Lots of Love for Lisboa

We wrapped up our month long France, Spain and a Portugal whirlwind Camino pilgrimage in Lisboa (Lisbon) Portugal. An amazing city that sadly we only had about 36 hours to enjoy and it deserves much more time than that.

We arrived on Thursday night around 6pm at the Oriente Train Station after an afternoon of train travel from Lagos. We easily found our way from the trains to the metro to get to Interdente Metro station where our new home, a great Air BnB, was located – right on the edge of the historic city center! The metro and train systems and stations are intertwined in Lisbon and so easy to navigate.

Our place was again another fabulous booking (thank you Lana!) – pic above is our evening and night view from our kitchen window! Our host Miguel was so helpful with all our Lisbon questions. Who needs Tourist Info when you have a Miguel!?

We didn't have much time in Lisboa, just one evening and a full day, so once we checked in and got sorted we hit the town to do some evening exploring and to find a great place for dinner. We found a wonderful district just before the historic city center and the most fabulous cafe called O' Corvo!

Wow! They made us sparking green wine sangria that had all kinds of fruit and coffee beans and mint. Mmmm to go with our yummy homemade salads. So great – the food, the staff and the atmosphere was perfect. The place was decorated with a collection of furniture and pics from antique shops and second hand stores. Icing on the cake was the Tina Turner Greatest Hits they were playing. That's totally my jam … we don't need another hero (insert singing and dancing here).

The next morning, we were up at our the door by 9am to maximize our short time in Lisboa.

We started the day with a walk down to the historic city centre, snapping pics as we went. With such beautiful streets and history it's hard to make any progress as you walk – we are so busy looking and gawking and snapping pics.

Some highlights from our morning / pre-breakfast walk about town …

Some highlights from our visit to the Cathedral, a few other churches and the Alfama District (artsy and Fado music district) after our outdoor cafe breakfast …


While having lunch (which was meant to be just a cold drink but the food smelled and looked so good we did lunch too), we decided to fit Sintra in. Sintra is a fairytale little town outside Lisboa with amazing, colourful castles. A place that Lana was keen to see and disappointed that our time in Lisboa was shirt and we couldn't make it work. Well? Why can't we?!

We wrapped up lunch, popped over to the Tourist Info who gave us the details on how to make it happen, and then headed straight for Rossi train station for the 50min train to Sintra. A round trip train is only 4,90 Euros each and the train comes every 20mins. We would be there for 330pm, leaving us loads of time to see the highlights! Yahoo!

Most people take a full day in Sinatra but we only had a half day and we were determined to make the most of it! Once in Sintra, we saved our walking time for around the sights and instead used a Tuk Tuk (thanks Pedro) to get a tour of the highlights of Sintra and to take us up to the mountain top castle. Here are the highlights of Sintra – its gorgeous!



We had an awesome time in Sintra and made it back to Lisboa for about 7pm. We did a little souvenir shopping and some more sight seeing, then looked for a place to eat. Our last supper of our whole trip – no pressure!

Well we found an awesome new tapas restaurant in our neighborhood, Endente. The owner was featuring traditional tapas from all Portugal, local wine, cheeses and even served the food on Portuguese made ceramics. The place just opened this summer and he was so great to us! We loved it.

Portugal you have a very special in our hearts – we both cannot wait to be back. What a country and what an awesome finish to just an amazing trip we both feel so grateful for having the opportunity to take.

We are now boarding our flight back to Canada – smiling as we reminisce about the trip. A bit sad it's over but very much looking forward to seeing our families!

Thanks for following our adventure!
Brande

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Lovely Lagos

I know I already gave you a 'city you must visit' for your bucket list .. well now I must also give you a 'beach to visit' for the list too. Lagos, Portugal. In a word – stunning! Oh and it's pronounced LagoSH as we quickly learned!

We arrived by train from Porto on Monday, early evening. At first I was underwhelmed as the train station is just your regular, ole station with nothing to make it a warm Lagos welcome. And when you walk out of the stations, it's into a parking lot and you can't even see the ocean I was so looking forward to being at. However just yards out of the train parking lot and around a stone wall, it was a very different story!

We were greeted by a beach side resort town that many Europeans consider their holiday destination – like us Canadians consider Mexico and Cuba. The streets were all cobble stone walks and the marina was full of boats and the water crystal clear and full of fish and the beaches and the cafes and the pubs and the shops and overall a beachside city of wow! Yup wow! The air was warm and smelt of salt and we had arrived at our Camino reward!

It was around 6pm when we arrived and we were due to meet our Air BnB host straight away. So we made our way right to the flat we rented. We did not have to go far. It was just a half block off of the main cafe and market street and we ogled the fun as we walked.

Our host met us and gave us a very thorough introduction to our little one bedroom and a futon home for the next 3 nights. Very thorough and we were dying for it to end so we could just relax. She was sweet for sure but when you have been traveling all day, you just wanna throw your feet up and enjoy your new home already! I have never had an Air BnB host take 40mins to welcome us – just another charm of Lagos.


After our host departed, we checked the place out for real and got settled. Checked in with family on our safe arrival on social media and then headed out to explore this cool new town we would call home for 3 sleeps!

The place was full of great cafes and pubs, and we ended up at Giovanni's a pizza place for dinner. Sitting at a wee table right on the main pedestrian thoroughfare – people watching, sipping Somersby and eating gooey cheese pizza. We wrapped up by grabbing groceries for breakfast and headed back to our flat.

Lagos – Day 1, Hiking and Beach Day

After my morning run (my fav way to see a new city), for our first day in Lagos we enjoyed a home cooked breakfast and then decided to hike (yes more walking yahoo). There is a sort of path around the perimeter of the entire Lagos coastline covering about 10km. Hiking this gave us a chance to check out all of the 6+ beaches Lagos has to offer and experience the famous grottos at birds eye level.

We were not disappointed! We had great fun hiking about, checking each beach for what it offered, grabbing a cool Somersby at the lighthouse cafe and making time for some photo fun as well. Looks like many a tourist does this little hike about, we were never alone but also didn't feel overwhelmed by people.

At one point we decided to poke a little fun at those peeps who do their yoga poses for photos in famous places. In good fun of course. We are total geeks who can't do yoga to save our lives …. we ended up with a chuckling audience at our timer on the camera antics.

