On the Way to Portugal


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This is my occasional blog as I walk from Santiago to Portugal. Some musings and pictures will be periodically posted.Enjoy!

Lisbon Days: My four days in Lisbon, with blogs and pictures

THURSDAY:

Sitting here in a park on one of Lisbon's 7 hills looking out at the Tejou River far below listening to 4 Northern Chinese speaking Mandarin (in its pure form) amuses and delights me that the world shrinks daily. Besides the Chinese, I've seen and heard about every language and culture in this last day here in Lisbon. Everyone wants to be part of the celebration of the patron saint of Lisbon days: St. Anthony, tonight.

The streets are full of people ready to party hearty. Street side beer bars are being set up and whole pigs are being roasted. Sardines also are a big part of this holiday I hear.

I've been lying low and resting much of the day so I'd have energy tonight. My only exertion was going to find my old home yesterday. No luck, though I did find the neighborhood.

I've decided to head to Ireland on Monday and have an adventure there. I was able to track down an old family friend on the internet. Not directly but though clues that led me to reach her through two avenues. I was proud of my resourcefulness and tenacity in making the connection. I'd help from many different quarters but it required going out of my comfort zone to get it.

I like my hotel. Right in the heart of the old town where it's all happening. Though basic I've plenty of room, a double bed and a great bathroom with a big tub. Interestingly the heating systems in Portugal are individual units, now popular in the US too, that mount on the wall and offer heat or air conditioning. Unlike Spain where it's all radiator heat requiring the whole system turned on for an individual room to warm up. Now it's so warm here I've gone from wanting heat on to using air conditioning.

                 

A Lisbon trolley. The party begins. Lisbon and our Chinese friends. Party times. Roasting the pig on St. Anthony's. Getting close to being done.

FRIDAY:

The city was one big party last night. Every neighborhood was packed with people enjoying food, beer and wine. Every doorway practically had a keg and a grill of sardines going (I thought of Lil), I went back to the spot where they were roasting the pig, which was just then being carved, and had some in a sandwich with another beer. I enjoyed watching the throngs of people, some groups moving from one barrio to another, others stopping to hang in one neighborhood for awhile before heading on again. There were all ages of people from children to elderly, the majority in the 20-40 age group. The Portuguese are a handsome people, easy on the eyes, and everyone was looking good for the party.

I went back to my room for a while and then ventured out again around 11:00 and the party was going strong. It was amazing to see all those people (in various stages of intoxication) having fun with their friends and enjoying the energy of the festival. What also impressed me was the lack of violence or trouble that might come with a volatile mixture of alcohol and so many people in such close quarters (though the next day I saw two places with blood spatters).

As the evening turned to night there were more cops around but they too seemed to be enjoying the festive mood and probably were more there to help then control. I headed back to my room about 12:00 with no sign of diminishing (I later heard it was going strong at 5:00 AM).

Today I thought I'd explore the city and looked up tram route 28 that winds its way through the old part of town. I found the stop and waited for almost 45 minutes though it was supposed to run every 15 minutes. There were other tourists waiting too and we wondered what was happening. Finally a Portuguese woman came by and said it wasn't coming because there was no electricity. Apparently so much trash from the night clogged the streets making it impassable for this trolley. I was able to translate for the other tourists who thought it funny that an American could understand Portuguese. While not fluent by any means I'm quickly picking up what I learned so long ago. I can get around and understand pretty much what's being said. When speaking I have to think not to speak Spanish which is still more readily on my tongue.

I made my way up to the Castle Sao Jorge (St. George) the remains of an old Moorish Castle that was captured by Don Alfonso Henrique the first king of Portugal in 1147 and became the seat of his kingdom thereafter. Prior to the Moors, the Romans and then the Visigoths used it as a fort for it has the highest vantage point of Lisbon's 7 hills.

On my way there I stopped at a couple of churches and rested from the walk and heat of the early morning. I like the quiet and meditative peace of these old sanctuaries and I find inner as well outer rest on my visits. They also had real candles!

The route was littered with the trash of the parties the night before and only the tourists seemed to be out. As it was a holiday everyone had the day off and that with partying very hard were probably still sleeping.

The Castelo was impressive and the views superb. I was surprised to see so many tourists it being early and getting hot already. These sightseers in Lisbon seemed a diehard group though and were taking full advantage of all Lisbon offers. Most languages I heard spoken were German, Dutch, French, then Italian, English and Spanish. The Camino represented all these but Koreans and Australians were more in the mix there.

I was feeling a bit lonely being amongst all these connected and purposeful people, not knowing anyone and missing someone to share the sights with. Yet I still enjoyed being around them and the happy energy that folks on holiday emit.

By the time I made back to the hotel it was getting very hot. Definitely a heat wave for Lisbon usually is much more pleasant this time of year. I stopped at a restaurant offering fresh salads made to order and enjoyed my greens.

Resting up in the afternoon I went out to eat at 9:00. I'd seen a restaurant in my wanderings the evening before and wanted to try it. However, Lisbon's old neighborhoods are a maze of windy streets that intersect with stairs and back alleys, so finding it again wasn't a sure thing. Yet, with some patience I found the clues I'd set to remember and located it again. Though late I was the only dinner. I watched the World Cup with the owner and saw the Netherlands trounce Spain - a reversal of the last championship meet two years ago. I'm unsure which team the Portuguese would have rooted for. The food was delicious and very Portuguese.

After finishing dinner I wandered the neighborhood looking for some gay clubs and pubs I'd located online. I found a few and then went back to the hotel for a nap as nothing happens before midnight in Lisbon's nightclubs.

Even though feeling the want of company I was still happy to be in Lisbon. I liked the city and the Portuguese when I lived here 40 years ago and find that's still true and even more so. Sadly the city's appearance is in need of a face lift (some new paint would go a long way) and there's a lot of graffiti everywhere but the basic underlying charm and beauty is still here. Because Portugal, like Greece and Ireland, was hit so badly in the recession, its economy is still in the dumps. However, that makes it more affordable to visit vis a vis other big European cities' prices.

