Senda Litoral Route – Caminho Português – September 2022 – Day 2

Day 2! Vila do Conde to Esposende

We all began Day 2 of our Caminho Português with foot ailments. The blisters had begun! My third Camino and my first blisters. On a route I thought would be a breeze compared to the Camino Frances. The thing is, we were walking too many KMs. 36 on our first day. The terrain might have been easier, but the grueling pace we gave ourselves proved in the end to be too much.

Minutes after leaving our albergue in Vila do Conde, we were back at the ocean’s edge.

Portugal is famous for its beautiful blue and white tile art. There was no end to examples of it along the Senda Litoral route of the Camino…

One of the things I couldn’t wait to see on this Camino route was the famous old windmills found along the beaches of Portugal. Some are small and abandoned. Others, larger and saved from extinction, have been transformed into summer cottages. Soon after leaving Vila do Conde behind us, we came upon our first windmill.

Windmill still intact.

There was a lot of boardwalk on this second day. And not that many places to stop for food and drink. We past one along the way, thinking we’d come to another soon.

If you come across this beach bar, it might be a good idea to stop. There are only two more places after this for a while. One is a few hundred feet off the path.

As we walked along the boardwalk hoping for a place to stop, we came upon a parking lot. Beyond it, there was one cafe and a small supermarcado. A few hundred feet from the boardwalk. We decided not to take any chances on coming upon something closer to the path. Good decision.

Glad we found this place on a day where places were few and far between.

After a much needed break, and some amazing fuel, we were off to return back to the endless boardwalk of Day 2.

It went on and on and on and on…
3 peregrinos!

On day 2, we have to go away from the beach for a while to walk around a rather large golf course.

The golf course that forces the Camino path away from the ocean.

Somewhere during this time, we accidentally left the Senda Litoral for a bit. The Camino Ninja was showing that our route was a couple hundred feet away and we couldn’t figure out where we went wrong. I think I narrowed it down to a house we passed after circumnavigating the golf course. There was a boardwalk going back in the direction of the ocean right before we came upon the house. It wasn’t marked, but the way beside the house was marked with yellow arrows. I think this is a place where two routes converged. We assumed we were following our route, but we accidentally crossed into another. The boardwalk would have been the Senda Litoral, I believe, but it wasn’t marked as such.

The house where, I suspect, we momentarily left our route for another one.
Right before we passed this house, we walked by a boardwalk that went in behind it…because the arrows pointed us away from it. We followed everyone else and avoided the boardwalk. The Senda Litoral route is not as well marked as the others.

Off the route, we were back onto the foot stabbing cobbles. Each step would send sharp pains into our feet. The blisters were growing and multiplying.

But we smiled anyway.

It actually didn’t take us long to get back onto the Senda Litoral. The Camino Ninja app, we were discovering, was going to save us time and time again.

A cool house that would be amazing as a tourist attraction Haunted Mansion.

We were soon back to the boardwalk and back to the windmills. This time, they were the converted cottages we had seen on YouTube.

We were close to the end of our second day. Esposende was within reach.

After walking a short bridge across, I believe, the Cávado River, we were in Esposende and on our way to the Esposende Guesthouse.

The bridge that brought us to the end of our second day.
Almost there! Thank god. Blisters, blisters, blisters.

If you end your day at Esposende, it would NOT be a bad thing to end it at the ESPOSENDE GUESTHOUSE (the link is to their website, but we booked through booking dot com). We loved this little place. Soon after check-in, the proprietress left the property and all the pilgrims were left to their own devices. We had restaurants nearby, and a little town complete with the all-important farmacia! We were ready to have all the first aid requirements of the deeply blistered pilgrim!

Fully functioning kitchen at our disposal. BUT…restaurants down the street. Easy decision for tired pilgrims.
This was definitely a super cute albergue!
The rooms were clean and we had a little balcony!
When you’re a pilgrim, a clean bathroom is everything. A good shower is everything. The Esposende Guesthouse hit all the marks!

