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The signs along The Way are many. When I first started planning my Camino I joined a number of Facebook pages and groups and started reading blogs. And, although I saw a few photos of the Camino waymarkers and some of the yellow arrows, I didn’t realise how plentiful they would be.

camino portuguese coastal route

Bom Caminho Buen Camino Good Journey

My initial impression was that you would HAVE to follow the guide books and to that end I bought one about the Portuguese Coastal Route, which I studied intently, meaning to take copies with on the journey, but forgot. So, while in Porto, in a panic and before I started, I had my daughter photograph each relevant page and whatsapp them to me. For no reason. As it turned out, the signs were virtually every 500 meters.

The Way is incredibly well marked with arrows, the Camino scallop shell signs and waymarkers showing the distance in kms, until they didn’t – weirdly they came to an abrupt end just as I reached Santiago.

Leaving from the Sé Catedral in the old town of Porto, a remarkably historic building in it’s own right, it made a fitting location to start my journey. It was also recommended in the book. Now I didn’t go in ‘blind’, I sussed out the route a few days before – didn’t want to get lost on my first day on the Camino LOL. So, on the day I left, at approximately 07:30, it was easy to follow the downward spiral of steps to the riverfront.

camino portuguese coastal route porto

Sé Catedral, Porto, Portugal, view of the river and of the route, San Tiago, a pilgrims shell and hat, my passport with stamps from the 8th

1. ancient route

The route down from Sé Catedral to the riverside

Although I didn’t see any arrows or markers at that juncture, and since I took the bus to Foz do Duoro, having already walked that section beforehand, the first time I saw anything resembling a ‘sign’, that I recall anyway, was well after I had left Matasinhos at about 14:13 – a yellow arrow painted on a lamp-post. Now, I’m almost certain that there were many others before then, but either I didn’t see them, or was so intent on walking that I didn’t stop to photograph them…that aspect changed further along on my journey.

camino portuguese coastal route

The first arrow that I noticed on the Portuguese Coastal Route

Truthfully, what I did was ‘follow that pilgrim’. For most of my journey and where applicable, I followed the pilgrims up ahead.

camino portuguese coastal route

Follow that pilgrim

There was one place where I came unstuck, on the road to Esposende, and I’m still not at all sure how, but I just trudged along following the footsteps in the sand. There was one set of shoe tracks that I could recognise, so I followed those all the way through along winding sandy paths, and shrubby land till suddenly I could see, in the distance, a road and some buildings…at last civilisation. I was beginning to think I’d be wandering around there forever!! And at some stage along the route I ended up walking through thick brush and undergrowth with zip, zero, nothing and nada around me except for undergrowth, thick brush, trees and deep sandy paths. I did see a few diggers and excavation equipment but no people. It was weird and a little unsettling.

But to get back to The Way and the arrows. They are plentiful. In some areas there are 3 or 4 and in other areas you have to have faith and search.

camino portuguese coastal route

Tilting at Windmills – spot the arrow! If you’re not concentrating…

Most of the time I walked I was enjoying the scenery or in a day-dream, so occassionally I ended up suddenly stopping and realising I hadn’t seen any arrows or scallop shells or waymarkers for quite some time. This usually brought me to a standstill and a panicked look around! Did I miss the arrows?

camino portuguese coastal route

How could you possibly miss this!!

At that point I’d stand still, take a deep breath and having faith that I was still on the correct route, I’d walk on and sure enough there it was; whether a small arrow painted on a rock, or a faint outline on the road, maybe even, as in one spot, painted on an ivy covered wall…..the ivy carefully cut away around it like a frame! The Signs were there. Marvellous.

camino portuguese coastal route

Learning where to look and eventually knowing where to look

There was one day however that I did seriously go way off and as I was swinging along, I heard distant shouts “Senora!! Hello. Hello. Hello.” Eventually I stopped to look around and see what all the fuss was about, and about 500 yards away, distant figures were shouting and gesticulating wildly in my direction then pointing along a path that was not where I was on? LOL Initially a tad confused, I suddenly realised that I had been so deep in thought that I’d not kept my eye on the route. I scurried back laughing and we all agreed I could have ended up who knows where, but it wouldn’t have been Santiago. I still wonder that if they hadn’t drawn my attention, where on earth I’d have gone to?

camino portuguese coastal route

In case you were not aware…this is the Camino de Santiago..weirdly these signs were all in Spain

But on the whole, the route was amazingly well marked. People have been really inventive in where they painted the arrows and or made the markings to show which route you’re on.

8. fields and houses

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

10. I spy with my little eye

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

11. blink and you'll miss it

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

In fact I often wondered about the person/people who painted the arrows and made those markings, or put up the scallop shells and installed the waymarkers. All I can say is ‘thank you’. Whoever you may be, you were in many instances blessed by me. 😉 I got really excited when I came across the Caminho Beach Bar. I’d seen photos of this on the Fcabeook page and the board of shells (behind me), so I stopped, bought a shell, put my name on it and hung it up…@notjustagranny was here 🙂

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Caminho Beach Bar – Santiago de Compostela 265 kms!!

