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31 Days of Gratitude and today I’m grateful for Opportunity.

Once again it seems I am drawn to something that is non-tangible and today it’s opportunity aka luck. There are hundreds of quotes linked to opportunity and much discussion on the subject of opportunity or lack thereof. Described as “an occasion or situation that makes it possible to do something that you want to do or have to do, or the possibility of doing something”31 days of gratitude, recognising opportunities, travel opportunities,

It may seem quite an odd thing to write about, but I consider myself to be incredibly lucky with all the opportunities I have had in my life. I remember once many years ago, a company I was working for promoted me to Regional Personnel and Admin Manager. Prior to that I had been employed by the company in the position of Debtors Clerk. One of the ladies that had worked with the company for some years, a lot longer than myself got really shirty and on hearing about the promotion said “some of us are so lucky”. Well, luck is just hard work and taking the opportunity to do more than you are paid for. I may have started as a debtors clerk but due to my insatiable desire for learning I set about learning as much about the processes and systems of the company as possible. I investigated, and instigated systems and procedures to improve upon what was already being done. It saved the company a lot of money; ergo the promotion. But it was only because I took the ‘opportunity’ to learn and improve, not only myself but the company too that I got ‘lucky’.

It’s about perception.

On the negative side:

I took the opportunity to leave a very unhappy home life by getting married at 17.

I took the opportunity to get a divorce before I was even 21 even though being alone scared the hell out of me.

I took the opportunity to leave a destructive relationship even though he pursued me with threats of death.

I often look back on my life and see the ‘forks in the road’, the ‘opportunities’ that have come my way. Some I have acted on, others I have ignored. Invariably there are outcomes; both good and bad.

I took the opportunity to buy a house even though I really couldn’t afford it – we made a plan with a lot of sacrifices.

I took the opportunity to move to Cape Town when a good job offer came up.

I took the opportunity to go back to college in my mid 40’s and get a Distinction in Credit Management.

I took the opportunity to travel to Ireland for my sister’s 30th birthday after the company I was working for closed down.

I took the opportunity to apply for my British Citizenship.

I took the opportunity to travel as much as possible rather than have my own rented apartment.

I didn’t take the opportunity to buy Bitcoin when it was $2 a coin LOL – but cést la vie.

I think the point is that so often opportunities arise and because we are distracted, disbelieving, uncertain and afraid, we tend to not recognise an opportunity when it arises.

I’m grateful for the opportunities that I have had. The chance to live in the UK being one of the biggest I could ever have imagined. These days I am far more aware of the opportunities that come my way and endeavour to make the most of them. My job is the perfect example. I could stick within my ‘comfort zone’; have a home of my own with all the comforts that brings and only take jobs that are close to home, or I could take the opportunity that jobs in different parts of the country offer and travel to places I could never even begin to imagine, even though it is sometimes very uncomfortable.31 days of gratitude, recognising opportunities, travel opportunities,

As a result of the opportunities I have had to travel, I’ve started Project 101 and this is taking me to many more fascinating places in the UK and Europe, the most recent of course being the Camino I walked in September.

31 days of gratitude, recognising opportunities, travel opportunities, camino de santiago, walking the camino

scenes from Camino 2017

That has been an absolute highlight of my life, so today, as I reflect on all the wonderful, amazing and extraordinary places I have been and the thousands of awesome, stunning and incredible things I have seen in the last year, then yes……

Today I am grateful for the many opportunities that have been gifted to me.

31 Days of Gratitude – Day 10

 

 

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31 Days of Gratitude and today I am grateful for the opportunity I had to walk the Camino in September of this year.

It was touch and go. I was meant to walk it in 2016, but due to one thing and another; namely fear, fitness and money, I cancelled. I hadn’t actually paid anything out yet which was fortunate, but I had had my heart set on walking in September 2016. I decided instead to walk in 2017.

I had been training for about 6 months at the time I decided to cancel and also due to procrastination I hadn’t book any flights or accommodation. I had bought some hiking gear and thought I’d be ready to go……but firstly, during my research, I had read about the tragic story of Denise Thiem who was murdered on the French Route, as well as many other people who died from either accidents, heart failure or fell off mountains etc. It put the wind up my sails…or should I say reading those reports deflated my sails.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Portugues caravel

I had never before considered that people actually died on the Camino!!! I was horrified. Why, I’m not sure. Secondly I didn’t yet feel fit enough. I decided not to go.

Anyway, long story short (if possible) I planned instead for 2017. I felt so much more comfortable with that.

And on 7th September 2017 I landed in the city of Porto, Portugal on the first day of my big #MyEuropeanAdventure 😉 I had always wanted to visit Porto and now that I’m working on Project 101, the fact that Porto Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site was very exciting. Of course, not satisfied with just one WHS, while in Porto I visited Coimbra which was also on my list of places I always wanted to visit AND a UNESCO WHS. Bravo. 2 birds with one stone etc etc

I cracked on with the training and by the time I left for Porto I had over 800 miles under my belt, a new pair of trainers, more gear and a brand new backpack….my beautiful Osprey Tempest 30 Mystic Magenta aka Pepe – and as it turns out, despite my care to not over pack, loaded with way too much stuff LOL

porto to santiago, padron to santiago, osprey tempest 40 mystic magenta, walking the camino, nordic walking poles.

my trusty companions; Pepe (backpack) and Gemini (Nordic walking poles) – after 230 kms – the final 10.166 km to Santiago

But oh my word…the excitement on the day I left the UK and arrived in Portugal was exhilarating.  I was finally on my way… Camino 2017.

I spent a wonderful 3.5 days exploring Porto, with a day trip to Coimbra, and walked the first section of the Caminho Português from the Sé Catedral to Foz do Duoro, a walk that I absolutely loved, and met my first bona vide pilgrim; Jasmine from Colorado, USA.

The weather was perfect, the city was fascinating, I felt a sense of freedom that I seldom encounter in my day life, and 240 kms of the unknown lay ahead of me…..excited beyond words.

On the day I walked to Foz do Duoro I received some of the best advice that I had heard/read in all the blogs, articles and guides I had perused so thoroughly and carefully; “keep the ocean on your left and head north”.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Keep the ocean on your left and head north…

That little gem was communicated to me by a delightful young man at the Tourist Information Centre when I asked him about reaching Matasinhos from Foz do Duoro, and served me well all the way from Porto to Caminha.wp-image-1040417021

I had just about the best time you could imagine on my Camino, despite the pain, the exhaustion, the occasional frisson of fear or taking the wrong route, the sense of freedom was so exhilarating that once I finally reached Santiago de Compostela 11 days later, I didn’t want it to end. If I had had sufficient funds in my account I would have just travelled to the beginning of the next route and walked that too LOL

For some weeks after returning from my Camino, I struggled to put into words what it was that was incredible about this walk – besides, the fantastic scenery, the amazing people, the extraordinary scenery, the stunning churches, the wonderful landscape and the sheer exhilaration of reaching Santiago. It was the essence of simplicity.

