Monday, June 29, 2015

Hot days are back again

Hello, everyone.

We have gotten to within 50 km of Santiago. We're in a lovely spot above the Parfumeria Moderna in Caldas de Reis. Caldas is an ancient spa town with natural hot springs.

The temps displayed on the pharmacy signs as we walked into town said 38 C. That makes it officially hot. It was almost as hot yesterday when we arrived in Pontevedra.

 Menu board from where we ate
This was the bottle of Tempranillo wine we had with our shrimp and octopus with melted Tetilla cheese.
Yes, I know it's customary to have white with seafood. But we like reds, and we really like tempranillo and Rioja crianza. So the food police can just deal with their anxieties.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A pretty walk

Hello, everyone.

We walked from Redondela to Pontevedra today. We're very tired from yesterday, so before we wander out in search of food, we're going to rest a bit.

This is one of the pictures of the fort in Valenca, which froze when I tried to upload it that day.

Of interest to my fellow chicken lovers, the most common variety of birds we have seen is the Naked Neck. A cafe owner told us today that so many people keep them because they're good layers.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

It all goes for 20 (miles, that is)

Hello, everyone.

We weren't trying to walk for 20 (30 km in euro-zone distances) but that's what we ended up with today.

We're in Redondela, which is near a ignoramus freshwater lake. It's also a town that has basically no hotels. Too bad, that. We had hoped to snag a pension room and soak our sore legs and feet, but it didn't happen. Instead we're in the Xunta (provincial) Albergue and it's not bad. In the reference frame bunk beds. There is a lovely big study downstairs, too.

River view from Fortaleza in Valenca yesterday.
Cathedral in Tui, Spain. There is a big sculpture the the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin hanging over the altar.

Friday, June 26, 2015

We're in Spain!

Hello, everyone.

I had a nap and a wonderful serving of tortilla espanola before starting this, so maybe I'll remember where we are tonight!

We're in Tui, in Pontevedra, in Galicia, Spain. It's just across a bridge from Valenca, Portugal. The cathedral here is beautiful, and it has two statues of St. James major: Santiago Peregrino with his gourd, staff, and cloak, and Santiago Matamoros, on horseback with sword of justice raised.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bom Jesus isn't the only thing in Braga

Hello, everyone.

We took a bonus day at Barcelos, because it's near the famous site of Bom Jesus Chapel in Braga. When the sun peeped over the horizon this morning we tried to sleep in. We made it to about 7 before getting up.

The bus to Brava stops right at the square in Barcelos, and we just jumped on, paid the driver, and relaxed for the hour drive. We arrived in Brava at 9 and discovered the town square festooned with banners and other decorations. "Oh, that's right, the whole country is having a weeks-long party for St. John's day." Then we heard a strong marching cadence strike up. (Very heavy on the bass drums!) Boom! (Pause) Boom! (Pause) Boom! (Pause) and the drum corps was off and going. We had arrived just before the Marchas de Sao Joao.

I think there were at least 7 drum groups and bands, plus giant puppets and another 8 or more folkloric groups. All wending their way through tiny stone medieval streets in the town center. A number of the drum groups revved up and got going again from time to time during the day, too.

We had heard the (smaller) parade the day before yesterday in Vila do Conde.

DH went outside and snapped this in Vila do Conde while I was washing socks.

This morning in Braga:

After the parade finished, we caught the city bus out to Bom Jesus which is at the very edge of Braga on a hill. The stone work and sculptures are amazing.

This was the half-way point, after the Way of the Cross themed works and before the allegorical works. At the very top is a chapel and a garden and a gift shop. 

Monday, June 22, 2015


Hello, everyone.

This morning we rolled out at 0630, bright eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to troop right down the gray-dots route to Sao Pedro de Rates and on to Barcelos. For about forty minutes. Then we conceded that we weren't up to walking an un-waymarked route and went back and found the yellow arrows that led to Arco. (This name still reminds me of trudging through a Hatfield last year, part of a long line of pilgrims, about a mile aside from a ridge of thunderstorm generating hills. Each pilgrim or pair about twenty feet behind the one in front, all of us collectively one of the tallest things out there, and the thunder sound only two seconds behind the lightning flash. Have I mentioned that lightning scares me?) But this Arco was devoid of storms. Between the floundering at the start and the scheduled walk for the day, we put in almost twenty miles. And our feet have a lot to say about long days now!

