Porto – Before and After the Camino! Part 2: After

We thought we would be returning from the Camino bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We were wrong. All three of us had foot issues. There wasn’t a non-limper among us. But we were still up for continuing our adventures in Porto. Maybe just a little more slowly…

The Half Rabbit! Little ole’ me at the Half Rabbit, R. de Santa M.nha 5-39, 4400-290 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.

Checklist:

  • Vila Nova de Gaia
  • Half Rabbit
  • Port Wine Tasting
  • Eat With
  • Livraria Lello
  • Burmester
  • 6-Bridge Douro River Boat Tour
  • Douro Valley Wine Tour

One of the first things on this nerd’s list was the HALF RABBIT! I just had to see it! In person!

We walked across the bridge and entered the world of Gaia. The Douro separates the city of Porto from the city of Gaia. And we quickly found out that Gaia was just as happening a place as Porto! It was in Gaia that I needed to find my half rabbit.

If you look at the pic above, you’ll see just how huge this sculpture truly is. I can hardly see myself in the photo. I wanted it for perspective. This rabbit is HUGE. Ever since I first discovered the Half Rabbit, it has fascinated me. It’s made from trash and recycled goods collected by the city of Gaia. Created by Portuguese artist Bordallo II (animal art out of repurposed materials is their thing), the Half Rabbit serves as a critique of society’s wasteful ways. I think it’s fair to say it’s also a call to sustainability.

Makes you think. It’s beautiful, but it really makes one think about the amount of trash we accumulate, the landfills filling up all over the world.

The Half Rabbit is in the same neighbourhood as all the Port wine companies that dot the riverside on the Gaia side of the Douro. Our next stop, of course, was a quick tasting…

You can get tastings at various different restaurant patios in Gaia. This one we had was 5 for 5 Euros deal, which, come on…is exceptional value. You really can’t beat that. And the Port was fantastic.

On to the next thing! Wherever you go in the world, do yourself a favour and check out what’s happening there on EATWITH. Eatwith have everyday people in the cities you visit offering to host you at their house for a meal. It’s also a great place to check out other eating related events in the area you’re staying, like food tours and special offers, etc. I’ve been excited to try them for a while now. I was not disappointed! We booked an evening called THE PORTO STORIES: ON CITY, COD AND PORT with hosts Manuel and Jelena. Our hosts were entertaining and gracious. They made a fabulous meal and told wonderful stories about their city, cod, and much more. It was a thoroughly entertaining evening, accompanied by wonderful food and drink. So glad we booked it! Wherever you go, if EATWITH is available in the area, you will find so many interesting things to do. Check it out!

My only wish is that we had given ourselves another day to recuperate from our recent travels prior to booking this evening. We were all walking zombies by the time we arrived at Manuel and Jelena’s house. We thoroughly enjoyed it, but the exhaustion had us dragging a bit at the end of the evening.

The next day…drumroll please! The moment I’d been waiting for! Livraria Lello! Such a beautiful interior in this historic bookstore. And I had only been able to see it on Instagram and YouTube. I’m a huge fan of bookstores in general, and if you’ve read any of this blog you will know I have a favourite and that it’s in Paris and a stone’s throw away from Notre Dame. But this one? I’ve been dying to get inside.

Even if you book a time online prior to your arrival, you’re going to have to wait in a line. The frenzy to get into this one is even more grand scale than it is at Shakespeare & Company.
An historic plaque outside the bookstore.
The stained glass ceiling. “Decus in Labore”, which means “Dignity in Work”

The store, as seen from above at the top of the staircase.
It was almost impossible to get a shot that wasn’t a little bit blurred. It was constant motion in that store. Such a different vibe than Shakespeare & Company. People are here to SEE the store. People are at Shakespeare to FEEL the store.

Bookstore selfie!

It was a wonderful store and I grabbed a couple of books. One for myself as a souvenir and one for the grandboys because that’s what I do…I buy them books.

I got myself a special Livraria Lello edition of one of my favourite books, Gatsby.

After the bookstore, we decided we were not yet finished with Gaia. We had a Port wine tour booked and we needed some lunch. The riverside on the Porto side is filled with restaurant patios. But it’s good to remember that so is the riverside on the Gaia side. We had seen some nice restaurants over there and wanted to give them a go!

First! It was time to once again attempt to save the world. I did this in Lisbon in 2019 and nothing seemed to happen. Thought I’d try again…

Off to Gaia!