As I said, most of The Way was very clearly marked and I seldom had any problems, especially after 3 or 4 days, in locating them up ahead…although some were far between, if you just keep walking you will eventually discover them. One of the things that I enjoyed was discovering the yellow X! Sometimes you’d be walking and what looked like the logical route, is not. Then you’d see a big, or as in many cases, small yellow X – this not The Way. So you’d look around till you found what you were looking for…a Yellow marker…this is The Way. My favourite markers were the brown metal plates with yellow arrows.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

X says “no, this is not the way” – even though you may be tempted, but no…this is not The Way

As you wind your way along the Potuguese Coastal Route the signs are varied. Once you get into the forests and hills, you have to be a little more inventive in where you look.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

keeping your eye on the route, sometimes you had to just be a little more aware, they were not always pretty

A tiny yellow arrow pinned to a tree trunk, a scallop shell attached to a wall,

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

show me The Way to go home…oh wait, this is my home!! I loved these ceramic wall plaques

and frequently just two little lines, one yellow, one white to say ‘don’t worry, you’re going the right way’.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Crossing Paths – the Portuguese Coastal Route blends with the Littoral Route

I loved seeing the different signs, some were freshly painted, others a very faint outline that if you were not looking you could miss it altogether, and others were right across a busy road that needed to be traversed.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

sometimes it was right in front of you, and others …..well suffice to say, you kept your eyes peeled

The waymarkers were the best, I loved seeing the kilometers measured out, and note my progress… my steps eating up the miles.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Santiago 165kms – my 4th day of walking and I still had 165 kms to go. Ouch

I think I photographed about 95% of them all the way from Valenca in Portugal to the last one at Santiago. Weirdly though, the very first concrete waymarker I saw showing the distance, was in Valenca; 117,624 kms to Santiago. I saw countless after that. Perhaps they only have them from that point.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Following an ancient route in modern shoes – leaving Valenca, last town in Portugal before crossing to Tui in Spain – 117.624 kms to Santiago

I loved the many many scallop shells that decorated O Porrino, one of my favourite overnight stops.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

The scallop shells of O Porrino, Spain

And I really loved the signs that showed there was a rest stop nearby!!

Camino de Santiago - portuguese route

Refreshments along the way…

One of my favourite places (of which there are quite a few) along The Way was Mos.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese route

Mos. Oh what a delightful stop this was. A small but pretty little town with a church, restaurant and shops.

Admittedly though I was very disappointed coming into Santiago from Padron. All along the route I had seen yellow arrows, scallop shells and waymarkers, and then suddenly I didn’t.

camino portuguese coastal route

the signs along the way. I found these to be most helpful. It was also fun to see how the kms were going down. down. down 🙂

I was expecting the countdown to continue right up until you reached the 000.000 kms to Santiago and frequent arrows or scallop shells….but no….the last one was the last one and it wasn’t 000.000 kms. The last waymarker I saw on the perimeter of the city said 2,329 kms. After that, the scarcity of arrows and scallop shells was very disappointing. I think perhaps they feel that once you reach the outskirts of the city, you can jolly well find your own way LOL.

camino portuguese coastal route

I saw very few signs after this. They seemed to get scarcer the closer we got to Santiago

But a few pilgrims felt the same way I did…or did I just walk the wrong way? I don’t know.

But what I do know, is that they were a life-saver. There was something incredibly reassuring about finding/seeing the signs. I’m on The Way to Santiago de Compostela.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Camino de Santiago – I’m on The Way

Trust, that was one lesson I learned on the Camino, to trust in the signs, to trust in the route, to trust in myself. And I made it. 🙂

 

 

 

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2017.09.13 Day 7 – Vila do Conde to Esposende – expected distance: 22kms (not!!)

Walked 27.71kms. 65029+ steps

The road to Esposende is not paved with gold.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

time to go – Vila do Conde to Esposende

My post on instagram: It’s 7:07 on 13th September and I’m on my way. This is my 2nd day of walking on the Portuguese Coastal Route. Sad to be leaving leaving Vila do Conde but I’m excited to be heading to Esposende, which is apparently 22kms away (as it turned out, it was substantially further, but that may be because I kept going ‘off-piste’ to explore LOL).

It was a stunning day on the coast of Portugal. I left the guest house in Vila do Conde at 07:07 and got my wish for the day; I watched the sun rise.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

sunrise in Vila do Conde looking upriver towards the Santa Clara Convent

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

sunrise in Vila do Conde looking downriver towards the sea

Fabulous. I stopped here for a while and ate some of the breakfast the Erva Doce Guest House had prepared for me. Watching the sunrise is such a privilege.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

watching the sunrise in Vila do Conde

I eventually left VdC at just after 8am after faffing around taking photos of the various sculptures, my shadow (?) and then re-visiting the chapel on the seafront.2 vdc day 64 the chapel I particularly loved this sculpture….she looks stoic, resigned, and sad…waiting for a boat that never returned?

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

waiting…..

This section of the route was so beautiful and I was hard-put to not stop every 5 seconds to take photos. I spotted a most gorgeous church with a beautiful memorial in tiles.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

Povoa de Varzim

Along the way I met a delightful couple from Poland; Jakob and Agata. We chatted all the way to Povoa de Varzim and I barely noticed Pepe weighing me down. We stopped to admire a fabulous tiled wall. I love that there are so many of these fabulous tiles right across Portugal; azulejo with Povoan boats and siglas poveiras marks; a form of ‘proto-writing system’ thought to derive from the Viking writing system known as bomärken from Scandinavia.  Archaeological finds in the area, including stone tools, suggest that the Póvoa de Varzim area may have been inhabited as far back as 200,000 years ago. 

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

Me, Agata and Jakob in front of the Muro de Azulejos in Povoa de Varzim

Once we reached Pavoa de Varzim I sadly parted company with Jakob and Agata who rejoined their group to go find breakfast whilst I went in search of coffee. I spotted a little wooden shack on the beach, one of many, and stopping at the 3rd one along I ordered my ‘cafe com leite grande y croissant por favor’. Yummy; I really got into the strong coffee and pastry for breakfast thing. My language skills had by now gone from ‘hola, camino?’ and ‘gracias’ to a whole sentence hahaha. I was ever so pleased with myself.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

practising my Portuguese and asked for coffee at Jóse and Teresa’s shack in Povoa de Varzim.

Just on 11:22 after my coffee at Teresa’s shack I set off and soon saw my first Camino markers; now that’s more what I was expecting. 😉😉😉

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

Finding the signs along The Way 🙂

I met some really lovely people on the route and it was most enjoyable just chatting away as we walked. The disadvantage of course was that I missed quite a few photo opportunities that I wanted to capture, but felt like I didn’t want to hold them up. Which is one of the reasons I prefer to walk on my own…even though it’s really lovely to meet folk from all over the world.

