Camino Portuguese XXVII

  There’s always something you don’t manage to do! And on this trip there have been lots of things. With only one day in Porto it was only ever going to be a taste, but what a taste it was! 
The day before we left Santiago our host said, “it’s a pity you are leaving in the morning; we have a festival here tomorrow night!” There would be bonfires in every square and celebrations long into the night. We arrived in Lisbon to discover their festivities had been the day before!!  

   

  When we were walking we also missed out on things. Many of the churches along the way were closed when we passed and we didn’t linger in the hope that they would open. There were some delightful towns where you could easily spend a day – Barcelos, Valencia, Tui, Pontevedra, Redondela – but we didn’t do a lot more than walk through them with our senses on high alert. Yet this was the right thing to do at the time.

When we decided to take a trip, we could have chosen to do anything – cruise to Antrctica, beach hop in Greece, visit Disneyland like we did on our honeymoon…..but we chose to walk the “Caminho Portugues”. We should have walked the Via de la Plata, the Silver route, seeing as it’s our silver anniversary, but that’s 1,000km and we couldn’t squeeze it in to three weeks!

And so we come to our final day in Portugal.  

 We could  climb back up to  St George’s castle. We could visit any of the many art galleries and museums that would take at least a week to go round. We could take a tuktuk ride. But at 75euros for a couple of hours, that was never going to be an option! Instead we buy a 6euro transport card, which gives us unlimited access to metro, trams and busses for 24 hours.  Steep streets we have already walked can now be effortlessly climbed in the world-famous-in-Lisbon Number 28 tram. We are surprised to discover there is only a small portion of the route we have not already traversed.  But it is far more fun to rattle along in these 1930s  rickety contraptions that would only be seen in a museum in any other city.  They  groan as they creep up the hills, then zoom with gay abandon down the other side. At times they pass other vehicles with only inches to spare. Other lanes we wind through are so narrow there is no room for anything else. 

  

    

 

Then we switch to a modern tram and head out to Belem. We know there is a monastery, an explorers’ monument and a small but significant tower there. What we have no clue about is just how enormous and ornate the monastery and church are. Here we meet with our first tourist hoards, but it is still possible to sit in contemplative silence and observe. In fact, we notice most people rush through, stopping only long enough to take a selfie. I wonder how many people get home and struggle to remember seeing the  things they posed in front of.  

   


Across the road is a lovely riverside walk with buskers and beggars and sunglasses sellers… 

   

  
With time to spare, we consult our little list of things to do in Lisbon and pick the contemporary art gallery – primarily because there is no admission charge and we are saving our last euros for food! Probably not our best decision to date. In retrospect, it would have been better to forgo food and feast our eyes at the tile museum (no, really!) Not much of the modern art piqued our interest beyond a cursory glance  


    (Does this look like an old suitcase on a sofa with concrete?? There is actually something similar on the sidewalk just round the corner from where we are staying!)
  …and so we opt to look for lunch as it is fast approaching 4pm! Last day in Portugal calls for something typical, right? Will it be pork or seafood? We are presented with a plate of olives and basket of bread. Then we tuck in to a couple of bowls of Indian chicken curry! 

There is only one thing left to do before packing and sleeping until 3am: buy specialty cheeses and olives to take home.  You should have seen us running to catch the metro so we could get these precious babies into a fridge as quickly as possible.

We end our time with no regrets about what we did not do, but full of thanks for what has been possible. 

 Question for the children: which of those exhibits at the art gallery is a Salvador Dali one?