While I really liked listening to the Spaniards speak their lyrical version of Spanish, listening to Portuguese is a whole different sensual experience. The first few days I found it awkward and funny, a bit like hearing someone speak Spanish with a mouthful of marshmallows. But after two weeks I now find it soothing and comforting; especially when I'm in a setting where the hum of conversation creates the background noise and listening to the soft muted "sh" of the "s" sound being spoken makes being here all the more enjoyable.

Just past midnight, when the city's magic was peaking, I went to see about Lisbon's gay night life. The town had gotten more vibrant since I returned to the hotel earlier. After the quiet of my pilgrim's life I was shifting gears! In large part because I wanted to connect with others. I was feeling like a bit of an island in a sea of Lisbonites.

I retraced my earlier trek and was delighted I was starting to make sense of these medieval streets, already learning some of the shortcuts. There was a wide choice of venues from disco dancing to quiet neighborhood bars to pick from. As I wasn't really up for loud music I opted for a quieter place. As with all bars in Lisbon most people hang out in the street around the bar and since the weather is usually pleasant it's great to do so.

The one I choose had a large group of people outside and after getting a beer I joined those outdoors. Though at first I simply stood about it was nice to be in the company of others, sharing their space and auras. It quickly took away that empty feeling of aloneness and I could feel my energy uplift. I struck up a conversation with a few people ending up in a long exchange with a nice fellow who I may meet again tomorrow.

                    

Lisbon. Decked out for St. Anthony. Holiday Fare. Lisbon's back streets. Lisbon from St. George Castle.

SATURDAY:

Was out late last night and tried to sleep in but was up at 8:00. Read for a while downloading a new history of the conflict for the Mediterranean Sea between the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe during the 16th century. It dovetails nicely with the history the of Byzantine Empire I just finished. This tale begins with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans and the end it's 1000 year reign.

After breakfast I made reservations for my upcoming walk in Ireland on the Wicklow Way. (I suggest looking at a grand website if you want to follow my journey there: www.wicklowway.com.) Between hostels and B&Bs I was able to make reservations for the 6 nights of the 7 days I'll be walking it. I have to give credit to the internet and phone for helping me get the needed information. I used a calling card and where I couldn't connect by phone was able to use a hotel booking site to make the reservations.

One of the great gifts of this adventure has been learning to use the available technology. Like many I'm generally tech averse but the necessity of accomplishing a task has forced me to overcome my fears and trust I can manage the "tech beast." A big help has been asking questions on Google. Often the answer will follow.

With my next week aligned and feeling good about having a goal again, I decided to go to the beach in Cascais, someplace I used to hang out when I was a teenager, and headed to the train station. The trains looked the same as 40 years prior but the interior and seats had been updated. A 45 minute trip I had fun watching who was going to the beach. The train made about 10 stops on its way to Cascais, the end of the line.

The beaches were packed with locals and plenty of tourists. Colorful and vibrant. The sun was intense though and I found a shady spot with a good ocean breeze and read, wrote and people watched. I stayed till 7:00 then walked back to the next stop, Estroil, along the ocean front; the two sea side towns are connected by a lovely marble promenade. The train ride back was standing room only. All the Lisbonites were heading home.

Though I wanted to enjoy the nightlife again and took a nap before going out to eat at 10:30 (I'm becoming a true native), but after a light meal I was simply too tired and surrendered to my body's need to sleep long and deep.

                    

Estroil Beach. Colorful Cascais Beach. Views of Cascais.

SUNDAY: My last day in Lisbon and I'm sitting in the same park where I began my Lisbon journal on Thursday. While I was initially unsure of staying 5 days in Lisbon now I'm very happy I took this time to relax and transition from the Camino. Portugal and in particular Lisbon has its own pace and it takes time to settle into its rhythm. Now I'm about there and it's time to go.

I have most loved walking the streets and exploring the neighborhoods. Finding little gems of culture, cuisine, music (I'm listening to a Fado player in the park as I write), history and architecture everywhere I go. The only drawback has been the heat which has limited my wanderings somewhat.

It has been a good reunion. Lisbon and I have both grown in the last 40 years. We are both out of the closet now and equal marriage was voted in 2010. It, like me, feels much more comfortable in its skin. We both have a confidence about going forward in life by being ourselves and the future is bright. Looking back I think the 18 year old who left here to make his way in the big wide world would overall be proud of who he became and what he accomplished.


              

Last day in Lisbon. The plaza of the Marques de Pompal who reconstructed Lisbon after earthquake.

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Postscript:54 more pictures from the Way in Portugal: signs from the way, scenes from the old Roman road, and scenes from the Way.

                                                        

Signs of the Way.

                                                                          

Scenes from the Old Roman road.

                       

Scenes from the Way.

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Day 12(50): Completing this Camino Day(s)

Endings and transitions seem to be the other side of beginnings and transitions. I've known my share of both. Once again at a crossroads and it's time to put away the walking poles (for a while) and find a seat on the train.

This ending, unlike my last Camino transition where my mind wanted me to continue but my body could not, my body now wants to continue, for it is fit and healthy, but my mind does not. I think I've reached my maximum level of enjoyment on arriving in Porto and from here forward believe it will be a case of diminishing returns. There is a heat wave that is about to hit tomorrow and will get into the 90's. This combined with the track leaving the northern country routes and starting a long stretch paralleling and frequently crossing the national highway with little shade makes going forward unappealing. The feedback I've received about the route hasn't been favorable either though if I really wanted to go I wouldn't let that sway me. Perhaps, if it were a more scenic path I'd have no qualms in continuing but the factors I listed above, combined with an overall weariness, makes the best case for stopping now.

The great news is that I'm healthy and happy. I can walk without pain and am in great physical shape. This Camino was a success in every sense and I'm grateful for all that I learned and will continue to absorb and process as time goes on. My vanity, always an issue, my dearest friends tell me, would like me to walk yet more and get buffer and leaner, for walking the Way will burn calories and build muscle. But my vanity is going to have to be happy with what I've gotten; my whole self benefits from a more balanced and moderate approach. I'm also letting go of my romantic notion of walking back to Lisbon which sounds lovely to say but the price of such notions I've learned can be high.

