10/3 – another 11 mile day to Valença, the last city before we cross the border into Spain. Our days in Portugal are coming to an end, and I find myself wanting to stay longer. We’ve found our comfort level with the little we know of the language, and can communicate enough to meet our needs. We negotiate the cafes, markets, post office and residencials. We’re starting to understand commercials and the news on TV. Starting over with a new set of challenges in a new country will be both exciting and exhausting. It also means there is only one week left in our Caminho…
Lots more flowers to enjoy on another warm and sunny day:
Valenca is a fortress town, responsible for keeping the ancient Spaniards out, I guess. The high walls of the Fortazela still surround the city, with cannon on the bulwarks:
There is an ancient marker here, from the time of Claudius Tiberius Caesar, 47A.D.:
…and several old churches including an Iglesia Santa Maria from the 12th century that had some interesting wooden artwork and the blue tiles (azules) that we so identify with Portugal:
The town also had bus loads of tourists shopping for linens and souvenirs:
At the end of town is the view over the Rio Minho, with the bridge that we will walk over tomorrow to Spain.
10/2 – Ponte de Lima is a town that doesn’t take itself too seriously:
A man stopped us to explain that when the Roman soldiers were ordered to cross the river into Ponte de Lima, they refused to do so, as the river was so beautiful that they feared they were crossing the River of Life…
We were on the road as the sun came up, and the music piped through the streets was a very mellow instrumental version of Hotel California: you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave…
Today we climbed a big hill. Took about an hour to get up, over big rocks. We were very glad it wasn’t raining, which would have made the rocks slippery. I was looking forward to capturing the panoramic view from the summit to share with you, but there was nothing to see, except the trail back down the other side! Oh well.
Lots more pilgrim rocks today. Jim says that Appalachian Trail hikers also add rocks to cairns, just to say, “I was here”.
We checked in at the first residencial we passed in Rubiaes, where there really isn’t any town. For the third day in a row, a nice lady has taken all our dirty clothes, washed them in her machine, and hung them up to dry for us. This is the cleanest our clothes have been in a month!
The waiter from the nearby restaurant picked us up at supper time, where we met all our friends of the day: Mary and John from Australia, Richard and Pat from Canada, Mark and Julie, young retired Americans who now live in Hungary, Hannah from Germany, and the Italians who climbed the hill with us. Good food and good company.
10/1 – Happy October! Instead of fall weather, it got sunnier and warmer today, back up into the 80s. After our killer breakfast – quiche, assorted cheeses, fresh fruit, fig cake from the figs in the yard, ham, olive loaf, quince marmalade, omelettes, well, you get the idea, we rolled out of Casas do Rio thinking we’d never have to eat again.
We walked eleven miles north, seeing pilgrims throughout the day – a young girl from Luxembourg, a nurse from Slovakia, two women from Hungary, Marcus, Sophia and Brigett from Switzerland, and a man from Lisbon! There were more that we didn’t get a chance to talk to. This Caminho is certainly getting crowded!
This is one of many shrines of St. James on the Way, with many rocks placed around it, to represent bringing your troubles or prayers, and leaving them with God. Some pilgrims carry rocks from their home countries.
The corn fields have been harvested:
…but lots of flowers are still blooming in the woods and along the roads:
Ponte de Lima is a lovely town right on the bank of the Rio Lima. Although traffic uses a modern bridge, the medieval ponte is still used for pedestrians.
9/30 – We bade farewell to Barcelos to walk eleven miles today. We got an email from our new friends Patricia and Ray, that Casas do Rio is the land of pilgrims dreams, with a pool, jacuzzi, sauna, wifi, laundry service, game room, and super breakfast. They were staying for three days, so we will catch up to them. Ooh my! We can’t wait!
Some interesting things we saw today:
The walk in was lovely, and we arrived in early afternoon, so we had plenty of time to jacuzzi and swim the afternoon away, and sample figs and kiwi from the fruit trees on the grounds. At supper time, a car arrived to take the four of us to a nearby restaurant, where we enjoyed good food and great company. We hope we’ll have another opportunity to spend time with Patricia and Ray.
9/28 – today is what hikers call a zero mile day. No agenda, just rest. We usually take an extra day when we get to a city, but spend it sightseeing and walking around, so it doesn’t qualify as zero miles. We only did a little walking today, and here’s what we saw:
The Remains of the Palace of the Counts from the 1400s:
The town square, Largo do Municipio:
The tower, Torre de Porta Nova, and the views from the top:
At 2 in the afternoon, the square, already busy with shoppers and cafe-sitters, came alive with music. Crowds gathered to listen to the music and dance. College students played mandolin and serenaded the crowd:
Our residencial is right on the Caminho and right on the square, and we took these pix from our balcony!
Many pilgrims start their journey in Porto, and today, for the first time, we met others walking the same path; Martin from London, a couple from Poland, a man from Hungary, a girl from Germany, and a couple, Patricia and Ray, from Sacramento! We walked with Patricia and Ray into the city, and met for a drink in the evening. So nice to share experiences, and to communicate in English!
