When I started researching a camino trip in the Spring, several agencies tried to convince me that doing the Portuguese caminho in November was a bad idea as the weather is, on average, not cooperative. Since we operate a seasonal resort in Canada, it’s the only time Anita and I can travel so we ignored their advice. Sue would be joining us as well. I’d met Sue in Ecuador on a trip several years ago and we’ve become travel buddies ever since. This year we invited Barb from Cleveland, who we’d all met on a past trip to Morocco, and the 4 of us planned this trip to Portugal and Spain. Camino Travel Centre had planned our last camino in Spain and did a great job so we contacted Wiktoria again.
You can find past posts on our Spanish Camino here: Camino posts
Here is a link to a slide show of pictures from the Way of St James Camino: Slideshow
October 31, 2017 Porto to Arcos 28 kilometres
We started the day excited to start our camino with a ride to the outskirts of Porto. From there we walked along busy streets, through small villages, small eucalyptus groves and finally into farm country. There we viewed the rolling hills, recently harvested fields, hanging grape vines, orange trees laden with fruit and the occasional field of budding winter wheat. Lunch was a delicious sandwich and pizza at a diner in Treval. Several detours later we crossed a pretty bridge and could see the town of Arcos in the distance. By the time we arrived our garmins said we’d walked 38-39,000 steps and 28-29 km. The Quinta Sao Miguel was a welcome surprise. Wiktoria of Camino Travel outdid herself when she reserved our rooms as we were greeted with a wonderful….SOAKER tub! After an amazingly warm, jet powered bath I was invigorated and ready to enjoy dinner.
November 1 Arcos to Barcelos 23 km
Wednesday morning greeted us with more amazing weather. After enjoying breakfast with Sandra from Ireland, we headed out. Barb wanted to go to mass and enjoy some alone time so the rest of us started without her. Today’s walk was much more pleasant with far less traffic. Most of it took us along paths through fields, woods and villages and the views were amazing. There were lots of cars parked by a few cemeteries as today was a national holiday for honouring the dead. There were services in some churches as well a cemeteries. We stopped for lunch at a cafe in Santa Leocalia and kept watch for Barb. We were just about to leave when I got a message from her. She’d ended up on the coastal route and got quite lost. She enjoyed some great adventures!
To quote Barb: “ Day 2 was an unplanned adventure….after 9 am mass I was planning on catching up with my friends by noon. At 1pm I realized I was on the coastal route…about 5 miles west of where I should have been!!! Oops!! Met Silvia and Victor, two young strangers at a cafe (who learned English on the internet). They dropped me off back on the right route. They would not take any money-they said “doing good is only good for free”.
We carried on and met a family from Brazil. Barcelos is a tidy town over a river with a bustling downtown. By the time we reached our hotel we’d walked about 25 km and were pretty tired. A shower and a quick rest felt great before we headed out to find dinner. Restaurante Furna was recommended by our hostess at Resicencial Quarenta Um. Our waiter didn’t speak English and what he described in Portuguese sounded interesting so we just agreed and he brought us 2 trays of barbecued chicken with fries, olives and pickled vegetables, a tray of salad and a small carafe of wine. Good choice! It was delicious!
Thursday – Barcelos to Balugaes 20 km
You can’t have sunshine every day. After stuffing our faces full of breakfast courtesy of our host, we headed out in the rain. It took about an hour to get out of Barcelos, after which the rolling countryside became dotted with small villages, lots of fields with winter wheat, some just freshly plowed and many grape vines bearing the last of the shrivelled grapes. I treated myself to an orange from a tree hanging over the road and a lemon from a tree in a church yard. Both were delicious!
At one point we stopped to admire some cows with very dangerous looking horns and a truck driver stopped in the middle of the road to chat. His English wasn’t great and our Portuguese non existent so it was a funny conversation but typical of the friendliness we’ve experienced on our journey.. Once a man stopped to tell us we were on the wrong road for the camino. We knew that, as we’d detoured to visit a church. but it was very kind of him.
