Mini-vaca in a beach town

Tuesday, September 18. This morning, I can’t say I “awakened” because I hardly slept all night. Went to bed at ten, woke up at midnight for the bathroom and then could not go back to sleep. I hate these nights. My watch and phone illuminted the time for me . . . 1:15, 2:10, 3:30, 4:25, and then thankfully, I must have had a bit of rest again, because when the phone alarm did its banjo alert at 6:45 (and then 7:00 and then 7:30), I groaned myself awake and staggered out of bed.

Packing up all the e-bag cubes into my backpack has become an efficient habit, especially since I typically lay out fresh underwear, shirt, socks, packet of pills, etc. before I go to bed. Ria had again scouted out a place for coffee and a pastry (I don’t like the Portuguese pastries all that much . . . too many with cream filling and not enough fruit!) so I sling/fling my pack on my back, buckle up, check the room one last time, and head out in the near dark hallways, hoping those automatic lights will go on as I hit the stairs.

Tiptoeing past the dozen or so young late-comers who ended up with places to sleep on the floors everywhere (geez, I’m glad I’m old and that I was early to register at the albergue yesterday afternoon), I make my way among the yawning and stretching pilgrims on the floor and breathe fresh, if humid, air out in the courtyard.

Lemon tea and an apple pastry (the best I can choose, I guess), and Ria and I head toward the sea, past those wonderful umbrellas, hearts, etc. decorating the old town streets, and finally, finally get to the water. The pattern for weather in the early morning is about 60 degrees, and 93% humidity so far. I have plenty of water, but even the sea walk requires a break every once in awhile, but for 5 hours I walk without seeing a café, a bathroom, a bar, a house or town, nothing on my way.

I sit twice on carved granite blocks next to boardwalks, finally making myself take off my shoes for a toe-rest, eating a piece of bread from last night’s dinner, ducking between the sea and one of those old stone buildings to pee, hoping that the “something up ahead” turns out to be an open place of business. But it never does turn out that way.

In that 5 hours with no bar or café, here’s what I noticed . . . cairns all along the rocky shore, lots of them.  As I walk, noticing more and more of these carefully stacked flat stones, I wonder why I don’t stop to make one of my own.  Just too hesitant to take off the pack, the jacket, etc. and take a cairn break.  I talk with myself as I pass each one.  Surely there is plenty of rock fodder which could be part of a personal creation.  There’s a question to ponder as a metaphor for some other things I no longer do spontaneously.

Many of these along the way in this area . . .

Snails s-l-o-w-l-y trying to cross the boardwalk. I found this one and watched it for quite some time. Then I noticed ahead of me (and of it) that many of the smaller snails were smashed, most likely by bicyclists who were going too fast to notice these tiny round brown things. So though I know I can’t save all of them, and Imight be messing with Mother Nature, I carefully picked up Mr. Huge Snail and carefully put him back down at the coast-end of the boardwalk, Not sure how he will negotiate all that rock, but he WAS heading in that direction before I messed with him.

Finally I come to a café but it’s closed. I ask a local woman, headed for the beach, if she knows of something coming soon, a place I can sit and get some food. She points toward town, this one called Carreco, and says there should be something there. So I do as directed, my phone map showing a pharmacia and somewhere beyond, a café. By the time I get to the pharmacia, I’m too hot and tired to look for the café, which might be a block or twelve from there. So I walk in and wait behind an older man who is picking up about a dozen prescriptions. The young woman pharmacist carefully packages all the boxes and bottles into a paper bag that looks like it can’t possibly hold all of the items. The man turns toward the exit and the pharmacist looks up at me.

“I need a taxi to Via Praia de Ancora”, I say, and she smiles, points to the man, and says, “There is the taxi driver”, and calls to the man nearly out the door. He turns, looks at me, points to his waiting taxi in the parking lot, and I follow him.