Now, remember for a moment that I said the proprietress leaves the albergue after the pilgrims have all been checked in. Now, imagine a level of trust you’ve probably never experienced in North America kicking into action.

At the end of a long and tiring day of walking along the coast of Portugal, we settled into our evening, glass of wine in hand, and sat out on the patio of our home for the night. A beautiful evening, even though we knew the rain was coming…

A perfect way to end a magical day…

I’m not saying you should work your Camino around to land in Esposende so you can stay at the Guesthouse. But I am saying if Esposende is one of your stops, the Esposende Guesthouse is a great place to stay.

I’m also an author. One of my novels, a young adult story, is set on the Camino Frances route of the Camino de Santiago. THE CAMINO CLUB. It follows six teens on their journey from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela. The teens walk with court appointed counselors in a juvenile delinquent program that will see them free of their records once they make the journey to Santiago…a clean slate. Think of a more diverse The Breakfast Club, but on the Camino de Santiago over two weeks instead of in a school library on a Saturday. Give it a look! It’s available wherever books are sold. Here’s the Amazon USA link.

 

Unprecedented Holy Year on the Camino! Happy St. James Feast Day!

Happy St. James’s Feast Day to all!

For fans of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Spain, today marks a special occasion. It is, after all, St. James who is the rock star of the Camino. They don’t call it St. James Way or The Way of St. James for nothing. Pilgrims walk on different routes that all arrive at the same place… the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela… and ultimately to the supposed bones of St. James himself. And they have done so for centuries.

Michael and I shortly after arriving in Santiago de Compostela in September, 2019, from the Camino Frances. The Cathedral in the background.

The city’s name itself gives clues to the place of worship it houses. Santiago means St. James. With Compostela, there is debate about its meaning, but the one I prefer is that Compostela is derived from Campo and Stella (or the Latin Campus Stellae–Stars Field) and means FIELD OF STARS. (There is also a theory that it is from the Latin compositum and the Galician local bastardized Latin Composita Tella—or burial ground.) I choose St. James in the Field of Stars as the more illustrious and apropos translation, because FUN!

There he is, St. James, resting beneath the altar in a sepulchre in his little cubbyhole home!

As a non-Christian hiker and wanderluster, I have a different view of pilgrimage than those people. I have visited the sepulchre said to contain the bones of St. J. TWICE now. It’s quite lovely in its little cubbyhole home under the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The part that is so hard to believe, even though it’s ultimately fun to do so… After the apostle was executed, his disciples eventually recovered his body and put it in a STONE boat. Then the said STONE boat magically floated its way across the Mediterranean and out to the Atlantic Coast. It eventually came ashore in Iria Flavia (now Padrón), where some of his followers gathered up his body from the STONE boat and took them inland for burial. Eventually, they discovered a place so lovely with the field of night stars shining down upon it, they just had to bury him there and build a monument in his honour.

Every fairy tale has a grain of truth and a brick of salt attached to it. It doesn’t matter what the folklore is, it’s still St. James Day today! And because of the pandemic, the Pope guy in the big house has declared this year 2022 a HOLY YEAR despite the fact it does not qualify to be called one. This papal declaration means that anyone who travels any of the Camino routes this year, making their way into Santiago de Compostela, will find more pageantry than usual.

Credencials or Pilgrim Passports. These ones were issued for the Holy Year (which is 2021 with a special extension to 2022). Michael and I, along with his sister, will be walking the Camino Portugues into Santiago de Compostela this coming September… when we will be able to enter the Cathedral through the Holy Door.

