. Time to add pics. And then to read a bit. I didn’t realize that I missed reading so until I saw a book by an author I like (Ian McEwan) at this pensione.
Apr 24, 2018
Today was a day off from walking with the pack. Still managed to walk 8.5 miles. Tomar is an old city, founded by some guy named something País way back when and then it was spelled with an h – Thomar.
There is an amazing fortress on a hill. So many of these cities have them! And then the mind remembers movies where a fire is lit on high in a fortress to send a message, and the next fortress does the same and so on. Walking the ramparts, I imagine what it was like back in the 14-1500s when the enemy was advancing, trying to enter the Keep, those secure behind walls and battlements raining arrows upon them. I imagine the earth is full of the bones of those who lost their lives and were left there on the outsides of the walls.
Did you know that the idea of the Keep and of the rounded construction at the base of the castle walls (photo attached ) were from the Moors and that the rounded base is to act as a rebound for incoming weapons? I didn’t.
Today we had oranges from the castle grounds. Juicy and sweet!
Have seen some religious artwork we’ve never encountered – the nursing Madonna; St. Blaise with his finger in a child’s mouth, a Christ with just one hand nailed to the cross. What we found on St Blaise – he is the patron saint of getting fish bones out of throats. … hijole.
Tonight at dinner I ordered golden potatoes, thinking I would get french fries. I did get french fries but with a sunny side egg on top. The waiter then took a knife and fork, cut it all up together, and voila – golden potatoes! It was delicious.
Oh, and what were these crazy kids up to in their black capes with nonsensical patches sewed on? One young woman even had a pacifier hanging from her cape. It seemed really outrageous. At one point a cape was laid upon the ground. The young woman poured beer onto it in various places. A young man took his hat off and put it on the cape. The woman stomped on it. He took off his shoe, poured some beer into it and drank the beer. I wanted to ask for an explanation, but the opportune moment didn’t arrive. Anyway, sometimes a mystery is fun. Maybe I’ll do a little research. But if anyone has an idea, (Cecilia? ) please share.
Okay – early day tomorrow. Looking at 20 miles. So, trizzle trazzle trazom trome, time for zis one to go home. Or to bed, anyway.
Loves you. Paula
Tomar to Alviaiazere
Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 2:03 PM, pgsteele <email@example.com> wrote:
Hey. Hey, hola!
What a day – and a half, felt like. Out the door at 7 for our one and only, Ed promises, 20 mile day. You might not think it, but there is a BIG difference between 15 miles and 20 miles. Especially with elevation changes – some steep climbing today.
And again – so rewarding. And it was really lovely walking – more eucalyptus forest, some cork tree forest, sweet little towns for coffees and others just to walk through.
A man in Soianda began talking to us in very good English. His parents had emigrated yo Canada when he was 8. He had stories to share about his young manhood – the glory days of motorcycling through the states with friends, of the 10 to 1 women to men ratio in Ottawa… He had such the French-Canadian accent that I heard growing up and still hear if around some of the old folks when I’m in RI.
On the last leg of today’s journey in just had to rest. Had my eye out for a good place with steps. Finding a good spot can be quite a challenge. Shade is important. A place that’s a little elevated so you can stretch legs comfortably; and it must be dry.
Walking and walking – finally the trifecta! Too bad if it was right beside someone’s front door. Ed was skeptical. I already had my pack off.
We’re just getting settled in, when an older woman comes walking up the street. Headed right towards us. Looking at us quizzically. Yup. Her house. Thank goodness I studied some Portuguese! We had a lovely conversation. She offered us juice. She has a friend in San Francisco. She’s 88. She thinks I look younger than 60. Her only child, a son, is 46 and lives with her. Her name – Oldette. I think. And I so wish I had thought to have Ed get a photo of us together! Merde.
Tomorrow will be easier – it will be short – only about 11 miles. Bliss.
As we were walking and talking today, Ed mentioned that we really were not missing anything with a longer day. While we walk through and by many beautiful places, there is no where you might want to stay. And by walking, we really are spending time in places.
Tonight, dining with some other pilgrims we learned that when on Camino, they don’t visit. They don’t take time, for instance, to see the Convento de Christo, in Tomar. They only walk the camino. Oy. I wouldn’t want that. I’m glad we have the time.
Noticing that even clean clothes, taken from the pack smell a bit musty. They air out soon enough though.
The photo that says, See Ed?, was looking back at a 10% grade we’d just come up.
And damn that church bell. It’s going to clang all night, I just know it!
Love and peacefull sleep, Paula
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 at 3:04 PMAlvaiazere to Anciao
Yowza! We are ~130 miles in – that’s more than a quarter of the way already. I remember after the first day of 12 miles wondering how it would ever add up to the 397 total. And then, in increments, it does.
Remember back when I wrote that all I ever heard pilgrims talk about was feet, feet, feet? After that 20 miles yesterday, I got it. If you’re walking 20 miles a day, every day, as some do, then yes. Feet will hurt.
Sometimes when I’m walking, I thank my body parts. This is something I got from a nia teacher. And you know – it helps. My online yoga teacher also visits me. I hear her saying, “head over heart, heart over hips,” and I align myself. I also discovered that the yoga stance in the shape of 7, ie bent at hips, back straight from tail bone, through neck, to head and breathing deeply into my back is a real healing posture with the pack on.
Sunny, gorgeous day with yet more soothing, cooling breezes. More steep climbing, over a fairly long distance leaving Alvaiazere. Continued beauty. The vistas, the old old crumbling buildings that have so much character, the cobbled paths winding through olive groves and more eucalyptus forest.
Speaking of…eucalyptus trees were introduced, from Australia, by Sir John Banks, a botanist, in the late 18thC. They are pretty much everywhere now. Good in economic sense – 3x more lucrative than cork – but not so good environmentally as they are invasive and have not been good for the soil. Also a fire hazard due to the peeling bark acting as kindling and the high oil content. Whoosh! They grow back really fast though, growing up to 3 new trees from one cut trunk. However, growers are supposed to keep it to one tree and keep the bark cleaned up to ameliorate fire hazard.
Have yet to do some research on cork!
Even taking a fairly leisurely stroll today we arrived in Ansião around 1:00. Met up with Liz from London, Carlos from Argentina, and Kesh from Holland – all pilgrims met on the road. We settled into seats in the sun outside a café for a few short beers – Sagres – the beer of Portugal. They all were continuing on, while we elected to take it slow and stay put. I love the easy rapport among pilgrims. You meet, separate, meet again. It’s just sweet and low key and a delight when you run into one another again.
Did I mention yesterday that there were a few not well marked ways between Tomar and Alvaiazere? Ed and I would talk things through and come to a mutual conclusion regarding the most logical way to proceed. And got it right. I remember thinking, and saying to him, if I were doing this alone, I’d be a bit freaked. (There are lots of woman traveling solo.) Well, Liz got turned about. She said at each juncture she made the wrong choice. Talk about adding miles to an already long day! In the end though, I guess the lesson is that the worst that can happen is extra miles. You can’t really get lost.
