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On 11th September 2017 I set off on my first Camino, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, via the Portuguese Coastal Route to Caminha, then inland to Valenca and the Central Way from Tui to Santiago; 240 kms along one of the most amazing journeys of my life.

Portugal was fantastic and I enjoyed the most wonderful weather and scenery along the whole route. My favourite towns were Vila do Conde, Caminha and Valenca, then the delightful Padron in Spain and of course the 2 cities: Porto and Santiago (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites).

I was very lucky to witness the swinging of the botafumeiro at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral on the night after I arrived. It was a phenomenal sight with hundreds of pilgrims gathered in the cathedral to give thanks for a safe journey and to witness this amazing event.

Apparently the botafumeiro is swung every Friday evening at mass and at other times/days if someone pays to have it swung. It’s not a given at every service. I can however recommend attending the pilgrim service even if, like me, you are not religious. It’s a beautiful building that resonates with the history of the aeons, of the prayers of the thousands if not millions of pilgrims who have humbly knelt there for religious reasons, and filled with the gratitude of pilgrims who are quite simply happy to have arrived safe and in one piece…and even some who have not….blisters being the most common ailment.

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I was chatting to my daughter yesterday and remarked that I had been particularly blessed this year. Usually when you get to the end of the year you kinda feel like there is more that could/should be done before the year ends (well I do), and the last few days of December are spent cramming in just a few more activities. But this year I can truly say that I have had a year jam-packed with adventures, and for that, I am truly grateful.

inspirational quotes

Die with memories, not dreams

So to that end I decided to list my 2017 adventures, and was astounded at how much I had actually done, and how many places I have actually been to besides all my Camino 2017 practice walks that took me to some fantastic places. So this is my final blog for 31 Days of Gratitude – Day 31 – 2017 in review.

January

New Year’s Day swim 01.01.2017 Broadstairs Beach, Isle of Thanet, Kent

New Year's Day, Broadstairs

New Year’s Day, Broadstairs

Wedding Dress shopping with my daughter

wedding dress shopping with my daughter

wedding dress shopping…so much fun

Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England

visit the isle of wight

A visit to the isle of Wight

Places I went while I was there; Nettlestone (1086 Domesday Book village),20170116_144130-01 Bembridge Windmilll, Brading Roman Villa, Carisbrooke Castle, Cowes, Ryde, rode on a Hover craft, The Needles and Quarr Abbey.

And Osborne House


Magic Lantern Festival – Chiswick Park, London

Canterbury, Kent

Canterbury, Kent

Canterbury, Kent

February
Oxted, Surrey – the Greenwich Meridian runs through the town

Oxted

A closer look at Oxted

Limpsfield, Surrey – a Domesday Book village

Down House – home of Charles Darwin

Down House; home of Charles Darwin and his family

Down House; home of Charles Darwin and his family

Tatsfield, Surrey – a Domesday Book village

tatsfield surrey

South East England’s highest village; Tatsfield. Ref wikipedia: “In Anglo-Saxon England, Tatsfield lay within Tandridge hundred. In 1086 it was held by Anschitill (Ansketel) de Ros from the Bishop of Bayeux. Its Domesday assets were: ? hide. It had 2 ploughs. It rendered 60 shillings (£3) to its feudal overlords per year.”

Tandridge & Crowhurst, Surrey

Tandridge & Crowhurst

Tandridge & Crowhurst

Dublin, Ireland

 

Trim Castle & Trim, Ireland

March
City of Winchester, Hampshire, England

Winchester

Winchester

Torquay, seaside resort – Devon

torquay

Torquay

April

Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano, Poggibonsi, Sienna, Lucca – Italy

 

May

Newcastle, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

Newcastle, Ireland

Newcastle, Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland

 

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

 

Dark Hedges – Game of Thrones, N. Ireland

the dark hedges northern ireland

The Dark Hedges – scenes for Game of Thrones were shot in this area

Sevenoaks, Kent, England

 

June
Tonbridge, Kent, England

Ironbridge, Shropshire, England – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Lenham, Kent, England

Lenham

Lenham

July
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route – Southwark to Canterbury

Battle of Britain Airshow, Headcorn

St Augustine’s Way – Ramsgate to Canterbury

August
Arundel, and Arundel Castle, West Sussex, England

Bromham, Houghton House with my lovely friends Lynne & Tim and Elstow (birthplace of John Bunyan) – Bedfordshire, England

Bronham, Houghton House, Elstow

Bromham, Houghton House, Elstow

Zip Line with Zip World in London with my daughter

September
Walked the Caminho Portuguese – Porto, Portugal to Santiago, Spain 240 kms – Both UNESCO World Heritage sites

