Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘project 101’

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Day 11 Sunday 2017.09.17 – Valença to Tui and onto O Porriño (part 1)

A Sámi proverb states, “How it goes with the first day’s travelling, so it will be with the rest of the journey.” – and in this instance that proved true; I had an awe-inspiring journey, an mix of early mornings, beautiful albeit tough terrain, cool air, peaceful forests and joyful greetings. I was on my Way.

This was day 1 of 5 walking from Tui to Santiago de Compostela; no rest days inbetween. With my alarm set for 6am, I woke with an overwhelming sense of anticipation, finally the day had arrived for the push through to Santiago de Compostela and excited beyond belief, I felt like I wanted to run every mile and jump with joy. I didn’t of course 🙂

medieval city valenca spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

117.624 kms to Santiago – this was the first of many such route markers I saw along The Way.

I set off really early at 06:43 while it was still dark, and made my way to the walled city. Thank goodness I had found the route last night. Thanks to Mel for the heads up!

Although still quite dark I could see the sky lightening in the east. The streets were eerily quiet and while navigating the city I saw only 3 people the whole time I was walking through. The air was fresh and cool with the wonderful stillness of pre-dawn. I faffed around taking photos of each section of the route, recorded the church bells (because I am like that!) and took a few selfies while keeping an eye on the time. I was keen to watch the sunrise from the bridge into Spain.

medieval city valenca spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Fortaleza de Valença do Minho (Valença do Minho Fortress) boasts over 800 years history.

The city felt timeless as I made my way along the quiet streets, stopping briefly at the Roman milestone and Santa Maria dos Anjos church. If you walk this way look out for the Roman milestone dating from the 1st century AD. It marks 42 Roman miles (62 kms) on the road from Braga to Tui, and has the following inscription:

TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS CAESER AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS PONTIFEX MAXIMUS. IMPERATOR V CONSUL III, TRIBUNICIA POTESTATE III. PATER PATRIAE BRACARA XLII.

Igreja de Santa Maria dos Anjos, medieval city valenca spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

A Roman milestone dating from the 1st century and Igreja de Santa Maria dos Anjos; the mother church of Valença do Minho consecrated in 1276

Finally I set my compass for Spain, my ‘Camino eyes’ carefully scanning for the yellow arrows as I trod gingerly along the cobbled lanes, down numerous stairs, through tunnels and beneath the fortified walls; muralha primitiva. It felt primitive.

Fortaleza Valença, medieval city valenca spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

along the narrow lanes of Fortaleza Valença – a fortress started at the beginning of the 13th century and relating to the reign of King Sancho I

medieval city valenca spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Fortaleza Valença – a fortress started at the beginning of the 13th century

It was thrilling thinking about all the thousands of pilgrims who, through the aeons, have walked that route before me. The history of this awesome place is mind-blowing.

Then suddenly I was on the bridge and standing on the border, with one foot in Portugal and the other in Spain. My excitement knew no bounds. 🚶‍♀️👣🚶‍♀️👣🚶‍♀️👣👏👏👏

Tui International Bridge, medieval city valenca spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Tui International Bridge (known in Portugal as Valença International Bridge), completed in 1878 is on the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela

Tui International Bridge, medieval city valenca spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Tui International Bridge leading to Spain (known in Portugal as Valença International Bridge)

Tui International Bridge, medieval city valenca, portugal, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Tui International Bridge leading to Spain crosses the River Miño from Valença in Portugal. In the distance to the right you can see the cathedral of Tui on the hilltop

tui international bridge, medieval city valenca, portugal, tui spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

In the past, pilgrims coming from Portugal had to reach Galicia, Spain by crossing the river Miño on a boat, but lucky me I could walk across via the bridge 🙂 These shoes are made for walking…

Tip: when you walk across the International Bridge from Portugal into Spain, be sure to walk on the right-hand side looking upstream, for the markings on the walkway. A footnote (pun-sorry LOL): I was so impressed with my walking shoes; a last minute buy a couple of weeks before I left, these shoes have done me proud: 123 kms so far…good support and no blisters!! The socks; brilliant combination of IsoCool liner socks and double layer anti-bacterial socks worked really well for me. But back to the sunrise…..

tui international bridge, medieval city valenca, portugal, tui spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

The river Miño flows between Portugal and Spain.

Tui International Bridge leading to Spain crosses the River Miño from Valença in Portugal. I watched a magnificent pink-hued sunrise, took dozens of photos and finally once the sun peeked above the horizon in Portugal, I walked the final yards into Spain…. Hurrah, now I was on the Camino Portuguese Central Way to Santiago de Compostela. (Compostela (comes from the Latin “Campus Stellae” (i.e. Stars Field) – love that!!! ❤ 

Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

España 🙂 finally I was in Spain for real and on my way to Santiago de Compostela – Camino Portugues – Camiño de Santiago

Unbeknownst to me at that point, I was also going to be walking along sections of the old Roman Road ‘Via Romana XIX’ – see pic in top right hand corner. I just liked the design without realising the connotations 🙂

Tui, one of the seven capitals of the ancient Kingdom of Galicia, is the first town in Spain on the Camino Portugués Central Way and has an awesome cathedral just waiting to be explored. I met two ladies who told me the hotel; Parador Nacional San Telmo, would stamp my passport so I popped in and got my first Spanish pilgrim’s stamp. There was no way I was going to leave without visiting and getting a stamp. Hint: It’s advised that you get your credential (pilgrim’s passport) stamped at least twice a day between Tui and Santiago de Compostela to qualify for your certificate. This is not too difficult as there are so many churches and restaurants etc enroute where you can get a stamp (sello).

Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Tui was the capital of a province in the Old Kingdom of Galicia, Spain.

Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Parador Nacional San Telmo where I got my pilgrim’s passport stamped, the view across the River Miño and a final photo of me before setting off

Then it was a strenuous but picturesque climb up steep winding streets to the cathedral.

Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Benvidos a Tui – Welcome to Tui on the Camiño de Santiago Camiño Portugués : 115.454 kms

Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Tui, Galicia in Spain – 1st town on the Portugués Central Way to Santiago de Compostela

Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

the medieval narrow cobbled streets and lanes of Tui. I loved it 🙂

Tui has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Evidence of this are the sites found during construction of the highway Vigo-Tui, on the border with Porriño. The medieval city was composed of three elements; the cathedral, its hamlet of dwellings, and its city walls. After a very steep climb I finally reached the cathedral.

Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Catedral de Santa Maria, Tui. On the top of the hill, the cathedral, begun in the 12th century, preserves Romanesque elements and has a Gothic façade.

Wowwww what an awesome church. Begun in the 12th century, during the Romanesque period, it has a Gothic façade, one of the first in this style in the Iberian Peninsula. The interior is, like most of the churches I had seen so far in Portugal, very elaborate with a number of chapels, altars and shrines to various saints. There’s a fantastic scallop shell as you enter the church and a number of references to St James and decorative scallop shells. In a corner near the front of the cathedral interior is a statue of King Alphonso.

Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

I explored every corer of the church and the museum. It’s absolutely beautiful

The cloister is also of Gothic style; the oldest in any Galician cathedral. Along the walls and over the archway of the 12th century Chapter Room are a number of intriguing Roman numerals.

cathedral of tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

The Cloisters and Romanesque Chapter Room of the 12th century, the primitive meeting room of the canons of the first temple of the city. Just mind-blowing.

cathedral of tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

The Cloisters of Catedral de Santa Maria, Tui

I had my pilgrim’s passport stamped at the Tourist Information Centre next to the church, my 2nd of the day in Spain…too exciting. I paid the €4 entrance fee at the cathedral which gave me access to the church, museum, cloisters and battlements, and spent a good 45 minutes exploring and, despite saying no more climbing towers, I climbed the tower battlements for some amazing views. The steps were so high you almost needed a step ladder to get up them!!! Going down was tricky. 

cathedral of tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

climbing the church tower of the Cathedral of Tui

cathedral of tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

the view across Tui, the river Mino and in the distance the International Bridge and on the hilltop, the walled city of Valenca, Portugal

I was, at about 9:20am, startled to discover the time!!! Wow, I figured that I had been exploring the church for 2 hours, but in fact I had forgotten that the clocks went forward by 1 hour between Portugal and Spain LOL. Whew. Nonetheless, it was time to get going. As I was leaving I stopped to photograph the elaborately carved doors and noticed the cross pattée (?) carved into the walls on both sides of the entrance…intriguing.

cathedral of tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

A cross pattée carved into the walls and the elaborate doors

As the bells chimed 10, I reluctantly left the cathedral area and made my way along steep winding picturesque streets, only this time downhill. I looked out for the Camino markers, which were plentiful and believe it or not, I photographed every one of them all the way through Tui and just about the whole 18.39 kms to O Porrino…just because. 😉

cathedral of tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

looking back at the cathedral, charming little pilgrim sculptures, streets of Tui

I just loved the little pilgrim sculptures on the walls.

cathedral of tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

a little pilgrim sculpture shows the way. if you look above his head you can see a faint yellow arrow

I passed the Hospital for the Poor and the Pilgrim’s, past the Convent of Las Clarisas where I saw my first rather large groups of pilgrims,convent of saint domingo tui, church of saint bartolome tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation, walked down stairs, through tunnels and along deserted downward sloping streets and lanes. It seemed spookily deserted!

cathedral of tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

Tunel das Monxas and following the Way through the streets of Tui in Galicia

cathedral of tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

the route is so well marked with yellow arrows, scallop shells, shell tiles and various other markings, you can’t fail to find your way. I walked completely sans maps or guide books.

I saw only a few of the locals along the route, and occasionally a few pilgrims, certainly not in the large numbers I was expecting.

There was one sculpture and cross that absolutely intrigued me; located on the wall of the bridge that crosses over Rúa Canónigo Valiño, it looks like a sculpture with religious connotations; souls burning in the fires of hell?? Intriguing.

convent of saint domingo tui, church of saint bartolome tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

an intriguing sculpture

I have not been able to find out more information about this despite extensive google searches.

(2017.11.13 – addendum with huge thanks to Maria of  ‘Spanish Tuition Services‘ “I can help you with the “intriguing sculpture”. This type of construction is called “peto de ánimas” (roughly translates as souls’ money box) and they are quite common in Galicia. They represent souls in the fire of purgatory, with some figure watching over them (in this case, the dove/Holy Spirit). They also have a “peto” or money box for passers-by to leave an offering for the salvation of those souls. When a soul is saved and goes to Heaven thanks to your offering, they will later intercede on your behalf, so you can go into Heaven too”. – so there you have it; I’m so delighted to finally know what it signified)

Passing a number of fascinating historical buildings and churches I was longing to tarry awhile and explore further, but O Porriño waits and I can tarry no more.

convent of saint domingo tui, church of saint bartolome tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

The Judaic Tower, the Convent of Saint Domingo (built 1330),  Praza San Bartolomé bandstand, the Church of St Bartolomé and an ancient communal washing area.

I was absolutely amazed to discover that I was also walking along the Via Romana XIX!!

via romana xix, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

walking along a section of the Via Romana XIX

It always gives me a thrill, no matter where I am walking, when I discover links to Roman times…the thought of those Roman soldiers marching along the roads…I can almost hear the tramp tramp tramp of their sandalled boots on the cobbles….ahead of me was the tramp, tramp, tramp of the modern day pilgrim in their special super duper gortex, arch-supporting inners and uppers, special lace-up, isogrip boots in leather, fabric and waterproof, with  performance soles and protective toe bumpers!! I wonder what the Romans would make of today’s hiking footwear. – according to wikipedia:  Caligae (heavy-soled hobnailed military boots) were constructed from three leather layers: an outsole, the middle openwork layer which formed the boot’s upper, and an insole. They were laced up the centre of the foot and onto the top of the ankle. Additionally iron hobnails were hammered into the soles to provide the caligae with reinforcement and traction – okayyyyy, not quite what we wear today then. 

convent of saint domingo tui, church of saint bartolome tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

a few pilgrims on the way; Bom Caminho – 114km to Santiago de Compostela

Suddenly I was out of urban Tui and into fields and the rural landscape of Galicia.

Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation,

and suddenly I was in the countryside…..

I was seeing more pilgrims now as well as locals. I called out “ola, bom dias” or “ola, Buen Camino” to everyone I saw and got many a cheery wave and “Buen Camino” in return. I’m on the Camiño de Santiago 😁😍🚶‍♀️

Continued….Part 2 Tui to O Porriño.