Camino Portuguese XXVI

Senses are on high alert for the first 24 hours you’re in a new place. Lisbon is the place and the time is just up. Our usual plan of attack is to walk the neighbourhood of wherever we are staying. We did that last night and put in over 20km. That’s the benefit of starting before dawn, changing time zones so you get an extra hour and not stopping til after dark. We didn’t actually plan to walk for so long. We wandered until we were tired, then set the GPS to take us home by the shortest route. The only problem was that the GPS-Setter accidentally plugged in the location of the aqueduct across town that we intended to visit today! Let’s just say we almost got to see it last night, and when the mistake was noted, we were so tired it caused laughter rather than complaint. I may have grizzled momentarilly, however, when we turned a corner and were faced with climbing the hill that the funicular travels by day – there’s a reason they use a machine to move people up that hill! And so one of the first observations about Lisbon is made: it is hilly (and related to this fact, there are lots of stairs)

   

      

 The very first conscious observation which grew stronger as the evening progressed is that this is a very cosmopolitan city. Walking down the street we passed all sorts of nationalities. There are Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Turkish, Nepali and Polynesian restaurants, as well as Portuguese ones. As for Portuguese establishments, there is a bar/pasteleria on every corner and three more between.  

   

    

 (mil folhas & tigelada for breakfast)

So if there is a bar on very corner, there is a monument or fountain in every square:  

   

   

   

  

The city has a vibe quite like Berlin. I’m not sure if it’s the grand monuments or colourful graffiti everywhere or the street performers…   

    
The scale of this city really is grand. When you are a top one of the seven hills its breadth is striking – it stretches for miles. When you are at ground level, you can’t help but notice the solid dimensions of the buildings lining wide avenues. And at the same time, narrow houses nestle together in narrow lanes.  There are wide open spaces.. There is majesty. There is also shabby.

   

     

            
I have been smitten by the colours of the city. Rarely are two adjoining buildings the same colour, but it is not a garish mish-mash  as most of the colours are pale shades or muted tones. 

   

   

   

   

   

   

 

As we traipsed across the city today, we commented on how we are a good fit for each other – we both enjoy walking, neither of us minds walking a few kilometers to save a metro fare, and we both like to move slowly across a town to get a feel for it. We had read online that getting to the aqueduct is really tricky as not much public transport goes nearby. But when we looked on the map, we saw it was only about 4km from our hostel so we decided to walk. We wanted to check out a supermarket in the opposite direction first (we’re on the hunt for nice cheese to take home) so we did that too, increasing the distance somewhat! We didn’t mind. The aqueduct, built in the 1700s is a pretty impressive piece of construction:  

   

   

 

Walking along the outside of the structure afforded great views of the city and river. Well worth doing if you’re ever in Lisbon! I can’t tell you if the water museum or the steam pumping station or the hydraulic engineering something-or-other are as worthwhile as we went for the simple entry that allowed access only to the aqueduct itself. I’m guessing you might need to be an engineer to enjoy the other options! We saved our money for more cheese to take home!

Camino Portuguese XXV

 Started at Santiago train station before sunrise. Traveling back over the way we had walked was strangely moving. Memories flooded back and we talked. I also wrote the following little summary of our Camino experience for anyone who might be thinking of doing it themselves.

Doing the Camino Portuguese was a spontaneous decision for us. We are familiar enough with camino-ing now that we could pack our bags and be off in no time at all. When we first decided to walk again, we thought we’d do the Camino Madrid, but the kids urged us to go somewhere different and we listened. However, we did very little planning and other than knowing that many people have walked this route and loved it, we did not have much idea what was involved. We glanced at a guide, but elected to just read the relevant pages each evening before walking rather than reading up before we left.

So there were a lot of surprises for us.

First of all, the good……

 The food was very inexpensive, very tasty and the variety of pastries outshone Spanish ones. Not that the Spanish ones are bad, but they are largely limited to croissants or chocolate napolitanas, whereas along the Portuguese there are all sorts. Add to that a wide range of seafood, from Rob’s favourite word “chiperones” (squid) to cod, from octopus to whole sardines. And then there’s pig in all its forms (bacon, ham, smokey, not, shaved, thick, roast, you name it!) And don’t forget the fruit – right now berries and cherries, peaches (especially flattos), melons – and the promise of a grape harvest to come. In fact, at the end of the day, we will remember this as a Food Camino. That’s how good it was!

