Saturday, 8 October 2016

A Tranquil Stay by the Sea

Thank you to all of you who are following our progress here on the Camino Portugueses! We have been heartened by the huge number of page views, and that you are following us from all over the world. Hopefully, your "virtual Camino" will be fulfilling, and maybe it will guide you into making a pilgrimage of your own some day. Please do feel free to share the link with others, as we want to encourage as many people as possible to think about making a pilgrimage of their own.

We started our journey yesterday at the Hotel Azul in O Porrino, where the staff made us very welcome. To our amazement, we were provided with plastic bags for our lunch! We have been constructing lunch from the rolls, cheese and ham, that are usually laid out for breakfast. On some parts of the route, there are no shops or cafes, so this is really important. We usually have to sneak the rolls out in serviettes, and then wrap them in shower caps, so it was a wonderful surprise to have a hotel that recognised the needs of pilgrims!

We traveled in quite thick fog for some hours, which obscured the views of the mountains, but at least it was lovely and cool. When the fog started to clear, temperatures started to rise, but I think that we only reached the lower 20's C. For some miles we followed Roman Road XIX, and even spotted an original Roman milestone.

Roman milestone. If you look closely, just above the centre and to the left, you can see the
blue arrow pointing towards Fatima

As I said before, we are walking reasonably slowly, as my left foot quickly tires if I go too fast. I am grateful for a rest day, as it not in peak condition today after the 11 miles to O Porrino, followed by maybe 12 miles yesterday.

Going slowly does have advantages though. Yesterday, we were intrigued when a lady stopped her car beside a wayside shrine dedicated to St. Anne, and made the sign of the cross before proceeding. The shelf in front of the shrine held many pebbles with names and dates upon them, many of the dates very recent. There were flowers, lit candles, and prayer requests too. Some miracle had occurred there maybe?

Shrine dedicated to St. Anne. You can see the thick fog behind too!
Following a reasonably steep climb, and then through extensive forest trails, we descended to the coast at Redondela.

It was a steep descent down to Redondela. You can just about make out the inlet where we are staying in this photograph.
The last part of our walk was along the beach to our accommodation here at the Antolin. The beach was covered in shells, and it was such a shame to walk upon them.

The last stage of our walk yesterday, along a beach covered in shells. The Antolin is between the
 two hills at the end of the beach

The view in the opposite direction.

I intend to rest my foot today, but it is so beautiful next to the water, that there really is no need to go anywhere else. The kite surfers are keeping us well entertained, and the fishermen are out and about too. I'll be in touch again soon!



Thursday, 6 October 2016

A Beautiful Autumnal Morning

This morning was so beautiful with the mist rising above the Minho River. As we had a long walk, we followed the Camino along the river bank, rather than going back up the steep hill to the Cathedral. I can do no better than let you have some ‘photos!

Sunrise over the River Minho
View across the Valley to Tui Cathedral

View across the River Minho to Fortalaza in Portugal

Fortalaza through the Autumn trees

Today was hot (26C), which made the end of our 11 mile walk along roads into the industrial town of O Porrino, quite draining. Before that, and after we had left Tui, the trail through the cool woodlands was very pleasant. We were following for some time, Roman Road Number 9, so we soon encountered one of those beautiful Roman Bridges.

A typical scene on our walk today.

Roman Bridge on Roman Road 9 on our way to O Porrino

I was also enchanted by the raised Camino path constructed of large granite slabs, to the side of a stream. The flat slabs were much easier to walk upon than the cobbles!

The Camino on raised granite slabs at the side of a stream
We are starting to see the very distinctive Galician Granaries like the one below. Farmers, and anyone who grows corn, uses them to dry out the cobs. They are like little churches, generally with crosses upon them, and are elevated off the ground. I will see if I can get a better shot than this one to show you.

Galician Granary

We are now just over half way into our journey, and need to cover about 12 miles tomorrow. We are all looking forward to our next stop, as we are by the seaside! We are trying to figure out a route so that we arrive along the beach, as this will avoid some steep hills. Hopefully, I will still have an internet connection!



Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Arrival in Spain!

Our first "sighting" of St. James in a wayside chapel!
After a relaxing rest day (for me at least, as most of our group decided to climb a hill to look at a hill fort!) we were sad to leave Portugal yesterday, as we crossed the Minho Bridge to the Parador here in Tui. The people were so kind to us along the way, and the owner at our last accommodation was very accommodating and cheerful. I think that I forgot to tell you that we attended Mass in Ponte de Lima Sunday evening, and although it was the sixth Mass of Sunday, there was standing room only. There are always people in the churches praying, and little shrines, and mosaics on houses of either Our Lady of Fatima, or, St. Anthony, are to be found everywhere.

One of the roadside shrines, beautifully decorated with fresh flowers, as we approach Valenca, Portugal

We walked about 11 miles yesterday, and it was noticeable how much fitter we have become. It did help that it was cooler and mainly downhill, but we did start to slow when we hit an extended length of cobbles, that are really hard on your feet. The most interesting part of the walk was the Fortaleza fortress at Valenca. This is quite an incredible defensive structure, but spoilt for us by the vast number of souvenir shops and cafes to be found within it. We made a pretty quick exit!

Views of the defences of the Fortaleza

Unfortunately the battery ran out on my Tablet, so 'photos of Tui will have to wait for the next post. We walked along the river, and up a very steep street to the Cathedral. This was definitely worth a visit. The Cloisters were especially beautiful, and the rich carvings in the choir were also notable. I think that I was a bit too tired to appreciate it all properly though! I hope that I will be able to borrow some 'photos so that you can see it!