Your day is stripped bare; reduced to 3 essential functions; walk, eat, sleep – repeat.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Walk. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. – I saw this on Facebook…. 🙂

For 11 days. That is all. You find the route to walk along and follow the arrows. You look out for places where you can eat and replenish your system. You look ahead for a place to sleep for the night. Nothing else matters much. Simplicity.

Of course that doesn’t for one second take away from the other experiences along The Way; the joy at finding a longgggg stretch of beautiful boardwalk ahead of you. The fun of meeting fellow pilgrims along the route.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Agata & Jakob – Poland

Stumbling across a centuries old chapel. Seeing your first horreo. Meeting your Camino Angel.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

My Camino Angel; Susana – Portugal

A Super Bock after 4 hours of walking in blazing sunshine and temperatures in excess of 36 degrees C.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Super Bock

The sheer pleasure of eating a Magnum Double Raspberry. Of seeing the endless ocean on your left for hour after hour. Walking across a bridge built by the Romans. The amazing discoveries; a 999-arch aqueduct, an exquisite sunrise an equally extravagant sunset.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

exquisite sunrise

Finding your Camino eyes. Recognising the Signs Along The Way. The excitement of discovering and recognising places that till that moment had only been an image in a book, on a facebook page, in a guide.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

exciting discoveries

Discovering you are walking along an ancient route; Via Romana XIX, a Roman Road from the time of Augustus (63BC-14AD).

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Via Romana XIX

Climbing a mountain. Crossing streams and rivers. Exploring cities hitherto unknown. The sheer joy of acquiring your first and then one after the other; your pilgrim stamps in your treasured Pilgrim’s Passport. And at journey’s end, the culmination of miles and miles of walking, sweating, talking, crying, pain and joy, you reach Santiago de Compostela. You receive your ‘Compostela’

santiago de compostela, pilgrims passport, walking the caminho portugues, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

My Pilgrim’s Passport, the Compostela and Certificate of Completion

and watch the swinging of the Botafumeiro – the famous thurible found in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route, swinging the botafumeiro

the swinging of the Botafumeira in the Cathedral of Santiago

Today I am grateful for having had the opportunity to walk the Caminho Português.

31 Days of Gratitude – Day 6

 

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When I first bought my fabulous Osprey Tempest 30 Mystic Magenta (don’t you just LOVE that name!) backpack I decided to name it Pepe. I wanted to take something with me on my first Camino that would be in remembrance of my Mom who died 34 years ago at the age of 52 and never had the opportunities I have had, or been able to do some of the amazing activities I have done or been to places I’ve been. So I wanted to take her (my Mom), on pilgrimage with me to Portugal and Spain when I walked my first Camino.

packing for the camino, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, solo travel for women over 60, walking over 60, preparing for the camino

However, bearing in mind that weight is an issue, I was reluctant to carry anything more than I absolutely had to, so I decided that I would give my backpack a name, something that signified memories I had of my childhood and something powerful that was linked to my Mom. So Pepe it is……

The back story to this is that when we were very young; 7 (me) & 4 (my sister) and just after my parents divorced, my Mom got us a dog. A little sausage dog. We named him Pepe after a little donkey I had seen in a film my Mom and I went to after my Grandmother’s funeral. Over the years we had a number of sausage dogs named Pepe and each had a number added; Pepe then Pepe 2 then Pepe 3. After that I don’t recall having any more sausage dogs, although we did have many pets in our lives. Pepe was reserved for a special time.

So every day while I was walking, with Pepe on my back, I thought of my Mom. Buen Camino Mommy.

In the meantime, besides the daily repacking on the Camino, I have repacked Pepe 3 times since I got back. Needless to say I’m preparing for my (unexpected) 2nd Camino; the Camino Ingles in September 2018. Unexpected because at the time I planned my 1st, I said I would do just the one and maybe another. Now I have 6 planned LOL It was that amazing.

To read more about my first Camino click the link 😉 Enjoy.

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It’s exactly 2 months ago today since I arrived in Porto and although it’s taken a lot longer than I expected, I’ve now written about my fantastic stay in Porto, a wonderful day visit to Coimbra (recommended) and the first 6 days of my Camino 2017 from Porto to Valenca. Before I continue writing about the final 5 days walking in Spain, I thought I’d pause for reflection and consider what I learned and discovered along The Way on the Portuguese Coastal Route and The Portuguese Central Way (via Tui) from Porto to Santiago.

portuguese coastal route mapacoastal

The Portuguese Coastal and Central routes; Porto to Santiago de Compostela

Firstly I must just clarify that I didn’t walk the Camino for religious reasons, but rather to learn more about myself, and for the sheer adventure. I love walking and I love travelling, so the Camino was the perfect opportunity for me to combine the two. I’ve wanted to visit Portugal for ever such a long time and Porto was my desired destination, as well as which I love the ocean, so it made sense to start there and walk the Portuguese Coastal Route. But because I wanted to visit the walled town of Valenca and of course cross the famous bridge that I’d seen in photos and to also visit Tui, I decided to start off on the coastal route to Caminha and then head inland to Valenca and finish off along the Central Portuguese route to Santiago.

inspirational quotes

I just wanna go on more adventures….

My goal was all about discovery. I wanted to see if this was something I could actually do. I’m a creature of habit and I love my home comforts. I get really grumpy when I have to get up early and/or go without my first cup of tea (usually preferred while relaxing in bed – with a couple of biscuits).

 

So it was going to be interesting to see how I would respond to both rising early and forgoing my cup of tea. I did take a packet of teabags with me….but in all the 21 days I was in Portugal and Spain I only used 6 teabags, and 4 of those were in Barcelona AFTER I finished the Camino 😉 So teabags won’t be on my packing list for 2018 then!

So although I didn’t walk for ‘religious’ reasons, I walked in the ‘spirit of learning’; about adventure and discovery, about what I can or cannot cope with, about the countries I walked through, and about their history. I walked with the aim of finding out how walking long distance, under sometimes challenging circumstances would affect me relating to my human spirit/spirituality or soul as opposed to relying on the usual material or physical things and my comfort zones. I could have planned a similar long walk in the UK but that would have fit in with my comfort zone….so Camino it had to be.

inspirational quotes

When it feel scary to jump….