By the time we reached the Casa do Rio our feet were tired and joints sore but the castle that greeted us was a big surprise. I think we annoyed poor Philippa by ringing the bell but it was fun the way it echoed all through the grounds. She was gracious and just laughed. The castle is beautiful and they’ve even got swans wandering around.
We ordered dinner and relaxed for a couple of hours before heading back to the dining room for our meal. Duck rice, cod and shrimp rice and my walnut with aubergine salad were all wonderful. We felt VERY spoiled!
Friday, November 3 Balugaes to Ponte Lima 21 km
Breakfast this morning was amazing! The lady who served it was delightful and, though she spoke no English, managed to communicate just fine. Not only did we overeat but she insisted we make a lunch to take with us and even brought out more prosciutto for it in addition to the meats and cheeses already spread out.
We postponed departure as long as we could since it was pouring rain. Thankfully, it wasn’t cold and our ponchos worked great at keeping us dry. The rain stopped and started all day and there were even brief moments of sunshine. The scenery again was wonderful. In some places grape vines even stretched across the narrow roads. Fewer roads were cobblestone today. Some was dirt, some rocks and even some asphalt and the terrain a little hillier than yesterday. On one wet path the runoff appeared to be wine! Apparently Portugal has so much red wine it runs down the street! I found a tree overhaning the road and enjoyed a delicious fresh orange. Still we met few walkers and a couple cyclists. We’d walked a good 13 km before we found a cafe to stop at and had a coffee along with our lunch.
Ponte Lima is a beautiful town on the Lima River. The Camino enters it through a street lined with trees and pretty red benches. Even in the pouring rain it’s gorgeous. The walking bridge is lined with lanterns that have speakers playing nice music.
By the time we checked into the Arc’otel, it was after 3 pm and we were soaking wet. We took a couple hours to relax and dry up, then set out for dinner. Mercado’s was a great choice and the salmon delicious! Sue and Barb ordered the local wine which turned out to be a mistake. They asked the server if it was spoiled. Nope, it’s supposed to be kind of fizzy. So, if you like fizzy red wine, enjoy!
Saturday, November 4. Happy birthday BARB!
Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes Pecence – 25 km with some tough hills!
After another wonderful breakfast we headed out for the most challenging day so far. An hours walking got us out of Ponte de Lima and there was a church with an open bathroom. Another 1.5 hours and we happened upon a cafe. It was beautiful walking along the river, through woods, past farmland and a few water falls. Then came the uphill climb over rocks and through woods, still beautiful but a path that required our full attention. We met 3 other camino walkers along the way, one of whom was sitting in the woods meditating. By the time we got through Rubieas and close to our accommodation for the night, it was a struggle to keep going we were so tired. A hot shower at the Casa da Capela was a welcome treat.
After relaxing for a couple of hours, our hostess drove us out to a nearby restaurant where we enjoyed the pilgrim’s menu. Soup and wine came with it. NICE! Jessica from the restaurant drove us back again. Now THAT is service!
November 5, Pecence to Tui – 20 km.
Breakfasts on this part of our Camino have been wonderful and this morning was no exeption. Armed with full stomachs and rested feet we again hit the road. Today was much easier. We passed lots of sheep, goats, more grapes and covered many rock and cobblestone paths. Cooler temperatures with the sun peeking out occasionally made for pleasant hiking. Entering Valenca was a little confusing but eventually we found the path and browsed the beautiful city. In the square we had lunch at a cafe and our last nata pastry in Portugal.
Crossing into Spain was anticlimactic. We strolled through Tui and checked out the Cathedral before finding our hotel. Torre do Xudeu exceeded our expectations again. The hotel is beautiful and our hostess very welcoming. After giving her our laundry (fee for that of course) we made a cup of tea and enjoyed the beautiful sitting room. She even brought us some cake for our tea!
We took a day off in Tui. After a leisurely breakfast we toured the Santa Maria (Tui) Cathedral and walked the board walk. Then we crossed the bridge back to Portugal and spent some more time in Valenca. It amused us to go back an hour in time in Portugal and then ahead again when we crossed back into Spain. We still managed to walk about 13 km.