Day 4 & 5… posts coming 

Hello all. We are still moving along. Internet has been not the greatest in places recently. Thought it was strong yesterday (Sunday) and then it kinda went out on me. We are due to be in a big city tomorrow (Tuesday), so hopefully I can catch up on posts. All is well though! Amazing trip… and so special doing this with my mom… she is a trooper as is Cass… Monday was the hardest, worst day for us(and for the entire trip we understand) about 16 miles with a 405 m climb (1300 feet) which happened between mile 8 and 9. 


Day 3… Barcelos to Balugaes

To begin, sorry I could not post yesterday (Saturday). Our accomodations had a very slow internet connection. We are now at a location with a much faster connection.

Today’s summary (Saturday, July 22nd):

  • Distance: 11.38 miles
  • Time walking: 7 hours 21 minutes
  • Calories burned: 2255
  • Elevation gain: 1008 feet

We started the day a little later than on Friday. Sadly, we awoke to a rainy day in Barcelos. Oh well, that’s part of the adventure. Now, MOm said the weather app indicated it would end at 10:15 am; Brian’s app said 10:00 am… Both were wrong… it didn’t clear up until maybe around 12 noon. Fortunately, we never hit a down pour. Here are some pictures of Barcelos:

<insert photos later>

When we began the day, because Barcelos is considered a stop to “take-in,” after the day before on the extensive climb, etc., we decided to take our time around Barcelos on Saturday morning. Upon arriving in the city, we noticed a strange–my word–affinity for roosters. They seemed to be everywhere in the artwork, etc. Well, Saturday morning, we stumbled upon Barcelos’s Earl Palace, built between 1406-1412. The location of the site symbolizes the sovereignty and importance of the County of Barcelos. The Palace had two wings and a front tower. The building fell under decay over the 17th and 18th centuries, and while there were some attempts to rebuild it, the building never returned to to is original grandeur.

<insert photos later>

Some of you might be saying, “That’s all great, but what about the rooster you mentioned and its ‘significance’ in Barcelos (okay, maybe only my Dad is saying that right now, but still). Soooooo, the rooster… Well, Barcelos’s gallows were outside the town, nearby the ancient road. One day, a St. James pilgrim entered an inn, locally famous for its landylady’s beauty. The women immediately felt in love with the handsome man, but since he was on a pious journey, he didn’t notice the lady’s passionate intents. Well, one lady plotted a vengeance, unknowing to the lad, and concealed a valuable cup in the pilgrim’s luggage. The following morning, once the theft was dettected and the sheriff called, the silver cup was found in the man’s sac. Brought before the judges who was preparing to eat an enormous roasted rooster for lunch, the pilgrim swore innocence, but faced with the evidence and according to custom, the judge sentenced the alleged theirs to the gallows. THe man suddenly inspired by Divine intervention, said to the judge, “I am innocent and the proof is that this roasted rooster will sing my innocence.” In the precise instant that the man was hung by the neck, the roaster stood up and sang. The judge hurried to the gallows and found the pilgrim hanging by the neck, but the bond was limp because St. James held the hangman by the feet. So, the custom of the rooster in Barcelos is tied to this ancient story.

<insert photos later>

After walking about 1.5 miles around the city of Barcelos (with the drizzle of rain, mind you), we deicded it was time to venture on the route to our next location. Not 1 km into the trip, and we stumble upon a lovely catholic church. Once again, no exterior picture–and too–no picture of the altar. I failed in my photos…
<insert pictures later>

Now, the last picture, the one of Mary, is the traditional representative of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The traditional depiction is Mary’s heart pierced with seven wounds or swords. Perhaps the most famous image is in Salamanca, Spain in the Church of the Holy Cross. Each sword is for one of the seven sorrows of Mary: (1) The Prophecy of Simeon; (2) The escape and flight into Egypt; (3) The loss of the child Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem; (4) The meeting of Mary and Jesus on Via Dolorosa (Jesus carrying his cross); (5) The Crucifxion of Jesus on Mount Calvary; (6) The piercing of the side of Jesus, and his descent from the cross; (7) The burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea. I found the image to be very powerful, and too, capture the devotion more powerful and expressive than other images of the Immaculate Heart of Mary I have seen.

