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Monday July 17, 2017

After a wonderful breakfast at the Mundial Hotel, we meandered around the nearby shops until it was time to leave for the airport.  We were at the airport in plenty of time and we proceeded to get our tickets and go through the security check.

To make the return trip a little more interesting, Kathy didn’t make it through the security check.   One of the items she had purchased, had a metal point and they would not let her go on the plane with it.  However, they gave her the option to mail it to herself, which required her to go back through the security check to a postage station down the hall from security check.   The security officers and airport staff helped Pete and Kathy with mailing the item and then they both successfully made it through the security check a second time, 30 minutes later.

We had no other issues until it was almost time to board the plane and we were told there was a delay because there was a shortage of cleaning staff and it would take longer than normal to get the plane ready.   As it turned out, it was only a 30 minute delay, however, some of the passengers were a little agitated because they left us standing in the hot buses on the tarmac while they finished cleaning the plane, but there were no more issues once we started boarding.

We finally left Lisbon at 7:20 pm and the pilot was able to get us into Toronto, 10 minutes after our scheduled arrival time of 10 pm.  From the time the plane landed, it took us only 40 minutes to clear customs, get our bags and have the Skypark shuttle deliver us to my car.   By 12:30 am we were at my house.   Pete and Kathy left my house at 8 am and arrived safely at home shortly after 12 pm.

Day 21 – Lisbon, Portugal

Sunday July 16,2017

It was 18 C ( 65 F ), in the morning but it became hot with a temperature of 33 C ( 91 F ) by mid afternoon.

We had breakfast at a local cafe and spent most of the day wandering around the city.

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a population of 550,000 in the city and 2.8 million in the metropolitan area and it has very interesting architecture in the downtown area.  The city is built on rolling hills, where the Tagus river empties into the Atlantic Ocean.  They still use electric street cars and there are many beautiful views of the city.  When you are at one of the high points in the city, it is similar to the streets of San Francisco and you can sometimes get a view of the Tagus river at the end of the street.

There is an elevator in town and for 5.15 Euros you can ride it up to a viewing platform above most of the city buildings.

Several of the buildings are very ornate including the outside of the railway station in downtown Lisbon.

There are are some unique streets, because the city was built more than 1000 years ago, when cars didn’t exist.

What I found most interesting is that Lisbon has been hit by numerous earthquakes, several in the 1900’s, but none as devastating as the one in 1755.  It only lasted about 5 minutes  but it caused fissures ( cracks ), 5 meters ( 16 ft ) wide in the city center and resulted in 3 tsunami waves, as well as a firestorm in the city.  It was one of the deadliest earthquakes in history.  Some of the surviving buildings still show signs of the damage.

The food in Portugal and Spain has been excellent and we have enjoyed a lot of the seafood.  I have had prawns, sea bass , hake, sardines, as well as a fish I didn’t recognize and for today’s main course,  I had a very tasty meal of squid.

We experienced a lot in the last three weeks and I couldn’t possibly document everything, but I have tried to capture some moments that will help us remember our time here.

And….as always, some things that happened on this trip, will remain on the trip!



Day 20 – Travel to Lisbon

Saturday July 15, 2017

We took our time in the morning and after a late breakfast, we packed our backpacks and headed to the bus station at 11 am.  By 12 pm, the scheduled departure time, we were on our way.

The temperature was the same as it had been almost every day, cool in the morning and warm during the day.

We met a Romanian man, about my age, perhaps a little younger, who was limping a bit at the bus station.  He informed us that he had just completed the 835 km ( 520 mile ) Camino trail from France in 20 days.  He only had about 3 weeks to complete the hike, so he had averaged 40 km ( 25 miles ) each day, which is quite impressive, however that didn’t give him much time to do anything else.

I also met a young German lady who had hiked part of the Portuguese Camino by herself.  This was her first Camino hike and she plans to do a longer hike in the future, possibly the coastal route of the French Camino.

During the bus ride, I had an opportunity to reflect on some of the things I had experienced.

Although both countries were nice places to visit, I preferred Portugal to Spain.  It appeared cleaner, friendlier and had slightly better food ( particularly coffee and orange juice ).

Due to the long history both countries have experienced, we saw a lot of magnificent buildings.

We saw more dogs in Spain and there was a lot more evidence that dogs had been on our paths there.  We also saw some interesting signs that dog owners had posted regarding their dogs.

Grafiti and smoking were common in both countries, although I felt they were more prevalent in Spain.

I took some pictures of buildings, landscapes, plants, trees and the people, however there were too many to  put in my journal.

