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Camino Portugues

Jim

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006- Camino Portuguese
2008- Camino Frances
2009- Sanabres extension of the VDLP
2010- Camino Frances
2011- Camino Potuguese
2014- Camino Frances
2017- Camino Finisterre
#1
Completed the Portuguese Route on Jul 24th, 2006. Great experience! Two days ago, I wrote a long draft about my experiences and marked "send" thought it would be posted, but something must have gone wrong because I don't see it. I'll rewrite it when I get a chance.

Buen camino to Estrella who is on the Route now!
 

ivar

Administrator
Staff member
#2
aahh.. that was too bad. When I write long posts I write it in Word, then copy and paste it in the text box in the forum. That way you have a copy in word if anything goes wrong.

Let me know if I can do anything to help on my end with the post and thanks for contributing.

Un saludo,
Ivar
 

Jim

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006- Camino Portuguese
2008- Camino Frances
2009- Sanabres extension of the VDLP
2010- Camino Frances
2011- Camino Potuguese
2014- Camino Frances
2017- Camino Finisterre
#3
Camino Summary: July 19th to July 24th

Here goes again! I want to thank everyone for their assistance with planning my first camino. I originally had intended to walk on the French route, but I began to realize that, while do-able, it would have required several connections to get to the Lugo-Sarria area. I did the camino on the foot-heels of a three-week excursion through Iberia that included touring in Madrid, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, Marbella, Ronda, Gibraltar, Seville, and Portimao/Lagos/Sao Vicente in the Algarve area of Portugal. I ended the vacation portion of this trip in Lisbon with a day trip to Fatima, which was a wonderful precursor to doing the camino.

It was suggested by board contributors that I do the Portugues route instead and the timing worked out the best for me. My husband, Jim, returned to the US from Lisbon. He did not plan on going because his has a bad right knee and found that he couldn’t train with me in the months prior to leaving for Europe. Well, it was my idea anyway. So on the morning of July 19th I left Lisbon on the CP train to Famalicao and changed to a regional train to Valenca on the northern Portuguese border. I simply left the train station and started walking through Valenca and over the bridge across the Minho River into Spain. I solicited the help of the good staff at the TI office in Tuy for a B&B to spend the night. I stayed at a beautifully renovated place, a suite with a kitchen and living room. It was called Casa Rural O Rozo and located northwest of Tuy, near Parque Natural Monte Aloia. Cost = about 70 Euros. The hostess pointed out that there was a restaurant and grocery store down the road. I enjoyed a plate of tapas for supper and had a good night’s rest at the B&B.

The next morning I started walking and realized that I was quite a bit off the camino track. I got back on at the “109 and some km” mark. I was very surprised at the lack of foot traffic on the paths, this being so close to the festival of St. James date. I think that I had just gotten off to a late start since I had to weave my way back onto the camino path from the B&B. The weather was hot and the shade in the wooded area was very welcome. I am a 58 year old woman walking alone and I can truthfully say that I never feared for my own safety, but I was spooked when I saw a dead sheep in the stream just beyond the San Telmo monument. I’ll admit to having heeded some advice about safety beforehand, though. I carried two knives and a metal walking stick with a pointed end “that could do some damage” if I were ever attacked. I spent 22-1/2 years in the Army and I figured that a put-on cold stare would be enough to ward someone off. I try to avoid carrying myself around as if I am a victim. That said, the locals that I encountered along the camino path were mostly elderly women who seemed to appreciate a smile and a “buenos dias.”
There are several small chapels along this stage of the route and I did take advantage of them to be alone to regroup my thoughts about “why I am here.” After a bite of lunch, I was on the trek through the area south of O Porrino, which was stressful—lots of big trucks on the road, kicking up lots of dust. But I came across my first fellow pilgrim here by the roundabout, a French woman about my age who was headed south to Fatima. I’ll admit to being tired when I finally entered the city of O Porrino, so I stopped at the albergue there to lighten my load. I had taken way too many toiletries and decided that parting with a few unopened this’s and that’s would be in my best interest. I took an almost two hour nap in that cool albergue, thanks to the most lovely hospitalera running the place. She tried to convince me to stay the night, but I got my second wind and decided to push on. The town of Mos was another 5 km and I decided to try for it. I found a nice café, serving a good pasta/beef chunks with vegetables supper. The woman running the café entertained me by turning on the TV to a game show. That night it was geography of Spain. I think I amazed her at how many questions I could answer (all fairly easy stuff—I speak a good deal of Spanish, but wouldn’t say that I am fluent). After supper, I decided to push even further—all the way to Redondela. I made it to the albergue by 9:30 p.m. Just enough room! Most everyone was in bed by the time I set my rucksack down. The lights were out. A few women were doing the laundry. I thought that I would have sore the next day. My shins were slightly bothersome. I took some Advil (ibuprofen) and quickly feel asleep after my shower. That albergue was quite lovely with very good facilities.