We’ve a nice pensione private room with bath. Last night we had a private room and shared bath. The owner there greeted us with a tasty glass of port. Really sweet man. I also loved the crisp sheets with embroidered edging. Made me want to get some of those old time sheets for home. He was very proud of his stamps. So proud that he took up 3 spaces on the credencial! One for a wax stamp, one with an ink stamp, and one space in which he put question marks – to save the space for the embroidered cloth insignia which we were to glue on at a later date. He was also selling patches that read, Caminho Portuguese – Lisboa a Santiago. I bought two – one each for Charlie and I. He gave me a third saying to give it to a friend. I thought I would give it to Sophie from Belgium. However the opportunity didn’t present itself. Or I forgot about it when the opportunity was there. Then we stopped seeing pilgrims that we had met who started in Lisbon. I couldn’t give it to someone who’d started in Porto. So I carried it. Not that it weighed anything or took up any room.
Then, wonder! We were on the train to Barcelona after completing the caminho. I was taking a walk through the cars, just to walk. Who do I see? Fernando! He was headed home to Barcelona. And now I learn that his name is really Ferran, which is Catalonian and unusual so he just goes with Fernando sometimes. He gave me a rubber bracelet with the clamshell and yellow arrows of the way markers. I gave him the Lisboa-Santiago patch. Now we are friends on Facebook. And darned if that guy isn’t the most traveling person! He’s in Greece! Then back on the beach in Barcelona! Now in Thailand!
Since we had a good bit of time, we decided to find an automatic laundry. People seemed to have trouble explaining how to get to it, even using a map of the town. Not a very clear map, granted. In the end, a man gave us a ride there! His car only had 2 seats, so I sat in Ed’s lap, hunched forward over the dash. I love being a traveler and meeting people and experiencing them being so friendly and accommodating. In the end, it wasn’t that far and we walked back easily without needing the map.
This pensione also has a restaurant attached. We had a mad good lunch of chicken (frango) and french fries. I’m crazy for the FFs here. So good! We must remember to say though that we don’t want the rice. Why do they serve potatoes AND rice?! Then again we don’t know what we’re getting. No menu – the choice was frango or fried fish. Soup? Yes. Salad? Yes. Wine? Yes. And no idea about the price either. We were just trusting our handy guide book that recommended the place. Took the room without knowing the cost either. We were pleased. Portugal is very affordable. And so beautiful!
Yikes! It’s getting late. I’ll attach a few photos and call it a night.
April 27 Anciao to Rabacal
I don’t know. I ran out of steam earlier than usual today. It was quite cool and overcast, which is great for walking. Especially some steep and rugged terrain. I ate. I had water. But it seemed harder today. Is this a case of regression? My body’s aggression?
We are in a pilgrim dormitory, Albergue Bonita – only the second time after our very first night in Apriate. It’s much newer. Nicely appointed. Could have saved a few euro by doing laundry here. That reminds me – that coin operated laundry in Ancião included soap! It is not permitted to add soap – it comes in automatically.
After checking in, we went to the local restaurant, Bonita for food. I was hungry! An omelette with mushrooms and olives (not the ubiquitous ham and cheese) and salad. Plus those french fries that will be my down fall.
Nowhere nice to hang. The cafe Bonito attached to the Albergue Bonito was chilly. But we could charge phones. And watch a bit of Herbie with Portuguese subtitles! Helpful.
Just had a “conversation ” with a guy from Poland. He just talked on and on in Polish. We talked in English. Every once in a while, with gestures, we semi understood one another.
Most of the pilgrims here are already in bed. It’s still light out. Considering getting a shot of something at the cafe. But will it only wake me up later? Looking forward to the cacophony of blocked nasal passages later.
Picnicing at the base of Alvorge we watched this man amble by with his sheep and one goat. Felt transported.
Well, we’ve pampered ourselves considerably as regards accommodations, so tonight we return to the pilgrim experience of shared room and shared bath. We’ll be up and out early tomorrow. The Cafe opens at 7. We’ll throw back a coffee and hit the road, stopping about 2 hours in for breakfast with provisions we picked up in Ancião. It’s a plus that there’s a fridge here for pilgrim use.
Well, I think that’s all for tonight. Gotta get ready for bed, trying not to disturb others too much.
Sweet dreams y’all. Or sweet awakening, depending on where you are.
2 days to post because yesterday got away from me. Let’s chalk it up to pilgrim conviviality that began with wine at a late lunch, then continued with more wine into the evening at the Albergue in the dining /living room.
Rabaçal to Cernache
Got an early start out of the hostel – before 7! So, no coffee before walking. It was a quite chilly morning, fresh and invigorating and we moved fast. Lovely country side, high hills and pines. Still some eucalyptus, but not the huge stands of previous walks.
Poço – where the community laundry is located felt like walking into a century ago. I attach a building from there that looks uninhabited, but is. I spoke with an old woman there to ask about the water from the well (poço), wanting to refill my water bottle. There were few other homes in the area and it was so quiet.
This day was the first that we have run across pilgrims heading to Fátima. There were many! Lots on bicycle, too. We’re not sure if it’s the first time we’ve actually shared the same path. We had seen Fátima way markers since Satarem. May 13 is the feast day, so I imagine they are headed for that.
Comtemplating the relationship between breath and spirit. My yoga instructor asks, “what if breath is spirit? After all what happens when you die?” If breath is spirit, then no wonder deep breathing is so healing. What do we mean by spirit, anyway? How does it link to spiritual? I say I’m on a spiritual walk, not religious. Finding the spirit of each day, of the moments as they flow by with each footstep. Being aware of my human nature as I grouse or grumble, or take in the sweet smell of the atmosphere, or recognize my love for and appreciation of Ed, or any of the uncountable other moments that my spirit dwells in.
Enough of the philosophizing – I’m not that good at it, anyway. Leastways not using a phone keyboard.
We stopped in to tour the largest and best preserved Roman settlement Portugal, town of Conímbriga (Briga being Gaelic for fortified place). Romans here in 139BC. Excavations unearthed Iron Age remains back to 9th C BCE. I like to tune into my minds eye in these archaeological sites and imagine the buildings, the people, life. I reckon that that’s what writers and film directors do. I thank them for that gift – they’re much better at it than I.
Cernache to Coimbra: April 29
Dogs – going by a large beautiful home, surrounded by a high wall. Metal gate to the driveway. Dogs barking madly and one of them throwing himself against the gate again and again. Must’ve been a big dog, cuz he made a loud thud. Had to be a he-dog, dontcha think?
Walking by a home with my rain poncho on, which limits peripheral vision, and a dog jumping up and barking which caused me to scream.
Meeting Boogie, chihuahua, at a small café we ducked into to get out of the rain.
Rain – oh, man the sky was dark. The thunder boomed. Got the ponchos on in the knick of time. And a stone wall, the perfect height to protect our legs from rain coming in sideways, just when we needed it. Then it hailed. We stayed put for a bit until the rage of it had passed, then continued on until aforementioned Boogie café.
The sun and clouds played chase with one another all day. The wind was a mischief maker. Just as we were crossing the Mondego River, all 3 decided to mess about. The sun hid, the clouds poured, the wind kicked it up a notch or 3. I’m holding onto my hat, trying to put poncho on, and continue walking. Ed got twisted somehow in his poncho and I couldn’t get it to cover his pack, so off it came, flapping wildly in the ferious wind. It was pretty funny. 5-10 minutes and all was calm. The day needed to have a few tantrums. They may continue tomorrow.
Speaking of rain poncho – kind of gives me a sense of what being in a burka might be like. Shudder.