When we got to Barcelos, DH found a Mass to attend and we were blessed--the first Pilgrim Blessing we have received on the trip so far! I want to gratefully mention the Franciscan fathers at St. Anthony's church in Barcelos.

And here is a picture of the famous Barcelos miracle chicken. (I admit that I haven't read the story yet.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Hello, everyone.

Today we started walking again. First we caught the 0640 bus to Matosinhos, a port and beach town at the edge of Porto. Then we walked across a drawbridge to the north side of the ship channel and began walking along the beaches.
This is just a taste. There are tidal pools, dunes, blue water of unbelievable clarity and it looked like they don't have rip current along there. There were boardwalks most of the way, too.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Egg run in Porto

Hello, everyone.

This morning we followed an ancient family tradition: the "egg run." Back when dinosaurs walked, my late FIL was a plant floor manager. From time to time on as weekend he'd say that he was "going to get eggs," take one of his sons to help drive, and head out on country roads. He always managed to hit the bars that knowledgeable fellow employees went to and after having drink-and-talk in several he'd get to the egg farm, get some eggs, and head back toward home. It became a family legend.

Today we walked across the bridge to the other side of the river Douro and commenced to some serious wine tasting. (And when we get home and I can load the camera pictures into the computer, I'll share photos with y'all.) We learned that all Portuguese wine wants to be sweet. Thus the Portuguese ports are also sweet. And these are nothing at all like the/ "port wine" being made by various Texas wine makers.

"Melon gazpacho" at the famous, and excellent, Tapabente restaurant last night. It was stifling hot, especially in the restaurant, and since we hadn't known to call for reservations the only place they had left to seat us was at the bar. We got to watch the bar staff working. That was possibly the most precise and artistic drink making on earth. If it weren't even hotter today, I'd want to go back. But, lesson learned: if you want to eat at Tapabente, behind the train station at Sao Bente, you need to make reservations.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Porto 2nd post

Hello, everyone.

More about our first day in Porto...

We wandered the streets a little, found a bus stop and collected schedule information for our departure, and were fortunate enough to walk into the Carmelite church just as daily Mass was beginning. (We stayed for Mass, of course!) That was a pleasant surprise.

We've just about figured out the local meal schedule, finally, though they want to do breakfast about an hour too late for us! Lunch is a big meal in Portugal and they eat it around 2 pm. Dinner falls somewhere around 8:30 PM and lasts for a while. But the food is good. We ate with a family last night, the next door neighbor of the Albergue in Grijo, and the home made vegetable soup (squash and stuff pureed) and home made bread were great. Also the lady made fried fish and "Russian salad", a dish of cooked vegetables at room temperature with a bit of dressing.

Today we discovered a free music concert in the Porto square. DH got us near the front of the thousands attending, but since we'd been up since 5 am and it looked like the headline act wasn't going to get going until maybe 11pm, we worked our way out of the press of the crowd and headed back to our apartment.

We made it to Oporto

Hello, everyone.

Today we walked from the pleasant village of Grijo into Porto. We discovered the best preserved piece of Roman road we've ever seen. It still had the broad capstone and everything! Not bad for 1800 year old road surface.

For now--spousal unit wants to wander the city now that we're here--just a little picture of the view from our window at Se House.

Yes, we're practically under the ancient cathedral. It's a lovely little studio apartment.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Grijo, and a sunny day

Hello, everyone.

We left Sao Joao bright and early in a clear, hot-day's dawn. We saw an interesting little chapel on the way out.

This was before we got to the top of the long uphill climb through town and discovered what the route marks are apparently aimed at: the widest smooth sidewalk in Portugal.

We walked up and down, even on some original Roman road surface, and ended up in the Albergue de la parochial de San Salvador de Grijo. It was a short 18-20 km walk and didn't get toasty hot until I was washing our socks out. By the way, does anyone know how to get adhesive tape glue out of socks? The tape glue just melts through the tape fabric while we walk.

And with that question I think I'll close this and take a nap.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sao Joao

Hello, everyone.