Coimbra, Portugal – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

October
Montgomery Castle, Montgomery, Wales

Montgomery Castle, Montgomery, Wales

Montgomery Castle, Montgomery, Wales

November
Caernarfon Castle, Wales – site where Prince Charles was crowned Prince of Wales

Caenarfon Castle, Wales

Caenarfon Castle, Wales

Ffenistogg Railway Line Train ride; Caenarfon to Portmadogg through Snowdonia

Ffenistogg Railway line Caenarfon to Porthmadogg, Wales

Ffenistogg Railway line Caenarfon to Portmadogg, Wales

Climbed Mount Snowdon, Snowdonia National Park, Gwynedd – highest mountain in Wales

Mount Snowdon, Wales

Mount Snowdon, Wales

Montgomery, Powys, Wales – The Treaty of Montgomery was signed 29 September 1267 in Montgomeryshire. By this treaty King Henry III of England acknowledged Llywelyn ap Gruffudd as Prince of Wales.

Montgomery, Wales

Montgomery, Wales

December
Snow in Wales

Snow in Wales

Snow in Wales

Christmas in Broadstairs, Isle of Thanet, Kent

xmas 2017

Christmas 2017 with my delightful family

And in total, between 01.01.2017 & 31.12.2017 I have walked well over 1100 miles.

What an extraordinary year; 2017.IMG_20171231_100927_404

p.s. Days 14-30 Days of Gratitude will follow shortly….I eventually ran out of time 😉

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

portuguese coastal route mapacoastal

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

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

inspirational quotes

I just wanna go on more adventures….

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

 

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

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

inspirational quotes

When it feel scary to jump….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zip lining with zip world in london

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

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

inspirational quotes

Take a walk, not a pill….

So what did I learn along The Way?

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

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

inspirational quotes

You are not too old and it is not too late

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

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

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

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

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

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

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

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

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

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

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

arriving in Santiago old town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on Camino 2018.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 15 Thursday 2017.09.21 Padrón to Santiago de Compostela

The simplicity of just being.

I could scarcely believe that today is the day I was to finally reach Santiago. When I started this journey I had no idea of what lay ahead. I had read the blogs, seen the photos, read the guides, researched the areas, and none of them truly gave me any idea of what really lay ahead.

As mentioned in my previous day’s blog I woke really early, only to snuggle back between the warm sheets for an extra hour after looking out the window and seeing pitch dark…

padron to santiago, camino portuguese, porto to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago, the way of st james, walking to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago de compostela, not just a granny, visit spain,

these shoes are made for walking….

2017.09.21 these shoes were made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do…. Well this is it; day 5/5 and my last day on Camino. What a journey it has been. As I lay in bed last night I tried to reflect on where I’d been and what I’d seen and done, but I was so tired that I was asleep before too long. The bed is right comfy and now that it’s morning I’m reluctant to get up. But I did, quickly before the other pilgrims got going. I wanted to capture this image. Many of the albergues have a no shoes policy. So as you enter the living area you’re required to remove your walking shoes. Marvellous idea; keeps the place clean.

I thought this image epitomised the Camino….all coming together in one place for a brief moment in time, and then we’ll all go our separate ways. I wonder to where? Weirdly I haven’t seen even one of the pilgrims I’ve met previously. I think my marathon push through on Tuesday from Arcade to Caldas de Reis put me too far ahead. Pretty much everyone agrees, 32 kms was wayyyy too much. One of the disadvantages of having prebooked accommodation. Cést la vie eh. But on the plus side I met my Camino angel; Susana yesterday 🙂 Total bonus. I hope I see her again so I can say thank you one more time. I was surprised to note that the lass in the bunk above mine had already left – I never heard a thing…good earplugs, or a considerate pilgrim? 🙂

before I left, I decided to take a last look at the river. The church looked other-worldly in the blue light as I passed through the square – fleeting shadows flittered as pilgrims walked beneath the pools of light cast by lamps on the corners.

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Igresa

On the way I noticed a tiny little coffee shop right across the square; Canton de la Iglesia, just in front of the church, so stopped off at this delightful place for breakfast; best cafe con leche and banana bread ever. I so enjoyed the warm, cosy, lively atmosphere… pilgrims filled the tables and the proprietors were busy bustling back and forth serving food and coffee. The conversation bubbled and you could feel an undercurrent of excitement….I wished once again and not for the last time, that I had made more effort with my Spanish language lessons.

padron to santiago, camino portuguese, porto to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago, the way of st james, walking to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago de compostela, not just a granny, visit spain,

coffee and carrot cake; wonderful hospitality

I felt so bemused and quite out-of-body. Besides being really tired, despite a good night sleep, I was feeling so bemused at the fact that I had over 210 km’s behind me, with just 20 or so ahead, and only today left before I reached Santiago, I felt like I was in a bubble, my mind in a fuzz. It hardly seemed possible. I cried a lot today LOL

I finished off my coffee and the banana bread, gathered my things together, the proprietor gave me a big hug and a kiss on the forehead and accompanied by the sound of clapping (they applauded everyone who set off 🙂 ) I left the warmth of the café and before starting my final day’s walk to Santiago I turned left for a last look at the church and river.

