Archive for March, 2014

This is Walker here and I have a confession to make. After hiking over 3000 miles during the past year and a half I finally got not one, but two blisters! I think the Princess is very happy to have a fellow sufferer on the walk. She asked me what happened (since I was previously immune to blisters) and I told her I really donºt know but it’s probably due to a combination of not enough training, walking too many miles too soon – especially on paved roads through very flat terrain, and walking in the rain for the past two days. Anyway, I have now joined the club and can no longer assume that I’m immune to blisters. (It really hurts me to write this.)

Today we left Casa Patriarca just after 9:00 a.m. and it was already raining. In fact it rained off and on all day, mostly ‘on’ and sometimes really hard. The bright spot for the day – other than finally reaching our destination – was walking through a nice forest with lots of climbs and descents on an earthen track. It reminded me a little bit of hiking on the Appalachian Trail! At one point we missed a waymark (rocks arranged like an arrow on the ground) and went about a half-mile before I realized my mistake so we backtracked and eventually found the right trail. Then after another mile or so we got confused about our location so we wasted a good bit of time trying to match the terrain and the waymarks to the description in our guidebook. Once we got back on the road I suggested that we consider hitchhiking or taking a taxi but the Princess would have none of that so we trudged on through the rain until we finally reached our destination of Tomar at about 3:00.

We checked in to the hostel, took showers and then napped. I woke up after about an hour, went downstairs to use the computer and found the two Dutch brothers who we met in Santarem sitting in the community room. They had decided not to walk today due to the rain and took a bus to the nearby town of Fatima which is another Christian pilgrimage site. They gave me the weather forecast which calls for more rain tomorrow, then better weather on Wednesday. I haven’t talked to the Princess yet but I might be tempted to stay here another day and tour the sights of Tomar, which has a lot of history connected to the Knights Templar. Then we could start our walk again on Wednesday when the rain stops. She’s a real trooper and she probably won’t want to take a day off but maybe she will if I beg and maybe even shed a tear or two.

We’ll let you know what happens…


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Today the weather was on the gloomy side with scattered showers, but the temperature was great. We walked twelve miles to our intended destination of Alataia and are now comfortable in Casa do Patriarca, a 17th century manor house. Our accommodations just keep getting better! We’re in a private room for the third night, and for the past two nights I’ve been able to take a hot bath in a deep soaking tub. Although we know we’re on the early end of the season, we have been surprised that we have not seen any other pilgrims since our first night at the hostel. The Camino Portuguese doesn’t get as many people as other routes do, and we can’t understand why. Portugal is a lovely country with warm and hospitable people. The cities/towns are neat and tidy and the cafés and restaurants are very nice. And, as we’ve said, our accommodations have been great. We are following A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Portugués by John Brierley who is considered to be the current expert on pilgrim travel. The book states this section (from Lisbon) still carries relatively few pilgrims – 647 representing 0.35% of those collecting a Compostela at Santiago last year – and should only be undertaken by seasoned pilgrims with a flexible approach and a reasonable ability to speak Portuguese. We’re going to do all we can do to increase the popularity of this route!

Shortly after we started out this morning, a stork flew right past us. I had never seen one so close, and it was a lovely bird with gorgeous orange legs. (No, it was not carrying a baby!) Stork nests are plentiful and easy to spot. If you look closely in the center of the landscape photo, you will see a stork sitting on a nest at the top of a dead tree. We passed sheep and horses, orange, clementine, lemon, fig and olive trees and blooming flowers such as azaleas, camellias, birds of paradise and many more we didn’t recognize.

As I mentioned earlier, this Casa is wonderful. The current owners are fifth generation in the home. Like last night, we’re the only guests here. When we checked in, the owner Louisa asked if we would do her a favor. She said just today she had the idea to put photos of their guests on their Facebook page, and asked to take our photo. Of course we obliged, and since I’ve been in our downstairs room working on this post, I’ve noticed she has already posted the photo from her upstairs quarters. I try to imagine what life was like here in the 17th century, but is it hard.

We had a nice dinner down the road at the STOP restaurant. As soon as we sat down we were served two loaves of bread, delicious cheese and olives. We ordered what our waiter suggested – the seafood with rice stew – and weren’t disappointed. A nice bottle of Portuguese vinoh blanca and dessert finished it off. Now we are under Portuguese matelassé covers and beautifully embroidered sheets. I think we will sleep well..




