Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rabacal: a municipal albergue at the end of a forested walk

Hello, everyone.

We walked from Alviazere to Rabacal, for another 20 mile day (30 km) and arrived at the first municipal albergue we'd encountered on this trip.

The bedspreads--please note, there were actual beds! with sheets!--were purple. The wifi didn't work in the albergue, but we found it at the cafe during dinner. I was very tired, so I had the first thing on the menu that looked easy to eat. Scrambled eggs with goat cheese for the win!

The albergue was in the cultural building with a museum, but we arrived at pretty-much closing time and left long before opening time the next day. We had enjoyed comfortable walking weather and were glad to rest at the end of the day's walk.

Resting feet, dumping out rocks. Those little green ferns are stickery!

Walking path

"You are NOT lost, pilgrim!"

Shrine in honor of St. John the Baptist

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tomar to Alviazere

Hello, everyone.

When we left Tomar, we were in the first cool weather of the trip. It was delightful! We walked along the river to leave town and followed the trail into the woods, along the river still.

Pretty path alongside a clear flowing river...with a little rain.
Eventually we came to a place where the path branched. The larger path, much wider, left the river. The smaller path continued alongside the water. The guidebook had said that we would walk along the river, so we stayed there and followed the smaller path. Oops. Eventually we came to a road and a bridge over the river and were very confused. We crossed the little bridge and began passing the local water plant.

Finding our way back to the trail. Rain had stopped.
Thankfully we met a man who was carrying his cafe leche, saucer perched on top of the tiny cup,  and he gave us directions to get back onto the trail. The correction involved walking along the road for a couple miles or so, around curves and up a hill. But it went well (not too much traffic) and we connected back up to our yellow arrows and were good. But it added about three to five kilometers to a day that was already going to be long.

Back at the trail, we found a little village, with a tiny bar to have some coffee in.

Follow me! We can go for a walk!

Lunch in the woodlot. Note the arrow blazened on the tree. There was a spray painted one under our lunch, too, that we found when we cleaned up our mess.

More of the many woodlots. Another arrow on a tree.

One of the houses in Alviazere, IIRC--pretty building. Windows have horseshoe arches!

We had a picnic lunch while walking through extensive woodlots planted with eucalyptus trees and pine trees. The guidebook calls this "forest" but if you're used to what the US National Park Service or Forest Service calls a "forest," you won't recognize it. These are croplands planted to fast-growing trees. Most of the trail though them follows unpaved logging roads.
Many of the arrows in the woodlots are on trees. Sometimes the trees with arrows get cut down or burned. It can make finding the correct dirt track a challenge, but the shade is welcome on hot days and the undergrowth softens the view.

We stayed at a new albergue, actually more of a pensao, in Alviazere. The proprietor, Mr. Pinheiro, was very hospitable. He told us that the number of pilgrims he's seeing en route from Lisbon to Santiago--his town being south of Porto, the more common starting point--has been going up every year.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

More about the cross stitch project

Hello, everyone.

I was talking to DM and she sounded interested in the tip I'd found for stitch placement on the cross stitch project. (This is the one that the thread collection was shown here a couple of posts back.)

I got this idea from Scarlet Quince. They have a cross stitch tips page for people working up their charts. It's really clear and I have definitely adopted their guideline tip.

Guide threads in the linen, every 10 threads of the cloth
Perhaps after I'm more skilled at this stuff, I won't need so many lines. (These are set at every 5 stitches.) For now, though, the series is going all the way across the cloth. The dark thread is a 50-thread line. The other threads are, in order, pink, green, yellow, and orange. (Great way to use up odd bits at the end of sewing spools!) The plan is to pull the guide thread out as I come to it, and to not get "off" in the stitching.

Oh, and the Scarlet Quince folks have put a lot of neat art into cross stitch chart form. Landscapes, animals, flowers, people, you name it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Returning to the Santiago route

Hello, everyone.

The day we rode the bus to Tomar was a feria day: a holiday. (I asked, it was something to do with celebrating communities. I guess.) Probably explains why the organizers had picked it for a big youth shindig in Fatima.

More relevant to us, however, was that the feria bus schedule to Tomar was only 2 departures. We left on the early one and got to Tomar around 9 in the morning. The sidewalks were still rolled up!

Morning in Tomar. Templar castle on hill behind the square.

In July, they have a bread festival. Young women walk around with these 15 Kg. headdresses!

