Thursday, September 29, 2016

Beautiful Walk to Vila do Conde

 Rest spot
Fishing village 
 Miles and miles of beautiful boardwalk 

We continue to walk along the Atlantic on the unofficial coastal route.  Way markers are here but not as prevalent as we have been used to.  It's nice walking but also hot. Dehydration is a constant threat. Saw Dutch girl Sabrina, who we met last night in town. We've come across a handful of other pilgrims.  So far this Camino remains more solitary for John and I but we think with the stages getting naturally shorter,  we'll probably be meeting more pilgrims but we are really enjoying the experience the way WE are doing it. Taking our time. 

I let the tank get a little empty and by the time we stopped at a café by the ocean,  we were both famished.  I got daring again and ordered the "special hamburger ". Which was a regular hamburger smothered in a sauce like the Francesinha I had in Porto.  It was really good.  Accompanied by chips. (Fries)
John had. guessed it!  Chicken!  All very good washed down with a couple of beers.  

Kinda tough to get going after that.  I just wanted to lay on the beach and take a nap. 

Made it to Vila do Conde and checked into our pension Hospidaria Venceslau. For 35€ we got an air conditioned room,  nice  private bathroom and flat screen TV!  Most TVs we have seen are the old box type on a shelf on the wall.  Not that it matters but this was very nice. 

I felt exhausted and a little dehydrated  and we were just going to go to the restaurant attached to the place but John wanted to find. guessed it,  a good grilled chicken place. All I wanted was a soup and salad which is easy to find and good! Thanks to TripAdvisor and Google maps there was a great charcuterie not far so we got up the energy and set out for it.
We arrived and it was clear that it was take out. ..and very popular with the locals.  Good sign. We stood in line with everyone and had to figure out what to order.  Salada mixto, one whole grilled chicken  (I volunteered to help John eat it as if he needed any), sopa do legumes (bean soup), and a bottle of vinho Verde Tinto. 

All was handed over in a sack and we brought it back to the room realizing we had no utensils with which to eat.  Do you think that stopped us? It was the best soup we ever drank right from the cup, the best salad we've ever eaten with our hands and the best damned grilled chicken we have ever devoured.  So glad for the privacy of our own room! "Eat your chicken,  eat your pork and beans,  I eat more chicken any man ever seen " Jim Morrison 'Back Door Man'

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bushwacking to Matosinhos

                            Really nice walking out of Porto along the Duro River.

                             Finally made it to the ocean
 Beautiful parks the whole way!
 A few historic forts and strongholds thrown in.
Pensao Central in Matosinhos.

I'm pretty exhausted even though we had a great walk today that wasn't that far. I think I am still recovering from this head cold.  Naps after showers coming pretty easily. Then we are so hungry so we have to venture out to see what's where.  All John wants is grilled chicken.  We settle on a little place on a corner that we couldn't find the door in. We circled the place and we're about to enter through the kitchen when one of the cooks came out smiling and led us to the front door. Dumb tourists.

I had a salad with tuna and lots of other stuff while John ordered  and received one of the tastier chicken dishes yet. Typically all dishes come with chips ( fries) and this chicken came with fried potato slices and pineapple  (abacaxi) and some sort of savory brown sauce. All washed down with a cool glass of vinho branco. Nice!

We kept sneaking quickly by the front desk guy whose weird rule was to leave the key and then collect it when we returned.  We couldn't figure out the reasoning so we just ignored it like true foreigners.

We went to the well stocked grocery in town and got a bottle of vinho Tinto to enjoy on the beach at sunset.  My phone was charging so those pictures are on my camera. Nice to be on the ocean again. Lots of people out and about in this little resort town that was once an ugly industrial sea port. The municipality engaged some architectural students to create plans to re-gentrify the area and this was the end result!

A bit homesick looking across that big water and knowing my loved ones are on the other side. I am missing them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Nice Day Off in Porto

Starting our day!

Market Bolhao

Cathedral Se where the Camino starts from Porto.  Lots of people start here. 

