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 path traditionally begins in Lisbon, Portugal continuing north into Spain with a distance of approximately 610km. However we chose to begin the Portuguese Way in Porto, Portugal. From here we can take one of two routes. The first path leads along the inland known as the “Central Way”. The other runs along Portugal’s coast and is known as the “Caminho da Costa”. Both are a distance of approximately 227 km.
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
The 405 freeway on Friday at rush hour was as expected. We allowed plenty of time and got there early. The Tom Bradley terminal was newly remodeled and nice. Comfy seats with power outlets.
British Airways was awesome as usual offering 500 movies for free. At one point I was trying to sleep and chose A Midnight’s Summer Dream, a book on tape. It knocked me right out. Who needs medication? Marla as always slept well. I woke up around 500 AM and started giggling over Anchor Man 2.
The arrival in Heathrow airport was easy. We ate at Preit de Manager, one of our favorite Euro sandwich shops. During our 4 hour layover 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 body clock time, which we have found best not to think about. Just stay on local time and expect the inevitable crash. The crash will happen within a couple days, sometimes after eating, often in mid-sentence.
The taxi ride to the hotel was a bunch of fun. Our Portuguese driver drove fast. 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 HF Fenix Garden which is directly across the street from the Marquess of Pombal Square. The square is surrounded by a roundabout that links various important avenues.
Nearby also was the infamous world wide Hop on / Hop off bus tours. It was a good way to get the lay of the land while suffering from jet lag. The cost was around 18 Euros for 2 tours lines.
On one tour we saw a reddish bridge that looked very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. However, it actually was more closely aligned with San Francisco’s Oakland Bay Bridge and was constructed by the same builders.
At one stop we ambled around some streets and then ducked into what we thought was an old hotel to use the Water Closet. It was actually a indoor mall complete with a food court. During the meal we both got hit with jet lag and were rendered speechless.
After a nap we took the second tour along the harbor and ended up at a large grassy area called The Futebol Park.
There was a party like atmosphere here with food trucks lined up and selling everything from beer to donuts. So we decided to join the thousands of Futebol enthusiasts sitting on the lawn.
Soon we were swept up in the Portugueses passion for football while watching the final game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Argentina vs Germany, on a giant screen TV. Final score Argentina 0/ Germany 1!
Portugal’s surf history dates back about 100 years when body boarders were filmed in 1926 off the coast of Leca de Palmeira. The video “Details of Leca de Palmeira, Matosinhos and Leixoes” is the oldest surf film in European history.
Then starting in 1990s with the addition of Portugal’s National surf team, the Buondi Pro surf and other major European surfing championships have taken place.
Today surf enthusiasts flock to Nazare one hour north of Lisbon and now considered to be the 8th wonder of the world. Other great surf locations can be found at the pristine 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.
Today we booked a day trip to the Palacios da Pena. Our guide for the day was through Dinatours, who picked us up in a small bus then drove us to Sintra, Portugal.
After we arrived in Sintra we shuttled up the remainder of the hill to the Palace. The weather was cool and foggy creating a kind of mystical atmosphere. This damp weather is also perfect for the lush vegetation surrounding the Palace, most of which is not original but was brought here for the ideal micro climate.
The Palace of Pena is built on top of a hill in this mideviel town of Sintra. The destination is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal. It’s history dates back to the Middle Ages when a chapel was built and dedicated to Our Lady of Pena. Later a monastery was built on the same site. In the 18th century the structure was damaged by weather. Not long afterwards the property was almost completely destroyed by the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. The site remained in ruins until 1838 when King Ferdinand II acquired the property and transformed it into a summer residence for Portuguese royalty.
After our visit to Sintra we stopped in the town of Casias known for its fishing harbor. We had only a few minutes to hop off the bus and take a few photos . Finally we drove through the town of Estoril where Portugal’s first casino is located before returning to Lisbon.
Our day concluded with a walk along Avenida da Liberdade (Lisbon). The street reminded us of The Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris with its tree lined avenue and cafés. This Lisbon walkway though is filled with Classic Portuguese tiles displaying a variety of nautical patterns.
