Bill’s Blog Journal

Portugal 

Porto

Porto is a perfect holiday town for anyone. Lots of history, entertainment, food, and if you like Port it’s the worlds capital. 

I was welcomed to town by the Sunday Marathon and a huge bird market that went on for a couple of blocks. Once again I was  surprised by the runners who noticed my backpack and greeted me with a Buen Camino. The majority of activities are along the waterfront on both shores of this divided city. So when I came upon a Boat/Hotel I could not resist. I booked two nights. Not only was it elegant and perfectly located it was more reasonable than the other options and included a wonderful breakfast. And a pretty good view too! No sooner had I checked when I got a message that my Irish friend Timothy had just arrive in town too. But he had walked from Santiago! That boy is fast. I first met him on the airport bus in Lourdes September 13th. 

Porto has a myriad of transportation options. I took a water taxi to the south shore where the Port producers have their caves for aging the wine as well as lots of outlets and restaurants. I then too a gondola to the upper level of the bridge designed my Eiffel and walked across the upper level back to the north shore. One could the have the option to walk down a few hundred stairs or take the funicular back to the wharf level. 

I rented a car at the airport for my drive to Lourdes (as the pilgrim way of life begins fading to memories). Almost two months since I was in a car. I also had to remember how to drive a stick shift! That very American sense of freedom of getting behind the wheel had not left. The highway system is impressive and the countryside lovely. I dove past many miles of charred forests from the recent fires. Though it was impossible to tell the extent of the damage from this limited vantage point. 

Fatima

I arrived in Fatima on another sunny afternoon in time to tour around and attend a mass in English at the shrine, which was welcome after so many Spanish services on the Camino. After mass I spoke with one of the attendants and showed him the copy of the October 1947 letter I was carrying from Sister Lucy to my uncle Joe. He had written to her asking for prayers for himself and his wife. He said that they would be interested in having it so I left it with him alone by with my contact info. 

Fatima was the last of the 3 goals on my Spiritual Hat Trick Pilgrimage. Am very grateful to have had the opportunity to make this journey and for all the support I have received from family and friends. I once again prayed for all those who sent names for my prayer list and lit candles. 

Obidos

Next stop was the historic resurrected Castle Village of Obidos. Fun tourist stop for lunch on the way to the coast. 

Estirill 

I wanted to visit this seaside resort town west of Lisbon because my parents one visited there in the early 1960’s. They went with my Aunt Helen. As soon as I arrived I knew who had chosen the destination. Helen loved to gamble….The was too much of a city for my taste and “in season” must be a zoo. However the waterfront walkway was magnificent and appeared to be a surfing hotspot. It was soothing just to hear the sounds of the surf after so much time inland. ​

Lisbon airport 

Todays main activities included laundry, shopping, return the car to the airport and a stop at the hospital. The last due to the cold I developed which doesn’t want to go away.  My visit to the emergency room lasted about an hour, was quite a contrast to Yale New Haven Hospital and the US Healthcare system in general. I was very well taken care of in a first class facility. The entire ER bill was 90 euros. I was given prescriptions for antibiotics, decongestant, 600mg Ibuprofen which I took to a local pharmacy. The bill was 19 euros!! Total. 

After I treated myself to lunch by the water and a long walk before heading to the airport to drop off the car. The drive was dizzying with a million roundabouts to negotiate enroute. 

 My original plan had been to enjoy whatever excess time I had after walking the Camino relaxing by the water here in Portugal. However the Camino had other plans for me. Tomorrow I am off to Holland to visit a lovely lady I walked with for a couple of magical days halfway across Spain. After which I’ll be off to Toulouse France to visit Deni, who I met my first day walking from Lourdes, and his family. Stay tuned….

Camino ends but the journey continues 

My last night in Santiago was perfect though bittersweet. I made plans with Linn to meet at my hotel then go have Chocolate & Chirros together. Of course she knew many of the people hanging out in the hotel lounge so we enjoyed a bit of unscheduled festivities. We were able to break away and enjoyed some private time to catchup on each other’s stories as we wandered about town in search of the right place. 

