Any Portuguese town looks like a bride’s finery – something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. – Mary McCarthy
August 23-24, 2019
Using old school maps we walk along the metro line in Matosinhos until we need to go away from it to find our hostel for the next two nights. (Actually, Randy and Joan read maps and I just follow.) We manage to wind around neighborhoods, a large hospital, and cross crazy traffic until Randy spies a tiny sign in front of the building – Oportocean Hostel.
A metro line stop is practically in our back yard, so off we go to the old section of Porto, to take advantage of a free Porto Walking Tour advertised. Look for the orange umbrella for a tour in English. The tour guide is fabulous, taking us all around the old city centre, along the Douro River, while pointing out interesting landmarks and sharing a tremendous amount of history for two full hours. This young lady will do very well in life and we make sure to tip her accordingly.
Shame on people that ditch a tour when it is almost over to avoid tipping. Rant over.
We bid farewell to Albergue Seminario Menor, Santiago, Spain and hike to the bus station to catch a bus back to Porto, Portugual. It’s kind of interesting to speed past towns and the path that took us fourteen days to walk.
Upon arrival in Porto we fire up Google Maps and proceed to locate Oporto Brothers Hostel. Intersections do pose to be a challenge when there are at least six or eight streets fanning out from the center, but with the help of locals, police and Google Maps we find our way to the correct neighborhood. Things begin to appear more run-down in this section of town… don’t think I’d want to wander too far in the dark around here. Google Maps says we have arrived, but we see nothing as to signage for our hostel. What to do? Start knocking on doors, I guess, until someone helps us. Yep, that works… we find the hostel name on a tiny hand written slip of paper taped to the doorbell.
Tomorrow we’ll put one foot in front of the other and walk to the Porto cathedral to start our coastal section of Camino Portuguese. This may be a backwards approach to the camino, but it works for us. Make your own path, hike your own hike.
I find joy in living day to day, not in the future.
August 17, 2018 | 26.5 kilometers | Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis
Apparently, we missed a huge celebration during the night and as we leave our hostel a little after 5 a.m. we find a young man slumped over a table. This larger facility has a security system, so this sleepy young man most likely found himself locked out of the building after partying. Oh well…
The groups of men huddled together near alleyways (especially near the ATM machine) bring our guard up a notch. Leaving town poses to be challenging in the dark, but friendly, young revelers help us out with directions to the river, so we find our way to cross the long bridge. An older gentleman on his early morning walk is also kind enough to give us a detailed city map and directions.
Why the early start? It appears no beds are available to reserve in our destination of Caldas de Reis, so we opt to race for the 50 beds at the Municipal Albergue. Excitement fills the air as we count out backpacks in line and discover we made the cut-off…46, 47, 48! The crowd of fellow pilgrims cheer along with us, Yay, Minnesota! We wait until the 1 p.m. opening and continue to stand in line as each pilgrim is slowly checked in. As we get closer to the building entrance we are able to chat with friends already checked in as they leave to shower at the city pool since the albergue showers are dirty. I overhear others leaving to go to the drug store to purchase bed bug spray. No big deal… at least it’s a bed and we’ll survive. We get within 4 people and discover they only have a total of 42 beds (per small hand written sign in door) and we are turned away.
Luckily, an assertive (Irishman that lives in Italy?) man with excellent Spanish speaking skills takes on the role of advocate for all of us waiting in line. The albergue employees say they can do nothing as there are no beds available in the whole town, so we all must start walking the 10 kilometers to the next town, (Even though it is now mid-afternoon.) Our spokesperson continues to argue and scolds them for not cutting off the line of pilgrims hours earlier to allow time for those of us without beds to walk on. He insists the community must attempt to accommodate this overflow of pilgrims and proceeds to call the police, churches and hospital to no avail. Not one to give up, he continues to plead his (our) case. Like a true Camino miracle, affordable beds a short walk away and just a few Euros more than the public albergue magically become available. Yes, the Camino provides…
Our Camino Angel advocate is still very upset with the municipal albergue and the unprepared, unresponsive community, so he continues walking down the road. I hope he finds a bed.
Saturday, August 11, 2018: Casa Fernanda to Ponte de lima. We sadly bid farewell to our new friends at Casa Fernanda and embark on a short, but hot 12 kilometer day. It’s as though the hills are singing to us as we walk from one festival to another.
