Sunday, May 28, 2017


We had a couple of really hot days with temperatures in the mid 90's.  One such day we had decided to pay a visit to Guimarães, the birthplace of Portugal.  We toured the palace which was nice because it was cool inside, but we hadn't thought through our decision to see the castle.  The castle consists of it's four walls and some towers, so walking around inside really meant walking around outside in the heat.  Cathie and I decided that over the years we had seen enough castles, so no more castles, at least on this trip.  To further enjoy the heat, it took us a while to figure out where we had parked the car, so that added to the fun.




The next day we said goodby to José and Luisa before continuing further south.  There's a good chance that we'll see them again as José and I are Camino veterans and we talked about meeting in Santiago when we are there again.

We have been at our next B&B in the very small village of Pereira somewhere in the middle of Portugal for the past four days.  In choosing places to stay, it really came down to where my finger landed on the map.  Now what this place lacks in location is far outweighed by the B&B itself and our hosts.  As for the village, there is one street, a small chapel and a cafe, that we have yet to see open.  Henk and Myriam found this house two years ago and fell in love with it.  Built in the 30's it had been in the same family and vacant most of the time.  The home had been on the market since the 80's with no takers, primarily because of it's location.  Henk and Myriam spent the last two years restoring the house and upgrading plumbing and electrical systems.  They continue to work on the extensive garden, with it's grape trellis and several fountains.  For them it is a labor of love.







Each morning at breakfast, we discuss with Myriam things to see and do in the area and her suggestions have been right on.  We had heard before our arrival, that the Joanina Library on the campus of the Coimbra University was a must see.  Myriam agreed so we headed the 40 miles or so to the city.  Coimbra University is the oldest University in Portugal and there are many historic buildings thereabouts.  The Library is the most popular and timed tickets are sold for a visit.  Our luck was with us when we arrived at 10:30 we found a free parking spot on the campus one block away from the Library.  Our luck continued when the line for tickets was only three deep and our appointed ticket time was at 11:00.  Besides the library our ticket included the chapel, both of which were very beautiful.  When we left, the line for tickets snaked around the building and we had 3 people fighting over our parking spot when we left.





We then drove to the town of Luso, where there is a small national park.  First stopping for lunch at one of the many restaurants in the region that specialize in roast pig.  They eat a lot of pork in these here parts.  If you don't like pork, then it's Cod fish.  After lunch we paid a visit to the park, where, from the outside, you can see the Palace Hotel and it's garden.  Only guests allowed inside.  Another beautiful building.  One thing very prevalent in Portugal, is the blue tile on many of it's buildings.  Not only the Palace Hotel but Henk and Myriam's home is no exception.




 The next day, with the desire to stay out of the city, Myriam sent us to the mountains for a hike.  With Cathie feeling better, we figured it was time to give her hip a test drive.  Following Myriam's, instructions, we took the long slow way on narrow mountains roads, through numerous perched villages clinging to the hillsides, ending up in Piódão.  This beautiful small village made of the native stone and slate, clings precariously to the steep mountainside  overlooking a deep canyon.  The sides of the canyon have been terraced for farming for centuries and to this day remain in families who continue to plant crops on some of them.  






We took a hike down one side of the canyon and back up the other.  About 6 miles in length, it was just right for Cathie to try our her hip.  Although tired by the time that we climbed back up, Cathie said she was pain free.  We ended the day with a late lunch, early dinner, in the town square.  On our last day, Myriam sent us to another mountain top, again with steep narrow winding one lane roads.  A beautiful end to another wonderful B&B stay.



Tomorrow we continue south just past Lisbon, where we have rented an apartment on the beach.  Perhaps we will find something besides pork and cod to eat.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


It turns out that I did reserve a rental car and we picked it up at the train station in Santiago.  I had reserved the car on my now cancelled credit card which created some problems for Avis.  Seems that you must show them the card that you used to reserved.  I showed it to them but since it had been canceled it did no good.  We show them Cathie's card which they finally excepted, but being Cathie's card, she had to be the driver.  Well that wasn't happening, so for and extra fee of 10€ a day they will add (me) another driver.  Luckily I had read the fine print.  They want to charge us for the whole rental period of 29 days or 290€, but the fine print said 10€ a day not to exceed 70€.  Anyway we escaped with out too much hassle.

Our first stop heading south was to drive west to Muxia on the coast of Spain.  This is one place that pilgrims walk to after reaching Santiago.  Very picturesque with a chapel on the rocks overlooking the ocean.  Then we actually did go in the right direction to the coastal fishing town of A Guarda.  Still in Spain, but you can see Portugal from there.  We stayed in an old monastery that had been converted to a hotel.  Very nice, and I don't think the monks had our room with a jacuzzi tub.  We stayed three nights, enjoying walks along the coast, picking up the Portuguese Camino right outside our hotel door.











