Out and About in Porto

Overlooking the Port Cellars

First thing I did once checked into Porto was do a bit of clothes shopping. If I’m spending a few days in civilisation, I don’t want to look and smell like a pilgrim! It was a late one Tuesday as Hailey flew out Wednesday afternoon, thus we celebrated her last night of her Camino adventure.

Wednesday morning we went on a walking tour around Porto. We visited the main points of interest and admired the architecture. Most of the buildings had been designed by José Marques da Silva in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Two prominent buildings are the theatre and the São Bento railway station. The Funny story about them is that he forgot to factor in toilets or ticket booths!

One aspect around Porto are the blue and white mosaic tiles that adorn the buildings. In fact there are 20,000 tiles that make up the interior of the train station.

Mosaics detail the history of Portugal

The blue colouring is made from cobalt, which at the time was an expensive metal, so it was a sign of wealth; hence they are on the government and religious buildings.

The tour went past the cathedral where I had a bit of nostalgia, as two weeks ago I was there collecting my credential and setting off on the Camino Portugués.

We descended the medieval part of the city to the waterfront, calling into a bakery for chocolate cake. This was when Hailey had to leave for the airport, we hugged goodbye. It reminded me of the last day in Santiago at the end my Camino Frances; it felt like I am saying goodbye a friend I’ve known for years, not just for two weeks.

Medieval Streets

Thursday morning I visited the Bishop’s palace next to the cathedral. Porto and the region used to belong to the Catholic Church until the Portuguese civil war ousted them. So the person in power was the bishop, who thought himself as a king, thus had the palace built.

The building is dominated by the granite staircase in the centre of the building which is grandly decorated with a dome ceiling. There are many rooms for functions and greeting guests as well as a throne room!

Staircase in the Bishop’s Palace

A huge painting depicting the Napoleonic invasion of Porto and the populace fleeing the city by crossing the Rio Douro to Gaia that at the time only had one bridge consisting wooden planks on boats!

In the afternoon I went on a Port tasting tour. It is actually made on Gaia over the bridge from Porto. The tour went to three producers, starting with the bigger company Cãlem then to two micro companies.

There 4 types of Port, white, tawny, ruby and rose; my favourite was the rose. I left the tour with the buzz of 7 Ports to meet up with Alfredo for the last night of this adventure.

It was a quiet one due to going on a pub crawl the night before and the early flight in the morning.

Full Circle

I still have a week left of my leave and most of my Camino friends have either left or due to leave today. I had the option to go to Fisterra or fly back.

However checking the flights they were either too expensive or too early for me to get the bus back from Fisterra, should I continue walking.

I went for option ‘C’. I hopped on the bus with Alfredo and Hailey to Porto!

I plan to stay here until Friday, when my flight will take me back home. I’ll spend the next couple of days exploring the city since I didn’t get chance two weeks ago.

Relaxing in Santiago

I rolled out of bed around 8, enjoying the extra sleep. I went for some breakfast then had a walk around while it was quiet. I went to visit Santiago’s tomb and the cathedral.

For lunch I met up with my Camino friends and said goodbye to Jelonda, as she would be heading home. In the evening I went on a walking tour around the city.

It started in the main square outside the cathedral. The original cathedral didn’t look as grand as it does today. It was once in a Roman style, and looked very simplistic. However as the Camino grew in popularity, during the 18th century, the church built the facade that we see today.

To the left is the Paradore hotel where it will cost you a small fortune to spend a night. It was once the location where all the pilgrims stayed, but before that it was owned by the king.

The main power in Santiago belonged to the bishop, but the king made the building under his authority, and became an estate within the city, that had different laws. Somethings were legal in the building but not outside.

The building opposite the cathedral are governmental offices, including the police stations.

Gov. Building left, Paradore right

On the other side of the cathedral is the main entrance, where above the pillars on either side of the doors are strange, evil looking creatures. Which seem out of place for a cathedral.