I knew of and had read about the Camino in the past. My father had cycled various routes in his 70’s and 80’s and in 2005 we had toyed with the idea of doing a Camino together – except he wanted to cycle and I wanted to walk. So that never got off the ground. He died a couple of years ago, so that’s that in that area. In retrospect though, I doubt we would have made a success of it, we never really got on very well most of my life and being together day after day would not have been a picnic. However, my younger brother and one of my many younger sisters have cycled The Camino with my father, which is good. I have of course watched the 2010 film, The Way, with Martin Sheen and loved the idea of, but had no desire to walk the Camino Frances (then). Besides all that, I had been inspired to walk the Camino by someone I knew from 2009/2010; a lady in her mid 60’s who had walked the Camino Frances a few years before and loved it.

But because I planned on walking a different route, I didn’t have any preconceptions of how or what the route would be like beyond the fantastic photos I had seen on facebook and the many blogs I read before my September trip. I had read about how some people have major insights, or epiphanies, or religious experiences that changed their lives in a big way, but I wasn’t anticipating any of those and as it turns out, I didn’t have any.

But what I did have, was the joy of walking and being alone. I am a loner, I don’t have a large circle of friends and I am most certainly not a social butterfly; preferring my own company, social events are anathema to me. Even a tea-party or dinner out with a crowd gets me hot under the collar and I’d rather be ill in bed than have to attend a party. LOL

I had read that at certain points you encounter large crowds of people and apparently at the 100km mark (minimum distance required for the Compostela), the route is inundated with other walkers, but I didn’t find that at all, except for one day in Spain when I encountered a group of oldies on the way to Mos. But we soon parted company and in fact at many times I walked for up to 3-4 hours without seeing a soul except the odd local as I meandered by, or the occasional walker who whizzed on by at speed. So in all, the hours that I walked completely on my own suited me perfectly.

However, I did meet some wonderful people along the route in Portugal and spent an hour or so walking with a lovely couple from Poland; Jakob and Agata between Vila do Conde and Esposende. I was really sorry to lose touch with them after we parted ways for breakfast. But as mentioned in the blog, they were a lot younger than me, walked faster and were with a group of friends, and I dawdled a lot taking photos.

It was also going to be really interesting to find out how I felt about not having much by way of home comforts, about wearing the same clothes, not having the convenience of a washing machine, and carrying my belongings on my back day after day. My day job takes me all over the UK and I often get fed up with living out of a suitcase, so living out the backpack for 11 days was going to be a challenge…could I cope? How would I feel about not eating a proper breakfast? (you know what us English folks are like!! Full English and all that, or scrambled egg on marmite toast, but if not possible then oats and fruit, or granola and yoghurt with banana etc etc LOL). And I am not usually a coffee drinker…although the thought of pastries for breakfast every day filled me with joy!! 🙂 🙂 How would I manage? Weirdly it was these type of thoughts that I fretted about most prior to my Camino. Not would I be safe, not would I get blisters, not would I mind a mix-sex bathroom. No. My biggest worry was food!!

I am a magpie and a hoarder. I collect stuff all the time. I love books and am continually buying them (or should I say used to). Apparently my wealth profile is: ‘Accumulator’ – just a shame that didn’t apply to money!! If you saw my house in South Africa in 2001 pre UK, you’d know for sure that I collected ‘stuff’ – a lot of stuff. Since living in the UK the last 16 years, things carried on much the same…even though I arrived with very little, before long I was accumulating stuff; mementos, household items, linen, clothes and books; home comforts. But since I arrived back from my Camino, that has changed substantially. I had already started a few years ago cutting back on ‘buying’ and rather spent my money on travel and experiences like zip-lining. 🙂 which is quite simply awesome, and a must do again.

zip lining with zip world in london

zip lining with zip world in London. My daughter and I had so much fun

Cutting back on spending last year is the reason I had money for my Camino Journey, but now I’ve become quite militant about it. My daughter had already been discouraged from buying me things and has now been seriously encouraged/reminded to not buy me anything that I can’t eat, wear or experience.

inspirational quotes

Take a walk, not a pill….

So what did I learn along The Way?

  1. I can get up early and manage to not die without my first cup of tea…or any tea AT ALL for that matter. For someone who usually drinks 5-6 mugs full a day…
  2. I am fitter than I thought and certainly more agile.
  3. I can climb a mountain and survive.
  4. I can walk in the rain and survive, and I still loathe temperatures above 20 degrees centigrade.
  5. I really do love just being on my own and never once did I get lonely.
  6. I am not afraid.
  7. The scenery and the history of the places I walked through was more amazing than I imagined.
  8. I didn’t have any major epiphanies or insights or spiritual experiences.
  9. I’m still not religious.
  10. Although….I do and did love visiting the many churches along the two routes – so peaceful, real repositories of history, with a strong sense of spirituality.
  11. I can manage to live with only a bare minimum of life’s ‘necessities’.
  12. I loved calling out ‘Bom Caminho’ in Portugal and ‘Buen Camino’ in Spain, and getting a response in return…usually with a smile, especially from the locals.
  13. I enjoyed the brief connections I made with fellow pilgrims and locals; just enough to be fun, but not that long it got tedious.
  14. I can, if I make the effort, learn more of the native languages and managed to pick up quite a lot of extra words enroute. I’m currently learning more Spanish and my daughter is going to teach me to speak and listen comfortably before I go next year.
  15. I’m still an accumulator…..over 5,500 photos between 7-28th September bears witness to that LOL At least they’re light, albeit filling up my Dropbox.
  16. I really don’t want all the stuff I still have in my storage – in fact I nearly had a nervous breakdown when I returned home and saw all the boxes waiting. urgh.
  17. Food wise, I still stuck to what I know – like eating ‘tosta misto’ just about every day because I knew what was in it. And because I’m a ‘food coward’ I didn’t try the local ‘pulpo’ or anything too adventurous. LOL
  18. I left the maps behind, found my ‘Camino eyes’ on day 3 and never looked back.
  19. Despite my initial dislike of them, my walking poles became my best friend and my #1 item for future walks.
  20. After I reached Santiago, I could quite literally have just carried on walking…a bit like Forrest Gump, except I had a ticket to Barcelona booked for the 24th 😦
  21. Although it was tough at times, I loved every minute of the journey and even though I had NO PLANS AT ALL to walk a 2nd Camino before I started, I’m already planning for 2018, 2019 and 2020 – Camino Ingles, Camino Norte and Camino Frances respectively. Oh and not forgetting The Portuguese Central Route…I’m guessing that will have to be in 2021 hahahaha. Then there’s the Primitivo Route to think about…..hmmmm. The Camino bug has bitten.

