Spirits Were Dampened

Day 4 | Povoa de Varzim to Viana do Castelo (27km)

It was raining when we left the restaurant last night and was raining as we walked out of town this morning. It was going to be a coat day, I guess if we walk in October we have to expect some wet weather. It was just as well today took is away from the coast and inland along the coastal camino (we’ve been walking the littoral camino sticking to the beaches).

As we left the beaches behind Gerry told me about his horrible dream. He said he was falling and a voice whispered to him unless you wake up you’ll fall down to hell. He said in his dream he tried so hard to wake but kept falling… until suddenly he woke with a start. Oddly he also said I had a bit of a night terror a little later and cried out in my sleep… although I have no recollection of this. Anyway I told Gerry we had to stop at a church and I’d say a little prayer for him.

As we walked on 4 cyclists passed us. We’d already seen them leave town so how come they came by again? I joked to Gerry and said they were the four riders of the apocalypse… and horsemen were just too old fashioned. He gave me one of his looks and just as he did they’d turned round and came by again. The last one smiled and wished us a Bom Caminho; I told Gerry he was looking at him.

Not much further on we entered what felt like the longest suburbs possible, for many kilometers we wandered along a cobbled road lined with houses. I bet on a clear day we’d get a good view of the coast as we’d walked up a fair bit. Today there was only rain and grey and mist. Before long we found a church and thankfully it was open. We both went in and Gerry took a seat. I wandered a little before finding a statue of Jesus; I reminded him that Gerry was one of the good guys and asked him to keep him safe. We turned to leave and an old chap called me towards the altar. He told me to follow him into a little office off to one side. He stamped our credentials, then gave them a 3D watermark with a special little machine and then he gave me a prayer from St Micheal and another from Joseph. He wished us a safe journey and we left. It made me feel happy.

Onwards we walked between the houses. The rain continued. Sometimes just a fine mist and other times proper rain. It was never cold so we tried to take our jackets off whenever possible to avoid over heating. But it felt like no sooner had we removed them the rain would start again. We spotted a sign for a bar but the bar looked very closed. Not much further on we spotted another. Bar O Lampiao 90m. We weren’t sure whether to risk the detour but decided it was only 90m and it was raining. It was a good decision.

Bar O Lampião in Belinho is an eclectic mix of memorabilia… lots of Porto football items, a great many photos of Che Guevara and then lots and lots of newspaper cuttings and photos of musicians… from Bob Marley to Sid Vicious. Everywhere was spotless and I decided I would not want to be the person who polished it all. We sat outside and ordered coffees. They arrived with peanuts and biscuits and honey and jam. What a treat. I visited the ladies and paused to look at all the items on the wall. The owner tried to talk but we were limited with Portuguese and English. I tried French and he told me his son lived near Perpignan. He asked if I liked music and I told him I was a singer. I showed him a photo and from there I got the feeling he assumed I was a famous French singer. He told all the old guys in the bar I was a singer. He showed me more and more photos of singers and then asked for a photo… of me behind the bar. There was a ripple of excitement with the three old guys sat the bar. I had no idea how to get them to understand that I’m only a wedding singer.

He asked us to put a pin on his map… we placed the white pin near Bordeaux. We said our goodbyes and wandered on. Regardless of the singing confusion Bar O Lampiao was a fabulous little oasis and you should drop in and say hello. Tell him a singer from France recommended it.

Back in the rain and the suburbs and the path rose up. Up we walked and imagined the view without the mist. We could just about make out the sea amongst the grey. We walked up to a church and there was a sign that said pilgrims could get a stamp but the car park was full and there were a number of people in black and we assumed it was a funeral so we walked on. Back into the forest walking amongst the pines and eucalyptus trees. After a few minutes a bell tolled. Then several bells. It lasted for many minutes and was kind of eerie as we walked through these mighty trees. There was a pause and they started again. Then another pause before a bang. At first it sounded like gun fire but later sounded like fireworks. It was again a few minutes before they stopped. Gerry said that’s how he’d like to be sent off… bells, bangs and plenty of booze.

The forest walk continued and we felt we were walking along an ancient path. Huge stones placed intentionally along the trail, certainly these days a road less travelled. We crossed the river by means on an old stone bridge and walked up into a village. A flicker of recollection reminded me that there was a bar about 250m off the camino. It would be a while before the next village so we tested my memory and thankfully ended up with another wonderful chicken lunch… 5 Euros complete with bread and coffee. Fabulous!

Back we wandered into the rain. We’d felt we’d made good time. Google seemed to have a different distance to the app but I felt as we had walked through the forest it would be different. Onwards and upwards we walked with more forest and more little villages. After an hour or so we decided to stop for a cold drink. I checked the app. It was only three o’clock and we only had 3.5km to go. We both agreed it would be good to get out of the rain. Gerry again said that Google maps showed further. We double checked the app… nope not too far left. I opened the map on the app just to make doubly sure. I immediately wished I hadn’t. The Wise Pilgrim app was missing a 4km section. Instead of 3.5km we had 7.5km. All day we’d been saying that we’d had a lovely day despite the weather and that our spirits weren’t dampened. I can tell you sat outside that little bar there were two pilgrims with very dampened spirits.