Here’s the breakdown on what a Holy Year is:

The Feast of St. James always falls on 25th July. If July 25th falls on a Sunday, that year is declared a Holy Year. This happens every 6, 5, 6 and 11 years. The last Holy Year BEFORE THE PANDEMIC was in 2010. Then the pandemic hit and there was a HOLY YEAR last year, 2021. Since Holy Years see a considerable increase in the numbers of pilgrims to Santiago, but that increase was stymied by the pandemic, the Pope made a special dispensation and declared 2022 a Holy Year as well. This is the 2nd time in history that a Holy Year has been given the special dispensation to run for two years. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) created a fragile political situation that caused the Church to decide to extend the Xacobean Holy Year of 1937 to 1938.

I believe this is the HOLY DOOR, as seen from inside the Cathedral. I have never been to the Cathedral when the door is open, and it’s so easy to get turned around inside the humongous building, but I think this is it. This door is right across from where you go into the area where the sepulchre is, beneath the altar. So it would make sense…

What’s special at the Cathedral, besides extra special celebrations, during Holy Years? It is the one time that the “Holy Door” at the Cathedral opens. The Catholic Church offers a plenary indulgence during this time to pilgrims who cross the threshold of the Holy Door.

There you have it… the reason why 2022 is not exactly a Holy Year on the Camino de Santiago, but, in fact, IS a Holy Year.

Here’s a shot from when Michael and I walked the Camino Frances in September, 2019. My sandals in the foreground and Michael admiring the facade of the Cathedral in the distance.

I realize I use a lot of tongue in cheek when I talk about the religious aspects of the Camino, but I respect the Camino de Santiago for all it represents while walking its paths. I was raised Catholic, but I consider myself rescued from that organization. I do carry with me its ceremony and pomp…I remember all the rhetoric and liturgy. I don’t walk for religious reasons, but respect those who do. I walk to feel my feet touch the earth and to have moments of reflection and for the beauty and camaraderie. There is room on the Camino paths for people from all walks. And there is room to respect all the people walking.

Happy St. James Feast Year! If it was your hope to walk a Holy Year, I do hope you were able to do so. Enjoy your walk to the field of stars!

Our Camino Portugues – Senda Litoral Route

We are all set to go forth into the world again, once September comes.

This time, we will be doing the Senda Litoral Route of the Caminho Português (Portuguese Camino, The Portuguese Way, Camino Portugués). And, for the first time, there will be 3 of us walking! Can’t wait for this one… to walk along the coastline of Portugal up and into Spain and make our way to the city of Santiago de Compostela!

Credencials or Pilgrim Passports. These ones were issued for the Holy Year (which is 2021 with a special extension to 2022).

Our walk will be broken down as below, as far as we have it planned so far.

Porto – Vila Do Conde – 33.9km (we are thinking of shaving some of this off by crossing through Porto.)
Vila Do Conde – Esposende – 26.4km
Esposende – Viana do Castelo – 27.3km
Viana do Castelo – Caminha – 27.1km
Caminha – Baiona – 31.2km
Baiona – Vigo – 26.8km
Vigo – Ponte Samaio – 24.5km
Ponte Sampaio – Caldas de Reis – 33.3km
Caldas de Reis – A Picarana – 28.4km
A Picarana – Santiago de Compostela – 16km
Santiago de Compostela back to Porto by bus.
 

We will be walking this Camino in mid-September of 2022. The best place to live-follow our adventures will probably be on my INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT. I usually do daily updates there and then condense into a travel blog post after our return.

We will be travelling with John Brierley once again. I think a LOT of pilgrims travel with Brierley’s guides. It almost feels de rigueur at this point.

I know some of the days may seem a bit long in this itinerary. I’m hoping it’s doable as is. This Camino is definitely less mountainous than the Camino Frances, but there is also a little less infrastructure in places. We shall see.

Now, we wait for September to come as we dream of walking along the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean and eventually walking inland and reaching the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela once again. This time… it will be for the 3rd time for one of us, for the 2nd time for one of us, and for the 1st time for one of us. #CantWait!