For lunch, we stopped at a pilgrim-friendly restaurante where the proprietor’s picture was in our guidebook! We asked him to autograph his photo, and he was happy to oblige.
By 3pm we walked over the bridge into the city:
Throughout our travels in Portugal, we have encountered the image of a colorful rooster on many shops and souvenirs. Now that we are in Barcelos, here is the story of The Cock of Barcelos:
If you look closely at the cross, you will see St. James holding up the feet of the hanging man.
9/26 – I loved Porto, but it was time to move on. Today we walk 16 miles, taking 5 hours to actually get out of the suburbs of Porto and back to small towns, cornfields and cobblestone streets.
Our guidebook said that today was a good day to contemplate our mortality (because we had to cross a busy highway), and I guess we did. We stopped for a break at a cemetery, busy with workers and family members attending to the memorials on the graves. The custom here in the cemeteries we’ve seen is that bodies continue to be added to the original family plot, commemorated with small frames with pictures and details of each deceased. It reminds me of all the family pictures clustered on my mother’s piano…
Our goal today, Vilharino, is a mystery town, in that it is not listed either on a Google Maps, nor on the signs as we walk. When we get near, there are signs offering three choices of lodging: a monestary, and two hostels. One hostel offered free wifi, sheets, towels and a swimming pool! Guess which one we chose?
The Amadeu Vidal hostel is a private home, and not only did we get to swim in a crystal pool, our host also ran our laundry in his washing machine and hung it up to dry for us! We slept in a suite that contained a full kitchen and dining area, and the charge was ‘donativo’ – whatever we wished to pay. A lovely evening.
9/23 – 10 miles to Porto, 2nd largest city in Portugal, and full of neat stuff to see. After only getting about 5 hours of sleep, thanks to the mosquitoes, I was feeling a little rocky this morning, but the sun promised to come out today, so off we went.
Everything was a little soggy, but the old roads were passable, and soon we were approaching the city: .
I loved seeing the ruins covered in morning glories!
Our hotel is right in the center of the city, near the Torre Clerico:
We get free espresso in the morning, and free port wine all day long. Too bad I don’t drink wine!
We walked a little as the sun was setting:
…and visited the world’s most beautiful bookshop, the Lello Livraria:
9/22 – 100% rain all day, with 12 miles to cover and hurting ankles. No pix today. Wet boots, wet socks, wet everything! Puddles that covered our boots, slippery cobblestones, drivers going 70 kph and splashing us.
Other drivers slowing down to avoid splashing us, coming to a full stop so we can cross the street. A shopkeeper showing us his tally sheet of all the pilgrims who have come into his store, what countries they are from, and blessing our journey. His wife giving us home made candy, then making sure we each got a second piece. Meeting a fellow pilgrim from Denmark.
We arrived in a very bedraggled state at a new alburgue in Grijo, looking forward to a hot shower and a nap. Because it is new, we’ve seen no reviews, but are optimistic. The hostel has only one toilet, sink and one shower, lots of mosquitos, and no doors on the rooms. We have to sleep in bunk beds, and I have to take the top bunk. There is no soap or towels, so we shower and have to drip dry, and there are no sheets for the beds, so we just open our sleeping bags on the mattresses. The mosquitoes feast on us all night – I wish I still had my bug suit! We got very little sleep.
A day of mixed emotions, but tomorrow we will arrive in Porto!
9/21 – with only 6 miles on the agenda today, we took our time with the lovely breakfast and stayed at the 4 star hotel until checkout time. My ankles are giving me grief and are calling for a day off, but it is only two more days to Porto, so we carry on.
Today I especially noticed all the old walls that still define the properties and line the roads here. These walls were made by the hands of men a thousand, or two thousand years ago, and they stand firm and strong, still doing the job they were designed to do. Contrast this with America’s tendency to tear down and rebuild, even when what was there before was perfectly fine. A different way of looking at life.
In the old towns, we see abandoned stone houses with no roof, sharing a wall with freshly stuccoed and painted houses right next door. Same stones, there to reuse and renew…
Sao Joao (that’s St. John) is a big modern town with a mall, and an active center square, buzzing with people out on a Sunday afternoon. Although we are trying to rest my feet, we took a short walk to see the sights. Pope John Paul II seems pretty popular here:
…and we don’t know what this guy did to get on the wrong side of this lady:
We checked out our favorite supermarket, the Pingo Doce, and they had grilled chicken in the deli case! Now, frango (chicken) is just something you can’t get in this country. It’s not on the menu at any restaurant, and this is the first time we’ve seen it for sale. When we asked for half a chicken, the deli lady took it out of the case, brushed it all over with Piri Piri hot sauce, and used a big set of shears to cut it up into serving pieces. Then she wrapped it in brown paper and we had our supper! A Sunday treat for Americans!