Read Full Post »

2017.09.12 – Day 6 – Vila do Conde : rest day (no not really!! LOL) As my daughter would say “Mom, you don’t know the meaning of ‘rest!” Walked: 13.29kms / 26595 steps+

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

Washing day on the Camino

Laundry day today. Washed all my clothes by hand 😂😂😂 Longggg time since I’ve had to do that!!! There’s a self-service laundromat in the square but it’s more expensive to wash a small bundle of clothes than what I pay for my meals 😣😣 I love that their word for laundry is lavanderia… Sounds so lavenderish. 😊

After a delicious breakfast at the Erva Doche Guesthouse (they have an amazing selection of teas), I set off to explore on what was a gorgeous day. Sadly I’ve lost my Camino family for now, they’re going inland and walking to Barcelos on the Central Route today. But we’ve exchanged numbers and will hopefully meet in Santiago for the Friday night service next week on 22nd. I’m looking forward to seeing who I meet in the coming days.

camino portuguese coast route port to santiago

Breakfast at the Erva Doce Guest House in Vila do Conde

Had a fantastic walkabout around Vila do Conde, one of the oldest settlements in northern Portugal, where geological artefacts dating from 100,000 to 15,000 years have been discovered in archaeological sites in the parishes of Modivas, Malta, and Labruge.

camino portuguese coast route port to santiago

Vila do Conde, Portugal – on the Portuguese Coastal Route

First up to the Santa Clara Convent that I saw on the hill yesterday, which turned out to be an old age home!! I know where I’m going to retire to 💕💕 They stamped my pilgrim’s passport which was fab.

camino portuguese coast route port to santiago

Santa Clara Convent, Vila do Conde

One of the biggest and richest feminine convents in Portugal, founded in 1318, by Afonso Sanches and his wife, Teresa Martins Telo. Although I wasn’t allowed into the grounds to explore, I spent some time admiring the views of the River Ave and the town from the hilltop; absolutely stunning!! There’s a fantastic old church on the same grounds, sadly closed when I was there, and a small chapel, fortunately open, attached to the monastery; totally magic.

camino portuguese coast route port to santiago

Views of the River Ave and town from Santa Clara Convent, Vila do Conde

8 monastery chapel

the tiny chapel located next to the convent

Then I decided to follow the 999 arch aqueduct; Aqueduto de Vila do Conde. Just because.  Initially constructed between 1705 and 1714, the second longest in Portugal, it had 999 arches and ran for four kilometres; connecting a spring in Terroso, Póvoa de Varzim with a fountain in the monastery of Santa Clara.

camino portuguese coast route port to santiago

The 999 arch aqueduct in Vila do Conde

Well I only got about half way and it kinda petered out and only small sections continued that were mostly inaccessible. Thank goodness, just the bit I followed was over 2 kilometres. Twas meant to be a rest day. Along the way, under one of the arches, I bumped into my group of 5 that I had met yesterday. What a pleasure to see them. On my way back along the arches I went past a fab church that I’d seen earlier, Church of Sao Simao e Sao Judas Tadeu, but it only opens Sundays. So instead of exploring the church, I bought a delicious bunch of grapes from the market next door. 🙂

camino portuguese coast route port to santiago

Church of Sao Simao e Sao Judas Tadeu, Vila do Conde

I was absolutely fascinated by the railway tracks I saw. The same as in Porto, they are lined with grass and level with the surrounding roads.

camino portuguese coast route port to santiago

the railway tracks leading to Vila do Conde Railway Station

I visited the beautiful main church; Igreja Matriz de Vila do Conde, where I got another pilgrim’s stamp in my passport, and met a lovely young lady, also walking the Camino, with whom I had a wonderful conversation. Unfortunately, although I wrote her name down in my diary, I can’t seem to find it.

camino portuguese coast route porto to santiago

Igreja Matriz de Vila do Conde

 Construction of the church started at the end of the 15th century (1496-1497) and ended in the beginning of the 16th century (1514-1515). A National Monument since 1910 due to the importance of the building; regarded as a late Gothic and Manueline style church and its Renaissance tower.

It’s extremely hot and humid and my initial thoughts are correct, I really should have planned this journey for October during the cooler months. But cest la vie, I’m here on my Camino and loving it!!  “atm I’m back at the hotel doing what sensible people do; staying indoors for siesta and something to eat” 😉😉😉 Some days it wasn’t possible to find a place for siesta, and I had to be really inventive.

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

not the most substantial meal ever, but this was lunch LOL

Earlier in the day I had spotted an intriguing church atop a jut of rock; ‘Capela de Nossa Senhora do Socorro – the Chapel of Our Lady of Aid/Help’ is a beautiful Greek style white-washed, round-domed church that shone out in the afternoon sun. I simply had to find out how to get there. So after my siesta, I went walkabout and finally found the way along a steep, narrow, cobbled stone lane…

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

Capela de Nossa Senhora do Socorro), the Chapel of Our Lady of Aid/Help, Vila do Conde

Stepping into the courtyard to find this breath-taking edifice was worth the climb. Built on a square plan with rounded dome, the interior of the chapel exemplifies 18th-century architecture, with azulejos; painted tin-glazed ceramic tile work, showing the life of Christ, and a Rococo-style altar.

Capela de Nossa Senhora do Socorro), the Chapel of Our Lady of Aid/Help

interior – Capela de Nossa Senhora do Socorro), the Chapel of Our Lady of Aid/Help

I had seen similar ceramic tile work in many of the churches I visited and of course in the Sao Bento Railway Station in Porto. Absolutely stunning.

I spent the early evening exploring and taking 100s of photos.

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

scenes of Vila do Conde

The towns in Portugal are ever so quirky but mostly very poor. There are ramshackle tumbled down houses interspersed amongst the regular houses that you can see have been boarded up for decades.

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

scenes from my a.m. walkabout; Vila do Conde

In contrast there are a number of churches that although old are filled with very ornate decorations and sculptures. The Madonna and depictions of Christ are everywhere in every pose or decorative garb you can imagine. All very colourful.

The main square near the marina is very posh with sculptures and water features but just beyond is a different story. In the marina is a fantastic replica of a carrack; a three- or four-masted ocean-going sailing ship, developed in the 14th & 15th centuries in Europe, and first used for trade from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, then by the Portuguese for trade along the African coast. It was being refurbished when I was there so I couldn’t visit, but it looks amazing.