They are meant to be lions! At the time these were carved, the stonemasons actually had never seen a lion in their life, so they did their best with descriptions and their imaginations.

There is a park that over looks the cathedral, boasting some of the best views in the city. Here there are two statues of ladies in colourful clothing.

They were fashion designers at the time of the Spanish civil war. Many of those who opposed the tyrannical government fled Santiago and hid in the surrounding countyside. These two ladies did not, and they were suspected to be protecting those who were in hiding.

They were raped, beaten and tortured almost on a daily basis, but they still walked the streets in defiance. They became symbols of the city’s stoicism.

Back into the city we were shown a building that was housing for the wealthy elite of the city. Below this in the cellar, they used to keep horses and cattle, to protect them from Galician winters.

The cellar was also where you would go to the toilet! Since then proper plumbing has been installed and they are now bars.

We were also shown a statue of the first ever pilgrim, King Alfonso II. When he was notified of the finding of St. James remains. He left his palace to see and verify the finding. So he is accredited as the first pilgrim, and the route he took was the Camino Primitivo.

Once the tour was over we all went for drinks and tortilla y potata. I said goodbye to Christin, as she has an early morning flight back home. Still being on Camino time, by 10pm we were falling asleep, so we called it a night.

Faramello to Santiago de Compostela

It was a good night sleep as we left the windows open to allow air movement, keeping the room nice and cool; also the sangre we had last night helped, as we celebrated our last night before Santiago.

We left at dawn walking in the cool misty air. As it is Sunday, most of the cafe’s were closed, so it was about an hour into the walk before we had breakfast.

The route was undulating as we approached the city and we mostly walked in silence contemplating our journey to this point. At about 5km to go, we got our first glimpse of the cathedral. We’re getting close now!

We walked through the urban outskirts then through the old town to arrive at the square outside the cathedral at 11.30am. It was a joyous moment, we all hugged and congratulated each other for completing the Camino Portugués.

We all laid down using our packs for pillows and stared at the cathedral in awe. Then to my surprise Erdal showed up! We walked together out of Vitorino, but he had to turn back to Ponte Lima due to his bad knee.

I gave him a congratulatory hug as well. He has a flight back to Germany tonight, so unfortunately he won’t be joining us all for a meal later.

We then went to get our compostelas, in the queue in front of us, was no other than Kim! After getting our certificates we all went for food and beers, where Daniel joined us as well (he arrived yesterday).

I checked into my accommodation then had a wonder around the city. I bumped into Christina who I met briefly on the Espiritual route who had been walking from Lisbon!

I also met Francina from Germany who I met in Labruja. But the Camino magic hadn’t finished yet, Jelonda then arrived! She too took the Espiritual route! All my Camino friends are now in Santiago!

At 7.30 I went to the pilgrim’s mass at the cathedral, but I wasn’t lucky this time to see the botofumerio swing.

Everyone I had been walking with since joining the central route, met up for drinks and food to celebrate our achievement. Over the next few days everyone will be leaving for home, which leaves me with the quandary with what to do next.

Vilanova to O Faramello

After breakfast in Vilanova, I made my way to the harbour to watch the fishing boats come and go while I waited for the boat to Padrón.

9.15am I was cruising up the estuary and the Rio Ulla. The boat stopped to watch a fishing boat in action, pulling the catch from the shellfish farms that dotted the waters.

Soon we reached the stone crosses that show the route into Padrón. There are three next to each other, with the central one taller than the others.

The boat pilot, said the middle one represents Santiago and the other two are for the sailers that brought his remains here. We also passed one of 5 forts that once guarded the estuary and for some reason there were Viking boats moored there?!

I don’t know why, as my pigeon Spanish couldn’t pull out enough words to understand what the pilot was saying.