A quick stop at the FANTASTIC WORLD OF PORTUGUESE CAN made me realize maybe us Canadians don’t put enough stock into our canned goods?

Oh, and did I mention the Casa Portuguesa Pastel Bacalhau? Once you’ve had one of these lovelies, you will understand the need to have a huge emporium erected just to showcase their yummy goodness. Step inside and have a bite! There’s a LOT to see in Gaia!

For lunch, I highly recommend Faberninha do Manel.

I’m not going to suggest which of the plethora of Port cellars in Gaia you should visit. Do the research and decide which one you should go to. Or go to two or three or many. It’s up to you. We chose Burmester, which is the first one you come to after you cross the bridge from Porto (it’s right at the foot of the bridge if you cross over on the bottom span). The tour guide was lovely and we had a great time.

We arranged our Burmester tour with the 6-bridge Douro River boat tour. Get both together in a package with a discount.

The 6-bridge tour was next and we had to return to the Porto side for that. It was nice…I’m glad we did it. It wasn’t the Seine, but it was well worth it for the experience.

The last planned event on our itinerary was an all-day affair. We booked a tour of the Douro Valley that included lunch, a vineyard tour and tasting, and a boat-ride. Before we even set out, I have to say I was feeling a bit over-vacationed. I think we were all feeling a little exhausted and warn out, but we kept on trucking. This was to be a highlight of our trip.

Only, it wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, it was great. We just didn’t anticipate how mind-numbingly over it we were when it came to travelling. By travelling, I mean…we spent a lot of our day in a bus. Do the tour. It’s great, really. But be prepared for bus time.

The Douro Valley is beautiful, and worth seeing. Maybe do it at the beginning of your trip when you’re still fresh.

Photos from our day in the Douro Valley:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For all intents and purposes, that was the end of our Porto (and beyond) adventures. We had the next morning, but then we were off. It was time to return home to Canada.

These were just a few of the things you can do while in Porto. It’s an amazing city and it shouldn’t be overlooked when planning your European vacation.

 

Porto – Before and After the Camino! Part One: Before

As the city of Porto is one of the beginning points of the Caminho Português, we decided to stay a couple of days here prior to setting out on our Caminho. We would check out the city a bit while getting over the flight and adjusting to the time change. We stayed at Hotel Peninsular. It seemed to be in the heart of the city, but far enough away from the river that we wouldn’t be gauged for the views.

Checklist:

  • São Bento Train Station
  • Porto Cathedral
  • Sandemans Free Tour
  • Francesinha
  • Livraria Lello
  • Dom Luís I Bridge
  • Centro Portugues de Fotografia

 

Turned out it was about three minutes away from one of the places on our Porto bucket list. The São Bento Train Station was just down the street.

The station’s walls and ceilings are covered with 22,000 tiles – azulejos – by Jorge Colaço, painter, caricaturist and potter. It has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful stations in the world.

It was a nice surprise to accidentally stumble upon the station immediately after leaving the hotel.

It really is quite stunning. And finding it just like that gave us hope that the rest of the city would just as easily open up to us. And it did.

Once we oohed and awed over the gorgeous tile work inside the station, we were ready to continue our First Day walk. And right outside the doors of the station, Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto) came into view! It was just another short walk away. This historic cathedral is the starting point of the Caminho if one is starting in Porto (you can actually begin the Caminho Português in Lisbon). There’s a rough and confusing history of the Roman Catholic Cathedral itself, but if you dig for it you will find that they broke ground on it in 1110 and it was completed in 1737. But you will also notice that there were changes well into the 1700s, the 1800s, and the 1900s. Not quite the work in progress at the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, which has literally been under construction since the mid 1800s and is not yet completed. Porto Cathedral is more of a fixer upper project that has undergone changes. Whether you’re in Porto for the Camino or as a tourist specifically to see the city, you shouldn’t miss the cathedral.

A quick heads up, though. This is not your typical cathedral. It would not be difficult to get turned around and find yourself lost in and around this sprawling cathedral.

We toured around the periphery for a while, climbing stairs, coming out into courtyards, finding room after room to explore. We even found a tower to climb up into, where we discovered the first of many perfect locations to find the breathtaking views of the city we discovered on social media prior to our visit.

We arrived in this location from a series of walkways and stairs found within the cathedral.
The cathedral quickly became a series of arches, stairs, and passageways…each opening onto something new and exciting. Finally, we found a tower to climb…

The views from the tower made us excited to get down there, and into the city…into the lively riverside neighbourhood we already knew to be bustling with excitement… but we hadn’t even seen the ‘church’ part of the cathedral yet. Where was the narthex, the nave, the transepts, the apse, the ambulatory, where was the ‘church’ in all of this rambling architecture?