Duro River 

Port Wine Caves

Walked into Porto through outer suburbs. Didn't take long to find the Aparthotel office where we would secure our digs for the next two nights.  I've gotten somewhat of a head cold and some mosquito bites that looks like I may have had an allergic reaction! I have some calendula cream which is helping.
Didn't get much rest on the day off since there was so much to see. Lots more walking. At least we don't have packs.

We had a great lunch of menu of the day for John,  grilled chicken and I of course,  tried the specialty of Francesinha (little french girl) which is a sandwich filled with various meats like sausage, steak, pork, ham, all dripping with a gravy like sauce,  cheese and a fried egg on top. Like a rich and savory french toast! It was delish!
Lots to see and do in this working class beautiful, gritty and historic city.  We did make it to the port wine caves across the river and learned a little and tasted some port. I had my first taste of white port.  Very good.  They are trying to market more to the younger generation since port wine is seen as a stodgy dessert wine.  They now say you can put it on ice and have before dinner.  Whatever works I guess. We gifted ourselves with a ride up the funicular to give our poor legs a rest from walking from the river up the steep streets back to city center.
Tomorrow we try to find the coastal route.  We will be Camino bushwhacking since there is supposedly poor way markers.  We've been told,  just keep the river and when you get to it, the Atlantic on your left.  Okay,  we'll try. We've always been so dependent on those yellow arrows. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Nice 11.8 Mile walk into Grijo

Beautiful tiled church 
                                   Alburgue Grijo

Madeline and John at the table that was set for the entire family.  They fed us tired pilgrims first. 
The grandmother and her son.
The son's wife who took quite the liking to John.  Sure I'll share him. Hahaha 
Son in law who seemed to take a lot of ribbing.  With the son and wife's daughter.  And his little daughter. 
The owners of the house,  Grandma and Grandpa.  I was afraid she was going to choke me! 
The son, who fought in Angola in the 70s.
Some random friend who dropped by.
Guy on left is Pablo who was walking to Fatima and the lady in blue is French woman Madeline. 

We met Canadians Michael and Emily from Calgary this morning at breakfast at our hotel.  We can always recognize pilgrims by their dress. We chatted a bit in the early hours as we stuffed ourselves with the provided sustenance. Bom Caminho!  We caught up with them soon enough and as usually happens we started walking together.  We learned a lot about each other and before you knew it 15k was completed!  We both agreed that as couples walking together,  being with others helps the miles go faster.  We stopped at our albergue in Grijo while they were going to walk on another 5k and then get a taxi to their planned stop in Porto.  It would have been another long leg otherwise. We would have pushed on but it being Saturday night,  once again there was limited accommodation in this touristic city.  So John booked a studio apartment for two nights starting tomorrow.   We said goodbyes and hoped to catch up with each other eventually.

John checked out the alburgue with Pablo,  the Portuguese guy who took it upon himself to show him around since the hospitelero wouldn't be there until 6.  We could have walked on to a pensao 1.3k further off the camino. We decided we could sweat it out and do the alburgue.  This place was very old and rustic.  7€ each. At least our bunk was in a single room.  I put my pareo up over the door less doorway and got my shower over with as quickly as I could.  Pretty bohemian set up. Ate lunch in the kitchen  and turned Pablo down for an offered drink down in the attached bar/café since it was 3 hours before the planned dinner we would be having next door.

Did our laundry, rested and caught up on Internet stuff. Madeline,  a French woman who was 70 something on her 5th Camino checked in. We had heard about her from the Canadians.  She spoke no English but agreed to join us for dinner and a before dinner glass of wine where Pablo had been getting hammered watching futbol all afternoon. She and John used Google translate to communicate.  It was so amazing. The small bar/café was filled with men playing a card game where they would slam down their fists and cards on the table.  Standing room only for us.