I’ve got 25.1 kms to Esposende and done 7.98 so far. Bom Caminho I’m loving my #Camino2017

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

a tad overloaded would you say? Laundry drying, my food bag…I looked like a bag lady!! LOL

I had such a fantastic day. On the route I met two ladies from Ireland with whom I chatted for a while. When I commented on how little luggage they had, they laughed and told me about Tuitrans, they had sent their backpacks ahead. Hmmm…food for thought.

Waving goodbye I set off jauntily, waving at everyone and wishing them Bom diaz or Bom Caminho depending on how they were dressed; no backpack and boots = local – a backpack, boots and waking poles = pilgrim ;).

A young lady sitting on a wall chatting on her phone wished me Bom Caminho as I whizzed by which nearly made me cry. It was so unexpected and so wonderful. 💞💞🙃🙃🙃 I stopped in my tracks and with tears in my eyes; “gracias Senorita”. If she hadn’t been on the phone I would have hugged her!! I’m loving my #Camino2017

Getting back onto the boardwalks was fantastic. They were so easy to walk along and allowed you the freedom to enjoy the scenery while walking without having to worry about which way to go.

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

such a gorgeous day and the boardwalks are fantastic

There were so many wonderful sights long the route; chapels, windmills, memorials….

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

chapels, windmills, memorials

I loved these little structures….haven’t been able to find out what they were.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

loved this little building.

I really got into the spirit of the camino and wished just about every soul I passed ‘bom caminho’ Mostly they responded, sometimes not. In truth, the locals were lovely. Mostly pilgrims responded in kind, but the people I found the least friendly (sorry guys) were the German men. The German ladies on the whole were friendly enough, but the most friendly were the Irish, Portuguese, Eastern Europeans pilgrims and occasionally the Americans, who tended to be very focussed. I didn’t meet anyone from France.

Just after 11am I reached QuiAo; walked 9.73 kms. The weather was stunning, and I was blessed with a beautiful day, albeit already hot….which I did not enjoy.

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

I was blessed with some wonderful days

11:15 and time for my first Super Bock of the day. Okayyy, I know, I know we hadn’t crossed the yardarm yet, but it was hot 😂😂😂

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

QuiAo and my first Super Bock of the day

By this stage I was beginning to struggle with my backpack, but motoring on. I tell you what, my walking poles were a blessing. I was able to set an easy flowing pace and with the momentum I whizzed along the boardwalks…which btw are bloody marvellous. The poles will be my #1 essential item for any future walks, whether in the UK or EU.

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

my wonderful walking poles….they were a life-saver

Suddenly to my delight I came across the Caminho Beach Bar!!! I had seen photos of this place on facebook and instagram and was hoping I’d see it too 🙂 And there is was!! I stopped and bought a shell on which I wrote my name and hung it on the board. I wonder if they take some down each night, wash them and sell them again LOL I also bought the first ice-cream of the day!! Magnum Double Framboesa. Delicioso 😉

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago the caminho beach bar portugal

The Caminho Beach Bar 🙂

Whizzing along, in the distance I spotted the spire of a church. Never one to miss the opportunity to visit another church, I diverted from the track and made my way along a narrow winding road. I didn’t see many people except for the occasional car going by…usually at speed!! Hello!! narrow roads? Slow down buddy. The houses were painted a delightful array of pastel colours, and some a brilliant white that hurt the eyes. The area is very dry and the fields don’t look as if they could support any sort of vegetation, never mind anything useful. I found a whole new appreciation for England’s green fields, trees, bushes…you get it 😉 Mind you the blue skies….heavenly!!

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Aguacadoura, Portugal; blazing hot and very dry. I think the idea of siesta is very sensible.

The church was beautiful, albeit closed. Darn!! Opposite were the ruins of a beautiful chapel. Aguçadoura is a Portuguese freguesia (“civil parish”) and former civil parish located in Póvoa de Varzim. I spent an hour here, resting in the shade. If I saw 3 people, it was a lot. Siesta, maybe. Good idea 😉

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Igreja de Aguçadoura, in the parish of Povoa de Varzim, Portugal

Setting off just before 2pm, I found the boardwalks once again…they stretched into the distance. Betwixt and between, I was wishing by this stage that I had planned a shorter day, but I was still loving the walking and the boardwalks which went on and on and on.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

the boardwalks were marvellous, made following the route so easy

Just after 2pm the boardwalks ended and the track changed to road and paths, I didn’t like them at all!! The markers were still prominent and I had no difficulty finding them. I had stopped off at a roadside cafe for a drink and nibble, and another Magnum Double Framboesa, shortly before the boardwalks ended…thankfully. What lay ahead was not fun at all.

Still following the markers which were a welcome sign. It got hotter by the second and within no time at all I’d emptied my 2ltr water bladder and my 750ml water bottle was being used sparingly. There were no cafes, restaurants, hotels or lodgings to speak of and I didn’t want to divert in case I got lost trying to find a non-existent mirage.  But I carried on; staggered on more like – exhausted and overheating, I was soaked with perspiration. And sun-burned. 😦 Hot. Hot. Hot.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

I did not like this new terrain. I had been perfectly happy with the boardwalks…thank you!!

After an exceedingly long, tiring and energy draining stretch I back-tracked slightly and turned off along a side road, that I’d passed earlier, which lead to a caravan park hoping they’d be able to give me water. I was desperate by then. Thankfully they were open and bliss of bliss had a cool, shady cafe where I holed up for an hour downing a couple of delicious, ice-cold Coke-Cola (horrors! I usually avoid coke, but omw it does the trick when you’re dehydrated and exhausted). I removed my shoes and socks and rested my legs which were horribly swollen by then, the cool air on my feet was blissful. I topped up my water bladder and had something to eat.