Coimbra was capital of Portugal 1145-1255. It has a university that was founded in 1290. We may visit it tomorrow along with the Museu Machado de Castro. We’re debating whether to stay another night or move on. We’re here, so it makes sense to take advantage of that. On the other hand, I have a hankering for the walking. Isn’t that something?
Monday April 30 Coimbra to Mealhada/Hostal Hilario
Some days you just walk. Some days there isn’t a whole lot new to see. Though I did love seeing this whole flock of sheep munching flowers and grass.
The two guys you see with Ed and I are Fernando from Spain, on the outside and Ruel from Holland. Some of the aforementioned wine drinkers from 2 nights ago. Such a flow of people into and out of our lives these past few weeks. Ruel and Fernando were surprised to see us because we said we were going to spend 2 nights in Coimbra. We decided not to because museums are closed on Mondays and Tuesday is a holiday, so they would be closed then, too.
18 miles today. Feet are beat. Thought they’d be more used to this by now. Or start off hurting and then get better. I guess all them other pilgrims talking feet, feet, feet knew what they was about. Standing at the outside pila to do hand washing, my feet hurt to stand on. Before our turn at the pila we were talking with a Frenchman who was doing his laundry. He mentioned that the first time he and his wife did camino they gave their neighbor the house key and just started walking. That’s how it is in Europe in many cities. Walk out the door, find the way and be on your way.
Rain today – but not heavy – just steady. The kind of rain I really like to walk in. And not all day either.
Short epistle tonight. I just spent over an hour on the phone with bank people trying to get something worked out. Oy. It is taken care of so at least there was something to show for it.
May 1 Mealhada to Agueda
The Roadway Day
Had a short route through country side on a path early on. Then it was pavement for the rest of the day.
Now here I’m going to go on a bit about feet again. Yikes! Turning out like the rest of that lot. Anyway, some people say that pavement is so hard on the feet. That may be. I find it darned easier though than irregular bits of rock and broken cobble. So today was okay in that regard.it was also fresh and sunny and breezy. Really lovely to be out.
The paved way took us through many different communities. We seem to be out of the hamlets with the narrow twisting roads and the one small cafe. We walk through neighborhoods and suburbs. Still there are lots of fields of vineyards, potatoes, beans, and a new crop – kiwi! There are beautiful overlooks into valleys. I often appreciate the view many of these folks have. And always – the flowers! In the yards, up the steps, along the outside of home that front the street, nodding their lovely heads in fields, along the road, growing from the roofs of long abandoned buildings and out of walls.
Wisteria is rampant, as is jasmine (heavenly – I bury my nose in them every day), and while there aren’t as many orange trees, that blossom aroma still wafts upon the breeze from those present. Yesterday, the strong aroma of anise accompanied us for a good while, though I didn’t see any plants that looked like they could be.
Today, May 1, is Dia dos Trabalhadores. I noticed yellow broom flowers on several homes and wondered… here is what I learned : 1st May in Portugal, Día dos Trabalhadores, is also a day for protecting homes from evil for the year ahead, a tradition which is similar to the Gaelic Beltane. Sprigs of broom are placed on doors, gates, windows to keep the devil/trouble at bay. That is what I learned from a blog. However, I asked a man in his front yard about it. He said it was a way to say that Jesus wasn’t in that home and so the people there would not be murdered. Sounds a bit like Passover, no? (First photo)
2nd photo – St. Christopher – yay – my favorite! Even though he has been de-saint-ified. Many homes and buildings have tiles like this – usually of some religious nature, often an idyllic image of home, garden, pond. I’ve been looking for St Chris. I loved his story as a child. Here is what I remember of it. Christopher was tucked snugly inside his abode on a windy, stormy night. A knock came upon the door. Opening it and peering outside he was surprised to find a child standing there. The child said he needed help in fording the river just beyond Christopher’s home. And no, it could not wait until morning and better weather. Christopher hoisted the child to his shoulder and began crossing the river. He remarked that such a slight child could weigh so much. The child responded that it was because he carried the weight of the world. Upon completing the crossing, the child made a blessing upon Christopher’’ head.
3rd photo – today especially we ran across a number of public water fountains. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s potable water, sometimes not. But look at the date on this one – 1467!
4th photo – industrial zone. Thank goodness for the holiday and closed businesses, so we didn’t have to deal with that traffic! Sometimes the bucolic cedes to the harsher realities. Keepin’ it real.
5th and final for the day – home bread delivery! Have seen this in several different areas over the days. Lovely.
Met pilgrims from the states! Rella and Roger from Sacramento. First met them in the morning by the side of the road during our morning breakfast break. Then again at day’s end. We’d taken a break at a café near the river to fortify ourselves for the final push. They joined us and we had a fine chat along with beer and wine and mineral water. They’ve done 2 caminos before this one. A German man we met has done one every spring for 11 years. It’s very popular with Europeans – so close. More caminos being created all the time, I learned from Ruth from Ireland. I could see doing more.
Okay – time to break.
Love to you all. Paula
May 2 Agueda to Albergaria de Velha
We had a short day of hiking – just 10.5 miles. Left our comfortable Residencial Celeste around 9 am. Soooo cozy. Best breakfast yet – more like Italy or France in terms of variety – yogurt, fruit, muesli, a variety of sliced meats (not just ham), good cheese (not just the sliced flamenco cheese (Edam), but local rounds ), cakes, really good coffee…and of course – bread.
Had read that Albergaria de Velha was a sweet town and very welcoming to pilgrims. Founded in 1120 by Queen D. Teresa, mother of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques. She provided money for hospitality and refuge for pilgrims.
Walking to the church, we happened upon a stone wall with turrets attached to a stately building that is the Biblioteca Municipal. (1st photo) Ed wondered if we might be able to visit inside the wall and turret. So, into the library we went, heading toward them, to discover that there did not appear to be available entry, and that it appeared the library had expanded into them. We then noted stairs, and wandered up. An employee took notice and came from her office. She then took the time to tell us about the building AND took us into the turret! From atop there we had a 360 view of the city. She pointed out part of the original pilgrim route – remember, original meaning back in days of single digit centuries.
Along the walk today I thought about the various levels of crazy or commitment or simply choice that one might encounter. I was thinking specifically about a photo Fernando showed me of people walking on their knees to the shrine of Fátima. I thought, they’re crazy! My mind turned to pilgrims walking with a pack and how pilgrims not carrying a pack (there are services that will haul it for you) might think “how crazy to carry a pack.” Then there are those who don’t hike at all. We’re all just being who we are, aren’t we? And we don’t know another’s story or reasons. It was on mind too because a few days back we saw a young couple walking without packs. They had been in the dorm the night before and had packs then. We started going down the path of pegging them as elitist, candy – assed, privileged…. then I caught myself. Who knows? It might be the dying wish …. okay, that’s not a happy thought and I certainly don’t wish it…
See photo 2 – It was eerie and creepy to find these dolls hanging in this field. There were also shards of glass hanging. To keep vegetable poaches away? Scarecrows?
Photo 3 – how many of you had a bread box growing up? Pão is the Portuguese word for bread. More home delivery! Also note the cute mailbox.
Photo 4 – old vine zin, anyone?
Photo 5 – we see so many of these grand dames fallen into dis-use, mis-repair. What would it take to return them to their glory – besides busloads of euros? They make me think of Stella.