 Likewise, the albergues were good to exceptional. Being a less busy route than the Frances, there was no rush to get a bed, and there was only one night that every bed in the municipal albergue was taken (at O Porinno). They were also cheap – usually 5 euros per person. Additionally, there is quite some variety. In only twelve days of walking we stayed in two monasteries and two family homes as well as the more “standard” accommodations. If anyone were contemplating this route, I would recommend they make an effort to stop at these places – the monasteries at Vairoa and Herbon, Casa de Fernanda at XXX and Quinta Estrada Romana just after XXX. Another fantastic albergue, which has only just opened and has the most amazing facilities we came across is at Arcade. There are also private pensions and hotels in many towns. The accommodations may not appear as frequently as on the Framces, but they were close enough to provide flexibility. It must have worked out about half the time that we tentatively headed for one location, but ended up walking on further without the distances being too excessive (33km was our longest day and that included wandering round a town).

    The way marking is faultless and so frequent (almost to the point of excessive in places) that there is no room for doubt.*  In fact, if way markings were the only consideration, this would be an excellent first Camino.

However, there are a couple of other factors that make me hesitant to unreservedly recommend this route, especially to a first-timer.

Firstly, this route begins in Portugal (being called the Portuguese-n-all) and that means there are Portuguese drivers. Now before you accuse me of being too harsh or making too broad a generalization, I will admit my observations are based on only one week’s walking in the country. However, I will add that everyone  we have spoken with reached the same conclusion. A Swiss gentleman we met succinctly stated, “The Portuguese drive fast and don’t give a damn!”  In other (more polite) words, drivers show complete disregard for pedestrians. They drive fast, even on the narrow lanes that wind through villages. This is in total contrast to Spanish drivers, who slow down as they approach, possibly give you a wave, and definitely stop if you are standing anywhere near a pedestrian crossing.

Additionally, this route has quite a bit of road walking, and in places where there is little or no shoulder. While we did not mention it in earlier blogposts so that no-one would worry, there were sections that felt (or were) dangerous.

Another drawback to this route is the relative lack of scenic interest. Of the seven routes I have now done, this is the least stunning. The others were spectacular, and the Portuguese just cannot compete. There are very few long stretches in nature – mostly you are walking from one village or town that fairly seamlessly merges into the next one.  We even felt at times that the nature trails were an ideal place for weirdos (for lack of a better word) to hang out – conveniently close to residential areas, but providing cover. (On the other hand, there are women who have walked this route solo and never felt in danger).

 Finally, the cobblestones. From Porto to Xxxxx (check location and insert – Barcelos? Tui?) there are long punishing stretches of uneven blister-causing soul-destroying cobbles. Consider yourself warned!

By now I must sound like a real cheer germ! I don’t mean to dissuade you from choosing this path, but to highlight what you might encounter. Actually, if you are someone who wants to use English as the lingua franca, this could be the perfect Camino – almost everyone speaks at least some – and often excellent – English. If you want a Camino that you don’t need to carry food on, this would be ideal (that is, the Central route is well-littered with bars; the coastal route not so much). And if you want a Camino where you meet all sorts of interesting people, then chances are high this route would provide – that was certainly our experience! (Just make sure you have well-cushioned shoes or sandals and a high visibility vest)

* faultless way marking comment: the exception that proves the rule here is O Porinno, where the locals have blacked out the arrows – just follow the black and you’ll be right. Then when you get to the River versus Bridge option immediately before the town, take the river again – it will take you directly to the Municipal Albergue.

Question for the kids: what is the precious metal associated with a 25th wedding anniversary? (Answer will appear in tomorrow’s post, along with some commentary!)

 As we walked round Lisbon in the afternoon-which-dragged-past-sunset we found more yellow arrows. We also clocked up well over 20km, which is not bad when you consider we also had eight hours on three trains today!

Camino Portuguese XVII

  Goodbye Portugal, Hola Spain!

Goodbye cars racing fast, goodbye cobblestones, goodbye cornfields, goodbye custard tarts. Hola everybody greeting us, hola familiarity, hola empanada!  

 

We didn’t know if we would stop either in Valenca (Portugal) or cross the river into Tui (Spain). As it turned out….. 

  we crossed the bridge having had only a little look round Valenca…..