Symbolism has always been of interest to me and how the outer world's metaphors often reflect my inner experience can be amazing. In pondering to continue or not I was wanting a sign from the universe. This morning as I was at breakfast in the hotel I looked up and to my great joy and surprise I saw our two Australian friends, Glenys and Kevin. We'd first met them the second night on the Camino and then again and again becoming friends on the Way. We really thought and hoped we'd see them in Santiago at the end of our journey, but sadly didn't. Now here they were right there in front of me! It was a happy reunion. They too had just finished the Camino on Sunday having gone onto Finisterre and back to Santiago, taking a bus to Porto on Monday. Of all the coincidences, that we'd be in the same hotel in Porto at the same time, seemed like a sign to me. We'd hoped to celebrate our ending together and now meeting again could do so (Lil being with us in spirit). We shared emails and big hugs and I felt complete.

So where do I go from here? Tomorrow I go to Lisbon by train and will spend a few days there exploring new and old places. After that I don't know. If I decide to do some further kind of adventuring I will post again. Otherwise this will be the last entry of this journey. I thank you for your interest in my musings and look forward to our next connection.

Blessings,

Will the Wayfarer


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Day 11: Resting and Sightseeing Day

I luxuriously slept in this morning. I could feel the stress from my muscles and joints melting away as lay in bed happily knowing I needn't get up to walk 30k today. Breakfast was a nice buffet spread remaining me of our first morning in Madrid at the Hotel Francisco so many universes ago.

I came then back and napped some more before going out to explore this vibrant city. The hotel clerk had generously mapped out all must places to see and the weather was sunny yet cool. I like exploring old towns for I have an intuitive sense about finding my way around. I figure out the layout and then consult the map for specifics.

I spent the rest of the day walking about the city seeing its churches and monuments as well as enjoying watching all the swarms of tourists that are here now. Unlike the pilgrims who had a common bond between them, these travelers are individuals from different world's mingling together like gas molecules bumping against one another in a closed container, lively chaos.

I had lunch down on the riverfront watching old converted port barges carrying hundreds sightseers on a brief rides up and down the harbor. Every one seemed happy and festive in the sunshine.

The city is built on hills that run steeply down to the river so I got plenty of exercise. Amongst the sights I particularly liked were the blue tiled buildings that are famous here in Portugal, and the cloisters of the Se Cathedral. Another highlight was the 350 step climb up an 18th century bell tower that offered sweeping views over the city.

I returned back to my hotel and took another long nap. I could tell my body was soaking up the rest like a sponge. I awoke near 9:30 and read for a while before deciding to go out to eat. It was now past 10 and yet the city was humming with life and activity. I decided to forgo the tourist area and went exploring the local parts of town.

The cafes were filled and over flowing into the streets. I looked in a few restaurants before finding one that appealed to me. Though it still had customers, it was now close to 11 and wasn't sure if they still be serving. Fortunately they were and I had the pleasure eating of one of the best meals of this trip. I then found my way back to the hotel remembering the route so I could go back tomorrow and do it all over again.

Boa Noite Amigus!


           

Blue tiled church. Church Bells and scenes from cloister of Se Cathedral.

              

Porto and Se Cathedral. Scenes of Porto from Cathedral. Me and my hero Henry the Navigator who was born in and from Porto.

           

Old port barges. Porto Trolly. My hotel: The Internationa.

           

Se Cathedral cloister.

              

Riverfront scenes.

              

Our old friend. Porto. Famous Port Cave. Porto from way above.

        

Porto from the other side of the bridge.

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Day 10: Porto Day

Hi friends,

It's been 3 days since my last entry because I didn't have the energy at to do so. After my idyllic high from my first days in Portugal the weather changed and so did my experience. The morning I left Ponte de Lima it was drizzling and I knew the inclement rain that been forecast but kept not showing up had finally arrived.

By 10:00 it was blowing and raining hard. The temperature which was warm when I left at 7:00 turned cold and I was going from minimal to maximum clothing, changing in a roadside bus stop that I was so grateful to find. The guide book proffered that this particular day, though the longest of the suggested hikes on this Camino, was perhaps the most beautiful. Sadly the beauty was mostly lost on me as I was battling the elements or so it seemed.

I crossed paths with several pilgrims going the other way and felt compassion for my friends of the night before who not only were dealing with this storm but also having to ascend a horrendously steeply narrow rocky mountain forest path that would be gushing torrents of water down on them. One of the pilgrims I met told me of a cafe at the next village and I was grateful for the respite from the rain and a "gallao," a Portuguese latte. I was drinking these gallaos as a teenager, long before Starbucks existed, and I was glad to remember how to order one.

John, of the prior evening, had suggested breaking up the day and staying half way to the recommended next stop in the popular guide book which everyone seemed to be using. Though this would've put me in Porto a day later still I thought this might be a good idea. However, the rain put me in the mood of pressing on and I arrived in Barcelos around 5:00, a 36k day with 9 hours of walking.

Fortunately, I found accommodations easily, at Residencial which, like a Pension has rooms at reasonable rates. It came with a bathroom and best of all a portable electric heater, the kind that looks like a radiator on wheels. Lilly will especially appreciate this as it was perfect for drying out my soaking wet boots. I cranked it up and set them on top and by morning even the insides were bone dry! I was so pooped when I arrived I lay down and fell asleep even before taking off my clothes.

The next day I headed to Vila de Conde, a seaside town that was a detour from the regular Camino but would allow a walk to Porto by way of the coastline. The weather looked iffy and to start I had my rain gear on. I was tired from the previous day?s exertions and knew I wasn't getting the most out of my experience. However, there really wasn't any earlier place of interest worth stopping at so I kept on. As it was an alternate route I had a harder time finding my backwards and half way though the day ended up off course. This was frustrating and as I was already tired - aggravating. I'd stopped by the road trying to figure out where I was vis a vis the guide book when a car pulled over and a woman asked me in Portuguese if I needed help? I told her I was trying to find the Way to Vila de Conde. The long and the short of it was she was going there herself and offered me a ride. And then not only was she heading to my destination but she owned a Pension and when we arrived offered me accommodations for a very nice room at a very reasonable rate. All of which I accepted.