Tha’s all folks. Hasta mañana. Paula
May 3 Albergaria a Velha to Oliveira de Azemeis
We are at the Ritz tonight! Well, at the Deighton, which may as well be the Ritz for all intents and purposes. The other choice for accommodations was a pension with the bathroom down a winding hall. This costs a bit more, but as a 4 star hotel with pilgrim price, well worth the extra.
Oliveiras is a town that cottons to the more traditional separation between lunch and dinner – meaning actually closed for serving food between 3 and 7 or 7:30. So we settled in at Adega Mota for wine and Portuguese tapas – hard boiled eggs, codfish cakes, bread and – pigs ear. Yes, I had to try it as I had been conversing with a local man in Portuguese and that’s what he was having. I don’t think I will have it again, but it was not bad.
Had a wonderful time here conversing with the bartender, Anibal, too. And then a man came in who had lived in Connecticut for years and so Ed had a good time, too. Gosh. I had been so disappointed that a restaurant we passed earlier was closed. Then it turned out to be such a wonderful time with the locals. I had the opportunity to speak and listen to Portuguese. Can’t say I understood everything, but enough to ask questions and continue the conversation.
Had a 13 mile day today and I felt fine! Gotta say though that I hope we get more country walking. Yesterday and today was mostly pavement from town to town to town. While I do find that interesting, I look forward to more paths and woods as we’ve had before.
Hey! Do you realize that we are already more than half way to San Tiago?! Holy footsteps, Batman! We’ll be in Porto on Saturday.
I just had the MOST relaxing bath. The tub was perfect – long and with the perfect slant to settle in. Good god and goddess, I am so fortunate. When we stop in churches, I always take a few moments to kneel or sit and give thanks and appreciation. Not only to God or Jesus, or Mary but to all the sainted and holy priests and priestesses and energies that act as intermediaries between me and the cosmos.
BTW – trouble connecting with wifi tonight.
Well, another day of pounding the pavement. Man, that’s getting old. Especially walking through the big city of São Jao de Madeira. Sheesh. Worse than that though is getting to the hotel in Malaposta you thought you’d be in, but didn’t make a reservation for, after a big lunch with beer AND wine because you just knew you’d be relaxing soon, and of course you know where this is going – no room at the Inn and so you find yourself walking 6 more miles than you’d planned and they aren’t pretty and neither is your mood. At one point in this grotty trek you have to cross the N 1 highway. And it’s rush hour. Fortunately, it’s just 2 lanes of traffic, so at the slightest break, I just started crossing, staring down drivers, daring them not to slow down. Then when you arrive at the Pensaõ, it looks like it’s survived a small battle in Iran or Iraq of some place. Still, in you go to check it out cus it’s been 17 miles and hey – it’s not bad after all. There’s wifi! The room has a heater! Still, it takes a bit of settling in time for the grump to grow faint, for the feet to feel alive. And I gotta say that the pack on the back and the shoulders were fine. That’s a gift right there. Also, as Ed pointed out – this is the first break down in our almost 3 weeks of walking.
Every day can’t be rosy and bliss. There were plenty of roses and azaleas, though and sunshine and cool breeze.
1 – saw lots of these today. Never before. Many homes, even newer ones have them. Appear to be for drying/storing something. Will try to find out.
2- Medieval bridge
3 – brilliant azaleas (?)
4 – also the first day for seeing these oversized rosaries
5 – I just love these walls with flowers. Plus the lush yard and the rows of new plants …
Tomorrow we get to Porto!
May 4 Oliveira de Azemeis to Grijo
Well, another day of pounding the pavement. Man, that’s getting old. Especially walking through the big city of São Jao de Madeira. Sheesh. Worse than that though is getting to the hotel in Malaposta you thought you’d be in, but didn’t make a reservation for, after a big lunch with wine because you just knew you’d be relaxing soon, and of course you know where this is going – no room at the Inn and so you find yourself walking 6 more miles than you’d planned and they aren’t pretty and neither is your mood. At one point in this grotty trek you have to cross the N 1 highway. And it’s rush hour. Fortunately, it’s just 2 lanes of traffic, so at the slightest break, I just started crossing, staring down drivers, daring them not to slow down. Then when you arrive at the Pensaõ, it looks like it’s survived a small battle in Iran or Iraq of some place. Still, in you go to check it out cus it’s been 17 miles and hey – it’s not bad after all. There’s wifi! The room has a heater! Still, it takes a bit of settling in time for the grump to grow faint, for the feet to feel alive. And I gotta say that the pack on the back and the shoulders were fine. That’s a gift right there. Also, as Ed pointed out – this is the first break down in our almost 3 weeks of walking.
Every day can’t be rosy and bliss. There were plenty of roses and azaleas, though and sunshine and cool breeze.
1 – saw lots of these today. Never before. Many homes, even newer ones have them. Appear to be for drying/storing something. Will try to find out.
2- Medieval bridge
3 – brilliant azaleas (?)
4 – also the first day for seeing these oversized rosaries
5 – I just love these walls with flowers. Plus the lush yard and the rows of new plants …
Tomorrow we get to Porto!
May 5- Grijo to Porto
Day 20 – 19 days of walking (spent 2 nights in Tomar), 240 miles, 19 nights in different cities and different beds. That’s kind of odd – never knowing what you’ll get, the size if the room, how many towels, if there’s a bidet, (none in our Porto Pensaõ, Uniao sadly), the kind of toilet flushing apparatus – push button, turn knob, pull knob, chain, and does it have a different button for number 1 and 2?
And, really, it doesn’t matter. You get what you get and it’s okay – at least okay. Haven’t had anything unacceptable. Sometimes above expectations and then I hate to get out of bed in the morning.
We’ll spend 3 nights here in Porto, second largest city in Portugal after Lisboa. It sits on the Douro River which flows into the Atlantic. We’ll go there tomorrow or Monday for a stroll on the beach. And happy for it to be just 2 days. After our time walking through country side and small hamlets and staying in smaller cities and towns, big cities are jarring. Another day today of walking through a large city – Rechousa. It just went on and on… Then again, I’m sure we’ll acclimate.
There are 3 routes from Porto to San Tiago. Have some research to do to decide which to take. I want the least pavement, the most country, the smaller towns.
Because, you know what else? In all of these cities, you can’t just drop your pants and pee. Obviously. Also, I miss taking breaks in the peace and shelter of trees and plants.
May 5, 2018 Porto
I didn’t finish this last night, so just adding today.
After our long haul to Grijó, doing that extra 6 miles, bodies hurt and neither of us slept well. So, last night we went to sleep fairly early. Only to be awoken around midnight by the god-awful racket of every car in the city sounding its horn for far too long. Apparently 2 opposing fútbol teams played to a draw which then gave Porto a chance to play. They play tonight and I pray they lose or there will be more crazy horn blowing, I’m sure. I know my prayers are not fair to the team. IDC. Anyway, my prayers won’t matter a bit as regards the outcome.
Today was grand! No boots. Got to wear my sandals and bask in the warm sun by the Atlantic Ocean. Took the metro out to the area called the Foz – where the Douro River enters the Atlantic. We sat and walked and sat and walked and I waded in the ocean. There is a walk all along the coast and river all the way between the city of Porto and the ocean. Lovely inlets and rocks and tide pools and uncrowded beach. And lots of seaside dining and drinking. Heaven.