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coffee and carrot cake; wonderful hospitality on the Canton de la Iglesia

All was quiet and hushed as I walked, the sky an ethereal shade of blue-grey with a splash of pink just tinging the river and sky as the sun rose higher.

padron to santiago, camino portuguese, porto to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago, the way of st james, walking to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago de compostela, not just a granny, visit spain,

early morning in Spain; leaving Padrón

Finally I could delay no longer, it was now getting on for 08:30 and unless I planned on getting to Santiago in the dark…

As I walked back through the square I noticed the proprietor from the café waving at me…I waved back and smiled. He waved again and held up 3 fingers…..as he did so, to my intense and everlasting mortification I realised that I had forgotten to pay them for the coffee and cake. I nearly died. Have you ever had the wish that the ground would open up and swallow you? Well…..

Red-faced and highly apologetic I made my way back into the café. It felt like all the eyes, accusing eyes, of the world were upon me as I stumbled across the threshold, my apology falling from my lips. Mortified!! Especially as they had been so hospitable and kind.

Oh well…..it stills makes me cringe, even today, 2 months later LOL

After paying my dues, I felt like I should probably also pay penance for my sins, but the church was closed still, so instead I tried to gather my dignity back together and mentally bashing myself on the head I set off along the pilgrim’s route I had discovered the night before.

calle de dolores, pilgrims way to santiago, iglesia de santiago, padron galicia, camino de santiago, porto to santiago, portuguese camino, following the way of st james, pilgrimage to santiago

Calle de Dolores – The Way to Camino de Santiago

The rain in Spain falls mainly……in Galicia on The Way to Santiago LOL

I had hardly walked a few yards than I had to stop and hoick Pepe off my back, and put our relevant rain covers on before getting set, ready, go again. The 2nd rainy day out of 11 days on the Camino….not too bad.

padron to santiago, camino portuguese, porto to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago, the way of st james, walking to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago de compostela, not just a granny, visit spain,

the dreaded N-550

Barely 1 km out of Padrón and I encountered the dreaded N-550 Precaución Intersección. Urgh. Weirdly the sign said 16km to Santiago. I’m guessing that was for motorists and not pilgrims.

Wish me luck, 22.519 kms to Santiago.

Ahead of me and coming up from behind were a number of pilgrims. As you will note their backpacks were covered…yes it was raining proper now. Thankfully I had already put rain wear on. It rained on and off pretty much the whole way.

padron to santiago, camino portuguese, porto to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago, the way of st james, walking to santiago, pilgrimage to santiago de compostela, not just a granny, visit spain,

along The Way of St James

We soon left the suburbs and entered a more rural area passing small plots with charming houses, the now familiar hórreo, and all with animals of one sort or another. I stopped to say hello to some of the ‘girls’ along the way. I saw some fantastic hórreos …they are certainly very interesting. I must find out more.

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Rural Spain, follow that pilgrim along The Way of St James

Day 5/5 Hah, 19.595 kms to Santiago……first 3 kms done and dusted 😊😊

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19.595 kms to Santiago

The route today took us through various hamlets, rural land with a variety of crops, through stands of tall trees and past hórreos and lavendarias. I saw and passed an elderly gentleman strolling along the path…..consider that it was raining!! I was like hello!! Where’s your raincoat dude?

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rural Spain

Suddenly it was 18.369 kms marker…the k’s were going down…weirdly on top of the marker was an eye-mask??? Why do people leave these things?

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18.369 kms to Santiago, rural Galicia

Once again I noticed so much urban decay. I mean seriously, the abandoned houses looked amazing..so beautiful in their slow decline, but oh so sad. People used to live there.

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signs along The Way to Santiago

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Along the Way of St James

Before too long we came to an amazing church; Satuario da Virxe da Escravitude – Santuary To Our Lady of the Slavery. A huge imposing edifice of grey stone slabs towering above the sidewalk. First a long flight of steps to negotiate. By this stage, anything more than 3 steps was classified as a ‘long’ flight of steps LOL Tradition has it that two miracles occurred that caused a temple to be built and eventually this magnificent church. The first one occurred in 1582. The second of the events took place in 1732.