Baldachin of the Templars' church (honorary structure over altar)

Ceiling frescoes in the aisle around the altar of the Templars' church

View of baldachin with surrounding frescoes

The arrow loops are crosses.

An angel. St. Michael? This predates the Reni painting that has become the standard for St. Michael Archangel statues.

View of one of the staircases in the castle courtyard. The stairs are a spiral.
A building in Tomar. Pretty tiles!

The day we spend in Tomar was hot, as they had been, but the weather broke that night. In the morning it was delightful and cool.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New projects on the burner

Hello, everyone.

Today I'll wander off the trail again and talk a little about craft projects that are in-hand.

The first is The Dress for DD2's best friend R. R had chosen to wear a long skirt to the church and then convert her dress to a more-flexible party-dress length for the reception. This will pose new challenges for me, both in her lace yoke and in the two skirts. It will be exciting.

The second, which was not even thought of before we got to Santiago this summer, is a cross stitch painting: Sunset View of the Catedral de Santiago, from a vantage point near the front door of the monasterio hostel on the north side of the Plaza de Obradoiro. (That's the only place the diamond shaped staircase can be offset from the Porto da Gloria by that much!) The entire front of the building is lit with the golden glow that comes just for a few minutes at sunset and the sky has that greenish-blue tone that can appear if the afternoon has had rain.

The summary printout that includes the whole picture in reduced form
As you can see, I am using the organization method recommended by Ms. Corbet for complicated thread color lists. In making the cards and labeling them, I concluded that the maker of the chart used up just about all of some goofy symbol font on her computer. Percent signs, little piggies, lips, circles, you name it--unique symbols for 30 different thread colors.

All the threads called for in the chart, plus a couple of extras to make the clouds look more like, you know, actual clouds.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Reflections on Fatima

Hello, everyone.

As you may remember, we took a bus ride from Santarem to Fatima. In doing so, we lost track of a lovely Spanish couple that we'd met along the way--they elected to continue walking. But  the pilgrim trail is like that, in that you meet people and see them for a day or two, then lose track of them for a while, and sometimes see them again later. It all depends on whether your travel pace and theirs mesh again.

I'm not one of the partisans of the "pilgrim family" idea that one sees from time to time on the net. It seems to me that every pilgrim, whether walking with a buddy or walking solo or even with a pilgrim-tour group, must make his or her own pilgrimage. The growth doesn't happen to a blob of people, it happens to each person individually. And expecting that people you just stumbled across on the first day or so will be your bosom buddies, happening to walk the same pace and stop at the same stops and rest at the same times, is unrealistic. Last year we crossed paths with the Texas Aggie student group a number of times, beginning on our very first night when we sat down to dinner in Roncesvalles. It was always a pleasure to say hello to them and catch up a little on things. That didn't mean that we were "supposed" to be with them all the time. It meant that we were fellow pilgrims on the trail. So, while I was saddened not to encounter the lovely Spaniards again, I accepted that they would be a day's travel behind us from then on because we'd combined 2 days' walk into one bus ride. It happens.

We got into Fatima a bit before noon and trekked along the main street until we found our hotel. It turned out to be on the far side of the Shrine grounds from the bus station. As it was before check-in time, they were kind enough to let us store the packs until the appropriate time and explore for a while.

There are many souvenir shops and stands in Fatima. This is reasonable, since many people come from all over to visit, and they want to bring back remembrances for their families and friends, and their own houses as well. We saw everything from tiny medals (not too much weight to get a handful and carry in a pack) to big statues, clothing, jewelry, rosaries, toys, and so on. It wasn't during one of the big Marian festivals, nor during the big anniversary months of the apparitions (May, a Marian month, and October, coincidentally also a Marian month) so the shops and restaurants were not packed to the gills with people. There were quite a few people in the Official Gift Shop, near the information office at the shrine, where we stopped after I had my credencial stamped. They don't have a setup where you can get a certificate for coming on the Camino Tejo or one of the other walking routes, but maybe in the future that will change.

We did eat the main meal of the day at the proper time, for a change, and had plates of good food for a reasonable price. That evening we went hunting for early dinner or tapas--tapas is often enough for us--but it was only 8 in the evening and either it wasn't late enough or Fatima restaurants keep different hours because the sidewalks were rolled up and put away. (For my non-American readers, this colloquialism means the restaurants and shops were closed and pretty much nobody was out and about.) I did manage to find a bowl of soup and after that we called it a day.