Taxi karma? I give him the address of the apartment I have reserved for Ria and myself 8 km north, and he seems to know exactly where it is. Indeed, he drives to the entrance of the Apartamentos Turisticos, calls to a man washing his car next to the entrance, and the man turns and beckons to me. I pay my €55 and walk down the hall, open the door to what I consider an enormous “apartment” with kitchen, living room/bedroom, patio, and a very large bathroom. Wow . . .

Leaving everything on the bed and chair, I scout out a restaurant on walkway across from the beach. Before I left on this trip, I told my friend Judy that I would take my time, walk a distance that was just more than comfortable, and if I found a quaint little area, I just might stay an extra day . . . and THIS is the place, I’m sure of it.

My beach mini-vacation spot

At the restaurant, munching on a huge salad niçoise, I receive a text from Ria. She will be in the town in about 45 minutes. I tell her I will be able to see her from my chair at the restaurant, and will waive her over to my table.

Soon she is eating the other half of my salad, and then we both settle into the apartment, doing laundry, taking showers, etc. I tell her I won’t walk the next day, but will stay and write a bit.I take a nap (naps are underrated . . . I never take one at home. That might have to change), and we venture around the corner to another restaurant I discovered this afternoon, where a nice woman serves me sea bass (and I negotiated a salad instead of the punched potatoes). The fresh green beans aren’t even overcooked, though there is enough on the plate for three people. I eat what I can, we walk back to our apartment, and crash.

Posted in Boardwalks and sand paths, Camino Portugues, Hiking oceanfront, Women Walking | 6 Comments

Viale do Castelo and then on my feet again

NOTE: Forgot to track my distance on the 16th. 13.9 km.

My daily view – tough to take

MONDAY – September 17. Up at a decent hour from our room in the green hotel, and Ria had already scouted out a bakery for tea and crumpets. She also found an optician right around the corner and will go there after it opens.

Today is the “to do” day, at least this morning:

  • Get Ria’s glasses fixed
  • Find a post office so I can send on 1.5 kg of stuff I find I don’t need enough to carry (AGAIN?)
  • Await the opening of the Tourist Information office (if they EVER open), for a bus schedule so we can ride basically 3 days worth of walking, from Povoa de Varzim to Viana do Castelo.

By 11:00, we have accomplished all these things. Ria’s glasses now have rose-colored stems (she emphatically dislikes them, but at least she can wear the glasses now), my little package has been sent to the post office (Correos) in SDC, and we have our bus schedule times.

We pack up and are delighted to find that the bus stop is directly across from our green hotel, and that we JUST have time to make the 11:45 a.m. run, rather than have to kill another 75 minutes until the 1:00 bus. So on we go.

The bus ride is, predictably a stop and go ride through the smaller areas on the way to Viale do Castelo, though at one stop, three German pilgrims board and I hear a shout from both Ria and the woman in the entering group.  They have met on another Camino stint a few years ago, so while they catch up, I doze. We enter a larger town/city, with strange upper and lower main roads, and  finally Ria spots the municipal albergue in the short distance so we disembark along with the three German friends, and walk to get our beds.

We are early and the rooms are not yet available, but I hope I can get a ‘baja’, a lower bunk, and Ria says, “You will get one.  You’re old.”  We laugh.  Turns out, the man (who is also not a spring chicken) gives us a private twin-bedded room.  Apparently we are both old.  No matter.  Whatever gets us the private place.  But we can’t get into the rooms for another hour or two, so we wander down into the coastal part of the town.  Here we are delighted to find a not-uncommon sight in the streets:

At night, these are lit up and I’m sorry we didn’t get to see them in the dark.

Whimsey in the streets

We wander under these colorful umbrella-peppered blue skies, not even caring whether the decorations were for a specific festival or just because it’s a beautiful autumn in northern Portugal.

