Howdy all, we are now 55 days out from our Portuguese Camino Walk. Marla and I did the Camino Frances last year and had so much fun that we decided to do another route this year. Last year we started in St Jean Pier de Port, France and after skipping a few stages in the Meseta to stay on schedule, we walked to Santiago Spain. A four week adventure.
This year we will fly to Lisbon, take a train to Porto Portugal and then walk to Santiago. From there, you will have to follow along to see where we end up. Join us as we co-author our blog!
The Portuguese Camino is one of many pilgrimage routes that cross through Europe to converge in Santiago de Compostela, the presumed burial site of the Apostle St. James. This Camino traditionally begins in Lisbon which continues north into Spain with a distance of approximately 610 km. Due to limited time we instead began the “Portuguese Way” in Porto where we had a choice of one of two routes, both a distance of approximately 227 km. We decided on the inland path known as the “Central Way” versus hiking along the “Camino da Costa” on Portugal’s coast. At the time we believed it to be better signed, but after comparing notes with some coastal walkers we learned both routes were well marked and fairly easy hikes.
Marla and I have been hitting the trails hard in Whiting Ranch near our home town in Orange County, California. We had our first “Dress Rehearsal” Saturday with our new packs. We both had 30 liter packs last year which … Continue reading →
Yesterday Marla and I discussed on our 3 mile loop that the anticipation of the Camino was not as crazy as last year. We are walking for only 2 weeks, the walk will not be as strenuous and we know more what to expect. Still, what are we forgetting??
My biggest concern was the selection of a new “Lucky Hat”. I did find an official Espana world cup soccer hat at the local Big 5 sporting good store. This one is orange and I usually go with black. However, I’ve heard that Orange is the new Black somewhere, so I’ll go with that. The orange hat combined with my green backpack will give me a pimento stuffed olive look. I hope the “Espana” hat will bring me some increased good will from the locals in Spain, and not get me mugged in Portugal.
I have not figured out how to post photos from my new camera directly into the blog. I read the instruction manual (a first for me!), and it says something about using a cable to my device and then seeking out the help of the 16 year old kid down the street. I hope the kid has his passport ready, just in case. I did take photos of my gear and I will post a list as soon as I get the whole fancy camera thing sorted out.
Marla has placed an order to Under Armor and Ex-Official for her Camino fashion statement and unmentionables.
The feet feel good and I will pick up my orthotics with an added closed cell foam liner on top to help prevent my feet from sliding around in my sized 14 wide shoes. My feet tend to slide around in the morning as I start to walk. I also found some double layered thin socks from REI that guarantee to prevent blisters. We’ll see. This would give me 3 layers of socks. I should be set, and I have also learned how to say “taxi” in 5 different languages
As promised here is our checklist. These are items we used on last year’s Camino with a few more items. The weights are indicated by, for example “1.9” = 1 pound (16 ounces) and 9 ounces for my Halo … Continue reading →
The 405 freeway on Friday at rush hour was as expected and we allowed plenty of time and got there early. The Tom Bradley terminal was newly remodeled and nice with seats with power outlets. Woo hoo!
British Airways was awesome as usual offering more than 500 movies for free. At one point I was trying to sleep and chose A Midnight’s Summer Dream, a book on tape that knocked me right out. Who needs medication when you have someone reading you a bedtime story? Marla as always slept well but I woke up around 500 AM and started giggling over Will Farrell in Anchor Man 2.
The arrival in Heathrow airport was easy as always with the ever polite British customs employees. We ate at Preit de Manager, one of our favorite Euro sandwich shops, during our 4 hour layover and we people watched enjoying the weary world travelers. I pulled out “No Touch Monkey” by Ayun Halliday, a collection of travel stories. Good read.
The flight to Lisbon was 3 hours and we landed around 11 PM local time. We had lost track of our home body clock time, which we have found best not to think about and stay on local time expecting the inevitable crash. The crash will happen within a couple days, sometimes after eating, often in mid-sentence or on a Hop On, Hop Off bus ride.
The taxi ride to the hotel was a thrill as our Portuguese driver drove fast like many Europeans with F1 racing car dreams. I enjoyed it but Marla buckled her seatbelt and remained quiet. This driver stopped at a traffic circle to talk to a fellow driver as they blocked both lanes entering the traffic circle. It was an impressive display of driving skills, drifting in and out between cars, passing in roundabouts and braking deeply before accelerating into corners. We arrived at the hotel alive, awake and alert!