We stayed in Albergeria a Velha last night, where we were unable to use the internet. (I think I mentioned already that internet in Portugal is like a new bride's cooking: sometimes it works and sometimes it just doesn't.) To shorten the tale, we had a short walk yesterday. Since it was so short, we walked to the far side of the city before settling in for the night. The hotel mentioned in the guide book is the true No Tell Motel of the city. When we asked for help finding it, the third person we talked to said, "for sleeping?" (Heh.) But for all it was impossible to locate and had no reasonable access to a cafe, we had a nice bathroom and the sheets were clean and it was quiet. Even if we did picnic in the room on a princely feast of tuna on crackers, hard-core eggs, Pringles and peanuts.

Today we had a harder walk, about 18 miles, and now we're in the delightful Residential Solar on the very face of the downtown pedestrian plaza. Beautiful tiled bathroom, plenty of hot water, wood floors, ironwork night stands and vanity. Also wrought iron bedspread.

We had bifana (Portuguese meat sandwiches) for lunch. They're great.

Church of St. Michael in Oliveira del Azemeis

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mealhada and a short day

Hello, everyone.

Today we are in a lovely alberge in Mealhada. It's the budget side of Residenciao Celeste and the patio is supplied with tables and chairs and fruit trees and a nearby kitchen full of wine glasses. And yesterday we picked up a bottle of wine, and some sardines to go with our cracker pack. (The crackers we didn't eat with sardine spread in the forest yesterday, that is!)

Perhaps you wonder why so much sardine type food. The reason is that it is full of protein and fat for energy and some salt for electrolyte replacement. It is also easy to find in Portugal.

And for today's picture, a look at low tech pilgrim's laundry:

I used my bottle of All liquid. It rinsed easily.

This is the decorative end of a suckling pig.

A   welcoming thing happened today, to. We were walking into Mealhada, near the end of our 18 km, and a gentleman named Mr. Simoes hailed us from the driveway of his Port production building. He showed us his barrels (He ages the port for years) and gave us apples and bottles of cold drinking water. A true friend of the pilgrims! Thank you Mr. Simoes!

A glass of wine and a bowl of fruit just arrived at my elbow . Thanks, DH! I do believe I'm through typing for today.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Columbia, briefly (updated to COIMBRA. Sorry about that autocorrect!)

Hello, everyone.

We didn't have success signing in to WiFi in Coimbra, so there was no post. 

We walked another 30 km day yesterday, almost. We didn't get lost so that's something. 

This was the view from the overlook before crossing the bridge into the center of Coimbra. This is one of the great university cities of the world. We had a lovely dinner, sorry we didn't bring the kindle with us to post a picture en route. I had codfish balls, lovely crisp fried corvettes of Bavaria and potato and seasonings. DH had grilled pork. The restaurant served really superb French fries alongside, a good creamy vegetable soup (not tomato based), and dessert. 

Today we had a shorter 20 km walk to Mealhada. We left late because it was raining cats and dogs. The rain pretty much ended at 7:30 and we got rolling. First off, we got lost again! But we made it in about 3:30 PM and are now relaxing with other pilgrims.

A small programming note:
We expect to hit Porto in two or three days, depending on how we break the days up. WiFi is often promised but somewhat hit or miss so we may miss a day from time to time.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Found WiFi!

Hello, everyone.

Last night we stayed at a very pleasant hostel in Alviazere--Pinheiro's. This was after a grueling 35 km walk. (We got lost in the morning, so got to walk an extra 5 km.)

Our host was very kind and hospitable. He gave us really cool wax seals for his stamp on our credentials.

Today we are in Rabacal, a small town twenty miles (thirty km) north of last night.

The weather was wonderful today.

This is our dorm for tonight.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Hello, everyone.

Today we are in Tomar, a town east of Fatima. At one time this was the world headquarters of the Knights Templar. The castle here, Castelo Templario, and associated Convento del Cristo are a world heritage site, which means it's government administrated, is historic, and charges admission. It was founded in 1312 when surviving Knights fled to Portugal and changed the Order's name to The Order of Christ. They also redid the insignia by placing the red cross with equal arms on a white ground to symbolize that the old, condemned order was purified. This was good enough for the Pope at the time, as he knew they still had work to do.

