We waited until the last minute to make train reservations for the ride to Madrid. Three trains leaving at a reasonable hour were all booked so we set the alarm for 5 AM and took the high speed down here. We had an early dinner at our favorite restaurant and wandered over to the Bellas Artes building to look for a list of art shows.
We were in the midst of a Luis Buñuel binge when we left the states so an item in one of the pamphlets we picked up called out to us. Ángel Exterminador was playing at La Fundacion Academia de Cine at 5 o’clock, one day only. It was thirteen minutes to five and the theater was exactly thirteen minutes away from where we were. Too may confluences. We arrived to two minutes early. We have a better than average walking pace these days. It was a huge screen and the theater was packed. We sat in the second row. With no English subtitles to distract our gaze it played like a visual masterpiece on top of its conceptual brilliance.
It is impossible to get away from corruption. It is a good part of what makes the world go ‘round. We found this graffiti under a bridge on one of the last legs of the Camino Portuguese. We did it! We walked from Porto to Santiago. It went too fast.
My watch has the sunrise time in the upper left hand corner and because it automatically adjusted to the Spanish time zone I assumed it was telling us the time of the sunrise here. So we set the alarm for 7 AM to get an early start for the last of our two week walk. Turns out that was sunrise in Rochester. We were up before the coffee shops opened. In fact young people were still partying outside a bar when we left our hotel. The sun, in this western region of Spain does not break the horizon until 9 AM. We walked the first few hours with the aid of the flashlight on Peggi’s phone.
The Cathedral in Santiago is closed for repairs so no Botafumeiro. No problem. We did that last year when finished the Camino Frances. We’ll take a high speed train to Madrid tomorrow.
We fell in love with Pimientos de Padron the first time we had them. And it was so long ago we can’t agree on where it was that we first experienced them. They are unique to Spain and it turns out they originated in this town, Padron. We walked here today, in a continual rain, from Caldas do Reis. There was a sameness to the route. The surface was mostly crushed stone, otherwise it would be a mud pit. They get a lot of rain here and the forests look more like jungles.
But the peppers are only a small part of Padron’s import and significance to our Camino. Legend has it that it was here that Saint James the Apostle first preached the gospel in what was known as Hispania. And when he was beheaded in Jerusalem nis disciples brought his body parts back in Padron in a stone boat! The boat was found tied to a big Celtic stone, something called a padron. We visited the stone today where it now sits, at the base of the alter in the church of Santiago de Padron.
.The story has it that Saint James’ remains were transported to Santiago, the city that was named after him, and they are kept in a vault below the cathedral. Tomorrow we reach our destination, Santiago de Compostela.
The first thing Peggi did when the alarm went off was check the weather. She was excited to see that it wasn’t going to rain after all but it was going to be about ten degrees cooler than the day before. And then she realized she was looking at Rochester’s weather.
We headed out of Pontevedra, crossing the river and thinking we were following the Camino along a tributary. We saw some official markers counting down the kilometers to Santiago and after about an hour only one sign marking the Camino as “Spiritual Variant.” That sort of puzzled us but we soldiered on. We climbed a hill that led to a church where the bell was ringing. We couldn’t find any way to get in so we stopped at the Casa Rural across the street and had a cup of coffee. The proprietor told us the bells were ringing for someone in the town who had just died.
While we were in there it started pouring rain and we prepared ourselves to head out into it but first we looked at the map and discovered we were way off the Camino. We were in fact on an additional route, one that adds a day to the journey to Santiago, one called the Spiritual Variant.
A long discussion ensued as to how we could get back on the real Camino without just, god forbid, going back the way we came. With the proprietor’s help we identified the town of San Caetano as being both up ahead and on the Camino. We mapped a walking route on Google which was just amazing. We wound our way through tiny villages, farm fields and vineyards on the smallest of dirt paths turning left or right when Google spoke and we found the Camino. What was billed as an easy day became eighteen miles but it was nothing short of beautiful the whole day.
We were having a beer in a restaurant on the outskirts of Pontevedra when I got a prompt on my watch. “Margaret, you’ve crushed your Move goal.“ My watch is tethered to Peggi’s phone and neither one of us has ever set any goals for the app. It’s sort of annoying, all the “Looks like you’re exercising. Do you want to record your workout?” stuff. I just ignore it. It records our movement anyway. I can’t complain. Everyone in Europe takes Apple Pay, the cafés, bars, restaurants, supermercados. I don’t have to fumble with my wad of Euros.