Back in the city we ’bout drove each other mad trying to make a decision about dinner. There are just so many possibilities! We settled on a spot for the suckling pig pizza with mozzarella, cream and rúcula (arugula). Delicious!
So, on our day of rest we walked 10.5 miles. But, hey – no packs!
Photos – yesterday
1 – just love the crispness of this
2 – first clear glimpse of the ocean, somewhere between Grijó and Porto
3 – the only sight worth seeing walking through Rechousa
4 – Douro River and Porto from Jardim do Moro, just before crossing the bridge to Porto
5 – those crazy kids with their capes. End of year university celebrations.
6 & 7 – ocean and walk
8 & 9 – fantastic art nouveau (?) shop windows
Okay, loves. Over and out.
Monday May 7 Porto
Day 2 of rest in Porto – really truly restful. Only walked about 6 miles and they were easy miles of sightseeing. We had no real agenda – didn’t desire strongly to tour the major sights, the usual sights – cathedral, Torre de los Clérigos, etc. I was interested in seeing the building that had been built for the stock exchange, Palacio da Bolsa, in the late 19th century, but it was closed due to a private function.
We wandered. We ended up across the river where the Port wine caves are and toyed with the idea of a tour, but neither of us were excited about the idea. Seemed more like a should than a desire. Interesting to talk that out with one another. It’s just so pleasant to sit in the sun with a cooling breeze ruffling the water and the feathers on the backs of seagull heads – and to notice that and take pleasure in it. And the buildings and construction are so compelling to look at. How did they manage to build so much on such steep hills?
I notice the young women in their pretty summer dresses and think of my own wardrobe hanging forlorn in my closet. I’ve been wearing the same 2 tshirts, 2 pair of pants, and when necessary, switching to a long sleeved T and /or a long sleeved travel blouse. That’s it! At least I like the colors of my Ts. And the pants are comfortable. I’m leaving behind a pair of leggings that I haven’t worn. It’s time. Might let go of some socks, too. You will note, however, that I have my swag bag and items from that. The swag bag has come in really handy for food storage when hiking.
Happened upon a brew pub this afternoon! IPA! It felt like being in any big US city – the music, the ambiance, the slick newness of it. So, yeah, it was quite nice. They’ve also a soothing restaurant upstairs. Won’t go there though.
Today for lunch we bought grilled chicken and a bag of mixed lettuces – which included cilantro! Sat in the park and ate with our fingers. I’d just roll up a handful of greens to eat. Yes, missing salad and other veggies. The 3 big veggies here are potatoes, carrots, cabbage. Often boiled. Sounds Irish, no? Please don’t hate on me if I just made a gross generalization.
Time for photos :
1 – the laundry hanging out reminds me that this is not a staged front for tourists; people live here in these amaxing buildings.
2 – the Sandeman Port logo, said to be the most successful advertising of its time. Also said to be what influenced students in Coimbra, where the tradition of black hat and cape arose.
3 – the bridge that pedestrians can use to cross between the 2 sides of the river, with both upper and lower lanes. A train uses the upper; cars the lower. I love walking it.
4 – we often see shells of buildings, sometimes only the front facade remains and is bolstered in place with braces.
5 – I stood on our room balcony to check out the street scene and saw this young woman across the way. Looked like she was painting.
May you all be well.
Tues May 8 Porto to Vila Cha
Woot, woot wonder folk!
Walking Senda Litoral now. Did I mention in my Sunday post, after being at the Foz do Douro, how absolutely amazing the Portuguese coast is?! How accesdible? How much remains undeveloped? How the rocks form private little beaches naturally? The Portuguese government has put in a paved walk and a boardwalk from the outskirts of Porto to Azurara, where the path then turns inland for a bit before heading back to the coast for more boardwalk-ing.
Vila Chã is a fishermen’s town. The center is anchored by Pensaõ Sandra, where we are spending the night, and its adjacent cafe/mini mart. There is a dress shop just down the street, another café and a seafood restaurant – within walking distance, but not visible from one to another. That’s about it. Oh, except for miles of coastline. I’m enamored for sure.
Today there was, continues to be, plenty of wind. Loud wind. I can hear it rushing in and through, then receding, mimicking the ocean waves just feet away. Still, it didn’t detract from the walk. The misty morn gave way to filtered sun so walking was easy and cool.
We met a young woman on the train (yup, rather than walk through Porto we did as the guidebook recommended and took the train to a stop that got us to the coast and the boardwalk. Plus which, we’d walked so much of the Porto – Foz route on Sunday) from Milano and we walked together until parting in Vila Chã as she was continuing on. Her English , like so many of the young Europeans we’ve met, is very good. She’s walking the caminho to honor her dad who died just a few months ago.
She’s 25 and a gemologist. Currently unemployed. Boyfriend from New Zealand who is researching very lightweight solar design – for use in coats and hats. We talked and walked and sometimes she and Ed talked and walked and at times we all 3 were together. She’s a very dear soul. I found myself feeling protective of her and I could tell Ed felt the same.
C’est tout pour aujourd’hui.
May 9 Vila Cha to Santo Andre
Good hour to you amigos.
For those following on a map, Santo André is just north of Póvoa de Varzim. We continued along the coast on boardwalk – and today, far more pavement, unfortunately. The wind was stronger than yesterday and zapped Ed’s energy. He said it pulled the spirit out of him. Just to be contrary, I said it swept spirit into me. Actually, I wasn’t being contrary. Wind fills me, even as I do find it tiring. The sun came out as we were on the final 2 football fields length of walking and that helped. The wind is mighty crisp.
There is only one place to stay on this leg of our journey and fortunately it has pilgrim rates, as do other hotels. It’s right on the beach and our room overlooks the ocean! That’s a welcome surprise as discounted rooms are often the less desirable, as you probably know and I didn’t need to point out.
Our short day of 9 miles turned out to be closer to 13. In Vila do Conde we added some miles by visiting the convent on the hill and the also to the Moorish style Chapel on another hill. Why are they always on hills?! Then we took the long way out of town via the coast vs through the center. And we may have forgotten to factor in that the hotel is a bit further than our estimate.
Random thoughts: did I tell you … one night early in this experience I dreamt that my toenails turned blue and fell off.
That towels at some Pensaõ are air dried without softeners, so are rough. I rather like that and it takes me back to my childhood.
We have noticed an uptick in pilgrims on this path. Lots of people start the Caminho in Porto.
I find myself to be ravenous. I’ll feel hungy, but then I start eating and it’s as though my appetite takes on a life of its own. I’ll often think about sharing a sandwhich with Ed-Charlie. Then its gone.
I’ve taken to adding a bit of sugar to my coffee, especially the espresso. Especially when I feel the need for a sugar-caffeine energy injection.
Why is that image of the double tailed mermaid holding her breasts on a convent wall? She’s my new go-to goddess.
Good night earth. Good night sky. Good night ocean. Good night wind. Good night friends.
May 10 Santo Andre to Esposende (pronounced Shposend)
Friends, amigos, all loved ones,
Where to begin today… sunny morning on the beach is a good start. And a walk that commenced on a boardwalk by the sea. Windy, but not too much.
Then by hectares of agricultural lands, produce grown either under green houses or by a unique system of masseiras – troughs dug into the sand, filled with seaweed and crabs (caught in the seaweed) for fertilizer. The lower elevation of the troughs provides protection from wind and salt air, and trap warm air for optimal growing conditions. As we walked through and by these large areas, I kept thinking of it as the vegetable basket of the country.