The castle is very much worth the couple of hours to go through it. Amazing frescoes and tile murals are in various chapels. The site administrator allows modern artists to place, ahem, displays in the halls and rooms of the dormitory area. The ones we saw today seemed pointless. Also self immersed to a sad degree. A more edifying display would have been reconstruction of the expected furnishings in, say, a cell of a knight, a cell of a lay brother, the infirmary, and the kitchen. But that is just my opinion.

We're in an 8 bunk dorm at Thomar 2300 and the pen and ink style sketches on the walls are better than "Ten Stolen Blankets." (That was the name of one displayed "art" "work.")

We also saw a menu with Migas in a dish description. It looked like part of the plate, and since we had a waitress with good English skills we asked her about it. Migas in Portugal is not the same as in South Texas. It has cabbage, beans, seasonings, and possibly sausage--but no eggs!

Tomorrow we're back in the saddle again, for a long day but after 2 rest days we are optimistic. The heat is supposed to broken some, too. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Hello, everyone.
We slept in today, until 0700! Then we looked up a place to stay in Fatima and ambled to the Santarem bus station. We got seats on the express bus--45 minute ride--and had a sip at the bus station cafe. Also some desperately needed Pringles. (We were still in salt deficit from the previous day's long walk.)

We're staying at a hotel called Avenida de Fatima. It's nice, has WiFi, an actual tub in the bathroom, air conditioning and a desk. They also allowed us to store our packs when we got there early.

Fatima is well set up to support pilgrims' needs. There are many cafes, many places to stay, and numerous information offices. It helps if you can speak a little-known Portuguese. Or at least a good list of Spanish words. Today I really needed to tell the pharmacist that we needed gauze bandage and wrapping adhesive tape. We didn't have those words, though, and ended up with Compeed for DH's blisters on the bottom of the foot. (I had this kind last year, and I don't think the Compeed deals well with being walked on all day. But we'll see.)

We ate prato do dia for lunch: protein, veg, and starch. It's their version of the blue plate special. Mine was fried pork steak (think chicken fried steak without the gravy, only a tender luscious piece of pork) and his was squid. His squid was accompanied by wonderful poached cabbage. Mine had a rice-with-stuff dish. And the "spec appetizer" assortment included octopus salad and a pair of good crusty rolls. (Portugal has a custom of putting appetizers out on the table in hope you will eat them--it's a sales technique, and what you eat they add to your bill.)

 Plaza at Fatima. We are facing the old Basilica. They're doing some kind of renovations.
A slab of the Berlin wall.

I never thought I'd see the Berlin wall come down in my lifetime and certainly never expected to see a piece of it.

The weather may improve soon. Tomorrow is a scheduled rest day for us--today was not scheduled but it's been hard to track down food on the trail so we needed it--and we will skedaddle on the early bus to Tomar.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Walking through Hell

Hello, everyone.
We left Anambuja today at 0630. We had enjoyed a dinner of bar food last night. Not much was available unless we walked the mile or so to the bullying to eat barbecued bulls. We were tired and besides, those defeated bulls were sure to be tough and stringy.
We wandered into a local bar and ate cold stuff that was on hand while watching bad bullfighting from Spain on the two TVs in the bar. Guess that makes it a Portuguese sports bar!
This morning we started out under cloudy skies, resolved to make as much distance as we could before the sun came out and cookies us.
At the village Relengo we found a cafe, after walking 3 hours, and DH had 5 cookies. I had a hard boiled egg. That was all the food we found all day. And we walked 32K in the horrid humid heat. We saw lots of tomato fields, some of the as big as North Texas cotton fields. Precious few places to eat and find a WC!
We drank at least 3 liters (quarts) of water each, and some laid down on a random cardboard sheet to rest.
About 1530 we hit Santarem and,between buying water bottles in bars (2) w e found the tourist office. Who gave us directions to the N1 hostel. Unusually for an able r guest, there are sheets and towels. But we're in a dorm with 8 bunk bed sets. We were so trash ed the we both picked bottom bunks! But we're here.
We ran into the lovely Spanish couple we met yesterday and the gentleman told me that today, for them, was like hiking through Hell. Same for us!
We checked the weather forecast on DH's kindle and decided to take the express bus to Fatima tomorrow. It's not worth ruining your health over to be able to say, "I walked to Fatima."
Temps varied between 32 and 34 C today. Everyone who lives here says it's a killer heat wave. The temps are like home at this time, but we don't hike 20 miles with 20 pound packs and no refreshments in it at home.
We decided that pushing on on these conditions is pure egotism. Since we have an alternative, the 1100 express bus to Fatima, we will take it.
Dinner this evening walking a wonderful local soup. We are too tired to eat anything else.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Darn it's hot

