Are we walking backwards?

Yesterday they told us the distance was 22 Kms (13.6 miles) and it turned out to be 27Kms (16.5 miles), so OK we survived it. Again today it was supposed to be another 22 Kms, but ended up being 28 Kms. Today they threw in a couple of hills, yesterday was flat. Every time we stopped and asked how much further we had to go the distance got longer – How can this be we have walked for over an hour, and our destination is further away. We were late and tired getting to our Pension. We met a young single German Pilgrim along the way today, and we ended up catching up, as she had passed us earlier, and arriving at the day’s destination together.

Much of the day was spent on cobblestone streets, they are uneven to walk on and the trekking poles catch in the space between to stones, so it is not comfortable walking. Amazingly though, we passed both street workers and private homes where they were building cobblestone streets and driveways by hand. Equally amazing was the men and women working in commercial size gardens doing all the work by hand. A step back in time.

There was a beautiful section of today’s walk through a rocky wooded area, crossing a river on a stone foot bridge. We also visited several beautiful churches. Much of the day was through very prosperous residential areas, none of the abandoned derelict crumbling medieval, that makes up many rural areas of Europe. Everything neat, clean, and modernized.

We are now in Viana do Castello, going to spend an extra day seeing the town. We are spending tonite in a very nice Pension, their attached restaurant is great. Since we have been walking along the coast, we have eaten mostly seafood, and tonight’s dinner was super. They didn’t have a room for us tomorrow, but, no problem, we are staying tomorrow night with the Pension owner’s sister in their family home.

You won’t be bored.

Today we walked for seemingly miles and miles along a boardwalk that parallels just back from the beach. First they told us it was a 22 km day, it turned out to be 27 Kms. The first miles are in two ocean front resort towns (right down their touristy streets) then you go on the boardwalk, because it is actually boards, you can’t use trekking poles, because they get stuck between the boards. It is nice walking along the ocean where there is a moist breeze.
Along the way we met a German couple, they are veteran Pilgrims and today was their 45th wedding anniversary. They said they had at another time met a couple from Ca. We know Susan Alcorn and her husband, who live in Layfayette, CA. What are the odds?

We forged on and stopped to ask a farmer how far to the town where our hotel was? He said two or three Kms. Great! We are almost home. A number of Kms later (we have now been walking in woods) we come to a bar in a village, and ask for directions to our hotel. Our hotel was not here, but in the next town further on. The good news there were two Pilgrims in the bar, one young man spoke perfect English from Barcelona and his older companion from Italy, who had already done nine Caminos were now walking together to Santiago. The bar owner was above and beyond to assist us. We didn’t know any of these people but it was like a reunion. The good news it was only a couple of more Kms to our hotel. but, after the fellow Pilgrims reunion, it was a easy walk to our hotel.

Along the way we got three extra stamps on our credential, and a new shot of enthusiasm for the Camino. The Camino is a long walk, but not all long walks are a Camino. The True Camino has many lessons to be learned, and many gifts. Mental, physical, and spiritually, the Camino is not a stroll in the park.

Vila do Conde, Portugal

We are entering Vila do Conde, but at the time we can see nothing that looks like a town, but along comes a cute young angel.  We ask her, “which way is the centro?”  She replies,”Come with me I’m going there.”  She is a college student studying Hospitality, so she points out all the points of interest along the way, like the Roman aqueduct and the overlook of the town.  As we descend into the town, she leaves for her own appointment.  We begin to look for the Pilgrim Albergue, in the general direction our Angel had pointed us.  But, as we have been searching in vain, along comes another young cute Angel, this one is employed as a baker, “I understand the question, and I don’t have an answer, but come with me.”  A little further along, she has a conversation with another young lady, who does have an answer.  Our Angel takes us to the Alberque, but it isn’t open.  As we have had nothing to eat all day, she takes us on a tour of various eating places, giving her opinion on each, as this village is on the ocean, she left us at a waterfront restaurant.  It was a good suggestion, Monica had a whole fish grilled.  The lunch was excellent, and the restaurant also included a Pension.  So, we now had food and lodging.  The owner was a dynamite lady with an answer to our every question.  No problem! Life is sweet for a Pilgrim in Portugal.

Update on Oporto.

Oporto has a dozen ancient churches, interesting archetecture but unkept, understandably since it is a poor country.  Their attendance will match anyone.  The morning Mass was a full church. At one time a leading world power, but then pretty much out gunned by everyone.  Now in a power crazy world Portugal is some what of a lost child.