Hike and laugh till we cry photo session complete, we selected the Costa da Mos Beach as our beach for the day. We rented a 2 chair beach umbrella for 13 Euros (a bit steep in price but for this gal the only way I could spend a day in the hot 24C sun!)

We went in the water despite Lana's crippling fear of sharks (there are rumors of hammer heads in these waters). Laughing at ourselves as the bottom has large stones and rocks which are rolled by the waves and actually kind of beat you up as you get in. So you have to just suck up the cold of the water and get in quick. Everyone getting in looked hilarious trying to avoid the rock beating. Us included!

We wrapped up our evening back in town enjoying, believe it or not, Chinese food! Yum!

Lagos – Day 2, Boating and Beach Day

Another beautiful day in Lagos (around 24C expected again), we started our morning with a grotto and cave tour by boat! Wow and wow and wow.

It was 15 Euro per person and worth every penny. The tour was just under an hour and the guide took us into each cave – his driving skills were pretty fantastic as some looked only big enough for the kayaks around us and yet he went right in. He also slowed and told us the names of the rocks and caves as we went and had a great sense of humor. It was just Lana and I in the boat for the tour.

I will let the pictures speak for the amazing beauty of these grottos and caves themselves … selected just a few of the 50+ pics I took!

After our grotto by boat morning, we headed over to the only beach we had not explored yet. The one you can actually see right from the tourist area – the beach is 5km long so hard to miss. Before heading over though we made sure we had the three things that make a beach day a success – over and above a beach and summer weather of course … beer, roast chicken and a good book ha ha!

We spent the day on our rented beach chairs for just 12 Euros this time, me under the umbrella and Lana as usual soaking up maximum rays. My time out from under the umbrella was spent combing the beach for shells! (Yup hubby I am coming home with a freezer ziplock bag full of shells.)

We also went in the water on this beach and it was quite different than our rock beat down from the day prior – this was all sand and shells and fish and was wonderful to walk out on.

By about 5pm we figured we should probably shower up, get prepped for our departure the next day and find some eats. The night prior we had walked by an awesome, tiny pub called Ol Bastard Fish and Chips and we were keen to make it our supper destination.

Ol Bastard was amazing. So small and so busy the atmosphere just brought you right in – they had all kinds of fish and chips and fish tacos and loads of fries, as well as a great assortment of wine and craft beer. We loved it, sat right at the bar and had an awesome time! Were even given a complimentary order of fish cakes to make the new chef feel good about his special and some Kraken rum to try. Check out this spread of food yumminess mmmmmm

Our final full day in Lagos wrapped up, we headed back to the flat to chill and get our last great sleep in our awesome BnB before heading to Lisbon (pronounced Leesh-boa), our last destination before heading home to Canada.

Lagos – Day 3 (1/2 Day) Laundry and Marina Lunch

Our final day in Lagos was just a short one – we had a train at 2pm so had ourselves a lazy morning and yummy breakfast at home, then did our laundry (oh the every 3 or 4 day plight of a backpacking pilgrim) before our train.

Oh and just a heads up, you are not allowed to put your dogs in the washing machine in Lagos. So if your pup needs a wash? this is not the place to make this happen.

We ended our time in Lagos with a final toast and snacks at the Marina right beside the train station at the Lighthouse Cafe.

We loved Lagos- add it to your list! While it felt very much like a British tourist beach town, it was really fun and had awesome positive energy and beaches worth spending a week at!

We will check in again post Lisboa.

Brande

Perfect Porto

Porto! If there is a city you need to add to your ‘list to visit’ one day – make it Porto, Portugal! What a place. Wow and wow.

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The amazing, historic buildings and neighborhood districts are all within a 2-3km radius of the old city center. In fact, they bragged about this architectural richness quite a bit at the Tourist Information Office. The concentration of so much in a small area makes for a great day or two of wandering down windy side streets to and from the next church or market or statue. No matter which route you meander there is a number of unique and wonderful cafes to stop at for refreshments or a bite to eat and many boast traditional Portuguese fare.

We had an day/evening (when we arrived as Pilgrims on Friday) plus 2 full days (Saturday and Sunday) in Porto and we are so glad we did. It was enough time to explore all we wanted and still have some time for relaxing at our rented flat or people watching in a plaza or cafe. If you go, three days would be perfect and two would be manageable to get in the major sights!

Day 1 Porto – Friday, Beach and Tram Day

We arrived in Porto by our own two feet, having walked from the town of Vile do Conde about 30kms away. The route we were on had us waking the entire waterfront promenade which was fabulous. You could easily spend a day doing just beach type stuff in Porto (surf, sand castles, rent bikes, walk the promenade, visit waterfront cafes, etc).

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However after too many kilometers on our feet already, when we saw the old school trolley tram roll up we couldn’t resist a ride. We jumped on at the old Fort (on the beach front walk) and took it all the way to the bottom of the hill in old city center for just 3 Euros. About a 20min ride. The tram has been maintained just as it was when it was brand spanking new and we really loved it. This would be a great way to round out a beach day or to make your way to city centre.

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From there, we made our way to our rented flat in the middle of the old city center – thank you Air BnB and Lana for this awesome booking! We were right in the thick of it!

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Our Porto flat was a great home base for exploring the city for the weekend. Everything was honestly within blocks! While you could go out for a nice dinner and drinks on your day of arrival … instead we did laundry and made soup and toasted sandwiches at ‘home’. After weeks of eating out on the pilgrim’s route, it was so nice to have a home and cook and enjoy our space.

Day 2 Porto – Saturday, Historic City Centre

The next day we made a ‘see the old sights high in city’ day and had planned to spend the evening on the town (aka sitting in a pub laughing at our own hilariousness and ignoring everyone around us).

We began our day in our favorite way – slowly. I got up and went for a morning run in and around the city center which has a lot of hills by the way, yikes. Then we both took our time getting ready, enjoying an un-rushed coffee, and Lana made us fried eggs and bacon breakfast. It’s been a while since we could sleep till we wanted and just enjoy a peaceful morning, so we fully enjoyed and appreciated what would be our new routine as tourists.

Around noon we made our way out into the old city center and walked about either following the map or in any direction that made us happy. We saw the cathedral, the churches, the markets, statues, the court house, and more and more. Here are just a few of the highlights from my morning run and our afternoon adventure.