A few more twists and turns, and we were there. And then it was time to continue our walk throughout the city. Our First Day walk of discovery. The city was opening up and letting us in. It was so much more than a starting point on an adventure that would have us walking away from it. I was glad we had decided to spend a few days here AFTER our Camino was over. You can tell at first glance that a day or two wouldn’t be enough time to give to Portugal’s second largest city.

We quickly got ourselves down to the river, where we knew we would find places to eat. We were famished.

It was time to finally try the sandwich created in Porto and made internet famous on YouTube and Instagram. It was francesinha time! After watching YouTubers diving into this sandwich for months on end while researching the city, it was finally our turn! 

What is the francesinha sandwich? Ham, steak, two types of homemade sausage, bologna, and cheese between two thick layers of bread. It’s often topped with a fried egg. THEN it’s smothered in a beer gravy and served surrounded by fries. Basically, it’s literal heart-attack on a plate…and worth the trip to Porto for. I don’t even like steak!

Plus, whatever outdoor patio you choose to eat at…you’ll have a great view of Dom Luís I Bridge and the Douro River. Built from 1881 to 1886, this double-decker bridge is a gorgeous work of art…and the views from the top are stunning (just be careful when you get up there–the city metro line crosses through the centre of the open top span…right beside the pedestrians…without a safety barrier between them)!

There is a lot to see in Porto. Having just arrived from our trans-Atlantic flight, though, we were ready to call it a night. One more day of discovery ahead of us before waking up the following morning and heading out on our journey along the coast and up into Spain.

Does every city in the world have these signs now?
Just a quick walk past Livraria Lello this time! We would save the inside for after our Camino, when we were back in the city for a longer period of time!
Clérigos Tower. We never did go inside, but quite the sight to see it.

It was in this neighbourhood, near the Clérigos Tower, that we found a fun free museum. It was a building just standing there with the door open. I had to walk inside, I had to see what it was…

Centro Portugues de Fotografia

It was the museum of photography, and it was absolutely free to enter. The Portuguese Centre of Photography is found inside an old prison, and it has a spectacular collection of cameras dating back to the 19th century.

It’s rather foreboding as you enter in past the reception, all cells and iron bars and repression. But it opens up into several floors of fascinating photographic memorabilia! If you love cameras, it’s a MUST SEE stop on your Porto visit. FREE!

Wherever we are in Europe (Brussels, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, etc), we plan for at least ONE Sandemans tour, the FREE one. We’ve never been disappointed. It gives you a great sense of the city you’re visiting, the tour guides are ALWAYS spectacular, and they give you an overview of the paying tours that they have on offer. Please note that the FREE tour is technically free…but that tipping the guides is encouraged. Once you finish your tour, no matter the city, you will happily tip your guide. PORTO FREE TOUR.

The guide walked us throughout the city, entertaining us with historical facts and showing us some of the awesome little side-streets and architecture.

We enjoyed the FREE tour so much, we booked for another tour immediately following it with the same guide. This one cost a nominal fee, and took you through a different part of the city. We always want to see as much as we can!

We ended our second day by the river, with food and drink…

In the morning, we would leave for our Camino adventure. We had a really good sense of the city we would return to after our Camino adventure was over. We still had a huge Porto bucket list, but it would have to wait a couple of weeks for our return!

 

 

 

 

Senda Litoral Route – Caminho Português – September 2022 – Day 10

Day 10! A Picaraña to Santiago de Compostela!!

Of course we set out in the dark. The race was on! Santiago de Compostela or bust!

The first thing to peek up out of the darkness at us was a little…bizarre to say the least.

But we soon had daylight…just in time to see our first milemarker that broke the 10km mark!

It felt like it took us no time at all to get to the city limits.

Again, a glorious day filled with sunshine!

The LAST DAY feels were hitting hard!

Making our way into the city was a little misleading. We kept thinking we were going to turn a corner and be there…only to find one neighbourhood after another…staying forever on the outskirts.

But we were definitely getting there.

Less than 5km to go, and it still felt like we were so far away…

Then we hit this little earworm and I knew exactly what song I’d be humming for the rest of the morning. Thank you, Freddie Mercury!

How about one more gorgeously picturesque bridge to walk over before reaching the cathedral? Don’t mind if we do!

