From Porto to the End of Portugal

Hello from a new country! Yesterday, we crossed a bridge from Valença, Portugal to Tui, Spain. After taking a few pictures, it sunk in – we walked here!

Here’s what our journey to the border looked like:

Day 1: Porto – Vilarinho – 27.6 km

We stayed in a sweet albergue with a backyard swimming pool! Show me a better deal for 10 euro per person! We also finally tried a francesinha – a northern Portugal delicacy including bread, cheese, steak, chorizo, sausage, ham, fried egg, and special sauce – in the local sports club. Think poutine, but a sandwich.

Day 2: Vilarinho – Barcelos – 29.6 km

The highlight of our walk was an incredible medieval bridge. We enjoyed the lively town of Barcelos with its countless rooster statues and an exciting fire truck parade. In the evening, we attended a full Portuguese mass.

Day 3: Barcelos – Facha – 25.7 km

Following two long days on the road, we ended this stage earlier than suggested at the incredible Quinta da Portela in Facha. The owner purchased a crumbling house in 2004 and has renovated it into a paradise. Some of the best features included seven varieties of fruit tree, sassy chickens, a stream that flows into a plunge pool, stained glass doors from monastery confessionals, and chandeliers made from farming equipment. Needless to say, we were ready to move in. The six-dish, home cooked dinner sealed the deal.

Day 4: Facha – Rubiães – 27.6 km

Well, we finished the previous day’s six miles into Ponte de Lima and then climbed a mountain in pouring rain. Beast mode!

Day 5: Rubiães – Tui – 20.3 km

Our final day in Portugal was capped off with a long lunch in the old fortress of Valença. There was no logistical nonsense at our border crossing, just a lot of time to reflect and take pictures. And then the language and the local beer changed and we were in Spain!

It’s impossible to summarize our time in Portugal. We walked through two major cities and countless towns that have almost vanished. We played on modern exercise equipment in neighborhood parks, and we walked on the cobblestones of Roman roads. We spoke quiet prayers through the open doors of stone chapels, and we let our curses reverberate up never-ending mountains. We have unending gratitude for the help we received from Portuguese people. We were met with kindness as we struggled to order a basic breakfast or figure out which of their neighborhood roads to walk down. We will not miss Super Bock beer, but we’ll miss just about everything else. Obrigada, Portugal!

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Packing List Revisited

Hi everyone! I’ve fallen a little short on blogging, but I’m back today with a peek into our bags.

Posing with a pig in Mealhada, known for its suckling pig dish called leitoes.

Before starting our walk, we consulted a lot of resources to figure out our packing list. There are clear physical advantages to having a lighter pack. There are also mental advantages to only carrying items you need. On mile 14 in 85% humidity, those extra wool hiking socks really start to weigh on you. In the spirit of sharing our daily experience, here are some items we love, some items we picked up, and some items we chucked.

A view of one of Porto’s six bridges.

Love:

  • Belkin 10,000 mAh power bank – Our phones are important resources on this trip. They allow us to stay in contact with the kids, reserve hotel rooms on the fly, capture one billion photos, and write these blog posts. Having a 10k power bank means we can charge two devices on the fly – multiple times. No matter what the plug situation is at our lodging, we’re good to go. That means more precious non-walking minutes to enjoy a local dinner or sit at the neighborhood cafe. We also checked out solar power, but the technology is not quite up to speed for our walking lifestyle.

Livraria Lello, J.K. Rowling’s Porto inspiration.

Picked up:

  • Compeed blister plasters – We started our trip with KT blister tape and heavy duty bandaids. However, with soaring temperatures and few rest days, we needed something better. Compeed blister plasters are like little sticky cushions for your feet. They come in many shapes for any kind of blister. I like that they are lightweight, good for multiple days, and thick enough for real healing to occur. Our only regret is not investing in this company (or Portuguese pharmacies in general) before starting.
  • Logo-free t-shirts – When I walked the Camino in Spain, it was in true post-college fashion. I almost exclusively stayed in huge pilgrim bunk rooms and never went anywhere nice. This time around is a little different. First, the route from Lisbon to Porto has few walkers, so even if you’re somewhere cheap, you’re surrounded by nicely dressed locals. Second, we’re older and do nicer things. While we’re happy to be using technical shirts from 5ks, we should have brought a shirt or too we feel good in. Thank you reasonably prices Decathlon shirts for making us look more legit!

