This morning we made the decision to add on a few days and do the Spiritual Variant
We had heard that it was beautiful but what we hadn’t heard is how hard the first day would be. Climbing Mount Redondo which is over a 3,300 ft climb was tough. Not many people doing this route so we pass and then get passed by same people many times during walking.
Finally, got to Albergue( 16 bunk beds in our room) and heard that there was a Pilgrim’s blessing at the Monastery at 7:00. We thought it would be a good idea to eat dinner before bc we hadn’t had any opportunity to eat. The only place to eat in town was a bar and we found out that they don’t serve food until 7:00 so we just had a drink and watched 3 bus loads of people go into monastery for a wedding. The guests were dressed incredibly – men in tuxedos some with tails; women in formal gowns.
Go to pilgrim’s blessing and discover that a wake is going on but the nuns will do blessing at end. I’m still not sure if the open casket was the man or a prop bc it was pretty skeletal. We lasted a few songs in Latin before leaving.
We went to bar for dinner and sat with 6 other pilgrims and had a great evening sharing stories about Camino and why each person was doing it and how many times each have already completed. No one was on their first Camino.
First, rewind to last night: we did laundry and after bringing it down 4 floors to our room, I discover that there is an article of clothing that is not ours. I seriously did not want to go up and down 4 flights again but it is what it is. Find lady hanging up her laundry and clothing belongs to her. Briefly chat. Then at dinner when Cooper and I were sitting at a table outside in a square, lady and daughter come over and chat. Very lovely people. We ask if they want to walk with us tomorrow- leave at 6:30am.
After walking for about an hour, we come across a gal with a table selling Camino souvenirs. Amanda goes to purchase something and discovers that her wallet is missing. They call for taxi to take them back to hotel and we exchange numbers. Cooper and I walk at least another 50 minutes and stop at a cafe for Cooper’s first chocolate croissant of day which was lackluster. Upon leaving cafe, we see Isabella and Amanda. They had found wallet and taken taxi back to random spot to continue walking which happened to be at the cafe we were at.
The Hostel that we stayed in just opened this week. We are first people to stay in 4 person room and had it all to ourselves. Room had own air conditioning control and 2 flat screen tv’s. I was so tired and did not want the grand tour that went on and on. Got to our room and I say to Cooper “ Julio is too chatty for me showing us every floor and every room!” Cooper said “he is just proud of his new place.” Ok. I now feel an inch tall and attitude was checked. Thank you Coopie.
We wander around the town being silly before meeting Isabella and Amanda for dinner at 8:00 at a fancy restaurant.
Walking back to hostel after dinner finished at 10:30, we notice that every table at every restaurant and cafe is full. People eat much later here.
It is said that there is nothing random on the Camino. 1: Laundry item mixed in our clothes 2: I decide to return item at exact moment Amanda is putting her clothes out. 3: Isabella and Amanda walk by at exact restaurant at exact moment that we are outside 4: upon returning from wallet hunt they stop taxi at exact spot we are coming out of cafe. Those are a lot of incidents that had to happen at perfect times. I’m so glad that they did because we had a very lovely day with new friends.
Since we are carrying over 3 pounds of water, we have trimmed down on other things in our backpack. Cooper has few snacks and I have a big bag of supplies like bandaids, drugs, tape, Cooper’s contacts, needle with thread etc. We took out our rain jackets and back pack covers to lighten. After leaving hotel at 6:45 am, I glanced at weather. 2 hours of expected rain. Perhaps I should have checked prior to leaving hotel. Luckily, we outran the rain and only experienced 3 drops. I use term of outrun in jest. We walked 20 miles in 5.5 hours. We are outrunning nothing and no one.
Passed through small villages where not a single cafe or restaurant is open. No place to buy/find water. Thankfully we had full 2 liter water bladders and extra water bottles each. Never completely ran out of water before finding more but got close.
We passed time playing alphabet game “ I went to supermercida and bought apricots, banana, cheese, donut…..” several rounds of that.
Arrows pointed us up a mountain and it was tough. We had to take several sitting down breaks when we found shade. First time that I thought we might not be able to make it. Lack of shade, high heat, rough terrain and over 2,000 feet of altitude climb made that one heck of a mountain.
Got to Hostel in Baiona around 4:00pm. 10 hours of walking. Our 2 Italian friends that we keep running into are here with us plus 4 of the guys from our crossing the border boat ride.
Made a small sandwich at Hostel to eat on the run for breakfast.l leaving around 7:30.
Didn’t exactly get lost but didn’t exactly follow the arrows either. 1 nice older gentleman saw us and walked us down a hill to a “better path”. He did not speak a bit of English but radiated kindness. Walked on boardwalks, through farmlands and along highway.
We were too tired to sit at cafe so went to Supermercido- size of our family room. Got cereal, milk, bananas, yogurt and cookies for dinner and ate poolside.