    

   

  ….and then we kept going. We were definitely in walking mode rather than wandering-and-looking mode.

The view from the bridge was quietly stunning:

   With stepping into Spain time moved back an hour so we decided we had time to press on another 17km to the next stop (which turned out to be faulty thinking as we actually lost an hour coz it jumped forward!)

   

  This included taking a riverside detour in an area where the locals don’t want you to take the detour because you won’t be able to stop at their bar. They have been vigilant at painting out the arrows with black paint, so we followed black marks for a while!  

  Some time later we came to another river versus industrial estate option and this time we made a poor decision! Let’s blame it on the heat or distance or something – the last 5km were a hard slog and when we finally arrived we had done over 30km. Art and Mike who we walked with yesterday and said goodbye to this morning, thinking we would not see them again, greeted us as we arrived at the albergue! They had been determined to take river options, but ended up with lots of industrial estate pictures to show us…..and subsequently were even less impressed than we were!

But no one can stay too grumpy with the “Happy” song chirping cheerily out of bars (just like it did on last year’s Camino) and having hot showers and bumping into new friends and finding wifi and chocolate muesli! (Although Rob is verging on frustrated after an hour of wifi-use trying to book trains to return to Lisbon in a week and having no success whatsoever! And to add to his happiness, we had the phone plugged in to a power point which was not working! Problems we are fortunate to have!!)

Question for the kids: what memories do you have of Spain?

PS Rob then spent another LONG time registering and playing with train bookings only to be refused!!!

Camino Portuguese XVI

Question for the kids….some of today’s story is not entirely accurate – can you work out what is true and what is not?

Today the weather forecast was for rain. It was also the day we were to do the biggest climb on this Camino.  We walked with two men from New England. Their names are Mart and Ike. Ike was a ratbag, about to be sent to prison as a nineteen year old. Mart rescued him, adopting him into his family when he was just 26 years old himself. Ike did call Mart “Dad”, so there was some plausibility to this story. And they are serious Americans, who of course would never tell a lie (that’s what they said anyway – whether it is the truth is another matter)

Apparently Mart is 85 years old – he’s doing really well bouncing up the hills. I’m not sure they believed that our Grandpa really did walk the camino at 80 years of age!

Ike talked about making maple syrup and even had videos and photos on  his phone to prove this might be true. Co-incidentally, we then stumbled up the hill through the pine forest where bags of something was being collected, in a similar fashion to how they collect maple sap.

   It takes 40 liters of sap to make one liter of maple syrup!!

As we walked, we talked and discovered more of their stories. Mart hired Ike for a teaching job back in the 1980s, even though he turned up a whole hour late to the interview. He says they were desperate. But the two of them seem to get on OK now when they’re not hassling each other. In fact, Mart who lives six hours away turned up to support Ike six hours after hearing his wife had died. Sounds like Mart’s wife likes Ike as much as Mart does – she certainly gives Ike as hard a time. For example, she asked Ike to make sure Mart changes his socks on the Camino.

Ohh, and we found out Ike is actually 61 years old…which helped clarify the authenticity (or lack thereof) of  some of the earlier stories.

 
Remember that rain I told you about? You can see those clouds full of it. Sometimes it leaked out. It would drop steadily enough that we would all put jackets/ponchos on. The problem wasn’t so much the rain as the fact that it was humid, so our new friend Ike would get even more wet under his poncho than if he had walked in the rain. This made him think wearing a poncho was an exercise in futility, and so he would remove his poncho. And this would cause the rain to start again!! (True story)

Another true story: Ike just came downstairs from having a nap in the hundreds-of-years-old farmhouse we are staying in…….he thought he would take a walk (it’s what you do after walking 30.7km!!)  and as soon as he stepped outside (without his poncho) it started to rain.

Anyway, back to the day…..it was a wonderful walk mostly through forest trails. There were fewer cobblestones than previously, but even they provided respite from the other stones:

  

So what do you think kids? Any lies?