Prato de dia with squid. Very tasty!

A small correction to the earlier Fatima entry, posted from DH's Kindle with its never-sufficiently-cursed autocorrect feature that won't give up and let you keep the properly-spelled word you wanted: I said earlier that things are easier if you have some "little-known" Portuguese. The intended sentence said that things are easier if you have a little Portuguese. Quite a difference in meaning. Perhaps the Kindle autocorrect can be corrected. I had to retype things three times sometimes!

One of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, on the porch of the old church
 The old church, built a few decades after the apparitions, is a pretty building with a tall tower. There is a gilded crown at the top. There are curved porches on either side of the front entrance, which enclose the end of the plaza, and the porches have art of the Rosary under the roof of the walkway.
Statue on a hillside at Fatima. Pretty presentation of the Crucifixion in white stone.
 There are a number of things to visit at Fatima. We just hung around and rested, but we could have taken a sightseeing train to see various things like the Way of the Cross and so on. Also in easy bus reach is the monastery at Batalha, which is very historic.
The old church, which was closed for renovations or for prep for the youth day beginning the next day.
There were a lot of buses arriving with crowds of young people and pastors, chaperones, and whatnot other adults in tow. They were arriving in advance of a big youth festival that was going to start the next day. We missed the festivities, only because we went to the bus station in the afternoon to line up our ride to Tomar for the next day. It turned out that the next day was a Feria (holiday) and so there was a restricted schedule. The only two buses leaving were at 8 or so in the morning and around 5 in the afternoon.

The next morning we caught the early bus and rode a twisty, scenic road to Tomar, thus returning to the official path to Santiago.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Path progress

Hello, everyone.

The path up through Vila Franca da Xira was the last route-based post before we wandered off into various topic-based comments. Today will cover further progress on the Camino Portugues.

The first day of walking had been planned to stop at Vila Franca--which was about 32 km. (20 miles give or take a little) We got in about 5 pm, which was later than desired, but the day was long and hot.

The second day was planned for about 20 or 25 km--shorter, but we'd looked at the stages in the Brierly book and decided that putting the shorter stage second would give us a little bit of a break after a rough first day.
In the event, the heat and remoteness and cobblestones and road walking--that traffic, with no place at all to walk, was scary!--made day 2 as rough as day 1 and 3.

We got lost leaving Vila Franca, walked in circles for a little bit.

Road that wasn't cobblestone!

Beautiful baptistry in church!
Day 2 was a Sunday and I kept looking out for churches that would be having Mass. Finally I gave up altogether. Then, about 3 pm or so, when we got to our stopping point, we found that the town was having its fiesta for Sao Joao that day, with bullfight, and at the bullring later on a barbecue (we skipped it, the sleeping place was a mile or so further on--that may not have been the best decision when we didn't want to walk back to the bullring for food), and wonder of wonders: a note on the church door saying that because of the fiesta Mass would be at 5:30 pm.

Getting into our sleeping place was less easy--the key, for anyone wondering, is that the phone number in the Brierly book was not the one the family answers. There is another number on the signs, and that one works. Also, while they let you in, they don't do the paperwork until 8 pm in the evening. But you can freshen up before then in your room. (This was a frequent thing in the pensaos--we'd come in and the person would take one look at our red faces, windblown hair, and packs and say "let me show you to your room. You can freshen up, and we'll do the paperwork later." I guess the BO was pretty bad!)

Another thing we noticed during the days before Porto was that a number of residential streets with no bars to be had would have gallon jugs of water on strings (leashes, basically) at their gate. Was this what the PCT hikers call "trail magic" water for pilgrims? I don't know.

Day 3 we walked to Santarem. (Portuguese speakers please forgive the total lack of all accent marks in my typing. I have no idea at all how to put them in!) This involved the largest tomato fields I have ever seen in my life. And grape vines. Shade in the 90-plus degree weather (days hitting 35+ in eurospeak) was precious and rare. Dusty trails and dirt roads, not so much.
It can be surprisingly remote in a very settled-up country sometimes.

A shy emu--I tried several times and never got a good shot!

