When I was walking the Camino Portuguese this past May from Porto to Santiago de Compostella, I found myself staying in places where I actually had a view.
I usually don’t care about having a view when I travel (sorry, E.M. Forster), so my view is often of an airshaft or a side street. It doesn’t matter since I tend not to spend a lot of time in the accommodation.
Even though I didn’t seek out a room with a view on the Camino Portugues, I would arrive at a new place at the end of a walking day, look out the window, and marvel at all that I could see. Some of the views were worth a moment’s pause. Look at where I am now. How did I arrive in such a lovely place? Well, I walked here.
Here are some of my views on the Camino Portugues:
When I was walking the Camino Portugues this past May from Porto to Santiago de Compostella, I had no foot problems even though I was ready for any foot emergency. I carried bandaids and tape, but I didn’t use the stuff. My feet stayed blissfully happy for eleven days of walking.
When I walked the Camino Frances back in 2012, I also had no blisters although I lost two toenails (ouch!) on the first and second days. On the Via Francigena in 2014, I had lots of foot pains and a blister because I didn’t properly break in the shoes before the walk.
Before the Camino Portugues, I trained a lot on concrete pavement in the hiking shoes. The pavement training turned out to be important because there was a lot of pavement and stone under the feet on the Portugues. I would even go so far as to say there was more pavement than the other walks, but that is just my completely biased opinion based on memories of walks over a decade ago. I did do a happy dance whenever my feet got to dirt on the Portugues.
So how did my feet stay blister free on the Camino Portugues?
This is what I did every morning:
I would sit and rub my feet. Good morning, feet, I hope you had a good sleep.
I would then rub Body Glide chafing stick all over my feet especially hitting the toes, the soles, the sides. The purpose of the chafing stick is to prevent friction from building up in the sock. You can also use Vaseline.
I would put on one clean dry pair of Smart Wool socks. I had brought five pairs of socks, but in future Caminos, I will only bring three. I always had a pair that was dry and clean. These socks were so comfortable that I would rub my feet again with the socks on.
Finally, I put on my hiking shoes. I had a pair of Columbia waterproof hiking shoes that I bought on sale at an outlet store. These shoes ended up being the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn on a Camino. I wear shoes that are Size 7 ½ to 8 (US sizes). These were Size 8. They never felt too tight or too oversized.
With shoes on, I would stand up, take a few steps, and do a little dance with my hands in the air like I just don’t care. When everything felt good, I would put on the pack and go. Let’s see what the day brings.
During the walk, I would stop frequently to take breaks. If possible, I would try to sit with my feet up. I would keep my shoes and socks on during my breaks. I know some folks like to take their shoes off. I think this is entirely your preference.
At the end of the walking day, when it was time to take the shoes off, I would sit, take off the shoes, take off the socks, check my feet, rub my feet. They were good feet for me.
I had an extra pair of light sneakers as well as a pair of flip-flops, but because my walking shoes were so comfortable, I usually put the Columbias back on for a walk around the town.
Every walk has a beginning. I’m not very ceremonial when I start my walks. I’m usually thinking, okay, let’s get on with it then. When I walked from Porto to Santiago this past May, I decided to start my walk by taking Porto’s Metro.
Porto is a walkable and beautiful Portuguese city. I highly recommend spending a few days there. I walked everywhere in the city center. I went to the Cathedral, the Contemporary Art Museum, restaurants, the river front, and the central market.
Porto also has great public transportation with Metro trains and buses. The Porto Metro is clean, efficient, and not expensive. The Brierley guide mentioned that I could eliminate eighteen kilometers on my first day by taking the metro, and I decided to do just that.
To take the Metro, you need a Metro card with the correct fare on it. You can buy a card at any machine in any Metro station. The Metro card can be refilled and there are all sorts of options like a day pass or a single fare. Metro station machines have an English language option, and they take both cash and card. You can also take the Metro from the airport, and the Metro station is easy to find once you land. There was even a Metro representative helping people get their Metro cards at the machines.
To take the Metro for the Camino Portuguese, you need to get on a B red line train heading to Povoa de Varzim and get off at Vilar do Pinheiro. The entire ride took 45 minutes to an hour from Trindade. I went in the late morning, and the train was not crowded. If you are catching the train in Trindade, several different lines stop at the same platform. Make sure you get the local train going to Povoa de Varzim.
In addition to eliminating the eighteen kilometers, the train will take you out of Porto, past apartment blocks, and urban stuff and deposit you on a country lane with trees.
When you get off the train, you can either go right for the Central Route or left for the Coastal Route. There’s only one road. I had a booking for my first night in Via do Conde, so I went left for the Coastal. There is a map and info about the Camino Portuguese at the station, so my guess is that a lot of pilgrims use the metro option.
I walked about a half kilometer down a paved country road. When I got to the airport (I was at the far end of the runway, not at the terminal), I turned right and sure enough, there was my first Camino marker. I then followed the marks and walked twelve kilometers to Via do Conde.
There were lots of trees but I would describe the way as all road going past farms, a motorway, and an outlet mall. The walk in Azuara and into Via de Conde was lovely, and I easily found my accommodation along with a good pilgrim menu dinner.
Is the Metro option cheating? No, I don’t think there is any cheating on the Camino. I think one can do the best one can with the options available. Do what you have to do to get yourself going.
I was nervous about starting this Camino. I had issues with fatigue, so I wasn’t sure how my body would react. However, once I got myself walking, everything physical, emotional, and mental started feeling good. I was able to build on the 12 km first day with a few more kilometers the next day, then a few more kilometers the day after, and I started feeling stronger. I’m glad I took the Metro option. I felt like I was fired out of a cannon, but I landed on my feet.
This past May, I walked eleven days from Porto to Santiago de Compostella on the Central Route. I had not walked a Camino in nine years, but a Camino is still a Camino. Only now, there are smart phones and apps.
I was walking at the end of May, and there were lots of Pilgrims. In Tui (which is 100 km from Santiago), the number of pilgrims quadrupled. I noticed a lot of day packs and folks took advantage of bag transport. While I carried my full pack the whole time, I did book ahead at most of the places I stayed at.
I chose the Central Route over the Coastal Route because I live in Southern California and see the ocean every day in my work. Also, what I gleaned from YouTube videos was that the Central Route had more variety and history. On the Central, most of the landscape is rolling hills, rivers, and vineyards; then I would stumble across a thousand year old church which was pretty awesome.
I recommend the Camino Portugues Central if you want to do a Camino Quickie in two weeks. Northern Portugal is a beautiful place with great people and great food; then you cross a bridge into Spain, and you are in Galicia. When you get to Santiago, you enter the plaza from the opposite side of the Camino Frances folks, and I really appreciated the different view.
I have so much to say about the Camino Portugues, and I will be saying it in some other blogs I have planned. I look forward to sharing it with you all.
Finally, I just got word that John Brierley has died. I used his guidebook on the Camino Portuguese (as well as the Camino Frances back in 2012). Godspeed Mr. Brierley and may flights of angels sing thee on your next journey.