I ended up in Vila de Conde earlier because of my good forturne and enjoyed a wonderful late lunch at the restaurant she and her family ran nearby. It was authentic Portuguese cuisine and was delicious. With my meal I had half a bottle of the best Vinho Verde wine I've yet tasted. Vinho Verde is a varietal wine from this region (Minho) of Portugal. It literally translates to "green wine" and has a refreshing effervescence that's wonderful especially on a hot summer day.

After my big meal I took a long nap before going out to explore the city, once a famous seafaring town. Even an old 15th century ship was in harbor which I tried to board but was too late as it was closed. I was still so full from my meal that I wasn't interested in eating again and a couple of hours later went back to my room and watched American movies in English on the TV. Here in Portugal unlike Spain where they are dubbed, the movies are subtitled in Portuguese so I had no problem enjoying them. It was the perfect way to chill.

When I left Spain the time moved back an hour. However, my body clock has remained the same so I'm waking up at 5:30 which was 6:30 in Spain. I try to sleep later but can't and so have been getting up earlier. This morning I left my Hospitalaria at 6:30 heading south along the coast to Porto. The guide book said one could basically follow the coastline through a series of villages to get there, sometimes walking on the beach sometimes on the road or a boardwalk.

The walk started out well enough, though the only place on the whole Iberian peninsula that showed bad weather today was between Vila de Conde and Porto! It was going to be another stormy day perhaps. I had my rain gear ready especially as I was on the coast with the weather being more intensified.

When I was on the second stage of the trek, a stretch along the beach, I ran into trouble. I was making my way across the beach for a few kilometers to the next village when I heard a growl behind me and turned to see a big black dog with barred teeth barking viciously at me. It shocked me but as I had my walking sticks I thought I could fend him off if needed. Then a second dog joined him barking and growling and then a third, then a fourth and finally a fifth dog! A whole pack of vicious canines all acting like they wanted to tear me limb to limb coming closer and closer.

Fortunately I've been learning a lot about how to be with barking dogs these last 10 days. I pass them every day all day and though usually they're behind a fence or wall sometimes they run free. My experience has taught me the best thing to do is remain neutral and not engage or even look at them. This seems to quiet them faster and if free they're quicker to leave off. If I look at them or make eye contact it seems fuels their ire.

So as I was semi - surrounded by this pack of dogs I looked over them rather than at them. As soon as I looked at them they lunged closer and I'd then brandish my poles to keep them at bay. However, we were at a stalemate and I couldn't go forward or back and they weren't going to let me pass. With my back to the sea and no one else around I wondered how long we'd be there. After a few minutes of this that I heard a message from within saying to look away from them, to turn my head to the left looking back in the direction I'd started from. I did this and they were no longer in my sight. I heard one of them whine but they stopped barking. After a minute in looked up and they were gone. A miracle I thought! Boy what a story I'd have to tell!

I started down the beach again when over the dunes they all came back lunging barking even more violently and closer then before. Oh, shit! I thought, I'm not out of hot water.... I'm deeper in it!

This time I repeated looking away and again they retreated but this time to where I could see them. I then knew I'd not be able to go forward and would have to go back and find my way by road rather than by beach. I waited a few minutes and started back.

However, these dogs were not going to let me go and as soon as I moved they came back with an even greater vengeance and pinning me back against the crashing waves. There was no one around (it was 7:30) except in the far distance I could see one person with a dog himself and I didn't know if he could see my predicament. I pictured myself trapped by these dogs all day and this got me angry. As that happened I brandished my poles at the dogs and yelled "LEAVE ME ALONE!"

With that they backed off and went to their perch on the dunes. I returned the way I came, all the while wondering if they'd try to attack me from behind. They didn't and I made it back to the road where interestingly the man I saw in the distance was still there with his big German Sheppard. We greeted each other and I had the sense he'd seen what transpired. But there was little he could have done especially as he had a dog with him himself.

This event gave me a lot to think about for the rest of my day's walk. I had already been pondering the symbolism of barking dogs which I see it as related to anger. And I've been reflecting on my own relationship with anger. So when the pack of dogs was surrounding me I was facing anger, raw and undulated. When I confronted it directly it fueled itself, becoming more intense. When I looked away it had nothing to hold onto and faded into the background. When I was scared it attacked seeing my vulnerability. Yet when I was trapped and in a corner myself, some inner force, that was different from their energy, emerged and vanquished that power.

The lesson I think I have from this is when I was engaged with their force ie anger and tried to use that same energy to be angrier than they it only fueled the fire making it worse. When I disengaged there was nothing to meet it. Yet, when they wouldn't leave me alone some other force, different than their anger, emerged from me, a force of self preservation perhaps, and was more powerful than their violence and "saved" me. Interestingly too, though I was scared I never panicked and felt calm through the whole experience. I "knew" I'd be okay though didn't know how.

The rest of the walk was long with intermittent stormy weather putting on and taking off layers of clothes and rain gear. I stopped at 4 different caf?s to have a hot drink or food to keep me going. I met a few more pilgrims heading north as they commenced their pilgrimage to Santiago. It's been fun seeing pilgrims at different stages of their journey, from those completing to those beginning. Also of note was that almost all of the pilgrims I talked to had already completed the Camino Francais and doing the Camino Portuguese was a second or third Camino for them.

Around 3:00 I arrived at my destination, a suburb of Porto, where I caught a tram into the city avoiding walking through a major metropolitan area. Once in town I found the tourist office and got a map and sights to see. I had recommendations for various price ranges of hotels, from both the tourist office and guidebook, but I ended up find one on my own. A very nice mid ranged hotel for 45 Euros with a big buffet breakfast included. My room has a big bathtub and I took a long soak on arrival.

I also decided to give myself two rest days and really see this beautiful city. The next part of the walk may not be as appealing as the northern route so I'm going to enjoy now and see what I feel like doing later when it comes.

Today is the last day of my 7th week since Lil and I left Pamplona and my 5th rest day on this Camino. Tomorrow will be day 50, an equal number to my last pilgrimage two years ago, though not as many kilometers as that Camino, at least not yet! :)

It has been a great experience and I've loved most of it. Even the challenges added contrast to the joys which made it all the more interesting. I am in a very different place from my last walk at this time and feel free to make any shifts or changes as I wish to the rest of this adventure.

