Dear Christine. Throughout the 2 Caminos that we have walked together, one in 2013, and one in 2018, we marveled at the frequent, unanticipated and unexplainable events that we came to call “Camino Moments“. Eddie, the pilgrim from Puerto Rico, once instructed me, “Peter, in life there are no coincidences.“ How right he was.
We begin our walk this morning on the Camino with a visit to the cathedral in order to get our credentials stamped at the start.
I walked up to the counter where the young women prepared to assist me. I immediately recognized her. It took her just a moment before her eyes grew wide and she spoke my name. Do you recall those two young women students who were so helpful to us in Porto in 2018? One was Mafalda, and the other was Rita. Here’s the picture of us with them from 2018. Rita is on the left.
The young lady at the counter this morning was Rita! Of all the people in this huge city that I would encounter on the first step of this Camino, how can one explain this intersection of lives renewed!
She quickly grabbed her cell phone and feverishly opened her Facebook app. She turned to her coworker and displayed to him our picture. She spoke excitedly to him in Portuguese but no doubt was explaining the context of this meeting. He was struck dumb as were so many people standing around us.
She came around to the front of the counter, we embraced, posed for a picture, and some further explanation was then shared with those around us, all to their further amazement. In life and on the Camino there are no coincidences.
We covered 16 km today, almost all along a lovely seashore. Tomorrow it will be up early to cover 22 km of the next stage.
Our hostel is clean and modern. Our four person dorm is a bit cramped very serviceable.
The room is shared with a man and a woman (not a couple) who are both from Germany. I am getting more practice with that language, all to my thorough joy.
I am going to leave off for now as I need to try and get this post loaded, shower, and get some SLEEP!! I will include more pictures at the end.
Dear Christine. It was so good to hear your voice today and to connect in a lengthy phone call. I’m glad that the special overseas call option has finally kicked in on T-Mobile. I’m really excited for you on your upcoming high school reunion. Don’t worry, you’ll have a great time connecting!
We leave for the Camino tomorrow morning, but more on that in a bit.
I had not intended to do a great deal of walking today but the weather was nice and there were opportunities to take in some city sites which required walking. Over 10 km in all. This letter will give some highlights, not a great deal of depth, but of course pictures.
We wandered the area where you and I stayed in 2018. You may recall it’s a university area and there are students strolling about wearing black capes. Sorry, but no pictures of them. There’s a bookstore, which is not unusual in a college neighborhood, but what is unusual is that this is the bookstore where are J. K. Rowling spent many hours drinking coffee and constructed her story work for the Harry Potter series.
The bookstore is not particularly large or noteworthy from the outside, yet hundreds of people lineup here every day (adults no less!) and stand in line for the opportunity to visit the store. As we approached the area the throng of people extended in a line one block long, and doubled back another full block.
They each pay €5 admission which is credited against any purchase. People are not admitted until a similar number of people have exited. It’s crazy! I didn’t go in.
The neighborhood, caped students, and architecture apparently provided her with some inspiration.
Nearby was the tall stone tower that I again missed the opportunity to climb. This certainly guarantees us another visit to Puerto!
Not far from there was another unusual store, this one dedicated to the sale of canned sardines and various other similarly canned seafood items.
They are really not intended for eating but as gifts and for collecting. One whole wall was sardine cans with a year emblazoned on the front, 1916 through the present. They are “birthday sardines!“ The sales lady was careful to explain that the cans say something about the depicted year, but the sardines are fresh packed. How many people do you know that collect sardines? Yea, me neither.
We visited a pair of unusual churches. They are both Catholic and of similar design. They were built 100 years apart, in the 17th and 18th centuries respectively.
There was some problem with having the church is actually touch so a “hidden house“ was constructed to separate them. The house is approximately 10 feet wide and five stories tall. It is represented as the narrowest house in Porto, somewhat reminiscent of the canal houses that you and I have seen in Amsterdam.
Why two similar churches were located so close to each other? I don’t know.
We toured the churches and saw the opulent robes, gilded altars, religious articles, and curiously enough birthing chairs!
They look like something out of the middle ages (probably because that’s where the design originates). I thought they were toilets for the bishops, but was disabused of the notion upon reading the storyboard.
There were catacombs beneath the church where approximately 400 religious had been buried over the course of a many years. No pictures were allowed. There were bones, and the visible remains of one saintly woman who died in the 1700s. Apparently, resting in peace is not actually an option for this one who lived a good life.
By the way, religious men who were buried in the crypt (Priests and Brothers) were interred a matter of right. Religious women (Nuns), had to pay with money for the privilege during life.