Oh, and the sacristy door was open, so “long arms” as Mom sometimes calls me, I just put my arm through the door and snapped two pictures. A chandelier in a sacristy in a country parish… only in Europe in an old church. Well, and too, the wood throughout was beautiful.

After the church, we hiked on. Here are some images from the hike:

<insert photos>

Notice the communist part of Portugal sign we passed… it was on a building that looked communist, meaning VERY PLAN and VERY BOX-LIKE. It reminded me of my time in Germany in 1997, Berlin specifically, when you could see the difference between Communist controlled Berlin and the Democratic Berlin.

After the rain let up and it finally cleared up, we had another beautiful afternoon, as you can see from these photos. Last photo, the flower, I took that as a reminder of Brian’s comment many times. You see, sometimes he falls back behind us to walk a little slower, take in the sites and surroundings. Then, when he catches up, Cass will say something, “Just taking your time.” And he’ll say, “I thought this was a casual walk… gotta stop and smell the roses!” Okay, so the image is not a rose, but you get the picture.

The grapes and various fruits along the path are really nice, too. We came upon a lime tree, it was hanging onto the path, so I just took a lime from the tree. Smelled amazing! Brian is the taste-tester… apple tree, looks ready, he pulls it and eats it… berries along the road… a few other things too.

Here are some pictures of the group hiking along. You can see the morning pictures vs. the afternoon photos:

<insert photos>

The bungee cords… Cass brought these three small, tiny bungee cords. Brian and I both wondered why, and asked her, “Because they were on the list… REI gave us a list… I brought what was on the list! Well, Brian made good use of them on Saturday morning. He bungeed her polls to her bag, because the bag was too full of stuff. Genius idea! For me, the more fun was watching Cass get the polls out from the bungee cords at the right time later in the day!

Mom had a sock change around 11:30 am, not sure how far along we were at that point… three hours into the hike, though, I know that. Notice in this picture, she has resorted to duck taping her feet to prevent blisters. I have NEVER heard of such a thing, but the people at REI in some pre-Camino class Mom and Cass attended together, they told people to bring Vaseline and duct tape for your feet. It is perfect. When Mom took her sock off and I saw this image, I thought to myself, that’s a blog picture! Really???

Prayer Rememberance: Day 3, One thing I did not snap many pictures of today were the numerous cemeteries we passed along the walk. In Portugal, it appears burial is the method of caring for the dead. However, there cemeteries are not in the ground with grass growing around or on top of the gravesides. They are completely paved areas. The coffin goes into the ground and is then surrounded by concert (well, granite, which is EVERYWHERE here because it is so easy to come by from the mountains). The cemeteries are tasteful. After the second cemetery, and walk through the graves and reading the names and seeing the pictures on the tombstones, I couldn’t help but hear my own funeral homily story of I share that when we visit cemeteries and look at the names, sometimes, they are just a name to us, but when we know them, know their story (or part of their story), we are touched in some way. As I walked through the cemeteries, looking at the names, I was reminded of those at whose funerals I have presided: the parishioners and family members who have died in my time as a priest. Stories of their lives came back to me throughout the day. I remembered the funny moments I learned, the funny moments I may have shared with the now deceased. So many memories came back to me of various individuals and their stories. I guess the Jewish Rabbis really are correct: “To remember is to keep alive, to forget is to let die.” I remembered them on Saturday, and I carried their stories and their lives with me.

Day 2: Arcos to Barcelos

Today’s summary:

  • Distance: 15.55 miles
  • Time walking: 6 hours 50 minutes
  • Calories burned: 2410
  • Elevation gain: 1563 feet

We started walking about 8:45 am… another beautiful day… you know you’re in the countryside (the, um, farm smell in the air… rather powerful)

Not too far on the walk today, we came upon a lovely church. Very old, medevial parish actually. Built on top of old, Roman ruins. 

Sadly, I seem to be bad about external pictures of the churches, but better about interior pictures. 

The church was very peaceful. Cold feeling of walls and naive space. Again, based on my past experience of visiting medevial churches, this was a classic one. The old confessional, I’ve always just found them “neat,” as in you don’t see these in the states. But, remember too, the majority of churches in our diocese were constructed post-Vatican II, during a period when more specific guidelines are/were available on the construction of spaces for the sacrament of reconciliation. 