 

 

While you’re here, I wrote a novel set on the Camino Frances route. You can check it out at Amazon here: THE CAMINO CLUB

THIS CAMINO IS NOW IN THE RECORD BOOKS! Senda Litoral Route – Caminho Português – September 2022- 280km in 10 days! PORTO, PORTUGAL to SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SPAIN.

Here’s a rundown of our 10 days on the Senda Litoral:

DAY 1 LINK

DAY 2 LINK

DAY 3 LINK

DAY 4 LINK

DAY 5 LINK

DAY 6 LINK

DAY 7 LINK

DAY 8 LINK

DAY 9 LINK

DAY 10 LINK

More Camino Books – LGBTQ Representation Included

As part of my Camino de Santiago obsession, I devour books set on the Camino is much as I can. I prefer nonfiction travel memoir, but I also read the odd fiction book using the Camino as its setting.

A month ago, I would have said, “Yeah, representation matters. But it’s not everything. I can read non LGBTQ works too.” And, yeah…obviously I can still read non LGBTQ works. I do so often. But after reading two Camino de Santiago travel memoirs in a row that are from LGBTQ perspectives, I realize that it does matter…and more than I thought it did. It was an absolute delight to find these two books.

When we last walked the Camino back in September of 2019, we saw some signs of LGBTQ pilgrims…but we also came across intolerance at these signs. There is ALWAYS graffiti along the Camino. I seldom have a problem with graffiti overall. It can actually be quite artistic and beautiful…this is especially true along the Camino. But also…it seems like some people just carry markers as part of their pilgrim experience. They mark everything in their path from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela.

Some of the graffiti we found on the Camino the last time around was the rainbow kind. The calling card of LGBTQ+ members. At first, it was rather touching to see it. Awwww…how nice! But then…

Soon…every rainbow we came to had the words STRAIGHT PRIDE written inside of it.

I was thrilled to have found 2 LGBTQ pilgrims’ books in a row! I read them both over the course of the past couple of weeks and LOVED each of them!

First, though, let me step backward for a minute. The author of one of my FAVOURITE Camino books pointed me toward the first LGBTQ Camino memoir I read, so I’d like to shout out them first for helping me find my way to these new books.

Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago by BETH JUSINO. Still one of my ultimate favourite Camino books!

It was Beth Jusino who first mentioned TRAIL MIX to me. Beth reviewed an ARC of the book prior to its release. I was so glad to have found it! You can check out Beth’s incredible Camino memoir, Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago, by clicking on the picture above.

Now, the 2 LGBTQ Camino Memoirs…


Trail Mix: 920km on the Camino de Santiago by Jules Torti (2021, Rocky Mountain Books)

A rollicking travel memoir that invites the curious, the initiated, and even the skeptics to tag along on the ever-changing landscape of “The Way”’

For many, walking the Camino is a decision predictably triggered by death, divorce, or a career crisis. It’s not Everest and it ain’t no walk in the park, but the Camino ‘family’ continues to inexplicably grow. In 2018 alone, 327,342 pilgrims were received at the pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Pilgrims worldwide are attracted to the gilded mystery and hope of the Camino. Like the Ouija board, magic 8-ball and Ann Landers, it surreptitiously provides answers.

There is snoring. Sleep apnea. Threadbare patience. Frayed nerves. Sour socks. A lot of salami. Shifting from a walk-in closet to a walking closet of just 10 pounds, Jules and Kim decided to walk the historic Camino before their lower backs (or any other body parts) decided otherwise. Jules learned all the essential Spanish they’d need — luckily everything that was necessary ended in ‘o’: vino tinto (red wine), queso (cheese), corto (small beer), chorizo (sausage), baño (bathroom). Trail Mix is the open, frank, and funny story of one Canadian couple voted most unlikely to agree to such a daunting social experience.