There were a variety of relics on display, including a minuscule splinter represented as a piece of the “true cross“. It even had a “certificate of authenticity” signed by an Italian bishop in the 1600s. I’ve heard it is said that one could built a house with all of the pieces of the “true cross“ if they were only gathered together. I wonder how much the church paid for that splinter?
Outside of the churches there were the occasional beggar, and I saw a few troubled people sleeping in doorways over the course of the day.
I found it troubling to see such wealth and power on display by heads of a church founded on Christ’s teachings.
OK, I’m going to step down off of my soapbox.
Later in the afternoon we took in a 3 hour street art walking tour presented by an archeologist born and raised in Porto. It was fascinating and “free“ with donations requested. It is impossible for me to set out in this letter out all of the information we were provided.
Highlights: The tile work that is found throughout Porto is considered street art. It is against the law to paint heritage surfaces, but there is a website that tells artists where owners throughout the city have designated parts of their property as open for art. “Paper art” is legal anywhere, because it’s easily removed. “Tagging“, which we call graffiti, is vandalism, not art. Here are some images:
This tall building in the background is an interesting assembly of art tiles.
The artist distributed blank tiles throughout the art community, inviting the other artists to apply their own images. The original artist then assembled these into a monumental collage The words that you can see in the center mean, “Who are you Porto?” I hope that the picture resolution is sufficient that you can focus in and see some of the individual pieces.
It’s not a particularly pleasant neighborhood, being located across the street from the train station. There were two small “hole in the wall“ restaurants. Our tour guide mentioned them as highly recommended, frequented by locals, cheap, and featuring authentic Portuguese cuisine. We returned there after struggling to work out our baggage transfer arrangements and enjoyed a terrific dinner and full bottle of wine. I had a huge roasted cod dinner and Kris enjoyed a similar sardine entree. The entire bill was €31, which works out to less than $30!
About the baggage transfer: We found a company that will transport the bags and is “high-tech“. Instead of leaving a little envelopes with instructions and money attached to the bag, one registers and provides all of the info and payment online. The company then sends an email with a QR code that is to be printed and attached to the bags. It’s a great concept, provided you have a printer. The hostel has a printer, the printer didn’t have ink. After some significant stressing out, a phone call with the transfer company it got worked out. I have to take a photograph of the bags in the morning and emailed it to company.
Enough for now. This turned out a lot longer than I expected which is probably a good thing. I do not know what the Internet situation will be tomorrow.
Yesterday was a travel day. The train ride met my expectations, clean, comfortable, and reasonably fast.
However, there was a 30 minute delay which meant that I missed the short suburban connecting train and had to wait on the platform 45 minutes for the next one. It really wasn’t a problem because it still meant that my arrival at the hostel was shortly before check-in time.
When I arrived and was ready to check in the young lady at reception indicated there was a problem. My room had not been vacated and they could not locate the delinquent occupants. They couldn’t just remove their things, so as an accommodation I was given a larger room that shared the bath with only one other room instead of 8 rooms. I was certainly good with that!
The hostel is incredible. Still not a hotel since I share a bathroom (what a bathroom!).
There is no sink in the room which is kind of annoying. The hostel is located inside the train station so there’s a bit of noise. I’m located on the third floor and each floor is about 20 feet high.
There are 75 steps down to get to the lobby, but there is an elevator. My room is huge with a 20 foot high ceiling. My room has a living area down below, and a sleeping/loft area above. Pictures will do a better job of explaining the nature of this place.
A common area is located on the fourth floor which is actually the attic of the train station. There is a lounge, bar, and kitchen area where breakfast is served in the morning.
It’s a typical continental breakfast of muesli, hard rolls, yogurt, meats and cheeses. The coffee smells wonderful but I’ve passed on it simply because I don’t want to make the tremors any worse.
I met up with Kris and we began pouring over the Camino guide to plan the first few days. We enjoyed a late afternoon/evening on the waterfront of the Douro River which presented some remarkable picture opportunities. I will let the images speak for themselves.
Daytime is one thing, but the beauty really comes out at night! I returned my hostel through some dark passages which started to feel a bit “dicey”.
The São Bento train station where the hostel is located, dates to the mid 1800’s and features remarkable “murals“ that are made from porcelain tiles. It’s quite stunning. The station is not very large and is in the heart of the old city. I am just a few blocks from the river.
I’m going to do a bit of wandering and sightseeing today. I had considered going to the post office to ship some items back to you and lighten my pack, however I’ve decided that I will transport my bag between lodgings, at least for now.
“Talk” to you later!
I love you. Peter
PS. (Of course!) it appears that folks who subscribe to my posts with Gmail addresses are not receiving the links. I surmise that I may be tagged a “spammer“ because of the number of recipients. It’s something I need to address, but not today. There are better things to do! Hugs to the kids and grandkids.