It’s past time to actually get to our rooms, so we wend our way back to the albergue, where the man, in speedy Spanish, gives a little orientation to us and to a half dozen young people, “Here is where you can go out and come back in, no coming back in the front door, here is the laundry area, and here is the courtyard where you hang your clothes up, and here are the stairs to your rooms, etc. etc. etc.”  So we follow him and are finally shown to a twin-bedded room with a window and tiny private bath.  The settling routine is . . . well, routine, by now.  Unpack what I need, wash what is in my white mesh bag, hang it somewhere to dry and hope it’s dry by morning, extract toothbrush, toothpaste, apnea mouth guard, shampoo, tonight’s meds and tomorrow’s vitamins from their bag, get out tomorrow’s clothes and tonight’s sleeping gear (this changes daily, depending on how hot I was the night before), and then I take a nap.  I haven’t walked much today, but around our previous and current towns, but managed to put nearly 10 km on my phone’s heart-site, and the effect of the past days of walking is cumulative.

By 9:00 p.m., I’m ready for dinner.  Fish is usually in front of me as I walk these coastal towns.  Why not?  I can eat Dorada and Bream and Sea Bass for days on end, though the mounds of “punched” potatoes (whole potatoes, skins on, that are smashed once and put on your plate) and overcooked vegetables remain after only the bones of the fish accompany them.  Is this the place I had the worst panna cotta ever, though until now, I have never met a panna cotta I didn’t love? But this was grainy, gritty, and not creamy at all. Sigh.  Maybe it was last night.  I can’t remember where, but I surely know the fact of my disappointment.

Tomorrow it’s back on my coastal walking feet.

Signs that I’m on the right path

 

 

 

Posted in Miscellany | 6 Comments

On The Boardwalk

September 15-16, 2018: Matosinhos to Povoa de Varzim

Before I began this Camino, I promised myself I would travel only what was a bit farther than comfortable . . . I’ve done two full Caminos in the past and have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else . . . Ria has walked more than twice the number of Camino paths than I have done, and she agreed.  Not only do we agree, but there are not enough days in my travel plans to allow either of us to walk the entire way to Santiago de Compostela (SDC), so we already know that buses or taxis are in our future for the next two weeks.  We will walk and then leap frog from here to SDC.

I also told friends that if I find a nice little beach town, I might settle in there for an extra day, just because, and I hope I will find that along the way. So here we go!

Saturday, we began just north of Porto on the coast at Matosinhos, the suggested start for this Senda Litoral (literally the “coastal path”), with beach, boardwalk, families swimming, playing in the sand.  Children with brown bodies and board shorts, little dogs walking everywhere, running to catch up with their owners, then stopping to sniff and sniff again.

Beach bars/cafes one after another for awhile, all with the same “toasta” with butter or “mixed” (with melted ham and cheese).  Then a span of just beach, rocks, native grasses and flowers, the boardwalks, hard sand paths, cobblestones and pavers stringing towns with one another through the sea wilderness.

The boardwalks don’t do well with walking sticks unless one has those rubber caps on the ends.  Mine do not, but Ria has an old pair she loans me.  Unfortunately, a few yards down the way, the boardwalk slat eats one of my “new” caps, so now I’m sort of a limp-along walker, because otherwise I’m pulled backward about every other step, left stick stuck in the space between the boards.  Sigh.

No matter my great effort, my backpack seems too heavy, because it’s my first day.  I did no training for this Camino, so I’m definitely waiting for the Camino to train me.  But two Granny Smith apples and two wedges of Parmesan cheese do not help lighten my load.

I see very few pilgrims today, perhaps a dozen or so, all German, it seems.  Ria and I part after half a day because she still walks faster than I do,  But we will meet in La Bruge tonight at a private guest house at which I have reserved a room for us.  Very nice, newly renovated, but unfortunately the owner forgot to “renovate” the barking dogs out of the neighborhood.  They kept us awake on and off throughout the night.  At one point, I (very ineffectively) shouted, “QUIET!” out the window, but perhaps the dogs only spoke Portuguese.