I have mentioned walking on levees before. In this village, we found an open bar and I got a boiled egg. That was almost all I got to eat while walking that day!
HUGE fields! This one is corn (maize.)
 The walk into Santarem is every bit as steep as the guidebooks say. The city is on top of a mesa,  with the usual steep sides and level top. The famous albergue that the cool kids stay in was full. We stayed in the newer one, the one with the blue ad signs as far out as 17 km away on the trail. It had: bunk beds, as expected. Sheets and towels provided, which was a surprise. "Mixto" bathroom/shower combo, which isn't that unusual. Tiny shower stalls, with the widely-spraying shower head some 7 feet up on the wall. Tall cubicle walls, but they don't keep your clean clothes from getting sprayed by the shower. No hooks out of the spray--I don't even remember clothing hooks in the stall in the spray zone. Which was the entire cubicle anyway! One toilet at the end of the bathroom, after you pass the three shower cubicles and the two nice sinks at the entry. All new and in good shape, with a modern "industrial" feel to the decor. A nice bar area with wifi. They offer an 8 am breakfast, if you can stay around late enough to eat it--standard continental fare and coffee. We were 2 of the three people in our dormitory.

We also had a "get real" conference about the state of our feet and our exhaustion. For three days we'd been unable to find adequate food, the daily temps had been well into the 90's (or higher?) as this was an unusually hot year in the Iberian peninsula, and we were getting worn out. If we continued walking to Fatima, it would be 2 more days like the one we'd just had. We concluded that tearing ourselves down that much, this early in the pilgrimage, so that we could say "I walked all the way to Fatima" would just be egotism. We therefore decided to take a bus from Santarem to Fatima, then resume our planned route with the bus from Fatima to Tomar. This would be counted as an extra rest day for the first bus ride and a scheduled rest day for the second in our reckoning. (The bus gets you in early enough to see Tomar sights and rest and so on, so the next day would be a resumption of walking.) The weather sites we checked through the wifi suggested that there would be a break in the heat about when we resumed walking out of Tomar. So we walked to the bus station early in the morning (for Portugal, not early for pilgrims--we ate the 8 am breakfast at the albergue) and got on the bus to Fatima.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Memorable meals

Hello, everyone.

Another topic-based post for today: food.

There were a few meals that we really remember from our pilgrimage this year. They were amazing at the time, and we look back at them with delight.

There was the cheese salad in Caldas de Reis, two days before Santiago, after we had entered Spain.

Greens, nuts, raisins, cheese, balsamic vinaigrette: to die for.
There was the melon soup in Porto.
It was about a hundred degrees, inside and out. This soup was cool, and very good.
There was the prato del dia in a cafe along the side of the road.
Chicken-fried pork cutlets, tomato with lemon-olive oil dressing, beans and rice with a wonderful hammy flavor. Perfect for hungry hikers on a hot day.
And among the odd and amazing foods that one encounters, the Francigena (sp?) sandwich of Barcelos and Braga in Portugal.
This proved to be a solid workman's lunch. Note that the sandwich is covered in gravy and garnished with an egg on top. And fries on the side.

I couldn't finish mine. It was a meat coma encased in some bread and a great-tasting gravy.
And now I can taste it all over again.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Camino Portugues Gardens

Hello, everyone.

I thought I'd throw in another topic-based post here, this time about the flowers in the gardens of Portugal.

Possibly the explanation for their abundance is that, whenever the Portuguese sailors found a pretty plant growing someplace, they brought home a shipment of it to sell to the flower nuts of their home country. Certainly they garden without the temperature based restrictions of South Texas, and they have wonderful flowers to contemplate along the Way.

Blooming jacaranda tree in Lisbon, early June

Driveway on country place, dolled up with trees. There were HUGE tomato fields in this region.

Shrub bed at Fatima, near the piece of the Berlin wall.

Potted orchids on a balcony.

Entrance to Templar castle in Tomar
I saw roses, proteas, pines, grapes, figs, olives, eucalypts--many, many woodlots of eucalyptus and pine!--oaks: trees, vines and flowers all over the place.

One last photo of a garden, from Bom Jesus in Braga:

The grotto is full of delicate little ferns planted in niches on the walls--the spring tends to their needs quite handily.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I'm ba-a-ack!

Hello, everyone.

As it says in the title, I'm back again.

I discovered a lovely walking trail in Memphis, Tennessee. (For any non-US readers, Tennessee is a state in the US. Famous cities in Tennessee are Nashville and Memphis.) It is very popular, both with pedestrians (walking and running) and bicycle riders. It goes under freeway lanes and past pretty subdivisions full of well-loved homes.

Entrance point into the greenway. 

Trumpet vine flowers in a tree on the greenway.

St. Louis Catholic Church in Memphis, TN. Baldachin is beautiful!