Going with the classic medevial church look, again, the baptistery was in the rear, fairly tiny area actually.

As we walked today, it was a very nice day. The weather was like yesterday, a few degrees warmer, but still very pleasant. Sunny skies. Amazing breeze every so often. Beautiful terrain again. I’m including some random pictures of terrain along the way:

Those are just a few scenic photos… for a little more “fun” behind the day. Today, I decided I wasn’t gonna “mess” with Mom and Cass… they had their walking sticks… I think they could have done some harm to me if I’d been a real wise… 

Per my watch, Mom had another sock change. Today’s was sooner than yesterday, around mile 4.8… we had another foot adjustment, but I wasn’t present for that one… more to come in a few minutes on that one!

Unlike yesterday, we did stop for lunch. Ham cheese and tomato sandwiches with water. I downed a 1.5 L bottle at lunch. Created some challenges later, but we are in nature. Kind of easy to address those challenges. 

After lunch, on the path to our next town–the rest for the night–we passed the “extensive” shopping mall.

Maybe 7 stores.

Okay, so after 10 miles of walking, that’s when the real adventure of the day unfolded. Brian had read about a site with ruins and a “fountain of life.” In addition, it had an overlook from the mountain top that allowed you to see Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. Awesome! Perfect picture. Only challenge, the book described the hike as “strenuous.”

We reach the spit off point for either the final 3 km into town to our place for the night OR an extra 1 km–strenuous, uphill–adventure. Cass, she’s done… get her to the hotel. Mom, she’s done… get her to the hotel. Brian is read to go, and I was fine either way. So, the Moms went to the hotel, the sons went the extra adventure. Now, I learned later, about 1 mile into their adventure (the Moms) another foot adjustment occurred… mom put on her sandals… there is a lot happening with the feet!

Long story short, it was treachous hills. Brian and I added an extra 5 km to our hike today. And the worst part, we never found the fountain… we did find a medevial tower:


We thought we could climb it and take pictures, but the inside is hollow… and the trash on the “ground,” not sure what’s happening in that dark, enclosed area today.

Now, while we were walking, trying to find the fountain of eternal life, we think we could have passed a spot where Moses had just been:

We did NOT stage that photo. Honestly, that’s the image we came upon!

Eventually, we came to a monestary. It was all locked up BUT there was a fountain… I told Brian, that’s gonna have to do. I’ll take a picture for us:

Now, after all of that adventure and never finding the fountain and our frustration with the whole thing, Brian took a small rock he had with him and put it on a wall of the Camino! 

The tradition is that you carry a rock or rocks and as you walk along, when you are ready to let go of whatever it is that is weighing you down, you put the rock on a wall of the Camino path, symbolic of you letting go of whatever is bothering you or weighing you down. Now Brian’s rock was more humor than anything, the humor of we’ve walked several miles to find this fountain, we are frustrated, where is it… but really, just let it go. All along the Camino the last two days, you pass many piles of rocks. I thought about picking up a rock from the pile to carry, one to represent what I was carrying, and then someone said, “you are picking up what they are putting down.” And I thought, “yeah, but how powerful to carry the burden someone else laid down. Don’t we do that a lot? Don’t we pick up the rocks of other people around us? As Christians called to aid and help our brothers and sisters, is not part of thatto help them in and with their troubles/challenges? As one Body of Christ, aren’t we called to pick up the rocks of others to aid them in their journey? Just as people pickup part of our rocks to aid us? There’s a homily forming… my poor parishioners… I’ll try not to break into song.

Now, sadly, never having found the fountain, on our way to the hotel, after adding an additional 5km to our trek today, I told Brian I was grateful our moms did not come because of the hills and steps and inclined… and too, the poles they are using, we’d each be “wearing one” about now.

In summary, another great day. Much more exhausting but still great. 

