Before starting our September Camino tour some group members spent a few days in Lisbon. As summer ends the city is abuzz with visitors from all over the world. It seems that this year Portugal is the preferred destination for many travellers. According to locals in the tourist industry, the Portuguese economy is doing well, unlike that of some neighbouring countries. We experienced this first hand joining long queues for the rollicking No. 28 tram ride to the Castle of St George, situated strategically at the top of one of Lisbon’s highest hills. Our journey down was cut short when the tram malfunctioned giving us no option but to travel the rest of the way down hill on foot.
Lucky for us! We arrived in one of the city’s most beautiful plazas where we enjoyed a delicious pastela de nata (Portuguese custard tart) with freshly brewed coffee. Our café was right in front of Fabrica Viuva Lamego an historic tile factory with its façade completely covered in colorful tiles.
Next stop Coimbra – a couple of hours from Lisbon by train and Portugal’s third largest city. What a joy to wander through its winding narrow streets and following a steep climb to visit one of the University of Coimbra, founded in 1290 A.D., making it one of the oldest universities in Europe. A highlight was the chance to visit the world-renowned Joanine Library (commissioned in 1717). This magnificent building houses thousands of ancient books and manuscripts that can still by accessed by researchers today.
After this enjoyable sojourn the train took us onwards to Oporto to join the other members of our group. The extraordinary beauty of this medieval city beside the river Douro never ceases to amaze. Our first day together was spent visiting the most significant city sights before having our Pilgrim Passports stamped at the 12th C. Cathedral. Sampling port wine in one of the historic bodegas and dinner on the balcony of a riverside restaurant was a fitting end to a wonderful day.
Since then the time has flown! We have enjoyed four wonderful days walking long distance along the Camino Portugues, through charming villages and beside fields filled with crops ready for harvest. One kindly farmer invited us to share a ‘pilgrim gift’ – a basket of fresh ripe tomatoes. Let the pictures tell the story…