All the pilgrims ahead of me were making their way up the steps, so I followed suit. Wow, what a fantastic building. To my delight, at the back of the church, just behind the magnificent altar, was a tiny office where we queued for our passports to be stamped. The guy was really busy with a large group just ahead of me. I noticed again how few people bother to leave a donation. Surely it’s not to much to ask….for their time and contribution to our journeys!! HINT: Leave a small donation 🙂

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Satuario da Virxe da Escravitude

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Satuario da Virxe da Escravitude

Once again the route took us uphill and down… Thankfully not as steep as the previous 4 days which were at some stage pure murder on the legs. Not long after leaving that church behind us, the route took us past another beautiful church. They are quite simply amazing. I wished I had more time to visit them all.

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Igrexa de Santa Maria de Cruces

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snapshots of Spain – and it’s still raining

I passed the quirky entrance for a restaurant; Bella Vista (beautiful view) and was sorely tempted to stop, but the extra distance off the route just seemed too much. For someone who normally has no qualms at all about taking lengthy diversions, to consider 20 meters too far, was something of a novelty. Truly, by now my sense of adventure was well and truly tired.

I passed one of many memorials. Some of these have been raised in memorium to pilgrims who have died on the route. They are so melancholy. The realisation that someone died on that spot, just feet from where I was walking was a stark reminder that the Camino is not all fun and games.

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snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela

As I passed through a tiny hamlet, a wizened old lady was gathering bundles of hay and carrying them along to a barn – I mused at how different life is between here and the UK. Shortly after that I walked beneath a grapevine covered tunnel and was reminded of the snake I’d seen in the last vineyard….eeeek!!

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vineyards – snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela

The arrows were really inventive and as usual the route is really well marked. Unless you stray off course there really is no reason to get lost.

It’s 10:51 and I’ve stopped briefly for a break. 7.66 kms covered so far. I’m feeling stronger and full of energy. My ankle, strapped securely, is holding up well. This gorgeous little boy has decided to hitch a ride to Santiago 😍😍😍 isn’t he a beauty!!

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signs along The Way – snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela. A wee kitty hitching a ride

15.052 kms to Santiago and it’s still raining. I had read that it rains a lot in Santiago so I wasn’t too surprised.

Another of the very fierce animals I met along the way LOL This little boy just loved having someone stop and talk to him with a bit of a pet through the fence. I had noticed another lady also stop before I got there and then after I walked on, someone else also stopped to chat and pet, so I’m guessing he has wised up to the free love. Clever boy. Not long after that, just a few feet in fact, a wee girlie slunk up and looked for some loving too 🙂 She followed me for ages and despite me picking her up and taking her back to her house, she just followed again and eventually I gave up and just ignored her. She eventually turned back and went home.

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signs along The Way – snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela and some of the very fierce animals

I’ve stopped for food 😊😊 Just delaying the inevitable. Walked 9.96 kms so far and 14.664 kms to go. I’ve met some of the really fierce animals along The Way today 😍😍😍 That dog just loved having his nose tickled. The little cat followed me for ages. Mind you she followed everyone. 😇😇 I’m having such an amazing day. The kms are just flying by, the pilgrim’s are all full of joie de vie and there seems to be a spring in their step. I know there is one in mine!!! I’m trying very hard to not think about arriving in Santiago, coz each time I do, I well up with tears. 😂😂😂 nearly there and it hardly seems possible.

14.5kms to Santiago – Some of the markers along the route were very decorative and I could feel my excitement escalating with every one I saw.

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14.5 kms to Santiago! signs & towns along The Way – snapshots of Spain

I stopped in O Faramello for lunch and a drink; tuna mayonnaise (hot) on a baguette and a glass of the heavenly orange juice. The food in Portugal and Spain always managed to surprise me…when I was expecting it to be cold, it was hot, and when I expected hot, it was cold!!! I was tempted to buy the cake on offer…hot or cold?

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urban decay along The Way; O Faramello – snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela

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Stopping for lunch in O Faramello on The Way to Santiago de Compostela

12.901 kms to Santiago – wheeeee 🙂 so excited now. I passed a little church; Capilla de Francos, Abierta. Doors closed sadly.

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Capila on The Way to Santiago de Compostela

The markers were becoming more colourful now 🙂 The landscape really beautiful I passed a sleepy hamlet where I saw a flock of exotic ducks or were they geese, waddling across the road. Mostly the villages are virtually deserted…I hardly saw anyone besides the pilgrims, who were now quite numerous and I was seldom alone.

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this way…..