One quick stop as we reach the town proper…to get our first stamp of our day!

One last piece of street art before we finish our last day…

One last moment of confusion…

One last hórreo…

I had the great idea of walking AROUND the cathedral so we could come in at the same place as the Camino Frances and see the pipers in action before taking in the cathedral’s facade.

For the first time, we walked into this little covered part not to the sound of a piper, but to a guitar.

WE MADE IT!

Three very tired but accomplished pilgrims! Senda Litoral Route – Portugues Caminho – 280km in 10 days!

We quickly made our way to the pilgrim’s office to queue up for our compostelas (the certificates of completion)!

Compostelas in hand, we made our way to the very first cafe we came to and rewarded ourselves with a full breakfast each! One of the best breakfasts I have ever eaten!
We were fortunate enough to get to see the Botafumeiro swing during mass that afternoon! It doesn’t always happen, so we were thrilled to witness it!

So ends another Camino! There was more, of course…but the finish line was crossed! The next day we even took the rooftop tour of the cathedral. If you ever do the Camino, make sure to look into taking the rooftop tour! The views are amazing. Just being on the roof of the cathedral is quite spectacular in itself!
Thinking of doing the Camino? Do it! You’ll love it, even if it nearly kills you or your feet. It’s an experience of a lifetime!

You might even go back for more. This was my 3rd Camino. Loved every minute of it, even when I wanted to cry over the absolute PAIN my feet experienced. When it’s all over, the foot pain becomes a distant memory. You remember the moments and the beauty.

Senda Litoral Route – Caminho Português – September 2022- 280km in 10 days! PORTO, PORTUGAL to SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SPAIN.

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.

 

 

 

Senda Litoral Route – Caminho Português – September 2022 – Day 5

Day 5! Caminha to Baiona!

Day five would begin in Portugal, but we wouldn’t be there for long! With a two minute walk to the boat-launch, we were so close to Spain, we could practically swim there! But we had help. We were able to secure our passage from Portugal to Spain with XACOBEO TRANSFER. A quick two minutes on their website the night before, and I was able to get our 3 tickets without issue. All we had to do was show up at the boat launch the next morning.

Prebook your passage with ease with Xacobeo Transfer…

We were able to take the first boat of the day! Didn’t even need to show our tickets, as the driver had a manifest of passengers printed out…
A quick boat-ride of maybe five minutes and we were there!

When we stepped off the boat, less than five minutes later, we were in a different country. AND a different timezone. Spain is one hour ahead of Portugal. Suddenly the five minute boat ride ate up an hour and five minutes of our time. But we were in Spain!

And the walking, at least for a little while, was easy. We walked alongside a highway, with a nice footpath that was gentle on our blistered feet.

And the coast was still just a hair’s breath away…always there.

We were closing in on the halfway point of our journey.

Although the skies grew threatening at times, it was a great day with no rain. And many different terrains to walk.

It was easier to appreciate the proximity of the shoreline, knowing full well it would soon be gone for good. Some gorgeous vistas on this day!

Breathtaking views of the ocean gave us a sort of regret, knowing we would soon be leaving it behind…

At this point, what we didn’t realize is that we would soon be climbing a bit of a mountain. Just like that, we were stepping back into some treacherous and exhausting terrain.

TFW you climb forever and suddenly find yourself directly opposite (and at the same height as) the mountain you were afraid you would have to climb.

Of course we had to climb a mountain before the end of our first day in Spain. And of course we had to climb back down it! One thing I remember from the Camino Frances is the amount of times we had to walk down into our final resting place town. The end of the day always seemed to end with steep downhill walks. This first day in Spain was no different.

Our apartment for the night was really nice, though…made it worth the struggle at the end of our day. We were in Baiona! And our lucky streak with Booking dot com was continuing!

What’s a first day in Spain without the delectable Padrón pepper!

The Padrón pepper is a must eat dish on the Camino de Santiago. One of my favourite Camino treats!

This was yet another super long day. We definitely had too many of them. Again, I suggest you spread this walk out over more than our 10 days. You’ll thank me…

Day 6 would have us walking into VIGO, SPAIN. Barely started, and we were already aware of the closeness of the finish line! These 10 days were going by super fast!

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.

 

Senda Litoral Route – Caminho Português – September 2022 – Day 4

Day 4! Viana do Castelo to Caminha!

Our last day in Portugal. After this day’s walk, we were going to be just a short boat ride away from Spain.

