Category Archives: Portugal

What We Like About Portugal

Here are some of the things we enjoyed in Portugal, in no particular order:

    The bluest skies ever
    365 ways to serve codfish
    Ginjha (regional cherry liqueur)
    Pasteles da Nata (custard tarts)
    The castle in Tomar
    The best things are found at the top of the highest hills
    Students with long robes of Coimbra University
    Pingo Doce (excellent supermarket)
    The yellow arrows marking the Caminho
    The time taken to mark wrong turns with big Xs to help us stay on the Caminho
    The nice people who greet us and bless us
    The hostels that washed our clothes!
    Grapes nearby whenever you need a snack
    Any meal can be improved by putting a fried egg on top!
    Sunshine and warm days in October

    We hope to return someday!

Beyond is and is not

Love Jim’s perspective…



Porto is a marvelous place, like a Disney  Land of the mind.

I gave a beggar a coin at the Igreja Paroquel de Santo Ildefonzo. He says “Obrigado” (Thank you). Karen and I meditate inside.

In 665 in his church, Bishop Ildefonzo had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Light engulfed the church and almost everyone except for Ildefonzo and a few deacons fled. The Virgin Mary provided Ildefonzo with a special garment to be worn on particular occasions.

We walk through the Praca Liberdale, listening to a street musician.

We visit the Porto train station, famous for its wall tiles.

The lower tile image portrays the Conquest of Ceuta in 1415 by Prince Henry the Navigator. Henry became an important organizer of the Age of a Discovery, supporting explorers who claimed vast lands for Portugal.

The upper image is of D. Joao I arriving in Porto for his wedding…

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If you want everything

From Jim:


We were concerned because our guidebook to the Caminho Portugues, by John Brierley, warned us that, when we left Porto, we would be required to run across a busy highway, climb over the central barrier, and then run across the lanes with traffic going in the opposite direction. The book warned that it would be unsafe to linger around the barrier because of the high speed traffic. The attempt would have to be scheduled at a time when there was a gap in traffic in both directions and the crossing required a continuos effect, one without hesitation. This feat would be required after a long pavement walk, Brierley said. Pilgrims might be tired and should prepare themselves mentally for the feat. Brierley suggested coming to terms “with the inherently impertinent nature of all physical forms.”

Karen was very uncomfortable with this plan. She did not wish to contemplate the inherently…

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Rubiaes to Valença – last day in Portugal

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. image


Farewell Portugal! We love you!

Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes

10/2 – Ponte de Lima is a town that doesn’t take itself too seriously: image

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.image

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.

Casas do Rio to Ponte de Lima

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.

Here’s a friendly fellow, welcoming us to town!


Barcelos to Casas do Rio

A quiz for you today:





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:image

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.


Excursion to Bom Jesus do Monte

9/29 – Our guidebook tells us that the most visited place in Portugal is the church of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga, which is a one hour bus ride from where we are in Barcelos. As we don’t plan to be back here any time soon, we thought we’d better see it while we’re in the neighborhood.

First, let me confess that I’ve been calling this place Da Bomb Jesus – because it’s gotta be da bomb! So I had to ask for a lesson on proper pronunciation before we set out. As close as I can spell it phonetically, it is called Bon Jay-ZOOSH. The nice lady at the tourist office made me say it three times, and suggested that I open my mouth wider when I speak.

So we caught the 8am bus to Braga, which is the third largest city in Portugal, then caught a local bus to take us to Good Jesus of the Mount. Once there, we had the option of walking up the 400 feet of steps, or taking the only water driven funicular in Portugal, which has been in operation since 1888. We opted to ride up and then walk down.

The funicular consists of two trolley cars. The one at the top is weighted with water, which makes it head downhill, thereby pulling the other one uphill. That explanation was longer than the ride:

Here is the church, which includes a reliquary chapel and the displayed remains of Sao Clemente: image
The altar:
Reliquary chapel, containing bones of saints:
A beautiful Virgin:
Sao Clemente – I can’t find any info on a Portuguese St. Clement, so not sure who this guy might be: image

Continuing up the hill beyond the church is a serenely beautiful park, allowing time for quiet reflection:

The view from the top, through the morning mist: image


The leisurely walk down, which included fountains of the five senses:

Life size dioramas of the passion story:

And lots of statues and steps. Bom Jesus is a pilgrimage site, and penitents walk up the many flights of zig-zag steps on their knees, but we didn’t see any today: image


A beautiful day!

A Sunday in Barcelos

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!

Vilharino to Barcelos

9/27 – 17 miles today will get us to Barcelos. image



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: image


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.




Tomorrow, a day of rest.