An instagram post: “Apparently it’s another 9.8 kms to Esposende, so all told I’m doing okay. If I didn’t stop to take photos every 5 seconds I could be there by now 😉😉😉”

The Orbitur camp site was a blessing, albeit 1.6 kms off the route, I’m so glad I back-tracked and made the effort. As I arrived at the camp I met a lovely young man from Cyprus with perfect English who had the same idea as me, get out the sun…except he checked in to the camp and stayed overnight. Clever lad. Unfortunately I had booked accommodation in Esposende so had to crack on.

Setting off again just after 4pm, and an hour later, just before Apulia I saw a sign that made my heart go cold. A diversion!!! What to do? Oh lord. I had read on the facebook camino pages how some albergues change signs to divert you to their premises, or weirdos change signs around for nefarious reasons. So when I saw that sign I literally stopped in my tracks. I decided right there and then (excuse the french) “fck that, I’m carrying on in the direction I was going! No desvio gracias”, and anyway I could still see signs showing the way – not the diversion. And then a short distance later, the reason for the diversion became apparent LOL They were digging up the road. Bless them, the workers, they stopped everything and let me squeeze through.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Diversion?! No thanks!!!

And then to my delight I spotted a church! Bonus. 🙂 If I’d followed the diversion I wouldn’t have seen it. But, if I’d followed the diversion, apparently, as I found out later, I could have not only found a cafe to buy water, but I would have walked back to the beach and avoided what came next!! I wish that I had thought to get some more water at that stage, even knocking on someone’s door would have been sensible!!

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Caminhos De Santiago – Apulia – Esposende

It was now just on 5pm and I had left Vila do Conde at 7am…I was tired, and hot and thirsty. What to do? Nothing except keep walking. I located the markers and carried on.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

not a happy bunny, but still taking photos LOL

The road to Esposende was NOT paved with gold. In fact it was, at some points, just bloody awful. But hey, I’m here writing to you so I must have made it through LOL. Still following the markers which were scarce and not always easy to see, the path went off into brush and trees with only a very narrow sandy road to follow; it was horrible. The profusion of footprints was encouraging. Pilgrims came this way…..

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

seeing the signs, albeit scare was very encouraging.

It really was blazing hot and I could not bear the sun any more. It was also terribly dry and arid on this section and there had been no sign of habitation for about 6 kms and the worst was still to come. When I hit the next section I was about ready to give up and this was the first time on the Camino that I felt uncomfortable. I remember stopping briefly and looking around thinking that if I disappeared here, I’d never be found.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

this was not a happy place to be on your own

Thank goodness the signs were still there or I’d have thought for sure I was lost.

The distances were really confusing. Depending on which guide you read, or which site you visit, the distances to towns along the way were different. It would help if you knew from which point they take their measurements. And don’t even mention Google maps!!!

Then finally, just as I was getting really desperate….signs of civilisation! Hoorah!!

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Hoorah! Signs of civilisation – Portugal I ❤ you too

As I reached Fão, I got a phone call. It was the young man from Hostel Eleven who was calling to ensure I was okay and hadn’t had any mishaps – it was that late in the day. I assured him I was just a short distance away. The last 15 kms were sheer hell. Hot!! Dry! Dusty! So many times I was sure I was going the wrong way and then I’d see a Camino marker… And so it went, through very rural Portugal along deserted, cobbled streets, sandy lanes, thick dry brush, scrub and scrappy trees and sometimes a mix of both. It all started so well 😉

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Hostel Eleven. Fao. Esposende 2kms 🙂

I remember how excited I got when I saw the Hostel Eleven van…I thought I was near… I wasn’t. 😦 When I reached Fão I noticed the Camino signs taking the route across the road, past a church and presumably along the riverside. But I didn’t have the energy to cross the road so just carried on. Not my brightest idea as the pavements were scarce and I was battling a tide of vehicles coming from behind…some of which passed within a whisker….probably cursing this stupid woman walking along the road. I cannot tell you my overwhelming relief when I arrived at the bridge….nearly there. I was shattered.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

Ponte metálica de Fão – the bridge between Fão and Esposende – Cávado River

But the Camino wasn’t finished with me yet!! Just after I crossed the bridge I missed the turn, the safer route….and as a result I had to contend with traffic at a round-about, walk along a road with a 50 miles p.h. speed-limit and cross a very busy, narrow bridge. At times I had to step down into the water channel alongside the tarmac and squeeze myself into the bushes lining the road to avoid the traffic going by. Urgh. Horrible.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

despite the signs, this was not the best way to go….But I was in Esposende 🙂

I staggered into town stopping the first 2 people I saw and in my broken Portuguese (read: non existent Portuguese) I asked if they knew where the hostel was? Hah! Imagine my surprise when they replied in English with a very British accent; sorry but no. LOL. I finally arrived at the hostel in Esposende after wandering about a bit trying to find the place and finally resorting to mapmywalk. Hostel Eleven #4 on my list of places I stayed on the Camino. A nice little hostel, very clean. He welcomed me in and immediately gave me something to drink, saying that most pilgrims get in mid-day or early afternoon. Hmmm, yes, well not every pilgrim is daft enough to keep stopping to take photos…of everything they see; 100’s of photos. hahahaha.

Caminho Portugues da Costa - Esposende

Hostel Eleven, Esposende. The 2nd place I stayed on my Camino

Time of arrival: 19:07 – Bless him, he had been really concerned about me. He showed me around and to my quarters for the night. Bright, colourful, breezy and clean!!! I was suitably impressed and rather glad I could use the kitchen to prepare a meal…finally the packet of 2-minute curry noodles I had been carrying around were put to good use. LOL

I made a very welcome cup of tea, ate my noodles, had a shower and went to bed and sleep. 😕😴😴😴😴 I didn’t even have the energy to go out and buy a proper meal or explore. The day had started so well.