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

a Portuguese Carrack, Vila do Conde

Okay so, I finally caved in, my lavandar was not going to dry any time soon, so  took my very wet washing to the laundromat; the lavandaria, and after the lady there helped me to descipher the instructions, I popped my clothes in the secagem section 😉😉 I tell you what, this is the most posh, clean, beautifully laid out and friendliest staffed laundromat I’ve ever been to. The machines are all Miele… I mean seriously upmarket equipment. The UK could take a page from their book. 😀😀 €1.50 to dry my washing; bargain
Every day 😊😊😊 

After that, I decided to walk to the sea front to watch the sunset. I was excited about seeing a sunset tonight and when I started out the sky was still blue and clear, hoorah! But the seafront was a lot further than I thought and by the time I got there, 15 minutes later, a cold front of thick misty cloud had blown in and blew away my chances of a fab sunset. Although I’m sure it was fabulous somewhere in the world 😃😃😃  Maybe tomorrow. So disappointing. I remember thinking at the time; ‘ oh well, I’ll catch the sunset tomorrow night’.

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Guia at the seafront and my stunning sunset 😉

But it wasn’t to be, and the next sunset I saw was in Caminha 3 days later. But there’s a stunning memorial and a tiny little chapel that I couldn’t resist exploring, as well as the fantastic fort; Sao Joao – Fort St John. However, I did see many a beautiful sunrise 🙂

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

Forte Sao Joao, Vila do Conde

I had supper at a pilgrim’s restaurant where for €5 they offered a bowl of soup, a main course and a drink. Yummy and just what I needed.

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

a substantial meal for 5 euro

On my way to the sea front I had the sheer joy of listening to and watching a flock of swallow settling in for the night. Much swooping and chirping and I briefly saw a murmuration. Wonderful end to a fantastic day.

Then after one last wander I went to bed.

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

a late evening walk around Vila do Conde. – Erva Doce Guest House in the middle

It seems I also have a new room-mate; Helga from Germany.

Vila do Conde has a history that goes back 100,000 years and was once a large port.

camino portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

Port of Vila do Conde. Not as important as it was in previous centuries, but still a fantastic place to visit

The passage of King Manuel through Vila do Conde, during a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, in 1502, helped to develop some of the important infrastructures in the city. The late Gothic Azurara Church was rebuilt in 1502 by the people of the village to commemorate his pilgrimage to Santiago.camino de santiago portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

Walking tomorrow. Vila do Conde to Esposende.

Join me on instagram/notjustagranny for more images from my travels around the UK and Europe as part of Project 101

 

Read Full Post »

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

inspirational quotes

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

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

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

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

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

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 🙂 – heading now towards 1000 miles

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

packing for the camino de santiago

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

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

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

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

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

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

camino de santiago porto to santiago

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

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

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

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

camino de santiago porto to santiago

Inspirational quotes

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

my camino 2017 porto to santiago

sowing the seeds of my adventures

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

portuguese coastal route mapacoastal

The Portuguese Coastal and Central routes

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

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

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

Somehow this looks awfully far…..

 

 

 

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

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

camino 2017

Camino de Santiago

Buen Camino….

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

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

Other blogs I’ve written about the impending Camino

Camino 2016, my way

My Camino the journey so far

My Camino 2017

On the road and what to pack #Camino2017

Pilgrimage – the road to Santiago

The Spirit of the Camino

Walking the Camino and lessons learned

Harrassment on the Camino

Read Full Post »

You’ve got to know when to carry on
Know when to quit,
Know when to stop each day,
And know when to rest.
You never count your blisters
When you’re sitting at the table (ewww)
There’ll be time enough for walking
When the feet are healed…..

Okay, so I’ve used a bit of artistic licence with the lyrics of ‘The Gambler’ – one of my favourite Kenny Rogers songs, something my daughter and I often sing along to.

That song was running through my mind on Day 3 after I reached Faversham having hobbled the last 4 kilometres in driving rain, feet blistered and aching, soaked to the skin. LOL Alright, I admit it….it wasn’t THAT bad; it did rain but just short shower (albeit enough to soak me to the skin mind!), my feet were blistered and I did hobble….but I wasn’t actually dying!! hahaha. I did however make the sensible decision to quit while I could actually still walk and on the morning of Day 4 I took the train to Canterbury.

The blisters were by that stage seriously eina (painful) and I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be able to walk the final 9+ miles into Canterbury and live to tell the tale. I also had to get back to work within a couple of days, and that was more important than pushing myself beyond what was necessary.

As mentioned in Day 3’s blog post, my daughter joined me for a scrumptious Afternoon tea with champagne with scones and cream, and I spent the night at The Falstaff, the fabulous 14th century inn just outside the West Gate of Canterbury city.

I so enjoyed the feel of spending the night in a 14th century inn, it’s quite phenomenal. After checkout I popped in at the Hospital of St Thomas of Eastbridge to get a stamp in my passport…no date, just the stamp in case they were closed when I did my final day. Then I hopped on a train to home and spent the day with my daughter. Back to work and I took some time out, not making any lengthy walks anywhere…I really needed to rest my feet, allow the blisters to heal and the bones to recover their equilibrium.

The days whizzed by and finally I was ready to start; Faversham to Canterbury – the finale 🙂

faversham history

Faversham architectural history

Taking the train from Tonbridge at 06:15 I arrived in Faversham just after 8:30. The trains don’t run very early on Sundays so I had to just bite the bullet and start when I started. First I went back to The Sun Inn to say hello and thank you and take a few photos, and then explored the town centre.

the sun inn faversham

The Sun Inn Faversham. A most amazing place to stay

With oodles of history going back to the 1086 Domesday Book and earlier, Faversham definitely bears further investigation on another day.faversham

It was market day and the stall holders were busy setting up. I bought a sweet pastry to get me going and set off….Canterbury here I come.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

I’m on the right road

I was of course under no illusions now about how tiring and painful this could be, so I tried to set an easy gait and get my backpack settled. For some reason it just did not want to sit properly and I spent the whole day shifting it about. Weird since it was packed almost identically to the first 3 days I walked and was no heavier.

Again I was struck by how beautiful the English countryside can be. Kent is known as the food basket or garden of England and seeing the fields of crops and dozens of fruit trees, you can certainly believe the name fits.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Kent countryside

The first village of note was Boughton Under Blean; a stunning village lined with the most marvellous array of medieval architecture you could wish for I was hoping to stop for coffee and something to eat and had bypassed the pub at the beginning of the village expecting to find another suitable place. Lesson learned: stop at the first place you find…there may not be another. I was still really early (10:04) and most places were still closed. Oh well. Onwards.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Boughton Under Blean

I stopped to ask a lady if there was likely to be anything open, but being Sunday….however we had a wonderful conversation and she was quite intrigued by my journey. I think that is one of the aspects I really enjoyed chatting to various folk along the way. I spotted a history board as I left the village and note that there was a parish church…but again too far to walk to that day. A car would be good LOL. The history is amazing and the village has links going back to the 16th century and earlier, as well as the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes.