I think after a couple of days of solid rest I'll be ready to recommence the journey, though feel no compulsion to complete it this time. I'm already thinking about coming back and starting in Lisbon and going north next time. I imagine walking with my brother Jamie and think how much he would like it as he loves both hiking and Portugal.

Well friends time for rest and sightseeing tomorrow. With that I did you:

A teo logo!


           

Back in the country again! Beautious. Early morning in Barcelos and first rainbow. Grateful to be safe and sound! Porto.

              

My old explores' ship. Shy friend.

           

They're everywhere! This side of the Atlantic. Three workers having a morning chat.

           

Vila de Conde on my way to meet my canine destiny. View of aqueduct from room in Vila de Conde. Vila de Conde.

More Pictures Coming!!

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Day 7: Making Friends on the Way Day - Sao Roque to Ponte de Lima 20 k

Today was another winner on the Way. Wonderful walk in the morning mostly on the old Roman Road. Quite amazing how they built these roads that are still functional today. Loved the quiet and the beautiful country. Met a number of pilgrims today and had good conversations with a few including a young man from Phoenix and another fellow from Belgium. I'm definitely more at ease with meeting people than I've been before on the Camino.

Arrived at Ponte de Lima around 1:30 and found a Pension with nice room for 25 Euros. As I was making my way to the Pension I saw a pilgrim at a cafe and after checking in went back and struck up a conversation with him. John was Irish and has lived in Hawaii for the past 25years. Later we were joined by, Thomas, another pilgrim from Germany. We had beers and shared stories of the Camino. Both had done the Camino Francais at least once. The afternoon went by quickly and it was 5:00 when they left to check into their Albergue. We agreed to meet at 7:00 for dinner.

I returned to my Pension showered and napped. At 7:00 I met my new friends, plus one more, Phil from England. We went to a recommended restaurant and had an inexpensive but tasty pilgrims's meal. The conversation was wide ranged and varied and I enjoyed sharing their company. Phil and John had both started in Lisbon and said that before Porto there were few people on the Camino. Most pilgrims pick up the Camino at Porto to go on to Santiago. I'm taking advantage then and enjoying the company of Pilgrims for a few more days.

I also gleaned good information about coming into Porto as there are several routes and it seems the coastal road will be the best. They also recommend staying an extra day there too. I may even detour to Fatima after all as that would only add an extra day. From what they said the last few days into Lisbon are not very interesting, mostly industrial suburbs so if I needed to cut a day out at the end to stay longer in the pretty north I may.

My body after 6 weeks, now on week 7, seems to finally be in sync with the walk and I've been in the Zone all day for the last two days. No pains or physical complaints. It is such a sweet feeling. I think I've lost enough extra body weight that I'm much easier moving and feel light and lithe. There's a synergy with the road as if we are one.

When I left Portugal 40 years ago I went the University of Vermont to study forestry. I imagined myself walking amongst the forests and woods much as I am doing on the Way today. While that wasn't the path I ended up walking down I think what inspired me to choose that career was the sense of freedom and simultaneous harmony I experience when I'm in nature. How wonderful to be rediscovering that experience all these years later. If I could walk a Camino in Spain, France or anywhere in Europe, from spring through fall I think I'd be a very satisfied man.

Tomorrow's recommended walking the guide book is 34K but John suggested cutting it short and staying part way. I may do that as I'm finding after 25k my enjoyment and efficiency diminish considerably. Doing so would also add another day so I'll need to look at my overall route schedule. What I'm learning, amongst other things, is to pay attention to what's in front of me and not get to stuck in a future plan. What I need comes to me!

Que Bem! A teo logo mis amigus!


              

Coming into Ponte de Lima.

     

Old Quinta (ranch-farm).

     

Old - New - Old - New - Old Again. New Chapel to St. Sabastian. Will and pilgrim.

     

Ponta de Lima at night.

  

Dinner with friends.

              

Portuguese church under the freeway.

More Pictures Coming!!

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Day 6: Welcome to Portugal Day - Tui to Sao Roque 23K

Oh what a great day!

Slept well and was out and on my way in the early cool quiet of the morning. I'd figured out a shortcut so avoided going through Tui and was in Valenca by 7:30 just on the other side of the river, my first Portuguese town. Though the time jumped forward an hour everything was closed. I went through the old medieval part of town built in the fortress of Valenca. I could easily imagine it operating as a fort and town in its day.

The rest of the morning was quiet with only one loss of the blue arrow when it led me through a market. I met a few pilgrims going north and enjoyed chatting with them. One couple from New South Wales Australia had been on the road for 27 days. They'd started in Lisbon which means they've been taking it slowly. She had a bad limp and I was inspired to offer a healing for her bad knee. She immediately said yes and I did my first healing on the Way (other than for Lil). She sat on a wall and I worked on her and even used my rattle. Several pilgrims went by as I did my work and I told her husband I was glad we were no longer in the middle ages for they'd have had me burned at the stake for witchcraft. I was happy to have had a chance to be of service.

Once I left Valenca behind and the ensuing towns it became more and more peaceful. I always felt that Portugal had a quieter softer energy than Spain (and I love Spain) and I began to sense it again. In fact several of the pilgrims I met said the same thing about Portugal being different. As I moved onto the more ancient paths it all began to feel very familiar. I was experiencing a parallel life where I was a medieval pilgrim joyfully returning home from a pilgrimage to Santiago. The feeling of being on those paths and seeing the old stone walls was profoundly happy for me.

I stopped several times to enjoy the deep quite, and once to refresh my feet in a cool stream. My body felt its best today and I was in the Zone for most of the walk. I'm delighted to be back in this lovely country and even after 40 years I can still remember some of my Portuguese!

One of the neatest experiences happened to me in the morning. I was about to leave the villages for the country when I saw ahead of me what I first thought to be a white cat. As I got closer it moved and it was a little white dog. When I neared it bounced over to me and barked, sniffed first my poles, then my shoes and then seemed to accept me. There was a stone bench nearby and I needed to sit down to remove a pebble. As I sat he jumped up and started "hugging and kissing" me. It was so sweet! I managed somehow to get my camera and took some selfie pics that show him loving on me. He then hopped down and walked with me for awhile before going back with pilgrims heading the other direction. After a week of dogs barking when I walk by this was such an unexpected and dear event that I felt St. James was giving me a warm welcome to Portugal.

