Our Camino Portuguese, 9 April 2017 - 8 May 2017
The Portuguese Way of the Camino de Santiago, aka, the Camino Portuguese, is approximately 381 miles (614 km) from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela. This route is the second most popular route, after the Camino Frances. The majority of pilgrims who walk the Portuguese route start in either Porto (249 km to Santiago) or Valenca/Tui (117 km to Santiago), rather than Lisbon. The main reason we wanted to walk this route starting in Lisbon was not only because it is less crowded, but also because we had walked the route from Valenca/Tui a couple years back and were fascinated by the historic significance of this route and wanted to experience more and to learn more about Portugal as well. We also longed to walk this route completely on our own, without van support or luggage transport. We're getting older and needed to do this sooner rather than later, so the time to do it was now.
Since we had no van support for this Camino we spent many weeks planning which items we would be able to carry in our backpacks. Even after continuously cutting back the list, the first time we tried to put everything in our packs, there was no way to fit it all. After cutting back again, we got everything to fit, but the packs still weighed more than the recommended 10% of bodyweight. At that point we didn't feel that we could eliminate anything else. We figured that, once we started walking, we would quickly figure out what else we could eliminate if the backpacks got difficult to carry.
Day 1, Sunday, 9 April 2017 Lisbon
After the Rotary Camino Fundraiser ended, we left our suitcases at the Hotel San Francisco Monumental in Santiago de Compostela and took a bus from Santiago to Lisbon, carrying only our backpacks with sleeping bags and hiking poles. We arrived in Lisbon on Saturday evening, April 8, and checked in to the Ibis Hotel in the Parque das Nacoes neighborhood, near the Oriente train station.
We allowed ourselves 30 days to reach Santiago de Compostela, needing to arrive there, at the latest, by 8 May. We also allowed ourselves the flexibility to stay an extra day at some of the places we felt we would enjoy having more time to see, and the flexibility to take a train, bus or taxi ahead if needed. This would be our 11th Camino trek and we had already earned 5 Compostelas. We had nothing to prove on this Camino and wanted to enjoy each moment.
Our first day was supposed to be Monday, April 10th, but in our excitement, we actually started today, Sunday, April 9, 2017.
That morning I discovered (or at least firmly believed at that moment) that I left the pilgrim passports we received from American Pilgrims on the Camino with our names preprinted, in the suitcases we left in Santiago. I'd heard that you should arrive with your own passports because they can be difficult to obtain, so I worried about it but kept reminding myself that it will all work out as it should. I always worry about little things. My first lesson.
Everything did eventually fall together smoothly after only a little anxiety in the Cathedral. We got to the Cathedral just in time for the Palm Sunday procession and Mass. As we walked back to our seats after communion, we found that our seats were taken. We noticed some seats a couple rows behind, so we walked around the large pillar, but, by the time we got there, those seats were taken as well. Just then, the usher began to rope off the area and scolded us for trying to walk back around the pillar to where we were before. He was trying to block the throngs of tourists that had just begun pouring into the church since Mass hadn't ended yet. We couldn't explain what happened. He was just doing his job and we couldn't blame him for assuming that we were just part of the tourist crowd.
After Mass we needed to find out where to get our Pilgrim Credentials (passports) and first stamp. A lady who spoke English told us to wait by the sacristy door and told the usher (the same usher who had scolded us) what we needed. We had to wait quite a while because the bishop and other dignitaries were there for the Palm Sunday Mass and no one could help us until they left. While we were waiting we spoke to a very kind, young priest who spoke English. He confirmed what was happening and assured us that we would be helped soon. Finally the usher came with two already stamped Credentials for us.
With our Credentials in hand, we started walking from the Cathedral, using our Camino Portuguese guidebook by John Brierley. We had to make a few turns before we finally saw our first yellow Camino arrow, along with a blue arrow pointing out the Fatima route. We stopped at the Fado and tile museums which were on the way and walked our 1st 10 km to our hotel (Ibis) in Parque Das Nacoes. The yellow and blue arrows were well marked so we didn't get lost yet.
|Finding our first yellow and blue arrows|
We were getting hungry by the time we got to the tile museum. There was a cafe inside so we sat down, but service was very slow. The tile museum was excellent, but it was getting late, we had not yet eaten lunch and we still had a way to walk, so we didn't spend as long as we would have wanted. We continued on and finally stopped at a restaurant called Jardin...something, at Praca David Leander da Silva. There we had an unbelievably delicious grilled salmon meal for 8 Euros each, including soup, salad, wine and dessert. It was well worth the wait.
|Our 8 Euro grilled salmon dinner|
On our way home we stopped by the train station and got tickets, costing 3.05 Euros each for Santarem tomorrow morning. Then we stopped for coffee. The waiter was from Bangladesh and we had a nice chat with him. He wanted to give us samosas and some other Indian items on the menu. Indian items on the menu at a coffee house in Lisbon...what a surprise!
In the evening before returning to our hotel, we continued walking along the river and the Camino route a bit more and stopped at a huge grocery store where we bought tea bags and even found powdered cream for our morning tea. The tea that we made in our room each morning would prove to be a godsend on this Camino. Even as we gradually eliminated things from our backpack to lighten our load, there was no way we could give up our titanium cups, heating coil and tea supplies.
We went to sleep feeling so contented and excited ... our Camino had begun!