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Porto is a very, very, very busy place – noisy and full of people going in all directions and loads of traffic. You could liken the craziness to New York City less the car horns and with buildings a heck of a lot older. Crazy, busy and so much to look at. Funny how being around so many people was actually a bit exhausting. We have shared a path with just a few other pilgrims at any one time for weeks and now all of a sudden my personal space is no longer my own and everyone is rushing and snapping pics and just really unmindful of others. This was something I didn’t expect to have to get used to again after the peace of pilgrimage.

By about 3pm we were ready to slow it down and enjoy a nice lunch in a cafe that we felt would bring us joy. We found one! La Catina in the city center was amazing. All wood and stone and old vintage decor with amazing food and very talented serving staff. We were served banana infused butter (wow!), olives, lupinin beans, and fresh bread to start. We each tried a local white wine and I had the Franchesina Sandwich and Lana had the Poached Pear salad and fries. Everything was perfect.


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When we left the cafe we did a little more exploring but thought we could go home for a couple hours to relax before heading out for dinner when the kitchens in the cafes and restaurants open again at around 9pm.

Squirrel … as we passed a cafe on our very own street we saw they were featuring a Port Sangria. When in Porto! We stopped in for one of these beauties and wow delicious!

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We tried to take a selfie with our first Port experience but got the giggles instead of being serious … so a giggling photo shoot had to happen of course. Oh and it’s not the Port that made us giggle (as you can see we hadn’t even had more than a sip) it was our own silliness and an overtired combination! Geeks!

Our big plan to spend an evening out at cafe or pub was thwarted by naps and Netflix. We had not watched TV since leaving Canada in August, so when we figured out our flat had Netflix we were quite excited to watch a movie and be lazy. Creature comforts! Lana had the studio ‘bedroom’ which had a whole wall that literally opened into the living room and I had the living room futon – we could both get back in our beds and watch the movie. Why wouldn’t ya!

Well after a lazy evening like that going out for dinner and drinks at 9pm felt like a lot of work, so we didn’t. We put on another movie and had an awesome lazy night! It was so nice to just watch tv and chill.

Day 3 Porto – Sunday, Historic Waterfront

Our final full day in Porto started much earlier but still on tourist time. After our lazy evening we were rested and ready to see the rest the city had to offer, today was a ‘head down to the historic water front’ day. We had split the city by bottom of the hill (water) and top of the hill (city center) for each day or you would risk exhausting yourself on the steep but awesome side streets all day. We have been walking for a while now and have his to save foot energy down to a science!

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We first went on a 5 Bridges Tour – basically a river tour which allows you to see the city from the water and hear the history of some of the oldest water front buildings (aka church built in the 1300s – wow!) and the bridges. We loved it and perhaps got a little too into the boat thing with with our pirate impersonations.

For 15 Euros it may sound a little pricey but you get a sailing of 50mins, all the history, great photo opportunities of the river district, and it was beautiful sunshine – why wouldn’t yah!?

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After our pirate excursion of sorts, we headed across the water to the Port district where all the Port companies and tastings are concentrated. We were looking for lunch and to try some white, tawny, red and vintage Port.

Confession … lunch was side tracked by a pastry vendor at the street market along the river front. Who could blame us! The Bolas de Berlin donut (sugar donut filled traditionally with egg yolk rich custard) is something you have to experience to know Portugal! So amazing. No wonder they are all so sweet around here – with treats like this about I would be sweet too. My Bolas was traditional yellow custard and Lana got one with a thick clotted cream inside. Mmmm

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Ok back to business. The Portuguese take their Port very seriously – so no more pirates, sugar donuts and other Tom Foolery!

We popped into a couple of the Port companies along the water and ended up staying at one called Quintas do Noval. We go by the feel of a place when making cafe, restaurant, pub and I guess Port tasting location decisions – and this one felt good. We picked right.

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We each ordered a glass of Port and shared so we could taste a few different ones without drinking too much. I started light by ordering the Fine White which was not light at all – think Jack Daniels marrying ice dessert wine. Yuck! Lana tried to start with an easy red called Light Ruby but was talked into a 2011 Limited Bottle Vintage Unfiltered – it was tasty but quite heavy. We each ordered one more taster. I got the 10 Year Old Tawny and Lana ordered the Noval Black (which is the only red Port served cold). One look on my face after a taste of the Tawny and Lana switched with me. What a friend!

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Port tasting complete and still only a donut since breakfast, we went in search of some lunch. As usual, we ended up getting distracted again climbing a crazy steep hill down a wee baby side street to take pictures from the high pedestrian and tram bridge. The pics were worth the climb and time.

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Ok for real, we need some lunch it was coming on 3pm or so and the weather was starting to get dark and stormy.

We found just the most wonderful place in our very own neighborhood. A traditional Portuguese restaurant called Concept 31. The staff and owner were just so sweet and the decor was very inviting. I had the Steak Mirendisa style (garlic sauce and served medium rare) and Lana had the Pork with Port sauce. Both were absolutely amazing and served with potatoes and greens.

While there, we were introduced to green wine by our waiter and loved it – so fresh and easy to drink. We were also treated (aka given no choice by the very sweet owner lady) to another Port tasting after dinner, both a red and a white from Calem one of the more well known Port companies here in Porto. They were delicious!

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By the time we left at about 5pm, the kitchen had closed and we were the last customers in the place. It turned out to be a real treat as we had a chance to talk to the waiter a bit about Portugal, the current election and how the food changes from region to region. We also avoided the worst of the rain that had started to come down while we had our lunch.

Finally we put on our waterproof jackets and made for the market (for supper stuff, breaky and lunch on the train food) and then home. We had to pack up and get ready for our next adventure in Lagos on the south coast of Portugal and secretly wanted to chill a little more to Netflix. For those who are social creatures, opposite to Lana and I, we could hear from our flat that the night life of Porto is on fire!

Yesterday we left behind Porto with a huge thanks for just an awesome weekend of relaxation, good laughs and amazing sights. Now we are saying hello to Lagos, a beach side city we are so excited to use as home base as we explore the coastline and beaches!

We will check in after Lagos!
Brande

Camino-a-pooloza wraps up in Porto

Yesterday we completed our final and fourth Camino in our Camino Mash Up Adventure!

The Camino de Santiago (St. James Way, 285kms of the total distance) the Camino Finisterre, the Camino Muxia and now the Camino Portuguese Coastal Way (Fisherman's Route). A sort of Camino-a-pooloza! We walked the sections, or stages as pilgrims and guidebooks like to call them, that we thought we would get the most joy from step by step. Overall, despite some sore feet and muscles and a few detours and lost moments, our mission of joyful walking has been accomplished.