We are very much liking these smaller cities – Vila do Conde, Póvoa de Varzim, Esposende. They are all near the coast and both Vila do Conde and Esposende are also on rivers. Póvoa de Varzim however is also the last stop on the metro from Porto. Great locations! What will we discover tomorrow? It’s fun to think about renting a furnished apartment for a month – or two.
Here in Esposende we watched windsurfers on the Rio Cávado. Amazing! Some of them getting air. They have such command of their craft.
We arrived fairly early today – about 2:15. Which gave us time for a glass of refreshment before checking in at 3 to Hostel 11. We then moseyed about town, just checking it out, getting the feel. It’s a very nice feel! Even on the way in we were greeted by a restaurateur who was happy to point the way to the hostel. When we replied to his query if we wanted to eat with a “no, maybe later” he invited us back later, and if he didn’t see us again, then he wished us, Bom caminho. We went back for dinner.
What a meal! Delicious – and enough for 4. This appears to be just the way it is in Portugal. More food than you would expect. At a price that you wouldn’t. That is, less. Usually – we did feel taken advantage of in Malaposta. But that’s a whole nother story for another day. Maybe in person. Yet it did color my initial response to tonight’s dining experience. Suffice it to say that the two experiences were different. Ed and I had a good conversation about cultural expectations, wondering about cultural norms, US aversions to the unknown and how that can affect perceptions… It’s rather difficult to write about on the phone. So, I’ll leave it and maybe some day we’ll have a conversation about it.
One other thing on my mind to write about today. At our hotel in Santo André, taking the stairs up, I noticed a sitting room – with books. Naturally drawn to see what was there. I do miss reading at night before sleep. So, I took a book: Malice in Cornwall. It’s small. Lightweight. Still, part of me wondered whether I should take it. Was I ignoring the 2 tailed mermaid’s warning about the perils of giving in to desire? Or was it a gift bestowed upon me, given that I had not noticed the library going down the stairs? I went with the latter. Especially since there is a walk in Cornwall that interests me. Okay, I know that’s a fair stretch. What kind of pilgrim am I anyway? One that’s using a smart phone.
Wait. Do I also want to write about the town of Apulia? No, just a photo or 2 from the church there – it was an interesting blend of old and new.
And nothing to write about Fão either, other than I like the name and there is a nice public restroom there and it also is on a river and close to the coast.
Well, I think this has gone on rather long enough. Time for photos and to bid you all adieu.
Fri May 11 Esposende to Viana
It’s late! I will do my best. Breakfast today consisted of cake and two bread and butter sandwiches. The bread was fresh – not long from the oven. The butter fresh also, not long from the cow.
We made a valiant attempt at the Senda Litoral this morning, which in the guidebook looked like lots of boardwalk and some country lanes. Others in the hostel were excited about this route too. The boardwalk is not complete. The way markers are not so available. We hugged the coast on lanes when no boardwalk was available.
At one point near a farmstead, an older woman approached and provided guidance. She said to head toward town – that’s the way everyone goes. So we did.
It was a bit of an adventure and though it added a few miles to the route, we were not dissatisfied that we had given it a try. It was a quite enjoyable route. I’ll post my fave pic from it of an artful wall and gate (photos 1 and 2).
We strode through some small towns and forest paths and by a river. So happy to be out of the city walking.
Remember my musing a while back on levels of crazy? We are officially on that continuum. We met a young woman from Germany while hiking and got to talking. Upon hearing that we’d walked from Lisbon, she said, “That’s crazy!”
There are a lot more pilgrims now than were on the Lisbon to Porto route – as we suspected. So many start in Porto.
We are about 280 miles in. We expect to cross the border into Spain on Tuesday. Tomorrow will be a rest day – spending 2 nights in Viana do Castelo. 17 miles today and the feet are feeling it. Especially my heels. Now here’s something odd. Heels were really hurting as we walked to find dinner. After eating, not so bad. Can food make that kind of a difference? Seems to have done.
Hitting a mental block. Photos and then to rest.
Oh! Remember I also commented on how every church we have been in has fresh flowers? I didn’t mention that they are also beautifully arranged. Last photo.
Be well all. Paula
Sturday My 12 in Viana, rest day
We are staying in a wonderful guest house. The host, Giuana (sp?) Is delightful – friendly, helpful, good at speaking Portuguese slowly for my ear trying desperately to attune itself to this new language, and providing us with a comfortable, clean room and hearty breakfast.
So good to snuggle into bed this morning knowing a day of rest was in store. I was pretty groggy, though I slept well. Something to do with relaxing I expect.
There are signs around town advertising Festa das Flores. I’ll post a few pics related to that. Guiana also told us about a related event in the town of Vila Franca – a parade with we omen dressed in traditional traje, carrying large vases of flowers on their heads. Photo of that too. We thought about going, but didn’t have the energy to figure out the buses. So, we went to the Museu de Traje in town! I’m always struck by the labor of handmade clothing – from plant or animal, to thread, to cloth, and then the decorative embellishments. And the intricacy of the added designs. Then there is the sheer volume of clothing.
Then I contrast that to nowadays when machines can make those full skirts and layers so easily, yet we wear so little.
There was also a video on the art of hand making gold beads and gold filigree. What a process! I won’t bore you with a written description, but I was duly impressed.
We took the funicular up the very steep hill to O Santuario de Santa Luzia. (2 photos – from afar and up close) There was something about the interior of that space. Spirit or melancholy or deep gratitude – pethaps all of that – arose from within my core and I cried. I couldn’t take photos; it would have felt like cheapening the experience; like reducing it to a mere voyeuristic opportunity.
Then I got hungry. Giuana had recommended Taberna do Soares. It was packed with locals – and some tourists. Had delicious mussels – succulent and sweet in a buttery au jus with chopped sweet onion. I wished I’d ordered 3 orders for lunch instead of Bacalhau. Not that it wasn’t good – a bit salty, but the small roasted creamy smashed potatoes that came with – oh my. The vinho verde went down easily and was the perfect pairing. I loved that it came in a chipped old porcelain pitcher.
After a stroll around town we both repaired to the room for a bit of a lie down. No need for dinner tonight!
Here are some things I’ve been wondering about:
Are nylons making a comeback? I’ve seen several young women wearing them.
Why isn’t my butt firmer after walking almost 300 miles?
My friend Lois wrote to me and mentioned a quote by Thich Nat Hanh. Paraphrasing – walk as if your feet are kissing the earth. It reminded me of my thought yesterday, knowing I had a long day. I vowed to just be with it and walk easily. Not like the day of my rant, the day of the surprise extra 6 miles that I pounded. It did really make a difference. I wasn’t nearly so aggravated. Now, there were plenty of extenuating circumstances and differences between the two. Still, it’s a clear example of choosing a way to be or to approach a situation. Blah, blah…. It helped too that the day was cool and the way was through quiet wood lands and small hamlets. Anyway, I quite like that description of stepping softly.
We had a walk in a light rain on the bridge over the Rio Lima yesterday. There was a steady wind blowing in from the sea. I liked the feel of it, the salty taste on my lips. It did impede enjoyment of the view, though. Thought we’d get back to the bridge, designed by Eiffel, by the way, but it didn’t happen. I include a photo from a distance.
Onward tomorrow! Looking forward to beginning the day with miles on the coast!
