It was our first day after finishing the Camino de Santiago. We had walked 1515 kilometers in 65 days. We had completed nearly one thousand miles and more than two months of walking. Waking up and walking was our routine, but today we didn’t have to walk.
With a 12:00 noon check-out time we decided to shut the shutters and put the “do not disturb” sign on the door. We had no place to be, so we slept. We woke up at 9:30 a.m. and headed down to a sumptuous breakfast buffet at the famous Parador Hotel.
Our stomachs hadn’t gotten the memo, that we were no longer hungry hikers. Chocolate filled croissants and eating bread at every meal was no longer going to cut it. We weren’t ready to give up good food just yet so we decided that we could indulge one last time. Who could resist champagne with churros and steaming cups of melted chocolate.
At breakfast we checked the bus and train schedules and ended up purchasing a bus ticket to Porto, Portugal. A bus was the quickest route and we still had a few hours to lounge around.
After walking for over two months it felt strange to ride in a bus. It almost felt unnatural. The countryside was beautiful as it quickly passed by. The Camino had taken us through rural areas and we were now seeing how populated the region was. From the window of the bus we saw how modern buildings with shopping malls and subdivisions, I was already missing the quaint villages that seemed to be of another time and place.
We pulled into Porto, Portugal two hours later. I couldn’t help but think that it would have taken over a week to walk that distance. We liked our new mode of transportation and hopped into a cab from the station. We were staying in the historic central area of the city and from the car windows I knew this was my kind of city.
The hillsides were covered with both historic and modern brightly colored buildings. The beautiful tile that Portugal is famous for covered buildings and the tile lined sidewalks were mesmerizing. The old section of the city city was small enough to be walkable. It was going to be a busy three days.
We spent the next few days feasting on seafood and playing tourists. We did all of the expectant things, from touring historic castles and churches, to taking a riverboat cruise to see the city’s infamous bridges. We also got to explore the bookstore Harry Potter made famous.
We spent an afternoon touring the historic wine cellars that gives Port wine it’s namesake. We came to a new found love of Port wines. We fell easily into having a glass as an aperitif and to finish our meal. Like a great wine, this is a city that we will definitely want to come back to and savor more slowly.
It seemed that we couldn’t escape the Camino, at every turn we noticed the Camino signs directing pilgrims on the Portugal route. Less than a week off of the trail we knew that we want to walk this leg of the Camino in the future. It was for this reason that we decided to not take the short visit to the Fatima, the famous Catholic pilgrimage site. We wanted something to save for our next trip here.
Instead, we decided to head to the beach and the Atlantic coast. Nazare is to surfing what Mt. Everest is to climbing. The largest wave ever surfed was surfed just off the beach in this small town. This is surfing’s Mecca.
We had just missed the annual surfing tournament by a few days. The day before we arrived, a surfer suffered a serious wipe out on the large waves. We were told that the big waves roll in about every three days. Unfortunately, the big waves hit the day before we arrived and the day after we left, but we enjoyed the area anyway.
It is another part of Portugal that we would like to stay for an extended time just to visit. The people, scenery, and food were all phenomenal.
We then headed to Lisbon for the rest of our visit. The capitol city was beautiful and we fell under the city’s spell with all of it’s holiday lights. To get in the holiday spirit, we each went on a shopping spree and bought a couple of sweaters and new jeans. We felt civilized because we no longer were limited to our hiking clothes and boots. A new haircut and shoes and we were real people again. With our new “city clothes” we were officially back in civilization!
We enjoyed normal days of walking only eight miles (instead of twenty), and loved simply sightseeing. We spent the day visiting museums, galleries, and enjoyed beautiful Portuguese wines and food in the evening. I think I have already said this, but the Portuguese know how to cook!
Thank you Portugal, we are now rested and relaxed and ready for our next big adventure in Morocco!