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Report 815: A Pilgrimage from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela

By Dennis Switzer from Alberta,Canada, Fall 2004

Trip Description: Dennis invites you to share his pilgrimage journey from Porto to Santiago. Comments and suggestions regarding both cities and places in between are in the text.

Destinations: Countries - Spain, Portugal; Regions/Cities - Other Spain Region

Categories: Convent; Hotels/B&Bs; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; Single Traveler

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Page 1 of 14: Prelude

The itch was on me again. After all, it was a Holy Year; the weather had turned cool in Calgary; the web cams showed a sunny Santiago. However, now we had a grandson who is a special gift. Margaret was firm: she was staying home with Jonah. I’d be on my own. There would be no one to temper my rash decisions, correct my poor map reading skills, or tend to my blisters along the way. All very important things since I was going to walk a different, less frequently travelled route, the Caminho Portugues, from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela.

I boarded the plane armed with an English–Portuguese dictionary, a reservation at a hotel in Porto for two nights and the hope that the folkloric saying “Santiago will provide” was true.

A brief stopover at Heathrow in London and onward flight aboard TAP, the Portuguese national carrier brought me into Porto’s small, nicely laid-out airport. I took advantage of TAP’s promotion of free transport to downtown Porto on the airport shuttle bus by presenting my boarding pass to the driver. The city shuttle bus stop was across the drop off lane in front of the main doors. The schedule was posted.

Cruising into Porto was an eye opener. The Portuguese may be Europe’s worst drivers. I saw four accidents with two ambulances in attendance and our driver was making signs to other drivers that could not be construed as friendly waves! There were no stop signs and the "rule" appeared to be that you yield to the right - if you're so inclined!

Picture San Francisco with cobbles and steeper streets and crazy drivers and you have Porto, give or take a couple of centuries of building. After 17 hours in the air and in airports, I welcomed the fact the desk staff spoke English at the Grand Hotel de Paris. My room on the third floor (European count) was clean and quiet. Thank heaven there was an elevator. The place was built in 1886 and had antiques throughout. The bathroom was new. At Eu32 for a single room with breakfast, I recommend it highly as excellent value for money.

I wandered out for a quick recon of the area. I quickly learned Portuguese for a glass of beer, canaca, and introduced my self to Porto’s answer to Quebec’s poutine (nickednamed heart attack on a plate. It was francesanha: a toasted sandwich that has a thin steak, ham, and two kinds of sausages for a filling. It was topped with melted cheese and a poached egg then covered with spicy gravy and served with pommes frites. It was the special of the day and I got a quarter litre of wine with it for Eu4.50).

My reconnaissance established that my place was a block from the main boulevard in Old Porto. The ambiance of the bars and sidewalk cafes was something that could tempt one away from a walk.

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