27.71 kms Vila do Conde to Esposende. 12 hours 21 minutes and 15 seconds from the times I started walking. 😢😢😢😢

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

the road to Esposende is not paved in gold

I’d made it, albeit very very tired. But today’s walk caused me to change my plans for the next two days. I had planned on walking to Viana do Castelo on 14th and bus to Caminha the 15th, but I swapped that around. Took the bus to Viana do Castelo and walked to Caminha. Good plan. It also gave me the opportunity to explore Esposende for a few hours in the morning. And a much needed rest day. The bus ride to Viana do Castelo was terrific and I saw more of the area than I would have walking along the beach.

My favourite people of the day were Jakob and Agata from Poland. I was so sorry to lose touch with them at Povoa de Varzim when I went off for coffee and they went to get breakfast, but I suspected that they would walk a lot faster than me, and they were with a group of friends, so I didn’t want to hold them up. Besides the fantastic conversation we had while walking, Jakob was wearing a pair of pants that I greatly admired…which he loved hahaha. I hope someone knows them and I can connect with them again.

Since I started my Camino on Monday in Porto (seemed much longer than that already) I’d met a couple from South Africa, and then in order of appearance I met people from UK, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Poland (the lovely Agata & Jakob), Ireland, Spain (Barcelona), a lovely Portuguese gentleman who lived locally in Povoa de Varzim with whom I had a most marvellous 10 minute conversation, and the young man from Cyprus. I had conversations, some just briefly, with all the people I met, mostly because I said “hello”. Wonderful!!

Today was a very tough walking day and except for the Camino markers I would have thought I was lost. At one stage there was quite literally nothing I could see in front, back, to the left or right except trees and dusty road…. I was grateful for the footprints in the sand; there was one set of prints I locked onto and followed, they were like a beacon in the night…I was going in the same direction. I’m mentioning this again because it was a very isolated section, between Apulia and Fão. and if you’re on your own like I was….so just a heads up. I felt really uncomfortable and remember thinking that if anyone with ill intent came along at that point, not only would I have not had the energy to scream or run, but there was no-one to hear. I could have disappeared and no-one would have known where I was. It was one of two days of the whole walk that I felt really isolated; perhaps I was picking up on some vibes. Who knows. The only other time I felt the same was between Viana do Castelo and Caminha where I encountered a similar environment.

I spent some time thinking about the pilgrims who had gone before me. We are like seeds, all in one place for a brief moment in time, then scattered to the winds. As hard as the afternoon was, I’m still loving this experience. My #Camino2017 ❤ 

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Day 5 Monday 2017.09.11 Porto to Vila do Conde

This is it guys!!! It’s 7.20 and I’m just about to start my Camino 2017 from  Porto to Santiago along the Portuguese Coastal Route and then onto the The Central Way at Tui in Spain… Hopefully this weekend 😉😉😉 

I’m going to try and update as I go, but forgive me if there are gaps… But ‘ll drop by from time to time and send you Postcards from Portugal… These can be seen on my instagram @notjustagranny 

After 4 days of brilliant sunshine and blazing sun, it’s overcast today. I’m glad for the cooler weather but sad coz I wanted some sunrise photos!! Oh well can’t have it all 😊😊

And here’s Pepe (my very heavy backpack) what have I got in there??? 😱😱😱 I forsee a lot of ‘must haves’ being dumped soon 😂😂😂 For now we’re ready to start our Camino.

My 1st pic as a bona-fide pilgrim 😁😁 and scenes of my journeys start.

 The second Cathedral, part of the route downhill to the riverside

and Foz do Duoro where I stopped for my first official pilgrim’s breakfast. I hope I remember to get my passport stamped 😁

It’s a lovely misty day, cool for walking.

After leaving Porto Cathedral and following the pilgrim’s route to the riverside I took the bus to Foz do Duoro where I took one last visit to the lighthouse.

 It was very overcast but already warm. I stopped for breakfast then since it had started to rain I took the bus to Matosinhos (in no mood to get wet on my 1st day) As we reached Matosinhos I saw a backpack coming down the stairs of the bus with a South African flag on it 😀😀😀👏👏👏 Turned out to be a couple from South Africa who were also starting their Camino today; Roger and Amanda.

How amazing is that. We chatted briefly swapped numbers and I set off. The first of my Camino family 💞💞

I set a good pace and before long reached the lighthouse where I met Mel from Somerset UK 😀 the next of my Camino family. 

Since then we’ve met had something to eat and drink and set off again, each at our own pace. We’re all staying at Vila do Conde tonight and may meet for supper. I’ve just stopped at a tiny restaurant somewhere, about halfway. I’m drinking a Super Bock beer!! 😂😂😂 yes beer.

 I think I’m going to be drinking quite a lot of this. It’s cheap. It tastes like nectar. It’s cold. And it’s a brilliant blue hot day.

Amazing day. Seen some awesome stuff. Love the boardwalks, miles upon mile. Makes it so easy to walk; ocean on the left, head north. I’m dying for a swim. 😂😂😂walked 15 kms so far.

Well I’m nearly there, Vila do Conde. I was reliably informed by the owner of the yellow cafe, where I bought a Double Raspberry Magnum, that I had 4 kms to go… That was about 2 kms ago. I think. I hope 😂😂😂 I 🙏🙏🙏🙏

 My feet are aching, my shoulders are aching. I’m ready for a hot bath.  I stopped at a small restaurant for a coke. I needed a sugar rush. So even even though I’m not a fan of the stuff, it’s going down a treat. The boardwalks have been brilliant to walk along and it appears that at some stage I crossed onto the Littoral Route. 

The wooden boardwalks are so much easier than cobble stones. I’ve seen loads of pilgrim’s and so many locals. I’m seldom alone for more than 5 minutes. It turned out to be a brilliant day and I anticipated a beautiful sunset in crossed paths with Roger and Amanda a few times during the day and it was fun to compare notes. 

20.4 kms. And I’m so close.

Arriving in Vila do Conde was amazing. Perfect weather, lovely walking, amazing scenery and a massive convent on the hill as we crossed the bridge.