We moved on to Portugal to what turned out to be a wonderful B&B near Porto.  We really lucked out when I made this choice.  Our room is small but comfortable, but we would sleep in the barn (if there was one) because our hosts are so fantastic.  We were greeted by José, who gave us a tour of the property.  This is a huge two story house with a center courtyard, game room, three guest rooms and a huge lounge and dining room.  There is also a pool and pool house with bar and a billiard table.  Lots of open space all enclosed by a wall, which is common in this area.  José and his wife Luisa along with their son Gonçalo make you feel like your are part of the family.  After settling in, refreshments consisting of a Portuguese Spumante and the famous Pastal de nata, a you can't stop eating, egg custard in a pastry shell delight were served.  Then José's mother a father arrived.  Both in their 80's, José's father is retired, but his mother still teaches English at the University.  This is the reason we choose B&B's, which for the most part are family run affairs.  Their personal touch makes the stay all the more enjoyable.





Luisa gave me a little history of the home which was originally built about 150 years ago.  The home was a collection point for milk supplied by dairy's in the area.  The downstairs is were the animals were kept while the family lived upstairs.  Over the years the home became a ruin until, 1980, when a new owner began restorations. He completely dismantled the building, numbering each block as he went and rebuilt the entire home.  Jose's family bought the home and it is now their family home and B&B. With the exception of the family quarters upstairs, we have the run of the place

Each morning at breakfast, Luisa helps us map out our day with suggestions of things to see and do.  The other morning we headed into Espinho to check out the street market held once a week.  This place was huge, running for at least 10 blocks where merchants sell everything from fish to pots and pans.  We never saw so many shoes for sale.  We restrained ourselves and only purchased some cherries.  Luisa gave me specific driving instructions for our day in Porto.  Of course I got lost right away, but eventually everything worked out.



Porto is of course famous for it's Port wine, which to be called Port must be made from grapes grown in the Douro Valley.  We didn't do the wine tasting thing but spent our time in the city exploring it's churches and landmarks.  It was hot, around 90 degrees, but by staying on the shady side of the street it was manageable.  The city is in many places in a state of disrepair, but as evidenced construction cranes that is changing.  Blue tile is everywhere on the outside and inside of many of the historic buildings and churches.  The train station is one such place with the tile covering the station walls.  While Cathie stayed below, I climbed the 240 steps to the top of the Clérigos Church bell tower for the view overlooking the city.  Built in 1763 and at 250 feet it can be seen from all over the city.

After walking for who knows how far, up hills, down hills and around and around, we found a sidewalk cafe on the shady side of the street.  We spent a leisurely hour or so having a late lunch and watching the people go by.  There are lots of tourist walking the historic part of the city with double decker tour buses squeezing around tight corners on the narrow streets.  The place was pretty crowded.  We continued on, making our way back down to the river, following yellow arrows on the Portuguese Camino.  We ended with an ice cream before heading back to the B&B.  Of course I got lost on the return, taking several wrong turns.




Friday, May 19, 2017


Food and travel seem to go together.  New places to explore and new kinds of food to try.  Sounds good, right?  Well it is and it isn't.  We tend to eat too much when we travel.  At times our day revolves around where and what we will eat.  It there something special about the food in a particular region that we just can't pass up?  The answer many times is, yes.

While walking Our Camino, we could pretty much eat what ever we wanted and not worry about the calorie intake.  But now that we've stopped walking and in fact done very little exercise, we have to be concerned about "packing on the pounds".

We weighed ourselves in Santiago and we each have gained about 5 pounds.  Let me tell you, it's easy to do.  So what better way to spread around our caloric intake than to write a post and share with you what we've been eating.  If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen some of my food photos, but it's time for the blog readers to share in the gluttony.  On the aside, it's odd how somethings change with the times.  Years ago one took pictures of the scenery or of family, but who ever took photos of a plate of food.  Well we do now and I'm going to post a bunch of them here.

Typical pilgrim's breakfast, orange juice, coffee, bread or toast and perhaps, tortilla, a potato-onion-egg pie of sorts.  Most Spanish breakfasts include the juice and coffee and toast with a tomato purée spread.

Pizza, lots of pizza on the camino.  Usually frozen and then cooked when it's orders.  Not as good as fresh made, but works well for prilgrims.



Tapas, Tapas, and more Tapas.  Small appetizers made from a lot of different stuff.  Fish, beef, pork, vegetables and just about anything you can imagine.  Also not very expensive, usually a euro or two.  Very common in bars in the larger towns and cities.  You can make a meal out of them.

Warm goat cheese salad, one of our favorites


Another warm goat cheese salad
Combination plate, ham blood sausage, a speciality of the Navarre region, pork, and a breaded mixture of potato and meat, fried.
Here's the bill:  Goat cheese salad,  the combination plate, bread, they charge for bread, a glass of rose wine for Cathie and a 1/2 carafe of red wine for me, plus desert.

Garlic soup, oh so good.  There is a whole egg in there, cooked by the soup.

We had this one special meal cooked by this guy

In this wood fired oven
It started with this version of garlic soup 
Duck liver, mmmm good

This was a sharing platter
The aftermath 

This was our most expensive meal, to date and came with bread and for about 80€

I would love to show you more but it's time for dinner.