Prayer remembrance: Day 2, I couldn’t help remember those who are suffering. Those who need people stronger at the moment than them to pick up some of the rocks in their life and help them carry them. We pray for people all the time, now what can we do for them to help lift their burdens or challenges? Maybe it’s grocery shopping for a shut in. Maybe it’s call the friend who has cancer or lost a loved one and just talk as a way of lifting pain, confusion, hurt. Maybe it’s simply serving a Sunday Supper meal to someone and then sitting at table and listening. We all can do something to aid others. I mean, think about the last time someone came to your aid and lifted a burden from you… how did that feel? Don’t you want to share that feeling with another?

Day 1: Porto to Arcos

Today’s summary:

  • Distance: 11.04 miles
  • Time walking: 4 hours 58 minutes
  • Calories burned: 1654
  • Elevation gain: 902 feet

Well, off we went today. Here’s the morning picture of Cass and Mom; they were very excited. I mean, I think we all were!

For the first leg, a driver took us about 25 minutes via car out of Porto to a starting place on the outskirts of Porto. Where we stayed on Wednesday night was right in the heart of the city.

Well, after a quick drive, the very nice driver–who gave us a good history lesson on Porto–dropped us at our starting point.

The first sign to mark the way:

I will say, throughout the hike today, there were yellow arrows EVERYWHERE to let us know which way to go, and too, nice yellow Xs to let you know not to go that way. Someone spent a lot of time marking the path, which is very appreciated.

Our hike was fairly mild today, meaning not many hills–a few. And too, we could not have asked for more beautiful weather: sunny, made a cloud here or there, 68 degrees, a breeze. If everyday is like this weather-wise, that will be one of the greatest blessings of the trip!

As we hiked along, here are a few shots of the various sceneries:

When I “imagined” the Camino, this was my image… for the entire trip. Walking through corn fields, etc.

Okay, so remember this image… a few “scrolls down” you’ll understand why.

These are Eucalyptus trees. Brian–Cass’ son–was telling us about his experiences in Africa during Peace Corps and the desire to grow these trees. Apparently, the wood is so strong, in Africa, they use them to build their huts. We walked through a forest of Eucalyptus trees today. Not sure what they might use them for here.

Now, some fun moments:

Nice picture of the four of us before crossing the bridge.
Brian decided to run down to the “beach” and take advantage of the chairs for sun bathing.
Here he is getting setup for the chair.
7 mile mark… Mom announces: “I gotta change my socks! Time to switch out the socks!” I think this is blister prevention… better though than the advised “cures,” which are Vaseline and duck tape!

When we arrived into Arcos, we came upon–first–Quinta de Sao Miguel. The parish church at the heart of the town. Built  fairly high from the main street(lots of steps, which you want to not climb after 10.5 miles of walking), you can see from the inside, it is what I like to call a “simple country parish.” 

When Brian and I entered, they were in the midst of cleaning. They were pretty insistent… Don’t step on the hardwood floors! They were cleaning. Regardless, a nice “country parish.”

We arrived at the hotel/bed and breakfast around 2:45 pm. The afternoon was spent at leisure followed by a wonderful dinner in the bed and breakfast. We are the only guests, so we had the place to ourselves. All finished up for the day. Bedtime and ready to tackle day two.

Prayer remembrance: Day 1, I remembered my parish community back home, how fortunate and blessed I am by the people of IC. They offer me so much, and I prayed that God gives me the strength to do what I can to hopefully continuing offering them more and more each day! Though, if the staff hears me say one more time, “So, I was thinking…” they might send me over here for 6 weeks to walk the France to Spain route!

The trip begins…

Let’s recap, shall we…

  • Monday morning, 4:30 am wake up
  • Departed the rectory at 5:15 am
  • Through Norfolk security and ready to board the 7 am for JFK… smooth flight
  • 8:20 am arrival in JFK, and then we wait until 5:30 for the next flight
Lunch and more waiting
  • Fortunately uneventful afternoon in JFK, and we boarded smoothly, all was well… but some people either didn’t show up or never bought the seats
We each had isles, but the two next to Mom were upgraded, so I moved up and we had an empty seat between us. Made for a pleasant trip.
  • Smooth flight to Amsterdam, customs is a long process… but the Dutch are extremely friendly! Arrived at 6:50 am Amsterdam time
  • Quick layer over before our 8:45 am flight to Porto.

So, summary… Delta/KLM got us to ever destination on time or early.