Here is how we wrapped up our final day …

We started the day earlier than usual at around 6am. As you have probably read, we have had some issues getting our extra bag with all the heaviest stuff transported to the next place we are staying. It seems there are very few companies who do this for the Portuguese Way compared to St. James Way and even less who are willing to help a couple of pilgrims walking 'backwards' away from Santiago in Portugal. But the company Top Santiago did us a favour the last two nights and made it happen – what a crew! However, we did have to have our bag ready for 7am which was early for us. The sun is not even close to being up at that time, let alone the other peeps in the hostel.

At 7am, after saying best of luck to our roomie from France, we were waiting in the lobby of the Erva Doce Guest House for Top Santiago to pick up our bag. Here is our Guest House. So pretty and feminine, but as Lana is demonstrating below also a veritable death trap for top-bunkers!



At 720am the Top Santiago guy came screeching quite literally to a halt in front of our home, grabbed the bag and gave a quick Bom Dia (good morning or good day) and was outta there to assist other pilgrims!

Bag sorted, we got to walking right away – we did have breakfast included in the Guest House cost but it didn't start till 830 and we had 33km to Porto to cover to best to not set out so late. We determined we could catch a cafe on our way for breakfast instead.

Some of the views on our way out of Vila do Conde:

For the path, we knew right away there was bridge to cross into the next town called Azurara. Then we could sort of see on the guidebook map (which is way too high level to follow with any confidence and it rarely has street names) that we needed to then take a left for the Way that was all inland to Porto or a right for the Way that was all Coastal to Porto. Well I am sure you know where this is going – we went the Coastal Route and there were absolutely no Way markers to help us find our way. Now what?

Well when in doubt, go with your gut! A few times over the course of this trip Lana has said 'let's turn right' – so that's what we did! It hasn't let us down so far and didn't this time either. In about 40mins we found a marker or two. The markers were few and far between but we had the ocean directly to our right all day so that gave us all the compass we needed!

We soon started to see pilgrims coming the opposite / usual direction. Another welcome confirmation we are on the right route.

Some morning highlights:

At about 845am we walked through a tiny little village – the smell of coffee and cafe sounds brought us into this tiny, local cafe. We had wished for real breakfast but the cafe, in Portuguese fashion, only had sweets. So we shared this puff pastry, chocolate covered, custard filled cone of goodness. Wow and yum and wow! The place was full of mom's and kids – we assume the mom's getting their coffee fix before dropping the kids at school, and seems the kids were getting their morning candy fix. (I wish I had a pic of that pastry to show you – clearly I was too excited to eat it to pause for a photo opp.)

About 20mins later we were back on the Way. The sun was fully up now and it was hot. I was already considering when and how many times I would be putting on sunscreen – the pilgrim tan lines I have developed are not hot!

At about 1130 we stopped for lunch. As much as we loved our pasty it does not fuel the pace and distance we were walking. We found an awesome little place right on there beach:

We ordered a Somsersby (they have them everywhere here, like everywhere – Portugal has a Somersby addiction) and a famous Portuguese sandwich called the Francesinha. Basically a delicious combo of multi meats and cheese and special beer sauce on a bun. Wow! This one was a Francesinha Especial and included an egg. Brunch it is! (And yes that is the baggy of pepper I have been carrying around and using anytime we get eggs.)


Completely stuffed and relaxed an hour later, we got up to enjoy (aka wrangle and ramble instead of power walk) our last 18km into Porto. We were full but the weather was beauty, the coastline was magnificent and it was easy walking. We decided it was a good time for some headphone and tunes (audio book for me) to get going.

A few highlights of our afternoon:

At around 4pm we were really into Porto proper now. Our feet started to bark quite a bit louder from the cement boardwalks and cobble stones, and the number of people (insert not-paying-attention-cut-you-off-as-you-walk tourists here) were increasing quickly.

We were ready to hoof it to make the meet and greet with our Porto Air BnB contact, and then we saw this wee, old tram …

Well why wouldn't ya?! We hopped the rickety tram and caught a ride the last 6km or so into old city centre in style. Well truth be told it was a very bumpy and jarring ride and as we were standing was not really a break on our feet, but it was an old fashioned tram in Porto and that's awesome!



The tram conductor (I think that's what he would be called) literally moved the big cable from one end of the tram to the other and flipped the seats to face the other direction at each end of the tram line – which went from the old Fort to the bottom of hill up into old city. So we got to stand at the back but in the other direction would be the front of the tram, and stage a little photo shoot of sorts!

We got off at the bottom of the massive hill into the old city centre, hoofed our way up to pick our bag up at the Hostel Invictus (were are not staying here just needed a place to send our bag forward to) then enjoyed a 'cheers Camino complete' glass of wine before meeting our Air BnB.

Wow here is our Air BnB in the middle, dead centre of the old city – we are so lucky! Here in Porto Lana gets the room and I get the futon – it's this amazing studio and we love it.

We are here in Porto till Monday before making our way to Lagos by train. Expect a Porto blog post on Monday with a summary of what we already can feel will be an awesome city!

Porto look out, we are here!

Brande

Loving Vila Do Conde

Yesterday was another interesting day on the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route.

We were supposed to walk 25km but a few detours from the hard to find route probably added a few to that number. Good times!

The day started out with a great breakfast from our Albergue, Hostel Eleven, and their much appreciated help sending our bag from Viana to Vila. (Oh and yes that is chocolate cereal you see and absolutely I poured the left over 'chocolate milk' into my coffee!)

After breaky, we stepped outside to a beautiful day and our hostel lady smiling, waving and wishing us Buen Camino at about 830am. We knew which direction to start and had a chocolate cereal spring in our step!

A few photos on the way out of town below. The rooster is the symbol of Barcelos, this region of Portugal. He is everywhere, cute as a button with his big heart and I love him! (Is it appropriate to warn my husband via this blog post that I am bringing home some kinda of statue or stuffy of this rooster guy!?)

After a number of kilometres of clear way markers our luck started to run out a wee bit. We had a choice to take a Coastal option or stay on the main Camino path.