Boughton; (originally ‘Bocton’) means ‘land held by book, or charter’ and lay on the main route between London and Canterbury and is mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in ‘The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue’. The High Street forms part of the old Roman road (‘Watling Street’) from London to Canterbury and Dover and in days gone by would have hosted thousand of pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Thomas Becket.

faversham to canterbury finale

Chaucer’s pilgrims passing through Boughton Under Blean

Moving on from Boughton Under Blean I passed Christ Church Dunkirk ….Dunkirk??? Jeez did I teleport to France? LOL Bears further investigation. The church is now a private residence but the graveyard was still open to exploration.

parish church of dunkirk

Parish Church of Dunkirk

I passed another row of houses further on that turned out to be the village of Dunkirk. 🙂 How cool is that. Time now was 11:36. I was looking forward to reaching Canterbury LOL

I had been following the route on my app: map my walk and suddenly the roadway ran out…just after passing through Dunkirk I quite literally hit a dual carriageway with absolutely nowhere to walk. I had been walking on a narrow pavement up until then and the traffic whizzing past was nerve-wracking…again coming from behind and when a large truck roared past I could feel my body being pulled in the slip-stream. I retraced my steps and turned down a road that was a cul-de-sac. This took me into wild country and I passed a paint-balling group who said I should just carry on along this narrow road, that turned out to be the old Roman Road to Canterbury, and eventually I would reach a point where I would find a better road….which I eventually did.

Along the way I came across some wild blackberry bushes; fat juicy pollution ripened blackberries 😉 delicious nonetheless. I ate my fill and carried on. Really wanting a cup of tea.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Blackberries enroute

I spotted a Holiday Inn sign in the distance and decided to stop for that tea and a snack to eat and charge up my tablet. Following the Roman Road I passed through Harbledowns and eventually reached the A2050 which lead me to Canterbury Christ Church University…and this is where the road seriously ran out for me. There was just no way around it and the verge, although wide was just grass and bushes lined with high walls…probably to reduce the traffic noise levels for the houses behind. If I was limber enough I would have climbed over the wall LOL. But I’m not and I didn’t.

The walls also meant that I couldn’t get to Westgate Court Avenue which is the road I had wanted to follow into the city. I walked along the grass verges which were quite wide and so I felt safe from the traffic but I’m pretty certain I wasn’t meant to be there. I finally spotted a roundabout that became Rheims Way and at the same time a sign-board that read CANTERBURY! Hoorah Time was now 14:19 and I had left Faversham 5 hours previously.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

Finally reaching Canterbury

From there I scooted across the road and picked up the London Road that took me to St Dunstans Street and a wonderful church. Stopping off to explore, no way could this marvellous place; The Parish Church of Saint Dunstan Without the West Gate be bypassed. Dunstan was Archbishop of Canterbury from 960 to 978 and canonised soon after his death, becoming the favourite saint of the English until 200 years later he was supplanted by Thomas Becket. Dunstan was buried in Canterbury Cathedral but his tomb was destroyed during the Reformation.

st dunstans without the west gate

St Dunstan’s Without the West Gate, Canterbury

Finally I was in Canterbury. I cannot tell you the sense of achievement and relief. It had rained, shined, pained and here I was….almost at the end of my journey.

After exploring St Dunstans I headed towards the West Gate, finally entering the city as a proper pilgrim. I was so tired and so chuffed.

west gate canterbury

The West Gate Canterbury

After entering through the gate into Canterbury city my first stop was the Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr of Eastbridge. And now I could have my passport dated 🙂 The gentleman behind the counter was happy to oblige and well impressed at my journey. We chatted for a while and then he invited me to take a tour; as a pilgrim. I was nearly in tears. I am a pilgrim 🙂 Awesome.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

The Canterbury Pilgrim’s Hospital of Saint Thomas

Founded in the 12th century the Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr of Eastbridge in Canterbury, was in fact similar to today’s hostels; a place that provided overnight accommodation for poor pilgrims to the shrine of St Thomas Beckett….although of course we pay for hostels, in those days pilgrims usually donated or worked for their keep.  The ‘Hospital’ is a grade I listed building and one of the ten almshouses still providing accommodation for elderly citizens of Canterbury.east bridge hospital and chaucer

Do visit, it is fabulous. I went upstairs to the Pilgrims Chapel and said a prayer of thanks for bringing me this far in one piece. I’m not religious by any means, but I do find it very comforting and special to say a prayer of thanks….and I was really grateful to have been able to walk this journey. It had taken such a long time from when I first started.

Situated on the King’s-bridge, near the Westgate, in Canterbury, the hospital was established sometime after the death of Thomas Becket (1170), possibly as early as 1176, when Canterbury Cathedral became a site of pilgrimage. There are some fabulous medieval paintings on the walls and the crypt is ethereal.

From there I set off for the Cathedral 🙂 Finally I could get my pilgrims passport stamped at journey’s end! I entered the gate as a Pilgrim at 15:36 and was escorted to the Visitor Centre by the young man who welcomed me and called out “Pilgrim coming through” – I was so emotional and overjoyed…

Pilgrim's Passport - Southwark to Canterbury In the footsteps of Chaucer

Pilgrim’s Passport – Southwark to Canterbury In the footsteps of Chaucer

To my absolute delight I had quite unknowingly arrived at Canterbury Cathedral on Pilgrim’s Day; 29 July 2017. The cathedral had hosted a series of events on that day and even though I was a tad late to participate in many of them, I did get a passport of sorts, a badge and managed to get 1 stamp for one of the activities.

pilgrims day at canterbury cathedral

Pilgrim’s Day at Canterbury Cathedral 29 July 2017

I spent some time exploring the cathedral; my first stop the shrine of Thomas Becket. This area is where he was murdered in 1170 by four of Henry II’s knights.

shrine of thomas becket

Shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral

Henry and Becket had been friend since their youth but once Becket became Archbishop his demeanour changed and in due course he and Henry had a conflict. This resulted in Henry becoming incensed and uttered the infamous words “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest!” The 4 knights took this to heart, and on the 29 December 1170 they murdered Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

 

I love Canterbury Cathedral. Like Westminster Cathedral and Winchester Cathedral it soars skywards to the heavens. It’s filled with an extraordinary array of historical treasures, tombs and memorials. I spent a good hour there and then set off for my reward for all the walking.

Faversham to Canterbury the finale

a delicious treat

And as a treat for my epic journey I treated myself to a most delicious crepe with dark chocolate, fresh strawberries and cream at the Chocolate Cafe in Guildhall Street. Best ever crepes and highly recommended.

