Last Day in Porto

Today I went to the Anglican Church. It is Pascha for me and it was wonderful to meet a nice sympatico priest who actually greeted me “Christ is Risen”There was a good organ and choir and since it is the only St James Church in Porto, here is a picture of a rather stern patron. I consoled myself with St Patrick ( my dad’s name)

St Patrick

St James

The service,all in English with many Americans and Brits in attendance was somehow familiar. There was even coffee hour after. It seems usually it is port …. but there was a sort of annual meeting to follow so… I should have thought they would have needed it more on such an occasion.

Oscar Miguel host at the Albergue

Saturday’s bar-B-que was a great success thanks in great part to the intrepid Olena. Coals not lighting? Where’s the hairdryer?

No challenge unmet!

It has been a wonderful experience to live with a diverse and extraordinary group of friends over the past two weeks . Walking in the morning! Camino here I come!

A Rainy Day Off

I was as cross as this angel when I saw the dark clouds

I had a few places I wanted to see and so decided to go downtown to tick a few boxes. I’ll be leaving on Monday next so I need to hurry up. Porto, besides being an ancient town built on the steep banks of a river is also in the throes of Metro construction. The Metro is also a very good light rail system that runs above ground. The huge holes all over the place make getting from A to B something of a challenge.

I returned to the cathedral to get my pilgrim passport stamped. The crowds were a lot thinner probably because of the drizzle. I proceeded down a set of breakneck steps, slick with moss ( Narry a handrail in sight) to a very odd Jesuit church featuring some obscure saints and a pretty Christmas nativity scene.

St Kythira and her twin sisters?

I always have to watch where I am going as there are unexpected sills, holes, steps and curbs. I walk and then stop to look.

I decided to pass on a tower of 250 steps. I would only have had a view of fog anyway!

I ended up in a fabulous park called for some unknown reason “ the Crystal Palace “

Over the River Duro
Before the Deluge

It did pour eventually and I returned home a bit disappointed with my jacket. Good thing I have a hood poncho for the walk . Good weather for the next 6 days is forecast.

First one I’ve seen!

Porto from the River

All Aboard!
We went under six bridges and I have forgotten all the names of them!

I finally got to go on my river cruise yesterday in bright sunshine and with thinned out crowds. The views from the boat were lovely but for me the calm feeling of being on the water and off the street was the most enjoyable part of it. I have decided I am not a city person and am so glad to see the start of my long walk in view.

Managed to lose that pole somewhere!
A leisurely walk in Porto!

There are a lot of steps in Porto! Training for the Camino. Speaking of which, I am pleased to say that I managed to get a reservation in a municipal Alberge which is apparently not permitted. I got it by writing a pathetic letter in mangled Spanish and Portuguese describing an aged Canadian who needed her bags transferred to a fixed address and voila! A reservation. I will start to walk on the 17th!

Out Back

Yes already

This is the neighbor‘s rose but it climbs the fence to get over here into our yard. You can see from the buds that we’ve only just started.

Yes, these too

Due to scheduling I spent time at home again. I am also waiting for the Easter crowds to disperse. I have hopes that tomorrow, being forecast as fine weather I will finally take the boat ride that was scheduled for last Friday.

An Elder Tree

In the yard pilgrims hand out their clothes and hang out .. their egos, pain and excitement.

Better than the dryer!

And over the fence, the fruit-heavy orange tree in the neighbor‘s garden.

Having spent an hour or so in the bar at the end of the yard I will leave you with these honey images.

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What a Relief

I cooked!

Came the fateful day when I was required to cook for the whole company. And somehow I managed! Cauliflower and potatoes in onion and tomato sauce for the vegetarians and pasta with meat sauce for the carnivores … and vegetable sauce for the others. Salad of course, and broccetta… is that it…. bread toasted with tomato and/or cheese and wine and thank heavens, cake that some kind person bought yesterday in honor of Easter.

Some people were missing which was a great relief to me. I am totally surrounded by foodies and wine connoisseurs! I was in quite a panic but…. All worked out well.

Kind Francesca told me when the pasta was done to perfection and kind Olena let me off lightly with the cleaning since she could see I would never finish in time if I had to pull my weight today. When it was all snapped up and Brie cheese on soft bread with honey declared the piece de resistance I was chased into the garden “ to rest”. Instead I had a soul searching conversation with an English pilgrim and finally collapsed into the hammock for a short but welcome nap. Now that I have finally had my stint as cook I can relax and look forward to the coming week . I must go on the boat ride one day and prepare for Orthodox Pascha!