Well we chose Coastal of course and that was our demise. We ended up all over hell's half acre just off the coast in some farm land stretch with markers that made no sense at all! We finally decided to just revert to finding a milestone noted in the guidebook and using Apple Maps to get there. We finally made it back in civilization after walking many roads as designated by Apple Maps but which were actually a sand track with some old tire marks. All in all, we determined we had spent an hour guessing and hoping and walking only to realise that the Camino has white and red markers and the national park in this region has yellow and red markers – we were following both and basically chasing our tails. Insert forehead slapping motion here! When those colours are faded or rusted out they look the darn same!

Any who, we made it to a wee village called Apuila. Once there we stood on a street corner, ironically with a statue of Saint Santiago on it, looking confused again when a local guy drove by in his car and slowed to give us directions. Amazing! We 'leap of faith' followed what he said and headed in the direction he pointed. When we tried to take a right where we thought he had indicated, a cafe shop owner came out to give us the X 'don't go there' symbol with his arms and pointed us to keep straight – we were making the right turn too soon it seems. A couple blocks later, the first guy came back around, put on his car's hazard lights, got out, and showed us personally where the right turn had to be made. And as the sound of angels singing from heaven rang out a Camino shell and arrow appeared on the stone wall to confirm! Wow!

So we were on our way again …

Only to quickly see that the signs were clearly indicating that there had been Camino detour that we never saw one sign for 2 hours ago/ had we saw a sign maybe we could have headed in the right direction.

A detour explains a few things!

Ok so for real back on track and making good time, we hit our next 'detour' of the day. A street we needed to walk on was torn up and under construction. Just as we started to wonder where and how do we get around this without getting lost (important point), the construction worker waved us to just walk through. What? I don't have hard hat or steel toed boots? Where is Worksafe? So we walked through – it was an excellent photo opp!

Ok for real, for real on our way on The Way now, we started to make good time. We were hoofing it through farmland at a great pace and passing loads of pilgrims making their way in the opposite (and usual) direction to Santiago.

Then all of a sudden the pilgrim steam ran out and the Camino markers did too. Crap! But do not worry some Portuguese lady working in the field waved us down and pointed the direction to Porto for us. Yahoo for the locals. We of course turned in the direction she pointed and kept on keeping on. Well oops. At our next intersection kilometres later we couldn't find a way marker and still hadn't seen one for a long time. Crap again.

With no idea where we were again, we did the most logical thing and popped into the pastry coffee shop on the corner and had a coffee and a pastry! There is nothing like some caffeine and a donut to get you sorted!

We also again used Apple Maps to find a another milestone from the Guidebook to help us get back on track again. Turns out, thanks to the well intention but not exactly helpful lady, we were (insert groan here) 2.7km off course. No problem. We can knock that off in 20mins and be back to the Way – we had sugar and caffeine fuel now!

We stepped out of the cafe to literally a drastic change in weather, a storm was rolling in. Come on really! Lost and raining – is this a joke? Are we on candid camera or Punked? Ah well nothing to do but get the rain gear on, make some jokes and get back on course. It didn't take long to be back on track or for the rain to stop. Yah us!


Seems the rain brought out our rain jackets and the snails! They are flowers, decorations for wine bottles, crossing roads, climbing walls and more. Weird and cute and gross really. We took it as a sign that our mascot was cheering for us.

Finally, we were back on the right track again. We were passing pilgrims coming the other direction again, we were spotting Way markers again and having fun. It's a little stressful being lost and having little knowledge of how to ask for help IF there is even another human around to ask. So you fake it and hope for he best. When the sun came out again we knew (hoped) the rest of the day would be a good one.



We stopped for lunch on the boardwalk after while. Enjoying our pre-made sandwiches which included a little mustard thanks to the couple I scooped from a restaurant – they gave it to us technically but perhaps to use while in the restaurant not days later?!

Well we made it Vila and wow is it lovely! Here are a few pics of our town as we came in last night!

We toasted our crazy day with some vino at Cafe Cacau and had these amazing but a great odd hot dog with special sauce (which was poured on top instead of out inside) sandwiches. Wow delicious – might be something I crave when back home!

Then a glass of wine at a cool little cafe called O Navel which was built out of old doors and neat nautical stuff and there house wine (white and red was super yummy).

We then headed back to our lovely little home for the night called Erva Doca Guest House and got ourselves organised for today's walk.

We are now off to walk the 33km into Porto, the end of the Fisherman's or Coastal Route and our last day of walking. Feels weird to stop walking but we are also excited to just be tourists for the last week as we so smartly planned in advance. Yah us!

Buen Camino!
Brande

Tourists Dressed as Pilgrims

Well yesterday was a tourist day! While we still had the pilgrim shuffle, clothes and packs; we decided to take the day and be tourists.

We didn't get to see any of Viana de Costa after coming in so late and tired the day prior. Sad thing. We had heard from many pilgrims that it is one of the nicest cities on the Portuguese Coastal Route. So we decided to strap our hiking shoes to our packs and instead venture around the city of Viana in sandals before making our way by bus to Esponsende. Our new home for the night and the start of today's walk.

Wow are we sure glad we did!

Our day started with breakfast and a reminder of how wonderful the people of Portugal are. We were invited into this tiny cafe by the most sweet little old grandma for breakfast. They really only eat pastries for breakfast here and we were looking for something beyond a sweet. She personally made us coffee and a ham and cheese bun sandwich (so fresh and good) and then also gave us some traditional pastries to try as dessert. Ironically she gave the very pastry we were talking about wanting to try just minutes before. Custard / creek brûlée in a puffy yet chewy pastry shell. Mmm We were the only ones in the cafe and she was so sweet!

Next, we took the cool little elevator trolley car thing up the huge hill in the middle of the city center to see the city from and coast line from a birds eye view and check out this massive church.

Funny as we made our way up in a normal elevator to get to the street that has this trolley elevator an old wee man joined us. He simply rode up with us to ask if we are pilgrims,how far we are walking, where we are from, etc. we assumed he was just in the elevator by chance. Nope when we got off he took it back down and wished is a good journey. He simply wanted to know more about us and say good luck.


The church at the top was a temple and monument to Santa Luzia and it was very impressive! We could see it for a long long time in the distance as we walked into Viana the day prior, so it was neat to check it out!




Before we went into the church, Lana was held up by some wee grandma who was rubbing her arm talking about the Camino and pilgrim and her poor feet. All in Portuguese so only a few words were understood.