The next morning I got the chance to speak sporadically with several groups of pilgrims. No shin or foot pain on this morning! I was in good shape for this day! I kept up a steady pace but was possibly the last straggler on the path. Just short of Pontevedra, I stopped by a wonderful café, serving a tuna sandwich with some of those famous Padron pimentos added to it. I sat at a table with a couple from Mallorca whom I had seen earlier in the day. It was a nice break trading information about how disaffected youth are treated in Spain vs the United States. The woman,Paula, is a teacher and makes home visits I am a pediatric and family nurse practitioner and am employed by a school district in California. The couple decided to stay in the albergue so I walked with them to it (also looking very nice), then headed into the city where I had pre-reserved a room through centraldereservas.com at Hotel Rias Baias (cost 56 Euros, no breakfast). No frills, but a comfortable place that had a small refrig in the room. I was able to go to the supermarket around the corner and purchase some dinner items and breakfast foods, as well as some liquids to take with me for the road the following day.

I followed Brierley’s guide to the Camino Portugues and thought I’d find very little luck in the way of cafes on the way to Caldas. However, there was a rather new place right on the route, a bit past the midway mark and featuring very nice roasted pork sandwiches. I found the albergue in Caldas, but it had been closed for some time, according to some of the locals. I booked into Casa Leirero, due west from Caldas along N640 almost to AP 9. I was tired so I indulged in a short taxi ride from Caldas to the B&B. Now, I’ll explain that I am a frequent user of the “gites-de-france” system of Chambres D’Hotes in France and usually book those that offer repas (supper). This B&B near Caldas was very similar to some of the nicest facilities that I had stayed at while in the Auvergne and surrounding areas of central and southwest France. This being a Saturday night, July 22nd, it was a full house, including a Spanish couple who were now living in Los Angeles, California and were visiting “back home.” Conversation flowed easily and they wanted me to regale them of my adventures on the camino. They were also curious about why I would be doing the camino in the first place and why I was alone, all 5 foot of me. Dinner was a multi-course feast. The main course was a seafood bouillabaisse. All very delicious! The next morning we were served fresh baked croissants. The host drove me back to Caldas and put me back on track so that I could attend Sunday Mass at the Iglesia and continue on schedule. He sent me off with a large bottle of water and some snacks for along the way. Very lovely hosts! I will come back one day and bring my husband to this place.

Sunday was a full-sun day, not that much shade, but there were livestock to commune with along the route. Horses, goats and a sheep or two today. Much is said of barking dogs along the camino route. They were either on a long chain or well fenced in. It began to make sense to me as to why there would be large dogs in the first place. Much of the camino course appeared to run over or adjacent to private property. Owning a large dog myself and partly for security reasons, it was nice to see so many fine dogs. I sort of smiled at them and told them what good pooches they were for doing their job well.

I walked through Padron and onward to Pazos where I had reserved a room before I left for Europe, again through centraldereservas.com. The Hotel Scala’s staff was wonderful. The gal at the desk oriented me to my room herself and pointed out their pool and bid me to take advantage of having a dip there. The grounds were very well manicured. Trellises with kiwi fruit set off a nice outdoor area. Cost = 52 Euros including a nice breakfast. The hotel has two fine restaurants attached. I chose the less expensive of the two, mainly because they were serving dinner and hour earlier than the other. I was the first customer. My first try of gallego soup—loved it! Ordered an entrée of roasted chicken and some vinho tinto (I honestly did not know that glasses of wine are not sold. So I was presented with a full bottle. No, I didn’t drink it all! This was my fist time in Europe alone. I had at least the company of my husband on other journeys there (sometimes in addition to one or both of our adult children and their friends)

My last day! Basically a bit overcast, even some sprinkles as I approached Santiago. The books all say that you will fell some exhilaration at the sight of the spires. Yes, I felt the classic symptoms, to my own surprise! There were very short lines at the Office of Peregrinos. Maybe it was because I was one of the slower hikers that day. I managed to check out a couple of gift shops after I got my certificate and ran into Jeff and his girlfriend, a young couple from England. God love them! I also ran into Paula and her husband, the couple from Mallorca. Several hugs went with the feeling of exhilaration. I think everyone was concerned for me, since I was clearly “the old lady” on the trail, and alone at that.

I checked into my hotel, Husa Universal Compostela-- very adequate lodging that I booked for 2 nights months in advance for the price of 68 Euros, including breakfast. This was great considering it was festival time. Location was good, not great, but at least it was only a short walk from both the train station and the bus station. Not much problem getting in and around town from either, now that I was free of backpack and walking stick. Fireworks and other festivities that evening were great. I sat near some young local women and also an older couple from Belgium. I felt like I had become a citizen of the world! The 10:30 a.m. Mass on the 25th was a packed standing-room-only event. I was standing close to where about 6 men were working the ropes to swing the botafumeiro. A sight to behold! Many dignitaries were present with seating reserved for them. I stayed for the following Mass also and took the time afterwards to tour the cathedral and the tomb of St. James. I had with me a stone from home wrapped with a paper listing my intentions. I placed it inside the grid covering the resting-place for the silver chest with the remains of St. James. I spent the rest of the day taking in this wonderful historical city.

