Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Bom Día is Good morning in Portugese!


It seems a bit strange how normal it feels to get up about 6 a.m., put on the same clothes I wore yesterday that I hand-washed and hung to dry. In Portugal they nearly flash dry, the warmth, a little breeze and the quick-dry material are the perfect combination. 
Every day is different, with farms, hamlets and villages linked with paths, stone roads, and a little asphalt that wend through olive groves, stands of eucalyptus trees and gardens of beirzo, tomatoes, and cabbage. When I walked from Fátima to Tomar, I followed an acqueduct built by the Knights if the Templar, visited a museum collection of 60,000 matchbooks from 127 countries and enjoyed raucous pasta dinners accompanied by vinho tinto with other pilgrims in the Hostel Tomar. 
Followed by two full days of walking solo, staying on quiet farms or hostels between the main stages where a lot of pilgrims stay, visiting Roman ruins, receiving a gift of a handful of walnuts from a local peasant woman in a dress, headscarf and wellies and discovering what is around the corner! 

My sketchbook diary, note the heat!




Got lucky to stay with Nuno!




Beautiful village where we watched boys showing off on their bicycles in the main intersection. 
B




Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Walking from Alhandra to Valada, Portugal.

Another beautiful day of walking through flat farmland. Thankfully there is occasional shade from the huge reeds that border the road. But otherwise I pull out my umbrella and it is like walking under a tree. It is great. The farmers harvest vast fields of tomatoes with machines, dropping a few along side the road where they are well smashed. 
I had the greatest experience in a small casa, I was the only one there and my handsome host practiced his Fado guitar, fixed me dinner and breakfast . I was the only one there. It has been two and a half days since I have met another pilgrim and that was a couple from Russia.
Walking alone all day I meet myself. It is not that boring.

First light along the Rio Tejo. On the pedestrian path.


Ponds and water flowers of some sort.


Mural of a pilgrim along the path.

Nuno, my gracious host in Casal des Areias in Valada.



Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Walking to Alhandra, Portugal.


Watch carefully for the pilgrim signs, as I do not have a guidebook, but an online app that needs internet. Thankfully, I find a Vodafone store en route and buy a SIM card for internet.
Still, the signs must be carefully followed as there are twists and turns leaving Lisbon.
Right away I met two pilgrims, a couple from Russia, Natalia and Ingrid. But they stayed at the first albergue and I went on, so I may not see them again. 
After leaving the city, it is totally flat, continuing on into farmland with dirt path and roads. Along the river are boardwalks through the wetlands and parks. Lovely.

I spent the night at a fire station offering a mattress on the floor of a large room, clean and I had it all to myself. It was on a donation basis. There was really no place else to stay, so I was grateful.


The town square was lovely. In Alhandra.

Lisbon, Portugal

Sunday I flew from Bordeaux to Lisbon to start the pilgrim walk to Santiago, Spain. Made a quick visit to the castle in the evening and walked out early in the morning.
Castle keep in Lisbon.


View from the balcony of the hostel where I stayed.


Random graffiti in Lisbon.

Bordeaux, France

After Paris my son and his wife flew back to Ecuador. I missed them right away, but took the train to Bordeaux to visit friends, Baptiste and his wife Hannah. Baptiste was my second couch surfer years ago, when he moved to Oregon to get a teacher’s certificate.
We all stayed at his parents home and spent Saturday in the nearby village where they live and commute by train for 30 minutes to Bordeaux. Baptiste teaches and Hannah does some occasional jobs, like an after school program teaching tots. But their big news is Hannah is pregnant with their first child. Everyone is thrilled, but poor Hannah is nauseous most the time.

In front of their apartment.

Dinner in the garden at Baptiste ‘s parents, with his sister. Great food and company.

Paris!

Finished our glorious trip in Paris. To see the Louvre museum I pre-booked tickets for the first entry at 9 am. Upon entry we walked directly to the Mona Lisa by Leonardo di Vinci. My son Damon stood front and center directly in front of the painting for as long as he wanted to, with no one in front of him, for ten minutes, Later he said I never dreamed I would do that! When we left the museum 5 hours later, he told me, that was the best experience of my life! I am so pleased! They flew back to Ecuador this morning, but my travels continue!



Damon and Susana with the Louvre in the background. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

A day in Figeac, France.

We took the 1:30 pm bus from Conques to Figeac. Which took about an hour. Susana sat in the rear with a couple of women from Chile we had met occaton the pilgrim path. As there are not a lot of people here from SoutH America, Susana lives to visit with them.
Damon and I sat in the front seat and got to visit with the driver, who spoke excellent English.

Walking from Esperyac To Conques, France

Our last day of walking the pilgrim path was into Conques. Glorious weather and countryside with cows. There was a farmer and his black and white herding  dog miving a small herd of about 20 water buffalo, with calves, along the lower valley. These produce the fabulous mozzarella cheese.
This is a walk through hamlets enclosed in old fortresses, with stops for espresso and greeting the older locals with Bonjour! Finally we saw the sign, 30 minutes to Conques. Susana said, sí, de puede! Which means yes, we can, in Spanish. Although the sign was a bit deceptive in that the last 30 minutes was a at least 50 minutes down a very steep hill on a rocky path. But she knew she could do it! 
Conques, which in French means the pilgrim shell, appears suddenly along a hillside. Streets are the original cobblestone from medieval times. And the buildings are straight out of a fairy tale. Like all streets and villages we have walked through, all is immaculate. Tourists and tourist buses pour in, filling the small village with people and offering a market for the arts and crafts of the region. We check into the Abbey St. Foy, built to house pilgrims over a thousand years ago, and it serves the same purpose today as it has through the ages.
We showered, washed our hiking clothes by hand, and explored the town a bit.







Saturday, September 22, 2018

Estaing to Espeyrac, France

Yesterday was another glorious day for walking with high clouds, an early morning fall chill turning into a warm afternoon. We have started earlier the past two days, at least by 8:15 instead of an hour or even two later. Signs Damon and Susana have gained much strength and are past the exhaustion of walking every day for ten to fifteen miles carrying a backpack of ten to twenty pounds. Of course, today we walk to Conques, France our intended goal to complete our pilgrimage at the famous Abbey St. Foy, where we will stay. But they are feeling strong with just a few aches and pains and will recover quickly. 

Last night at dinner we talked about seeing the many memorials to young men who died in the Great War, 1914 to 1918. One village had 250 inhabitants and 80 men died in the war. When the Nazis came a few years later, there was no one left to really offer resistance. The memorials to men who died in 1941 to 1945 have far fewer names, because the population was so depleted after the first war. Every village has a prominent memorial. 

Today we walked through forests of chestnuts, oaks and a few ash trees. The route is in and around a few farm buildings and through a small village where we sat outside at a cafe overlooking the countryside and had an espresso and an apple tart. It was so lovely.

We walked 13 miles and were not exhausted or hardly tired. Damon and I went down to the small stream for a quick and very cold dip, just for fun. The water is clear and about two feet deep. Damon actually sat down to get wet but I just let my feet turn numb and called it good. We laughed and enjoyed the cold on a warm day.



A lentil salad at dinner. The first three nights we had a lentil dish and have not seen them for days. And this salad dressing was just a vinegarette whereas all others have had Dijon mustard in them. 




It was hot and Damon and Susana stretched out on the grass.


I have to make the pear sorbet when I get home!





Thursday, September 20, 2018

Walking in France

My son Damon and his wife Susana, from Ecuador, are walking with me in France on the Way of St. James to Santiago, Spain. We started in Le Puy en Velay and are walking to Conques. It is about 145 miles through the countryside, hamlets and small villages. Charming!
We carry small backpacks with a few clothes, water and cheese, sausage and bread for our picnic. Every day is different and we stay in a different place every night. 


A meal with other pilgrims. In Lestrade, France. Our beef is from the farm of our hostess, as are the vegetables and the schnapps at the end of the meal is made by her father. It tasted like straight alcohol and had a pear soaking in it. Horrible stuff. I had just enough to burn my throat. Dinner, a bed and breakfast cost 37 euros here.









Monday, September 10, 2018

A Blue Lagoon day in Piran, Slovenia

Waking up a bit tired from yesterday’s 15 mile walk to Croatia for lunch, and back, I walked about five minutes over to the sea for a swim. There is a long sidewalk around the tip of the small peninsula and people lounge in sidewalk cafes just over looking the water. 



The water is so warm and clear and several small docks for swimmers are along the same path. When I got out there was a group setting up an open water swim competition so I went home and showered off the salt water and came back to watch. 
Competitors were all sizes and shapes swimming around a course of big orange bouys in the bay. 
Some did one lap, others two laps. It was pretty calm water, sunny and ideal for a big swim. 
The afternoon I spent sipping a Blue Lagoon, a fancy non-alcoholic fru-fru drink, had a cheese sandwich and colored my sketchbook and made postcards at a sidewalk cafe. It is nice they do not bring you a bill until you ask and you are welcome to stay as long as you want.Strolled up to the remaining city walls to watch the sunset. 






Saturday, September 8, 2018

Walk to Croatia and back to Piran, Slovenia.

A totally flat walk today along the shoreline on a railroad turned to paved path. Since it is Saturday there were lots of cyclists of all ages. 
The path goes along this canal. As you can see, it is more for local yokels, as opposed to the big yachts in the main harbor.


Not looking good here.


Some beautiful wood ships on the backwaters . Now it have walked the entire Mediterranean coast of Slovenia. Okay, it wasn’t that far😜