And tonight we have a private room with ensuite in a stone farmhouse called Quinta Estrada Romana (Farm on the Roman Road) and someone is cooking us dinner and breakfast is all laid out ready. Art and Mike are doing stuff on their phones. Look – it’s true:

Camino Portuguese XV

  Today’s story really starts last night!  Fernanda cooked us a wonderful meal with vegetables straight from her garden. There was grilled sausage and cod fish fillets and whole sardines and crispy pork. There were bottles of homemade wine and then ports (white and tawny) with chocolates….and then cheese and fire water….and pickled cactus (for real)….the food just kept coming and coming. Then some bread and raspberry jam, because Fernanda had just made the jam and wanted to try it. At some point in the proceedings Fernanda’s husband, Jacinto, tried to get a sing-song going, but we non-singing pilgrims were all rescued by the solo French lady who collapsed as she tried to wander outside presumably for a breath of fresh air.   Portuguese, Italian, Polish, French and English all mingled as we tried to help each other help her. She came round after a few moments and took herself off to bed; conversation resumed and singing was not mentioned again! 

 Eventually we too headed for bed. And not just any bed. It was a double bed with sheets in a private room. A couple from the Camino Forum (wave to annakappa and fraluchi) who had stayed there the night before had kindly told Fernanda we were coming and so she reserved the one and only private room for us. No snorers, no  squeaking mattresses, no bunks, no rattling plastic bags early in the morning. In fact, no early morning at all. Breakfast was set for 8am.

And so when the rain started drumming on the roof at 5am, we ignored it and stole another 40 winks.

Breakfast was as comprehensive as dinner (minus the alcohol but with more of the homemade jam), and it took quite some self-control to actually leave such wonderful hospitality!   The rain had reduced to drizzle, but even  that did not dampen our spirits.  For the first time the paths were not predominantly cobbles underfoot and for the first time there were longsih stretches of nature instead of just walking from one residential area which merged immediately with the next.  

There were a lot of farms (new Portuguese word for the day – quinta) and the hills got closer and it was quite simply a relaxing walk. The final stretch into town was along a wide boulevard of oak trees:  

 Oh yes, and it was only 15km, so that made it feel very restful too. We arrived in Ponte de Lima, Portugal’s oldest town, and one which has had a bridge crossing the river for two thousand years, well before we could consider having lunch, so we just wandered.   

  Whenever the rain intensified we took cover under handily-placed canopies. Later we would discover Mr Brazil left the place we stayed last night quite a bit after us and walked the whole day in pouring rain – we were really very fortunate to mostly miss it. As I type right now, we are hunkered down in a warm dry albergue and the rain is bucketing down. All the other pilgrims have just left to go back across the river (in the pouring rain) to find the restaurant where we had lunch. We had arrived so early and the albergue did not open until 4pm so we had hours to fill in – what better way to do it than lingering over a three course pilgrim meal with wine and coffee?  

Strong hot showers followed by a few hours of reading and writing and knitting served to ensure it remained a very relaxing day.  

14.4km + 7km round town….drizzle….14 degrees

      

14.4km + 6.6km round town….drizzle….14 degrees

Camino Portuguese XIV

Time to answer some questions:

Is it lonely? Are there many other pilgrims?  


 Yesterday we met ten other pilgrims over the course of the whole day out walking and four of them were in one group. So, yes, it’s quiet. Today we walked a while with a guy from Brazil….and later with a Polish guy who is with three Polish girls –  he’s been to NZ, we’ve lived in Poland – there were stories to exchange. They were the group of four we passed yesterday. Pilgrim camaraderie is growing – faces become familiar and you start recognizing which backpack belongs to which person. We’ve chatted with Germans and Swiss and South Koreans and Colombians and Canadians and Australians…no, it’s not lonely. But it is much quieter than the Frances route through Spain. (It’s also only our third day)

We heard today that there is a Finnish family ahead of us – the father is blind and has a guide dog, the mother pushes their two children in a stroller. We met them last year on the Frances – maybe we’ll see them again!