By 2:00 I reached my destination. There were three choices and I took the one with the most privacy. A lovely double bed with a bathroom and a great view of the countryside. It's peaceful and restful I'm liking these shorter days with a long afternoon to rest and relax.

I had dinner at a restaurant nearby with two other pilgrims, one from Sweden and one from Germany. The Swede, a woman, was walking from Porto. The German was riding his bike. He didn't speak much English but could understand it. She could do both so it was mostly she and I talking at dinner. I convinced her of the merits of taking over the counter drugs to help with the aches and pains of the walk, especially when first starting out as she was. I gave her some ibuprofen I'd bought here and some Alleve I'd brought with me. That Alleve was a very last minute purchase on the way to the airport and it's turned out to be one of the best items I brought. Though I don't like taking medications one thing I've learned on the Way is that it's OK to avoid suffering whenever possible.

One of the pilgrims I met today asked when I'd told her of my Camino adventures if this was my life's dream come true? On thinking back on today I would say it certainly is!

Boa Noite Amigus


              

Most ancient wonderful Way!

     

Goodbye Spain. Hello Portugal. Portuguese cows say hi to Lil.

     

St. J. comes to welcome Will to Portugal

     

First signs and bridge to the old country. Will's best friend.

        

Portals to Valenca. Road and fount.

           

Welcome to Portugal. Welcome to the Way in Portugal.

        

Roman road. Seated S.J. This wall seats a family of 4. Very strange chapel-who is trapped inside.

           

Will takes a refreshing afternoon foot bath. Travel and hospitality. Yellow and Blue - North and South. Wonderful Wall.

     

Lunch spot. Looking out my bedroom in Sao Roque. Clean, happy and rested.

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Day 5: Last Day in Spain- Mos to Tui 21K

Today was a good day. The walk was very pleasant and to my surprise a whole new section of the Camino had been added offering a substitute to the current long trek though an industrial suburb. The blue arrows, my new good friends, directed me to this route for it wasn't in the guide book.

There were plenty of forested walks and less pavement today. Pavement walking is hard on feet and legs over many hours so when dirt paths are available I'm happy.

As usual a number of pilgrims were coming North and a few stopped to talk and question me about where I was going. Some would start by saying "wrong direction" to which I started saying "no, different direction." I think it bothers people to see someone going "backwards." The first reaction is concern that I'm going the wrong way, then it's wrapping their heads around why I'm going south when they're so focused on going north. Usually I just say I'm going to Fatima which makes sense as a pilgrim. The blue arrows will in fact eventually lead to Fatima as they're the Way markers to that destination. At some point, way south of here, we will part ways as I go to Lisbon. Not only pilgrims stopped to help me today. Several Spaniards also tried to make sure I knew where I was heading. All very sweet and kind.

Though I haven't had a lot of contact with people since leaving Lil, the interactions with the pilgrims going to Santiago has satisfied some of my contact needs. I enjoy smiling and wishing "Buen Camino" to all I pass. Sometimes I'm glad to see them too because they affirm I'm on the right track.

Tonight after walking around Tui I went to the restaurant recommended by the place I'm staying. Sitting at one of the tables was someone who I recognized as probably being a pilgrim and asked if I could join him. He didn't speak much English, being from Bavaria, but he welcomed me and we shared a meal together. He'd walked the Camino Francaise last year in August! Yikes! He loved the Mesata and said there were few others who walked that part though. I like that about the Way: you can make a friend at a meal and enjoy one another for that time and then say goodbye to never meet again.

I found a very nice Albergue coming into town. They had single rooms for 25 Euros and it's beautiful. A huge king sized bed with handsome accommodations. They also had pay washing machines so I washed all my clothes and hung them to dry in the sun. I was here about 1:30 so I had a lot of time to rest. I took a long bath and then a nap.

I'm liking the rhythm of this Way. It's taken me a few days to adjust to walking alone and being my own company but I'm getting more settled. I've thought about my last pilgrimage alone in France and this walk is quite a contrast. That Camino taught me a lot and I'm really benefiting from its lessons in this one. Realizing there's no need to hurry and talking time to savor the beauty around me and the joy of being present is one of them. The Way is teaching me its rhythm. Sometimes I've been a slow and stubborn student yet it is nothing if not patient.

Tomorrow I cross the Mino River into Portugal to begin that portion of my journey. With that crossing I will have completed walking the length of two countries: France and now Spain. Walking the earth is a great gift for me. I can think of no way I more appreciate being a man (human) than when I connect intimately with the elements from whence I sprang.

Hasta Pronto Amigos!


              

Cinco crusty crosses. Cool creek crossing. Does the sign look familiar? Roman Way Bridge.

     

St. Jacques.

     

The Roman Road from Braga to Astorga. The former Roman Way VIA XIX. St. James.

     

Santo Domingo an empty church. 4th Century BC Celtic Helmet. Medieval Tui town tunne.

        

Hello Portugal in distance. Tui on boarder with Portugal.

           

My Albergue. Garden of my Albergue! How I kept the window shut.

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Day 4: Happy on the Way Day Pontevedra to Mos 34K

Woke up at 6:30, my usual time. Was gone by 7:15. The town was quiet, the street sweepers were the only ones about cleaning up the weekend's leavings. Winding my way through the suburbs took a while and by 8:00 I was on the city's edge where I stopped for coffee and a very good croissant. Lilly would have appreciated it.

The rest of the morning was pleasant with a number of hills making the walking more challenging than yesterday. However, I like an occasional hill to climb as it breaks the monotony of level treks and gives a good cardio workout. The way markers were not nearly as clear as yesterday but with the exception of a few misses, quickly caught, I found my way fine.

I met a number of pilgrims going the other direction (as I will every day I'm sure) and again spoke with a few. One couple told me that they'd been on the Camino for a week and hadn't met another person going south. I may be the only one right now. I was hoping I'd meet one or two people going to Porto or beyond but as yet not so.