Since Pablo was so drunk,  Madeline was grateful that John and I were there as well when we all went to the amazing dinner next door that was arranged for us for 6.50€. WHAT an experience! Traditional and typical pork meat, rice,  potatoes,  tomato salad,  cakes, melon, café, and port wine with the entire extended family. With minimal English spoken! Pablo obviously  wasn't much help even though his first language was Portuguese. This language is way more difficult for me than Spanish but there are similarities.  They would rather speak any other language than Spanish it seems.  Iberian peninsula politics that go way back apparently.  One of the women liked John a little too much and grabbed at his chest laughing and saying something I probably didn't want to understand. Alrighty then! No more port for her!

Warm hugs from Madeline as only you can get from sharing such an incredible experience.  We were glad we took a chance on this alburgue.  As John says,  "the Camino takes,  the Camino gives..."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Short Walk to Sao Joao Madeira ~ Strangers in a Strange Land

 Two star but wonderful views. Actually soft towels. Always soft sheets. Amazing wine for 75 cents a glass!  Always something to be thankful for.
Only 5 miles today but seriously both of us dealing with the strain of the constant walking on asphalt on seemingly endless suburban streets that are winding with no shoulder.  Not only physical strain on pounding hard surface but emotional strain.  What I mean is there is a wall between you and the street so there would be nowhere to bail if you had to.  Constant vigilance in traffic which is exhausting. The speed of the drivers here even on little back roads cannot be underestimated. Add the watchdogs that are behind every gate,  snarling and barking and chomping literally to get at you and giving you a heart attack as you walk by. As I've said before,  this is a very different Camino.

Another observation.  Walking in my home country,  the booze bottles as trash on the side of the road are alarming.  Here you see none of that.  A lot of the Portuguese roadside trash is empty cigarette packs. The weird thing about these is the graphic pictures on them of what comes of smoking.  Like a foot with rotting toes. Someone coughing up blood.  Someone laying in a hospital bed on oxygen with family all around. A cancerous lung. They are not cartoons.

Got into town and had a delicious salad of pineapple, shrimp and other veggies that we were so craving and hit the spot.  We saw some other people eating this and we just pointed at it and said we wanted the same. Hey it works.

Two star hotel,  clean,  adequate.  We will split the long stage into Porto since arriving on Saturday night will be nuts as far as accommodation according to booking websites.  We've run into this before in the big cities on the weekend. Can't seem to hit it right.  We are hoping to spend two nights in Porto.  12 miles tomorrow.  Possible alburgue stay in the interim.  We can do it.  I think.

Only 10 Miles to Olivera de Azemeis

 We do get some peaceful track every now and then.

 I think the aqua ducts are still here because the Romans built them to last!
 The crumbling all mixed in with new and modern.  Trying to pick out the beauty in each.
 Pilgrim drying rack in a 4 star hotel. Unfortunately my wool socks are hanging there still.
Almost too late to take a picture of our post walking snack.  Frango with rice, potatoes and Tinto and Branco wines. All for 7.50€

Today was a light day.  Glad we made reservations in the beautiful and booked Hotel Dighton.  70€. We had to wait a bit to check in so went to eat then to the well stocked grocery across the street for supplies.  Very convenient.
For dinner we are a bit tired of traditional Portuguese cuisine and found an Italian place where John had lasagna and I had a richly delicious mushroom and Parmesean ravioli with garlic cheese bread that was basically a brick oven baked pizza. All excellent.

Tomorrow we will sleep in, take advantage of the included breakfast and wait till checkout at noon and walk 5 miles to the next stop. Now we're talking.  I'll enjoy it while I can. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

To Albergaria

Walking on the N1. Not our favorite.  The Camino association is trying to keep pilgrims off the roads where there is little to no shoulder,  so the route seems to be changing all the time.  Unfortunately right now it is unavoidable.  It's a whole another facet of energy expended when you are constantly having to remain vigilant in traffic.  Not to mention the constant road noise.  Not peaceful.  We do get some wooded track and some small village travel but they do not drive slow ever.