Hey – happy mother’s day to all you moms and to all who mother. That sounds weird, but you know what I mean, right?
Good night for me, maybe good morning for you…
Sunday May 13
Viana to Praia de Ancora
I recently ate a huge plate of large fried shrimp for dinner with a glass of white wine, then took a shower and now feel zonked. BTW, fried shrimp here is more akin to fried shrimp in Mexico, not the US. Full shrimp bodies, heads and feelers and legs still attached, pan fried in oil and butter with chile, parsley, and garlic. While garlic that is soft and roasted and sweet, so good when spread on butter toast.
You know, eating shrimp this way, I do get the sense of them being sea insects.
At any rate, delicious and messy and filling and sleep inducing.
Okay, I don’t know how this happens, but our shorter days always get longer. 9 miles today turned into 13. Wait, I do know how that happened today. 1. I took a divergent path just to check it out. Charlie continued on. I returned to the actual path, expecting to see Charlie just a bit up the road, knowing I could catch up. I must have walked a half mile before backtracking and trying various paths before continuing on, thinking we’d just meet up eventually. Then I figured I really should call. We were on completely different legs, though fortunately going in the same direction. After continuing on some and then cutting through a hay field and hauling myself onto the boardwalk, I caught up with him. We decided to make contingent plans in the future should our paths diverge. Or rather, should Charlie get lost again.
- There’s always something to investigate. And today, that included following a few boardwalks to see if they paralleled the shore or only went to the beach. The way, as in life, was not always clear.
It was another gorgeous day, changeable in mood – sunny, warm, cloudy, foggy, cool, misty, light rain, cold, warmer. We did walk mostly along the coast and I had a calming jaunt through pine forest.
Praia de Âncora seems to be a lively, but small seaside town. Our hotel is on the main road just across from the ocean (no room ocean view this time), with several restaurants lining the street. Quite a few visitors – in addition to hearing Portuguese, there was Italian and French spoken. Unfortunately, too pooped to explore much of the town. We’ll see more tomorrow morning.
We have not run into any large seaside developments with huge hotels or homes lining the beaches. As I said, the shores here are clear and accessible. Lots of evidence too that more boardwalks are going in and, at our seaside lunch stop, a shower.
I thought about motherhood today and my mom in particular and how no matter what her kids have said or done that’s hurtful, whether willfully or unconsciously, to her – she loves them. She forgives them. She gives them the benefit of alternative reasons, not assigning blame or complaining about their behavior. I guess I could take that on as well. I can try. She’s probably better at it, being a mom – and being 88 may factor in as well. I can try.
Here’s a heartfelt thank you to friends that have “mothered” me when I needed it. You know who you are – and if you don’t – no worries, I do.
Hey, just wanting to say something about the pack…I think I’m getting the hang of it! I’ve gotten better at packing and at knowing how to wear it on my hips and just how much to tighten straps. And, I must be getting stronger. Such a difference from those first weeks! I find that when it’s sitting just right, not pulling on my shoulders, I often am not really aware of it. Cool, huh?
Okay. Já basta.
Mon May 14 Praia to Vila Nova de Cerveira/Minho Bello
Gosh, I just love these place names. I’m going to have to try and remember them all – and in order of travel. Well, that would only make sense.
A day that started out grey and windy and misty cool. Just around the corner from our hotel we found a café open early and popped in for a coffee. Saw some lovely thick brown bread and asked for 2 slices – thought it would be to go, but then the proprietor asked if we wanted cheese on it. Yes! Next thing we know we’ve got divine toasted melty cheesy goodness with our coffee. As Ed said, she knew what we needed better than we did. It was a good start to a 14 mile day. 14 miles, but no elevation gain, so pretty easy.
Walked along the Rio Minho for a good stretch today after leaving Caminha and crossing the Rio Coura. Really liked Caminha for the short time we were there – that is walking in, having coffee and sharing a delightful chocolate pastry in the main Praça, going to the Pingo Doce grocery store for lunch provisions – and walking out.
Our stop tonight is a sleepy town. But you can tell it gets muito tourists in the summer. Tonight, not much is open. We did have the run of the fortress though, overlooking the town and river. So peaceful up there.
Seeing wisteria for weeks now and wondering if the wisteria we saw 3 weeks ago is past its bloom. Are we walking into spring anew as we trod north?
Tues May 15 Vila Nova de Cerveira to Valenca
Good morrow, good folk.
We are doing well after a short day of just 9.5 miles along level plain, mostly by river and/or fields. Sunny and breezy for most comfortable walking.
This is our last night in Portugal, at least while on the Camino. I actually felt a twinge of sadness, contemplating that this morning. We do plan to return after we complete the Camino, including the side trip, walking to Finistere and spending a few days in the town of Fisterra. I’m hoping for some beach and ocean swim time there. We’ll take the bus back, though.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Valença is an ancient Roman town, with King D. Afonso III commissioning walls built in 13th C. to create a fortress town.
The original structure was fortified in the 17th and 18th centuries with pointed bulwarked walls and moats that surrounded the old town. As you walk around the grounds of the fortress, you’ll start to appreciate why it was so successful at resisting attacks by both Spain and France. (I copied this paragraph from Julie Dawn Fox’s blog)
From up here you also get wonderful views of the Rio Minho and the town of Tui, Spain. Before it was Valença, the name was Contrasta – as it was in opposition to Tui. Afonso renamed it. I don’t know if that means Spain and Portugal were getting along by then. Now, we hear, the Spanish cross the border for less expensive most everything and the Portuguese cross for cheaper gas.
It was relaxing to stroll around the grassy expanses on the ramparts and to view the bulwarks. Took some time also to lie in the sun and feel the breeze playing.
Then hunger called via rumbling tummy – we only had one ham and cheese sande to share for lunch today. It was good to have tuna salad for a change, which here means tuna with salad fixings – lettuce, tomato, grated carrot and onion. In a smaller town we once again found ourselves too early for the dinner menu which starts at 7 or 7:30.
Today marks day 30 of walking! Doesn’t feel like it, really. Although I’ve been doing it, it’s hard to imagine it. Time is an odd, maleable, foldable, and creased concept that is elusive.
I have really loved it and expect to continue doing so. I can easily imagine going on other rambling walks in other countries.
I wonder what townspeople think. Some give you a clear idea by honking and giving a thumbs up; others are eager to talk a bit about it or to wish “Bom caminho .” Others seem a bit put out or not wanting to acknowledge you. Those are the ones that I really wonder about. Could be they are just preoccupied with their thoughts. In 30 days, they have been few.
I trust you are all well and enjoying spring. Hugs, Paula
May 22 post
Valença to O Porriño [Hotel Azule] (May 16) to Redondela (May 17) to Pontevedra (May 18)
Leaving Valença was dramatic. We headed out of town and down cobbles, under an arch and through a short tunnel. It felt medieval. Ed got a great pic. I didn’t, so I’m using his. Down some big stone steps brought us to the street and the place we should have gone to last night for a beer and a bite. The last café in Portugal!
A few steps from there we got on the bridge to cross the Rio Minho, leaving Portugal behind to enter Spain! If you can believe “them” the river is split in half – see photo of my feet on the bridge – one foot in Portugal and one in Spain.