Today the streets were thronged with tourist.  At first it is unbelievable, summer is over in most of Europe, it is a weekday, so why this middle of summer holiday frenzy? Simple, Portugal is the best value for the buck in most of the civilized world.  The reason the American expat’s and many, many others resettled here is it has all the services at a much reduced price compared to any other country.  Today after hours of walking around the city, we returned to our hotel and ordered a couple of beers, I had a second.  The bill was three euros, one euro a beer.  One beer in France would have been  three or four euros.  Tonight’s dinner was delicious, more than we could eat, including a bottle of reserve wine for under $50.

Picture and story at eleven. . . During our lunch a TV news crew came in and filmed a story about the restaurant, we were sitting in the background.  Stardom dogs us every where.

the street sign in the featured photo didn’t come through, but it said “Trindade,” Monica later told a police officer we were talking with her name, and he corrected the pronounciation.

Explaining the unexplainable?

When last we heard the gypsies were hiking in France?  No, they were driving in France? No, no, no, they were looking for a hotel in France?  And now the featured photo is Portugal – please try to keep up.  We have just experienced a medical exam by Aliens, so we are a bit confused.

As last we recall, we drove to Bayonne, France.  Why?  To get to Irun, Spain of course. Soooo, then a nice train took us on an all night ride to Coimbra, Portugal.  Why? To catch another train to Oporto, Portugal, of course.  All these why’s, you people don’t get out much I guess.  So, now we are in Oporto, spent a couple hours walking all the hilly streets with our backpacks in search of a tourist office who could give us all the details on the Portuguese Camino to Santiago.  Oh sure, now you remember this all started as a Pilgrimage.  Well, none of the tourist offices had any info, they just wanted to sell us a trip to the Canaries.  Well, that’s for the birds, so they toldimageimageimageimageimageimage us we had to go to the Cathedral (on top of another hill).  We climbed to the Cathedral, where we did get a stamp on our Pilgrim credential, but they had no info about the Camino to Santiago.  Interesting, they said people were very interested in walking to Fatima, but they knew nothing about that either.  They, the Cathdral office said go to a bookstore, and they recommended two bookshops.  We went to both, neither had anything about the Camino, let alone a guide book.  So, we have spent several more hours walking about the city.  We did discover a huge inclosed market area, and had a delicious lunch.  Then met two California expats and the wife’s parents, all of whom probably wouldn’t have believed  our alien abduction story.  But, as they say one in every four is . . . Who says that?

Well, you may hear rumors that we are off tomorrow as Pilgrims.


A new day

We are being tourist sightseeing, stop and open our street map, immediately a young couple stops and asks if we need assistance.  No, we are doing OK, but thanks.

Yesterday, Sunday, we stopped in several villages trying to find a place to stay for the night, everything was closed – Nada.  On to the next village where we stopped at a crowded pizza shop, where two women were busy making the pizzas. Neither of them spoke English, but one indicated there was no hotel, but grabbed her phone and making calls to two Chambres de notes, continued making pizza with other hand.  Sorry, no place is open. Then she asked the waiting customers, and now we have a committee of 4 or 5 debating our problem in French. Then a customer arrives with a smattering of English, she translates that down the road past the next three roundabouts is a hotel.  We spent last night at that hotel.

There is one piece of art found in every village in France, like the statue of Joan of Arc, it is a statue to the war dead of WWI (the war to end all wars.). Then you visit the churches and other historic buildings that have been restored or are still being restored from the bombings of WWII. Then you see the news films of Aleppo today.  Have we not learned anything?

The search?

todays travel lesson is that the search is universal.  We are all searching. Tonite we are staying in a B&B on a Deer farm. How many deer farmers have you known?  He was a licensed German ship captain and she was a Netherlands nurse.  The stress in their workplaces caused them to reinvent themselves. Move to France, buy a farm, and take up deer farming.  Deer farming?  Are you kidding; well I guess their is doe in it.

Then we went to dinner, in a village too small to be on any map.  The owner, a very Brithish accented and acting older woman, was born in Britain, but lived her adult life in the western U.S., her kids live in Arizona.  She is a retired manager from IT&T. Retired she thought it would be nice to own a quaint restaurant in a small medieval French village. Hey! Momma, it ain’t under the Tuscan Sun.  Some where along the way goat farming didn’t work out, any better than running a restaurant single handed worked.  Now, to the rescue comes the British son of a friend, who is posing as a cook{using the title very loosely) while singing along with a vintage Johnny Cash album.  His cooking ability would put him in Folsom prison, it borders on criminal.

But, what can we say, it is our search that has brought us to all these other searchers.