As soon as we began our walk in Viana do Castelo the next morning, I was struck by the beauty of the architecture.

There seemed to be churches around every corner. We even met a Facebook Camino group friend inside one of them. It’s quite a shock when someone comes up to you in a foreign country and calls you by your name. Believe it or not, it happened twice on this Camino. It happened inside the church pictured above, and once again in Santiago de Compostela while we were walking down the street and a Twitter mutual called out a hello. It’s a small world now that social media connects us all.

It was gonna be one of those days. Building after building, it was all so gorgeous.

Soon, we made our way out of the town and back to the solitude of the Camino. In an interesting turn of events, things were beginning to look a little familiar. Even though we had never been in this part of Portugal before.

What we began to notice was that, though we were still in Portugal, the Camino was taking on the look we remembered of the Camino Frances. Small towns, abandoned buildings, narrow alleyways. It felt like Spain…

We even saw our first hórreo (a Galician granary), something we didn’t think we would see until we crossed the border into Spain.
Oddly, artwork like this even reminded me of something I would see not on the Portuguese Way, but on the Frances.

This was so typically the Camino Frances, that we appeared to be in Spain before crossing into Spain. Portugal light, perhaps.

I knew if we looked hard enough, we would find cobble like surfaces! UGH.

Decorated yards like this one were very typical of the Camino Frances. Instagram stops.

So close to Galicia. It was in the air, that mossy always almost wet feeling. The bright greenness of it all. The closer we got to Caminha, Portugal, the nearer we were to leaving the country and slipping seamlessly into Spain.

Every footstep brought us closer. It didn’t matter that we were still a day away from crossing the river into a new country…the vibes were already bringing us there.

We found an absolutely gorgeous place to stop for a cupcake and a break.

Forest walks were not something we did a lot of in the days leading up to this one. We were now away from the beach and into the woods…

The trick about the Senda Litoral route, though, is that even when you think you’re far away from the shore, you eventually come back to it with a few simple turns.

And just like that, back to the ocean…

We were close to the end of our day. Caminha was just around the corner. And so was an amazing apartment we booked through Booking dot com. We had no idea just how nice the place was.

Once we hit Caminha, it was clear we were still firmly inside Portugal. The tell-tale signs that we were close to Spain melted away inside this town, that looked fully and completely like Portugal.
After an amazing feast at a local restaurant, we were ready for a good night’s sleep.

It was time for bed. In the morning, we would make the two minute walk to the boat launch and set out on our first day in SPAIN!

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.

 

Senda Litoral Route – Caminho Português – September 2022 – Day 3

Day 3! Esposende to Viana do Castelo!

Did you catch the hint near the end of the last post?

RAIN DAY!

Two days of glorious sunshine was a great start.

Took a few photos while my phone was zipped safely inside a Ziplock sandwich bag, yes I did!

It was bound to happen. 10 consecutive days in September? They’re not all going to be perfect. A little rain must fall.

Gives it a kinda fun ghostly look, don’t it? Beats a vaseline lens…
It wasn’t all rain, but the ponchos were on more than they were off. Makes for some uncomfortable walking when you need the rain gear to keep you dry, but it’s also too warm to wear it.

This was a really tough day. In fact, let’s say EXTREMELY DIFFICULT. The terrain was ever-changing and even the Camino Ninja app had a couple of places where it faltered. We went through a farmer’s field, we were walking directly on the beach, over dunes, on rocks, on sand. It was trying, to say the least. Especially since we all woke up with blisters and toenail issues. The rain did not help matters. It was the last thing our already damaged toes, heels, ankles and pads needed.

The Camino Ninja did not know what to do with the farmer’s field we found ourselves navigating in the morning, shortly after the rain ceased for a while.

After finding our way through the fields, we landed once again on the beach. Not a boardwalk in sight.

rocks, rocks, rocks…
NOTHING BUT ROCKS.
The little creatures you meet along the way. Little pilgrims! Be careful where you step.
I’m not sure which was more challenging, the rocks or the shifting sands…

Eventually, we found ourselves back on a more friendly terrain.

We decided we would smile through the photos while pretending our throbbing feet weren’t making us miserable. One, two, three…smile!

The variety of this day would probably be exciting, if not for our ailments and the on again off again rain. All along our journey, I contemplated perspective. Our moods, our pains…everything we were experiencing internally altered the way we took in the landscape around us. This was absolutely a beautiful day filled with glorious vistas. I sometimes lost sight of how gorgeous everything was. It was hard not to wallow in the pain coming from my toes and heels. It took an act of will to see beauty at times. But it was definitely a vibrant landscape day. The photos tell me this now. The trudging, at the time, made sour the walk. Perspective, perspective, perspective.