The girl in front is Laura. I saw her ahead of me just before we reached the bridge and noticed she was limping. I caught up with her to offer any help needed, but she was okay. We walked into town together and discovered that not only were we staying in the same guest house, but were room mates 😊😊😊 what a delight.

Although I was quite tired after walking 25 kms+ I was so exhilarated that I went walkabout to the end of the marina to see the sunset. A superb evening

I had the best day. Met both these lovely ladies along the way and went out for drinks and supper with them after we arrived. All very coincidentally staying in same guest house 😊😊😊😊

The Erva Doce Guest House, a lovely little hotel that made us feel very cosy. Susanna who welcomed us was absolutely charming. 

Vila do Conde is fabulous. More tomorrow.

Postcards from Portugal 

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What a fantastic city. Coimbra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and world famous University City is perched high on a hill that just goes up and up and up some more. But the views from the University at the very top are astounding and worth the effort. 

I started out relatively early and took the 08:52 train from Porto-Campanha which is conveniently a 5 minute walk from my hotel. Within a hour we were at Coimbra-.

I walked into the city from there and enjoyed the coolness of the morning ; the temperature changed fairly soon and I got very burned and hot.

The city as I said is perched on a hill. Winding cobbled lanes lead up and up, very steep slopes, the houses balanced haphazardly one in top of the other, so close together you couldn’t fit a sheet of paper between them.

The architecture is fascinating, but I was sad to see do many wonderful old buildings in a complete state of disrepair and dereliction.

There are te dozens of churches, monasteries and a few cathedrals. I managed to visit a few, all of which were wonderful. I’m always reminded that people built these places. The minds that conceived of them… I’m left amazed.

Coimbra is an 11th century city and some of the ecclesiastical buildings go back to the early 12th century. Awesome.

There are dozens of squares each with tables and gaily coloured umbrellas, lots of quirky shops with a delightful array of goods. I bought 2 tea-towels and an oven gloves as mementos. Like I need more weight in my bag LOL

I had a cappuccino and a custard cream pastry at this restaurant. Delicious.

I walked along the riverside. The River Mondego is incredibly wide! There’s a colourful pedestrian bridge I walked across that offered amazing views of the river and city.

I discovered an extraordinary Monastery on the other side of the river. Archaeological ruins offer a tantalising glimpse into the ancient past.

 On the hill is an amazing church and what looks like another monastery. I need to do more research on that.

Before leaving I stopped off at a cafe and partook of a cappuccino and a most delicious custard pastry.

Coimbra is an enchanting city with so much to see.

 Centuries of history in those cobbled streets that play havoc with your ankles. 

And then it was time to go. I took a taxi to the station. By 17:45 my feet, after 15 kms had had quite enough thank you.

Walked 15kms. 32,419 steps from when I got off the train until I stepped into the taxi. 

I mistakenly jumped on the wrong train, but since it was headed to Porto, it was all good and the ticket inspector didn’t come by.

After paying my bill at the hotel in preparation for my early departure tomorrow, I popped in at a local cafe and enjoyed a cheese and tomato omelette. Delicious. 

Tomorrow my Camino proper begins. Wish me luck, hope that the Camino does indeed provide and Buen Camino. 

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After walking my legs into the ground yesterday and a very late goodnight, I slept till 9am today. I did wake as the sun tinged the clouds pink, but fell asleep again. Missed breakfast so bought myself two croissant on the way to the Metro. Golly, what a mission to buy a trip. It’s similar but very different to London’s top up oyster cards….which is way more easy.

I eventually got it sorted and into town. Got off at Trinidades which is meant to be close to the Se Cathedral but isn’t LOL. If I’d been paying attention yesterday I’d have realised that Sao Bento Station is a 5 minute walk away. But on the plus side I got to see parts of Porto I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Besides the amazing street art I visited an amazing church that left my mouth agape. I needed some touristy information so popped in at a nearby info centre where my questions were answered by a delightful young man, and had my pilgrim’s passport stamped….my first stamp for today. It’s amazing.

After that I went walkabout, recorded the 12noon chimes on the Avenue Liberdade and meandered about till I found the famous Lello Library that everyone talks about. I had planned to visit yesterday but thought the price a tad high. But today I changed my mind and reminded myself that I may never visit Porto again and to make the most of my time here. The Livraria Lello is famous for its staircase which is quite beautiful and an unusual design. A tad pricey at 4.80euro but worth seeing.

From there I stopped off at a small restaurant for a toasted cheese and ham. I needed some iron for energy. Sometimes when you order an old favourite, it arrives and you’re surprised at what you get LOL This is not what I was expecting. It was also very expensive. Lesson learned; check the menu for prices before ordering.

From there I finally took the first steps on my Camino. I walked back to Catedral Se popped in for a 2nd pilgrim’s stamp

 and followed through pilgrim’s route down a multitude of steps along a winding route

 to the riverfront and onto Foz do Duoro. I passed the extraordinary Sao Francisco’s Church so stopped to visit. There are catacombs.. Whoa. But sadly no skulls and crossbones, just rows and rows of coffins.

And then finally I was on my way. Wow, what an amazing walk. Just on 5kms of amazing scenery, an extraordinary bridge and typically traditional Portuguese houses.

I then had the delightful pleasure of meeting my first pilgrim. 😁😁😁 Absolutely over the moon and thrilled to have met Jasmine from Colorado USA!! I saw her walking towards me with her backpack along the pedestrian bridge that juts out over the river. As we drew near I said: “ola! Camino?” and she said “yes!” 😊😊👏👏 OMG I was so delighted I nearly kissed her. My very first bona-fide camiga. 💞💞 She’s just completed the French route from SSJDP to Santiago and then took a bus to Finesterre and a train to Porto where she’s planning to stay for a few days.

 We chatted, exchanged notes and ideas and recommendations of what to see in Porto then hugged and wished each other Buen Camino and waved goodbye.

After that I had a spring in my step and bounced along with a smile on my face. It made my day. The walk was wonderful, the scenery too beautiful – looking back upstream to Porto.