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Our first day of walking went very well. We left the Santarem Hostel just after 8:30 a.m. and walked to the park at Porta do Sol (Gate of the Sun), which is a wonderful viewpoint at the site of the original Roman forum and the Moorish citadel. From there it was easy to find the Porta de Santiago which was the medieval pilgrims’ gateway. As expected in a city, we had to be very careful to follow the yellow arrows which mark the Camino de Santiago.
We walked on flat terrain with vineyards and farmers’ fields and saw horses, dogs and even some storks.
After about seven miles we stopped in the small village of Vale de Figueira for a snack and a chance to rest our feet. The Princess had developed several small blisters so we applied some tape to protect them. As we left the village a nice man yelled for us to wait for him and he ran up and gave us each two oranges. We packed them away to eat later.
During the second half of the walk Walker felt a hotspot developing on his right foot so he stopped to apply his favorite remedy – duct tape. We both felt the effects of the miles but were very happy to be back in Europe and walking on the Camino.
The Portuguese route sees fewer pilgrims than the French route and the route can be confusing at times. This caused us a minor difficulty during the afternoon when we missed a turn and got off the Camino for a while. Despite our navigation error we were eventually able to find our destination, Azinhaga. We still had to find accommodations, however, so we asked several people for directions to Casa da Azinhaga. Happily it did not take long to find the Casa. The owner spoke excellent English and told us that the Casa was a grand 18th century country mansion that had been passed down through her family. She and her husband live in Lisbon and visit the Casa on weekends. Her mother still lives there and there is a small staff to maintain the property and take care of guests.
She showed us our room and then we asked her for directions to the Camino so that we would not waste time in the morning looking for it. (We believed that we had walked into the village via an alternate route). She admitted that she did not know the location of the Camino but offered to take Walker on bicycles to try to find it. He jumped at the chance to pedal rather than walk! His excitement faded when he saw the bike he had to ride – a rusty kid’s mountain bike with half-flat tires.
After backtracking along our route into town she said that they hould go east a bit to look for the Camino. They still did not see any yellow arrows and after a while she said that she needed to get back to the Casa to get ready to drive to Lisbon. Walker wanted to keep looking for the Camino so he continued to ride east of town searching for yellow arrows. Finally he found a dirt road following the river and saw a yellow arrow on a telephone pole. After a little searching he found another arrow and was able to follow the Camino back into town. Eventually he reached the town center, which he recognized, and realized that the Camino was on the main road through town. The Casa was on this road, very close to the center, and the owner did not even know it!
After taking showers and resting we went out at 6:30 to find a restaurant for dinner. There were not a lot of options in the town but after a short walk we found a cafe/restaurant that looked promising. The proprietor spoke English and said that he served dinner but not until 7:30. He must have felt bad for us because he offered to make sandwiches, which we accepted very gratefully.
So after one day on the Camino we are doing fine – a little sore but happy to be here walking to Santiago. We have experienced the kindness and generosity of the Portuguese people and are grateful for the opportunity to see their country.

Here’s the Princess dressed up and headed out for dinner.

Here’s our feast for the first night on the Camino


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Princess here with a few shout outs. I’m carrying a few things on my backpack that deserve some attention. (At least in my opinion.) I have a scallop shell that I got in St. Jean Pied du Port in 2012. It is the traditional Camino symbol; the shells were carried by pilgrims back in the day to use for water collection. Now they are mostly used to identify oneself as a pilgrim, but also to catch the wine that pours from a fountain on the Camino Frances in Irache. I honestly did not know that in 2012 when I filled my water bottle with the delicious wine!

I also have two “little people”. I call them Walking Man and Dancing Lady. They were passed on to me by BZ, a hiking friend back home who was given an army of them by an elderly lady who made them with the intent of sharing the love.

In the photo you will also see what you may think is a version of a Blue Man, but it is Knitting Ninja made by Ellie B., a knitting friend who, under the cover of darkness, is one of my yarn bombing co-conspirators. This is Knitting Ninja’s second Camino.