Checking the news from home we saw that Luna played at the Haunt in Ithaca last night. Personal Effects played a gig there with Grandmaster Flash back in the day. Would have liked to hear Luna.
We are below the 100 kilometers to Santiago mark and so we’re starting to see more pilgrims. When we did the big one, the Camino Frances, last year, we experienced the same influx near the finale, people with day packs who hopped on at the last stop. They have their bags sent ahead. They remind me of what we used to call weekend hippies back in the sixties. They test your patience,. They call you on your judgmental steak. They remind you there is virtue called temperance and an ideal revered to as acceptance.
Our shoes were wet and soggy from yesterday’s rain so I stuck the hotel room’s hair dryer down in our shoes. I left it in one of mine and got sidetracked. I managed to melt the Merrill insert that was glued to the sole of my shoe. It was detached and about three quarters of its original size. To my surprise the shoe felt more comfortable walking without it.
We originally planned on stopping in Redondela but we got there so early, after maybe five hours of walking, that we decided to move on to the next town. We stopped for a beer and Peggi found a place online right on the Ria de Vigo, which is really more like a bay off the Atlantic Ocean. Rio is river in Spanish and Ria is a salt water river. We arrived in time for dinner just before four and we sat in the glassed in dining room overlooking the Ria and the bridge to Vigo.
The Hotel Antolin is like something out of an old movie. The employees seem like they have been working here their whole lives. The furniture is dark. It is well past it’s prime but still able to attract groups of businessmen for lunch. The chef waited on us and left the table while taking our order to blow her nose. There is a bar downstairs which we plan on visiting before bed. Antolin is long gone.
Heading out of Tui this morning we saw fresh, long loaves of bread hanging on people’s doorknobs. Another reminder that civilization has not advanced equally in all parts of the world. Tui has some history. The town was here in Christ’s time. The Romans gave it its name and built a wall around it. Because of its location on the river and on the border it was a place of continuous fighting in the Middle Ages. The medieval Cathedral of the Assumption was built in the highest spot in town in the twelfth century.
We can’t get away from Trump. He has infected the whole world. We were having our main meal this afternoon in Porriño and the tv was on in the dining room. They were playing the cartoon video showing Trump shooting up the fake media. We were kinda hoping he would just go away while we were here.
Before falling asleep we watched the second half of Portugal vs. Ukraine in the UEFA EURO Qualifiers. Ronaldo scored once in the second but it was not enough to defeat Ukraine.
The rain brought these lovely creatures out. They are delicacy here. You often see them announced in a bar with a small sign that reads “Hay Caracoles.” We have not seen them advertised here yet but we have seen signs reading “Hay Angulas.” Eel.
The Camino de Santiago gets you well out of the well worn tourist areas. When you walk on country roads and paths though tiny towns you wind up shopping where the the locals do. The receipt from the bakery we stopped at on the way out of town, a place called Petinga Doce Pastelarias on Rua de São, shows we paid 0,80 for Abatanado (espresso) and 2,30 for a tall glass of “Sumo Nat Lara” (fresh squeezed orange juice) and most astonishingly, 0,85 for two delicious pieces of apple pastry. That was our last breakfast in Portugal.
Mid morning we stopped at the smallest grocery store we have ever set foot in and came out with a four pack of strawberry yogurt, two bananas and a liter of bottled water for 1,83 Euros!
In Tui, Spain, this afternoon we had sea bass, the whole fish cooked on the grill and served with boiled potatoes with Ensalada Mixta (a hearty salad (greens, tomatoes, onions, carrots, eggs and tuna), a bottle of house red and flan for desert. 23 Euros for the both of us.
When you walk all day you enhance your appreciation of food.
We left the coast this morning and headed inland along the banks of the Rio Miño. Spain was just across the River all day and after twenty one miles we crossed at Valeça and entered Spain. We simply walked across the bridge. No one checked our papers or searched our backpacks.