So, having walked 240 kms through Portugal and Spain, would I recommend walking the Camino? Oh absolutely YES!!!! Is it for the faint-hearted? It can be if you allow yourself to open up and experience all it has to offer. It’s not a ‘walk in the park’, it’s tiring, and tiresome, it’s exhausting (especially if you mistakenly plan for long days e.g. 32 kms), but it’s interesting – the history is phenomenal and I really wish I’d had time to explore some of the towns more thoroughly. I’m planning shorter days for 2018. I have read about two nonagenarians (91 and 93 respectively) who have recently walked the Camino Frances, so pretty much anyone can walk it if they are of a mind to.

inspirational quotes

You are not too old and it is not too late

I would recommend packing light – somehow I managed to pack 11kgs which increased to 13kgs with my water-bladder filled. I don’t know how this came about as I weighed everything so carefully and totted it all up. But somehow I think in the final packing frenzy I bunged in a whole lot of stuff I really didn’t need. I won’t make the same mistake again and next Camino I will be militant about packing a maximum of 8kgs. In fact Pepe (my backpack) is already packed and ready for 2018. This is still to be reviewed.

I would recommend training first before setting off. You may think you’re fit. You may think it’s adventurous and fun to set off impulsively without proper preparation, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve read of walkers getting severe blisters, straining their knees or ligaments, damaging their feet or backs and one gentleman I met in Portugal actually had his stomach lining suddenly tear a few days into his walk which landed him in hospital for 6 weeks. It’s not just the distance you walk, it’s also the weight of the backpack that can cause injury.

Personally, I think the reason my walk went so well is because I spent 18 months in training prior to setting off and walked a total of over 800 miles in the 8 months preceding my Camino. Besides my almost daily 5 mile walks, I did two long walks; 1 of 60 miles and 1 of 19 miles in July before I left, and those gave me a really good insight into what I could cope with, how much I could comfortably carry and taught me to 90% read a map. The other 10% I made my own route when I got lost LOL. I also learned that it’s not a good idea to walk in wet socks!!!

I would recommend buying good equipment; a light-weight backpack – I bought the Osprey Tempest 30 L that weighs only 1.01kgs, the right shoes (I tested 3 pairs over the 18 months before leaving), 3 or 4 pairs of really good socks and 2 pairs of inner socks, and my absolute Number 1 essential – a good pair of light-weight walking poles. I absolutely would not have had as good a walk as I did or been able to negotiate those cobbled streets, sandy roads, steep inclines and declines without my walking poles. I most certainly would not have been able to climb those mountains in Spain.

As mentioned, some days were exceptionally long, and by the end of those days I was practically using my poles like crutches. Of all the equipment and gear I had, those would be the one thing I would recommend most highly.

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 would even recommend walking The Camino to people who are afraid of being alone, of walking in a foreign country, or just fearful of travelling beyond the borders of their own country. The whole experience was wonderful. I was exceptionally lucky in that I didn’t have any unpleasant experiences, no illness, no tummy bugs, no bed bugs, no bites (despite an encounter with a very small snake in a Spanish vineyard), no theft of personal belongings, no dehydration (although I did get very thirsty on one day after running out of water), no sunburn, and only one small issue with my right ankle, a contracted muscle acquired while climbing those mountains in Spain, that soon righted itself after being massaged and strapped up. One thing I did suffer with, was swollen ankles. This unfortunately was not a new issue as I generally get swollen ankles when I’m at home too, but it was exacerbated by the heat and being on my feet the whole day, so by the time I reached my accommodation each night, they didn’t look good – however, I survived!! A hot bath/shower and a good sleep does wonders.

How did I feel when returning to ‘civilisation’? Overwhelmed!! I recall with clarity the shock and horror I felt as I entered the old city of Santiago.

I arrived at the old town via the Parque de Alameda and approached the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela and the Praza do Obradoiro via Rúa do Franco. The sea of pedestrians walking towards me, the crowds bumping against me, the beggars shoving cardboard in my face asking for money, and the sheer volume of noise was overwhelming. I was already exhausted, extremely emotional at having finally arrived, struggling to hold back my tears, and the noise and sounds were too just too much. I nearly turned and ran.

arriving in santiago, santiago de compostela, walking to camino, porto to santiago

arriving in Santiago old town

I stayed in bed, in my hotel room the next day until I was starving and had to get out for something to eat. It took a lot of energy just to face the crowds of people again. If you’re expecting peace and tranquillity when you reach Santiago…dispel the thought. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like at the height of summer.

When I got to Barcelona 3 days later, once again I was overwhelmed at the crowds and the traffic noise of the big city. It nearly spoiled my visit on the first day, fortunately I immersed myself slowly and with 4 days to explore I didn’t rush about too much, sticking to quieter roads and areas where possible.

Arriving back in the UK was also overwhelming. The rush and the crush of commuters at the airport, on the trains; being on the tube between stations was a living nightmare. Oh where was the wonderful peace and tranquillity of walking through forests and along deserted roads, the sounds of the ocean as I strolled along the boardwalks, sorely missed.

camino 2017, viana do castelo, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

a good ocean breeze and a tumble down fort…what more could I ask for?

Thankfully my base is in a fairly quiet seaside town and the house in a cul-de-sac.

broadstairs, viking bay, isle of thanet, english coast, seaside towns of britain

a winter’s sunrise – Viking Bay, Isle of Thanet

Even so, being back in civilisation was a shock to the system. And as for my store-room; I took one look at all my possessions and nearly had a nervous-breakdown. Time to downsize once again.

The most important lesson of all that I learned on the Camino? I didn’t need 99.9% of the possessions I own in order to survive and be contented and happy.

Bring on Camino 2018.

To read more about my #Camino2017 adventures, my journey started here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Before leaving for Porto and my first Camino, I had read many an account of Camino families and how many of the pilgrims walking the various Caminos met and made friends with people they met along The Way. During my walk from Porto to Santiago I met so many lovely people, especially in Portugal, Some were just a fleeting connection, and some I connected with in a more meaningful way. With some I managed to capture a selfie, whilst others I connected with were just a fleeting conversation and they were gone, no time for a photo.

