Thursday, October 18, 2012

From Santiago to the End of the Earth - Finisterre - and on to Portugal

In honor of the pilgrims' walk to the great Cathedral in Santiago we were given certificates of completion, which if you are fluent in Latin, you will be able to read above!   Just in case the print is too small and the language indecipherable: there are our names in Latin (Joannem and Carolam) and the date June 23, 2012. And although we felt the joy and relief of completing our time on the Camino, we knew that reaching Santiago was the beginning as well as an endpoint.  

Leaving Santiago, we realized that our path of adventure was continuing   Our days were open until July 17 when we were to meet Jody and Kevin in Brussels. On we journeyed to Finisterra (translated: end of the earth.) This time we traveled (and relaxed) on a beautiful bus,with our feet especially enjoying the scenery along the way!  

One of our awesome Aussie friends Penny recommended a funky little hostel run by a young man from Barcelona who fell in love and stayed in Finisterra.  At  O Albergue de Paz the acommodations were spartan, the people we met were memorable, and the price - 10 euro a night - was awesome.

Here's John at the actual medieval “end of the earth” --- a rocky outcrop into the Atlantic --- like so many others, with a bit more tourist shtick.  We loved Finisterra, time to chill out, swim, read and explore!

After our idyllic days in Finisterra, on June 27 we traveled on to Porto, Portugal.  As has been our (successful) mode on this adventure, we arrived with no plan on where to stay or what to do!  However sadly, not feeling all that well.  On the Camino neither of us took the time to get sick, but a bug, or several, caught up with us in Porto. Hot, tired, coughing -- and with no guidebook --- we found a hotel in the center of the city.  The narrow stairs from the street made the place look sketchy, at first, maybe because we were so tired and travel-worn.  In fact, the Hotel Aliados was charming, in the old European sense of the word.  If you get to Porto, we recommend it.

Here are some words that came to us as we journaled along the way:  watery (the city is built along the Duro River), blue tiles (old buildings with amazing facades)

and blue skies, long rifle (a soldier with a big gun told us that the Moorish Quarter was closed), best friend - that refers to each other -, good Chinese food - yes, in Porto - great ride on a boat, feeling better (Carol, trying to shake bronchitis, went to a doctor, had xrays and two consultations, without waiting, for $160.  (No "insurance" --- just being in a country that cares about the health of the people within its borders.)  And wonderfully, we enjoyed Fado music in the evenings!

A boat ride down the Duro River also improved our health and well being!

Porto is filled with always delightful street performance.  In every city, the range of talent and creativity presented in public spaces was incredible- opera, break dancing,  bubble blowing.  And this man below was fascinating.  We weren't sure at first that he was actually a person.  For a euro, he pounded a nail with the "hammer" in his right hand.  Other than that, he didn't move a muscle, remaining motionless even when his wife brought him a soda to drink through a straw!

Portugal, perhaps more than Spain, has suffered in the current economy.  It doesn't stop them from maintaining their infrastructure.  Not only roads and water mains, but esthetic infrastructure like this little park.  The maintenance of parks and open spaces was beautiful, wherever we went.  And it takes jobs to keep public spaces like these looking so good.

 It's hard to resist street musicians,


people watching,
relaxing in the beauty of antiquities,
and incredible gardens!

Our time in Portugal was so brief, yet we felt it was time to move on as we had adventures on hand before meeting Jody and Kevin in mid July!   So on July 1 we left for Salamanca, then a return to Madrid, where we would spend a few more days before going on to France via Lérida, in Cataluña, and Andorra.

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