We were fortunate to book our stay at the HF Fenix Garden which is located directly across the street from the Marquess of Pombal Square and is surrounded by a roundabout linking various avenues.
Also nearby is the infamous world wide Hop on/ Hop off bus which was an inexpensive way for us to explore Lisbon at a cost of around 18 euros for 2 tour lines.
The first tour line took us inland past interesting buildings and monuments. We also saw a reddish bridge that looked similar to San Francisco’s Oakland Bay Bridge that was designed and constructed by the same builders.
At another stop we ambled around some streets before ducking into what we thought was an old hotel to use the Water Closet. It was actually an indoor mall complete with a food court and where we decided to have a meal before we surrendered to that dreaded jet lag.
We headed back to our hotel for a quick nap before taking the second tour along the harbor.
We eventually ended up at a large grassy area called The Futebol Park and unbeknownst to us soon found ourselves surrounded by a swarm of “Futebol Enthusiasts” watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup on a large outdoor screen.
The park was transformed into a carnival of sorts with food trucks lined up selling everything from beer to donuts, so we decided to join the thousands of sports fans and sat down on the lawn. I mean how cool is that anyway?
Even though we weren’t fans at the time, it was genuinely exciting to get swept up in the Portugueses passion for football, especially with the final games championship score of Argentina 0/ Germany1!
Most people don’t associate Portugal with surfing but actually with its legendary 100 foot waves is a world class surf destination with a rich history.
Portugal’s documented surf history dates back about 100 years with the filming of body boarders off the coast of Leca de Palmeira.This 1926 video “Details of Leca de Palmeira, Matosinhos and Leixoes” is the oldest surf film in European history.
But it wasn’t until the 1980s-90s that the Portuguese surf scene took momentum beginning with the birth of Portugals first National Surf Team and subsequent publications in popular surf magazines.
Today surf enthusiasts flock to Nazare one hour north of Lisbon and the 8th wonder of the world. https://fb.watch/c1Z5NeFaQm/ Other great surf locations are at the beaches of Cocoa north of Ericeira and Carcavelos which is 20 minutes from Lisbon’s city center.
In addition I found this interesting 1 of a 4 part series titled “Behind the Lines”. Its about British surfer Andrew Cotton and his quest to break the world record by surfing at Nazare in February of 2014.
Once upon a time a good friend told me that if we ever made it to Portugal not to miss the Palacio da Pena. So today we followed that recommendation and booked a tour that took us about an hour northwest of Lisbon to the medieval town of Sintra.
Then from this charming town we took a shuttle up to the elevated Palace grounds.
The weather on this steep hill was noticeably damp in comparison to the dryer town of Sintra below, creating an ideal micro climate for the forested as well as the non indigenous vegetation surrounding the Palace.
“Stunning” was my first impression of the Palácio da Peña which is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site and one Portugals Seven Wonders.
The Palace history dates back to the Middle Ages when a chapel was built and dedicated to Our Lady of Pena and then latter a monastery was built on this same site.
During the 18th century the structure was damaged by weather in addition to the 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake which destroyed most of the property.
The site remained in ruins until 1838 when King Ferdinand II acquired the property and transformed it into a summer residence for Portuguese royalty.
Today the Palacio da Pena not only serves as a national monument, but is used at the discretion of the Portuguese government for political and state occasions.
After our visit to Sintra we continued on to the fishing village of Casias before reaching the town of Estoril where Portugal’s first casino is located.
After finally returning to Lisbon we took a walk along Avenida da Liberdade, which is a beautiful walkway designed with Portuguese tiles in a nautical pattern. The street reminded us of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris with its tree lined avenue and cafés.
It’s also where we stopped to listen to a street band playing Pink Floyds “Wish You Were Here” in English, which is not so uncommon for Portuguese bands.
We got another thrilling taxi ride to the Lisbon Santa Apolania train station in Lisbon where we had booked a train to Porto online and redeemed our vouchers without a hitch.
It was an nice 3 hour ride through the countryside to Porto Campanha and after a short walk to a commuter train connection we were home free. While on that train a “gentleman” plopped down across from us and we thought for a mere second he wanted to chat about our backpacks. Wrong. He was hitting us up for money, but in Portuguese, so it took too long to send him away. Oh well, times are tough all over. The 10 minute ride landed us in Sao Bento.