The route from the coast to the Caminho Central has recently been improved so instead of winding through small towns we walked along the river for miles on what looked like porous concrete, a fairly comfortable surface. They called it the Ecopista. A German trio we passed thought it was boring.
We found it beautiful, something like the train ride down the Hudson. It was supposed to rain all day but never did. Instead it was grey with low hanging clouds. The wildflowers looked especially pretty. Chestnuts, still in their porcupine like protective shells, covered the sidewalk. We passed two women foraging for mushrooms and a couple of hunters maybe looking for rabbits. The fish were literally jumping although we never saw them. We just heard the big splash.
A local woman was walking the Ecopista with a small transistor radio in one hand, the antennae fully extended. Two couples were having a picnic under a makeshift tent. We stopped at a bar and sat outside next a big group gathered around the table next to ours where a foursome was playing cards.
How can Wisteria be in bloom in October? They have palm trees here and cactus and we’ve seen new rows of lettuce just coming up in people’s gardens. Galicia must have some sort of magical Celtic microclimate.
We watched Portugal win 3-0 over Luxembourg in the UEFA EURO Qualifiers in our room last night. Ronaldo scored the second goal.
Tonight we’re staying at a place on the town square in Caminha. We had some vegetable soup at the place next door. We were too tired to walk any further. Our room faces Santa Tecla Mountain in Spain. It is right across the Rio Miño But we won’t enter Spain until the end of the day tomorrow when we cross the river. We’ll follow the river inland from the ocean to Tui where we will hook up with the Central Caminho Portuguese.
The sun hasn’t even set and I’m ready for bed. It was an eight hour walk today and tomorrow’s Is longer, about thirty two kilometers. I just watched a fellow pilgrim walk across the square. Not that we’ve seen him on the Camino, I could Just tell he was a pilgrim by the way he was walking. I know how he feels.
We have not run into many others on thIs Camino. For the first few days we crossed paths with a mother and daughter. They were really cute and fun to see. Not sure where they were from but they didn’t speak English. And we met a couple from Australia this morning. They were about our age. We talked to a young guy from Germany who was walking with a woman from Austria but we saw both of them walk by later, when we were sitting in a café, and they weren’t together anymore. We passed others but they we’re unmemorable. We had coffee this morning with a woman who told us we were the first pilgrims she saw back in Porto. English was not her native tongue but I gathered we were somewhat memorable.
It felt like cheating when we rode the funicular to the top of the hill in Viana do Castelo. We are splurging and staying up here, just off the Camino, and will ride back down tomorrow to pick up our walk right where we left off, near Praça da República.
We stopped at a farmácia to pick up some Compeed for Peggi’s blisters and then a bottle of wine from a grocery store. Those two things go good together. We have found we like the wine from Portugal’s Douro region, the north. It’s dry and full bodied like Riojas in Spain.
We had cabbage soup, a regional specialty very similar to Caldo Gallego in Galicia which is just over the border above us, and grilled octopus. Hey, we’re right on the ocean. Tomorrow is another long walk, 26.8 kilometers and something they call “medium difficulty.” But that’s why we are here. If it was easy everybody would be doing it.
Approximately half of my photos from Portugal, or Spain for that matter, are what I guess you would call architectural details. Point blank shots of window treatments or old doors or stone walls. They border on abstract paintings. I take the same sort of shots in Rochester but not as high a percentage.
Walking is a meditation. Most of an hour can pass without speaking a word even when you’re traveling with a partner. But traveling by foot from one town to the next, with everything that is important on your back, is both exhilarating and immensely satisfying. Twenty miles is a long walk. The rewards are abstract and beautiful.
The locals in towns along the way, Caminho da Costa, can spot pilgrims a block away. Most, though, don’t pay any attention. When we pass someone out for a stroll and make eye contact they usually greet us with “Bom Caminho.” So many people here speak some English, the de facto international tongue, that a few have simply said, “Good walk.” I like the way that sounds.
We like eating early which means we have get a meal in before 3 o’clock when everything closes. Otherwise we have to wait until seven when the restaurants begin to open again. You would think we are in Spain.
We left Vila da Conde and continued up the coast, keeping the ocean on our left. Wind technology is not new. There are plenty of old windmills still standing along the windy coast of Portugal. Although their blades, if they are still attached, don’t turn anymore.