We gained an hour when we crossed into Portugal and we arrived at the Lisbon bus terminal at the scheduled time of 8:40 pm almost 10 hours after we had left Santiago.   We grabbed a taxi to our hostel for 10 Euro and after checking in, we went out for something to eat at one of the many restaurants in the area.  By the time we finished our meal, the restaurants were starting to close and the bustling streets were slowly thinning out.   However, I occasionally ( Pete & Kathy constantly) still heard noises coming from the city during the night.

Day 19 – Santiago, Spain

Friday July 14, 2017

After a leisurely breakfast, we ventured out into the streets of Santiago.   it was a typically comfortable, cool, morning but it quickly became a warm, sunny, summer day in Santiago.   Santiago de Compostela is a relatively small city with a population of nearly 95,000 people and almost 200,000 in the metropolitan area.

We spent an hour at the cathedral museum, after which Pete & Kathy attended the pilgrim’s mass and I had a cappuccino while I watched the people milling about.   I saw numerous Camino pilgrims enter the area as they reached their final destination.  Some of the pilgrim groups were singing in celebration.

July 25th is St James day and the preparations have begun for the celebrations.  A large stage has been set up in one of the courtyards and the fireworks have started.   I saw some heavily armed police officers wandering around the outside of the cathedral, most likely checking things out in preparation for the  upcoming celebrations.

After lunch we visited another museum and we also saw some very large groups of young pilgrims arrive, who looked like they were part of a school group.  They had some flags but we weren’t able to identify from where they had come.

Later on, as we were being serenaded by violin music at an outdoor restaurant,  we talked to a pilgrim who was a young automotive engineering student from Germany who had just completed the 800 km ( 500 mile ) hike from France.  It had taken him 2 months to complete and he was heading to the beach in Majorca for a week of rest and relaxation before going back home.   We also talked to a couple from Austria, who were in Santiago as part of a 2 week bus tour.

It has been interesting meeting people from different countries and finding out a bit about them.

On our way back to the hotel we saw several entertainers in the streets and when we reached the park, we had a wonderful view of the cathedral.  Recent renovations on the cathedral started in 2013 and are expected to be completed in 2021.

We will be leaving Santiago with mixed feelings.

Day 18 – Santiago, Spain

Thursday July 13, 2017

We had reserved the Hotel San Lorenz for a couple of days at the end of the trip for rest and reflection from the pilgrimage.

The hotel rooms and meals during our trip have been reasonably priced.   The rooms have cost less than 50 Euro per person per night.   Usually I have paid about 35 Euro and Pete and Kathy have paid about 25 Euro each.   Our main meals have generally cost less than 50 Euro for all three of us.   The Euro is currently equivalent to $1.18 US or $1.47 CAD

Our hotel is very nice.  It is only a few blocks from the entrance to the cathedral, it is spacious, clean and has air conditioning for only 38 Euros ( $55 CAD )/night for a single room.

We had mostly warm, sunny or overcast weather during our pilgrimage, with only one 15 minute of light rain during the 12 days we hiked the trail.  Although Google Maps had suggested a walking route that was 230 km from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, it doesn’t know about the Portuguese Camino Coastal Trail which, as we found out, is much longer.  The official trail length is 280 Km ( 174 miles ) and since we started 5 miles south of Vila de Conde, I calculated that we walked 255 km ( 158 miles ).

It had cooled down during the night and it was only 17 C ( 64 F ) when we got up but it warmed up to a high of 25 C (77 F ) during the day.

We had a late breakfast at our hotel and went to the Cathedral for the English version of morning mass.  The Priest apologized that his English wasn’t very good but it was, in fact, quite good and his homily was about following all of the arrows in a reference to the pilgrimage and to our personal biblical path.   Judith happened to be at the service and we talked to her for a while before the California tour group arrived and we greeted them.

Afterwards, I went to the train station to get tickets to Lisbon for Saturday, while Pete and Kathy toured the cathedral and visited the crypt of St James below the altar.

I had no luck getting train tickets to go directly to Lisbon.  We would have to switch trains in Vigo and Porto to get to Lisbon plus we wouldn’t get there until the middle of the night.

When we got together for lunch in a cafe near the Cathedral, we decided to take a bus that goes directly from Santiago to Lisbon, which would leave at noon and arrives at 8:40 pm.  We tried to get the tickets online but that resulted in an error with the transaction, so I went to the bus station and got the tickets while Pete and Kathy checked out the area around the Cathedral.

At 4:45 pm, we attended a ‘ Taize ‘ service.  Following the service, we went to a restaurant near the Pilgrim’s office and had a nice meal, after which we went for a short walk past a large convent and many shops in the area.   I forced Pete and Kathy to join me for a Gelato before we returned to the hotel for the evening.