Below is a short video of Day 6:
A line of RV’s from all around Europe are parked along the river take on the duties of “Welcome Wagon” as we enter Ponte de Lima, so it took a while to visit with the gang. It’s hot and we have been told the Municipal Albergue de Pereginos doesn’t open its doors until 5 p.m. All the time in the world, right?
Wrong… Randy makes the trip across the bridge (While Joan and I have a cold beverage) to check out the bed situation and discovers Albergue de Peregrino opens at 4 p.m. and he is encouraged by camino friends to get our bags in line ASAP! We quickly get all of our bags across the bridge and get in line for beds. When the doors do open we stand in a long, slow line for well over an hour, but it’s worth it as we do get beds.
All low beds and we have a beautiful view… A-a-a-ah-h-h-h.
Friday, August 10, 2018: Will we walk 32 kilometers today?
After a festive evening listening to boy scouts singing folk songs, we rise at the early hour of 5 a.m. to tackle a long day of walking from Barcelos, Portugal. I appreciate the nice kitchen provided by the author of the Brierly Camino Guide and prepare coffee to help jump-start the day.
Inquiring minds will want to watch the video below… Joan, Randy & Joyce take on Camino Portuguese Day Five.
We enjoy the wonderful people we have met across the globe, but some precautions are necessary. We have found value in dressing down (no flashy or expensive items showing), saying no when needed, being aware of people/surroundings while making any money transactions and keeping passport/money secure and under wraps.
Travel is not a reward for working, it’s an education for living. ~ The Travel Channel
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Maya Angelou
9-22-2016: Breathtaking… remarkable… amazing…First ancient Roman baths, then a palace and finally León Cathedral, dedicated to Santa María de la Regla, which was declared of Cultural Interest in 1844. It is known as the Pulchra Leonina and is a masterpiece of the Gothic style of the mid-13th century. The design is attributed to the architect Enrique. By the late 16th century it was virtually completed. ~WikipediaI found it fascinating that the stained glass on the north side of the tower features cool colors to represent the Old Testament; the south side’s stained glass uses warmer colors to show how Christ brought light to the New Testament. This design also takes into account the movement of the sun during the day. Now that took an architect with keen attention to detail…
Before leaving the hostal, I check out Facebook and notice an American Pilgrims on the Camino Facebook friend is staying at the famous luxury hotel called the Parador. Thinking I’m clever, I leave a comment that I will wave at him as I walk by in about an hour.
Around noon we leave the historic center of Leon with a 7 kilometer hike to Virgen del Camino as our destination.
Short video from our short journey today.
Approaching this magnificent building, we speculate that it must be a museum. I sit on a bench to tie my boot. Hmmm… this can’t be the Parador… Backpacks and hiking poles are dead giveaways that we are pilgrims. A gentleman approaches us and we begin to visit. Little did I know, but this was the same Facebook friend I was planning to wave to as I walk by. Small world. He confirms that this is, indeed, The Parador. This five star Parador was originally a monastery founded in the twelfth century to provide lodging for the pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. It later became the headquarters of the Order of Saint James whose soldiers provided protection for the pilgrims. ~www.paradores-spain.com
Our conversation expands to include a wonderful young man traveling in a camper van throughout Europe with his wife and dog. I’m thinking that is a great plan as you’d always have a place to sleep.
As we approach our hostel for the night, the neighborhood is looking dodgy.
No key issued to us for the front door of Hostal Sota and we are only allowed in by the lone hostal employee. In fact, we may be about the only people staying here. Nice lounge area in the basement and our activities are constantly monitored.
Why does the song “Hotel California” keep playing through my mind?
Top three photo picks of the day: Lottery ticket sales appear to be going well before mass outside the Catholic church.
September 18, 2016: Word of the day is bodega as we view many along the way today. Some quite plain, while others feature unique designs.
I guess if I ever find myself with too much time on my hands I could knit tree wraps. Or not.
Joan gets her Pilgrim Credentials stamped at the Camino Frances half way point, Our Lady of the Bridge sanctuary near Sahagun, Spain. This structure has XIIth Century Romanesque foundations but the original pilgrim hospic has long gone. Interesting flooring design that seems to have a Moorish influence.
A-h-h-h… home sweet home for tonight with half the beds empty. Seems as though the bed race has eased up for this stretch so we can snuggle in with a little privacy. Hmmm… do I feel a draft?