We passed though fragrant eucalyptus groves and stopped in the town square of Póvoa de Varzim for coffee. We’ve discovered that if you just ask for café you get a small cup of espresso. That’s what the locals drink so we have jumped on board.
On the way out of town we stopped at the church of San Rogue, a popular saint along the Camino as he is said to have given away all his belongings before setting out on his own pilgrimage to Rome. Along the way he attended to the the sick so he has plenty of devoted followers seeking his intervention.
My watch says we walked 24.3 miles today. We left Porto at 9 AM and proceeded to walk for twenty minutes only to wind up where we started. Instead of following directions we should have just followed our noses. We’re taking the Coastal route, instead of the interior route, to Santiago but it turns out there are two Coastal routes. We’re taking the one that is referred to as the Literal Coastal route. It is no exaggeration to say that fifteen of the 24 miles we walked were on a boardwalk that runs parallel with the beach. The wooden boards, covered in sand in places, were an ideal surface for a long distance walk. We arrived at our destination just after dark but in time to find a grocery store where we bought yogurt and bananas for tomorrow.
It was windy today so the ocean was rough. We could barely keep our hats on at times. It was hazy most of the day which was a godsend. When the sun came out it was uncomfortable. We stopped in Angeiras at a seaside restaurant for a late lunch and started with a Bohemian Beer (Original), the first we have had of those, and a plate of olives. The waiter recommended the mackerel. There were three of them on the platter he brought out and it came with a bowl of boiled potatoes, yellow from all the olive oil, and perfect Mediterranean green salad.
Tomorrow we walk again. The Camino in Portugal is not as well marked as the one in Spain so we will just, keep the ocean on our left” as they say. Our life is getting simpler.
Café Majestic, looking like whatever the Portuguese version of art nouveau is, had a long line out front so we walked on by. Livraria Lello, said to be the the most beautiful bookshop in the the world cost 5.50 euros just to get, some sort of voucher to be fair, so we just looked in the door. In both Lisbon and Porto we found ourselves walking well out of the tourist areas where we found the most satisfaction. It was German Unification Day so a lot of Germans took extended weekends. And there nightmarishly large cruise ships just offshore in Lisbon. Porto is a lot more laid back and comfortable.
We found the coolest record shop, an “analógico” (analog) shop that appeared to be doing most of its business online. They could afford to have the most esoteric collection of art books, two on Buffalo’s Tony Conrad, artfully laid out in the small shop. Vinyl racks with Krautrock, Spiritual Jazz (Alice Coltrane, Don Cherry and Sun Ra) and ESG in the Disco section.
We must have stopped in five or so churches, everything from the over the top dusty Rococo church of Sao Francisco to an active parishes with parishioners in the pews. We found a articos religiosos store, Casa do Coracao de Jesus, and picked out twenty holy cards, four euros worth, all printed in Portugal. The shop owner gave Peggi a tiny silver statue of Santo Onofre, the patron saint of money. He instructed her to put it at the very bottom of her purse.
We took an fashioned train, our car had green curtains and the bathroom had a foot pedal to pump for water, from Lisbon to Porto. From here on our journey will be by foot but first we’ll kick back in Porto.
I started reading Sonya Livingston’s new book, The Virgin of Prince Street, on the train and found it to be the perfect companion for our pilgrimage. An early passage in the book finds the author talking to her husband, Jim Mott, after they attended a service at Jim’s family’s Presbyterian church. “I need a statue of a saint, I joked but we both understood that a statue was shorthand for many things – differences in religious backgrounds, for instance, as well as a certain willingness to deviate from logic where devotion is concerned. Let’s stop at Corpus Christi on the way home.”
And then about her hesitance to use the word “god.“ “The larger problem is that even as a child I never expected words to be even exchanges for the truth.” I was reading about her journey to Montreal to see Brother André’s embalmed heart when we zipped through a small town where they were doing a running of the bulls.
The fire juggler/unicyclist outside our hotel in Porto could not engage a crowd as well our friend, Rick. And the three guys with guitars doing Ghost Riders in the Sky, Ring of Fire and Country Road were nothing to write home about but it is nice to have street performers around.