While having breakfast at the Husa Hotel in Santiago, I ran into four teachers from Texas who had arrived in Santiago for the festivities. They were also headed for Porto on July 26th and were on the same ALSA bus. I was glad that I purchased the ticket 3 weeks earlier when I was touring in Spain with my husband. There were crowds trying to get on and I’m sure that there were not enough seats for everyone. I sat on the bus next to a journalist from Brazil. She had been covering the festival and was returning to Portugal to stay with friends. The ride down to Porto was almost surreal, in that I had walked over the same area and struggled up and down hills for several days and here we were, traversing the same area in a few hours.

Porto is a lovely city in its own right and I am glad that I had the chance to see some of it. I managed to do a whirlwind tour of the city on foot, now that I was freed of my backpack. Most interesting were the Cloisters at Se and the Igreja Sao Francisco. I met up with the teachers in the café area of the riverfront. A simply beautiful, warm, but breezy night! On the morning of Jul 27th, I left for the Porto Airport to take the 11:05 Ryanair flight to Paris. Transportation from mid-town Porto to the airport is so easy and inexpensive using the new Metro system.

I had six nights booked in Paris and stayed at the tiny Hotel de la Sorbonne, near the Pantheon. I consider my stay in Paris as a proper cooling down from my camino experience. I have been in Paris many times before, but this is the first time that I experienced the city alone. The park behind Notre Dame became on my favorite haunts there. I spent time admiring Eglise de St. Germain-des-Pres, Eglise St. Sulpice and Luxembourg Jardins, among other sights. I also did some research at the Archives. My great-grandparents owned a café in Paris, at a time when café culture was coming of age. I was trying to research its location and came up with some good leads for future research that I could do at home on the internet.

I guess I should explain why I did this hike in the first place. It was really all about family—my own family, my extended family, my human family. I learned about the camino in a 5th grade reader (I attended a Catholic parochial school). It was a story about two children, one destined to stay in the then Spanish colony of St. Augustine Florida and the other to return to Spain. “Remember St. James and Spain,” the one bid the other farewell. A sidebar explained the story of the Santiago pilgrimage. I remember being quite impressed with the story. On and off over the years, I came across articles about it and thought, someday I’ll do this myself! But it wasn’t until I was touring the Basque region in Navarra a few years ago that I actually ran into someone who walked the camino. A young woman about 25 years old, who was a tour-guide at the cathedral in Hondarribia, told me of her experiences doing the camino herself. Hearing her speak of it gave me hope of accomplishing this journey. So here I was doing it for myself.

My fears, frustrations, sweat and toil doing this were offered for a brother who disappeared 40 years ago on one crisp October Saturday. He was an 8th grade student who had just finished delivering papers on his newspaper route, stopped by home briefly and then went out again on his bike a 3:30 p.m. to meet his best friend. He never arrived. He and his belongings were never found. A proper police investigation was not done because two days later, some classmates told the police they saw my brother and ran after him “but couldn’t catch him.” It was a story that would ring out a grain of truth because the whole school knew that my brother was the fastest runner. Twenty-some years later, one of the classmates confessed that they had made up the whole story to cover for the fact that they were late getting back to class because they were smoking and needed a story to account for the time. So the case was tightly shut and he was simply listed as a runaway. This was something he would not have done—he would not have run out on the family or his best friend. He was my good buddy as well. I was about 5 years older than he and had a minor surgery a few weeks before he disappeared. He would get ice packs for me, take my mail up to me and that sort of stuff. Like I said, he would have never run out on us like that. I knew from the start that this was foul play. The laws regarding responsibilities of the police for a missing child were very weak at the time, something that has since been corrected, although the handling of such cases in the United States has yet to be standardized. Several attempts were made to get the police to look at this case again, but the police would not budge. So thirty some years later, I was finally able to get the police to reopen this case and their efforts led to him to finally be listed with the National Center for Missing and Exploited children in Alexandria, Virginia. Although I have little hope that this case will be “solved,” at least I know that stones are being unturned with ruling out that he survived whatever happened to him and DNA matches on remains that crop up and that sort of thing. Good investigators are working on this and their personal causes were added to my list of intentions that were placed at the tomb of St. James. My list from friends, neighbors, and co-workers was a rather long typed list. I hand wrote wishes to extend blessings to people that I met along the way, genuine people who cared. Service workers and locals alike.

I posted my reasons for doing this camino on the site for American Pilgrims, GoCAMINO. Bless them and their efforts to pray for my success. So I feel a lot more at peace, praise be to God!

Will I do another camino? In a heartbeat! In 2008, I’ll try a segment of the French route. I want to go in 2010 also (Holy Year), God willing, and I think I will do either the Primitive or English route. I survived this short camino well, thanks to being fitted for good hiking boots by the staff at REI and good socks. I used Smart Wool socks, alternated with Wright socks and used a KEDS sock liner some days. No blisters, no foot pain!

God Bless Everyone! And buen camino to all the walkers out there and to those who will be walking!

“Mrs. Jim”
 

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