Hello, everyone.
We left Vila Franca de Xira at 0630 this morning. The air was refreshing, not "fresh" but nice. Morning clouds. That was great while it lasted--until 0900 or so. After that it was just hot. Even the tiny breeze was not much help. Felt like walking at home in South Texas! It's been dry here and we see cracks in the dirt.
We hauled in to Azambuja around 1330--aka 1:30 PM. It was around 32C. Roughly 90F.
Mass was at 5pm because of the big fiestas for Corpus Christi. So we got to go to Mass! We didn't actually see the big fandango, it's apparently at the bullring at the edge of town and we're sore from yesterday and just want to rest.
DH bought a $3 bottle of wine, a liter of tomato juice, and some Pringles at the Aldi on the road into town. Big Spender award! ;-)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A really long day

Hello, everyone.
Tonight we are in Vilafranca day Xira. It's one of the many towns in the Iberian peninsula that was started by medieval French people.

We started this morning by bussing to the Parque des Nacoes (there is supposed to be a little tail on that c) and walked our little feet off! We estimate that we walked 35 km. Today.
 View of Castel Sao Joao.
 Yesterday's lunch, in Belem.
Tile mural in the Tile Museum

We didn't deploy the Kindle camera today. We walked on a levee top, on dirt farm roads, through little towns, and on river front activity trails. There were a lot of sailboats out on the Rio Tejo.

The trails are mostly well marked. The Fatima trail goes on the same route as the Santiago trail until we reach Sacavem.

Friday, June 5, 2015

museums and a fiesta

Hello, everyone.
As y'all know, we are in LIsbon for a jetlag recovery break before walking.
Today we went in search of museums and found a fiesta.
We left in search of the Museu del Azulejos (Tile Museum) this morning, and also train information. We rode the Lisbon Metro routes to Santa Appolonia which is the end of the line heading out toward Azambuja on our first day walking. (That day being tomorrow.) We discovered that the best way to the edge of town is not the train nor the metro. The BBC set way appears to be a city bus!
We also got direction s to the Tile Museum from the nice lady at the train information, who couldn't believe we intend ed to walk there. Then we got to talking and walked right past it. Eventually we go it. It was wonderful.
Tile mural of the Eucharist

Then, having discovered the city busses, which are included in our daily hop on hop off pass, we hopped the bus to the extreme other side of the city: Belen. This is a suburban city that is home to the Monasterio Jeronimo. We ate lunch (roasted Solha and roasted sardine, which we shared tastes of) and went to see the monastery it's church. It was beautiful. As had been the Tile Museum earlier.

Then we went in search of food__and found Castel Sao Jorge. We climbed over 140 steps, plus some slopes, and discovered the most interesting castle we've ever seen.
My sweetie in the top of one of the keep towers..
There is a lot of climbing in this castle. You want to have your walking shoes on.
Descending afterwards we found ourselves in the annual Fiesta del San Antonio, in an ancient neighborhood called the Alfambra. Talk about the happening place. We ate good food, drank , and watched the kids having a good time. Then we found our way back to the guest house for the night. Tomorrow we begin our trek.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Pilgrimage 2015 is on the road

Hello, everyone.
As y'all know already, we are going on pilgrimage again.
Yesterday we boarded the 0525 flight for the first phase. At 0830 today we landed in LIsbon, Portugal and officially began by taking the Lisbon metro from the airport downtown to get our first stamps:"carimbos."

We visited the shrine of St. Anthony ("of Padua" even though he was born in LIsbon!)
and the cathedral.
Then we found our guest house, took much needed nap and headed out to explore.
This is the old harbor entrance. It's a popular visiting spot. 
Tomorrow we intend to recover from the flight and possibly visit a museum or two.