During our walk we stopped to listen to a street band playing Pink Floyd. They were not only good but got our attention because they were singing in English. After inquiring we were told that it’s pretty common for Portuguese bands to perform in English.
We got another thrilling taxi ride to the Lisbon Santa Apolania train station in Lisbon. 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. 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. We 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 journey 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 the facade covered in blue tiles. The path was also well marked with our beloved yellow arrows.
Here’s where the 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.
We had 15km of all three! After about four hours of playing “Dodge the Car”……We made it to our Hostel….alive!
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 of the 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 gone. 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. Like us, Ron also had walked that Camino. It’s funny that after you finish a long walk, it takes only about a week to forget the pain. 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 also allows one the ability to meet people of all walks of life . You have this opportunity to surround yourself in a culture and language different from your own. Simply said, it’s a way of propelling oneself outside of 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. 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. A lot of cobblestone was underfoot though making it difficult to walk. We both had to stop to change socks and reapply dressings to our feet.
At around 12:00pm we arrived in a small village by the name of Pedra Furada. There we had lunch at a cafe and befriended the restaurants owner Antonio.
The meal consisted of pork, blood sausage, potatoes and cabbage. It was really good and only 6 euros. Looking around at the walls you could see numerous jazz pictures. Allan asked him about it. Antonio then spoke of his love for jazz and the traditional Portuguese music. Shortly after that he slipped away to play a sampling of his favorite tunes over the restaurants speakers.
We arrived in Barcelos around 4:00pm exhausted. We had made no reservations and found ourselves 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 at Hotel do Terco across the street. For 45 euros we had a great room with a huge balcony that included breakfast.
That evening we strolled through the Campo da Feira. This is a place is where The town of Barcelo holds one of Portugal’s most popular open air market places. It was here that we had ran into a Dutch couple William and Betty that we had met earlier along the way. Latter that evening they joined us for dinner. William is a professional musician who plays with The National Holland Orchestra. Betty is a music teacher. Allan and I had both made an instant connection. We discussed 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. The Location was easy to find near the bridge. We found the view to be relaxing. 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. 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. We decided to wait it out and have breakfast at our hotel. It was getting late so we had to make the decision 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. Because of this we will not be able to earn our Compastelas. To earn ones Compostela you must walk at least the last 100km into Santiago. This would typically be from Valenca in Portugal just south of Tui to Santiago Spain, a total of 108km.
We arrived in Pontevedra around 12:45pm. Immediately upon walking out of the train station we saw yellow arrows and a fellow pilgrim.
We followed the arrows into the historic area of town. Shortly thereafter we 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. After a short walk about we saw classic European cars such as FIATS, numerous Volkswagon Bugs, Rolls Royce, tour busses, ambulances and SEATS.
Today we woke up to great weather. Our destination goal from Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis was a total of 23.1km. We decided to shorten this walk by 10km and taxi into San Amaro.
Here we began our journey by eating breakfast at a small cafe called Meson Don Pulpo. There was some guilt felt when we saw other fellow pilgrims arriving for nourishment. They obviously had been walking for hours!
The hike into Caldas de Reis was uneventful. Nice meandering trails with grape vineyards. There were very few places to fill our water bottles. So when we saw a sign for a small bar 500 meters off the Camino, we proceeded to follow it like blind sheep! The thought of Diet Coke was overpowering. When we arrived at the bar we had the impression we were their only customers. The family that owned the bar were eager to find out where we were staying or if we needed a place to rest. They were quite gracious and insisted on giving us advise on a short cut back to the Camino. We stayed on the original trail again following our yellow arrows.
We arrived in Caldas de Reis around 1:00pm. We arrived easily to our accommodations Hotel Davila. We paid 55 euros for a room that overlooked a bamboo garden. The Hotel Davala is an old school mineral hot springs spa founded in the 1950’s. It has 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. Here one can soak your feet in the thermal waters for free.
Latter that evening we wandered through town while ending up at a restaurant serving ice cream. As we hunkered down on our snack we checked out another Pilgrims hostile near by.
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.