Under the camellia tree in the hammock

My Day Off

I had great ambitions. A walking tour of the old town. A boat ride. All started well. It was a hot day but I was well prepared with light hiking pants, my trusty hat, my Google maps, water and sunscreen. I took the metro to the old town ( I’m an expert now) and, because I was early for the tour, due to start outside the Porto McDonald’s, I decided to check out tickets for the boat ride.

Now, this is a McDonald’s
Eat your Big Mac under this!
Who gets to clean the stained glass?

We eventually met up with our tour guide outside. She betrayed her Greek origin with a little exclamation as she checked me in. And we were off! She was surprised and happy to have a Greek-speaking guest. She gave a great tour, full of historical facts and humour. Our group was composed of French, Chinese, Americans, Japanese and myself with some other Canadians. Of course we all joined the English -speaking group. Downtown Porto was a complete chaos of huge construction sites that we all hoped would turn into metro stations before long. It looked like half the population of Europe was following one tour guide or another complete with baby carriages and electric scooters. The noise level was tremendous.

Flowers in the city walls

When the tour was over I decided to try my luck lower down the hill close to the water. Big mistake. Although I already had a ticket for a boat tour, the area was so congested that I could not stand it for the estimated one hour delay to allow me to go aboard. By this time the idea of our quiet courtyard was looking better and better. The ticket is good for a week anyway so I toiled up a steep hill to the metro station.

Would you like to spend an afternoon here?

To tell the truth I was a bit disappointed with missing the boat ride. The ticket agent looked as if he was about to burst into tears as he stewed in his wooly sweater in the throng of customers.

After a short rest in one of the hammocks in our yard I felt much restored. A young man came to sit quite close to me at a table and I noticed he was reading a very thick tome. “ What are you reading? “ as the Russians would say. Turned out to be The Brothers Karamazov.

I was astounded to see a young man if no more than twenty-five reading such a thing!

Some old favorites

It has been my experience that reading has gone out of fashion. Lucas, however, kindly put his book aside and engaged me in an unusually deep and thoughtful conversation. I was hard put to keep up with his opinions on philosophy and what truly constitutes “reality”. It was a full consolation for having missed the boat trip. I really had a great day off that left me with so much to think about. I shall be musing it all over as I swing the mop over the floors tomorrow.

In the courtyard

Tomorrow I will take a walking tour of Porto and possibly a boat tour also. So, I stayed around “ home” today.

A view from the hammock

After a magnificent lunch ( again!) cooked by Francesca I retired to the hammock, slung in a shady spot in the middle of the yard. I fell asleep for a few moments and then remembered that I had promised to spend a little time with a young man who is working on a translation of a book of Portuguese legends. The owner of the Alberge gave me many pages of already translated material which was pretty good but, here and there, the vagaries of English required the touch of a native speaker. We spent a pleasant half hour poring over the original and some of my notes, I think to good effect.

Communal lunch in the shade
Lavender in the morning

Every day at about 1;15 we are served a lunch for the staff, always on the best plates and with wine. Then at 2:30 the doors open and the pilgrims come in to claim their reserved bed or to ask hopefully if there is one free. Yesterday I was asked to compose a note for Facebook explaining that from now on, even if the pilgrim has a reservation, no check-ins will take place after 8 pm. Just during the week I have been here, late arrivals of people with reservations have meant that someone must stay at the desk until midnight. The redoubtable Olena decided that” Isobel, native speaker and so polite Canadian” was the one to explain the whys and wherefores of this new policy.

And rosemary

Now at five o’clock it is quite hot on the street so I am happy to sit here in the cool garden and write a little.

Oh, met my second. Anti vaxxer of the stay. The first was a French lady who quickly dismissed my dissent to her claim that the poor Canadian truckers had been brutally deprived of their rights last year. The second , today was an American who, upon hearing that I was Canadian asked if our Prime minister was the son of Fidel Castro. “He’s a leftist” He was a person who revealed a significant legal career and so, with an aside that I did not think political leaning was an inherited gene, I withdrew from the fray. I had been reading the stoics and taking my note from Marcus Aurelius who says you’ll meet people with ideas you cannot combat and so…. it is better to preserve one’s energy for adversaries who are amenable to reason. Just the fact that confessed to reading The New York Times was enough to put me on the wrong side of the tracks. The wonderful thing about sn Alberge is that people leave and are replaced by new faces, new ideas, new souls.