 Soon we were joined by a young South African man, who lives in Holland, we each had met while walking. We invited him to join us for dinner, which was to be in a very cozy little cafe on the other side of town. Linn also invited her friends “The Lithuanians” to join us. She often spoke of the so it was nice to finally meet. It was an emotional and teary farewell apre dinner but Linn broke the mood with a push-up challenge! (The young Lithuanian man had become known for his goal of doing 100 push-ups each day of his Camino) So they had a head to head contest right there on the sidewalk much to the consternation of passers by. We were all winners!! 

Train to Porto Portugal-November 5th 

On an early morning train to Portugal, thus ending the walking only portion, to reach the final goal of my “hat trick”, Fatima. A bit surreal to sit and watch the scenery fly by. I am taking this time to reflect a bit on the first two ” goals”. 

More than anything else, people have had the greatest impact on me at every level, emotionally and spiritually. The sharing, love and support not only from other pilgrims but from shopkeepers and people on the streets, virtually everyone. There was a prevailing sense of hope and optimism as well as respect of everything Camino related. 

I met people of all ages from dozens of countries, some spoke at least a little English, others none. However we were all able to communicate to some degree. There was endless support and very little judging. We walk west, together, separately, we shared food & drink, we cried & we laughed, we shared equipment, sleeping quarters, colds & flu. We shared a way of life that defies explanation, it has to be experienced. 

When we leave behind the city of Santiago we leave, changed in many ways. I believe it will take time on our continuing Camino of life for those changes to be revealed. 

Santiago de Compestella 11/1- 11/4

My last day walking the Camino was not at all the jubilant day I expected due to the onset of a severe cold. It clouded my thinking, my emotions, and sapped my energy. So I was quite please to come across Barry & Tom mid-morning. 

We walked most of the day together stopping off for a break where we once again ran into two terrific ladies from England who have been having a great time all the way across Spain. Unfortunately Tom left behind his water bottle and later had to backtrack to retrieve it leaving Barry and I to walk the last by ourselves. 

There was of course a pop up shopping opportunity for souvenirs. And a photo opportunity..


However the last of today’s walk was a long slough and felt anticlimactic, partially the urbane landscape but largely because of my deteriorating health. 

Arrived!!! November 1st All Saints Day. Officially 925 kilometers door to door. 1,052 kilometers including “tourist kilometers”. And 20+lbs lighter. Started in Lourdes France 47 days ago.


Lastly was a 45 minute wait at the Pilgrim Office to get our Compestella. One certified the distance the other forgave all our sins! 

It took me two days but I finally made it to the Pilgrims Mass in the Cathedral and was fortunate that they launched the Botafumeiro, incense burner,  a ritual traditionally performed prior to the mass to cover up the stench emanating from the pilgrims. For some reason today it was performed after mass concluded. 

It is not possible to express the gratitude I have for having the opportunity to make this pilgrimage walk across Spain, for the loving support of family and friends, for the beautiful people from all corners of the globe I have been blessed to meet. 

My cold has convinced me to forgo the walk to Finnesterra. I am learning to take the advise I would give to others ” listen to your body’. So I will walk there the next time. I have a feeling I will be back before too long. 

I will next take a train to Portugal to visit Fatima, the final goal of my “hat trick”. I will also visit Porto and Lisbon before heading out on two unplanned side trips before heading home for Thanksgiving.  More on these later stay tuned….

Home stretch 

Day 45. – Boante. 10/30

Moody morning weather kept us undecided wether to add a layer or remove one. 

We were soon threading our way through yet more picturesque stone villages. 
This time joined by some locals on their way to the office..
Today’s mandatory lunch stop was in Melide to sample the local specialty of Octopus Pulpo. (The beer is not mine! 😊)
After lunch my knee was making itself known so I had to make the difficult decision to stop early for the day and tell Barry and Tom to continue without me. Hopefully I’ll catch them in Santiago. Only 50k to go….