Colorful Agueda

Chucked:

  • Thick socks – I’ve sworn by two layers of hiking socks forever, but not this time. It’s too hot and our feet needed more room to breathe. The hardest thing for me was chucking them and carrying only light ankle socks. But holding on to things “just in case” doesn’t work when your house is on your back.

Exploring Coimbra

Let us know if you have questions! We have spent a lot of quality time with our belongings and are more than glad to chat.

Three Stamps

When you walk any leg of the Camino de Santiago, you must carry a pilgrim’s credential. The credential serves two purposes. First, it shows accommodation providers that you’re a legitimate pilgrim. This is especially significant in municipal and private hostels built (and priced) for walkers and bikers alone. Second, the credential proves that you have completed at least 100 kilometers when you reach the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Officials check your dated stamps before offering a certificate of completion.

In my opinion, the credential is also a fabulous ritual that leads to a perfect souvenir. Getting your stamp at the end of a hard day feels good. It’s an opportunity to reflect on your progress, and to share stories with the people you encounter. Natalie and I experienced this ritual in its fullest today.

The owner of our albergue in Alvaiázere takes immense pride in stamping credentials. After touring us around town and telling us the story of how he opened a hostel, he got to work. First, he applied a foil seal to our passports. Then, he glued in a small patch next to it. Finally, he made a wax seal with ribbon representing the town’s colors attached to it. Another traveler commented in Spanish that he was an artist and we wholeheartedly agreed. Check out photos of his handiwork, as well as simpler stamps for comparison.

We keep opening our credentials to look at his three, thoughtful stamps. Yes, part of his motivation is developing a competitive advantage other other hostels in the area. But the time he took to sit with us, sip port, and melt wax onto our passports had a lot more to do with building community than competition. What a sweet experience for all.

Smiling, Sweating, and Sobbing

On Day 2 of our caminho, somewhere between Vila Nova da Rainha and Azambuja, Natalie and I both sobbed for the first time on this journey. We were splayed out in the blazing sun on a dirt track next to a bog of eternal stench. We had been walking for about 8 hours as the temperature climbed to 90 degrees. As Natalie took off one shoe to tape up a blister, she started to cry. Then, she pointed out some chafing on my inner thigh. I started bawling. Defeated but unwilling to fully roast in the sun, we lifted each other up and carried on. I may or may not have said “I hate Portugal” multiple times. Only Natalie knows what happened.

As we emerged from what could mildly be described as an overgrown thicket into a truck stop motel, we smiled. We did it together. If we looked past our sunburned calves and disgustingly sweaty faces and multiple curses laid on the innocent people of Portugal, we saw what we had really done: supported each other enough to alternate sobbing and caretaking on the side of the rode. We had truly made the most of our time together – this is a vacation, after all, and it’s also the beginning of a wonderful chapter in our lives.

Thank you all for your support. We are enjoying a glorious rest day at Casa da Alcacova in Santarem and soaking up the many lessons the caminho has to offer.

Bom Caminho!

We walked 20 miles today. Woah. After flying to Lisbon and spending the day exploring (and napping, let’s be real), we hit the road bright and early. Check out our highlights and photos below:

Lisbon highlights:

  • Exploring the monastery.
  • Eating lunch on the waterfront.
  • Running into my SOM classmate, Avi, while take a selfie with a gelato statue
  • Visiting the cathedrals that represent the starting point of our walk and receiving our first stamp in our pilgrim’s credentials.
  • Embracing the comfort of a spacious bathtub and a delightful episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Stage 1 Highlights – Lisboa to Verdelha de Baixo (32.2 km)

  • Walking out of Lisbon before everyone was awake. We found the the remains of yesterday’s World Cup parties all along the twisting streets.
  • Gorgeous coastline walking through the ’98 Expo Area.
  • Getting our first “Bom caminho!” wishes from a local walker.
  • Midday beers. Twice.
  • Ending the last few miles in peace, despite serious calf and booty aches. 20 miles is really far and we did it!

Thanks for reading!

Adventure is out there!

Hello, olá, hola!

It’s hard to believe that we’re leaving to walk the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago in three days! Natalie and I have been dreaming about this adventure for a long time. We’ll start walking from Lisbon on Saturday, June 16th, and we will reach Santiago de Compostela on July 9th. 24 days of walking!

We would love your company along this walk. If you would like to get email notifications for our posts, sign up with your email address on the right side of the homepage. We look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Camino map

Route map from Brierley’s Camino Portugues guidebook.