Foot fault

We left Porto Friday morning at 8 in good spirits for the well-trodden Senda Litoral route. True enough, there was no difficulty keeping the Rio Douro on our left and we took a coffee & pastel de nata break as we turned the corner north near Matosinhos.

Enjoying the quaint fishing villages and mercado as we progressed north, we saw more Caminho signs but few peregrinos; only nine others the whole day.

I had mild discomfort from some bandaging on a toe but no pain.

We stopped often for snacks and fresh water, and finished in Vila do Conde at a great guest house 30km from Porto. The boardwalk was nearly all the way after Matosinhos.

Sadly, I discovered three newly-destroyed right-foot toes to go with the single toe injury I acquired between Lisbon and Porto. I won’t darken your day with the details, but having four decommissioned toes on one foot, and one being especially nasty, ended my Caminho for now. My wife consoled me though I am incredibly disappointed by so small an injury halting something we had planned and looked forward to all summer.

We enjoyed a nice stay and dinner in Vila do Conde, a small town with an ancient aqueduct.

We’ll tour by train for a week then head home to recover.

We hope to return to Vila do Conde and resume our Caminho some day soon.

Thanks for following and Ultreia to all you peregrinos out there.

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When in Porto, drink port

We arrived by train after failing to blaze a new route along the Lisbon-to-Porto coastline that didn’t involve camping or busy road-walking.

Porto straddles the Rio Douro though most of the city is on the north side of the river. Half the size of Lisbon, I would call it steeper, meaning a larger percentage of the streets are higher-degree grades than Lisbon, and there is a lower percentage of streets at sea-level. If you didn’t have quads of steel before you visited Porto, you will when you leave.

We hit the highlights on our two day visit prior to walking the Senda Litoral route of the Caminho Portuguese. Sampling port wines, pastries, cod, and Francesina (a multi-meat/stromboli lasagna) were among our culinary delights.

The Cathedral, synagogue, and other churches are lovely and we collected carimbos for our compostelas.

We added 10 miles each day, plus hundreds of flights of stairs to our ‘health app’ log visiting bookstores, the university, gardens, and tiles in their various locations (train stations, churches, etc are home to major historical tile murals).

University uniforms that inspired Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling:

We found Porto more enjoyable than Lisbon; closer to Greenwich Village verses Lisbon’s midtown feel.

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Day 5: Medieval Óbidos

We hopped in a car for a 40 minute ride to historic Óbidos. The town is a major castle with narrow streets of cobblestone and small homes, restaurants mixed among tourist shopping, ringed by a giant castle wall.

We took it all in, had some tapas y bebidas, and enjoyed a day off from hiking. They even have an intact aquaduct:

Highly recommend a day here. Tomorrow we’ll take a walk down the hill and ride a train to Porto. After a two day visit in Porto, we resume our Caminho via the Senda Litoral, the beach Way north.

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Day 4: Audible!

For those of you that are not familiar with American sports, an ‘audible’ is when one of the principals (Quarterback, Striker, Shooting Guard) on a sports team makes a last-second decision to change a play that had already been agreed on moments before. It could be because the athlete sees the defense change or any other reason. They yell out the new play, thus, audible. About eight miles into our 14 mile hike to Santa Cruz, Wendy and I called an audible. The route from Ericeira to Santa Cruz consists of the National Highway 247. There are no shoulders or bicycle lanes, and the painted white line at the edge of the road is quite literally (and when I use the word ‘literally’, I know what I’m talking about) at the edge of the road. Four hours of jumping over guard rails into the bamboo brush (Portuguese farmers use bamboo for dividing fields & screening from the highway) had us calling for a taxi at a cafe break halfway to Santa Cruz. Upon further examination of the route for the next ten days, we were in for more of the same. Aside from the traffic, it wasn’t really a bad route, with gorgeous cliffs and crashing wave views to our left, west into the Atlantic Ocean, and the kind of picturesque rolling farm lands that inspire art and music to our right. We are in an isolated, very small version of Ericeira, called Santa Cruz. It has no surfing schools, only a half a dozen cafes and restaurants, and is eerily quiet in this off-season. Tomorrow we will take another taxi, because it’s the best choice, to Obidos, a medieval town inland about 40 minutes. From there, after a day’s visit and a night in a hotel, we’ll train to Porto for 2 days of discovery then begin the Littoral route with the 3-day Variante Espiritual detour. Sadly for those pilgrims following our progress in hopes of discovering a similar coastal Way from Lisbon, the cliffs are just too steep to go down to the beach without a road, there are not enough roads close to the ocean for hikers, and there are many inlets of rivers that don’t have bridges within 3 kilometers of the ocean. Since we were calling audibles, we went through the pack carefully and made a trip to the post office, purchased a large cardboard box, and mailed back two pairs of shoes we hadn’t worn yet (brought ostensibly as lighter evening shoes vs. our Merrell Moab II hikers) and a bunch of other miscellany like flashlights, bathroom accessories, and several string bags that we brought. I’m looking forward to the weight reduction. Among the wonderful parts of the day, we began in Ericeira with the locally famous ouriços, recommended by a Camino forum moderator (obrigado Laurie!) and at the aforementioned cafe break we had two scoops of incredible ice cream; one was a very dark chocolate that we were warned wasn’t sweet (we are both 65% or higher chocolate fans) and it was amazing. The other was the strawberry which was as good if not better than the amazing strawberry ice cream we had in Spain three years ago. It was about noon and perfect time for ice cream. Interestingly, snails are everywhere; on the litter of roadside bottles, on stone walls, and way up in trees: There are also chameleons beach-side (too fast for a pic) and we passed a recently deceased snake at the highway edge. Just like Florida. All the Portuguese people we have encountered have been incredibly courteous and kind, doing whatever they can to help answer our questions, and making very thoughtful suggestions. They helped us plan our next moves. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the beach among heavy mist from the crashing waves, almost totally alone.