Distance walked: 20.1 kms – 7:37 hours – 42063 steps – elevation 185 meters.

I love to explore and am usually quite happy to take numerous diversions to visit something that takes my interest, but one thing I learned on this journey….not matter how intriguing the place may be, I have my limits LOL After walking for hours and miles with a backpack, I find myself quite unable to summon up any enthusiasm for adding another mile or so.

So that’s it, my Southwark to Canterbury in the footsteps of Chaucer journey is now complete. Only took 7 years hahaha. It was worth all the pain and tiredness; I had a most amazing time and saw so many fantastic places and learned some fascinating facts about the history of this amazing country.

If you’d like to read up on the first 3 days, here are the links:

Day 1 Southwark to Gravesend

Day 2 Gravesend to Rochester

Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

What’s next? Way of St Augustine from Ramsgate to Canterbury…starting 30/07/2017 & finishing 31/07/2017

Read Full Post »

I’ve split Day 3 – Rochester to Faversham into two parts due to the length of the journey and also because in reality, the day was split in two when my phone crashed in Sittingbourne.

16:05 – Rochester to Sittingbourne 10 Hours and 45 minutes on the road  – Walked  23.82 kms (14.89 miles)

I had to be very sparing with my phone/camera now since I didn’t want to run out of battery power and the photos (fortunately?) lessened 😦

Marching on with no further stops of any substance, at 16:46 I reached another direction bollard – 13 miles to Canterbury. Geez Louise! Come on, I’m tired and I’d only done 2 miles in 40 minutes!!

day 3 rochester to faversham

13 miles to Canterbury…so how far to Faversham?

I trudged on, my feet getting steadily more achy and painful; I was hobbling by then rather than walking. Passing Bapschild and Teynham and in due course Ospringe where I passed a house with a plaque that said ‘Pilgrims Rest’….ahhh yes, how marvellous that would be…a rest. 🙂

day 3 rochester to faversham

Rochester to Faversham – a pilgrim needs rest

But for now it was a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and just focusing on getting to Faversham.

day 3 - faversham

Andddd finally!!! at 18:09 I reached a signboard that said: FAVERSHAM!!! Hoorahh.

Only guess what? It had started to rain, earlier on I’d discovered 2 massive blisters on the pad of my right foot and 1 on the heel of my left foot (remember those wet socks I mentioned?) and it was, despite the excitement of seeing the sign-board, still another 3 kms before I actually reached Faversham proper. LOL

I stumbled along in the rain, desperately wanting warmth and food and a bed. It was to be another 45 minutes before I finally stumbled across the entrance and into the dry and warmth of The Sun Inn in Faversham 🙂

pluviophile a lover of rain

Today I’m not a pluviophile LOL

The look on the faces of the management and patrons was most amusing…Lord knows I was a mess…my hair sticking up, soaked to the skin, dripping water everywhere, rain running down my glasses, gasping for breath; I looked something akin to a drowned rat.

The lass behind the bar took one look and rolled up a huge wad of mopping up paper and handed it to me to dry off. I really was soaked to the skin.

geoffrey chaucer canterbury tales pilgrims route to canterbury

a sketch of Geoffrey Chaucer as he may have looked on his route to Canterbury

Whilst walking I had switched on my phone again and messaged my daughter to say that I was almost in Faversham, that I had blisters and that it was raining….”get a taxi Mother!!” she implored. But no, I really wanted to complete the walk, after all I’m sure to encounter rain on the Camino and I’m quite positive that Chaucer didn’t have the luxury of calling a cab!!

And of course as mentioned in an earlier blog, I’d posted my rain poncho home the day before LOL

 

Before I reached Faversham proper I had quite a few hills to climb, metaphorically and physically. Could I do this? I really didn’t want to quit. It was a matter of determination now to see this through to the end and it felt like I would be quitting and failing if I didn’t just carry on walking.

As it is, if I had called a cab, I would have missed Ospringe which is one of the stops on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route. There I saw the most amazing building! Ospringe Maison Dieu (hospital) founded in the 13th century; commissioned by Henry III in 1234, to look after pilgrims and travellers on the road from London to Canterbury or Dover. It’s no longer a hospital and is managed by English Heritage, but how thrilling to discover a building that was definitely in existence at the time of The Canterbury Tales 🙂 Just wow. As it was by then very late, clearly I couldn’t visit but it’s on my list of places to visit again…when I have access to a car LOL. I am not walking again….(for now anyway).

Maison Dieu, Ospringe - Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

Maison Dieu, Ospringe – Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

Once I had been checked in and paid my bill I was shown to my room. I had booked to stay at The Sun Inn due to the age of the place and didn’t really have high expectations for the room; expecting a small room with a tiny ensuite, my jaw hit the floor as the Manager opened the door….”OMG is this my room?” Yes, so it was.

The Sun Inn, Faversham - Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

The Sun Inn, Faversham – Day 3 Rochester to Faversham

It was enormous with the most amazing bed I had ever seen. The bathroom was huge, way bigger than even my bedroom at home with a bath that was just waiting to be filled to the brim with steaming hot water and lots and lots and lots of bubbles 🙂 And so it was. I just floated and floated…luxuriating in the heavenly heat and warmth. And as amazing as this room was, it wasn’t even the feature room…check this out!! Woww

I stuffed my very wet clothes into the tumble dryer and then, bathed, dressed and refreshed I loped off downstairs for dinner; a humungeous piece of battered cod and chips with mushy peas. I seem to have made a habit of that meal; the 3rd in 4 days LOL

I returned upstairs after my delicious meal and without further ado climbed into bed and snuggled down to sleep…..can I just stay here forever?

18:54 – Sittingbourne to Faversham – Walked 12.85 kms (8.06 miles) – 3 hours & 01 minutes

Day 4 – After a really wonderful nights sleep I rose at about 8:30 and went down for breakfast. So thrilling to have slept in an inn that was built in the 14th century!! The Sun Inn at Faversham – “with a tale to tell that dates back to the 14th century, the inn oozes history, charm and character“…or so the website says 😉 I wonder, since it’s a 14th century inn, whether Chaucer stayed there perhaps? I’d love to think he did… I can highly recommend this venue  http://www.sunfaversham.co.uk/

Rochester to Faversham – Total walked 36.67 kms (23.54 miles) – 13 hours & 35 minutes

I had, taking my by then substantial blisters into account, as well as my exhaustion after the previous day’s marathon walk, decided to postpone the finale to Canterbury for the end of the month. Instead of staggering the final 9.1 miles onto Canterbury with the massive blisters and incurring further damage, after relaxing over my meal, I once again hefted Pepe onto my back and set off for the train station…I would be using a 7000 horse-powered form of transport to get to Canterbury….my feet were quite unable to complete the 9+ miles that day!