Foz do Duoro is wonderful and if I’d known just how lovely it was I’d have planned my route differently and stayed a night there.

I saw a tall ship sailing by,

watched fishermen cast their lines, smiled and waved ola at everyone,  stopped for a Nutella crepe and café com leite from Maria Limao ‘love made’… Highly recommended crepe for 3.50. In fact it was so yummy I went back for a 2nd one.

I walked to the lighthouse,

 visited the fabulous fort,

watched the sunset

and then rode the Porto City Tram back into town… Too much fun.

 I had planned on walking to Matosinhos but loved Foz so much I tarried too long.
After all that adventure I walked all over the place just enjoying the evening atmosphere,

then finally jumped on the Metro back to my hotel.

Walked 15kms. 38,500 steps+

I’ve just finished sorting and repacking my backpack in readiness for Monday. Let my Camino begin…

Tomorrow I’m finally visiting Coimbra.. If I wake up in time 😉

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Walked 14.5 km. 52282 steps. 

I’d ordered breakfast at the hotel for today so before setting out to explore I partook of the typical European Continental breakfast ; bread, jam, cheese and juice. Not my usual breakkie but better than the dried out croissant I had in Venice. LOL

Just after 10am I set off out into a beautiful day. Roads familiar to me now led me back towards the cemetery which I was keen to explore. Wow, there are hundreds if mausoleums, some almost as big as our house.

From there I followed my nose towards the city centre, walking here and there depending on what caught my eye.

I visited a fabulous cathedral where I got my first official pilgrim’s stamp. I was so thrilled I almost cried. The gentleman who stamped my passport told me he had also walked the Camino and wished me Buen Camino. 🙂 it gave me goosebumps. Happiness is.

From there I strode down a very steep hill to what turned out to be the Clerigos church and tower. A 45 minute wait to climb the steps for the most incredible views of Porto.

Afterwards I set off towards another cathedral I had seen; Catedral Se. Cathedral of Porto. Wow, I tell you what, they sure knew how to build churches in those days. 

It’s fascinating. I bought the ticket to explore the cloisters, the exhibition, sacristy and climb more steps to the ramparts above the cloisters  I found a small wooden statue of St James as a pilgrim upstairs 🙂 I also obtained my 2nd pilgrim’s stamp.

 After my visit I wended my way downhill following the route that marks the start of the Camino from Porto. Then walking back I visited the Sao Bento Station. By golly its beautiful.

From there I walked to and over the Pte Luiz I bridge and made my way uphill to visit the monastery I could see perched above the river.

 It turned out to be linked to St August in which is brilliant. A link to my Way of St Augustine walk in July. It’s an incredible church, the cloisters and church are both round and of exactly the same size.

After climbing the tower (and that is it, I’m not climbing any more towers!!) but the views were outstanding so it was worth the effort.

 I crossed back over the bridge and went to visit the Lello Bookshop. But at 5 euro I decided to wait till Sunday as I don’t want to go over budget.

Instead I visited another 2 amazing churches

 

and then bought a pastry that looked and tasted delicious. I’ve no idea what the filling was and I’m not asking.

While munching I meandered down hill now towards the river front. Magical. Just in time for the sunset, which was beautiful. I again crossed the Pte Luiz

 I and wandered along the waterfront on the opposite bank of the River Duoro.

By now it was getting dark do I stopped at a small restaurant for French fries… Not very Portuguese but they were good. To my delight I noticed a scallop shell and Pilgrim’s sign. I nearly cried again. Now it’s real.

After eating, I  set off back to my hotel and just for good measure climbed another very steep hill.

Then bath and bed. What a fantastic day. I said ola and obrigado a lot today 🙂 

And now I can officially say that I’ve visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the medieval city of Porto  

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Whewww. 1 week till I arrive in Porto at the beginning of my Camino 2017 : 7 days : 168 hours : 10,080 minutes 😂😂😂 and just 10 days till I start walking the Portuguese Coastal Route from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. In fact by this time next week I will have landed in Porto…all being well.

inspirational quotes

Sometimes we have to stop being scared and just go for it. either is will work or it won’t. that’s life!

I can’t express just how excited and trepidatious I am feeling. My mind is swirling with thoughts like; have I got this, do I have that, what if I lose my meds, should I carry this or that or the next thing, will I have enough money? Will my shoes be suitable? Have I enough clothes? Do I have the right clothes? Do I have enough time? Can I find my way?

Blah blah blah and horrors…. what if I find I can’t walk 25kms+ for 11 days in a row!!! With a 7.5kg backpack on my shoulders. 😦 😦 😦 I’m under no illusions as to how heavy it can get after walking for 6-8 hours per day….even though I only walked for 3 days each journey last month. Southwark to Canterbury ‘in the footsteps of Chaucer‘ and Ramsgate to Canterbury ‘The Way of St Augustine‘.

So yes, all the fears, all the uncertainties and all the excitement of the experiences I’ll have, the issues I’ll face, the challenges ahead, the places and wondrous things I’m going to see are whirling like dervishes about inside; my mind is in turmoil as the date for lift off approaches and all I want to do is go home right now and I bloody can’t because I’m working 😢😢😢 I’m not sure if I should cry, scream or laugh… I’m trying to focus on the latter.

So OMG 7 days. This all seemed like such a brilliant idea 18 months ago. 7 years ago it seemed like even a better idea!!!! LOL urgh. I love travelling. I love going to new places. I love exploring. So why am I so conflicted about this trip? I’ve trained and trained and trained some more. The #walk1000miles challenge has been brilliant for encouragement!

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 🙂 – heading now towards 1000 miles

I’ve done dozens of practice walks, climbed hills and down dales, through fields and along rivers. I’ve practised with the poles…still can’t quite love them, but they are useful. Got proper shoes and breaking them in. Tested 4 different types of socks (found the best ones) and learned that it’s never a good idea to walk in wet socks 😕😕

packing for the camino de santiago

By the time I get back from my Camino, I will have walked 1000 miles..however these are not the socks I’ll be wearing. But those are the poles I’ll be taking.