The Camino Português takes you through some of the most beautiful countryside as well as busy towns and urban sprawl.

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beautiful countryside in Galicia

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Rio Tinto!!! Camino Português Galicia, Spain

Rio Tinto!!!! Have I been teleported to the Wild West? Where’s that dude on his horse? I just laughed when I saw this. Too funny. My emotions were very raw by now and anything, no matter how mundane, had the capacity to make me either laugh or cry….

As I reached this little bridge my excitement went through the roof!!! OMG just look at that!!! 10.166 kms to go to Santiago. I’m more than halfway there 😁😁😁😊😊👏👏 Wowwww.

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10.1666 kms to Santiago de Compostela

Overwhelmed by emotion I had to just sit down to gather myself. While I was just sitting there at the marker and reflecting on how far I’ve come, pilgrims whizzed by. Sometimes just a Buen Camino or a wave, other times an enquiry: are you okay? Si gracias. Just resting. When I started this journey 11 days ago I had no idea whether or not I’d even be able to walk this far. I didn’t know about all the amazing things I’d see, the fantastic countryside, the stunning churches and views, the hamlets, villages, towns and cities I’d pass through; places that were all just names on a map on 6th September. I hadn’t yet met all the wonderful people along The Way or experienced the kindness of strangers. I hadn’t practised my smidgen of the Português language and a little more of Spanish. I hadn’t yet climbed a mountain with Pepe on my back, slept in an albergue or a mixed dorm. I hadn’t crossed these foreign rivers or bridges, both real and metaphorical. Yet here I am; 230 kms on from where I left and with just on 10kms to Santiago I’m overwhelmed – emotions raged, disbelief, gratitude, excitement, wonder, amazement.

I thought Pepe and Gemini deserved some recognition so today they’re both in the picture. Despite being exceedingly heavy to pick up and put back on, Pepe (backpack) has been my constant companion and without Gemini (nordic walking poles) I doubt I would have made it without a tumble or two; together we’ve come so far. My body is doing great and I’m both exhilarated and excited, and yet sad it’s all coming to an end. The tears are flowing. I wasn’t ready to reach Santiago yet!!! I wanted this to carry on…this wonderful walking. The simplicity of just being. The pilgrim’s are whizzing by while I sit. Oh and it’s raining again 🤣🤣🤣 Raincoats on. Time to finish my journey. I’ll see you in Santiago. And once again I set off.

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that way to Santiago de Compostela

I photographed every marker from here on……

And then there was this…..

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when the next marker suddenly shows more kms to go than the last???

6,660 kms – the number of the beast apparently

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6,660 kms to Santiago de Compostela

2017.09.21 Day5/5 and 5.733 kms and I have no words 😁😁😁🤧🤧💃💃💃💕💕👏👏👏

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5,733 kms to Santiago de Compostela and it’s raining again

Just after the 4,560 km marker I came across a little wayside café; A Paradina and decided to extend the day even further, so stopped for a pee and a coffee, and a stamp for my passport. LOL.

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a paradina, galicia

While ordering my coffee, a couple of ‘pilgrims’ pitched up and very rudely demanded the stamp for their passports. No please. No thank you. Just “sello!!” grabbed it and stamped their passport and off again without so much as a by your leave. That’s just not acceptable. At least buy something, this is a business. These people are doing you a favour by providing the ‘sello’, no one has a ‘right’ to it. If you don’t have time to buy something, then leave a small donation. Pilgrims say thank you and please. Tourists demand. Be a pilgrim.

Much of the route was through green forests dripping with water, over little bridges, past intriguing gates, through tiny villages, and then…..

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the beautiful countryside of Galicia

Whattt??? You give me 2 options now!!! After 235 kms!!! Seriously dude. 😤😤 I’m going right. Because….(mostly because it was downhill LOL)

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which way to go to Santiago

Then, after heading downhill and beneath a huge motorway, and walking along some narrow lanes, at a gap in the trees I could just see on the horizon, the towers of the Cathedral. Oh wowwww. I loved the colourful houses I was now seeing. Urban sprawl.

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I can just see the towers Santiago de Compostela in the far distance

Soon the route reached the outer precincts of the city and now it’s just 2.329 kms and the route is getting manic; confusing roundabouts, traffic noise, the hustle and bustle of people. It had stopped raining by now and I was sweltering under my raincoat, so I stopped and removed the rain covers….just an excuse to delay the inevitable really LOL

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2,329 km to Santiago

I’m crying so much by this stage I find it difficult to see. I crossed paths with some of the Irish group I’d met a few days before. 🙂 We had a brief exchange of news, catching up on events and ‘how are you holding up?’…. and then I was off…a cathedral was waiting…

And before I knew it; the old city. I passed some fantastic buildings…..