I had some wonderful encounters and conversations, especially in Portugal. Mostly because I was still full of joie de vie and not yet exhausted whilst walking the fabulous coastal route from Porto to Caminha. I still had the energy for meaningful conversations, a Bom Caminho and besides that, the Portuguese community were amazing. So friendly.

But, I did mange to capture some photos, and thought to make note of the names too LOL

People I met along The Way; Camino 2017.

Day 4 Porto to Foz do Duoro 09/09/2017

Jasmine – USA : I met Jasmine as I was walking along the River Duoro towards Foz do Duoro. Jasmine had just finished her Camino and was visiting Porto for a few days. I was over the moon with excitement at having met my first bona vide pilgrim 🙂

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Jasmine USA met in Porto enroute to Foz do Duoro

Day 5 Porto to Vila do Conde 11/09/2017

Roger and Amanda – South Africa : we met on the bus just before Matasinhos and bumped into each other the whole day at one place or another. As we were nearing the bus station I saw a backpack coming down the stairs with a South African flag attached 🙂 I could barely believe my eyes and immediately struck up a conversation.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Roger and Amanda – South Africa

Mel – UK : we met when we both stopped to photograph a small chapel just beyond Matasinhos (behind us). I met Mel again in Vila do Conde when we stayed at the same B&B, briefly in Valenca and again briefly in the Cathedral in Santiago.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Mel – UK

Laura – Austria : I came up behind Laura just as we were approaching Vila do Conde. She was hobbling with leg pain. I walked with her over the bridge. Turned out we were staying in the same B&B and were room-mates 🙂 She, Mel & I had supper together.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Laura – Austria

Day 6 Vila do Conde – rest day 12/09/2017

I met this lovely young girl from Germany who was also walking the Camino on her own. Just 19 years old and an absolute delight. I’m just sorry I can’t find her name.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

at the main church in Vila do Conde

Day 7 Vila do Conde to Esposende 13/09/2017

Inge – Denmark – I met Inge in Vila do Conde. We were roommates on my 2nd night at the B&B. I saw her briefly in the morning as we were leaving and again somewhere along the way. We connect on the facebook page.  Unfortunately I didn’t do a photo

Helga – Germany : we connected somewhere along the way and she was in the same room as me at the albergue in Viana do Castelo

Jakob and Agata – Poland : we met just outside of Vila do Conde and chatted all the way to Povoa de Varzim. I was really sorry to lose touch with them, they were so sweet. (if anyone reading this blog happens to know them, please let them know I would love to be in touch)

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Agata & Jakob – Poland

Jose & Teresa’s – Povoa de Varzim (coffee stand) – again I didn’t take a photo. But she was lovely and I can recommend you stop there for coffee. She signed my Pilgrim’s Passport 🙂

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.

Guiseppe – Mr Barcelona : we had a very funny conversation, mostly in sign language. Between my minimal Spanish and his non-existant English we manage to establish that he was from Barcelona, so I told him I was going to visit there later that month. 🙂 Other than that I saw him again a few times but never took a photo.

My group of 5; Mo, Ed, Joan & 2 other ladies whose names I never quite caught. We met just outside Povoa de Varzim, again in Vila do Conde on my rest day, again in Valenca where we stayed at the same hotel, and then this photo was taken on the day (17/09) we stopped at O Chiriringo enroute to O Porrino. So these are the folks I saw the most of. Joan and I walked together a lot and had some fun conversations.

Orbitur camp site

my group of 5 – Ed, Joan & Mo and the 2 outside ladies all from AUS

Day 8 Esposende to Viana do Castelo 14/09/2017

Mr Cyprus – met at Orbitur camp site enroute to Esposende. I never did get his name, but he said he was from Cyprus. We had a brief but interesting conversation while resting at the camp. We met again briefly the next morning at the hostel in Esposende where I stayed the night before. Sadly no photo.

Day 9 15/09/2017 Viana do Castelo to Caminha

Lina – Russian (lives in New York) – met at Viana do Costelo at the hostel and again in Caminha by coincidence at the restaurant. I invited her to share my room at the hotel as she was staying in a really grim hostel.

Orbitur camp site

Lina – Russian living in New York

Amelie – Barcelona met at the beach side cafe in Carreco. We walked together for a few kilometers and stopped to look at some ancient rock markings. She walked much faster than me so we lost contact. 

Day 12 18/09/2017 Proprietor at Albergue O Recuncho do Peregrino near Arcade

Miguel, our lovely host

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Miguel at the best albergue ever….

Day 13 Arcade to O Porrino 19/09/2017

Maria, Antonio and Guiseppe – Spain. I first met these 4 pilgrims at breakfast at the Albergue O Recuncho do Peregrino. We crossed paths again between Arcade and Pontevedra and again in Santiago

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

pilgrims at the Albergue – on the left: Maria, Antonio, Guiseppe. Chap on the right I didn’t get his name – all from Spain

Gregory – UK : I met Gregory on the diversion from Concella de Vilaboa along the rio Tomeza to Caldas de Reis. We had a fascinating conversation about Pope Gregory and St Augustine. We crossed paths again later in the afternoon, but not again after that.

Day 14 20/09/2017 Caldas de Reis to Padrón

Susana – Portugal : enroute to Padrón – my Camino angel. On this day my right ankle was in a bad way and I limped into this shelter on the route intending to rest. Susana introduced herself as a massage therapist and offered to massage my legs. She strapped up my ankle after which I was more able to walk comfortably. A true angel. We met again in Santiago. 🙂

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

My Camino Angel; Susana – Portugal

Day 16 22/09/2017 Santiago.

Leah & Michelle – Germany : I met these delightful young women in the Plaza del Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral in Santiago at 8:30 in the morning. We had a wonderful conversation before they left on their way to Finisterre. They were so full of energy and vibrant with joy. I hugged them long and hard.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Leah and Michelle – Germany

Susana 🙂 I had been to the 12noon service at the Cathedral and afterwards was just meandering around looking at everything and taking photos of all the details in the church when suddenly there before my eyes was Susana. I hugged her so tight. I was delighted. I had so wanted to see her again and there she was.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Susana and me outside the Cathedral in Santiago

We spent some time meandering about the square and then met up with the Spanish ladies for dinner at a tapas bar. Unfortunately I was exhausted and very emotional, and not speaking the language was unable to really participate in the conversation. But it was wonderful to see them again.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Susana and the wonderful group of Spanish ladies who helped me enroute on the day I met Susana

Day 16 23/09/2017 Santiago

Sabrina – Germany : Santiago cathedral. I met Sabrina at the evening service in the cathedral. We sat together on the edge of a very hard pillar for the duration of the service chatting about all things Camino. She had just finished walking the Camino del Norte and was so excited at the prospect of seeing the botafumeiro being swung. 