We arrived into Padrón just before 11am where I headed to the town centre. Outside Iglesia de Santiago (St. James’ Church), to my surprise, Alfredo, Hailey and Christin were having brunch. My friends I had left behind in Arcade! Camino Magic!

I stopped for food before popping into the church to see the mooring post that Santiago’s boat is supposed to have been tied to, before walking on with my friends.

It was a mostly road walking again but it did pass through quiet little hamlets, no main roads. We called into the village of ‘A Picaraña’ for lunch before making the last 2km to ‘O Faramello’.

They are stopping here tonight; with luck, the albergue there still had room, so I booked in with them; there is also a washing machine! So fresh clothes for the last 14km into Santiago tomorrow!

Armenteira to Vilanova de Arousa

The albergue stirred around 6am, so I joined in and geared up for the day. 30mins later I was back on the way.

Yesterday was hills and forest, today was rivers and sea. For 13km the route follows the Rego da Armenteira and the Rio Umia. It was pitch black resulting in the use of my head torch.

The first 2km was tricky as the path was uneven with boulders and tree roots. But that subsided to easy dirt paths. It was very peaceful and fun to see bats darting after their pray in the torch light.

As dawn broke I stopped for breakfast at a restaurant then joined the Rio Umia. Ducks and herons were enjoying the early morning waters; no sound but the running water and the birds.

The Sound of Peace

At Ponte Arnelas I left the river to climb over a small hill to descend to the coast, then it was a stroll into Vilanova along the water front.

I called into the information centre to find out what I have to do about booking the boat for tomorrow; the Maritime Camino ‘Via Crucis’. This is the supposed route that brought St. James’ remains into Spain.

The route is marked with 17 stone crosses and is the only one in the world. There is an option to walk from Vilanova to Padrón, but the chance to do the Via Crucis is one I don’t want to miss.

Why the long face? It’s the Camino!

Oh! And I managed to find a place to stay, so no sports hall or sleeping under the stars. The Camino provides!

Arcade to Armenteira

It was stiflingly hot last night in the albergue and even packing my bag, had me sweating like I was climbing O Cebreiro on the Camino Frances!

It was a relief to be out walking in the cool sea air, it was also overcast. Perfecto! We crossed the bridge in to Ponte Sampoio, which was a quaint little village. From there we joined a forest track that took us up and over to a neighbouring valley.

By 10.30am we arrived in Pontevedra, that didn’t have much going for it. Only nice thing was the church, it was mostly new buildings, no historical ones.

The route out follows the railway line and to the point where I start the Espiritual Way. I had to say goodbye to my walking companion, Daniel, if all goes to plan, I’ll meet everyone in Santiago on Sunday.

The Espiritual goes up and over a hill similar to this morning, arriving at Cidrás. This is another quaint little village with narrow winding streets that sharply ascend the side of Mt. Castrove.

This began a very intense climb for the next hour or so. The Sun was at it’s zenith and there was no shade. Once at the top and 5km to go, I ran out of water.

It was a long descent in to Armenteira where at the bottom was an oasis, a bar! I dumped my bag outside and ordered a water and a coke, that I pretty much absorbed instantly.

It was only a short walk to the albergue where I had a cold shower to cool off. At 7pm there was a pilgrim blessing at the monastery that I checked out; got a special stamp for attending!

It was a long day, covering 34km and the climb to get to Armenteira was brutal, but it was worth the experience and the cold drink at the end!

Mos to Arcade

Two turigrinos had set their alarm for 5am then proceeded to make breakfast waking everyone up in the albergue. It had gone 6 and they were still chatting away and clinking cutlery.

I decided to get packed and hit the Camino. I was out the door by 7 and dawn still hadn’t arrived. It reminded me of the predawn starts on the Frances route last year.

It felt good to be walking in the cool morning air, which I was thankful for as it was a constant incline for nearly 3km. Then the descent into Redondela was brutal. I stopped at a little albergue for breakfast, before tackling the drab town.