With a little shift in attitude, beauty was definitely all around us.

Not sure if this was a smile or a condemnation of the cobbles under my feet. Looks like I may have been seething, just under the surface…
There was much of this day where we struggled through dunes and dead-ends and bad directions. The Senda Litoral is definitely tricky through this stretch.

At the end of the day, it was another walk across another bridge to get us into the city at the end of our walk. Just like the day before, the bridge signified the ending.

After a super long day, we had made it to Viana do Castelo.

This would be our least favourite accommodation to date. We were lucky with our first two places. HI Viana do Castelo – Pousada de Juventude would suffice. But I wouldn’t write home about it. At the end of the day, it was a dry shelter and we were grateful. We ordered pizza through Uber-Eats, ate, and crashed.

We were three very sore and tired pilgrims, with feet in need of some TLC.

Just shy of 30km. Too many!

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.

 

 

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.

 

Senda Litoral Route – Caminho Português – September 2022 – Day 1

The first step!

After walking down the hill from our hotel, we found our first arrow and began day one of our rigorous ten day journey!

On Saturday, September 10th, 2022, we three (Myself, Michael, and his sister Jenifer) began our walk on the Senda Litoral Route of the Caminho Português. We would do this 280km route to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in 10 days.

Day One was to be our longest day of all! We marked it in our notes as 33.9kms, from the Camino Ninja app, knowing full well the distance is always inaccurate no matter what resource you refer to. NEVER is the KM count correct. And the actual walking distance is ALWAYS longer than the promised count in the apps and books. And, yes, this includes the sainted John Brierley and his constantly updated Camino guides. At least in my experience. Whatever route you plan, keep in mind that you may find yourself walking a KM or two more than you planned on. Our day one was Porto to Vila do Conde.

I call this one our LITTLE DID THEY KNOW selfies. We were fresh and new and unaware of the arduous day ahead of us.

Before setting out, I had heard so many people suggest taking public transportation to the outskirts of Porto. But I couldn’t fathom NOT walking out of the city. We were going to begin in the hub, by the Luís I Bridge, and we were going to see every inch of the river as it made its way to the Atlantic.

Streetcars passed us by as we made our way along the river, excited for it to meet up with the ocean. Sure enough, the streetcars carried backpacked pilgrims choosing to transit out of Porto and begin their walks further along where the river met with the Atlantic.

Let me add here that there is no shame in beginning the journey after taking transit out of the city. I’m glad we walked the stretch, as it was beautiful, but I could definitely see the advantage of starting further along.

The last of the 6 bridges in the Porto 6 Bridges Boat Tour – We passed under it on our walk out of Porto.

There was certainly a lot to see on our way out of Porto. It really is a beautiful walk. Depending on where your first day’s rest stop is, it’s definitely worth the walk. But, if like us, your first day ends in Vila do Conde, it really does add a lot of extra steps to an already long day.

Just before reaching the ocean, we came upon this statue. A patron saint wishing us well on our journey? Bom Caminho, they seemed to whisper, hand on heart, as the sun warmed his angel wings. A blessing? We’ll take it…

In no time, we reached the YouTube famous lighthouse!

It was really something to see how powerful the waves were as they crashed in and hit the rocks beneath the tiny lighthouse as we reached the ocean. There are two side by side lighthouses here. It was well worth taking a break to walk out on the catwalk of the first and bigger lighthouse and view the second (smaller and prettier) lighthouse beside it.

We were soon in Matosinhos, which, if I remember correctly, is sort of still considered Porto. Or, rather, Porto District. I’ve yet to come to terms with the way cities and districts and towns are divided in Europe. At any rate, Matosinhos is listed in Wikipedia as “a city and a municipality located in the northern Porto District of Portugal, bordered in the south by the city of Porto.” Sounds confusing, right?

Since deciding to do the Portugal route, I’ve been excited to see this little building with the cool Camino wrap! It’s a bit Instagram famous…

There were some really great views on our first day. Back home in Toronto, we’re pretty far from any ocean. It was pretty amazing to walk beside one for most of the day. Just to hear the constant breathing of its shoreline as we made our way along it was quite spectacular.