I’ve experimented with the backpack… Which I think is really the crux of the matter. It’s bloody murder carrying that thing. Sigh. Oh well.

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

my nordic walking poles and osprey backpack looking fairly benign….

I’ve researched and read dozens of sites and packing lists…what should I take? What will I need? Is this useful? Do I have the right shoes? Will I need a rain-jacket? I have to keep reminding myself I’m going to Portugal and Spain, not outer Mongolia!! I’ve already ditched 1.5kgs of stuff…..I guess my intentions to minimalize my life before I buy my motorhome are being put to the test. This is a good start.4 camino packingBesides all that, after my phone crashed in July, I’m a little fearful for it happening again, so I bought a 2nd phone as back-up (like I need the extra expense) and for the last few days I’ve been transposing all the VIP information from the Camino spreadsheet to my phone calendars and into a small notebook that I’m carrying in case my phone gets lost or I can’t get wi-fi – I’m an old fashioned gal, I still like paper and pen 😉

I took this image in March while on holiday in Torquay with my beloved daughter and it seems perfectly apt right now; I’m a ‘wreck’ 😂😂😂

camino de santiago porto to santiago

7 days to the start of my Camino 2017 – Porto to Santiago

I read a lovely quote in the notebook “The beginning is always today!” Mary Shelley. I guess that yes, today is certainly that; the beginning; of my countdown to Porto…this shit is getting serious now. I can’t understand why I’m so conflicted though. I think the seeds of my fear were sown back in 2016 when I stumbled upon a blog written as a memorial to all the people who have died on the Camino routes in the last 10 years or so. Prior to that, it had never entered my head that people actually died!!! while on Camino. I was horrified. I think that knowledge may have played a part in my cancelling the trip I was going to make in September last year. Since then my daughter has become engaged and due to be married in May 2018. ❤

Although I try to not think of it, I am fearful that I too may die while on Camino. It’s not like I’m ill or anything, but some folks were healthy enough when they started and had a heart-attack enroute, some were knocked over by traffic and one lady Denise Theim was murdered. Now as I say, although I’m not focusing on death, the niggling is there in my mind. I would hate to let my daughter down…I’m meant to be walking her down the aisle when she gets married and it would be heart-breaking if I wasn’t there for her special special day. I’ve asked her to promise me that she’ll ask her father to walk her down the aisle in the event I’m not there…but meanwhile I’m visualising me escorting her….actually I can’t wait for the day, she looks absolutely gorgeous in her dress 🙂

So back to the Camino. One thing that has been really good is reading other people’s blogs and facebook updates on the various pages I’m following. It’s good to know I’m not alone in my fears. So many women and men have posted at how fearful they feel in the days preceding their start, how nervous…many with exactly the same fears I have.

camino de santiago porto to santiago

Inspirational quotes

A couple of days ago I got a sudden burst of excitement and wanted to just go already…now! I posted this on instagram: “14 days to go and I’ll be on my Camino. I had a few options for this number but I quite liked the story in this. The unicorn reflects my dream to walk the Camino, now just about to come true, and the words ‘seeds’ reflects that I’ll be sowing new seeds (experiences) in the garden of my life.

my camino 2017 porto to santiago

sowing the seeds of my adventures

I wonder what will grow from this journey? New friends? New feelings? New emotions? New thoughts? New perceptions? I suspect it will be all the above. I do know for sure that new adventures await, new photos (of course), new places to be seen and new challenges await… My feet hurt just thinking about that! 😂😂😂 I hope you don’t mind that I’ll be posting my #countdown from now till I go. I’ve suddenly gone from trepidation to excitement and now I just want to GO ALREADY. In fact it brings tears to my eyes… OMG what an adventure. Although I’m sure that within 3 days I’ll be saying OMG I must be mad!!! What am I doing!!????”

portuguese coastal route mapacoastal

The Portuguese Coastal and Central routes

And yes, just 4 days later, that euphoric emotion has passed and I’m back to wavering between fear and excitement.

I love travelling. I’ve travelled all over the world entirely on my own. I have stumbled through the language barriers. I have enjoyed meeting people. I have loved being solo…..but for some reason, this trip feels different. I guess it’s probably because I’ll be moving constantly for 11 days; walking between 18.5 – 32 kms at different stages staying at a different hotel/hostel/alburgue each night bar 3. 184.2 kms is an awful lot more than 66.91 over 5 days and 109.01 split over 3 days – 2 weeks apart!!

I’ve planned and replanned my route, changed the distances between stages, reduced some days and increased others. Cut out two days of travelling and reduced the distance from 235kms to 184kms.

Somehow this looks awfully far…..

 

 

 

I’ve wanted to visit Portugal for ever such a long time and Porto has been my top destination. In Spain it’s Barcelona which I’ll be travelling to after my journey to Santiago. I’m so excited to be seeing those places….and yet the 11 days between Porto and Santiago are looming large in my head. I’ll also be adding to Project 101; 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Porto Historic Centre, Coimbra and Santiago. I’ll be visiting a number of cathedrals….I’ll count them once I’ve been, a few walled cities, and crossing a few rivers, and ancient bridges. And besides that…..I’ve no doubt that I’ll be visiting a LOT of churches 🙂

All that remains now are for the days to march on by and soon I shall be on ‘my way’. Porto to Santiago de Compostela along the Portuguese Coastal Route….

camino 2017

Camino de Santiago

Buen Camino….

Porto to Santiago de Compostela - my pilgrim's passport and the scallop shells

Porto to Santiago de Compostela – my pilgrim’s passport and the scallop shells

Other blogs I’ve written about the impending Camino

Camino 2016, my way

My Camino the journey so far

My Camino 2017

On the road and what to pack #Camino2017

Pilgrimage – the road to Santiago

The Spirit of the Camino

Walking the Camino and lessons learned

Harrassment on the Camino

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