And our patience was rewarded. Sadly I didn’t get her photo either, she was lovely.

Day 17 24/09/2017 Santiago

On my last day in Santiago de Compostela I was up really early in the morning and in the Plaza del Obradoiro by 06:45. I wanted to see the square before it was overcrowded with pilgrims and people. Initially there was not a soul about, but by 7am people were starting to cross the square in various directions; locals on their way to work. Suddenly to my amazement and delight who did I see crossing to the centre of the square???

Maria, Antonio and Guiseppe. 🙂 They were on their way to Finisterre…I wished I was going with them. We chatted for a while and then after a big group hug we waved goodbye….

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, Plaza del Obradoiro, walking the camino, project 101, unesco world heritage site

my pilgrim group from Arcade – met on my last morning in Santiago. they were enroute to Finisterre – Maria, Guiseppe, Antonio

Buen Camino peregrinos, I miss you all. Each person in their own different way made an impact on my Camino and will forever be in my heart.

My only regret for the whole Camino was not learning the languages of the two host countries. I do feel that if I had had more Portuguese and Spanish I would have enjoyed a richer experience. I am now rectifying this and learning Spanish in anticipation of my Camino Ingles in 2018. I have been fortunate enough to connect via Facebook and wordpress with Maria who posts a weekly blog; Spanish for the Camino.

 

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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.

Update: 24/11/2017 – I just found out who paints all those arrows and maintains the various markers along the routes. They’re on Facebook as: Asociación Galega de Amigos do Camino de Santiago. A big shout out to them for all the hard work they do to keep us pointed in the right direction.

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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Hola dear reader. It’s been 4 days since I returned from my first Camino in Europe. What an extraordinary experience. It was so amazing, if I’d had sufficient funds I would have cancelled my flight home and set off to walk another route….that time will come. I did try to post articles about my journey while I was there, but after starting my walk, within a couple of days, by the time I got to the albergue after an 8-12 hour walk, all I wanted was something to eat, a shower and bed. Not necessarily in that order. LOL

My first Camino was along the Portuguese Coastal Route from Porto to Caminha. From Caminha I took the train to Valenca and then followed the Central Way from Tui to Santiago. I loved every step of The Way.

The road to Santiago do Compostela

The road to Santiago do Compostela; my Pilgrim’s Passport, the Compostela and my Certificate of Completion

Seriously though, the days were exhausting and one of the things I was grateful for at the end of a long day was not having to search for accommodation. I pre-booked all but 2 nights of the 11 days of my journey, and in retrospect, I’m really glad I did. I was brave though and left 2 nights to chance. Both of which I’m glad to say were easy enough to find a place to sleep.

Since I have a back-log of about 8 days of walking adventures to update, I thought I’d start with the places I stayed at while on my journey….since sleep is definitely a pilgrim’s best friend.

The accommodations were varied and depended entirely on whether or not I was planning on just passing through or staying for a few days and wanted a bit of luxury and very definitely based on spoiling myself after a long day 😉 I seemed to have hit the nail on the head in most places.

I will list them, not in order of when I stayed there, but rather based on which I thought was the best.

1) O Recuncho do Peregrino – Estrada de Soutoxuste 45, 36810 Redondela, Pontevedra, Spain.
Tel: +34 617292598. Proprietor: Miguel.
I have listed this venue first because this was for me one of the nicest places I stayed. This was one of the nights where I had not booked ahead, but relied on the Camino to provide the best place. I spotted Miguel’s advertisements a few times on that day, but it was only at the very end of the day with just on 1.5 km to go till I reached Arcade that I finally stopped and phoned the number. He had a room available. Hoorah!! The accommodation itself is unfortunately right on the main road, but was easy to access without having to search along tiny, confusing lanes and almost immediately after you exit the route from the mountain. The albergue is simply furnished but very comfortable. Cleanliness was of the highest standard. I booked a double room which was furnished with 2 single beds each with a side cabinet, and the communal bathroom, also very clean, was just down the hall. It was one of the few places I stayed where I felt I could actually walk barefoot and not get my feet dirty. There is free wi-fi and a garden leading to the seashore (10 minute walk). Miguel provided a beautifully set out and substantial continental breakfast for 2.50euro at a time that suits the pilgrim from 6am onwards. He provided a same day wash&dry laundry service for 8 euro. What impressed me the most about this accommodation was the host; Miguel, the personification of the perfect host; kind, gentle, helpful, accommodating and a really humble person who was keen to ensure that his guests were comfortable and had all they required. I give this venue a 5 * rating based on how lovely the host was, cleanliness and comfort. For me it’s not always about luxury and facilities, but very much on how I felt at the time. And this certainly fit the bill. Miguel is a superb host and has also done the Camino, albeit on a bike.
I phoned ahead on the day to book and was very lucky there was place available. I notice that they are on booking.com
The website: http://orecunchodoperegrino.com/

O Recuncho do Peregrino Albergue

O Recuncho do Peregrino Albergue – Miguel our host; the best

2) Erva Doce Guest House – R. do Cais das Lavandeiras 39, 4480-478 Vila do Conde, Portugal
Tel: +351 919 058 715 Reception: Susana.
This was without doubt my 2nd favourite place to stay. Located right on the marina within easy access from the pilgrim’s route into Vila do Conde, I received such a lovely welcome from Susana, so I simply have to list this as my 2nd favourite place to stay. The guest house is a delightful, tiny abode over 3 floors with an outside and inside eating area/café, it is very clean and comfortable and the beds were made up on arrival. I went for a bit of luxury here and had a private bathroom which was wonderful. The room I booked, CINNAMON BELICHE caters for 3 people which made the beds very close together, so expect to have very little privacy if you are sharing a room. But it was only 15euro with breakfast included. I stayed here 2 nights and shared with 2 different but lovely ladies. My bed was very comfortable, albeit a single. I shared supper with 2 of the people I had met along the route the first day, both of whom were also staying at the guest house. The café serves pastries and small meals and offers a quiet, friendly location for breakfast, lunch or supper. Vila do Conde is lovely town on the Portuguese Coastal Route and offers much to see by way of history. I’m happy to give this venue a 4.5 * rating as it fit the bill in terms of friendliness, cleanliness, location and facilities.
The website: http://www.ervadocehouse.pt/