Next we ventured though the small, winding, character streets of the city center that have all these little shops and cafes, amazing tiles and iron work, and just feel so different than our streets back home in Canada.

We enjoyed a super yummy lunch sitting at a wee baby table on one of these side streets. We don't understand all the words on a menu so find something we think we know and get that. Today we got 'pork meat' and it came with salad and chips and rice and a bun. I appreciate how seriously these great people take their carbs and starches!

Then made our way to the bus station behind the below gorgeous old train station for a 3pm bus to Esponsende. Prior to boarding the bus, the very nice man who gave us the bus timetable earlier that day came to the platform to confirm for us that we were getting on the right bus!

By 4pm we were in our new city of Esponsende checking into the really great Hostel Eleven.

We dropped our packs, checked in with the family on our arrival then headed out to see what this city has to offer.

Before leaving we asked the hostel guy to help us arrange bag transport for us, from Esponsende to Vila do Conde. It's been tough every day to get someone to move our extra bag. Yesterday we couldn't final a single company or person willing which was a big part of our decision not to walk. Well Hostel Elevan was amazing and they worked our a deal with a local transport company to move our pack for us as an exception to the services they provide for just 10 euros. Deal. What was so easy to arrange on the St James Camino is a real struggle here on the Portugal Coastal away, especially walking backwards!

That done and dealt with, we ventured out into the central city of Esponsende.

We wrapped our day up with some red wine and homemade pasta in our hostel kitchen. I hate cooking usually but when you have been eating out all meals on most days it feels so good to prepare what you eat! Also all this for 7 Euros plus an apple and cookies for a trail side snack tomorrow is a price we can't resist!

By the way – that big plate of cheese and bread and chorizo isn to make sandwiches for it walk today.

Just prior to making this meal, we saw the three pilgrims we crossed the ferry into Caminha with a couple days again show up in a taxi. We weren't the only ones who suffered the day before and had to skip some or all of yesterday's walk as a result. Ouch!

We are heading out now to walk 25km to our next home, Vila do Conde.

Buen Camino!
Brande

Finding Viana de Costelo

Yesterday was a tough day on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. Perhaps tough is not a strong enough word to be honest. Many challenges for the patience, a happy outlook, desire to keep walking, find the way, and overall for the body!

We started the day without any idea of how we would get our extra bag forward to Viana de Costelo our new home for the night. Sending ahead our heaviest stuff had turned the days into walks from slogs on the uphill, hard downhill and rough terrain. Further it had made a huge difference in the what could have been a Camino ending blister situation for Lana. So we were keen to keep what was working for us, working for us!

Santiago Backpacker Express advised late the evening prior they couldn't find anyone at all to move our bag and had been trying all avenues, all day. They suggested we ask reception in our hostel. So we did but the guy was new and didn't know about transport. He said I could ask the guy that comes on at midnight. Well I haven't seen midnight for weeks so I though I could just ask in the morning. Oops. In the morning no one spoke any English and we couldn't communicate effectively in my bare minimum unpracticed Portuguese. So we instead went to Tourist Info when it opened. Turns out they can not help at all with Camino stuff (very different than our experience in Spain) and suggested a travel agency. If we couldn't get help at the agency, we were staring down the barrel of a 30 Euro taxi for our bag.

Well the Camino provides again! We walked across to the travel agent. Turns out that guy has a friend who could help – he called the friend right then and there, and made arrangements for us for 7 Euros. He actually asked if 7 Euros was ok as if it was too steep – we were like totally ok! We had been paying 15-20 Euros each day since the Portuguese route began. In Spain it was only 3 or 4 Euros so this was requiring some budget adjustment.

With a bounce in our step, we returned to our home Arca Nova to pack and mark the transport bag then get going on our 30km route to Viana. The friend would pick it up from Arca Novel Hostel and deliver it to our new home Zimbrio Guest House. Yahoo!

The day started out great. We had a good idea of where the path was and the guide book we had seemed it might be relatively helpful this morning. This sadly has not really been the case on this Camino, especially following it backwards. We are walking away from Santiago not to it as most pilgrims do and the guidebook and way markers are designed for walking to Santiago.

We had to largely guessing how to make it through the above forest path due to some really confusing way markers and no clear path. The pine needles cover any path that might have been obvious but they are so spongey and nice walk on you forgive them. Well this 'largely guessing' concept became the theme of the walk from there on in …. mixed in with very few but welcome moments of path clarity.

Soon, fog rolled in big style and for the following few hours we couldn't see far enough ahead to know what we were aiming for, see any markers, sometimes see any humans at all. Further they were doing these what will be updates to the waterfront infrastructure – and seems they may have been replacing many of the posts and structures that used to have way markers!

At many points we had to simply walk the beach and search for the next place we could get on solid ground, beach boardwalk, or even some kind of path. What's the problem, that sounds glorious right? The idea is better than the reality. The sand here is thick, thick, thick. Every step was tough especially in shoes (which you have to keep on as you have blister bandaids on your feet) and with a pack of 15lbs or so. We didn't have any water fill up opportunities yesterday so we were carrying the max we could – that means heavy.

Add to the fact that you had no idea if you were walking to something or would have to turn back and Retrace those hard earned steps. It was beautiful in an eerie, desolate way to be honest but starting to get on our confidence. You couldn't see the water most of the time, just hear it crashing.


(I have a short video up on my Instagram account @brandedavison if you want to see the fog and water as we saw it.)

After a couple hours of this pea soup, guessing game intermixed with some weird forest paths which maybe weren't even paths of the Camino but rather some random dirt roads filled with flies buzzing about and all over our faces – we were done. We headed absolutely perpendicular from the beach inland to just find a damn road to walk on. Done! Done! Done!

Well again the Camino provides. As we were walking away from the coast walk to find a new way, we came across some very old markers and again found our Way. No joke! And the fog started to clear making it possible to see the ocean and find the next marker with a heck of a lot more ease.

Our afternoon ….

Wow what a night and day difference or should I say morning and afternoon difference!

At about the 30km mark we came into Viana waterfront area. We were up against the clock a little now as we needed to meet the reception person at our place to stay at 5pm and it was after 4. We still had 3+ km to cover, hadn't seen a way marker in ages and again the map in the guidebook was not helpful. We thought we could cover the distance in the time and set out following the coast as best as the book suggested. Well turns out we walked a dead end, break water. There is another 2+km we didn't need to walk. Doh!