Some directions gleamed from an Internet forum on the Portuguese Camino gave us guidance to find Poets Hostel. Except they missed one little street. So, we got to do some sight seeing taking in the local color. We found the missed street and surprise, the Google Street View camera car was headed our way. We waved hoping to see us later on Google Maps.
We checked in to Poets hostel getting a private room for 39e with views overlooking Porto and the Cathedral.
There was a local dinner down the street and we treated ourselves to some calamari stew. It was great and we ate too much.
After lunch we went exploring to ward off the food coma and went to the Se Catedral (Cathedral) to get our Pilgrim Passports stamped and then continued over the bridge heading south over the Rio Douro river enjoying great views.
Shorty after crossing the bridge we veered right to the tram that goes down to the river walk. Cost for the tram 8e round trip. The river walk is the location of many wineries like Sandman and Taylor that feature Port wines. There was also alot of boats moored with wine barrels that were there for a festival.
Later we had dinner across from the Livaria Lello tower before retiring and enjoying the free WiFi, pronounced “weefee”.
Today we began our walk from Porto to Vilarinho. The guide book suggested that we take a metro from Porto to Maia to avoid the commercial area of the city and the dangerous N-13. We followed the books advice which cut off about 11.7km from this stage.
So now our Portuguese Camino commenced from the church “Igreja de Maria”. The church was easy to spot with its blue tiled facade. The path was also thankfully well marked with our beloved yellow arrows.
Here’s where the not so much fun began!! How does one describe our numerous near death experiences?!! First of all, one of the most dangerous things for a pedestrian is busy traffic on narrow streets with lack of sidewalks. In addition to this, one of the hardest surfaces to walk on is granite cobblestone….
…. and we had 15km of all four! After about 31/2 hours of playing “Dodge the Car” we made it to our Hostel….alive!
After kissing the sacred ground we paid our 25 euros for a very nice room at Casa de Laura.
That evening we had the opportunity to chat with our house mates Ron and his daughter Vicky from Yorkshire, England. We sat in the hostels beautiful patio enjoying port wine and sweet cakes, courtesy of our hostess Laura. Ron has traveled extensively while living five months of the year in India. As a young man he and his wife would vacation in Greece with their two children while sleeping on the beach. “Travel doesn’t have to be expensive” he said. He told us a story of being shooed off the beach by a young policeman. When he realized Ron had two young children he said he could come back later when everyone else had left. That night the young policeman bought them a round of drinks at the local bar!
We also talked about walking the Camino Frances the year prior and like us Ron had walked that Camino too. It’s funny that after you finish a long walk it takes only about a week to forget the pain and then you get this “bug” to do it again! It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never done it. He said “Do you just want to SEE a country or do you want to EXPERIENCE it too?”. Bingo! This is so true. Walking a Camino is not only a physical challenge, it provides you an opportunity to meet people of all walks of life while surrounded in a culture and language different from your own. Simply said, it’s a way to push yourself outside your comfort zone.
As the roosters crowed….. literally…. We were up and out by 6:45am. The weather was cool and misty making it perfect for travel to Barcelos. This stage covers a total of 28.7km and after yesterday’s adventure we were totally prepared for defensive hiking, but it turned out that the path was quite nice.
The trail meandered through woodland forests and corn fields with a lot of cobblestones underfoot making that part difficult to walk. We both had to stop and reapply dressings to our feet before changing our sweaty socks.
At around 12:00pm we arrived in the small village of Pedra Furada where we had lunch at a cafe and befriended the restaurants owner Antonio.
For a cost of 6 euros we had a really good meal of pork, blood sausage, potatoes and cabbage.
Allan asked about the cafes walls that were decorated with pictures of jazz musicians. Antonio was eager to talk about of his love for jazz and traditional Portuguese music. Shortly thereafter the restaurant owner sneaked away to play us a sampling of his favorite tunes over the cafes speakers.
We arrived in Barcelos around 4:00pm exhausted and with no reservation left us fumbling in the guide book for accommodations.
Then by happenstance we saw a sign saying “Pilgrims Help Office”. We walked in and a very nice lady booked us a great room for 45 euros at Hotel do Terco across the street that included a huge balcony and breakfast.