Erva Doce Guest House, Vila do Conde

Erva Doce Guest House, Vila do Conde – my first night on the Camino

3) Albergue Corredoiras, Corredoira da Barca, 10 baixo 15900 Padron (A Coruna), Spain
Tel: +34 981817266
I stayed here on my last night on the Camino before reaching Santiago. Without doubt, this was the most well-organised and efficient venue I stayed at. You are welcomed at the reception by an extremely organised gentleman (I missed his name unfortunately) and given a complete run-down of the small and compact albergue. The beds are all located in one large communal room and accommodates 26 pilgrims. Each berth is big enough to sit upright in, is solidly built so no disturbances from a restless sleeper above, has its own locker, fresh clean linen, a spare blanket and an extremely comfortable mattress (which I wish I could have taken home with me), and has a small light and a curtain for privacy. You do however have to make your own bed. The locker has a socket for secure phone charging. There are communal bathrooms and a small kitchenette with all mod-cons a pilgrim would need. You are welcome to make yourself a hot refreshment on arrival with one free serving of milk. This albergue was super clean and you are required to remove your outdoor shoes before going into the communal sleeping area. A cabinet in the hall caters for shoes. There are 2 communal computers if needed, free wi-fi, a library and a small reception area with chairs and loads of informational pamphlets and they provide a laundry service for a minimal fee. I had sent my backpack ahead on this day and it was safely packed away in my dedicated locker. There is a lights-out and a ‘be quiet’ deadline of 11pm for which I suspect most pilgrims were grateful. The albergue is easily found just a few yards from the church and river, and virtually right in town for exploring. An exceptionally clean and pleasant venue in a good location just a few yards from the start of the pilgrim’s route to Santiago. I can easily give this venue a 4.5* rating for price (16 euro), cleanliness, general organisation, location and convenience.
Website: http://www.alberguecorredoiras.es/index.php

 

Albergue Corredoiras, Padron

Albergue Corredoiras, Padron

4) Hostel Eleven, Rua Narcisco Ferreira 57, 4740-281, Esposende, Portugal
Tel: +351 253039303
Towards the end of a very long day, I received a phone call just as I reached Fao, which was the last town before Esposende; it was the host of the hostel enquiring as to whether I was okay and if I needed any help. It had taken me that long to get there, he was beginning to think I wasn’t going to show up. LOL Hostel Eleven was a very fresh, clean and hospitable venue with super clean facilities, a welcoming reception area and free wi-fi. The rooms catered for 4 occupants but I didn’t find this an issue as I was lucky enough to share with only 1 person. Each bed had its own locker with a key which is very useful and I found the bed linen to be clean and fresh and the bed was made up and comfortable. Hoorah. The kitchen and bathroom facilities are well organised and very clean and you are able to prepare a simple meal for yourself with your own provisions and make a hot drink with the hostel’s provisions; milk and tea/coffee ingredients available. I found the bed to be extremely comfortable and it was a pleasure to not have to make my own bed. Located along a side road just off the pilgrim’s route, I did find it quite difficult to locate, but I suspect that was because I was extremely tired and unable to read my map properly. But a quick phone call and I was soon there. The area was very quiet and also within easy reach of the town centre. I am happy to give this venue also a 4.5* rating based on hospitality, cleanliness, facilities, and location. I paid 16 euro and this included a very good continental breakfast.
The website: http://www.hosteleleven.pt/

Hotel Eleven, Esposende

Hotel Eleven, Esposende – I loved this venue. Bright and airy

5) Hostal Anosa Casa, Entremurallas, 9, 15702 Santiago, Spain.
Tel: +34 981585926
I found this hostal to be very comfortable and I had a super room. Very conveniently located just a 5-8 minute walk to the cathedral, the hostal is located down a side alley and fairly quiet albeit near to a main thoroughfare and close to the traditional pilgrim’s route into the city of Santiago. The lobby is quite dark and small and there are no remarkable features, but the room I was in was pleasant and I had a lovely double bed that was extremely comfortable with lovely fresh linen. The luxury at this venue was having a private shower/toilet area, although it was very tiny it came with lovely fluffy towels, shampoo and conditioner and shower gel and a shower cap. I had a table, wardrobe, bedside tables, a T.V. and free wi-fi. The walls were quite thin and I could hear the occupant of the next room moving about but since they were relatively quiet it wasn’t really an issue. The staff were friendly and they offer a same day laundry service of 8 euro for 4 kgs. The area is close to shops and restaurants and cafes with many small squares and much to see and a very short walk to the Alameda Park. I paid 55 euro per night with no breakfast. I can comfortably give this venue a 4* rating for location, comfort, cleanliness and facilities.
The website: http://anosacasa.com/?lang=en

Hostal Anosa Casa, Santiago

Hostal Anosa Casa, Santiago

6) Residential Arca Nova, Largo Sidonio Pais, 4910-120, Caminha, Portugal
Tel: +351 935390402
Again I had booked a room for myself and found the venue to be perfectly adequate for my needs. The room was large and clean with a very comfortable bed, fresh linen and a private bathroom with towels. The brightly decorated dining area had a cosy snug off the area and a large verandah. The hotel was close to the station and a very easy walk into the centre of the town and not too far from the river. The venue was clean and the staff very friendly. I paid 40 euro for this room and a very substantial breakfast was included. I rate this venue at 4* for cleanliness, location and the facilities. They don’t appear to have a website but they are on booking.com

Residencial Arca Nova, Caminha

Residencial Arca Nova, Caminha

7) Alojamiento Camino Portugues, Av. Buenos Aires, 40, 36410 O Porriño, Pontevedra, Spain
Tel: +34 886 13 32 52
This was the second hostel that I phoned ahead for on the day and was fortunate enough to get a bed. I had seen it recommended on a facebook page and decided to wing it on the day 🙂 The young lady who welcomed us (a group arrived at the sane time) was lovely and very helpful and had us all marching in time; very efficient. LOL I really enjoyed my stay here and although the rooms were of the mixed dormitory type and we were 6 in the dorm, they were clean and comfortable with comfy mattresses and clean fresh linen. We were also required to leave our outdoor shoes in the entrance hall on each floor, so the floors were clean. The bathrooms were of course communal and there were no lockers, so it was a case of leaving your bag next to your bed but not your valuables. The venue was close to restaurants and an easy walk into town and not far from the pilgrim’s route. I was quite happy with my stay here and happily rate it a 3.5* for location, comfort, cleanliness and friendliness. I paid Euro 12.00, no breakfast.
The website: http://www.alojamientocaminoportugues.com/