And, last but not least, a Washington and Lee ball cap given as part of a farewell present from Professor George Bent. It was George who first introduced me to the Camino in a class on church architecture back in 2004. One of his first slides was that of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, and his narrative on people making pilgrimages there for more than 1,000 years piqued my curiosity and started this whole bucket list agenda. I carried this hat in 2012 as well and one of my favorite memories is of doing laundry outdoors one afternoon when a young man asked me about my hat. Turns out he and his hiking partner girlfriend went to college near where we live, and she is from a nearby city. We enjoyed the time we spent with them along The Way; in fact today I was trying to channel her as Walker, filming me with his GoPro, said it would be more interesting if I had more movement. I remember Rachel practically dancing down the trail, always smiling, and one time waving her arms as she appeared to be conducting her friends Mateo and Matt in song.

In my pack I have two herbal compounds/salves made by my knitting friend and homesteader Lisa. I’m happy to say I haven’t needed them yet, but I’m sure the time is near.

Unfortunately, I mistakenly left a prized possession at home. In 2012, my friend Nicki designed and knit a pair of socks for me with a scallop shell pattern. She presented them to me as a farewell gift and I enjoyed wearing them every evening in Spain. Somehow I left them behind, and I feel sad about that. On the positive side, they won’t be worn out for the next Camino!


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What? 41 and raining, this isn’t like last time! Oh yeah, we’re not supposed to be comparing.

We had a great flight and even though we arrived to a chilly and wet start we were not bothered. We took a taxi to the main train station in Lisbon and bought tickets for the train to Santarem. The ticket agent said “Line 6”, so we went directly there for our hour wait for the train. The signage appeared to indicate we were in the right place, but right before our departure time a train employee asked us where we were headed and told us we needed to be in Line 5. Whew! We thanked him profusely and waited a few minutes for our train. Walker is our navigator and knowing our destination was Santarem, assumed that Vale de Santarem was our stop. As we were ready to disembark, one of the train employees whistled at us and asked us where we were going. We said “Santarem”, and he said “next stop, that would be a long walk”. I thought…he has no idea what a long walk we have ahead! Thanking him profusely and sheepishly smiling at all the passengers who were looking at us, we continued on to our stop. At the station in Santarem, Walker asked for directions to the hostel where he had made a reservation for tonight. The guy said left and UP, holding his arm at a 90 degree angle. He seemed a bit surprised that we were going to walk there, and again I thought…he has no idea! It was a steep climb, but a short one, to the center of the city where we stood on a corner looking at our map. A nice young man from the corner pizzeria came out and asked if we needed help and then sent us in the right direction. Needless to say, by then we were completely astounded at how helpful the Portuguese are to tourists. I think there is a lesson we can all learn there although there is a fine line between being a busybody and being helpful, isn’t there? (I’m not sure, but I think the guy I followed through Newark security appreciated me asking him if he was wearing a belt. He was, and he, too, had seen the belt the previous guy in a dark suit had left behind).

Walking through the center to the hostel, we first passed a fabric store, then a yarn store followed by an embroidery shop and then a fiber arts store. All in one block and I didn’t stop! We went back after checking in, but they were all closed for siesta. Just as well as I don’t want to add any items to my pack, but I sure did think of my crafty friends back home.

We were the only ones here when we checked in to the Santarem Hostel, but later in the afternoon, Mario, the host, said they were going to cook a pilgrim dinner, and asked if we were interested. We said yes and agreed on 7:30 for dinner. We were pleasantly surprised when we went to the table to meet four other pilgrims. One, a younger (than us, anyway) lady who is Swiss-Croatian (and, yes beautiful) is walking from Lisbon to Fatima – a different pilgrimage. Small world story – She spent one year in the 90’s studying at Mary Washington in Fredericksburg which is where both of our children went to school. Also, a lady (older than us), from Guernsey off the coast of England who is walking to Santiago like us. A retired librarian and recent widow, she walked the Camino Frances last year. Her late husband was a roadie for Deep Purple. And, Dutch brothers who are section-walking to Porto this time. Unlike most Dutch people we know ; ) they didn’t have a whole lot to say.

This is a new hostel in a home built in the 18th century. The hosts are wonderful and Walker enjoyed a special visit to their music room and was able to play some different instruments.
After a buffet breakfast in the morning, we’ll be on our way. As they say in Portugal, Bom Caminho!