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Day 3: Sintra to Ericeira

We departed about 7:45am to get as much walking in the cool morning as possible. A very hilly path through the northern part of the Cascais-Sintra Natural Park, past wide open farmlands made us feel like we really were on the Caminho. Too early for cafes, we ate roadside blackberries and a fruit farmer-vendor wouldn’t take money for a plum. The Caminho provides.

We did have to navigate some thin road shoulders as we passed villages, and throngs of Sunday bicyclists, motorcyclists, and cars gave us room. Mostly a very peaceful 4.5 hours, 24k, to arrive at major surf center, Ericeira. The approach from the high farms exposed to us the crashing rollers we heard long before we saw them:

Here is Casa Branca, our stop in Ericeira:

We’re relaxing now before heading into the center for comidas y vino. Bom dia, amigos.

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Day 2: Cascais to Sintra

As I mentioned yesterday, we were convinced to take the electric bicycles to Sintra. They aren’t really electric bicycles, the motor assists you in pedaling, but you have to be in the correct gears for going uphill or downhill for the motor to help at all. Mostly we had the motors off (going downhill of course) and very rarely used them going uphill so even though we rode for about 3 hours and did quite a bit of uphill, we only used 1/4 of the battery power. It would have been an incredibly difficult hike if I had had to carry our pack. The hills led to mountains, up and up, no bike paths, but tons of bikers out on a warm autumn Saturday. We passed beautiful boulder fields, amazing estates, and in under 3 hours we arrived in Sintra.

There is a festival of mannequins occurring, the town is jammed shoulder to shoulder with tourists, tuk-tuks flying around and yet we happened to walk into a group of five pilgrims from China! They were wearing Spanish Camino shirts, and we said “Bom Caminho” as we passed. They stopped us and said we were the first people they encountered who recognized the meaning of their shirts. They had already completed the French Way and were from a travel company in China who are hoping to encourage more Chinese to travel the different Caminos.

We did a little video interview for them and took a bunch of photos.

We toured one of the four major castle/palaces and then went out for dinner. Our total walking was 10 miles and 177 flights of stairs (I told you it’s hilly here) and about 16 miles of mountain biking.

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Short first Caminho day

Both my own observation through Google Maps as well as advice from some seasoned pilgrims sent Wendy and I to the Lisbon train station to take a 30-minute ride west out of the industrial areas surrounding Lisbon to the lovely beach town of Estoril.

We walked the seaside boardwalk/promenade filled with locals and tourists doing morning constitutionals, bike tours, and enjoying the warm morning sun.

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We have a coffee and water rest at the legendary Boca do Inferno, calm at low tide:

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A few more miles and we arrived at our only luxury hotel on the Caminho, inside the park we need to cross tomorrow.

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Our short mileage today (9) allowed us time in the spa, pool, & restaurant. The amazing concierge Pedro advised us that the route tomorrow is straight up the mountain, and wouldn’t we rather let him take our 25lb pack to the next hotel in Sintra, so we could ride the hotel’s electric bicycles to the top of the mountain? He’ll collect them tomorrow night. Don’t judge. The Caminho provides.

After a refreshing snack, we went into Cascais for their annual Festival Lumina:

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This was one of 20 outdoor installations just for the weekend, 130 repurposed washing machine drums strung up in front of a church.

Cascais (kish-kysh) is like Southampton, NY or Palm Beach, FL; well-to-do locals, tourists, beaches.

An amazing day, and if you get to Lisbon, visit Cascais, and Pedro.

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