Alojamiento Camino Portugues,

Alojamiento Camino Portugues,

8) Hotel Poveira, Rua da Estacao, 56, Campanha, Porto, Portugal 4300-171
Tel: +351 22537 9844
This was the first venue I stayed at in Portugal. A very short walk from the Campanha Station the hotel is large and the gentleman who welcomed me was very friendly albeit with limited English, but even so, with my very limited Portuguese we managed to communicate quite well 😉 I had a private room and bathroom with a bath and shower and clean towels with little bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. Although I’m not a fan of plastic and would prefer if hotels did away with them, they were useful. There was a t.v. in the room with a BBC news channel and free wi-fi. The room was large with a small balcony and the bed, a double was fairly comfortable. They did a good continental breakfast at an extra charge of 2.50 euro and offered a next day laundry service for a very good rate. The venue was clean albeit quite noisy and close to shops, restaurants, café and a local transport. I walk a lot so of course I walked into town whenever I went out to explore, but it is quite far from the town centre. The area is pleasant, albeit not scenic. I rate this venue at 3.5* for access to transport, cleanliness and good facilities. I paid 45 euro per night with no breakfast which I thought after seeing the venue, was quite high after all.
The website: http://www.hotelpoveira.com/ Please note that their website has a slide show of images of Porto, they are not near the centre of the city even though the images give that impression.

Hotel Poveira, Campangha, Porto

Hotel Poveira, Campangha, Porto

9) Residencial S. Giao, Avenida S.Teotónio 17, Bl. 2 1ºandar -594 Portugal, 4930 Valença, Portugal
Tel: +351 251030040
This location is hard to rate. It is located fairly close to the main station hub, an easy walk, and is located right on the doorstep of the walled city. The apartment was part of a high-rise building with no lift to the 1st floor, although obviously this wasn’t an issue for me, it could be for someone less able. The ‘apartment’ was made up of a number of rooms on the same floor. There was nothing at all interesting about the reception and I only saw the proprietor for the few minutes it took to check in and pay and show me my room. The room was pleasant with a lovely comfortable double bed, clean linen and fresh towels and a private shower room with toilet etc. Facing onto the street it was unfortunately very noisy and I had street lights shining through the blinds all night. There was a wardrobe and dressing table and bedside cabinets and free wi-fi. I think, but am not sure if they offered breakfast so can’t comment on that. I paid 30 euro and feel that was a fair price considering the size of the city and its location. The walled city was a 5-8 minute walk and provided all that I needed in terms of shopping, restaurants and sight-seeing (in fact it was brilliant and one of the most exciting discoveries of the whole journey). The venue is located very close to the pilgrim’s route and is about a 10-12 minute walk to the bridge that crosses into Spain. I will rate this a 3* since the apartment itself was very utilitarian, but the location, cleanliness and room were good.
The website: http://www.residencialsgiao.com/

Residencial S. Giao, Valenca

Residencial S. Giao, Valenca

10) Motel Caldas, Follente Bemil, s/n, 36659 Caldas de Reis, Pontevedra, Spain
Tel: +34 986 53 00 11
This venue caught me out; it was 1.6 kms outside of Caldas de Reis and I had to take a cab to get there. It is in every sense of the word a motel. There was a heavy metal gate across the entrance with a speaker phone which was not very welcoming. Initially I thought I had stumbled into a private gated community of apartments. Each apartment has its own garage and separate staircase leading to the room. I eventually located the proprietor, who was very friendly and kindly brought me a free coke when he saw how exhausted I was. But the room was amazing; a very large room with a fantastic double bed, a marvellous mattress, lovely pillows and fresh crispy linen and fluffy towels and a private bathroom with the most divine bath and shower.  This was a real luxury after what had been a 32km day. There was a small dining table with bench seats, a wardrobe, bedside cabinets, a t.v. and free wi-fi. However it felt the way it looked; like a motel. But the staff were friendly and helpful even though we had to resort to google translate to be understood. I had a very good night’s sleep and for the 22.50 euro I paid which included a basic breakfast of coffee and croissant, I felt it was satisfactory. I’ll rate this 3* as well since the room was wonderful. But it was far from the town centre, I couldn’t see any restaurants close by so didn’t get to eat much that night, although the proprietor kindly made me a sandwich and a drink. Not quite what this pilgrim was looking for after a 12 hour and 32 km walk, but the bath and bed were marvellous. They don’t have a website but are on Facebook.

Motel Caldas, Caldas de Reis

Motel Caldas, Caldas de Reis

 

11) HI Hostel Viana do Costelo. Okay, so I’ve left this one till absolute last. The only positive aspect of this hostel was the location; just off the bridge over the river and to the right as you cross into Viana do Costelo. I found this place to be quite unsuitable and unpleasant and even though I only paid 12.00 euro, it was the same price as a couple of other venues that were of a much higher quality and a more friendly environment. The reception staff were very nice and helpful but the venue itself only had one thing to offer…location. The building is a bland, blank 60’s concrete edifice. The reception area is okay but the rooms were utilitarian, cold, blank and very unwelcoming. Although we did each have a locker the lock was broken. There was only one electrical socket to service all the occupants, and the facilities, both bathrooms and kitchens were not of a very good standard, and I had to try 3 different showers before I got one that worked; the water was tepid and only came out the pipe in short bursts. If I had to rate this place I’d say 1.5* rating and that would be for location and that the linen was clean, although you have to make the bed up yourself. The room had a small verandah which was nice and had lovely views over the harbour, if you can overlook the massive car-park right in front. I cannot under any pretence recommend this location except if you’re looking for cheap and can’t find anything else. Viana do Costelo is however an amazing city with so much to see and do that I was quite worn out by the time I eventually went to bed, which fortunately was clean. I have not put address or telephone details since this venue was such a huge disappointment. They are listed on Booking.com

HI Hostel, Viana do Castelo

HI Hostel, Viana do Castelo

And that concludes my article on places I stayed on the Camino. It was as I expected; some were very good, a couple were wonderful and one or two not so good. One of the main issues was cleanliness and on the whole that was not a problem. I had heard some real horror stories of bed bugs and dirty linen and took along a travel pouch for sleeping in which I never used. The albergues I did stay at were very very good.

I’m planning on walking another route in 2018 and hoping to walk either the English Way or the Frances route so I’m sure my experiences will be very different.

I hope you find this list useful. If you have any good locations from the Portuguese Coastal Route or The Central Way from Tui, please do leave a comment and let me know. Thank you and Bom Caminho and Buen Camino 🙂

The Camino Provides - 2017

The Camino Provides – 2017

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