A couple of cyclist’s had overheard our conversation and smiled… the kind of sympathetic smile which said I feel your pain. But… there was nothing for it but to march. The rain eased off and I said that we should at least be grateful for the break in the weather. I shouldn’t have said that. A few minutes later the heavens opened and it just rained and rained and rained. We put our heads down and marched.

Finally the huge bridge that crosses the Limia estuary came into view. By now the rain had eased but huge gusts of wind pushed us across the tiny pedestrian path. I was quite pleased that I felt not a whisper of fear, even when a train rumbled along below us and made the bridge tremble and shake. The bridge is huge… almost a kilometre in length but it wasnt the height that bothered us but the wind. We felt like turtles with packs on our backs and were just glad to get out of the gusts!

Thankfully our hotel was just a few hundred meters further along. And we’ve both showered in one of the most powerful showers I’ve ever had and I’m feeling much warmer and more human again. I learned that my RAB jacket will keep me dry in heavy rain… and that no matter the weather (or extra kilometers) my spirits are still quite chirpy.

Big Sky

Day 3 | Povoa de Varvim to Esposende (23km)

Last night’s room picnic was a big success with plenty left over for our picnic today. Our hotel included breakfast so I also managed to stow away a hard boiled egg for my sandwich; I didn’t feel too guilty as I took my own gluten free bread for my toast.

We had a really lazy start to our day and we heard the clocks chime 9.00 as we left. I don’t think I’ve ever started a camino day so late but it felt wonderful. The hotel was just a few hundred metres from the coast so it was a mere hop skip and a jump and we were there.

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Slow Slow Quick Quick Slow

Day 2 | Perafita to Povoa de Varzim (24km)

Last night’s accommodation was spotless.  We had full use of the kettle so drank several cups of tea.  The shower was hot and fabulous… indeed it was all pretty great except the bed was sooo hard.  Neither of us slept too well and I think we’d pay for it later.  But at least this morning there was tea before we left.   No breakfast for me but Gerry had the second slice of cake that we’d been given yesterday.  He said he was quite relieved to discover it was cake because yesterday he thought it had been a really grainy piece of flan. 

We both showered and got ready for the day ahead.  Feet tape, bags packed and still on the road before 8.30am.  Of course Portugal is in a different time zone and next week we’ll need to be awake considerably earlier but for now we enjoy the extra hour.

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How was Your Day?

Day 1 | Porto to Perafita (17km)

When we decided to walk the Portuguese Coastal Caminho, one of Gerry’s requests was that we take our time. I first walked this route in 2017 and we rushed as we had limited time. Gerry had loved the photos and as he loves the coast and seafood and Portugal it became another route on our wishlist… but only if we could meander. Today we certainly meandered.

We woke before the alarm but only just… we’d set it for 8.00am so it wasn’t exactly an early start. I decided to change my toe taping routine, which I would regret a bit later but for this morning I used a compeed patch instead of my usual gel toe cap. It was a relaxed, almost lazy start to the day but that was exactly the mood we wanted.

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When is a walk…

Day 0 – Porto

When is a walk not a walk?  When it’s a walking tour!  Today was a non walking day. We arrived yesterday and meandered the streets of Porto.  Porto  feels a little down on its luck.  When I came in 2017 the streets were lined with fancy arty shops and glitzy windows inticing passing tourists to stop and shop..  They’re gone now and every other window seems closed but… there is reconstruction and renovation everywhere so it seems that Porto is again on the up.

Today we met a tour guide for a 3 hour walking tour of Secret Porto.  It was just us and the guide so we had his full attention.  He walked the narrow streets and he gave us a history lesson of this wonderful city.  We paused for drinks and photos and chocolate but mostly we walked. 

For lunch Gerry had already decided he had to try a Fransesinha… a Portuguese sandwich from Porto based on a Croque Monsieur… made with bread,  ham, linguiça, fresh sausage and steak covered with melted cheese and a hot and thick spiced tomato and beer sauce… with an egg on top!!! Our guide recommended a good place so we said our goodbyes and headed for lunch… I should add that I opted for a salad.

After our feast we walked back down through the city to the Ribeira District along the water front.  What we never expected was an invasion from the red army!  Three thousand Liverpool fans had descended on Porto for a European Champions match and all we could hear were chants of “You’ll never walk alone”  from the crowds that filled the bars along the edge of the Douro.  We stopped for a cold drink before heading off to find our second tour… another 3 hour walking tour of the bodegas of Porto. 

First we headed across the river Douro to sample the delights of the world famous Port. After a few very large taster glasses we returned back across the river to a small Bodega in the old flower District.  Again after a few large glasses and a sample of tapas we were off again.  Up over the hills of Porto and into a new district to sample the fresh Vinho Verde of the northern Portuguese vineyards.  Another large glass accompanied by more tapas of cheese and cured meats.  The tour had been due to end at 7.00 but it was almost 8.00pm when we left.  For a non walking day we managed to cover over 14km criss-crossing the city.