At one point we met up with a mother/daughter pilgrim duo and we exchanged the courtesies of capturing the moment on film for each other!
Our DAY ONE happy faces of our 2nd Camino together (Frances, 2019)! We were, by this point, already feeling the tingling hints of what was to come of our impending foot troubles.

Day One out of Porto and into Vila do Conde was a mix of terrain. There was boardwalk and cobbles and sidewalks and sand. Nothing too rigorous. But too much of anything takes its toll. We gave ourselves a super long day and it was to set the pace for our overly-exuberant 10 day schedule. It wasn’t impossible… because, in the end, we did it. But I wouldn’t suggest doing the Senda Litoral route in any less than 12 days.

Just one of the many terrains found on the first day of the Senda Litoral route. Cobbles would eventually pose a problem as we were able to feel every edge and bump as the blisters began to take hold…

There was definitely no end to the ocean’s beauty on that first day. The boardwalk was gorgeous and offered such incredible views, while giving us such ease of walking. Navigating this path on sand alone would have been a little bit of a nightmare.

Mimi on the beach… (excuse the 80s Jane Siberry reference, but I will always be an 80s music person. And that person in the surf is forever Mimi in my memory, whether it’s their real name or not.

It was a LONG first day. I don’t know if I actually said this enough times. PORTO to VILA DO CONDE is a LONG HAUL day, especially if you choose NOT to take public transport out of the city centre. Here’s the step-counter from hotel to alburgue…

You will notice the difference in KM from the projected to the actual. And this is something that happens every day on the Camino. No matter what Camino you are on.

We saw some pretty things along the way.

Day One ended at HI Vila do Conde – Pousada de Juventude. The link is directly to the accommodation, but we booked everything through booking dot com. If you’re looking for your accommodation in Vila do Conde, you can’t go wrong with this place. It was clean and pretty. And it offered a free breakfast.

HI Vila do Conde – Pousada de Juventude

Breakfast in Vila do Conde.
First day stamps, from our Hotel to our hostel…

END OF DAY 1 – Vila do Conde, Portugal.

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.

 

See You in September…

I think we’ve established that I write about my September every year. For some reason, it seems to be my busiest and/or most exciting month. Thinking about this, I just realized how many songs there are about September. Like, A LOT of them! It’s even possible it’s the most sung about month of the year.

See you in September. Do you remember the 21st night of September? You were my September song, tell me where have you gone? Come September, everything wrong gonna be alright.  Oh, I watch myself depending on September when it comes. Ring out the bells again like we did when spring began, wake me up when September ends. It’s going to be September now, for many years to come, every heart adjusting to the strict September drum.

Perhaps, as Leonard Cohen sang, my heart is adjusted to the beat of September’s drum.

At any rate, here’s my annual September post! It’s a busy one this year!

⊗September 13th, I complete another trip around the sun. Hard to believe I will be turning 56 this time. I guess this puts me somewhere into the September of my life. The weather is still beautiful, but you begin to get the hints of the passing of the season. It’s the crispness in the morning, the tang of leaves realizing it is soon time for them to let go, the burning sun lighting up the sky with a special brightness even though its heat is not quite as severe as it once was. There are a million signs that appear in September, warning us that the calendar is slowing drawing its curtains on another year. Even the official end of summer lands in this month. Not to mention, it’s the first BER month.

Like the year on a calendar, we all wind down. I think 56 in human years is a good estimation of the September of one’s life. Right? Things are still good–still great–but you’re getting hints of the impending changes.

Even though it goes against everything that would make sense, September might in fact be my favourite month. SUMMER is my season. Hot, hot, hot…that’s my favourite temperature. And September comes in with the knowing and dreaded whisper, “Summer is dying. The halcyon days will soon be over.” September prepares me, against my wishes (and better judgement), for the coming ugliness of winter. And yet, it’s still the most magical of months.

⊗SEPTEMBER 7th. Let’s rewind a few days! The 7th is the beginning of this year’s magic! That’s the day we board a plane for Portugal. We fly into Lisbon and then take a second flight to Porto, where we will begin a truncated version of the Senda Litoral Route of the Caminho Português (Portuguese Camino, The Portuguese Way, Camino Portugués)! Due to time constraints, we cannot start at the customary beginning point in Lisbon. Here’s our itinerary, which begins on September 10th after a couple of days in Porto:

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.
Porto – Vila Do Conde – 33.9km
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.

I’ll wake up in Viana do Castelo on my birthday, and make my way to Caminha. As we walk this leg of the Camino, something else will take place. The release of my 8th novel!

