Day 3 – Esposende to Viana do Castelo

How beautiful are these?

Purple blooms!

I’ve never see such beautiful Bottlebrush trees in bloom…magnificent.

Small blooms popping out of stone walls.

I can only hope our orange birds of paradise bloom like this one day.

When Catherine and I were in our mid 30’s and our 3 children were all still under 10 years old, we decided to buy a 4 acre lot in the country west of Richmond, VA.  We later built a Victorian style home with a wrap around porch.  It was a beautiful piece of land as the homesite sat high on a hill and the land trundled away from it on all sides.  When we started to clear the land for the home, the smell of the red clay, red cedar trees and all the other wonderful smells of the earth were brought to a crescendo.  We were moving from our first home, a small single family residence in the suburbs, so none of us…particularly our children, had experienced this earth moving experience.  Catherine and I still laugh that our youngest, Meghan, didn’t want to be put down on the ground from her arms as she thought she’d get her white socks and sandals dirty.  Little did we know that Meg would turn out to be the one who loved her hands in the dirt and go on to study sustainable development (agriculture), work at organic gardens, forage those vegetables to restaurants, and ultimately be a chef.

So when I left the seaside resort areas I had walked by and through the first 2 days out into the countryside and through small farming towns, the sights, sounds and smells brought back a flood of sweet memories of our 10 years in Boscobel Country.  I can say without reservation that all 5 of us hold those years as treasures, where we learned the value of hard work and a love of animals and nature.  When I passed by incredible spring blooms of birds of paradise, lemon trees, bottlebrush trees, roses and so many other species I hadn’t seen before, the memories of dogwoods and azaleas and the smells of wisteria and wild onions after a grass mowing popped back into my head.  Thank you Lord for a wonderful trip down Memory Lane.  I’m forever grateful.

I had dedicated my prayers on Day 1 to my Mom & Dad, and my bride Catherine on Day 2, so today was about our 3 adult children.  I had 7 hours and 18 miles to think about each one of them, and was able to have enough solitude to say a rosary for each of them.  Quality time personified.

Cristin is our oldest, and clearly the smartest in our family.  Catherine introduced her and her brother & sister to reading at a very young age, and she remains a constant learner and voracious reader.  I remember with fondness our rides in a golf cart with her on my lap with only a diaper and tee-shirt on when I was a club golf pro, and the smile on her face as we would zip around the course.  Such a happy baby, and such a happy soul to this day.  I will always think of her great smile when my thoughts are of her.  Today she lives too far away in Atlanta, but she has found a kind and gentle soul in Travis as her partner as she puts the finishing touches on her training to be a court reporter (stenographer).  I love you Cristin Tanner and I miss you dearly.

Matthew is our only boy, but man oh man did the Lord deliver a gift with him.  I grew up 1 of 11 and with 7 brothers, so having guys around for all seasons of sports was the norm.  You think Matt had a choice in that matter?  Absolutely not, so I have a gifted athlete and tried & true Miami Hurricane fan as my best friend.  Talk about a bonus!  Matt was surrounded by women growing up as I was often on travel in my coal career, so he learned the skills of listening, empathy and compromise from 3 pretty good trainers.  It’s no surprise he’s gone on to a career in social work, because his whole being is about helping others.  He’s probably the most Christian person I’ve known, yet he doesn’t consider himself ‘religious’.  Good thing, God doesn’t like braggerts who tithe or show good works for their own glory.  Matt walks the talk…even if the talk isn’t there.  About a year and half ago, Matt married an incredibly beautiful young lady named Kathy Lara.  Kathy is also in the social work / counseling field.  They are equally yoked on all things and make the perfect couple.  We’re fortunate in that they live only about 3 hours away in Miami, so we get to kiss their faces from time to time.  Mateo & Katiuska…I love you both so much.

That brings me to Meghan, our baby.  Remember that story about being afraid to step in the clay with her sandals on?  Well Meg turned out to be the most nature oriented of all of us.  Go figure.  Meg has always had a streak of independence growing up, from doing an Outward Bound trip to the woods in Maine, to going away to school in Boone, NC, and to marrying a young Argentinian man named Federico and ultimately moving to Córdoba while they continue their quest to move back to the US.  Meg’s work ethic is second to none, and when she puts her mind to a task it becomes a matter of when, not if, it gets completed.    Megie has added yet another skill to her resume, now a bonafide ESL (English as a 2nd language) instructor to corporate personnel in Córdoba.  We pray she and Feddie can get back home soon.  Megie…I miss you more than words describe and love you honey.

Today was an emotional day for me, so the post is long.  Thank you for your patience.  It’s just that I love my family dearly and pray for them constantly.  I hope you enjoy the other photos from my walk today.


Guess there’s no doubt which way to turn!

Pilgrims exiting a handsome…and open…church after morning prayers.

The baptism of Jesus by St. John.

A wooded path carved out of a eucalyptus forest.

One of the more artistic Way markers I encountered.

Santiago looking very serious.

Soon to be grapes for local wine.

An Easter reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ.

A stone footbridge across a small river…no time to lose your balance!