Mum, are you wearing a yellow shirt? Actually it’s a high viz vest. In the words of one of the Swiss gentlemen, “Portuguese drivers are fast and don’t give a damn.” That sums up the situation well; the drivers DO hurtle along at speed and as there is a fair bit of road walking, sometimes with barely any shoulder, being seen is a priority. In fact, a fellow pilgrim was run over yesterday, and we don’t want to become yet another statistic.

Is it cold? After last week’s mid-thirties, the temperature drop to 18 today is decidedly fresh! Additionally, we set out in drizzle this morning (which added “slippery” to our cobblestone antics!!) We are certainly grateful to have packed longs and fleeces – and my sleeping bag.

Have you seen any rabbits? Yesterday one darted out from a hole in a stone wall. It was just a young thing, not even as old as Peter Rabbit. It ran ahead of us, then stopped. It darted back and forth across the road, clearly agitated and as desperate as Peter was to get out of Mr McGregor’s garden – only this one wanted to get back IN the garden! In an act of sheer desperation the ball of light brown fur bounded past us, up the road and back through the wall. It was all over too fast to get a picture for you Tessa, but I snapped these goats this morning:  IMG_4196

Have you seen any snakes? No, but there are a lot of squashed frogs on the road.

Rob, were you ever actually walking with Rachael? Haha 😀 Photos are proof right?

  Actually, we seldom walk side-by-side. Rob has a psychological thing going on that requires him to be in front. And when he’s in front I tend to drop back so that I get a view of more than his backpack! Besides, if you’re on a narrow track or on the road, it’s best to not be holding hands – funnily enough, when we were staging that photo, we had to jump off the narrow road because a truck full of calves came along!         And when you see scenic shots with no people in them, chances are, we are standing together;-)

PS details about the day to follow

Camino Portuguese XIII

The nice thing about this route is that it seems it would be impossible to get lost. Someone with a lot of time and an interest in The Yellow Paint Company has done a very thorough job of applying arrows along the way.    And just in case you wonder about which way to take, crossses tell you where NOT to go…..here’s the other part of the intersection shown above: 

The not-so-nice thing about this route is the hard surfaces underfoot. Especially the cobblestones. They provide a good workout as you try to remain upright (and try not to leave your walking pole stuck in the gaps between them)….but when you are doing over 30km with a pack on your back you really don’t go looking for additional physical challenges!  Not that you have to look for the cobbles – they just turn up. Big ones, small ones, uneven ones, flat ones, rounded ones, all sorts. 
  

 
But it’s not all cobbles….
   

  

  

   

 Distinctive features of today include corn fields…..high walls enclosing fields  (and by “high” I mean 2–3  metres tall)…corn…eucalyptus and pine trees……upmarket homes with manicured lawns and clipped hedges and “styled” trees….fields of corn   

….grape vines  

  

 Tonight we are tired. We walked well, even if we did get a bit silly at one (late) stage, but it was a long day. We had been told this stage was 26km but our GPS reading was over 31km when we arrived, and it sure felt like it! Poor ol’ Rob thought we would never arrive!  He had good reason to want to stop – blisters on his little toes were growing despite expert taping. So when we did eventually get here, I went straight out again to find different medical supplies for him. Once that mission was completed, Mission Number Two was to find a supermarket to buy food.   More miles! Then just because we had not walked enough, we headed over to the market which only happens on a Thursday and we happen to have turned up here on a Thursday. It is the biggest market in Portugal, and indeed it is enormous.. Somewhat lacking energy, we simply skirted the edge of it and went and sat down inside a church (after pulling the handle right off the door as we entered!)

 Rob still had not had enough walking so we wandered the town until I knew I had only enough steps left in me to get back to the albergue! 47,011 so far today!

Question for the children: which of these two buildings is a monastery?(we stayed in it last night  — we are staying at the other one tonight) 


 And can you guess which beds go in which building? 

 

Camino Portuguese XII

When Rob discovered a pair of kid’s socks in his pack this morning he was surprised.

When I opened a small packet of butter to spread on our bread rolls this morning I was surprised to discover fresh yeast!

 As we were walking across this bridge we were startled to hear sirens start sounding. We quickened our pace and made it across just before the bridge rose behind us!