Redondela is where the coastal route merges with the central, thus it is a hive of pilgrims. Most were the Turigrinos.


I pushed on through the town and up out into forest paths. Through the woods the sound of bagpipe music was playing. A busker was perform to the passing peregrinos.

Another steep decent and I arrived in Arcade for 10.30am. We had no choice other than to stop here, due to how busy the Camino is now. The albergue didn’t open until 12.30, so I had a wander around and waited for the my friends to arrive.

While I was milling around I met Kim who had been at the albergues in Vitorino and Labruja. We stopped for a beer before she moved on to her stop, only 2km away. So I invited her to join us tonight.

Once booked into the albergue, showered and chores done, I had a beer at a bar opposite and waited for my travelling companions to arrive.

Once they did I had the pilgrims lunch with them and relaxed for the rest of the day.

Valença to Mos

It was a very hot and uncomfortable night with little sleep. There was no breeze, so I pretty much melted into the mattress.

After breakfast at the guesthouse, Jelonda said her goodbyes as she was going to take a short day, by 8.30 me and Daniel set off.

The route goes through the old fort that guards the border, then over a bridge into Spain. After taking photos and experiencing some weird time paradox, by traveling 1 hour into the future, where they all now speak Espanyol, we continued on the Spanish section of the way.

The route winds its way up to the Spanish fort that watches over the river, then makes its way towards O Porrino. We started to see the tourist pilgrims; they are easy to spot with their small backpacks and smelling of fresh laundry.

They didn’t bother me last year, but they are a bit of a menace on the Portuguese route. They book all the albergues!!! We aimed to stick to the villages between the official stages to avoid these turigrinos.

Today was also the hottest on the route, so it was tough going. We reached Porrino by 1pm, 20km in good time, despite the time travelling!We were so thirsty we had ordered Two lemonades and two 1l water bottles, and drank them like shots.

Once our thirst was quenched, we tackled the last 6km to Mos. It was again all road, but it wasn’t too bad and we crossed the last 100 km mark. We booked into the albergue taking the last beds.

After everyone had showered and done their chores, we went for tapas at a local bar. We had talked with the other peregrinos, and everything is busy from here on.

We have tomorrow booked, but the day after after, I want to take the Espiritual route. After numerous phone calls in my pigeon Spanish, I’ve got a booking for the 25th, but none for the 26th. All the albergues are full! The municipal one, you can’t book, and they put the over flow in the local sports hall. So when I get to Vilanova I’ll be either on a gym floor or under the stars that night!

¡Buen Camino!

Labruja to Valença

I had another good night sleep with only three to the room. The wind direction had changed and pushed that smoke cloud in our direction, so this morning we smelt like a BBQ.

Today is the last day in Portugal and it is meant to be the hardest on the route, with having to climb over a mountain and into the adjacent valley.

As soon as the sun peaked into the valley, I could tell it was going to be another hot day, luckily it was forest paths over the mountain.

This was the first real climb of the route and I was in my element. The cool shaded air, no more roads or cobblestones and a gradient to get the heart thumping. It wasn’t that difficult, nothing compared to the Camino Frances.

On the way up we passed a stone cross monument in dedication of those who died in the Napoleonic Wars.

At about 5km I was on the summit and making my way down the other side. I stopped at a bar with my fellow pilgrims.

It was mostly flat from this point, following more farm tracks and forest footpaths. There is very little amenities from Labruja to Valença.

At the villages that had restaurants, they were closed on Mondays. So it was hungry walking into Valença. We managed to find a bar that sold snacks as we entered Valença; I had a slice of pizza.

We booked into a guesthouse as word on the Camino grapevine, is to best avoid the municipal albergue.

We found another little gem, small swimming pool, garden with hammocks and a well stocked fridge. The host again is very friendly and accommodating. Another slice of paradise; he also promised to bring some 1906 beer later! (This was a personal favourite from the Camino Frances).