Speaking of the Portuguese language, it doesn’t sound like any language with which I am familiar.  Sort of Spanish Russian, and all I know is “obrigado”, the Portuguese word for “thank you”, and “bom dia”, the typical greeting, so similar to Spanish.  But to listen to conversations as I walk, still, PortoRuski with a lot of “x”s and extra “h”s in the words!

I’m again trying to get the hang of inserting photos into the posts, so my imperfect efforts will have to do at this point. A clump and then more narrative.

Their comforting caw accompanies every step of my walk

Boardwalk above coastline


What a strange sight! Similar to the Cowboy Bar on the Camino Frances.

First walking day – 16.8 km. Matosinhos to LaBruge

Sunday – Good breakfast at Casa de Praia in La Bruge, and then off again to the boardwalk, headed for a bed in a small hotel in Povoa de Varzim.  Again, Ria and I waved good luck to one another, and her speedy little body put more and more space between us.

I see already that I can’t escape my Colorado life, because I have had to schedule a phone appointment with my Vermont attorney for some real estate business.  I stop in Mindelo for more toastas and a sparkling water, retrieved my computer from my pack, and had my conversation with Bill.  Buiness accomplished.  But before and after that call, my walk was comforting in its repeat of yesterday.  Boardwalks, stone paths, hard sandy paths, towns and then no towns, towns and then no towns,  The families still out for their weekend excursions with little ones, both children and doggies.

Lets me know I’m on the right path to Santiago!

I am tired, though I realize I’m constantly tired, no matter what country I’m in, so nothing for it but to keep walking.  Sometimes a change of shoes, from my Keen Targhee IIs to the Teva hiking sandals, which does give some relief.  Now that I have a new pair of orthotics, I feel my first two toes pushed more to the front of the shoes, which doesn’t help when I have 20+ pounds on my back as well. Changing to the sandals does help, though I can’t just carry the Keens . . . adding even MORE weight to my pack. I suppose this computer could be ditched, but it’s not going to be my first choice . . . maybe my swiss army knife will have to go, along with the sunscreen (hey, I’m Italian/Lebanese), the arnica cream, and my compass (I have one on my phone anyway).

Just as I thought I was getting to the end of the day’s walk, I approached Vila da Conde, whose coastal path takes a detour around a river port in the middle of town, adding another 6 km to the journey.  Lovely walk, but more than I was prepared for.  Stopped for another “toasta mixta”, basically two pieces of Wonder Bread, toasted enough to melt the ham and cheese inside, but not the bread itself.  Then spread with butter on the outside, making for a greasy mess of basic sustenance, along with a fruit drink of some sort.  The anxious-to-please young man behind the counter assured me, “You will like it, you will like it, yes?”  And I did like the juice.  What was not to like about this sandwich?  But for the Wonder Bread . . .

By the time I found the water again, I was done for the day.  A taxi on a Sunday is hard to find, but a nice hostess at an oceanside restaurant got one for me.  Not sure it was worth it, because the man looked like Wally Shawn without the intellect . . . he kept turning around to ask me where he was supposed to go, all the while driving in the Sunday traffic out of Vila de Conde.  In Povoa de Varzim, my destination, he was completely flummoxed by the address (on a main street, mind you), and I finally just asked him to stop the car.  I could walk.  He made mincing apologies, took my money and I headed for the centro.

My Google Map pointed in the direction, but I was stopped by 1) an ambulance headed for a very crowd-lined street, and I saw a woman in a Sunday dress lying on the street with people gathered around her.  Apparently too hot for her, so I skirted the chaos, prepared to walk through the crowd (obviously some sort of Sunday celebration or parade), but I was stopped by a policeman, who pointed to a parade of priests walking down the middle of the avenue.