Day 46 –  O Pedrouzo   10/31

Happy Halloween 

A nights rest and the knee was much better so I enjoyed my longest walk of 31.5k. The morning I walked alone on more wonderful trails. I have been surprised by the few pilgrims since Sarria which I thought would bring masses to the Camino as it does the rest of the year.  It appears to be that the season is over. The bar/cafe stops are empty even the serious party stops…After a morning of solitude and contemplation I was happy for the company of Nanna from Denmark who was delightful company for a few hours. She is 24 and has walked all the way from SJPP by herself and was excited to be meeting her mother tomorrow in Santiago for the noon mass. My albergue for the night was a very contemporary affair. I am hoping for a miracle cure for the cold which overtook me this afternoon. I am not quite sure how I feel about the prospects of finall arriving in Santiago after 47 days and almost 1,000 kilometers. We will soon find out 👣👣👣

Crossing 100 K

Day 43. Portomarin. 10/28

The morning for added a mystical quality to the start of today’s walking. 


Everyone took turns for a photo op at the 100k marker which had unfortunately been vandalized. (This is the distance remaining to Santiago de Compostela. My plan is to continue the Atlantic Ocean at Finnesterra an additional 75k)


There were not shortage of photo ops as the day went on…


But the real star of today was the magnificent and varied trails. 

The many buildings including the cathedral were relocated from the riverside when the reservoir was created

And rebuilt in the new “old” town. 
Day 44. Papas de Rei.  10/29

Another misty morning start on more wonderful hiking trails with Barry & Tom. We soon came across signs on the recent fires. We are greatful that they were extinguished before spreading further. 

We met a three generation family walking the Camino together with their dog (mother & grandfather not pictured)

Some young ladies with all the makings only s tailgate party. We chose to let someone else prepare lunch and were treated to a real Galicia meat feast which was delicious. A couple of additional interesting sites before we concluded the day

Into Galacia 

 Day 41. Fontria   10/26

A day of hills, mostly upward. The transition to the Province of Galacia provides beautiful panoramas of increasing shades of green, more cattle, and much improved dinning. 

I enjoyed Barry’s company again today and he tolerated my endless stories. He is reasonably fluent in Spanish & French making ordering food much less problematic. We had a number of food stops for snacks in addition to a substantial lunch. 

The culinary high of the day was a surprisingly wonderful meal served by the restaurant association with tonight’s albergue. The building was an interesting reproduction of a local style and the food was wonderful and plentiful. 

Day 42. Sarria. 10/27

Today we walk to Sarria which is a major starting point for all those who do not have the time or inclination to walk for a month or more. It is 115 kilometers from Santiago thus allowing potential pilgrims the required minimum walking distance of 100k to qualify for a Compestella Certificate at the end. Each day from here in we must obtain two stamps on our Pilgrims credential.

The walking was wonderful thru beautiful trails, fields, and small stone villages. 

We encounter We encountered a number of unusual sights…



Seven days till Santiago 

Day 39 – Cacabelos. 10/24

Another cool morning walking mostly on city sidewalks from Cacabelos to Ponferrada..where I toured the Knights Templar castle. 

Leaving town met Barry from Canada who had just arrive and was about to begin his walk. We spent the rest of the day walking together. Nice to be able to introduce him to the Pilgrims way of life. We shared a small unheated cubby hole in the municipal albergue. Also enjoyed a wonderful dinner in a really nice local restaurant. No french fries!! 

Day 30-  Herrerias.  10/25

Another pre-dawn start ( it is not light here until 8:30) again largely on sidewalks. We traveled in and out of one small village after another. Each with its tiny chapel. 

The day was uneventful except for the occasional meeting up with new people along the way. We ended the day with an excellent communal vegetarian dinner in the albergue.