We elected to bypass Tui, staying low by the river. It’s another fortress town and we didn’t feel the need to spend time there. Plus, we lost an hour crossing into Spain which is on European Central time, while Portugal is on eastern Europe time. We didn’t want to arrive too late. It was a 13.5 mile day. I almost fell asleep at one rest stop, by a gurgling river, a variety of bird songs swirling through the warm air. Ahhh. It was so hard to get moving! Ed had to roust me.
We realized we could have spent a short time in Valença and crossed into Tui yesterday and spent the night there. Not much to see in either place, and lots of tourist shops which we never go into. Ni modo. Sometimes you just miss things. Or maybe not. If we had spent the night in Tui, I would have missed the awesome zip line in the park.
A great day of walking through forest and by rivers and streams. Sunshine and shadow and breezy for a pretty easy day – though it did get hot later on when we did have a stint on pavement/roadway. No big climbs or descents, which helps. That is coming up tomorrow!
We stopped at a cafe and a taverna along the way and got to remember that you get tapas in Spain with your drink order! In this part of the country, Galicia, they’re called pinchos, not tapas. And the language still has a lot of kinship with Portuguese. You also hear a lot more Castellano, which I had noticed in Viana and heading north from there.
O Porriño has a small downtown area with several restaurants and cafes – and it’s a pedestrian area. Lots of people out enjoying the afternoon. Kids on scooters and running around, playing with balls.
No Internet tonight, though we had access when we first checked in. Quién sabe?
Porriño to Redondela 5.17
These days go by so fast! Even though we’re walking. Time is a mystery.
Casa Abreu tonight and while we have a private room, the “door” is a curtain, we’re in bunk beds and the bathroom is down the hall, and no towel provided. And she got $36euro. Breakfast was another $6 – she said a few times hwo big it was. Well, we know we can do way better than that by going to Lidl or Pingo Doce and get breakfast and luch for the 2 of us for less than $12. Had a hard time finding available space. Partly due to the uptick in pilgrims since leaving Valença. A number of them start there. Then there’s a bunch who start in Tui. Never mind all those who started on Porto. Plus! Now there are tour groups who hike with a day pack. Their luggage or packs are sent ahead .. their accommodations are set for them. It’s become a cash cow. And! There’s a big festival here in Redondela, part of the Fiesta de las Letras to celebrate Galega writers. It has to do with puppets. There was lots of activity earlier, but all has settled down. Kind of surprising.
Our guidebook had us all kinds of twisted about a serious incline and more dire decline into town. It wasn’t bad.
Headed to the beach! Further than we thought! By a few miles. Still we made it and I got to get into the Atlantic and lie in the sun. OMG. Then the long walk back to town on a hot and narrow road. I suggested hitch hiking. Ed’s response was not entirely for it. So, I lagged behind a bit. Stuck out my thumb, and snagged us a ride back into town. What an angel the woman who pulled over.
Redondela to Pontevedra 5.18
12.5 miles today with 3 really steep climbs – knuckle daggers – bent at almost 90 degree angle to get up the hill. And some equally steep descents. Made yesterday seem like we floated.
For the most part it was forested and through small hamlets.
Have been noticing a distinct difference in architecture. Seems less old. Maybe they raze old buildings more here to make way for newer dwellings. Still see some homes with garden plots, but not as often. Still lots of flowers adorning walls, patios, steps. I don’t think I’ve ever seen roses grow so well as in Portugal and Spain.
Pontevedra is a quintessential Galician city. It has several Prazas (in the old town area) with a multitude of bars, café, restaurants. We took in some of the local flavor, walking about town and visiting the Santuario da Peregrina and appreciating the architecture of this beautiful European place. Friday night and the populace is out in force. Kids are keeping themselves occupied by chasing pigeons, climbing on walls and low statues, playing chase and hide-and-seek. Adults are drinking their beer and wine and conversing.
I really appreciate the lack of big box stores. So very many small shops with a variety of styles of clothing and home goods stores as well. It seems more civilized and intimate. I wonder if people here are buying on line as much as in the US. You hardly ever see vacant store front windows.
Only 3 more days to Santiago! Hardly seems possible. Didn’t we just start?! And how hard thst first day was. And only 12 miles. Felt like 20 then. Now 10 miles feels like an easy day. 20 feels like 20. Can’t get away from that. No more of those days! It’s funny, the first 5 miles go by without even thinking about it. The next 5 you take a break, but it’s okay. The last 3 or 4, really looking forward to stopping for the day. A train going by fills me with longing. Well, some days more than others. Today, for instance. I think it was the steep climbs.
Sorry for 3 days in one post, but my email wasn’t working.
MISSING PONTEVEDRA TO CALDAS DE REIS (5.19) TO PADRON (5.20)
MISSING PADRON TO SANTIAGO (5.21)
Tues May 22 in Santiago
I’m sitting on the grass in Parque Bonaval. We’ve had a picnic with the usual – bread, cheese, ham. This time the bread is fresh from a local oven. The cheese is better because we didn’t just buy presliced for the road, and we had a bottle of good red wine. We also added tomato sauce from a tin to add a new dimension. Yes, we could eat at a café in town, but it is so good to be out of the din and the people.
How remarkably quickly you can leave the city behind. From the park we can still see the spires of the Cathedral. But the noise is mostly abated. The birds on the trees are making more of an impression. The breeze and the trees are dancing together.
We are now at a crossroads. I had thought we would continue on to Finistere. That’s another 4 days walk. The weather forcast is rainy – not only for the walking, but for days after arrival. I just don’t want to take that effort and time to walk there only to spend it in rain. I want sunshine and bathing weather! And darn, if there’s part of me that says, ya basta.
So now the question is what next? At this very moment, the answer seems to be, find a bathroom! And it’s getting chilly! A little more of a jaunt through this park may be what’s next.
We see that there is a lot more of this park to explore. Maybe tomorrow, along with the Museu of Contemporary Art.
We ran into some pilgrims we have been seeing along the trail and stopped for a visit. They’re leaving tomorrow for a bike trip along the Danube. We were invited by one and then his wife disinvited us! Nothing personal – she’s just not comfortable with a big group. I appreciated her candid response. AND – the Danube bike tour sounds great for future.
Attended the noon Pilgrim mass at the Cathedral. This ritual was an important part of completing this portion of the journey for me. More tears and emotions flowing as I sit with the gratitude for an enormous undertaking, safely completed and happily met each day.
Only once in the whole of it did I refer to my backpack as “this torture devise”.
Enjoying Spain – and missing Portugal. Or maybe missing the early days of walking when there were so fewer pilgrims and locals seemed to appreciate the effort. I can imagine how old it might get as thousands stream by click clacking the pavement with their walking poles. (Not us). And it’s funny too, letting go of being or doing something “special” when there are crowds doing the same thing. Some for a longer way than we did if they completed the French Camino. Still, while not unique, it is a journey not taken by the majority.
I really need to get my hair cut. Sometimes when I look in the mirror it sems like a furry critter is on the back of my neck and my bangs are blinding me.
We got a great room at a great price for Santiago. The hotelier was apologetic that it wasn’t in the main hotel, but in a separate building a few streets away. It’s actually better! Quiet – and not so far from anything. Not knowing how accommodations will be is an interesting aspect. You do a bit of research and hope for the best. Sometimes there is no choice but the one pensione or Albergue available. This is sounding familiar – I may have touched on it before… at any rate, we are happy here!
I don’t think I have too many photos, but will attach some.
Lotsa love. Paula