Today we only walked 16.3k or 10.1 miles from Agueda to Albergaria.  We think most other pilgrims might have pushed on the next town that has a new albergue.  We are both just feeling like we want to slow down the stages a bit.  Why not if we have the luxury of time? We met a group of Australians and a couple of New Zealanders.  We decided that they are our favorite nationality on these Caminos. Didn't take long til we were all laughing about various things.  Michael, the only guy in the bunch of 5, and John both decided they would punch John Brierley in the head if they saw him again. It's always fun to blame someone right?  Just kidding. Love those Ozzies.

We got a private room at the Casa de Alameda for 35€. Old. Like a creaky dark haunted house.  But quiet.  Wandered around town after showers and had a beer and vino Branco (white wine ) and found the grocery. Went to the attached restaurant for dinner where the proprietor showed me the entire raw fish he could serve me if I wanted it. It looked beautiful so I agreed.  I was not sorry.  It was really good.  Even John thought so and he's not a big fish fan. Served with potatoes and rice like everything.   I had the delicious melon for dessert.  We dined in a big dark room with ancient looking wine barrels from which our jug of vino Tinto was filled for dinner. It was delicious!  We spoke with the owner who told us all about the economic woes, both nationally and his own,  and I said I would recommend his restaurant to pilgrims.  We and one other person were the only ones to eat in the restaurant all evening.

After a night on a bed that felt like cement and a pillow that was even harder,  I am looking forward to our night tomorrow in Olivera  at the 4 star Dighton Hotel.  Cost is on par with a Comfort Suites but luxury comparable to an at least  $200 a night hotel in the US.  Very worth the five hours of walking to get there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Agueda 25.5k 15.8 Miles

 People's yards with ducks,  chickens and sheep. John didn't like it when I said,  'coming to a dinner plate near you. '
 A much appreciated fonte. The water felt so good on the aching dogs!
 Tile depiction at the fonte. The woman with the 12 stars around her head mentioned in the bible.
The typical tiled houses all along the way. 
 A small pilgrim friendly chapel. Notice the scallop shell. Symbol of pilgrimage.
 The Quinta de Grimpa. I think you can stay at these very stately properties with advance notice.

The town of Agueda

The American ladies we met yesterday, Ronnie and Lucia, were shadowing us all day.  We met up with them at a café where a very sad looking  but very kind woman asked if we'd like a ham and cheese sandwich.  Yes! Since pastries weren't sounding all that good right now.  Watching the interaction between  people, seems like facial expressions are denoting lots of drama with tsk tsking and all sorts of seriousness.  Maybe the reason for so many soap operas on local tv?

Agueda looks like a cute town but the alburgue was on the other end so as tired as we always are, we didn't get to explore. We stopped at a grocery 300 meters from there where we met Gonzalo, a 30 year old very informative young Portuguese man who was very proud of his Roman heritage.  As a matter of fact he wanted us to know that the Portuguese word for love is Amor. And spelled backwards?  Roma! We said goodbye saw him ride off on his bicycle and our American friends who had stopped at the store 15 minutes after us said they also saw him there and got the very same lecture. 

All the pilgrims we have been meeting seem to be gathered here.  John and I got the last private room.  It's a nice place right on the river with a great kitchen where we were able to secure appropriate wine glasses for once. John went back out to get the makings for a giant salad. There's an option to get a taxi to a nice restaurant on the river, taxi fare included.  Not feeling like going out, we ordered takeout of the typical soup with a grilled chicken that comes with fries and rice and ate in the attractive dining, living room. Carbo loading. 

We paid 44€ and the beds were like sleeping on army cots and we fought mosquitoes all night. The staff was great and the included breakfast was top notch so once again,  the good with the bad. 

We met Lynn from the UK, another woman traveling alone who we saw the night before with Pierre,  a Frenchman who speaks no English.  Lynn speaks no french.  She laughed that he doesn't care and just rambles on and when he comes to a place like he's asking something,  she just says, "I don't understand a word you're saying. " and he just continues on! I found this so funny but so honest.  Such is the Camino.