So back to where we first came into Viana, a quick call to the reception lady to say we would be a little late, and we literally followed Apple Map Directions to find our home for the night. Still a couple of kilometers away but that's nothing compared to the 30+ we clocked already. Also, who cares if I was eating our international data plan up to use Maps – we needed to get there before the smiles on our faces were totally gone for the day!

We got close. I ended up having to ask a wee grandpa for help. Now here is amazing …instead of giving us directions, he closed his shop (literally locked the front door) and walked us the block to the Zimborio Guest House. Wow! He did make a comment about it taking more time to explain the directions than to walk us. Ha ha. Maybe it was my Portuguese or maybe he sensed we had been directionally challenged all day!?

Finally in our new home for the night, we were greeted by the most lovely lady and shown around. There were other rooms for rent but no one else had rented – so we had this amazing little home to ourselves for the night! It was across from cafes and a plaza and more. Also within 20mins of arriving the 'friend of the travel agent' dropped off or bag so we got to thank him personally for the favour.

We took a couple hours to have showers, put our aching feet up, enjoy not having to walk or be lost, and overall recover from a tough day physically and mentally.

We then headed out to grab some much needed eats (we didn't have lunch today – just an apple and some candy as we walked). Directly across the wee skinny European style street from us we found Caffe Liz which had amazing wine and sangria and these so tasty open toasted sandwiches and fries. Wow!!

An awesome finish to a hard won day! We talked though the challenges of the day with some laughs and the start of being able to laugh at what a gong show it was.

Now what do we do today after yesterday's challenges? So we walk the 24km that is all inland and not on the coast at all to Esponsende our next destination? Or give these feet and our brains a break and enjoy this amazing Viana city we didn't even get to see yesterday and then bus to Esponsende? Hmmm

Buen Camino!
Brande

Portuguese Camino now in Portugal

We are officially, for real, finally, super excited to now be in Portugal! We walked from Villadesuso to A Guarda and then we hopped a ferry to Caminha, the port city of Portugal.

We arrived yesterday after a 20km walk on mostly amazing trails or forest tracks along the coast line. Only a few kms on the highway path overall, an awesome change from the day prior. Here are some highlights:

We powered through the day in hours – likely because of our lazy, more than one coffee, amazing breakfast that was included in our hotel room cost the night prior.

We have been at this 'walking / pilgrimage' thing now for a while and 20km is peanuts to these legs and feet! So much so our pilgrimage spirt animal the snail may now just be an ironic mascot. Nonetheless, he was out cheering us on big time yesterday!

We hit A Guarda in about 3hours. Once there, we decided to head straight for the ferry port to meet our water taxi when he arrived in a couple hours. We were sure there was a pub or cafe at the port and we had pre-made some yummy cheese sandwiches (mine where cheese and jam) for our lunch. While walking though town we snapped a few pics of the good stuff. The first pic below is their public library – wow!

Our plan to go to Caminha, Portugal on a Monday was rather not well timed. Turns out the only day the ferry between A Guarda in Spain and Caminha in Portugal does NOT run is Mondays. Come on! What are the chances!

So the night prior I had posted a plea on a Camino de Santiago form I belong to on Facebook called Camigas. Basically women helping other women plan, pack, walk, and reminisce about their pilgrimages. Within minutes of posting 'help', I had a host of replies from these awesome ladies. One even had a picture of a poster from an Albergue that advertised who you could call if the ferry was not running to get a water taxi of sorts.

So I called some guy named Mario in Caminha who had a boat and arranged for a 4pm pick up by his brother, in a red boat, from the dock A Guarda where the ferry usually is. I think I did anyway. He spoke Portuguese. I have learned only the most basic Portuguese which does not include arranging nautical transport to another country. We both spoke only some Spanish. Disaster! Well turns out the plan with Mario was doomed from the get go – Portugal is an hour earlier than we were in Spain. Oops, who knew! So did we arrange for his 4pm or my 4pm?

Down at the dock hoping for the best and that Mario would show up – especially after we came across three other pilgrims who also didn't know the ferry does not run on Monday's and needed to cross and invited them with us and Mario's brother. A troop of cyclists (pedal bike) from a tourist group showed up. A whole host of them, like 25-30 bikes. Turns out they rented the ferry to cross and we could join them if the ferry people agreed. What!? Yahoo!

So we boarded the ferry with the tour group and paid just 1 Euro to cross each. Mario's brother was charging us 5 Euros each. We were not the only ones to hitch a ride either – the other three pilgrim's did and a few cars drove on as well. Hilarious! How do you even go about renting a ferry in the first place!? One of the phrases you hear a lot on the Camino is 'the Camino provides' … it sure does!

I called Mario once onboard and let him know (I think) that we don't need him, don't need boat, have boat, but thank you. Hopefully he got the message and didn't come across for us. I had talked to the women who works at the bar by the ferry station and she knew Mario. She would have seen us board and maybe called him too. What a place!

Good bye Spain, we had fun:

Hello Portugal, so excited to meet you:

Once docked and we had walked the few short blocks into the old city center we were in love with Portugal! The houses were that classic European style all close together with amazing doors and instead of paint, most homes were tiled on the outside. Amazing. We went crazy photographing the houses, the tile, the doors!

We settled into our new home for the night Arca Nova, did some laundry (you do this a lot when you only have a few items each) and then ventured the town for the evening! We enjoyed those sandwiches we had made for lunch for dinner instead.

We now say goodbye to Arca Nova and Caminha and make our way the 28km to Viana de Costelo.

Buen Camino!
Brande

Sunset of Villadesuso

Yesterday was day 2 of the Camino Portuguese – Coastal Way for us. We walked about 23kms from Nigran to Villadesuso (33,370 FitBit steps).

We started our day with a special treat – we met the awesome lady who had been making all the arrangements to have our extra bag transported forward. Sometimes she even does the transporting herself. Teresa of Santiago Backpacker Express. She is so helpful and just really such a nice person, it was great to put a face to the WhatsApp account I have been working with for the last few days.

After meeting Teresa, we left our hostel Pazo Pias in Nigran around 9am. The detail on the maps and online about were to walk on this route is pretty limited and so are the way markers. So we had peppered Maria with a few questions when we met her. We knew we had to cross this bridge …

Then keep the ocean on our right again all day. That seemed to work and there was even an awesome bike and walking path all along the coast for us to follow into the next two of Baiona.