Last night we found a Spanish restaurant In Lisboa and couldn’t resist. We ordered Tortilla Española, Pimientos Padron and Gambas al ajillo As a warm-up to our grand entry into Spain. Tonight we had soft sheep cheese with honey, Bacalao and an orange, watercress and onion salad along the Douro River. God is good.
Today is Republic Day which commemorates the overthrow of the monarchy in 1910. There are no signs of celebration here. Tomorrow the Portuguese go to the polls and are expected to maintain their democratic socialist alliance.
We started our day with coffee in the room, a canister of dark stuff, and then two cups at breakfast. I still didn’t feel fully awake so we stopped at a café for a café pingado and that did the trick. We were ready for the Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado where we saw a show called “Inner Space.” The introduction featured a quote from J. G. Ballard that contained the title.
We were entranced by a video installation by the Italian artist, Davide Trabucco,. He explored “the permanence and variation in architectural forms over time” with depictions of the Tower of Babel, aerial views of the Mayan pyramids, Sol Lewitt’s drawings and the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Rochester, New York.
I’ve always been afraid of Virtual Reality headsets for fear they would upset my equilibrium but Peggi appeared to be having so much fun I went for it. Another artist’s installation was all virtual with no reality and it did upset but it was worth it.
We stopped in three churches and they were every bit as good as the museum. Santo António is the patron saint of Lisbon and Portugal (as well as marriage and lost things) and the church built in his name was heavenly. San Roque is as revered in Portugal as he is in Spain. The church with his name had a museum attached to it which included a sixteenth century statue of the saint that had survived the earthquake. And our final church of the day was closer to the center of Lisbon, richer with more gold encrusted flourishes and beautiful statues.
Lisbon is not as old as other European cities as it was completely destroyed by a 8.5 earthquake on All Saints Day in 1755. The sidewalks are covered in tile and even some of the streets are tiled. Many of the buildings are tiled as well. The distinctive blue and white tile, so typical of Portugal, is everywhere but I like the geometric patterns.
We had our first really good cup of coffee in a café across the street from where we are staying. We stumbled on the café pingado by asking for espresso with milk. It turns out there only a drop of mall in the tiny cup but it was like heaven.
We were still struggling with the basics of Portuguese but it doesn’t matter in the old part of the city. Most people want to speak English. Our waiter told us people his age don’t even use the Portuguese word for “yes,” which is sin, because it is too close to the Spanish word for yes, “si.” They resent Spain because it is so much bigger. They use the German word, “ja.”
We left JFK at 11pm, lost five hours, saw the sun come up and landed in Lisbon in time for a cup of coffee. We picked up SIM cards at Vodafone and clocked ten miles just walking around the city. It was a pretty spaced out first day.
Portuguese is just close enough to Spanish for Peggi to be able to catch the drift of the written word but when spoken it sounds like Russian.
Obrigado is the first word we learned. Thank you if you are a man, Obrigada if you’re a woman. Hello is “ola” and sounds the same as does in Spanish where the “h” is silent.
We managed to eat most of our garden’s produce before leaving town We’re getting a second crop of cilantro. It likes to reseed itself. Our tomatoes have pretty much run their course but our red peppers are just turning red. We gave a bag of jalapeños to our neighbors and Peggi made eggplant parm with every one of our eggplants. Our kale will still be hardy when we return
The Netflix disc of Buñuel’s “The Phantom of Liberty” will have to wait until we return. We packed our bags after walking up to the post office on Waring Road where we sent off my sister-in-law’s sweater and sandals, items she left at our house when she and my brother were up for his 50th high school reunion.
The woman working behind the counter noticed that we were all wet from the rain and she asked if we wanted to borrow one of the post office’s umbrellas. She said we could bring it back next time. We assured her we were fine. I just didn’t want to get my rain coat wet before packing it. She added, “well, at least the rain water is good for your hair.” We had never heard that one.
We tried packing only ten pounds but we both exceeded our limit. My backpack came in at 13.5 and Peggi’s weighed 12. I had my iPad in there and a bag figs from the co-op but I was surprised to find my bag weighed more than Peggi’s. We each only have one change of clothes, our toiletries,a jacket and some rain gear. And, of course, there’s the chargers for my watch, camera and iPad. Maybe it was my size 12 shoes that gave me the edge.