Saturday, 1 October 2016

Gigantic Blister!

Yesterday didn't start too well, when I discovered that I had the largest blister you could possibly imagine on the inside of my right foot! It took two blister plasters to protect it, and these were then covered in loads of tape, courtesy of some friendly Australians. It was so painful that it was impossible to put my boots on, but, thankfully, my walking sandals were alright. With the aid of my pole, I managed to hobble along the 9 miles to our Quinta at Casal.

Field of grapes on our way to Casal, in the Facha area

There were no large towns on our walk, but we passed through beautiful countryside, much of it agricultural. Fields of grapes were being harvested, and how wonderful it was to be presented with numerous bunches by those bringing in the harvest! The Quinta here grows sweet chestnuts, and after our meal, our host specially roasted some chestnuts for us to eat. You couldn't wish for anything more special than that.

Small churches line our route, such as this one, and many are dedicated to St. Sebastian. We have also noticed that more often, than not, it will be a statue of Our Lady above the altar, mostly Our Lady of Fatima, rather than of Christ.

Maybe I am a bit strange, but I do find cemeteries fascinating, and the ones here are no exception. They are immaculately kept, with mausoleums for family groups. Flowers are placed on many graves, and there were people in this one cleaning and scrubbing the headstones.

To perform the pilgrimage authentically, it is necessary to carry your belongings, and this involves washing clothes daily. I came out of my room yesterday afternoon, and did find it amusing to see a row of chairs on the lawn with washing hanging from them!

Off for breakfast!



Friday, 30 September 2016

Cockerels and Blisters

Yesterday was a hard day as it was long, hot, and we are all suffering with aches, pains, and worse, the dreaded blisters! Despite all of this, we had a wonderful walk through the countryside, and the beautiful city of Barcelos.
Wayside cross, with the Camino leading off behind
The bridge into Barcelos, with Mill, and Castle
View from the castle at Barcelos
Barcelos is the setting for the legend of an innocent man being saved when a cockerel crowed, hence a cockerel being the national symbol for Portugal. They were to be seen around the city, and were a colourful sight.
Cockerel in Barcelos, with Holy Door of Templo do Bom Jesus
After passing through the Holy Door at the Templo do Bom Jesus, with its magnificent interior, we were then confronted by a procession of strange mythical creatures, followed by a small band with bagpipes. We think that it was something to do with Freshers Week at the University here. The huge market was in full swing, but, sadly we had no time to linger, as there were many miles ahead of us.
Ponte das Tabuas, aC12th stone bridge, with the Camino passing over it

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Eucalyptus everywhere

I am writing this from a Franciscan Convent. No, I have not signed up to become a Nun! Our hotel, in fact a "Quinta" (Portuguese Manor House), was a convent, until confiscated by the secular government some time ago now. It is in the most beautiful setting in a eucalyptus forest, at the base of a hill with another Convent on top, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.
View from the top of the hill above our convent
The road up the hill was interesting, with very large stone crosses lining the road at intervals, and lighted candles placed at their base. We have seen many wayside shrines, and even tiles on houses, depicting Our Lady of Fatima, or Madonna and Child, for example.
View from my window at the Quinta do Convento da Franqueira
Arriving at such a beautiful place at the end of a hard day in the heat was very welcome. We took a wrong turning at San Pedro de Rates, so we must have covered at least 9 miles today, with at least 12.5 to cover tomorrow. We have all suffered in the heat, and I fear I already have a blister under the precautionary blister plaster on my right foot. So much for the theory that you can't get blisters if you wear liner socks!

Although involving a detour, Rates was worth the extra effort. In the centre there is a complex of church
School children crossing the square at Rates
buildings surrounding a former C11th Benedictine Abbey.

Inside the Abbey at Rates
My most vivid memory of today, is the wonderful smell of the eucalyptus trees. It is like pine, crossed with menthol, and the smell is heavy in the air. Tractors were darting about everywhere , getting in the harvest of mainly corn. Lemons, kiwi, pumpkins, and, of course, grapes are plentiful in this mainly agricultural area.

It is going to be one of our toughest days tomorrow, so an early start is essential. I will therefore leave you with the following photograph, as the sky is so crystal clear and beautiful.
Chapel of the Convent of Our Lady of the Rosary



A Very Special Blessing at Downside Abbey

Relic of St. Vincent de Paul in Downside Abbey

How special it was to be given a Pilgrim's Blessing by Fr. James Hood in Downside Abbey with this beautiful relic placed upon the Sanctuary! Fr. James has walked the Camino himself, so his Homily, and the Blessing itself, made us truly reflect upon the journey we were about to undertake. It would be easy to think that it was just a long walk, but it is so much more, as no doubt we will discover.
Our little group being Blessed by Fr. James Hood at Downside Abbey
The day was then spent in frantic packing, and last minute jobs, before our evening flight to Porto. There was a bit of a comedy trying to organise taxis here to Arcos, as no one seemed to know the whereabouts of our hotel. On our eventual arrival, our host came out to greet us, and what a wonderful place the Vila d'Arcos is! He is a chef, so the food was amazing, and we are sad to be leaving.

The group with our host in the Villa d'Arcos, Portugal
A few people are out in the pool as I write this, and the weather is already hot. It is predicted to go to 30C today, so it is going to be a tough 9 miles to our next destination. I just have time for a quick breakfast, and we will then be off. Do keep us in your prayers (especially my left foot, please!), as we will be keeping you all, in ours.