We were held up a few minutes taking silly pics using a mirror on the trail. I think the locals walking by though we were nuts.

Anywho back to walking. We had ourselves some yummy eggs and bacon breakfast in Baiona and spent some time taking photos of the original fort they had reconstructed while we waited for the Tourist Info Office to open.

Tourist Info opened at 1030am! The map books we had said we had to use the inland route to make it to the next coastal section. What? We were sure we could stick to the coast the whole time. We wanted to ask Tourist Info if this was true and how. Why waste coast time walking inland! Tourist Info advised we could walk on a path beside the highway which runs along the coast the whole way to our next destination. Great news! Walking on a highway for 20km is tough on the feet it's such a hard surface but also easy as it's flat and even. So here we go.

Yesterday, for the first time, Lana and I both had our head phones in. She was music and I was some music and then my audio book. It was safest to walk single file close to the outside edge of the path as there were many other walkers and cyclists using this same path. And the noise of the highway made it a little hard to chat anyway. So that was a fun little change for us.

By 2pm we saw our hotel for the night in the distance, we thought we had about another 6km to go still so this was such a treat!

Yes that is a pool. But don't get too excited – the pool also has a siesta from 1 to 5pm. So it was closed when we would have gone in. Doh! These siesta's here are killing us. Nothing is open in the afternoon – not the markets, food in restaurants and apparently pools from about 2 in the afternoon till 8 at night. I am going to come home and expect to be off work and doing nothing for hours everyday after this trip!

We had a nice evening of drinks at the local pub, some beach time taking pictures of the sunset – which was amazing:

After the sunset we tried to find a place to eat – one restaurant had no one in it at all, another had no kitchen, and or own hotel restaurant also had no one in it. No other options in town. Weird! Clearly there are not enough hungry pilgrims in this town! So we had a private dining experience in our hotel's restaurant – one table among 40. The service was excellent!

Today we get to walk into Portugal – yup we go to a new country today, how exciting!

But first we need to walk 24kms and find the brother of a guy named Mario who has a red boat and will take us across the water crossing into Portugal for 5euros. Sounds suspect right!? Well all the pilgrims on the Camino forums are doing it this way on Monday's when the ferry service is closed or during low tide. So we are sure it's a good plan. Yikes! Adventure here we come.

Buen Camino!
Brande

Camino Portugal Coastal Route Begins

Yesterday was a horrible, no good, very bad day … we had to walk along beach after beautiful beach and enjoy endless sunshine here on the west coast of Spain. Tough, right?

We started what could be considered our fourth Camino yesterday, the Portuguese Way. We are not doing to full route which is from Lisbon to Santiago. But rather the costal portion only and in reverse. Walking from Vigo to Porto. As we get closer to Porto the weather will get warmer making our post Camino tourists days in Portugal that much better. We will be celebrating our Camino adventures with some days in Porto, Lagos and Lisbon before heading home to reality at the end of the month. Again, tough right?

The morning starting as usual – up around 7 and out the door of our home, Hotel Aquila, around 8. Leaving our extra duffel of the heavy stuff for transport. On this Camino we will be using Santiago Backpack Express and so far the owner of the company has just been so great helping is out!

Our Hotel was a real gem – super old but clean and had all the amazing original features. Check it out:

For breakfast we stopped at the Hotel Bafia Cafe right on the waterfront where the Camino begins. They didn't really offer a hot breakfast but the waiter asked what we would want and said he could try and make it happen. He did! Cafe con leche; bacon and eggs and bread; and for breakfast dessert (yes that is a thing) chocolate and churros. This has been on my list to try while here in Spain – it's a pretty standard breakfast here and I can see why. Delicious! Too much chocolate and not enough sugar and cinnamon, if you can believe that! I was pumped with sugar and ready to walk!

Oddly, once we did start out at around 10am, we couldn't find any way markers for the route We decided we will just keep the water to our right side and stay as close to it as possible and eventually we will find the Camino arrows. We knew the little towns and milestones we needed to hit as per our very high level guide book, so that helped give us something to aim for. We are walking in reverse so do have to look back to find arrows and then do the opposite thing – but there was not an arrow to be found in The city of Vigo.

Our first hour was spent walking through the industrial, port area of Vigo which left much to be desired really. We powered through it as quick as we could to get it over with. Thumbs down for this section.

At about the 6th kilometer we came out of Vigo and into a little town called Bouzas and that is where the beauty of the Coastal route started to really show it self. Thumbs up!

Here are some highlights of our amazing, sunny, beachside or directly on the beach walk yesterday. I would say 15 of the 22kms was basically a dream!

We took a brief break mid-afternoon for some fruit and nuts from our pack. But by about 3pm a craving for a sea side cold one overcame us. You can only walk by that much beauty on your right and amazing cafes on your left before you give in to a 'sit and sip by the sea' moment.

That out of our system (for the day anyway), we made our way the final 4-5km into Nigran our new village for the night.

We are staying at the Albergue Pazo Pias which is an 1600s monastery of sorts refurbished into a type of hostel. Wow, amazing, maybe it's haunted, how awesome, and cool! Check out the hallway and all me the first two words that come to mind? Starts with a colour and ends with an alcohol. Ha ha

We did our usual feet up for a bit and check in with the family on our safe arrival. Then out for a couple of drinks and some eats. Here in Spain during certain hours of the day, you get a wee tapa when you order a drink. Yesterday's were super yummy!

We were back at the room for 900 to journal, social media and wind down for the night. Oh and full disclosure – this is a bit of a confessional. We were (ok I was) too hungry for the kitchens to open to get dinner. Here in Spain you cannot get a cooked meal between usually 3 and 8 sometimes even 9pm. The kitchen staff are off on siesta. So you either eat early or wait, which after walking all day can be tough to do. So we, no joke, had a pizza from Pizza Hut – yup Pizza Hut in Spain, first one we ever saw. It was so good! The crust and sauce are very different than home and way yummier (more fluffy and way more oregano and the cheese is so good). If it makes it any better, I did wash it down with a a Spanish red wine!?

Well that was yesterday and we loved it. Today we are up and at it for a 20km day walking from Nigran to Villadesuso. It is not as sunny today but this blondie is secretly happy for a little cloud cover once in a while (don't tell Lana – she loves all out, hot hot hot sun).

Buen Camino!
Brande

PS We finally found some way marker arrows about 15km into our 22km day – let's see if today is a little better!