La Guarda to Mos: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 7 and 8, September 25th – 27th 2019

La Guarda / A Guarda, Galicia, Spain

La Guarda is in Spain, even though it is a town on the Portuguese Camino. I was happy to be back in Galicia, one of my favourite parts of Spain. I should have liked to see the Celtic hill fort and village of Castro de Santa Trega which connects with Scottish history (I live in Edinburgh) on the top of the hill that La Guarda sits beside, but I was not comfortably ambulant.

In the morning, I walked a short way (30 minutes, 2 kilometers) from the Albergue Municipal in La Guarda where I had spent the night, to visit the churches, but it was a strain and took me much longer than it should have. As a result of the pain in my foot, I decided to turn back and take a different route.

church architecture and detail
Santuario de San Roque, Parroquia de Salcidos with Saint James in the front
Saint James in traditional costume
St James carrying his crook with wearing his hat with the camino shell on it. Also with an angel and a dog. Apologies for the quality of the photo, but I thought they were charming tiles

The two churches (above and below) are almost next to each other and I was the only one there. A few people were on their way to work and school, on the main road, and the churches were closed as they always are unless there is a service on. However, I admired their grandeur and solidity, the Santuario de San Roque having seen many pilgrims over the centuries.

Church architecture
Igrexa Parroquial de San Lorenzo de Salcidos, Portugal
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The mountain was just visible above the clouds as I looked from Salcidos, a borough of La Guarda, Spain

Then I rested for 20 minutes and took the bus. It runs from Salcidos to Tui (get off / on near Repsol gas station (estacion de servicio) on N-550) regularly and takes around an hour. This was the second day that I could not walk, something that had, thankfully, never happened to me before, and it was very hard to accept. The journey took me through urban areas with grey stone buildings boasting elegant balustrades around the windows, along the northern side of the River Miño, and deposited me opposite some public gardens bright with bougainvillea and sporting a grand metal statue of cantering horses, the Monumento al Caballo Salvaje.

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Monumento al Caballo Salvaje (wild horses monument) in the park, Glorieta de Vigo, Tui, Spain

Tui

Tui is a busy city, full of hustle and bustle and with all facilities you could possible need. There is an excellent market, with cafes and shops galore. Not far from the Albergue is a friendly eating place / hostel (Albergue Ideas Peregrinas – not the cheapest, but with a European atmosphere and great, healthy breakfasts, including vegan food), and that is opposite one selling crêpes, and so on…! All tastes are catered for and many people holiday here even if they are not hiking. There is an extensive Natural Park to the north west with hills, Monte Aloia, for excellent views of Baiona, Vigo and the whole region.

I picked up a copy of Jim Crace’s The Melody in the hostel the night before and made the most of my enforced resting time to have a good read. Described as a meditation on grief, it connects with all my recent writing on the subject – there’s no such thing as a coincidence!

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See St James peeking out from behind the column where Arzobispo (Archbishp) Lago Gonzalez (1865-1925) sits. His high cheekbones and benign expression make him look as if he is listening to a child telling him a story.
urban and rural vista
The location of the Albergue de Peregrinos is magnificent with views from the rocky hill across the river Miño and hills of northern Portugal
Chapel architecture location
The Capela da Misericordia is right next door and only slightly uphill (Rua Parroco Rodriguez Vazquez) from the Albergue de Peregrinos. Situated at the back of the Santa Maria Cathedral of Tui, it is simpler and almost unadorned. Spain
location city establishments
The hostel is wonderfully situated in this historic city. Elegant cafes are to the right of the Plaza da Concello, opposite the Concelo (the government offices of the social security finance department) and the Police. The side of the Santa Maria Cathedral is in the middle (in the background) and just past the flags, on the left and down the steps is the Albergue de Peregrinos, Tui, Spain
Roman and Medieval architecture cobbled street ancient arch
Through and archway in the eleventh century city walls you can see the old Roman street which predates it, giving a sense of the elevation of the town, Tui, Spain
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Entrance to the Albergue de Peregrinos with the typical Galician government, metal sign of a cartoon-type pilgrim with her water gourd over her shoulder, Tui, Spain

I was early into the town from La Guarda and encountered a difficulty: the hospitalera behind the reception at the hostel was talking animatedly to a gentleman who was lounging nearby. On seeing me, she launched into an attack on pilgrims who pretend to be walking, but actually must have come by public transport because they would never, otherwise, have arrived by this time. She laughed, he laughed, they compared notes and got increasingly irate about such behaviour.

I was dying to get the weight off my back and feet, and trying to explain in Spanish that I had not done this before, but had no choice with my foot pain. She ridiculed me and said I shouldn’t be carrying such a heavy load. It was most upsetting and as I became distressed she started to shout, saying that she wasn’t being nasty, just that ….

It is true that the municipal Xunta (the Galician council) albergues are for the pilgrims and that, increasingly, people are either not carrying their own packs or are taking buses and trains some or all of the way. It may have been an external voice, too, uttering the very words which I was hearing inside my head, and been part of my having to come to terms with being human and not always strong. Anyway, I said I would go away and then she started calming down and took me through the familiar process: passport check, credential stamp, payment (cash), and bedding. I was shaken.

It is a large hostel with solid wooden bunks. Although there is a sitting area where you can eat inside at the back, the kitchen is across the little garden and so I sat there for my tea as the sun set and it cooled down.

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I delighted in the little face peering over as if she was having a chat with what look like two shepherds (there is a lamb at the feet of the right hand character). Catedral (cathedral) Santa María, Tui, Spain

You can see the beautiful cloisters and internal gardens of the Santa María Cathedral de Tui in the photos on their website.

detail statuary carving ancient stone portal cathedral Tui
The very grand entrance to the Santa Maria Cathedral on San Fernando Square, Tui, Spain

The tourist information is also in San Fernando Square and the staff are extremely helpful and kind there.

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The seventeenth century, richly attired King Fernando carrying a sword and globe with a cross on it representing the might of the expansion of his Catholic empire around the world
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The Virgin with a halo of golden stars, robes flying and cherubs dangling in the interior of the Cathedral Santa María, Tui, Spain
city outdoor market stalls produce
Market stall with salami and cheese – local products of the area, Tui, Spain

Tui to Mos

It is 25 kilometers to Mos and even though I had rested up for 2 days (well, a lot less walking than usual), it was too far, so I took a bus part of the way and trekked the rest (only 8 kilometers) to see whether I could manage. It was such a beautiful day and I was so happy to be on my feet again under the blue sky.

rural Spanish Galician landscape
Vines loaded with dusky black jewels are spied between tall, thin trunks with mountains in the distance

I am walking along the Via Romana XIX linking Braga and Astorga, enjoying listening to the birds and smelling the countryside after being in towns for the last few days. Sometimes the signs are hidden amongst pink roses. In the distance the open fields are empty now after harvest.

rural landscape plants
Ferns and lush farmland. The Mos population is spread across the region, with no one major centre. It is at a relatively high altitude commanding open views
Catholic shrine by the road
This quiet area has a respectful energy about it with fresh lillies and roses decorating this wayside shrine
rural mountains village church houses
Belltower of the Iglesia (church) Santa Eulalia. Nearby there is a very tall column with a crucified Christ at the top. It is a well-to-do area in places with carefully kept gardens (white camelias were spotted) and expensive cars, not like some parts of Galicia on the Camino Frances
close up flowers
Beautiful tall flatsedge, nutgrass or umbrella sedge (Cyperus eragostis)

There is a native, milky coloured drink called horchata de chufa or horchata de Valencia which is the region where I first came across it. It is made from the tubers of the nutsedge (not the type in the photo above). (Thank you to floral_uk on the ‘name that plant’ forum of houzz.com for this information). It is similar to a Mexican version except that the latter is made from rice, not this sedge.

Mos, Galicia (Redondela Region)

I stayed at the Casa Blanca hostel near the Santa Baia church where I sat in the evening. The albergue is new with a bar that serves ice cream and snacks, and there is a restaurant oppostite which cooks wonderful Padron peppers and does breakfast as well as evening meals. The accommodation is in a separate building and all are situated on quite a hill. There is a coin-operated washing machine and I shared a load with others after much negotiation, however there is not enough room to hang the clothes to dry outside and, anyway, it was already cold at night so my things had to come in at bed time to avoid being damp by morning.

I went up looking for a fruit and veg shop. Instead, I saw a man on the top of a ladder picking grapes who told me I had gone in the wrong direction. On the way back down a woman pulled up in her car and spoke to me in French. She took me through to the back of her gradmother’s house (derelict) into the stepped garden full of fruit trees and picked figs. We stood and chatted over these juicy fruits and then she introduced me to her husband. He filled my shopping bag with massive bunches of black grapes for sharing with the other pilgrims back at the hostel. I laid them on large fig leaves in the self-catering kitchens for folk to help themselves.

El Camino de Santiago con correos (post) blog

El Camino de Santiago blog (a different one)

Another way to Santiago blog showing a picture of the hostel at Mos

Colin Davies, Tui to Santiago blog

Porto to Vila do Conde: Camino Portuguese

Porto to Matosinhos to Vila do Conde – days 1 and 2 of my Camino Portuguese Coastal and Littoral routes (280 kms in total) * September 19th and 20th 2019 were the Littoral, that is, they followed the coast with all its ins and outs.

I did a practice walk in the opposite direction a week before starting which is why the sea, is on my right

This is a walk from Porto in Portugal to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. There are 3 routes – the quickest is inland, and the other 2 travel along the coast, some more literally than others. It is the second most popular Way – the Camino Frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago being the most famous.

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Leaving Porto (also known as Oporto)

I stayed at the Albergue Peregrinos do Porto which was great. There was a friendly welcome from the group at the desk and I was able to buy my Credential (the first of the new version, I was told) which is the folded paper which I carried with me everywhere thereafter, and which had to be stamped twice a day (by hostels, cathedrals or cafes etc) if I was to be able to get a Compostella, which is the certificate you can buy in Santiago de Compostella to prove that you have completed the camino.

There is a beautiful garden which was ideal for me to do peaceful tai chi in and for sitting with a drink in the evenings. The only drawback was that the showers were also outside. Ordinarily this would not bother me at all, but mosquitos adore standing water and I was bitten to within an inch of my life. Not everyone is as delicious as me, and I had taken steps to put them off, but the bites lasted for well over a week and left scars. The bunk bed was 12€ per night/person. (10€ for the Albergue and 2€ for the touristic municipal taxes).

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Forte do Sao Joao Baptista

There’s lots to see on your way out of Porto: first along the Douro River, under the bridges, past beaches, restaurants and cafes (especially the Foz district which is smart), the lighthouse (Capel Farol Sao Miguel-do-Anjo), two forts, a helicopter pad, gardens and statues.

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O Mensageiro (The Messenger), ie the angel Gabriel by Irene Vilar (from Matosinhos with a studio in Foz do Douro), Douro River, Porto, Portugal

If you wanted to get to Labruge, the end of stage one (24.5kms from Porto), but take a shorter walk, you can take the Line 1 tram from Ribeira, with your rucksack, as far as Foz do Douro (remember to sit on the left so you can see the view!). Then you could have a coffee by Jardim do Passeio Alegre (Cheerful Walk Garden, according to Google Translate!) with its fountain and cool shade, before starting to walk. This will save you 6kms (1 hour and 10 minutes at the average walking speed).

A beach not far from Porto where people have made small piles of stones perched on the rocks, similar to the cairns we find on Scottish trails
Long boardwalks make for flat and easy walking. The Atlantic Ocean is right beside them
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A scenic lake nearby where the path winds and where I momentarily lost the way
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Sand as well as rocks with the Fort of St Francis (Francisco) Xavier aka Castelo do Queijo (of the Cheese) in the distance

The Fort of St Francis (Francisco) Xavier was designed by Miguel l’Ecole (1661). Occupied by Absolutists in 1832, it was badly damaged in a battle with the Liberals and abandoned. Later it was used as the headquarters of the Oporto Naval Brigade’s 1st Company, and is now the Northern Commandos Association

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The coast is a wonderful place for birdlife and they collect in the evenings like this, at the water’s edge
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Here you can get a stamp on your credential, Matosinhos, Portugal

I had a lovely swim. All along here the waves tend to be strong and I noticed that most locals do not take the plunge.

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‘She Changes’ by Janet Echelman, a giant net which hangs over the road at Matosinhos, outside Porto
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Moving sculpture by José Juao Brito (2005) inspired by a painting by Augusto Gomes (also from Matosinhos). It remembers the 1947 fishing disaster when 152 men died leaving 72 widows and 152 children behind

In Matosinhos I stayed at the Hostel Matosinhos Suites, a funny modern block in the heart of this area, a suburb of Porto. The room was small with 6 bunks packed into it. It had a table and 2 chairs (for 6 people), a kettle and mini fridge (but not enough sockets) and it got very hot with us all in. There was a small balcony where we managed to negotiate hanging up the washing by stringing a small rope and sharing pegs – just! It was clean and there were curtains across each bunk. Cost: 22 euros through booking.com.

There are loads of places to eat, including underneath the Suites. Matosinhos is best known as the place where Porto inhabitants leave the city and come to sit in the seaside restaurants to eat the famous shellfish.

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The second day of the Littoral route takes you briefly through the industrial heart of the port, over the Ponte (bridge) movel de Leca (the name of the river)
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The day began grey – the Farol (lighthouse) do Boa Nova at Leca da Palmeira
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Monument dedicated to Antonio Nobre (poet 1867 – 1900) with his muses, by Alvaro Siza Vieira. Location: Leca da Palmeira
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Capela (chapel) da Boa Nova (Good News), Leca da Palmeira. It was linked for many years (according to Wikipedia) to the hermits of the Franciscan Order prior to 1475
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Salt deposits
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Colourful lichen and seaweed on the rocks
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Beautiful deserted beaches. Here is Praia das Salinas (salt pans) or perhaps it is Praia da Memoria
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A caterpillar caught my eye1

There was a diverse range of flowers, mostly growing close to the ground on account of the wind, many of them also fleshy so they can survive without rain.

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O Obelisko da Memoria (Memorial Obelisk) marking the disembarkment of King Pedro IV and his 7500 men who came to liberate Portugal from the Absolutist regime which had dominated it
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By now the sun had come out and the waters were clear and still – perfect for a hike. Between Praia de Angeiras and Praia da Labruge
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Seagulls shared lunch, fighting over the remains
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Washing hung out to dry on the beach
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Vila do Conde in the distance

That night’s rest was in Albergue Santa Clara Albergue de Peregrinos Municipal (which can be found on Facebook). It has a large dining area which was very busy, and a small kitchen. Beware of leaving food out – someone went off with my hard boiled eggs which were in a cup cooling for breakfast 😦

Vila do Conde
Igreja Sao Joao Baptista

The hostel overlooks the Igreja Sao Joao Baptista (Church of St John the Baptist) and a lively marketplace. There is a cafe just around the corner where you can sit outside with your beer (very good value), and it is in the centre of town for all other amenities.

Vila do Conde
Convento (convent) Santa Clara Vila do Conde

*There is a variation to the Portuguese Camino da Costa and Litoral (this word has 1 or 2 t’s depending on the language), which is reputedly very, very beautiful, called the Espiritual (Spiritual). It starts in Pontevedra (where the Inland and Coastal routes converge), and ends in Padron. More information here

Portuguese Camino next days 3 and 4 Vila do Conde to Viana do Castelo