It was bliss, less than 40 minutes and I was there! Canterbury; at last!

arriving in Canterbury

arriving in Canterbury – not quite the entrance I had planned, but a stunning day anyway

I met up with my lovely daughter, who despite being quite ill, joined me at the Falstaff Hotel for the planned afternoon tea (thank you sweetheart, it was much appreciated 😉 )

Arriving at Canterbury - Afternoon Cream Tea at The Falstaff Inn, Canterbury

Arriving at Canterbury – Afternoon Cream Tea at The Falstaff Inn, Canterbury

We chatted, she took photos for me and I postponed my visit to the Cathedral and having my Pilgrim’s Passport stamped until such time as I actually completed the journey which took place on the 29th July after my next assignment.

southwark to canterbury in the footsteps of chaucer

All being well….. I’ll complete the #SouthwarktoCanterbury

After we had finished our tea, I walked my daughter to the station and saw her off on the train to home. She had really made a huge effort to be there for me and unfortunately got really ill on the train 😦

Meanwhile I slipped back up to my room, too tired to even consider exploring much as I was yearning to do just that. Not as luxurious or amazing as my room at The Sun Inn, it was still lovely and I so enjoyed the comfy bed and a long hot shower.

pilgrimage southwark to canterbury

Canterbury is so amazing and again it’s one of those places where no matter how many times you visit, there is always something new to discover. After a really good night’s sleep I checked out and set off once again for the station; destination: home! I spent the day with my daughter and then with reluctance and resistance to carrying Pepe any further I made my way to the station and back to Tonbridge where I was to spend the night before starting work again the next day.

a beautiful horse sculpture in front of Tonbridge Castle

a beautiful horse sculpture in front of Tonbridge Castle

What an adventure – Southwark to Faversham: 3 days; 95 kms (59.38 miles). 162+k steps; 9 Domesday Book villages (some now towns or cities); 1 UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Footnote: On further research I’ve found that Teynham is also a Domesday Book village: The name Teynham [Teneham 798, Therham 1086 (Domesday Book), Taenham, Taeneham, Tenham, Teneham c 1100 (Domesday Monachorum). Possibly ‘homestead of a man called Tena” or ‘homestead near the stream called Tene‘.  I’m guessing a 2nd visit is in order then!

I completed Day proper on the 29th July 2017 – Faversham to Canterbury…..post to follow.

Read Full Post »

Day 2: From Gravesend to Rochester – 7.1 miles – again this proved to be inaccurate 😉 and in fact I walked 21.96 kms / 13.72 miles…give or take a few detours LOL

The second day was from Gravesend to Rochester where apparently Chaucer and his ‘press’ gang of hardy souls spent the night. Again I searched and searched and although I did find one very likely ‘inn’, after leaving 3 messages on their answering machine about wanting to book for a night, with no reply…I said “oh to heck with it ‘off with ye heads, ye daft bugas” and booked at another location that was close to the Cathedral.

Day 2 was without doubt hard. Although a much shorter distance, I was tired from the day before and really struggled to get my act together in the morning, and yes, EVERYTHING HURTS.

everything hurts

my daughter bought this t-shirt for me some months ago….apt! LOL

I had decided I wanted to get some more stamps in my Pilgrim’s Passport before setting off, so at 07:30 I walked back down into the town to look for an open church….the first 2 were a washout, but to be fair they were Anglican so their reply “we don’t have pilgrim stamps” was in retrospect, not surprising. After that I gave up and spent a few minutes walking around taking photos of the town whilst it was still quiet, bought a bowl of cherries and some bananas. The history of these towns is extraordinary and the more layers you peel back, the more you discover….I mean seriously 1568!!! Just wow.

History of Gravesend, Kent

History of Gravesend, Kent

Finally at just after 9am I set off along Old Road East towards Rochester 🙂 Hoorah! I was on my way. Shortly after setting off I reached a roundabout which had a mileage marker showing distances to various places; one of which was Rochester : 7.5 miles 🙂

Rochester 7.5 miles :)

Rochester 7.5 miles 🙂

Okay well that shouldn’t be too difficult….Hah!! famous last thoughts….it took bloody forever, but at that stage I wasn’t yet too tired, albeit still stiff from the day before and still excited about the walk. My post on instagram:

2017-07-10 08.58.33 1555696645857184093_231798962

Walked 4.21 kms and 80 minutes and I haven’t yet left Gravesend 😂😂😂
So just in case I hadn’t punished myself enough already, I decided I wanted to see my beautiful Thames one more time before I left and find some churches to get more stamps in my Pilgrim’s Passport.
Churches = 2
Stamps = 0
Cindy = 😡😢
Gravesend = fail!!! 😂😂😂 But oh the river, it is gorgeous. On my way I bought a bowl of cherries; it’s life after all, innit😉 
I’m now back from whence I started #OldPrinceofOrange and wishing I’d left Pepe at the pub and just checked out later 🤔🤔🤔🤔
The reason I’ve come back this way is coz the road I’ll be walking along; Old Road East, used to be the old road from London to Rochester, and I’m trying to be as authentic as possible 600 odd years later…I’ll pick up the Rochester road proper just a short way along. So I’m now on my way, I’ll try to not sit down anywhere coz by jove, it’s difficult to get back up again. And I’ve remembered why I wanted to leave early this morning….its already as humid as 🌋 Goodbye Gravesend, it’s been fun.’

I was hoping to arrive early enough to be able to visit the cathedral and obtain my pilgrim stamp and since Chaucer visited it would be entirely remiss of me if I didn’t!!! I was keen to see if I could find any traces of Bishops of the time or references to Chaucer.

My Pilgrim's Passport - duly stamped and a reference to Thomas Triller; Bishop of Rochester 1365-1372 who would have been Bishop at the time of Chaucer's pilgrimage

My Pilgrim’s Passport – duly stamped and a reference to Thomas Triller; Bishop of Rochester 1365-1372 who would have been Bishop at the time of Chaucer’s pilgrimage

I soon spotted another likely looking church, but no, it was not only locked, but they too didn’t have a Pilgrim’s stamp!! So a tad disappointed with the churches in Gravesend I mosied on and shortly reached what was a dual-carriageway and the real test of my resolve began…it’s horrible walking next to a busy road and by the 3rd day my throat was sore and scratchy from the care fumes. A young woman saw my backpack and asked me what I was doing 🙂 So lovely of her. We chatted for a while and then crossing the roundabout I saw what was the ONLY faint resemblance to a scallop shell that I was to see during my whole 3 days except for the sculpted glass doors at Rochester Cathedral.

