Includes written contributions from Diana G, Ann R, Steve M and Penny B.
It’s a week since our intrepid band of Ozzies began to follow the Camino trail that winds through northern Portugal and Galicia to Santiago de Compostela. Rain did not dampen our spirits as we explored the sights of the fascinating UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Oporto home to the renowned Douro River port wine growing region. From colourful Rua Santa Caterina and the majestic Liberation square to the 12th C. Cathedral where a stamp on our pilgrim passports marked the beginning of our journey. Finally winding our way down steep stone steps to the bustling riverfront.
Next day we walked in brilliant sunshine via flower filled country lanes and vineyards resplendent with new growth to coastal Vila do Conde. Old crafts such as bobbin lace making are still practised here and the sense of community is clearly evident. By accident we came across a shop front where a group of local residents are seated in a circle. Men, women and young girls with heads down cheerfully tearing fresh green leaves from a pile of cut branches in the centre of the room. “We need help” calls a friendly gentleman and we are welcomed in. They are preparing for an annual celebration, laboriously making leaf and petal carpets to adorn the streets.
Then followed several days of reflective, quiet walking through small villages and farming communities. Peaceful trails through forests, our pathway often framed by ancient stone walls. The peaceful sounds of church bells, cocks crowing, goats bleating and frogs croaking become familiar to us. How privileged are we to be gifted with brief glimpses into Portuguese lives. The essence of Portugal. A modern nation, a proud people, living close to the soil with a tradition as old as the bridges in our photos that date back to Roman occupation.
Onward through the lively market town of Barcelos where local residents prepare for a medieval festival, to charming a Ponte de Lima. This is a place where elderly gentlemen tip their hats and say ‘Bom Dia’ as you pass. Ancient olive trees sit proudly amongst the stones in the town square and if you are short of a few herbs to spice your cooking you can forage for bay leaves from trees planted in brightly painted red pots or pick the rosemary and mint that flourish in garden beds.
Too soon it is our last night in Portugal. There is so much that we will miss as we reach the Rio Minho border crossing. Not only the magnificent vistas and the gentle, fun loving people but the great coffee and the tasty food – not to mention the Portuguese custard tarts! But Spain is calling and so we walk on.