Back Home

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.