We bid farewell to the others on the tour and headed off half a kilometre away from the tourist area in search of Piri Piri Chicken… Google maps assured us we would find a good local restaurant… and it wasn’t wrong. 

When we entered it looked more like  small bar but they pointed us in the direction of stairs and we wandered up to a small but busy restaurant.  We were ushered to a table and given a menu.  We ordered a pepper and sweet onion salad followed by piri piri chicken… washed down with a bottle of cold cold vinho Verde.  For an hour we sat amongst the hubble and noise of a Portuguese restaurant as locals watched the Porto Liverpool match on the big screen.  We ate like kings and the wine was actually much nicer than the last offering on the tour.  I rarely drink but I thoroughly enjoyed tonight’s offerings. 

It would be fair to say we willed Porto on to score but despite our best efforts Liverpool were the champions tonight.  We paid our (tiny) bill and meandered the few kilometers back to our apartment.

We’re here now and downstairs we can hear a busker singing Johnny Cash songs as folks eat a late supper in the restaurantsthat line the street. Gerry is trying really hard to sulk because I ate some of his chocolate but I know he’s not serious (although has now hidden it from me so I guess I won’t be having any more). We have an easy day tomorrow along the coast and after all we have eaten and drunk today I think that’s probably just as well…. welcome to the Caminho Portuguese!

Walk with Me?

Some of the folks who follow my blog will already know that as well as walking my own Caminos, I also organise workshops and escorted small group walks along the Camino. I’m taking a group in September 2021 from St Jean Pied de Port to Logrono and after this another group from Logrono onto Burgos. And… I’m also looking forward to 2022 and planning other group walks.

My current thinking is that I’ll take a group from St Jean Pied de Port to Logrono (along the Camino Frances) on 19-28 April 2022 and another group from Oviedo to Santiago (along the Camino Primitivo) on 14-29 May 2022.

I’m also pondering another group between 29 April and 13 May but I’ve not yet decided which route to plan … but I am collecting names for anyone who might interested in walking with me. So – Drop me a line if you think this might be of interest in any of my group walks!

The Pandemic Made Us Do It!

Day 13 | Olcoz to Eunate

I pinched that line from a friend who set up a business during the first COVID lockdown (she’s been really successful too… if you’re in the UK and need cakes ). We kind of stayed hot all evening yesterday; Gerry felt it more than me but it was really hard to cool down after walking in the sun. Last night we decided not to repeat the exercise today but to be more cautious about the time we spent under this hot Spanish sun! We also decided that we’ll not come walking again in July (or August) because it’s just too hot. We said the same last year when we walked the Lebaniego and yet here we are again… but in our defence both times it’s been because of lockdowns and changes in restrictions and the simple desire to come walk as soon as possible… but regardless… in future we’re staying put at home! I think we both agreed that we’d rather walk in the cold or even the rain than really hot sunshine… and at home we know how to keep the house cool and the garden is growing and productive and we should make the most of the French sunshine.

It was because of that Gerry said he didn’t want to walk for too far today and to limit the time outside and be done before mid-day. So we found a spot just after Olcoz that would give us an hour or so to walk before turning around and heading back to the car. The drive from our apartment was over an hour this morning… we were up early again (tractors this time) and I caught another sunrise. We decided there was no need for picnics as we would be on the Camino Frances and there were bound to be options!

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Almost There

Day 12 | Monreal to Tiebas

Before I start I’ve added a little bit of music. We heard it drifting out of a bar today. Maybe give it a play whilst you read; it kind of fits our mood.

So we knew that today would be hot. In all honesty it’s too hot to be out walking and yet these two English folk were out in the mid day sun! We woke with the village but unlike other days, today we rose early as we knew if we wanted to do any walking it had to be done early! It was the first time that I was able to catch the sunrise coming over the mountains!

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Part Two

Day 11 | Liedena to Izco

I think we have rented the noisiest little casa in Berdun! We think that the residents must be so used to the noise that they don’t hear it anymore. Or maybe we live in such a quiet corner of rural France and we’re not used to the noise of the metropolis? (bearing in mind there are only around 200 residents in this little hilltop village) Every night we’re ready for bed around 10:00pm but that’s when the village is coming to life. Old ladies gather under our apartment window and chatter and laugh and no doubt share the village news. Children seem to enjoy kicking a football around in the church park above the house and last night we were sure they must have been walking a sheep up the lane? The dog across the road gets very excited about all the passing traffic and barks and as the house is on a bend at the top of steep hill, cars need to rev their engines to make it to the top… and if that wasn’t enough the lady who lives on the floor above us seems to move her furniture around every night… we kid you not it really does sound like someone is dragging a bed or a wardrobe across the floor. Anyway… it’s noisy. But do you know what? We kind of love the noise. It’s full of character. It’s Spain.

Before going to bed last night we sat out on the terrace and watched a light show in the distance on the hills beyond Pena Monastery. Flashes of lightning flew across the sky and dark clouds passed in front of the moon. We expected a storm but for us nothing happened.

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