On the way back we saw the German mother and daughter that we had met several times during our pilgrimage.

Day 17 – Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Wednesday July 12, 2017

it was a cool morning with a temperature of 18 C ( 64 F ) With a light breeze when we left Padron at 8:40 am for the final 24 km ( 15 mile ) hike to Santiago.  Our measurements indicated that it was more than 27 km, but at this point, it doesn’t matter.

We were about 20 meters ( 65 ft ) above sea level and the terrain was flat in Padron, but that would change significantly as the day progressed.  We were one of the last groups to leave but we still met other hikers along the way.

We met Judith along the way and she joined us for a coffee at our first stop.   She went on ahead of us and a little later that morning we passed by a cafe where she was having a beer and resting her sore feet.

We stopped at a few churches and cafes for stamps along the way.  Most of the churches were very large and the camera wasn’t able to get the entire church into one picture unless it was taken from far away.

At one of the churches, I saw a large grandfather clock and  I know someone that would like to have it more than I would.

Most of the hike was along trails through small towns wooded areas or they wound around or under major roadways.

As we approached Santiago the elevation and the temperature both increased.  The elevation increased to 140 m at 11 km from Santiago, 205 m at 8 km, 260 m at 6.5 km, 160 m at 2.5 km and finally back up to 270 m at the cathedral.

The cathedral is so large that we could easily see the spires from miles away.

When we reached Santiago, we first went to the hotel to take showers before heading to the cathedral.   Pictures don’t do the the cathedral justice.  The building is immense and all the associated buildings make it appear even larger.  I took pictures

but it is best by viewing internet sites like Wikipedia-

We entered the church, walked around for a while, had a meal and then picked up our Camino certificates.  We were tired and the significance and the appreciation of this experience hasn’t fully registered yet.

Day 16 – Padron, Spain

Tuesday July 11, 2017

We got a relatively early start to our day because the restaurant was open at 7 am. I had trouble with the internet so I completed my journal for the previous day while we ate breakfast. By the time we started our 18 km ( 11 mile ) hike, it was 8:30.

As we left the hotel, I used ‘ Google Maps ‘ to direct us in the direction of Padron and hopefully we would intersect the Camino path  but as we were getting close to the highway going out of the city, we passed a house where a couple was doing some gardening and they quickly informed us that we were going the wrong way.    I hesitated and pointed to the map on my iPhone but they were insistent and could see my hesitation to follow their directions so the husband told the wife that he would lead us to the path and she agreed.    We followed him the short distance around the corner and I immediately understood my error.   The direction we were on, would take us past the point where the trail crossed the highway and although we would make it to Padron, we would have spent most of our time walking on the highway.

Kathy and I had a disagreement as to who saw the first arrow.  I decided to go out of my comfort zone and pretend to be a gentleman, so I capitulated and let her have the privilege of winning and therefore paying for the meals.

We walked through a lot of the same type of terrain we had traversed before, although there were more elevation changes than the previous day.

After 5 km, we arrived at our first cafe and there was a room where Camino walkers could sign their names, so Pete and Kathy wrote their names on one of the walls.

At one of the rest stops, we met a mother and daughter from Germany and I was glad that my German was good enough to converse with them.  The daughter is studying social sciences in a German university and when she first told her parents that she wanted to go on a hike, her father encouraged her mother to go along, even though it was out of her comfort zone.  This is their third hike together.  Unfortunately, the daughter had injured her knee before coming on the trip and she was wearing a knee brace.  There are several people who are wearing knee braces on this trip and I have also noticed that more people are limping as we approach the finish line.

As we continued to Padron, we found the self-serve cafe along the way that was mentioned in our hiking manual.   It was quite clean and well stocked.

It was early afternoon when we finally reached Padron.

We crossed the river that runs through the center of town and headed to the Rivera Hotel.

We freshened up a bit and of course, we had a wonderful meal, complete with the essential dessert.

I originally thought that I would lose some weight on this trip with all of the exercise I would get, but it seems I have found more than I have lost and it has been fun finding it.

Day 15 – Caldas de Reis, Spain

Monday July 10, 2017

We started a little earlier on our 21 km ( 13 mile hike ) hike from Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis because the breakfast service at the hotel was available at 7 am.

We left the hotel at 8:30 and immediately saw some of the Camino hikers ahead of us. Most of the time, Kathy has been the lucky one to spot the first arrow on the hike, but today I made the mistake of seeing it first and so I get to pay for the meals. At one corner, we found yellow arrows pointing in both possible directions, which would have made things confusing if we hadn’t been told by our California hiking friends that they had been warned about these situations, so we were able to tell which arrow to follow. Apparently some of the store owners are trying to re-direct the Camino hikers past their shops, so they come out in the evening and paint an alternate path. Fortunately, most of these arrows are distinguishable by their simplicity and even if you do follow them, they are only a minor diversion.