That evening in Barcelos we strolled through one of Portugals most popular open air market places the Campo da Feira. At the market we ran into a the Dutch couple William and Betty that we had met earlier on the trail and made plans to join up for dinner. William is a professional musician who plays with The National Holland Orchestra and Betty is a music teacher. Allan and I both made an instant connection as we talked about music as the universal language. We also discussed the political similarities between our countries as well as the popularity of President Obama with the Dutch.
Yesterday was brutal on our feet and bodies, so we decided to cut some walking mileage off our trek and take a taxi to Corgo. This knocked off 10km of our trek and it was the best walk of the trip so far.
Beautiful wooded hills and small vineyards. Grapevine arbors covering many parts of the walk, with perfect overcast and misty conditions. What rain? Two Hungarians said something about it raining two days ago.
A new mileage sign appeared on the trail including the estimated time to walk. Cool! 10.4 km was to take 2 hours and 6 minutes. Only if you rode a bike. It took us 3 and a half hours, but we took plenty of photos, ate, snacked and nursed our still sore feet from the day before.
Wildlife spotted today were horses, cows, pigs and goats. Morning Glory vines had grown up into trees some 50 feet high.
We approached Ponte Lima from the south along the Lima river walking through a parkway of mature sycamore trees. At a rest stop on a park bench we decided what accommodations looked the most promising.
Pensao Beira Rio looked good in the guide book with rooms over looking the river. The Pension is situated above a pizzeria and the location was easy to find near the bridge. This for only 30 euros.
After checking in at the pizzeria, and cleaned up, we took a tour of the small town. It has a relaxed atmosphere that we needed after two days of dodging cars and plodding along tortuous cobblestones.
There was a commotion just past the hotel, so we had to see it. Apparently it seemed like a Good Morning (afternoon?) Portugal show was being shot. Different bands got up to lip synch their hits. The bands all had accordions. One band had 3 accordions and a ukulele and they were rocking! There was also a segment on husking river reeds to make fabric from what we gathered.
Before dinner we took a walk across the bridge and heard some rock and roll being played from a park. We discovered that the band “The Gift” was having a concert at the amphitheater and were doing their sound check. In Lisbon we had seen a 3 piece band playing some Pink Floyd on the street corner and although we thought they were good, we didn’t think much about it. We did take some video of them. Later in Porto as we were watching TV that band was featured on the evening news. With our understanding of Portuguese at around zero we had no idea what they were saying, but clearly Portugal rocks.
We had a few rain showers and some down pours on the way to Ponte de Lima. That night it poured buckets a few times and the forecast was for more rain. This is July, what happened to the searing sun we were prepared for?
Rather than spend the morning slogging along with our rain gear on, we slept in and took a taxi to cafe Nunes in Revolta for some morning coffee with breakfast sandwiches. Thankfully we got there just before the hikers started arriving.
From Revolta we had a great walk with some more showers. Some of the trails turned into small streams and the rocky ascents became waterfalls. We had planned to stay in the town of Rubiaes a small hamlet on the way. It was more of a wide spot on the road, with a outstanding local restaurant.
After a big meal, and the thought of more rain, we decided to taxi it into Tui. Say that 3 times fast. The server called, but it would take an hour for a taxi. A local selling flashlights, watches and ” fine” trinkets over heard him and offered to take us. We did not haggle on the price of 20 Euros in hopes he would not rob and hack us up on the way to Tui. However, what a story that would have been to end the blog with.
The ride in his little van/car was fine and he spoke Arabic, Spanish and French. So we were able to plead for our lives convincingly without much misunderstanding.
We got to Tui intact and without the purchase of trinkets. Although there were some mighty fine Holiday gifts for you all in that van, I’m not sure if the watches were hot, but they probably were not real gold.
We tried three places to stay and they were booked full. We then treated ourselves to the Hotel Colon in Tuii for 69 euros. The room had a nice view of the valley and cathedral to the left.
The rain in Spain falls mainly on the……. Train!! We woke up early again to heavy rainfall and decided to wait it out and have breakfast at our hotel. But it was getting late and the whether wasn’t letting up, so a decision needed to be made weather to stay in Tui another night or take a train north.
After a lively conversation and scribbled map provided by the Station Agent, we decided to take a train to Pontevedra. Unfortunately skipping this section of the Camino meant we were disqualified from earning our Compostela because you must walk at least the last 100km into Santiago. Typically this would be from Valenca in Portugal just south of Tui to Santiago Spain, a total of 108km.