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Santiago de Compostela 🙂

…..walked alongside the Alameida Park, not realising I could walk through it

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Santiago de Compostela – Rua do Franco

and then…..crossing over at the traffic lights I was confronted with the crowds…I almost had a panic attack. Rua do Franco…..the traditional route of the Portugués Camino to the Cathedral. Tears are flowing. Pilgrims in front of me, tourists and travellers…..it was so busy and noisy and overwhelming.

After walking for days with hardly seeing a soul, spending hours on my own walking through forests and fields, alongside rivers and streams and the ocean, to suddenly be confronted with hordes of people was a massive shock to my system.

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Santiago de Compostela – Rua do Franco

And as I walked, nearer and nearer… the tears just flowed….

…..at the end of the passage I could see the top of one of the towers……I cried a river…

2017.09.21 16:41 Praza de Obradoiro and 0.000kms to Santiago de Compostela 😊😊😊😊👏👏👏🤧🤧🤧 11 days 9 hours 21 minutes / 240 kms since I left Sé Catedral in O Porto in Portugal at the start of my very first Camino. I just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

I tried to make a video to send home, but I cried so much I could barely speak. What an overwhelming feeling to finally be in Santiago. Too soon. Not soon enough. I wanted to start again!! I wanted a bed!!!

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Praza de Obradoiro and 0.000kms to Santiago de Compostela

The queue at the pilgrim’s office was 1 hour and 55 minutes 😂😂😂 and worth every minute, despite my painful feet 😉👣👣🤧🤧

2017.09.21 Day 5/5 And at last journeys end; my now completed pilgrim’s passport, the Compostela and Certificate of Completion 240 kms O Porto to Santiago de Compostela.

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The Pilgrim’s Office at Santiago de Compostela, my now completed and certified Compostela and the angel I carried by my side all The Way; a gift from my daughter.

What an amazing, incredible, heart-warming, painful, emotional, exhilarating and at times exhausting but unforgettable journey. This I shall never forget. It has indeed been a buen camino; a ‘good way’ for me. I have had the most incredible journey, way way more than I ever thought possible or anticipated – from Porto to Santiago on my #Camino2017

I’m here. My hotel, Anosa Casa was in Rúa de Entremurallas, but there was a road with a similar name; Rúa de Entremuros, on the opposite side of the city….after being sent back and forth a few times, by which stage I was crying again and ready to scream, I finally logged onto the internet and looked it up on Google maps (a life saver). So, after getting my Compostela it took nearly an hour to find my hotel……I was a very unhappy bunny.

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hoorah!! my bed 🙂

The hotel had said they were close to the cathedral, they just didn’t say on which side of the city LOL As it turns out I had virtually walked right past the road on my way in along Rúa do Franco as I entered the city. After checking in and reaching my room, within an hour I was showered, teeth cleaned and sans supper, in bed! Time to sleep….I didn’t stir till 8am the next day. Exhausted on so many levels. But I was here…….Santiago 🙂

Keep the ocean on your left and head north……a journey to Santiago de Compostela.

Going back to the beginning….leaving Porto on the 11th of September 2017

 

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

inspirational quotes

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

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

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

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

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

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 🙂 – heading now towards 1000 miles

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

packing for the camino de santiago

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

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

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

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

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

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

camino de santiago porto to santiago

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

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

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

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

camino de santiago porto to santiago

Inspirational quotes

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

my camino 2017 porto to santiago

sowing the seeds of my adventures

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

portuguese coastal route mapacoastal

The Portuguese Coastal and Central routes

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

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

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

Somehow this looks awfully far…..

 

 

 

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

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

camino 2017

Camino de Santiago

Buen Camino….

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

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

Other blogs I’ve written about the impending Camino

Camino 2016, my way

My Camino the journey so far

My Camino 2017

On the road and what to pack #Camino2017

Pilgrimage – the road to Santiago

The Spirit of the Camino

Walking the Camino and lessons learned

Harrassment on the Camino

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Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in the footsteps of Geoffrey Chaucer.

6 years ago, after discovering the George Inn in Southwark and seeing the Chaucer window in Southwark Cathedral I was inspired by my love of London, the River Thames, my love of walking and my interest in Chaucer to follow in his footsteps to Canterbury.