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If you’re new to our blog, welcome! In Aug. 2012 my husband/Tim/Walker retired and I/Cathy/Pokey/Princess voluntarily left the workforce so we could start crossing things off our bucket lists. First up was El Camino de Santiago. We started this blog as a way to keep family and friends informed of our whereabouts and as things go, they told a friend who told a friend and we now enjoy keeping acquaintances and strangers apprised of our travels.

Our bucket lists have shrunk and grown…in 2013 Walker scratched “Hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine” and I added “Walk all seven major Camino routes”. We’ve found ourselves on a bi-annual rotation, this year is my year, hence the Camino Portuguese.

Our blog name is derived from the fact that Walker is more direct/destination oriented while I’d stop at every café if time allowed and every thrift store if there were any. Walker comes from “he walks”; I didn’t want to be called “stroller” (she strolls) and one day when we were training he said “come on Pokey” and that kind of stuck. However, in his AT blog walkerat2013@wordpress.com, he referred to me as Princess, and since I’m frequently called that, that will be my moniker from here on out. (I don’t think it’s true at all, but one can hope for a self-fulfilling prophecy!)

After traveling with a packed car for the last two months, it feels strange – and wonderful – to have just our backpacks in our possession. Mine weighs in at about 13 pounds, and Walker’s at 17. Neither weight includes water. We checked a medium-sized box with our trekking poles, nail clippers, and pocket knife for the Camino, and nice (relatively speaking) clothes that we will mail to Sofia, Bulgaria from Lisbon. We’ll be going to Sofia near the end of April for a reunion celebration and then on to Athens to visit friends.

Although we’ve packed similarly to what we packed last time, we’ve made a few changes. I left my Keen hikers at home and plan to walk in ASICS Duomax running shoes. I bought a new pair of bright green and turquoise ‘evening shoes’, aka Crocs. Walker is walking in Merrell Moabs with a pair of Frocs (that’s what I call faux Crocs) for evening and shower wear. He’s carrying both of our sleeping bags again. I downsized to an iPad mini which I’m carrying this time and I’ve added a puffy jacket. Walker’s added a long sleeve base layer pullover, a cap I knit with possum wool that he brought back from New Zealand, and a Nook. We both have gloves this time and still our quick drying Ex-Officio undergarments. In case you’re wondering and as one reader has already asked, I did not get a new bra. I am, however, sporting a pair of “petals” which my dear friend Ellie B. presented me with upon my return last time.. (Walker never did photoshop those photos like he said he would!)
What we didn’t pack includes pj’s, hair dryer, cosmetics, lotion, or separate soap, shampoo and laundry wash – we have one product that does it all. (Happy surprise just now; I learned that a Walker packed a hairbrush!)
Walker is excited to use the GoPro camera he got for Christmas, but won’t be able to share videos until he meets up with his computer again in mid-May.

We’re trying hard not to, but it is difficult to not make mental comparisons between this Camino and our first. Knowing that this path is much less populated than the Camino Frances, we wonder if we’ll meet fantastic people like we did before. We had perfect weather in 2012; this year we’re prepared for much cooler temps and lots of rain. We think the terrain will be less difficult…will it? It looks like there will be more miles between cafés and albergues. Will I have to resort to answering the call of nature in natural environs this time? (I was quite proud of the fact that I never had to use the great outdoors last time.) In 2012, we felt our arrival in Santiago was almost anti-climatic as it was cold, wet and dreary and the streets were empty. This year, we plan to arrive in Santiago on Easter Sunday and can’t help but have visions of the glory of it all – perhaps not with choirs of angels singing, but hopefully with the infamous lone bagpiper.

Thanks for coming along with us on this journey and we look forward to your comments and questions!

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It’s been a long time since we posted to our ‘He Walks She Strolls’ blog but we’re getting ready to embark on another adventure – this time a walk on the Camino Portuguese – so it’s time to start writing again. We have spent the last two months in Fernandina Beach, Florida staying busy with our two grandsons and doing a little bit of training for the walk.

This coming Thursday we’ll fly to Lisbon and take the train to Santarem where we will begin the walk which will cover about 300 miles to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We plan to arrive in Santiago on Easter Sunday after twenty-three days of walking. We hope that you will follow us on this adventure!

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