However, I'm enjoying my alone time and my thoughts as well as the beauty of Galacia. I'm very happy to have gotten to spend 5 more days (after tomorrow) in Galacia in good weather. It's a lovely province though very different from the other parts I passed through earlier with Lil. This section is also more attractive than the last segment to Santiago. Much fewer pilgrims and more in its natural element.

I finished the proscribed hike in the guide book (about 21K) by 1:30 and didn't want to stop in that town nor that early. Instead I walked another 3.5 hours (13k) hoping to find a place to stay at an Albergue in Mos. Though I usually avoid hostels, as I prefer my own space to sleeping in a dorm, I didn't want to walk another 6K to the next town and was willing to risk the snoring. However, as is often the case by late afternoon it was full when I looked in. Instead of accepting my fate and walking on, however, my intuition told me to ask anyway because something else would turn up. Sure enough the proprietor of the cafe, who ran the Albergue, confirmed that while the dorm was full there was an individual room available at the home next to the cafe for 15 Euros if I was interested! Yeah, the magic of the Way helps once again!

After my routine I had dinner at the caf?. Now I'm happily ensconced in my own private room with a bathroom next door. A long walk today and I'm looking forward to a long sleep and to feeling rejuvenated tomorrow. It always amazes me how the body will revive with a good night's rest.

Tomorrow I will be in Portugal! I graduated from high school in Lisbon 40 years ago this month and then went to make my way in the world from there. Kind of cool to reflect back on all that has transpired since. I wonder too how this wonderful country has changed since then.

We'll time for bed. Hasta Luego Amigos!


              

Beautious Path.

     

Granite Mountains. Mattress Spring gate to your dreams. Vigo River.

     

Town and Country. Gateway to Happiness. Me bridging realities.

     

Lunch Break. Pilgrim's shadow. Santa Marta and friend.

        

Amazing Eucalyptus. Bread Delivery-beep, beep. Welcome Water. Will at Santiago Market.

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Day: 3 Smooth and Easy Day Caldas de Reis to Pontavedra 24K

Slept deeply last night. The stress and long walk of the day before had worn me out. However, I awoke refreshed and ready for a moderately long walk. I breakfasted in the bar which was full of off road bikers getting ready. They were all wearing the same uniform so I guessed they belonged to a bike club. It was interesting too see this group of men, most in their 30's, who obviously shared an interest and probably a passion, interact and to witness their group dynamics.

By 7:30 I was out the door and on my Way. Again another beautiful morning, crisp, clear, cool. Vigilant in looking for the arrows to begin with I had no trouble finding the path today. I decided I'd enjoy my thoughts or the scenery between finding the markers which worked well. By mid morning I noticed the yellow arrows going north to Santiago started to be so well marked that I felt at total ease in finding the Camino as I could follow them backwards. The blue arrows were still there but as they were not so frequent I could supplement the yellow arrows for them when unsure.

I passed a number of pilgrims going north. I have yet to meet anyone going south. A few folks stopped to talk wondering why I was going south. Many laugh or look nervous at someone going against the flow. When walking to Santiago we would sometimes see a pilgrim going the other direction and it made me a bit anxious as it did seem out of place. Today I met people from England, Spain, Belgium and Hungary (the first I've met). The pilgrim from Belgium had already done all the other Caminos and this was his first try at the Portuguese Way.

Around 11:30 I stopped for lunch at a cafe for a ham and cheese sandwich with a coffee. There were other pilgrims going north there too. The walk had been lovely passing through vineyards and shaded eucalyptus lanes. Everything was green and breaking into summer colors.

By 1:15 I arrived at Pontavedra my destination for the night. I'd walked over 4K per hour and felt fine. I think it was one of my earliest arrivals ever. Though I could have walked further I liked the town and found a room at a Pension recommend in the guide for only 15 Euros. Part of my goal for this walk is to enjoy the towns and sightsee as well as hike the Camino. Because I'm healthy (so far) and now in shape from the last 900K I can trek more in a day than I could a month ago and so hope I will have more time to do other things.

My routine finished I went out to explore the town. There was a lot happening; between a marathon and a bike race the place was full of "foreigners." Lots of English and American being spoken. The town's full of old plazas and squares with cafe tables set out to drink beer or coffee and people watch. After a beer and looking at the milling crowds I found a candy store that seemed to have every candy snack and treat imaginable. To my great pleasure and surprise I even found the brand of mixed nut snack that I've been searching for since our first week on the Way. This brand stopped showing up and though was replaced by other brands, they didn't compare. I bought two!

Today I thought a lot about the nature of reality, one of my favorite things to think about. I was pondering the shift in my reality from yesterday to today. Yesterday, while I was lost and trying to right my course I was aware of the negative dialog or monolog that was passing though my mind. I knew I was creating the current reality and was reinforcing it by my mind chatter; blaming everything from the guide book to the markers to myself and my belief in my inability to easily find my Way. So I kept checking myself and saying that my external reality was a true reflection of my internal beliefs and if I saw and believed the path as being easy to navigate it would be. And unlike other times when I've tried to change my belief by saying I'd be smarter, more diligent etc., this time I didn't try to change myself or my approach but rather simply believed that the path would be easy to find. And today so it was! What a wonderful lesson!

As I was writing the above at a cafe a woman asked in English if she could join me. Delphine from Adelaide, Australia had completed the Camino Francais about the same time as Lil and I. Then she wanted to walk a bit more so took a train from Santiago to Valenca, Portugal and is now walking back to Santiago, a 5 day trek. We had a nice couple of hours of conversation before she headed back to her Albergue which was located outside of town. I think for us both having someone to talk with was important as we'd been walking alone for a few days.

I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the town before settling on a hamburger for my dinner, which are popular here in Spain, from a local hamburger shop. It was different than ours but very tasty. Now I'm back in my room at the Pension and after reading a bit will go to sleep.

Hasta Luego Amigos!


     

A small friend teaching me the value of taking it slow. Beware of exiting walkers! Elevated vineyards.

     

The old Roman Road is now the Way to Santiago. Fountain in early light.

     

Path over water. Path over water and angel of light.

     

Sanctuary of the Pilgrim. Inside the pilgrim sanctuary. Pilgrim's font.