This book was a delight to read. Torti’s memoir was rife with humor. I really enjoyed her quirky eye and it was amazing to see the Camino through her often comedic lens. She walked the Camino with her partner, Kim. There’s actually a proposal along the way. As with all Camino memoirs, the couple meet colorful characters along the path and get into some pretty amusing predicaments. It has some laugh out loud moments in it. Like many pilgrims, Jules & Kim walk beyond Santiago de Compostela to Muxía and Finisterre…the end of the world. It was a surprise bonus to read a Camino memoir from a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It made me wonder if there were any others out there.
CLICK HERE TO PICK UP YOUR COPY OF TRAIL MIX.


Overweight, undertrained and terrified: A Camino Diary by Connor O’Donoghue (2017, Self-Published)

This is the entertaining and sometimes inspirational story of one morbidly obese 35-year-old Irishman who decides to walk 708 kilometres across the Camino de Santiago, an ancient Christian pilgrimage in Northern Spain one summer. On the journey, he faces a variety of physical and mental obstacles. The book is written in diary format, at turns poignant and funny in a light, pacey style.

I absolutely loved this book, for many reasons. The humour, sometimes delivered in very poignant ways and sometimes off the cuff, had me in stitches. It was a page-turner, as the author had me deeply invested in the will-he-make-it narrative. I don’t know if I ever championed the goals of a hero in a novel as deeply as I hoped Connor would make it to Santiago de Compostela at the end of this book. No spoiler alerts here…if you want to find out if our hero walks into Santiago, you’ll have to pick up a copy! With a lovable and endearing narrator, this book will hold your attention all the way to the end. Also…it was refreshing to read a Camino retelling from a fellow LGBTQ perspective. I’d have no problem recommending this book to Camino enthusiasts and memoir enthusiasts alike. As a fellow Camino de Santiago pilgrim, I particularly enjoyed O’Donoghue’s gentle roasting of the God of the Camino. No, I don’t mean St. James. I’m referring to John Brierley here…the creator of the Camino’s most used guidebook. This was an excellent quick read!

CLICK HERE TO PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OVERWEIGHT, UNDERTRAINED AND TERRIFIED.

From Darkness and into the Light – Santiago de Compostela at the End of the Yellow Brick Road…

Day 12 – AKA We’re off to see the Wizard! This was the day we woke up in O Pedrouzo with our eye on Santiago de Compostela!

For the first 3 or more hours of the walk, we were in darkness. And it rained most of the time. It was, for me, an incredibly hard walk filled with anxious moments in black forests hoping we didn’t get too lost on the path.

santiago
Just prior to daybreak, we hit the marker that announces the jurisdiction of Santiago! We were almost to the city of Santiago de Compostela and the darkness was about to brighten!

Soon after daybreak, we arrived at Monte de Gozo! The HILL OF JOY! This is the place where many pilgrims get their first glimpse of the spires in Santiago. It’s the ONE-HOUR mark, too. Soon, we would arrive!

ALL the familiar signs came into view, building on the excitement of our eventual arrival. Like the dancing star on the outskirts!

…and the Santiago de Compostela sign, which is so covered now with mementos you can just make it out…

SO close!!

Feelings of saudade! Longing, desire, sadness, joy, angst…everything wrapped up together. And excitement for Michael, who had not yet experienced his first arrival into the plaza in front of the cathedral!

THE FIRST GLIMPSES OF THE SPIRES…

That walk into the little archway just prior to walking out the other side into Praza de Obradoiro, the plaza in front of the CATHEDRAL. In the archway, the pipes…the pipes they play!

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Then, what the whole thing is for…the arrival at the Cathedral!

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And that, my friends, was OUR Camino de Santiago!

Keep your ears–and your hearts–open for the CALL. The Camino begins with a whisper. When it finds you, the whisper grows until the day you step off that plane and make your way to the path. When your feet touch down on the Camino de Santiago, your life begins…

You
Touch me
I hear the sound
Of mandolins
You
Kiss me
With your kiss
My life begins
You’re spring to me
All things
To me
Don’t you know you’re
Life itself