Although I did indeed complete the walk from Southwark Cathedral to Greenwich, life got in the way and I never completed the rest of the journey.geoffrey-chaucers-probable-route-to-canterbury-pic-via-httpfaculty-arts-ubc-casechard346map-htm1

However, since I’ll be walking the Camino de Santiago this year in September, I decided that not having completed my journey to Canterbury is just not on! So as part of my Camino training and in order to complete one journey before the next, I resolved to walk from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in July of this year over a period of 4 days. This will not only complete my original journey, but will add 60+ miles to my walk 1000 miles challenge (#walk1000miles) and enroute I will visit a few cathedrals, a couple of UNESCO World Heritage sites and hopefully add one or two new places to Project 101.

To this end I have continued apace with my Camino practice walks (640 miles since January 1st 2017)….only now I am carrying my lovely new Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest 40 litre backpack with me…75% loaded. I did try one day to carry it fully loaded (8.5 kgs) but I nearly put myself on the ground in agony! So I emptied the water bladder and removed my toiletries and for the month of June and part of this month till I leave for my walk I’ve been practising with 5kgs on my back and slowly built it up to 7kgs.

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

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

It’s been heavy going and I can see the impact the weight has on my joints and my back, as well as which I am constantly tired. But persevere I must as time is fleeting and although its now July and not April, I can identify with Chaucer’s comment: On Wednesday 18 April, I stood in Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting wet: an April shoure soote was piercing me to the roote. Some days walking with the Osprey has had me feeling like the backpack was ‘piercing me to the roote’. LOL

Chaucer and his merry band of pilgrims left from an inn called the Tabard Inn and although the Tabard Inn no longer exists, I shall repair to the George Inn, the last of the medieval London Coaching Inns, for a meal on the night before I begin my journey. I’m not sure what to eat; fish and chips with mushy peas or sausage and mash with onions…but one thing is for sure….I will be having a glass or two of a suitable brew!!

the george inn

pulling a pint at the George Inn in 2011

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387–1400 of a journey taken by himself and a number of pilgrims from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

In the year 1387, Geoffrey Chaucer and his motely band of pilgrims gathered in the yard of The Tabard Inn before setting off on their pilgrimage to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. They travelled mostly on foot but in one or two of the images I have seen of Chaucer on his pilgrimage he is usually seated on a four-legged animal…ergo a horse.

geoffrey chaucer canterbury tales pilgrims route to canterbury

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

Therefore I shall endeavour to travel by foot for as much of the way as I can and revert to horse-power if and when necessary.  I have carefully worked out my daily routes, taking distance into account, and will follow as closely as possible the same route that Chaucer followed….with 2 exceptions: from Southwark Cathedral in London – I will follow the banks of the Thames to Greenwich and from there to Erith

southwark cathedral and geoffrey chaucer

Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship since 606AD

….the road that Chaucer travelled along from Southwark towards Deptford; Tooley Street, is now a very busy, polluted highway with hundreds of cars, trucks and whatall travelling along and frankly; it’s unpleasant. The 2nd exception will be between Dartford and Rochester. Dartford is not a lovely place to spend the night (sorry folks 😉 ), so once I reach the town I’ll take a 7,000 horse-powered vehicle in the form of a train from there to Gravesend (which is not where Chaucer stopped), but since this is my journey…..

As a prelude to the journey I shall once again visit some of the places that were around in Chaucer’s day….albeit today they are somewhat altered and some even have different names.

London Bridge – in Chaucer’s day (14th C): Late Medieval: the Peter de Colechurch Bridge – There was a Stone Gate House on the bridge and on its roof stood poles where traitors’ heads were placed. This practice started in 1304 and continued until 1678.  In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell’s head was placed on one of the poles.
Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship on this site since 606AD –  a medieval priory which today has become Southwark Cathedral.
Winchester Palace – the remains/ruins of a 12th century palace, London residence of the Bishops of Winchester.
The Clink Prison – 1144-1780 now a museum – The Clink Prison Museum is built upon the original site of the Clink Prison which dates back to 1144 making it one of England’s oldest, if not the oldest Prison.  Now a museum (great fun for a visit)

Saint George the Martyr Church on Borough High Street – a church that was in existence during the 14th Century and before. The earliest reference to this church is in the Annals of Bermondsey Abbey, which claims that the church was given by Thomas de Ardern and Thomas his son in 1122.

And of course The George Inn – in it’s present incarnation, having gone through a number of fires over the years, and rebuilt.  The George Inn was situated next door to the Tabard Inn from whence Chaucer commenced his journey to Canterbury.

On Sunday 9th July, I will stand opposite Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting ………wet? Who knows….we often have rain in July…..but I have a poncho 😉

I’ll be posting photos on instagram as I go and updating my progress. If you’d like to follow along you can find me @notjustagranny and the hashtags I’ll be using are #SouthwarktoCanterbury and #inthefootstepsofChaucer amongst others.