Book of Dreams drops on the 13th of September as we’re walking somewhere along the coast of Portugal having, hopefully, the time of our lives!

The Book.

We don’t come back to Canada until September 25th. The better part of my September this year will unfold in Europe, as we walk the Portuguese coast up into Spain and into the city of Santiago de Compostela. I’ll be arriving at the Cathedral for the 3rd time (previously, I arrived there from the Camino Frances in 2014 & 2019). From there, we will spend some time in Santiago before returning to Porto for a few days. Much is planned, from a Douro Valley Port wine tour, to gastronomical adventures in and around the city.

My September stops quietly back in Toronto, where I will be preparing for my October 1st BOOK OF DREAMS book signing event at the Oshawa Centre Chapters-Indigo bookstore(click this link to learn all about the details of the event)!

If you haven’t yet read the book I wrote after my first experience on the Camino de Santiago, you can read more about THE CAMINO CLUB here(it’s the first book on the Books page of this website).

2 books, 2 years apart!

Now we just have to wait for the calendar to flip over another page!

Come September, everything wrong gonna be alright.  Oh, I watch myself depending on September when it comes...

 

Clipped Wings – When Wanderlust & Disappointment Collide

Just as I have this deep desire to write a travel memoir, or something along those lines, my ability to travel has been hampered. I was so looking forward to traipsing around Paris this September. I fully planned on journaling everything with the intention to write something of a little memoir of our experiences, too. Just as I had every intention of writing a memoir of our upcoming Caminho Português.

I suppose both are still possible, with the passage of time and good fortune. It would depend both on the pandemic being over and my surviving it. For now, I am just standing here on the corner of Wanderlust and Disappointment–Nowhere to go and a deep unsettling urge to get there.

But I’m not a patient person. I was gung ho to finally dabble in the world of travel memoir that I have fallen so deeply in love with. I planned to cover all my tracks in Paris this year. And to fully record every step of our Camino experience in the less traveled Portugues Way next year. And now it’s gone…for now. Lost to this coronavirus that will not go away.

I know these are first world problems, that we should be happy enough just to avoid infection, but as the day of our intended departure nears it is a pain made more raw. We were to fly to Paris on Friday September 4th. We were to be in the beautiful City of Light for my 54th birthday on the 13th. I was to scrawl our experiences with intention, possibly while sitting in the shadow of Notre Dame…or in the company of Shakespeare and Co. No matter the frivolity of the loss, it is nonetheless a loss.

Shakespeare And Company – Antiquarian Books. Paris, France.

Now, what happens? Do we push Paris forward a year and hope the pandemic ends? Do we walk the Camino next year and bump Paris? Do we plan something altogether different? Do we make no plans and hope only to survive?

Au Marché de la Butte – Paris (France) as featured in the movie Amélie.

There will be no travel memoir writing, at any rate. Not while our wings are clipped and we are stuck on the ground. This is my whiny post of negativity. It’s been a long time coming. People are dying and I’m complaining about not being able to write about the sunset in Paris, or how the books in the poetry section of Shakespeare and Co smell. Or how a macaroon always tastes better in Paris—when it carries with it that extra O, and the meringue is made in France. I’m bitter about my inability to partake in travel-writing while others deal with heartache and despair.

A chandelier I found in Napoleon’s Apartments inside the Louvre. Paris, France.

Is it just me, or is everyone getting tired of this pandemic? I’m glad to be healthy, and to have avoided it thus far. And I’m glad that nobody I know has gotten sick. If we all do our part and practice social distancing and mask wearing…who knows? Maybe it WILL pass. Maybe there will be travel inside the World of After. It seems so bleak right now, our future. Sometimes I feel like I was just getting started. And now that I have the desire to talk about it, to write it down…I am unable to move.

Sacré-Cœur, Paris, France…in the heart and the summit of Montmartre.

I know Paris will be there. And so will the coast of Portugal. With any luck, so too will I. And if and when the time comes that we once again board a plane and disappear into adventure…a journal will come with me. And I will tell it every little thought I have while I’m away.

Standing at the top of Arc de Triomphe. Paris, France. 2014.

In the meantime, I suppose it’s time to cozy up with a book that has already been there among the wanderlust and roaming. There are plenty of books on travel out there, just waiting to be explored. No tickets or packing needed.

“When the wind is blowing and the sleet or rain is driving against the dark windows, I love to sit by the fire, thinking of what I have read in books of voyage and travel.”— Charles Dickens