We arrived in Pontevedra around 12:45pm and immediately upon walking out of the train station we saw our beloved yellow arrows and a fellow pilgrim.
We then followed the arrows into the historic area of town and arrived at our pension Casa Alicia. For 25 euros we snatched up a small private room with a good view of Plaza de Espana.
Outside our pension there was a vintage car show so we took a short walk about and saw classic European cars such as FIATS, numerous Volkswagon Bugs, a Rolls Royce, tour busses, ambulances and SEATS.
Today we woke up to great weather and planned to walk from Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis a total of 23.1km, but instead we altered our plans and taxied into San Amaro shortening our goal by 10km.
Before we started our walk we stopped for breakfast at a small cafe called Meson Don Pulpo while people watching sweaty fellow hikers who’d been walking for hours.
The hike into Caldas de Reis was uneventful with nice meandering trails and vineyards. Since there were few places to fill our water bottles we did take a 500 meter detour off the Camino toward a small family owned bar. When we got there it was pretty evident that we’d been their only customers for the day and they were a little too eager to find out where we were staying or if we needed a place to rest. Although this has been pretty typical of the graciousness extended toward us as pilgrims, I couldn’t help but have visions of chainsaws and meat grinders in their kitchen. Anyhoo with that thought in mind we felt compelled to leave after quickly purchasing a couple of Diet Cokes and didn’t take their recommended short cut back to the Camino.
We arrived at the Hotel Davila in Caldas de Reis around 1:00pm and paid 55 euros for a room that overlooked a bamboo garden. The hotel is an old school mineral hot springs spa founded in the 1950’s with old creaky pine wood floors. It has lost some of it’s glory over the years, yet has kept her charm. In front of the hotel there is a fountain called Fonte Caldas where you can soak your feet in the thermal waters for free.
Latter that evening we wandered through town while eating ice cream and checking out a neighboring Pilgrims hostel.
At breakfast all the guests were wearing bath robes, hopefully with bathing suits underneath. We wore real clothes. Perhaps it was at breakfast and viewing all the people in bathrobes with knobby knees that we decided to skip the next sleepy town of Padron and catch the festival in Santiago.
So we threw out our plans of continuing the Camino on foot. Santiago was having their annual city festival and why should we miss it? The celebration is known as the “Feast Day of Apostle St. James”. The fiesta will occur throughout the week. There will be music, parties and fireworks starting in the Plaza del Obradioro and stretching out to surrounding streets. It’s considered the most famous of celebrations in Santiago de Compostela.
So, we walked one block to the bus stop and for 3.50 euros we enjoyed the ride to Santiago de Compostela. Done.
We checked into the Hospederia San Martin Pinario which used to be a monastery. We had stayed there last year and enjoyed the location in the historic center across from the Cathedral de Santiago.
This time however, we stayed in the section reserved for perigrinos. The rooms were simple but adequate.
Later we revisited the town as they got ready for the night’s festivities. Music stages were being set up. Barricades were being lined up. Wiring everywhere for sound and lighting. Beer gardens were ready to go….. all for the big party
On a final note it was quite a surprise to see the Cathedral de Santiago. An extensive restoration project has begun. Massive scaffolding covering both spires has been set in place. The approximate cost for refurbishing is estimated to be around 3.7 million euros.
Last year we walked the French Camino leaving from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France. At that time the Pilgrim’s Office posted that over 360 people had left with us. There were hikers everywhere. Some hikers fell back, others we caught up to. Other groups of people joined the walk on the way as the days progressed. On broad valleys with good visibility we could see over 50 walkers in front of us and over 50 behind us. We were passed by hundreds of bicyclists during that Camino. It was difficult answering the call of nature as people would walk by every minute or so. However it was safe and comforting knowing that your fellow hikers were always near by. There was anxiety everyday calling ahead to book a room for the next day. Many albergues were booked full every day. The lines in cafes and restrooms were often long.
We met many people along the walk last year. The Camino introduced us with several people that we have stayed in contact with. There were many memories of people we met if only briefly on the trail.
This year as we walked the Portuguese Camino, we have counted less than 50 people on the trail. It’s weird. We stopped booking our rooms the day before as it was not necessary. It is nice having some solitude and there is no problem finding a seat at dinner, but we miss our fellow pilgrims.