Left at 7:00 am to beat heat. 🤣😂🤣. Did not arrive until 5:00pm. So many long stretches on boardwalks with no access to water, shade, bench or WC. Ran out of water even tho we each were carrying 2 liters. 2 Pilgrims from Columbia were struggling also and had ran out of water asking if we had any. Finally, came across a village and were able to fill up. Full transparency- we only had over 2 miles to get to hostel and I tried to call an Uber. No Ubers out in country so we hobbled to hostel. Still took over 80 minutes through farmland to go 2 miles.
1 bunk mate was from Taiwan and the nicest gentleman who complimented Cooper and was envious that a son would want to walk with a parent as his do not. 2 other gentlemen from Italy who were surprised that we walked as far as we did.
After having breakfast at hotel, we leave at 8:30. We want to start our Camino at the official starting point, the Cathedral, even tho that means we add extra distance and have to back track.
At first, there were plaques in streets and painted yellow arrows but very quickly those stopped. We just tried to navigate getting to river and keeping it then ocean on our left as we walked. No signs or arrows for 3 hours.
Today we walked on many surfaces: cobblestone streets- gruesome with the turning and twisting on weak ankle, asphalt- hot, gravel, boardwalk.
The whole day had zero zilch shade. The first 5 hours didn’t have even a breeze. Then holy cow the wind picked up and the last 2.5 hours we were walking against the wind. I could feel it push me sideways. These last hours I had to concentrate on walking for just 5 more minutes then starting the 5 minutes over. I about started crying with the pain in my hips, back, calves, knees, feet, and that darn ankle. Okay If Cooper would have given the okay, I would have called an Uber!
I remembered the first day we did The French Camino and crossing The Pyrenees was brutal. That first night, I cried and cried in the shower from pain and exhaustion. I’m hoping that we will build our stamina quickly like we did on our first Camino.
Diner was at a restaurant overlooking the ocean. We split a pizza and don’t know if it was delicious in its own right or the fact that we were super hungry. Returned to the beach to watch the sunset after relaxing in room.
Breakfast at our hotel, Holiday Inn Express, was decent – yogurt, various breads, pastries de Nata, scrambled eggs, ham and cheese slices, various juices and cereal. Walked to The Clergos Tower – iconic symbol of Porto, to meet our Tuk Tuk driver. Thought getting a 90 minute driving tour would orient me to city and save some wear and tear on feet.
Interesting fact: this plaque shows how many bells that fire tower would ring for each area of city. For example if there was a fire near cathedral area, then bell would ring 7 times to let volunteers know to go to that area to help put out fire. Pre telephone era.
Azulejos, blue tile, is abundant throughout Porto
Trying the famous Francesinha sandwich which is two types of homemade sausage, ham, steak, bologna stuffed between two thick layers of bread topped with lots of gooey cheese in a thin tomato beer gravy. Verdict – for us – glad we got a half portion and split it. Not bad just not fantastic. Hazelnut chocolate mousse for dessert.
We walked across the river on Luis 1 bridge to Gaia where the wineries are. Stumbled on Kopke which is oldest wine house in Porto. Cooper and I each had a separate tasting and had fun rating each one. Thank goodness for the crackers and chocolates which we preferred to the actually wine. Took cable car back to top of bridge.
The Chalet provides breakfast but at a nearby cafe. The food was abundant and delicious. Started with a bit of yogurt with friend fruit and nuts along with basket of 3 different breads and fresh squeezed orange juice. Then we got a plate with slice of quiche, ham and cheese and avocado With a petit bite size sweet. Super yummy. I mentioned that I loved them to the gal and she packed us 2 to go. She also packed my leftover quiche, ham and cheese and made a jelly sandwich. All to eat for lunch later. Finished with huge, I mean gigantic mug/bowl of hot chocolate. Thicker consistency than we are use to. More between hot chocolate and thin pudding. Fabulous
After breakfast we took an Uber up to Peña Palace. It would have taken an hour to walk and we didn’t have the time. Small narrow roads that twist and turn. Long wait to go inside Peña Palace. Once inside you stay in line and follow through the rooms. Fairly interesting but 🤷🏻♀️. The architecture is quite different from other chateaux that I have seen but furniture meh. Old and musty smelling.
Next we head to Moorish Castle. Not exactly sure what it was used for. Literature says a fort but I can’t imagine who is attacking this high up the mountain! There are walls that you can walk on all around that offer nice views. Got a tad nervous of the heights. Cooper scrambling everywhere.
We stopped at a little bench and had our leftovers from breakfast before hiking back down to the center of town. It was a requirement that we get fortified with some pistachio one cream for me and mango sorbet for Cooper before walking some more.
Walked to Quinta de Regaleira – another castle but classified as World Heritage Site. Main attraction is the Initiation Well which was used for ceremonies like tarot card readings. 88 feet that spirals down.
Stopped by a little shop and got picnic supplies to eat on steps of National Palace – sandwich, fruit cup, fresh squeezed orange juice for Cooper and small ham and cheese quiche tart for me but Cooper loved it so I split with him. Got the famous pasties de Nata – crust is indescribably fabulous – like if a croissant and a phyllo had a baby – so flaky! Filling is an egg custard. Jacki loved; Cooper just okay. Jacki’s favorite meal so far.
3.5 hour bus trip from Sintra to Porto. Got to Porto around 10:30pm