Porto in Spring

A sweet-smelling linden tree and daisies

This was taken as I rested in a park on my way to the cathedral yesterday. Google Maps had assured me it would take seven minutes to get there but it turned out they meant by metro. it was a very hot day and I had taken advantage of the afternoon off to explore a little. In this park I realized the mix up and since there was a metro nearby I decided to try it out. Tickets are issued strictly by machine with narry an employee in sight but it turns out that it is quite easy to understand the system. I arrived at the cathedral in two stops. On exit I crossed the street to an imposing building that turned out to be a train station decorated in traditional Portuguese tiles.

Country scenes
Battle scenes
It really is a train station

After gawking at the beauty I headed up the hill to the cathedral. Unlike French or English gothic cathedrals it has a rather small main church surrounded by many small chapels and a cloister. I was glad to get inside as the sun was very strong.

St James as a pilgrim himself

The cathedral had something of a fortress air as one can climb ( more stairs) up to a sort of battlement arrangement and then even higher into a tower.

More tiles on left wall

I would have expected more religious scenes on the tiles but a lot were hunting depictions with dogs retrieving game and surprised looking angels looking on. I surprised myself by only going half way up the tower. The steps were very uneven. I was in sandals. I had already walked for miles and I had a feeling going down would be a lot worse than toiling up. Discretion was the better part of valour in this case but I reflected that time was…..

Guarding the cathedral

I zoomed home on the metro as I was on the schedule to “ close” and I had no idea what that meant. It would have been simple except that a pilgrim with a reservation had called to say he would be very late. All the young ( and efficient ) staff had an evening out planned. I assured them I would manage and off they went. The harried pilgrim arrived at 11:30 in such a mixed state of gratitude and distress over his many contretemps in travelling to us that I had quite the time to calm him down. However, at last I felt I had acted as a true hospitalera in tending to the needs of a pilgrim in welcoming him and settling him in.

Today was a quieter day although I enjoyed many interesting conversations with pilgrims. The usual cleaning chores took up much of the morning. We had our communal lunch and I spent a well-deserved half hour in the hammock before answering the inevitable question “ (coastal route or inland ?)for a pair of Americans. An Italian pilgrim decided to cook a delicious pasta and ham and cheese dish for a select few of us. Well, it would be rude to refuse, after all. Then I did a bit of clerical work and so, to bed. That’s a camellia tree in the courtyard of our Alberge.

The full moon rising
Almost forgot … the very first cello ( stamp) I administered into a pilgrim “ passport”
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To Work! First day


At ten o’clock the pilgrims should all be out walking and the team starts cleaning. All beds and pillows must be cleaned and all floors be mopped . It’s quite a big Alberge so it took us about an hour and a half to clean the whole place. Toilets and showers got special attention. At noon we had a wonderful lunch prepared by one of the other volunteers. I’m getting more and more nervous about having to do this!

I’m in the hat with the girls!

At 2:30 the doors opened and many pilgrims came in. I stayed out of the way, washing lunch dishes and putting things away after a really magnificent lunch -complete with wine, of course! When it was a bit quieter I learned how to assign lockers and take them to their rooms and explain the rules, show them the kitchen and the garden and generally welcome them. Part of the expectation is that I should chat with people on the garden or common room too. The chats can be entertaining, startling or charming or surreal. One gentleman spoke to me in Italian, which I do not understand , for at least twenty minutes, even reading passages of his guidebook to me. Now fate is playing her hand as he is protesting forcefully to an Spanish gentleman “Non capiche” ( Italians excuse the spelling). The Spaniard shows no sign of letting up.

I was put on the schedule for next week and it is great not to feel I am a complete novice. Today I hung up the wash, took it in, washed dishes and … had conversations.

Lemon blossoms
The plum tree is in bloom. The camellia tree is in bloom. Spring is here.

Everyone praises this Alberge, Peligrinos de Porto and rightly so! The garden is fun although two Camino donkeys ruined the grass last year and it has not yet recovered. The staff is kind and cheerful and the pilgrims are happy to be here.

At the albergue in Porto

I got here! There was a train strike so I took a taxi to some unknown bus station. I had managed to buy a ticket online and all went well boarding and travelling up to Porto. I decided to take the metro and figure out how to get to the albergue spite of a very confusing bus station somehow I did it. When an elevator indicates the Metro is on the top floor, you know you need to double check everything!

Grey skies but Spring beauty

I walked into the albergue and was immediately set down to a hot lunch cooked by one of the volunteers. My joy at this development was tempered by panic at the announcement that it will soon be my turn to cook for the group!
The garden turtle
One of the cats

There are pets at this hostel and a lovely garden. One of the other hospitaleros is from St Hilaire. Two are Ukrainians and one Italian. I was shown the ropes but don’t have to really “ work “ until tomorrow. I am looking forward to it. But today it is not so bad to rest after a rather stressful day. More tomorrow!

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