No way was I going to wait for this parade.  A Peregrino on her own mission, I stepped as close to the curb as I could, passing the line of waiting pedestrians, and ultimately crossing the path of rows of holy men, virgins in sparkly dresses with long trains, and at the head of the line, six men hoisting The Virgin Mary on a flowered pedestal.  I almost blindly walked across the entire thing, trying not to bang anyone with my backpack or sticks.

Finally arrived at the hotel, Réve d’Or, a tall green building with a marble staircase.

Our one night humble abode

I knew Ria was already settled in the room, because I had received a text from her, but the man who wanted to put me in a different room could not understand that.  Both of our names were on the reservation, and still, I am standing in room A, while Ria is in Room G.  Finally, I hear Ria’s voice echoing through the stairwells, “Joannah?  Where ARE you?”  And the man’s wife, presumably, hustles up the stairs behind Ria to motion us to the correct room, and we are settled.  Ria has broken the stem of her glasses and will go scouting for an optician, I need to find a post office to send “a few things” on to SDC, and we agree that we will get a bus schedule so we can hopscotch 45 km tomorrow to catch ourselves up to the number of days we have remaining. Now that’s settled.  On to more imminent needs.

Shower.  Naptime.  Then dinner.

 

(NOTE TO FELLOW GRAMMAR GEEKS:  I am completely aware that my tenses change from present to past and back again. For today, my choices are two:  change all to present, which is how I typically write these, or throw up my hands and make a face.  I choose the latter.)

 

 

 

Posted in Beginnings, Boardwalks and sand paths, Camino de Santiago, Camino Portugues, Getting started, Hiking oceanfront, Women Walking | 5 Comments

Camino Portugues 2018 and Barcelona beyond . . .

BEGINNING – Friday – September 14, 2018

Well, actually, I began yesterday with an afternoon flight from Denver to Newark, connecting to Porto, Portugal. The only complication came at the beginning, since I had carefully packed my walking sticks, collapsed and tipped, wrapped in saran wrap and carefully stuffed in my backpack, as I have done once in the past.

However, TSA, in its infinite wisdom (or because of some too-highly paid middle management person) decided to change the rules for walking sticks AGAIN, and forbid them in carry-on baggage, no matter how inaccessible they are with layers of plastic wrap all around them. So I was escorted out of the security area, walked back upstairs to United Premier again, and a very nice United agent found a hard mailing tube, just large enough to smash my sticks into it. She even waived the ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR extra charge!! And since I’m TSA PreCheck, I skated back through security quickly and on to my gate with two hours to spare.

The flight to Newark was barely tolerable in regular economy, but I had the foresight to upgrade myself to Economy plus for the flight over the water. Four extra inches of leg room feels like heaven, especially on long flights. As I always do, I waited until I got the free (and more terrible every time) dinner, this time breaded, tough chicken shreds with bland rice and a few token vegetables. The roll and butter were the highlight, actually, and after my “dinner”, I took my usual ½ Ambien, and guaranteed myself four hours of sleep before landing at my destination, seven hours ahead of Denver time. I didn’t even think about my upcoming adventure yet.

Customs line was quite simple, and as I exited the passport control area, many men in suits were holding the names of their limousine passengers. Among them was a woman, short full head of hair, red shirt, holding a large piece of paper with “Ms. Joannah” scrawled on it. She ran up to me and gave me a sound hug and double-cheeked kisses. My fellow Camino traveler, Ria Paulus, German friend for the past five years, and her hearty laugh was as familiar as if I had only heard it yesterday.

We quickly gathered my backpack and carry-on suitcase, headed for the taxi stand and on to this long-planned trip, beginning in Porto at the Moov Porto Centro hotel, a very nice surprise in itself. It was too early to check in, so we stashed our bags with the receptionist, grabbed a quick coffee, and walked down to the cathedral, where I picked up the required Peregrino Credençial, properly authenticated with its first stamp. I will present this credençial, along with my official US Passport, at every albergue, pensione, and hotel from Porto to Santiago de Compostela over the next 15 days.