Hope to see you there and if you happen to see me along the way….say hello 🙂

And so to Canterbury……..

southwark to canterbury in the footsteps of chaucer

This plaque on Titsey Hill on the North Downs shows various routes and distances to faraway places….one of which is Canterbury…53 miles from the Titsey Estate

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After my stint in Co. Wicklow where I worked for 3 weeks, I decided to spend a few days in Belfast and explore this city I had last seen 10 years ago. As part of my Project 101, I planned to visit Belfast Castle, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway…amongst other explorations. I had a fantastic 4 days and before long the time whizzed by and so my time in Belfast came to an end – all too soon.

Explore Belfast - Northern Ireland

Explore Belfast – Northern Ireland

I had to be up early, no lingering in bed as I had to get to the station and back to Dublin in time for my flight to Heathrow. After a hearty breakfast, at 08:45 I left the BnB and walked to the bus-stop and so the the station for the train back to Dublin enroute to Broadstairs…13 hours travelling door-to-door 🤣🤣🤣😔😔 oh well. I actually got to Belfast station 45 minutes early, which is so much less stressful than rushing to get there on time, but due to the station personnel being ever so NOT helpful, I was directed to the wrong place and despite being early I eventually ended up at the back of a very long queue that snaked out the station. Sometimes I think they do that just to annoy the traveller….misdirect you that is!!

Travelling from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland is surreal…..one second you’re on UK time then next on EU time. There are no discernible borders, so unless you know at which station you’re entering or leaving the UK, you’d have no idea just by looking out the window of the train. Talking of which, the scenery in Ireland is just stunning.

I had a fantastic 4 days, saw some amazing places, visited the Dark Hedges,

the dark hedges northern ireland

The Dark Hedges – scenes for Game of Thrones were shot in this area

Bushmills (as in the whiskey),

explored the Giant’s Causeway,

saw Dunluce Castle that appears to cling precariously to the clifftop,

dunluce castle

Dunluce Castle; a now-ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland. It is located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim. Built by the MacQuillan family around 1500, the earliest written record of the castle was in 1513.

saw the most spectacular coastline along the east coast to Carnlough

carnlough county antrim

Carnlough – from Irish Carnlach, meaning ‘place of cairns. A village in Co. Antrim is has the prettiest harbour

where we found a delightful little harbour and stopped for an ice-cream (delicious).

stunning Co. Antrim coastline

stunning Co. Antrim coastline

I climbed Cave Hill (370 meters/1200 feel above sea level) with fantastic views of the city and lagoon, stood in a 1000 year-old hill fort,

visited Belfast Castle,

Belfast Cathedral and the Town Hall,

walked along the river Lagan, visited the Titanic Quarter and Queen Island,

saw extraordinary yet poignant murals and memorials on the streets of Belfast; Shankill Road, Crumlin Road and Antrim Road,

depicting history I learned about in school – absolutely fascinating!!  I walked and walked and walked over the 3.5 days covering well over 60kms, and above all I had superb weather with temperatures in the high 20’s – how marvellous are our summer days!

The Waterworks Belfast

The Waterworks Belfast with Cave Hill to the right

It was overcast on my last day with some rain in Dublin and thankfully a lot cooler. Much as I love summer, I cannot bear humidity.

Once I arrived in Belfast city centre I walked to the station via St George’s Market; a lively, colourful venue for good fresh food. I had coffee there the day before with the host at the AirBnB and spent a few minutes walking around just looking at all there was on offer. Loved every minute of my stay.

Belfast, I’ll be seeing you again…

Once at the airport there was sheer chaos. As usual when you have an enquiry at the airport you get sent from pillar to post and back again….I needed my boarding pass printed so went to the customer services desk for AerLingus…..the woman behind the counter was not very friendly and chastised me for coming to the counter (bloody cheek), but printed the pass anyway…why not just do it without the accompanying attitude.  Anyway, it appears that British Airways had a computer meltdown and AerLingus are affiliated so I’m guessing there was a lot of pressure. I was instructed to check in my own suitcase (nerve-wracking) but at least now I know how to do it. And then I had to weight it and send it off along the conveyor belt into the depths of the airport …also something I had not done before, so I stood behind a couple who were doing it, made a comment of the procedure and they kindly assisted me on the ‘how to’ and now I have learned 2 new travel processes LOL.

Anyway at least my bag arrived on the same plane and at the same time as I did in London, unlike the thousands of travellers affected by the BA computer melt-down whose bags went into the abyss.

I loved the fab new sculpture at Heathrow arrivals: pretty awesome. Then onto the tube, and finally onto a train to home…..my daughter picked me up at the station at 21;35…..

broadstairs kent

Viking Bay, Broadstairs, Kent

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