Just a lovely view along the Camino approaching Valenca

Off to breakfast!



Tuesday, 4 October 2016

An exhausting, but rewarding day!

It was a 9 mile walk yesterday, but a lot of it was uphill to the Alto da Portelo Grande, so I was absolutely exhausted on arrival here at the Casa da Capela in Cossourado Pecene. It is a rest day, and I don't intend to walk anywhere, except down the stairs to the dining room! The owner is kindly washing our clothes, so we will feel really refreshed setting out tomorrow.

View of local church and vineyards as we start our climb up the Alto da Portela Grande
We started out from Revolta quite early for us, to take advantage of the cool air. Thankfully, much of the rest of the day was along forest trails, so we were shaded from the hot sun.

A forest trail up to the Alto.

Despite the fact that it hasn't rained here for about four months, there was water everywhere as we made our way along the trails. (As I am in my sandals, this did get a bit worrying at times!) There were a couple of fountains where you could fill your water bottles from a fresh mountain spring, a great improvement over our last hotel's water which didn't taste very good.

Stone marking the location of spring water fountain

One of the paths on our way down
I was a bit disappointed when we reaching the summit. Rather than the peaceful setting that I had imagined, it was crowded with mountain bikers, and someone playing a small guitar, and everyone else singing. As I said yesterday, it is quite surprising how many people are walking the Camino, and many of them are young, even at this time of year. British footpaths are very much quieter.

View from the top of the Alto. 

After we had descended, we walked for many miles along a Roman Road. It was wonderful to think that so many pilgrims had passed this way over the centuries.

Roman bridge at Rubiaes

Just north of Rubiaes is a Roman bridge, which is still in use. We saw a tractor with a heavy trailer pass over it as we stood there. Amazing! The water flowing beneath it was crystal clear, with small fish darting about in the shadows.

We have now walked 50 miles, which is the furthest that I have ever walked, so that is quite an achievement for me. I think the rest of the group were quite impressed that I made it up the Alto. 

I am off now to prepare for our quiz evening, but more about that tomorrow!



Sunday, 2 October 2016

Walking the Camino Backwards!

The journey from here in Ponte to Lima, to our next hotel at Cossourado Pecene is long at 14 miles, and also involves a steep climb. With my feet in the condition that they are, instead of having a rest day today, we took a taxi 5 miles into the journey, and walked back to Ponte de Lima. Although we managed, we had not thought about the fact that all our yellow direction signs are orientated in the other direction! There were a few places where it was difficult to work out which way to go. Our Lady, however, came to our rescue, as the blue signs to Fatima, were facing the right way round for our journey!

Walking "backwards" gives you a good insight as to how many people are actually walking this route. The Confraternity of St. James released figures from last year, indicating that 260,000 pilgrims had travelled to Santiago last year, with most on the Camino Frances, and 20% on this route. On that basis, I would certainly not want to walk the Camino Frances at the height of the season!

The start of out walk at Revolta. You can see the yellow Camino direction arrow on the road. The route is well marked.

The route was really beautiful today, with lovely woodland walks to start with.
Camino through the woods, and over the stone path
Camino winding it's way through the woods.

Grape vines with view of the mountains around us.

Later as we reached the floor of the valley, we saw more fields with grape vines, but also some long distance views of our route up the mountain tomorrow.

We had a bit of a shock when we arrived back in the town, as being Sunday, we expected everything to be quiet. Instead we were greeted by music everywhere and even a parade with loud drums and trumpets. The quiet avenue had also been transformed into a street market. I think the photos will tell the story better than I can!
Roasted chestnuts for sale.

A transformed avenue of plane trees!

Do keep me in your prayers tomorrow, as I think the climb might be difficult in sandals!

The route tomorrow in the background.



Journey into Ponte de Lima

As promised, here are some photos from yesterday. To find out about today, please look at the next post!
The C13th century bridge at Ponte de Lima
Avenue of trees leading into the town
The Lima River
The town from across the river
The main square
The Church of Our Lady

Arrival at Ponte de Lima

The blister is bearing up, so the 5 mile walk into Ponte de Lima yesterday was very pleasant. As I am not much of a  walker, we are taking the journey very slowly, with the result that we are constantly being overtaken by other Pilgrims. They are of all nationalities, and we have met some from as far afield as America.

However, going slowly does have it's advantages! We see things that you would miss if you walked quickly The industriousness of the Portuguese people, especially the women, is impressive. We have seen then turning the corn kernels over, and breaking up ploughed fields in their bare feet. One women was hand washing clothes in an outside washing house with only water, and others were harvesting grapes.

Yesterday a group of grape pickers inviting us over to watch them harvest, and share their grapes with us. Even a wedding party waved to us as we stood watching all the preparations. The people are universally very welcoming, constantly saying "Bom Camino!" as we pass!

The entrance into Ponte de Lima is quite spectacular as it is a very long avenue of lime trees, I think (I am not much a tree expert!). The town comprises lots of little streets, squares and of course a very long C13th stone bridge over the river Lima, which is crossed by the Camino. I can do no better than share some photographs of the town with you, so that you can get a sense of what it is like. Unfortunately, I cannot load photos at the moment, so I will try again later today.

We are just off on the next stage of our journey, which is a bit unusual, so I will share that with you next time I write!