Rochester Road.....the landscape at least was beautiful

Rochester Road…..the landscape at least was beautiful

The landscape across the fields and farmlands was really beautiful, the weather marvellous albeit already heating up considerably, and in the distance I could just make out the Thames estuary and shipping lane. Good to see so many windmills utilising natural resources.

A few kilometers later I saw a  sign for Chalk Village and decided to investigate.  Down Church Lane I found a scattering of houses and a church!! What a surprise 🙂 St Mary the Virgin aka Chalk Church was unfortunately closed but I decided that this would be a good place to rest a while.day 2 - higham The time was now just on 10am. The graveyard was, as most of them are, just lovely; restful and peaceful. I posted a couple of photos to instagram with these words ‘My current view; parish church Chalk Village – no pilgrims stamp 🤔🤔🤔 Today is about pain and endurance and endurance and pain, and energy sapping heat.
Bloody hell. It’s hot. I’m quite literally dragging my feet and just focusing on putting one in front of the other. I now know what it’s going to be like by day 3 on the Camino. It feels as if some gremlins have added another 10 kgs of bricks to the backpack; Pepe and I are not friends atm and I’d happily leave it right here if it wasn’t too expensive to buy another one 😆😆😆 Atm I really must rest. There’s no deadline. 5 miles to go 😐😐😓😓😓 The cherries taste good. 🍒🍒🍒’  and ‘Okay so I’ve caved in…decided to lie down in pastures green and have a proper rest; after all there’s no place like a graveyard for having a rest, right!! 😂😂😂 I shall commune with the souls of the dead for a wee bit 👻👻👻’

There has been a church in Chalk for well over a thousand years, but I stayed there only an hour; frankly I could have stayed right there the whole day!! About 30 minutes after setting off again I saw a welcome sign in the distance….food at The Copperfield!! I was famished by now, not yet having had breakfast besides the cherries.

Full English at The Copperfield, Rochester Road, Gravesend...or thereabouts

Full English at The Copperfield, Rochester Road, Gravesend…or thereabouts

I ordered the full-english and the ice-cream sundae as per the billboard advert Hah! You never get what you ask for….but I was so hungry that I wolfed the food down in no time at all. A pot of tea and a pee later and I was once again on my way.

Next amazing village was Higham where I discovered to my delight that not only had Charles Dickens lived there, but it was a Domesday Book village!! Awesome 🙂 At that stage I continued along the A226 towards Rochester but as I got to the roundabouts my nerve failed. There were no grass verges or sidewalk for me to safely continue my journey, so with a quick look at map my walk I notice a lane; Crutches Lane going off to the left further back, that looked a much better idea. I had walked a fair distance from Higham by then and it was a real slog to walk back again. But, to my delight as I neared Higham I notice a sign ‘Ancient church’…what??? How could I have missed that?

Higham. Domesday Village and once home to Charles Dickens

Higham. Domesday Village and once home to Charles Dickens

I promptly set off to investigate and leaving the main road I walked in the general direction of the church. By this stage I was thoroughly sick of having Pepe on my back. It was hot and the backpack felt like it weighed a ton! So you can imagine my delight when I saw a post office! I immediately made the decision to post some of the items from my backpack home; sandals: 385 grams, rain poncho: 395 grams (I was to regret sending this away the next day!!)  a note-book, a set of keys and a couple of other odds and ends – 1.5kgs later and Pepe felt much lighter. Hoorah! Then it was off along Hermitage Lane (don’t you just love that name?) to find the ‘Ancient Church’. Well as it turns out the ‘Ancient Church’ was another 4 kms away and I was NOT in the mood to be adding another 8 kms to my journey, so instead I knocked on the door of St John’s Church…..hellloooo!! A wonderful lady answered my call and after telling her my story she graciously provided me with loads of information and pamphlets with the history of the church and let me take photos. She also signed my Pilgrim’s Passport 🙂  Wonderful!!

St Peter's Church, Higham - a wonderful discovery

St Peter’s Church, Higham – a wonderful discovery

And then it was time to go…Rochester beckons and my energy was slipping away. I made my way back to the A226 and onto Crutches Lane (the names of the lanes are terrific). Crutches Lane provided me with very welcomed shade and although quite a few cars and vans passed me by, it was quiet and green and just a lovely walk. Sadly though the amount of garbage littering the lane, the bushes and embankments was dreadful. We really are swimming in a sea of rubbish.

Crutches Lane from one end to the other was in fact swimming in rubbish...although the landscape was beautiful, the garbage really spoilt it

Crutches Lane from one end to the other was in fact swimming in rubbish…although the landscape was beautiful, the garbage really spoilt it

By 14:50 I was on the A289 to Rochester. But it was still a fair way to go and a full 55 minutes before I finally saw the Medway and reached the bridge crossing to Rochester! Just before that whilst walking downhill I spied Rochester Castle through the trees in the distance and promptly burst into tears LOL. I was so tired, and so overwhelmed to be within spitting distance of my destination that I cried all the way down the hill and across the bridge!!

Rochester and the River Medway

Rochester and the River Medway; on the opposite bank is Rochester Castle

I had noticed, on the many facebook pages and blogs I’ve been reading, how people say they break down and sob when they reach Santiago…I now had an inkling of why. It’s overwhelming. I had by then been on the road for 8 hours and walking for 6 of those. Whew. At least I now know more or less what to expect when I’m walking the Camino in September, which was partly the reason for doing this walk; to see if I could actually manage. Well I can, but by jove it’s hard work. I love walking and walk a lot…but it’s a completely different ball-game when you have a 7.5kg backpack on your shoulders!

I had found a lovely place; Greystones B&B via booking.com; a Victorian Terraced house on the hill, and although it’s not in the same league historically as the other venues, it looked nice, got great reviews and was most importantly only 8 minutes walk from the cathedral.

Greystone B&B Rochester.

Greystones B&B Rochester. A lovely Victorian Terraced house. The proprietor Bill was very welcoming….I really enjoyed my stay

Rochester. Oh how much I do love thee…..and I shall tell you more about lovely, wonderful, amazing, extraordinary Rochester in my next blog.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »