Caldas de Reis to Herbon: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Day 13, October 1st 2019

Leaving Caldas de Reis

Caldas means hot springs and although a foot fountain was right outside my hostel, there was no encouragement to bathe mine as they dissuade you for hygene reasons.

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Towering palms beside the Igrexa de san Tome Becket (the British St Thomas a Becket), Caldas de Reis, Spain

There is a Bishop’s mitre on the door and otherwise I cannot find out what the connection is between St Thomas a Becket and Caldas de Reis – although of course he may have made pilgrimage here.

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Street art, Caldas de Reis, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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One of the many beautiful stone fountains you can see on the Portuguese Camino. Here emblazoned with the shell symbol of paths meeting at Santiago de Compostella
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Walking out of Caldas de Reis, I looked down a long valley, the view spoiled by a pylon, Spain
huge orange feild pumpkins
Field pumpkins. Although there were squash everywhere in the fields and gardens, I never saw them offered on a menu
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Reflections in the traditional, central washing area with what appeared to be self-seeded white lillies randomly dotted around. Carracedo, Spain

Further down the road were clumps of pink lillies growing wild on the banks like the lupins do in Scotland along the motorway between Edinburgh and Perth.

Iglesia San Clemente de Cesar, outside Caldas de Reis, Spain
edible plants in growing situation
Tall brassicas growing in O Cruceiro, Spain
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Three Bird Toadflax (Linaria triornithophora). I used the Leafsnap plant identifier app – free)
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Memorial and location of Albert’s ashes, left by his friend. They had planned to walk the Camino together, but Albert had died on the operating table beforehand. Camino Portuguese, Spain

There are many such places to be found along the paths of the Caminos de Santiago.

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Cemetery, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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Sunshine in the form of canna lillies with their buxom seed pods, Spain
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Gourds (used for carrying water by early pilgrims) and a camino shell on a rusty metal cross with plants and inscriptions, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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Prickly pears, Spain

Pontecesures (on the way)

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Coming into Pontecesures with its industrial pollution, Spain
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This cafe was recommended in a guide which I read. It was truly idiosyncratic, run by one man who has his own way of doing things, takes offence easily, and is dedicated to the Camino. Pontecesures, Spain

Just before crossing the River Ulla, on the right at a corner (if I remember correctly) is the place in the above photo. With makeshift furniture and varying quality of food, it is a somewhere to sit out of the sun and get refreshments. It appears to be donativo, but the maitre d’ expected payment and it was obviously a rather random affair. He was not chatty with me, but did serve up the ‘last’ bowl of vegetarian stew (it came recommended). He took a liking to the young couple who came in later, but sent another man who asked questions, packing! The flags and the individual nature of this place reminded me of Manjarín on the Camino Frances.

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The Rio (river) Ulla, Pontecesures, Spain
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The Glory Bush (Tibouchina urvilliana) flower. (Thanks to Name That Plant on houzz.com)

After crossing the bridge at Ponte(bridge)cesures and climbing up the other side in full, hot sun, the path took me along the banks of the River Ulla towards the San Antonio (St Anthony’s) Monastery of Herbón.

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These kiwi fruit were drooping off the stalks and there were acres of them, on the way to Herbón, Spain
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The route wound along the banks of the River Ulla, sometimes amidst the undergrowth, although the signs were pretty clear, Camino Portuguese

This time I did not bathe as I was keen to get a bed for the night in the monastery on the opposite bank.

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Weir, River Ulla, Spain
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Red as well as yellow arrows here. Up and down I went, towards and away from the river, before crossing and climbing uphill away from it. Camino Portuguese, Spain
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A small salamander basking in the sun!

Herbón Monastery

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Walking around the walls of the Herbón Monastery looking for the entrance I spotted this shrine, Spain

I was pushing myself (not great for the still-painful foot) because of spening time over lunch and knowing that there is always competition to get a bed at the Herbón Monastery. I passed a couple who were clearly needing some ‘romantic’ time by the river. They were in no hurry to get there before me.

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And there was the queue stretching back from the entrance in the wall – only two spaces were left and approximately four hours to wait before opening time, Herbón Monastery, Spain

It was nice and warm and there was plenty to see (photos below). People came to join the line, but were too late and left again – it was a little way into Padrón because it is a detour to get here.

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Old friends met up and new ones were made while waiting, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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The church of the missionaries, Herbón Monastery, Spain

The young couple sauntered in after quite a while, but were too late and went off again.

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Seriously old trees – all knarled and full of character, Herbón Monastery garden, Spain

There were others with injuries far worse than mine. A small group decided to leave, calling a taxi, whereupon exactly the same number arrived late (after others had already turned away) and so they found that there were spaces for them. It just goes to show!

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French map (1648) on the wall of the reception area of the Monastery at Herbón, showing the many caminos converging on Santiago de Compostella.

Eventually, after a light shower, we were let in and welcomed by the volunteers. It was very efficient. The accomodation was in small cubicles of two bunks each, ranged along a corridor. (That’s my mess on the bottom bunk!)

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Franciscan Seminary 1891-1991. This monastery is in danger of being shut down because there are no young monks coming into the Order, but they do a lot in the village, so it is hoped that it will survive. Herbón Monastery, near Padron, Spain

After a break in which I spent time meditating in the sun, we were taken on a tour of the chapel, cloisters and other parts of the building. This is practically compulsory and very interesting. The monks were missionaries, sent overseas to spread the word of God, and those left at home ran a school on the premises.

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The sparkling golden altar, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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I loved these little angel heads with wings holding up the column, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Cloisters, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Stone statue and cross in the garden, Herbón Monastery, Spain

The large garden sports vineries (there is no-one to keep them going now, sadly), kitchen garden (partly in use, as far as I could see), water which has been tested and found to have lots of minerals in it so is truly healing, and various levels and attractive sections making it really interesting.

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A place of meditation, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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View from the garden, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Healing waters at Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Dry, brown Autumn leaves and sweet chestnut prickles bursting open
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Untended vines, Herbón Monastery, Spain
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Wall shrine and fountain, Herbón Monastery, Spain

To reward us for such a long guided tour and talk, we were given a good meal (included in the 6 euro price) around long canteen tables and there was a lovely atmosphere there.

Note: There is always a decent vegetarian option at the shared meals on the Caminos

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Yours truly, Herbón Monastery, Spain

Mos to Pontevedra: Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 9 and 10, September 27th – 29th 2019

Mos to Redondela

pilgrim with umbrella tree avenue
I walked along avenues of acers only just starting to turn yellow where it rained slightly (as it is prone to do in Galicia)

Walking this Camino was a prize for the long year I had spent writing my first book and the exciting but stressful dash to submit the manuscript to the publishers by the end of August. I had sat down – researching, typing while travelling – and eschewed long distance walks for that reason. Today, as I was ambling along, I realised that there was now some space into which a new project might come – and it came! The great Camino de Santiago forum is absolutely chock-a-block full of interesting information about pilgrimage in Spain and elsewhere. There is a mind boggling amount of collective knowledge in it, submitted by enthusiasts from all over the world, and when I am on the road I often consult it for hostel information, path directions and more. My searches the previous evening had led me to interesting topics related to my previous explorations and that then trickled through my mind as I made my way towards Redondela. Walking is such a great way to allow those creative thoughts to flourish!

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Typical Camino de Santiago stone with the familiar shell and an unidentifiable coat of arms with a stemmed rose and daisies
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Another sign of grief? Stone statue of a woman covering her eye

Food and Wine on the Portuguese Camino

Local food
Pulpo (Octopus ), a Galician delicacy, on a stall outside

What, you may ask, can a vegetarian eat while walking the Portugues Camino, when meat is such an important part of the local diet? You can usually find eggs and vegetables (though they are often cooked rather longer than we might do them in the UK) and of course salad galore, though if we are walking out of season we might find we are served the packaged iceberg which is familiar back home. What we can never eat unless we beg at someone’s front door (no, I haven’t done this myself!) are the wonderful tall greens which so many grow in their front gardens, but which are not to be found, not in local shops, supermarkets or restaurants.

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Tall brassicas growing in O Cruceiro, Spain

So, look out for Padron peppers (very small and grilled ones which are not really from Padron, but more of that in another blog), caldo verde (warming cabbage soup) which is usually not made with a meat stock but check, and also be careful that they don’t garnish it with sausage; bread and olive oil of course; roasted chestnuts (see below); and you most definitely can eat pastel de nata (the most delicious bijou custard tarts) as long as you are not vegan because they have eggs in them.

bowl of roasted chestnuts Portugal
Lea and friend, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal (not on the Camino Portuguese da Costa) with whom I shared 100s of roasted chestnuts – yum!

Fun Fact

Conventual deserts: Traditionally, eggs whites were used in convents to starch the priest clothing and the nun’s robes. Left with the egg yolks and time to kill, the nuns had to get creative. Making the most delicious and famous desserts became a tradition in Portugal.” From Authentic Food Quest

huge orange feild pumpkins
Field pumpkins. Although there were squash everywhere in the fields and gardens, I never saw them offered on a menu

If you are pescetarian (that is, you also eat fish, but not meat) you will have no trouble because Portugal is well known for sardines (although very attractive, don’t buy the smartly decorated tins as they are many times more expensive than the ordinary ones – make sure they are Portuguese) in the smaller shops or supermarkets); bacalhau (salted cod fish – variable, some stupendous, some just salty), octopus (pulpo, see above) and other delicacies from the ocean.

plant detail and Latin name
Moss Rose (Portulaca gradiflora, a semi-succluent) with red and yellow flowers indicating a mixed seed bed. Thanks to the helpful folk on houzz.com for identifying this for me

Finally, these stages of the Camino Portuguese are close by the Soutomaior, one of the sub-regions of the DO (denominacion origen) the vineyards of the high-quality, light-bodied white Albarino wine, produced by the Rias Baizas.

Civic buildings Redondela
The Concelo (government offices) de Redondela, Spain
Xunta sign entrance outside Pilgrim Hostel
Albergue de peregrinos rennovated 16th century Casa da Tore, Redondela, Spain

There are 42 beds, it costs 6 euros, opens between 1-10pm and is open all year round.

urban Redondela
View from the hostel window with a large blue and yellow camino sign, typical stone balconies and showing the narrow streets of the town, Redondela, Spain

Because the room opened straight into the middle of the town, it was extremely loud with revellers late into the night and early hours of the morning.

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Metal bunks in crowded rooms, full to bursting in late September 2019, Xunta (municipal) hostel, Redondela, Spain

Redondela to Pontevedra (almost)

This was a good day despite my foot /feet still hurting. Such wonderful scenery and sun! That’s why I love to walk like this – to be in nature, to be surrounded by beauty, to be amazed, step-by-step.

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This part of the Camino Portuguese, Spain

I left just after dawn, the lights still on under the aches of the bridge.

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Heavy mist in the valley making the view mysterious and other-worldly, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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Water stop – natural, fresh water from the fountain at the junction, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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Shells and other Camino paraphernalia, Camino Portuguese, Spain
Long view of river and Arcade
Looking down onto Rio Verdugo and Arcade, Spain
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Eucalyptus catching the morning sun
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Down now to a welcome stall set up by local weekend volunteers offering tea and snacks (for donations). You can see the partially wet ground from the regular showers of rain, Spain

Saturdays are very busy days on the Camino with cyclists and local walkers as well as those who are making their way to Santiago de Compostella.

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A town which celebrates the Camino and its pilgrims – silhouette cut-outs on the walls of this hostel, Spain
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A way-side grotto with Camino knick-knacks, Spain
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The first horreo (stone shed for storing maize over the winter, on stilts to keep out the rats and the wet) with plenty of religious protection, Spain
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I crossed the Verdugo river by the Ponte Sampaio (or San Paio) bridge getting a good view of a more modern one further along, Arcade, Spain

The Puente (Ponte) San Piao: ‘It is here where a decisive battle for Spain’s independence was held against Napoleon’s troops in 1809 which ended the five month French occupation.’ from Santiago-Compostella.net

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Another horreo – blue skies at this stage and so it was hot for the climb up the hill on the other side of the river, Arcade, Spain
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Back into the countryside and more paths made up of large stones which would be running with water and very slippery if the weather hadn’t been fine, Spain
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Pine and other mixed woods, trees towering over me, Spain
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Deep in the woods was a rare peregrina (female pilgrim) statue and lots of shells. There was no difficulty finding the way, Spain
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Plastic chairs ready for resting and enjoying the dappled surroundings, Galicia, Spain
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I spotted huge slugs of all shapes and sizes amongst the sweet chestnut prickles and ferns, Galicia, Spain
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If you look carefully, you will find little mementoes in the rocks, Camino Portuguese de Santiago, Spain
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Actual crowds of pilgrims in great chattering groups, Camino Portuguese, Spain
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I crossed the Fatima Camino here: Santiago in yellow, Fatima in blue

Fatima travel blog link

The final stage of this day’s walking through the Valley of Tomeza and Salcedo, took me through a riparian area (a wetland by a river). The ground is peaty in places (as in Scotland – there are many connections between Galicia and Scotland), moist forests of alder and willow, oak, ash, birch, chestnut, brambles (blackberries) and even cherry blossom (Prunus padus or Cerdeiro de acio in Galician) and hops can be found (as in my native Kent). The sign said that the presence of otters is a sign of good water quality. It certainly looked bubbling and clear, but sadly, I didn’t see an otter.

stone bridge Rio Tomeza Spain
Ponte da Condesa (stone bridge) over the Rio Tomeza, near Pontevedra, Spain

This last part was particularly gorgeous – green, verdant and peaceful apart from the trickling water and birds chanting around me.

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Rio Tomeza near Pontevedra, Spain

Accomodation: The previous evening I had come across an air bnb called Casa A Grade online and tried to find out if there was a space, unsuccessfully. I had even phoned and the woman said they did not have any single beds. Well, as I was walking through these wonderful woods, there was a hostel sign. I crossed the quaint bridge and wound my way through what turned out to the the end of the garden. There I came across a plunge pool glittering in the hot sun and it was the same place. And they did have a single bed for me!

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I lay in the garden, dipped into cool water, washed and hung out my clothes (which dried in the scorching sun), bought vegetables from their garden plus bread and prepared food for the evening meal. Breakfast was included in what i think was the 25 euro price. All the beds were full – a family room was taken by a mother and father who were accompanying their daughter to a Rhythmic Gymnastics competition – she was a champion), and 4 singles (2 pilgrims and 2 holiday makers) along a corridor and separated by curtains. There is one bathroom and everything was clean. The owners were very friendly and helpful.

Finally, it was only 40 minutes into Pontevedra, but that was another day!

Vila do Conde to Viana do Castelo: Camino Portuguese

Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 3 and 4, September 21st – 22nd 2019.

Vila do Conde

20 kms from Porto; 24.95 kms to Esposende

architecture Vila do Conde Portugal
Admiring the Santa Clara Roman aqueduct in Vila do Conde which had 999 arches and, at 4 kms, is the second longest in Portugal
urban landscaping Portugal
Typical cobbled street, Vila do Conde

 

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Mercat cross Vila do Conde
Slightly dilapidated but charming architectural features, Vila do Conde
web link to Porto blog
Similar blue and white tiles to the ones I saw in Porto, Vila do Conde
stone monument to education Vila do Conde Portugal
I like interesting roundabout sculptures: Monument to Education and teachers, Benguiados Street, Vila do Conde
Portguese street scene
I am not sure what the name is of this pink church, Vila do Conde
Drying seaweed under white cloths on the beach – I could see these huge piles all along the coast as I walked
Idiosyncratic beach bar sign with the Camino shells as decoration
plant identification
Hottentot or Sour Fig (Carpobrotus edulis)
It was so very wet! All the rucksacks in the cafe where I went to shelter, were covered up. Only a few of my things got properly damp

It was in this cafe that I accepted a cap and guide book which belonged to a woman who I had been seeing at hostels along the way. I assumed I would see here agin and so took it with me for her. Guess what? I carried them to Santiago but never did see her.

Esposende/Marinhas

Link to the municipal hostel in Esposende/Marinhas. The Albergue San Miguel is one of the hostels that you have to walk through the town and almost out the other side to reach. The building in front, nearest the main road, is not the hostel but the Red Cross centre (the 2 organisations are connected through the Marinhas council) and the people there are used to exhausted pilgrims trekking through by mistake!

Nearby, and within very easy earshot, was an annual festival venue with bands, demonstrations of rural activities such as threshing, and more food than you might have ever seen in one long hall. People flocked from far and wide to sit around long tables in large family groups and have a good time. It was not possible to sleep, so as they say, when you can’t beat em, join em!

Portuguese folk band instruments
The lively band ‘gieing it laldy’ – heartily playing traditional Portuguese music
folk costume and props Portugal
Women in folk costumes outside preparing for a demonstration of old-fashioned farming methods

I walked through Monte, Lugar de Cima, Outeiro, Barros Sao Fins, Santo Amaro, Estrada,

church Sain Michael Marinhas
Igreja Matriz do Sao Miguel Arcanjo das Marinhas. Leaving the next morning
Sculpture Archangel Michael
The archangel Michael with his sword and a huge phallic snake ie Satan, statue Marinhas
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Passion fruit (Passiflora) flower
Sao Joao church and cross Esposende
Sao Joao (Saint John) do Monte cross and chapel, Esposende area, Portugal
Portuguese landscape
Into the countryside, interior Portugal
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Lemon tree, Portugal
Detailed plant information
Pokeweed (Phylotacca americana) also known as pokeberry. It has a poisonous root and mature stalks, although you can eat the young stalks if properly cooked. The berries have a red dye which is used to colour wine, sweets and cloth
Detailed plant information
Castor oil plant, ricinus communis (because it’s red?)
Portuguese landscape
A typical Portuguese dwelling in the distance
detail of plant
Morning Glory (Ipomoea)
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A woman leading goats to pasture
grapes vines Portugal
The grapes were being harvested all along the way and as many hung over the edges of the fences and supports, I sampled a rich and lucious few!
detailed plant description
African Milkweed (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) also known as hairy balls milkweed! If you look closely, you will see that there are small pale, milk-white flowers at the end of the stems. It attracts the Monarch butterfly in Australia and Madeira

I am reliably informed that this plant is one of the food plants for the Monarch Butterfly, in Australia. They prefer this, and another alien, over the native milkweeds.

church cross Portugal
Igreja do Sao Pedro Fins (Peter), Belinho, Portugal
detail church architecture Portugal
Virgin and Son with 3 supplicating little ones at her feet, Igreja do Sao Pedro Fins (Peter), Belinho, Portugal
architecture of Portugal
Capela de Nossa Senora dos Remedios, Estrada,  Braga, Portugal
detail oak tree and acron in Portuguese woods
Into the Oak (Quercus) woods
rural landscpae Portugal
The bracken (ferns) were starting to turn brown, but it smelled fresh and woody
woods Portugal
At some point in these beautiful woods I made a long steep climb behind a man who was walking fast

The way was made up of large boulders and unevenly sized stones, some wet. I went fast to keep up with him which was exhilarating, but I wonder if I twisted my ankle without quite noticing.

Portuguese woods and pool
There were pools of inviting water, so down went the rucksack, off came the clothes and oh! it was so refreshing
pool Portugal
Idyllic setting
Water ways Portugal
Water ways Portugal

And then the heavens opened. Before I could find a place to stop and take my backpack off to cover it and myself (even though I had, minutes earlier, been immersed in cool waters), I was soaked through. It was torrential. And steep, uphill. At the top I sheltered in a bus stop and watched the rain running down in torrents. More and more pilgrims joined me in that tiny space. There was a mobile shop on the Green opposite, but it was a bar – alcohol only, no hot drinks.

church Belinho Portugal
Igreja Sao Pedro (Peter), Belinho
Portuguese landscape and weather
However, the clouds rolled away and I steamed quietly as I walked into a sunnier landscape
monastery Sao
Mosteiro (monastery) de Sao Romao de Neiva, Portugal
detail of fruit and plant
Kiwi fruit (Actinidia deliciosa) hanging from their vines

Despite their appearance, I was assured that they would not be ripe for eating until December at least.

traditional Portuguese church
Igreja Parochial de Chafe, Viana de Castelo, Portugal
pilgrims woods Portugal
A long downhill stretch beside resting pilgrims

The way into Viana do Castelo is across the Limia – a long, metal bridge. The hikers share it with the vehicles, although there is a narrow shaft where we walked. I could see the water’s of the Lima River far below through the grid I walked on my walking shoes clanging. The width of one person, there’s no possibility of stopping to rest and as I was limping by this time I must have slowed because I was aware of a queue of others behind me, having to go at my pace. I kept doggedly on with no choice.

funicular Viana do Castelo Portugal
Funicular up to the castle, Viana do Castelo, Portugal

I allowed myself to be persuaded to take an extra trip that evening despite my sore feet. What a mistake! Although the sights were inspiring, my physical health suffered and I paid for it for many weeks to come.

Santa Luzia Portugal
Sanctuary of Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo, Portugal

Designed by Miguel Ventura Terra, this church venerates St. Lucy of Syracuse.

vista Portual Viana do Castelo
View of the Atlantic Ocean from the top of the hill, Viana do Castelo, Portugal
vista Portugal Viana do Castelo
Another view, this time of the River Lima and southwards from where I had come to Praia (beach) do Cabadelo, Viana do Castelo, Portugal
stained glass windows santa Luzia Portugal
Inside the Sanctuary Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo, Portugal
fresco roof detail Santa Luzia Portugal
The stunning dome of the Sanctuary Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo, Portugal

I am indebted to the people on the houzz.com forum who have an immense wealth of knowledge about plants and are so willing to help.

Previous blog – days 1 and 2 Portuguese Camino Porto to Vila do Conde

If you have also walked the Portuguese Camino, did you stay in the same hostels as I did? Please feel free to share your experiences in a comment below.