There were some sections where we had to hike relatively close to the road and the oncoming traffic, but fortunately these were short sections.

At one point our path took us along a major road and we were happy to see a sign for our final destination, indicating that we were only 40 km ( 25 miles ) to go.

After hiking 8 km, we reached a cafe where we met up with several of the hikers from the previous day. Cold fresh water and a little rest were all we needed to energize us and we were back on our way. We soon met a young lady from Holland named Judith. She is a former policewoman and police investigator who is transitioning into social work.

Other than the vineyards and the very cheap wine, another item that has caught my attention is the extensive use of natural granite for construction. It is so plentiful that the lower quality pieces are used for fence posts.

During our hike we met an entrepreneur who had set up an ice cream stand in our path. Being someone who likes to assist people with their new business, I forced myself to buy some ice cream.

There was only one major ascent and it was early in the day, making today’s hike, relatively easy. When we had hiked 16 km, there was another cafe where I forced Kathy to stop for a rest and some cold ‘ aqua con gas ‘ ( carbonated water ). Several of the hikers stopped there as well and Kathy convinced them to take a group photo.

It was 2:30 pm when we got to the Sena Hotel in Caldas de Reid and we had time for a nice meal before showering and resting a bit.

Day 14 – Pontevedra, Spain

Sunday July 9, 2017

After our regular breakfast of fresh toasted bread, squeezed orange juice and ‘ American ‘coffees ( which is espresso with hot milk ) we left our hotel at the outskirts of Redondela on our 15 km (10 mile ) march to Pontevedra.

There are two things that I haven’t been able to get used to – the smoking, especially in the restaurants and cafes and the fact the the evening meal ( supper, dinner or whatever you want to call it ) doesn’t start until 8 pm at the earliest. However, I am very fond of the cafes and the wonderful breads and pastries.

Today we saw a lot more hikers along the way. We met some people from California who were on a self-guided tour. We talked to a mother and daughter that were part of the group, until they sped ahead of us.

At the beginning of the hike , we had several steep elevation changes. There were sections where we had to hike up and eventually back down but few of them were gradual inclines and some consisted of dirt or gravel, which made them a bit slippery.

Unfortunately, the pictures don’t show the severity of the inclines or how slippery they were.

There were several hikers that we met along the way, although we didn’t get a chance to strike up conversations with many of them.

We met a couple from California, in the late morning and walked with them for a few hours. He is a defensive martial arts instructor

and she works on a nature preserve.

As usual, the terrain varied a lot and just before we got into Pontevedra, there was a wooded bridge attached to a tunnel that we had to cross.

The latter half of the trek was fairly flat. We had reached an elevation of 150 meters ( 500 ft ) but we ended up at an elevation of 22 meters when we reached the hotel.

After we arrived at the Comercio Hotel in Pontevedra, we went for a late lunch and then checked out the surrounding area.

Since we had eaten a big lunch, Pete and Kathy opted to skip the late meal, however, I had a small snack at 7 pm before going to bed.

We are getting near Santiago and anticipate arriving there in a few days, depending on how far we attempt to go each day, but for us, this is a journey and not a race or a competition so it might take longer.

Day 13 – Redondela, Spain

Saturday July 8, 2017

It was a warm sunny day as we hiked the 20 km ( 12 miles ) from Vigo to our hotel in the Redondela area. The temperature climbed to 29 C ( 85 F ) and we were glad whenever we had a little shade.

We had breakfast at a cafe across the street before we left and we were back on the trail by 9:30. It took us almost an hour to get past the outskirts of Vigo, at which time we had a steep climb of 100 meters ( 350 ft ).

The benefit of hiking up the mountain is that we had a great view and you can even see the outskirts of Vigo in the distance.

We hiked through some streets in a small town before we enetered a trail used by many local hikers and bikers.

Shortly after we started on the dirt path we met a Camino hiker named Geralyn from New York and we spent a few hours hiking together.

There was a steep descent down the mountain just before we entered Redondela.

As we travelled through Redondela we met some more hikers that were with a tour group.

As we left Redondela, Geralyn continued on the Camino trail and we took a different route to the Hotel Santo Apostolo. When we got to the hotel, checked in, had a snack, took a shower, did some laundry and rested a bit. As evening approached, I took a picture of Pete and Kathy at the ocean view from the hotel.