Following the way of St. James from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela
I literally ran through the Heathrow and Madrid airports to make my connections, but I arrived safely and on time in Porto. I checked in to my hostel in the center of town and started exploring the city. The first and only order of business was getting my pilgrim stamp from the Porto Cathedral. Otherwise, I’m soaking everything in while dealing with some jet lag—and waiting for my bag to be delivered to my hostel tonight. I made the connection from Madrid, but it didn’t. (5.5 miles)
1. Porto to Vila do conde
(13 miles, 7 hours) I headed out early after breakfast at the hostel. I took the Metro out to the coast at Matosinhos. The coast was gorgeous and we enjoyed the fruits of the fishing economy with sardines (different from home) for lunch. Survived my first rainstorm. The first person I met was from Ottawa, Jenny’s hometown, and we walked most of the day together. I also met people from all over the world—Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and all over Europe.
2. vila do conde to Barcelos
10 miles, 5 hours. Took an Uber from Vila do Conde to Rates and then walked from Rates to Barcelos. I traded the beauty of the beach for lush rolling hills and beautiful small towns and villages. My mantra for the day was from a passage from Numbers that my Mom gave me before I left: May God “strengthen you with His love, fill you with His assurance, bless you with His peace.” I started early this morning to beat the rain, which just started really coming down when I arrived in Barcelos. I’m staying at my first pilgrim hostel tonight and was so happy to arrive and get out of the rain.
3. Barcelos to Ponte de Lima
20 miles, 10+ hours. Long, hard day over many hills, but the beautiful landscape and weather, the company of fellow pilgrims, the hospitality of locals, and the song our band wrote for me got me through. This is the longest stage of the Camino Portuguese. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I did! Tomorrow is an *easy* 12 miles.
4. Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes
13 miles, 7 hours. Today had a hard uphill 3-4 mile climb to 1300 foot summit. Ponte De Lima, my starting point, was beautiful and the music playing throughout the town buoyed my spirits as I set off. The Pilgrim Cross was my spiritual highlight of this stage. And I found a quaint hostel in a stone house called The Pilgrim’s Nest with the most gracious and kind hostess. Feet hurt and muscles are sore, but it’s all good.
5. Rubiaes to Tui
13 miles, 8 hours with lots of sightseeing in Valença. The walk was easy but the trail wandered through small towns and the Valença suburbs—a little underwhelming compared to previous stages. However, I happened upon a Sunday market and picked up food for lunch. Valença, a fortress city overlooking the river was amazing. I had gelato on the ramparts! It was cool walking across the bridge from Portugal to Spain. Staying in an old convent dating back to the 14th century tonight.
6. Tui to mos
15.5 miles, 6 hours. I departed Tui this morning surrounded by many other pilgrims. Most people start in Tui because it meets the 100km requirement to receive the pilgrim compostela (certificate) at the end. There were beautiful trails leaving Tui. I went past my original stopping point of O Porrino because I made such good time and people said the small town of Mos is very nice, which it is. I felt good and confident most of the day but I hit the wall the last two miles. Hopefully nothing that Spanish food and sleep can’t fix. Less than 100km to go!
7. Mos to pontesampaio
11 miles. The Camino humbled me late yesterday, so I took it slow today and felt better. I was buoyed by dinner with New Zealanders last night, Dutch and Portuguese pilgrims this morning, and an Italian pilgrim this afternoon. It was great to see the sea again at Redondela and Arcade, where I am staying the night. I’m so grateful for experience and everyone that has made it possible.
8. Pontesampaio to San Amaro
14.5 miles. The morning wound along through a trail beside a steam that reminded me of the Wissahickon Watershed In Ambler, then through the historic center of Pontevedra and finally to the small stopping point of San Amaro and the Posada do Peregrino. I am about half a stage ahead of schedule and for the last three nights have stayed outside the major towns and pilgrim stopping points. It has been a nice way to see life in small(er) town Spain
9. San amaro to o pino
13.5 miles. Spent the morning walking past miles of grape vines, stopped in a couple cafes (a pilgrim must eat and rest!), visited the church in Caldas de Reis with an altar to St. James, walked in the quietude of the woods, and made my way to a hostel in O Pino, just off the Way. You could drive to Santiago in 15 minutes from here, but it will take me two days. My feet want to be finished, but my heart does not
10. O pino to o faramello
13.5 miles. The highlight of the day was visiting the Church of Saint James (Santiago) in Padrón, which has ties to the legend of Santiago. It is supposed to be the place he arrived in Spain to preach the Gospel, and where they brought his remains following his martyrdom in Jerusalem. There are contradictory depictions of both Santiago the Pilgrim and Santiago the Moor Slayer.
11. O faramello to Santiago de compostela
12 miles. “What do we say to the god of death? Not today.” I was moved to tears when I came into view of the cathedral and again when I was issued my Compostela. Feelings of gratitude, accomplishment, relief, connection to all the pilgrims past and present, healing, and peace. I received my Compostela from a very kind Irishman, embraced St. James, visited his remains, saw some pilgrims I had seen along the Way, will attend the Pilgrim Mass tonight and tomorrow, and rest and eat. Thanks for making this journey with me. I know there will be more reflections to come.
Santiago de compostela
I feel like I should be walking somewhere! Instead, I’m enjoying the beauty and energy of Santiago. Hundreds of pilgrims arrive everyday. They stream up the old streets to the Cathedral square and then past my hostel to the Pilgrim office to get their Compostela. The wealth, power, and influence of Santiago can be seen in the awe-inspiring Cathedral, which is right up there with St. Peter’s in Rome for me, and in the art and architecture, which I saw in the Cathedral Museum. There are tons of restaurants and cafes catering to pilgrims from around the world. I’ve already had local specialities Pulpo des Patates (octopus with potatoes), Padrón Peppers, along with paella, mussels, and more. (6 miles)