And more surprises were in store. We  were surprised (but pleasantly so) to be cold all day – this evening we’re even wearing longs and fleeces! 18 degrees is not tropical after mid-thirties.

IMG_4140   Rob thought someone was pushing his pack, but it turned to be the wind!


 We knew we were to spend a lot of the day on boardwalks; what we did not know was that they would disappear. So we scrambled along the beach and dipped fingers in the un-tropical water.

  

We were walking along the coast, but we did not know we would pass a wee fishing community. Although it was still early in the morning, a group of men were cooking fish over some coals. Others were dragging a boat up the beach with a tractor. Still more were laying nets out to dry.

After a morning of most people not returning our “Bom dia” greetings, we were surprised when an 81-year-old man started chatting and sharing his life story. Although he had never studied languages at school and only spoke “street language” as he called it, his English was impeccable. Born in this wee town, he had left it as a youngster, going to Rhodhesia and the Congo to work. Like his father, and his grandfather before him, fishing was in his blood. Eventually he returned to Vila Cha, where we were sitting in the restaurant he had opened. The curtains had sailing boats on them – the boat his grandfather had built. Half his teeth were missing, but he smiled generously as he talked. Another pleasant surprise.

Later, as we sat at the side of the road eating cherries, a pilgrim approached. He did not want to share our fruit and strode on by, but a couple of hours later this Frenchman, Sebastian, was offering to cook us dinner!  Here he is with the leftovers which ended up feeding three Colombians who turned up late.

 A day full of surprises!

Question for the children: What do you think these are for? Hint – they date back to Roman times – the second and third centuries. There are about thirty of them.

Matosinhos to Vairao  via the coast and turning inland at Vila Cha. 26.7km.

For anyone who wants to do this route, it is straightforward IF you have a map to follow. Turn right at the Pucinho Restaurante e Snack-Bar. Most of the way from Vila Cha is on cobblestones with the rest on footpaths or tarmac roads. Cars race by at speed, even on the narrowest roads so pay attention! There are plenty of little food shops and bars along the way.

Ending at the monastery at Vairao is fantastic! The rooms have just 3-6 beds and plenty of space. There is a fully equipped kitchen, no shortage of showers, a beautiful garden. Blankets are provided – and heaters in winter. Best of all is the time when Carla arrives. She breezes in, sharing her passion for the Camino in general and this restored monastery in particular – eventually they are even going to have a museum here. She willingly shared stories and brought the place to life. If every albergue was like this one you might never go home – and indeed you wouldn’t have to as they are open all year round.   Carla

Camino Portuguese XI

Porto central to Matosinhos – about 20km – early 30s  

The walking begins. We start at Porto’s cathedral, collecting our first stamp and finding the first arrows.   

A pilgrim’s life is simple – walk, food, lodging. And that sums up today.

It just so happens that the walking took us first of all to the wine caves and some port sampling 😉  (When in Rome……and when in Porto it would be culturally churlish to bypass an establishment that has been in existence since the 1500s)   

   Actually,  we had gone to the market on the way to the cathedral  and had bought provisions – cherries and two types of peach including our favourite flattos. There were plenty of other options too:   

     We passed on them all, even those massive buckets of olives, not long ago having had breakfast…..    

We sampled a Portuguese specialty for lunch. Francesinha could be described as a toasted sandwich on steroids, but that really would be doing it a great disservice. It is true, you do start with two thickly sliced pieces of substantial sourdough bread. Between them you layer slices of ham and salami and sausage and a pork cutlet. On top of the sandwich go many slices of a rich cheese which all end up melted together. Just in case this is not rich enough on its own, it is served swimming in a rich creamy tomato sauce!

After struggling our way through this delight, we thought we’d never eat again. But after a few kilometers of walking we refreshed ourselves with this: 

 Perhaps you will not be surprised to discover dinner was a simple affair – salad followed by yoghurt. 

 Oh, and there were some fantastic views too that feed the soul    

   
  

And eventually we ended up in tonight’s lodgings:  

  Question for the children:  how many cobblestones are climbing up this hill?