Travels - Links to each trip

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Camino 2017 Day 3 - Portela to Ponte de Lima May 31

It was a restless night for both of us as is  often the case for first night in an albergue and the first to stir in the morning were the French (as usual) with packing and re packing starting at 5:00am. 
However we got up at 6 which is sunrise here and were on the trail at 6:30. It was a beautiful morning, a little fresh to start but quickly warmed up as the sun rose in a near cloudless sky.
The walk today 25km (about 15 miles) with some steep hills but it was beautiful through small villages, passed vineyards everywhere and some flowers growing wild such as lillies and rhododendrons in the moist areas. 


We crossed a medieval bridge and passed several small churches but they were all locked and we could not see anything through the small window in each. 



Much of the time we were in the sun with little shade which made it uncomfortable. We didn't find anywhere for. breakfast until we had been walking for about 2.5 hours but then the coffee and fresh rolls were delicious. We had taken plenty of water with us so stayed well hydrated but at times the sun was intense. 


After the steepest climb and descent we found ourselves in more shaded areas with eucalyptus and pine trees or vines with tiny grapes just forming overhanging the trail. The air felt so fresh and smelled so clean that we gained new energy. 

Soon we ready for a second breakfast so stopped again at a café for fresh rolls with ham and cheese and a soft drink. 
Then back on the path through the woods and the vineyards. 



Here we passed some wild foxgloves. I told Helen how we used to put them on our fingers when we were children and chase each other or play puppets with them. 


In one little village there was an outdoor fitness center with various fitness equipment

Another small church, this one dedicated to Santiago with an outside pulpit


Finally after about 6 hours we arrived in the town of Ponte de Lima. It is the oldest town in Portugal with a long history and some interesting statues. 


There is a long medieval bridge spanning the river. The area in front of it is a car park so photo cannot do it justice.


We walked on to find our albergue for tonight which was across the river. It was now close to 1:00pm but the albergue didn't open until 4:00 pm. We sat in the shade outside a restaurant with a drink while deciding what to do for 3 hours on a hot sunny day with our backpacks
I looked on line and found a room with 2 beds in the local youth hostel available so I booked it and we walked back across the bridge and along the river to it. It will work well. 
We settled in, showered and did our washing chores before heading out into the town to look around. 

We found an old church that was open with some service either in progress or about to start. 


Down by the river there is a line of soldiers standing as if about to cross the river.  They represent an old story about the roman army as they were conquering Spain and Portugal. They believed that there was a certain river that if you crossed it you would forget everything you ever knew and that this was the river! So they were refusing to cross it. 


Meanwhile on the other bank the general was calling and urging them to cross because he had crossed and could remember all their names. He is on the other bank on a horse if you look carefully. 


The way between the town and our hostel is along a lovely avenue lined with sycamore trees.  Very pleasant and much cooler in the heat of the afternoon. 


We had an early dinner in the town and then headed back to our hostel to start our daily blogs and sort out our clothes and sundry items so we can make an early start tomorrow and be over the 1,000 ft climb before the sun gets too intense. 
It will not be as long a day tomorrow but probably equally strenuous. Both of us loving it all!

Good night from James and Helen

Camino 2017 - Day 2 May 30. Porto to Portela de Tamel

We both slept well last night and we're woken up by the alarm at 7:00. After resorting our gear and getting everything packed again we left the hotel to find some breakfast. There was a nice café conveniently at the Sao Bento train station so after buying train tickets to Barcelos where we will start walking we had breakfast.
The station has some amazing blue tile pictures on the walls.


Since we still had some time before the train left we walked up to the cathedral and got our compostelas (pilgrim passports) stamped and to say a prayer in the cathedral before we start our pilgrimage today. 



On our way back down the hill we had some views over the city and passed a small fish market. 


Then back to the station. The train arrived and left on time. 


The train stopped 17 times in 45 mins at small country towns before we had to change trains for the final 3 stops and then were in Barcelos where we officially started our pilgrimage. 
We made our way from the train station into the town and after a place to get our first stamp in our credentials we set off along the Camino. 
The first couple of km were through the suburbs but then we were out in the country with vineyards and cows and goats grazing. It was hilly and most of the trail was paved, much of it with cobblestones. 

Grapes starting to form in the vineyards 


A little church but closed and no view through the windows. 


We stopped at a small café and bought a couple of rolls with ham and cheese which we ate as we walked - delicious fresh baked bread. 
After about 2.5 hours we arrived at our Albergue. We were glad of the short day since we were in the hot sun in the afternoon and physically still working through the lost night on Sunday in the plane and the time zone change. 
The albergue is nice and we quickly settled in. Showered,  washed our clothes and went to the local bar for a drink since the internet in the albergue is very slow. However we only got the drink since the bar internet did not work at all!  So I'm not sure when I will post this blog. 
The albergue is next to the church where the clock chimes every 30 minutes. It is loud so let's hope it is silent at night. The weather is warm and we have the windows open!

We went to the restaurant next door for dinner which was more than we could eat for €7.00 plus wine.


 It started to get cold  and the albergue door is locked at 9:00 pm so back there in time and early bed tonight. 

I will continue tomorrow (internet availability dependent)

Good night from us Both 
James and Christa

Monday, May 29, 2017

Camino 2017 Day 1 - Arrive Portugal

Landed safely in Amsterdam and after collecting our luggage we all made our way to load Christa, William and the luggage into the rental car. Helen and I made our way back to the terminal to wait for plane to Porto. It was a long layover but we explored the huge terminal and found a nice rooftop terrace where we could get some lunch while watching some of the planes at their gates below. 
The sun was out and there was a nice breeze



The salads were delicious. 

Finally it was time to check in our packs and make our way to the gate. The plane was a bit late arriving but as soon as it had taken off we were both asleep. 
Two and a half hours later we landed in Porto. Got a local SIM card and found the metro train into the city. All went well and we then walked to the hotel where we would rest up tonight. 
It was a lovely warm evening and we went out to explore the old part of the town. It is charming but much is slowly being renovated as Christa and I saw when were there almost 2 years ago. 

Then it was time for dinner and we found a little restaurant on a terrace near the river for a delicious meal before heading back up the hill our hotel. 



 Showers and some blog writing before falling asleep
A very nice day despite being tired after a night on the plan and a loooong layover in Amsterdam. All went and we are excited about the start of our Camino pilgrimage tomorrow


Saturday, May 27, 2017

On our way to Portugal, Spain and England

On our way to Europe. First Portugal and Spain where our daughter Helen and I will walk about 2 weeks on the Camino de Santiago Portugese. 
Then on to England for time with family. Looking forward to all of it. Meanwhile Christa and William will visit family in Germany and join us for the time in England. This will be a great trip and experience for all. 
First an Uber car to the airport. Couldn't be easier with a very friendly driver. 

Plenty of time at the airport for a time to relax before our flights to Philadelphia and Amsterdam. Looking forward to meeting up with Helen and William in Philadelphia as they arrive from Nashville.