It was good to hear your voice today! Sorry that I timed it so badly. The difference in time zones is going to take a little bit of getting used to. When it’s noon here I have to remember that you are not yet out of bed.
This has been a low impact day. If I had more days I would do some serious sightseeing, but since I leave for Porto tomorrow I wanted to make sure of my train connection and navigation to the station.
I bought a 24 hour pass that allows me unlimited travel on the metro system: trolleys, buses, funiculars, subway, and local trains, all for about €6, or a little less than $6. The exchange rate between the dollar, the euro, and the British pound is heavily in favor of the Dollar. The Euro and Pound are at all time lows versus the Dollar. Prices are at least 15% cheaper today than when I booked travel and my accommodations in Lisbon and Porto a couple of months ago.
The Metro subway stop is a half block from my hostel. The system is very modern and the ride to the train station took only 25 minutes with one change.
Taking a taxi wouldn’t be much faster but would cost about €15.
Speaking of modern, the train station is spectacular.
While I was on the platform today’s noon train to Porto pulled in. Again, very modern and very fast.
My ticket cost €44, which was for a first class seat. Second class would’ve cost €38. The first class cabin looks like first class on an airliner. I’m sure I will be able to share some pictures tomorrow.
Beneath the train station is a vast complex of shops, eateries, cafés, etc. There was a fancy barbershop offering a special, haircuts for €10. My hair has to grow more before I’m going to consider a haircut. The last one was too short. I know you agree.
I used my pass to hop on tram number 28.
28 goes through the old city and many of the popular tourist areas. These old trams date back to the early 20th century and have been kept in excellent condition.
They are not maintained for the benefit of tourists, although they are a tourist attraction, but rather they are the only form of public transportation that can negotiate the narrow winding streets of the central city that date back centuries. These little electric trains move fast and there is often less than a foot separating it from pedestrians on the narrow cobblestone sidewalks. I am sure there must be occasional accidents which are no doubt blamed on the pedestrians and not the tram drivers.
Because of its route, number 28 is very popular. The tram only seats 20 but it quickly fills to standing room only. The trick is to get on at one of the ends where the coach starts out empty.
I rode tram 28 from end to end which took about an hour. Even though I had a seat it was pretty cramped so I didn’t try to take pictures of the scenery. I did note how few people on the streets are smoking these days. It is quite a contrast to what we’ve seen in years past.
At one end was a large cemetery reminiscent of ones we have seen in Paris and Buenos Aires. Even in death there is the struggle for status. But I am reminded of a German proverb: “Arm und Reich im Tod Gleich” (rich and poor are the same in death)
Some tombs resemble small churches and must have cost many thousands of dollars.
Occasionally I came upon one of these family mausoleums in a state of very poor repair. Cloth covered wood caskets that were once elegant had been exposed to the elements and were in such a state of deterioration that it’s a wonder bones weren’t sticking out the sides.
On the other hand, I came upon a very modern looking mausoleum. It’s “resident“ must have died recently as there were many freshly placed mementos in front, and even a carefully tended tomato plant! When I first came upon this there were two teenage girls seated in front of the mausoleum listening to music.
I just looked the name up on the internet. Sara Carriera died at the age of 21. She was a singer and also the daughter of a singer-songwriter. This is what I found:
“She was only 21 and the daughter of acclaimed singer and songwriter Tony Carreira. Sara was on the passenger seat of a Range Rover Evoke driven by her boyfriend, the singer Ivo Lucas. Lucas lost control of the SUV for reasons yet to be determined. Afterward, a vehicle crashed into the tumbled SUV.”
As I left the cemetery I saw that it was trash and recycling day. Is it possible that the green bins are the property of the Soilent Company?
I wonder what age groups will and won’t get this bit of dark humor.
At the other end of my ride on tram 28 I came to a plaza where there was a beer tent and a number of semi permanent vendor kiosks.
I heard voices raised in anger a short distance away and I came upon a protest.
These were Iranian citizens protesting the suppression of women in their country and the recent murder of a young lady for her failure to wear a head covering. I found the entire scene quite emotional.
The speakers addressed the crowd in English even though most of the attendees were Portuguese. At least in major cities like Lisbon, English seams to be the common language that links diverse cultures.
I am again going to avail myself of dinner here at the hostel tonight. They require at least four people for the chef to work his magic. When I signed up I was number four.
Enough for now. Have Fun, Do Good, and Be Safe! Love You, Me.
PS. (There always seems to be one) This evening‘s dinner was the best multicultural experience that €15 could buy. I shared table with six young people. The young woman in the foreground to the right is from the Netherlands, the two young people seated across from one another are from France, the two young women across from me are from Argentina (the one directly across from me now lives in Barcelona), and finally the young man to my left is from Seattle Washington. Again, English was our common language, although Apolonia (from France on my right) and I shared some German together. She too uses Duolingo. I should add, the meal was again spectacular! Life is good.