     

Verdent beauty of Galacia. The bridge into Pontavedra1.

     

St. James the Pilgrim. Shrine dedicated to all pilgrims1.

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Day 2: Lost my way twice today on the Way Day Padron to Caldas de Reis 18K (+10)

Unlike yesterday, another universe away, today was challenging and difficult mostly because of missing the arrow twice, going way to far before realizing I was wrong, and having to backtrack adding an extra 10K to my walk. Also the challenge of finding the arrows took a lot of mental energy and so I spent my time looking and stressing to see if I'd missed the Way rather than enjoying my thoughts or the scenery.

The day was clear skies and warm, a bit muggy and promised to be a beautiful day. I had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel and then enjoyed the early morning in Padron, one of the places that St James had preached when he was alive and where his remains were returned to after his death.

I followed the path and did well with the arrows and the guide book until I missed one turn and then made the mistake of starting to follow a red arrow thinking the blue arrow may have changed color. This took me into some other reality where two people told me I was going the right way and I spent two hours getting back to where started. Interestingly there were signs trying to point me in another direction, a horse twice tried to stop me while his rider berated him for not obeying, but I wasn't paying attention. Then an hour later I did the same thing by making an assumption that caused another half hour or more detour and both detours had long hills that were needlessly climbed. By mid afternoon I felt like I had to be vigilant all the time or I'd get lost. It wasn't fun and this was supposed to be fun. So decided to trust that I'd learn to see the arrows and still be able to enjoy the walk.

I stopped for lunch and ate my sandwich I'd made from extra food I'd had from breakfast. I was beat from walking and found it?s harder to pace myself without Lilly to compliment me. We liked to stop at the same time and our rhythm gave me comfort and stamina. I also missed the conversation and laughter. I like my own company too and hope once I get situated with the path I'll enjoy myself again.

I arrived in Caldas de Reis around 3:30 so had walked a good 7 hours. There were a number of other pilgrims going to Santiago in the opposite direction and some would smile and some would ask if I was going the wrong way and some would know I was heading to Portugal. The pilgrim traffic is much less than the Spanish Camino which is nice. I'd also say that the age range is maybe older than that Camino.

The Albergue turned out to be a hotel and I had a decent room for 25 Euro. After washing clothes and bathing I took a nap before going out to explore the town. It was famous for its hot springs hence the name of the town the King's Hot Baths. It sits on a river, as do many of the towns in Galacia, and I found a cafe by the water to have a beer. The weather had been warm all day and it was pleasant sitting outside.

Later I had dinner in the hotel and the food was fine. It was busy with a party downstairs and I enjoyed watching the Spanish come alive. By 11:00 I was in bed and soon asleep.


     

An abandoned mini chapel. Caldas de Reis.

     

Blue arrow. The place St James' body was first brought to on way back to Santiago. Icecream sundaes for Lilly.

     

Field of scarecrows. Mountain Wine. Happy Flowers.

     

Way in Padron. Font in Padron showing St James baptizing a child.

     

Padron Porta de Santiago. City streets.

        

Padron Porta de Santiago. Typically path in this part of Galacia raised grape vines on either side. Willy Goats' Gruff.

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Day 1: William Starts the Portuguese Camino Day

I left Lilly at the crossroads of our mutual future directions, she to go to the train and I to find the Portuguese Camino. The day broke clear and it was sweet to be exiting Santiago on sun rather than rain. Our goodbyes were brief as we had been transitioning and completing our journey since arriving in Santiago. I felt a sadness yet no grief on parting.

Getting out of town was challenging as I couldn't follow the guide book's instructions backwards to exit town. So it took me an hour to find the Camino again by asking directions repeatedly. I finally came into it at 9:05 just when Lil's train was leaving for Madrid, about 6K from where I started.

I saw a number of pilgrims coming my direction but nothing like the waves coming into Santiago on the Camino Francais. A few I spoke with as they were interested in why I was going the opposite way. One couple was from Seattle and had come from Porto. A few Spaniards smiled when they saw I was walking south and asked if I was heading home from my pilgrimage. Yes, I was, I replied with the smile of a pilgrim who's completed his pilgrimage.

Following the signage was much more challenging than the previous walk as the arrows of the Portuguese Camino are blue not yellow and far fewer in number. However, between the arrows, the guide book's maps and seeing pilgrims walking I was able to stay on track though I missed the mindlessness that comes with not having to pay attention to the route.

The villages were different yet to any others yet seen on the Camino. More "tight," compact hamlets with the path meandering through. Also new were little mini chapels that were build on elevated structures and seemed to go with individual homes. They looked like rectangular boxes with doors on either end with no access them by either stairs or ladder.

The weather which started out clear skied began to change around 10:00 and I thought rain might be coming. However, after I stopped for lunch it cleared up again and was sunny by late afternoon. Lunch was at a cafe where I treated myself to fried eggs, bacon, and french fries. I even had a beer to top it off.

What was also notable today was the number of barking dogs. On most of our journey through Spain the dogs have been quiet usually because they were leashless or not behind a wall. Today every house it seemed had a barking dog. I wandered if the folks here are more fearful than other parts of the country?

Several times today I felt a strong connection with Lilly and thought she was also thinking about me. It is a different journey now, walking alone and I miss her company very much. When I got to my hotel this afternoon and did my routine it felt a bit empty without my companion. Walking alone too for the first time since my journey in France brought up some of the feelings of insecurity I experienced then. However, this time I'm a different person and have learned much since then. I think this journey alone will be wholesome and healing for me.

I took a bath and nap before coming down for dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was quiet with only one other table of pilgrims. The meal was excellent and I started a new book about the history of the Byzantine empire.

Though I hadn't planned to write a blog on this part of the journey I'm enjoying the writing and will do so when the muse calls. I'm writing this on my phone as the keyboard is defunct for now. Ok friends time to say:

Hasta Luego! (see you later!)


     

Baroque church. Towers. First sign to Portugal in Milladoiro.

     

Leaving Santiago. Mini chapels.

     

Gallacian hills. Gallacian scarecrow. Grape Alley.

        

Village washing. St. James and a for sale sign. First caf? with Portuguese Camino name.

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