When friends ask (over and over again) why anyone repeats or adds to their Camino experiences, I try to answer for myself alone.  I say I want some solo time, want time to think without the thoughts constantly being the dredge of day-to-day procedures, decisions, and on and on.

On the flight over to Portugal, I began to wonder just how well I will be able to accomplish this task. Am I still free enough in my mind to let go of everything but the walk and the daydreams?  If I remember correctly, on my first Camino, it took a full two weeks before I was able to fly free in my mind.  This time, I ONLY have two weeks to walk.  Perhaps I will take all of my Coastal Way steps ruminating on my home-thoughts, rather than be able to shove them out of the way in favor of new, purer ones. I won’t know until I experience these days.

Ria Paulua holding her credencial as we step inside the Porto Cathedral to get mine.

Posted in Miscellany | 7 Comments

Tomorrow . . . it’s lift off!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It’s nearly midnight, but I just want to keep my momentum going . . . my pack is stuffed, my Barcelona suitcase is  ready to go, and I promise myself I’m going to bed.  Flight to Porto tomorrow afternoon, arrival Friday morning, Porto time, and my feet will be walking the Senda Litoral from Porto to Santiago de Compostela beginning Saturday.

Stay tuned . . .

Posted in Miscellany | 10 Comments

Camino Portugués coming up soon!

Monday, September 3, 2018

In ten days, I will pick up my backpack and board a flight to Porto, Portugal, in preparation for my third Camino de Santiago.  This time, I have chosen to walk half of the Camino Portugués, a mere two weeks of walking, approximately 250-300 km, depending on how much I can hug the coastline.  I’m loaded with information, since this particular route has fewer waymarkers (the yellow arrows and scallop shells), but if I keep the sea on my left, I think I will be fine.

No photos yet, unless I want to hold onto the memory of our guest bed strewn with items from Caminos past . . . and I hope I can cut out about 3-5 lbs of “stuff” this time.  Two new backpacks to choose from, both smaller than the one I used on the Frances and the Norte.  Things are so busy here at home that I haven’t had the opportunity to conjur up either excitement or fretfulness regarding the upcoming trip.  Is that calm I feel, knowing I’ve done this before, and have nothing to prove?  Or is it just that there are so many other thoughts and tasks ahead of me before I board the plane across the ocean?  I think the latter.

One way or another, I welcome another few weeks of my life away from all my usual interference.  My youngest son just had a beautiful wedding in LaJolla, the bills are paid, and my “to do” list is getting shorter.  Neil and Kali will take their usual ritual morning stroll around the neighborhood, and I hope they both think of me each time.

Looking forward to being back on The Way, and especially to seeing my Camino friend Ria again.  Our treat after we reach Santiago de Compostela is two-fold:  four days at the beautiful former monastery, San Martin Pinario, and after that, five days in Barcelona!

Stay tuned if you wish . . . I still write for me, and will smile and wave at those of you who are still following this oldish woman as she walks the Camino path.

 

 

 

Posted in Camino de Santiago, Camino Portugues, Getting started, Women Walking | 18 Comments

Next up . . . Camino Portugues!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 – It’s been a long time since I have written anything on this site, but tonight is a night for an announcement.  I just made my reservation for Camino #3, but this time from Porto to Santiago de Compostela.

I have been planning this for the past 2-1/2 years but now I’m committed.  Mid-September to early October, with a few days at the end in Barcelona.  One of the est things about my plan is that my dear friend Ria from Germany will start with me.  We always like to actually walk alone, but meet at the end of each day for dinner and a good bunk bed.

So it’s late, I’m tired and I don’t have a lot to say at the moment, but just wanted to put this out there, to begin  Round THREE.

Don’t know how many of you are still out there, receiving notices of this site’s writes, but I welcome all eyes and energy, so please feel free to anticipate with me!

Good night, all.

Joannah the oldish Woodswoman

Posted in Camino Portugues, Miscellany | 13 Comments