Yesterday’s parting was painful! Layer upon layer of longing, uncertainty, and anxiety. Thankfully, the flight was without incident, save for a bit of turbulence over the Atlantic. I have lost count of the number of flights that I’ve taken, yet there remains for me something magical in seeing the earth, it’s places, and it’s people reduced to specs and points of light.
Unlike past flights crossing “the pond“ I slept most of the way thanks to earplugs and an eye mask. Of course, not having you to talk with might have had something to do with it.
Departure from Boston was 11:30 PM eastern time, and we arrived in Lisbon at 10:30 AM. I am 6 time zones from you. About an hour before boarding I happened to look at Facebook and saw that Garry and Kathleen Clifford were at the Boston airport boarding a plane for their home in Glasgow Scotland, via Dublin. They were in the same terminal! Garry reached out today and expressed his regret that we had missed meeting. Perhaps next spring when you and I are walking Hadrian’s Wall in England we can connect. Glasgow is only about a 90 minute drive to the north.
Lisbon airport was extremely busy, but very well organized. I was in a line for a taxi that stretched at least 200 feet yet it only took me about 10 minutes to get a cab. €23 and 15 minutes saw me to the door of my hostel, The Living Lounge.
It is located in the heart of the old city, just a couple of blocks from the waterfront and grand Plaza. My room is simple, the bathroom is down the hall, but it served up a “full-bore” hot water shower that was most welcome after hours in a crowded plane.
The lobby/lounge area is charming and they feature a multi-course dinner every evening for only €15. I signed up for tonight.
I repacked my backpack and in spite of it weighing 25 pounds it is well-balanced and not “overstuffed“. Part of that weight consists of the electronics and camera stuff that allow me to make these posts. It is likely that I will be transporting my pack over the course of at least part of the Camino. I don’t feel compelled to carry it “every step of the way“… Been there and done that.
I’m certain that once you see these pictures of the Plaza, Cathedral, and street scenes in the vicinity, you will remember our visit here in 2018. I really think that we should plan a trip to Lisbon and spend not less than a week here before heading elsewhere.
The weather is spectacular today and the waterfront beautiful. Sailboats, tourists, the 100+ year old trolleys, street performers, and even a random submarine!
I climbed to the top of the main monument and was rewarded with a panoramic view. I even got to see the workmen servicing the clock tower mechanism.
I stopped in a shop and took away a “Bacalhau”. It’s kind of a fried ball-like sandwich made from dried salted cod, cheese, and other ingredients. It’s the only real meal I’ve had yet today but it was wonderful! You would’ve hated it.
Language has not been a problem. I spent most of the afternoon wandering about and I have yet to really “connect“ with anyone. Our “sister”, Kris, flew into Porto today and has booked an apartment in the vicinity of my accommodations. In spite of the fact that she has been hiking England, Scotland, and France over the past 3 months, she says she’s not yet ready to return to Denver. We’re going to talk on Sunday about whether she might accompany me on part or all of my walk. She has a friend who lives on the coast of Spain and she may elect to stay there. This has got to be at least the 10th Camino for Kris. She has forwarded me a list of lodgings on the trail that she has stayed at in the past, both recommended and to be avoided.
I made it to the 12th Century Cathedral and secured my credential, complete with a stamp for Lisbon. I lit a candle (the lowest on the right), said a prayer… and then quickly ducked to avoid any random lightning strikes. None came.
Dinner was wonderful! I shared table with five other people, three young ladies from Italy, and two gentlemen, one a German/Italian and the other (seated to my right) a Brazilian environment scientist now living in the Czech Republic. €15 bought each of us a home-cooked Portuguese feast. I think you would’ve probably passed on the salt fish. Both gentlemen spoke fluent German so I got a little practice in.
Beyond breakfast at the hostel I don’t have any real plan for tomorrow other than to wander the streets of this wonderful city. Until then, Sleep well!
Love You, Me.
PS. Many of you who are reading “over our shoulders” know that Kris has been a part of our history for over nine years. For those who do not: We met Kris in Spain while walking the Camino in 2013. She joined us for the last five days and a deep friendship then took root. Kris and her husband, Dennis, have been guests in our home, and we have been guests in their home. In 2018 while Christine and I were in the Netherlands, Kris and Dennis were hiking cliff trails on Scotland’s Isle of Skye. It was there that Dennis tragically fell from the trail, plunging to his death on the shore below.
In 2019 Kris spent a week with us aboard the canal boat we piloted in England, and she plans to reprise that with us in 2023. She has indeed become “our sister”.