This is what you’d fall in to if you’re not careful!

One step at a time pilgrim!

Day 2 – Povoa de Varzim to Esposende

Today was almost identical in miles walked (17) and time walking (6 hours including lunch break) to yesterday, but that’s where the similarity ended.  Whereas yesterday was exclusively along the water, the sun was shining and the locals and tourists were out in force, today/Monday was mostly overcast with very few people and a mix of shoreline and inland walking.  Today’s blessing was time to myself…time to think about many things, time to slooow dooown, give my feet a break and smell some roses.  I really enjoyed today.  Today I felt like a pilgrim on a journey, not just some odd American with his straw fedora and a backpack.  Still very few other pilgrims (that I’ve seen), but I’m sure that will increase greatly as I eventually pass from Portugal to Spain and join the main trail into Santiago de Compostela.

Catherine and I toured an extensive part of Portugal with friends back in 2012, so I knew both the country and it’s people were just lovely.  Coming back, and seeing new areas, has not disappointed.  Every single time I’ve hailed someone down for help with directions, whether they spoke no English, some or a lot, they have been willing and eager to help…and always with a smile and a Bom Caminho!  What a treat that is.

Today I dedicated to my partner, my best friend, my bride of 38 years…Catherine Joyce Tanner.  I knew I would miss her when I decided to go solo this time, but I’m always amazed at how I physically and emotionally ache for her when away.  I traveled for 25 years in my coal career and thought time away was the balance we both needed.  But that was largely with our 3 adult children still at home.  Now that they’ve all been gone for 10 years or so, Catherine and I have become closer and more dependent on each other.  Do we fuss & fight and cause each other grief?  Certainly, but what marriage doesn’t have volatility?  Our love is so strong though that all the beautiful things about our relationship come rushing back once apart.  I miss and love you honey…more than you’ll ever know.  So today I stopped into a small church about 2/3 the way into my journey and said a rosary for us, for our marriage, for our children that we love so dearly…for you honey.

I’m tired and badly needing a shower, so I’ll end here and send along some photos from my walk today.  I must tell you that I looked at my Camino Ways suggested walking route today, which took me immediately away from the ocean into the city, and I made an executive decision to scrap that route and walk along the coast.  I got caught in one section where my only play was to go on to the beach sans sandals and socks…an impetuous diversion that came with faith that I would somehow find my way back to dry land and ultimately my hotel.  Faith is the cornerstone of anything of value…salvation, marriage, relationships.  Without it, where would we be?

Bom Caminho family & friends.

Starting out Day 2…along the waters edge again.

Oh, so this is the Way!

Got an ankle rash from new sock liners yesterday, so decided the best cure was feet in the salt water sans saddles & socks.  If the salt doesn’t cure it, maybe the COLD water will.

You want me to go where?  In THAT water?  Mercy…

I learned this great idea from the master…Catherine…on our French Way Camino in 2014.  At the hotels that served a decent buffet breakfast, eat light early (fruit & yogurt) and pack a couple of ham & cheese croissant sandwiches and a pastry for lunch.  Honey, they were just as good at the lunch break as you remember.

The tabernacle of the church I stopped in to had a distinct ‘seafaring’ theme to it.  Notice the fish on the doors and what looks to be octopus tentacles behind it…adorned in jewels no less!

Our Lord & Saviour

The Virgin Mary

This statue must be of a famous fisherman as it look like he’s dragging a gigantic stingray.

Notice the small table and chairs to stop for a view or have a bite.

Several of these along one stretch of the beach.  They look to be storage silos, but for what I’m unsure.

Sounds of the sea.  Peaceful and beautiful area.

This stretch of Portuguese coastline reminds me a lot of Carmel and Big Sur near Pebble Beach.  Rocky coast and scrub pines (versus the palms we see in FL) just inland…this one in spring bloom with new cones shaping nicely.

One of the most unusual…and clever…children’s public jungle gyms I’ve seen in a park.  Just as you enter city center in Esponsende, it stays with the seafaring theme as it’s constructed to look like an old galleon vessel.

Both Portugal & Spain have many large statues in their public squares.  This one shows some very strong men hoisting a large pole to a standing position…I think.  Whatever, I’d like to recruit them for U of Miami’s offensive line!

These Easter banners lined the street of Esposende as you enter…quite beautiful.

King Sebastian and what he did for the locals.

One of the waymarkers to keep pilgrims on track.

After leaving the Atlantic you crossed the Rio Cavado by bridge.  They have a large government cut connecting the river to the ocean, similar to our Sebastian Inlet back home.

They had this beautiful display for Easter as you started across the bridge.

Day 1 – Porto to Povoa de Varzim

Just finished my 27km / 17 mile day 1 walk.  I think it was John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles who claimed “man, my dogs are barking” after pulling his shoes and socks off.  Yeah, that about sums up my feet.  That’s always the biggest challenge on the Camino…keeping your feet dry & blister free.  Hoping walking every day for about 3 weeks will work them into getting used to boots and long walks.

What can I say about today that the photos won’t explain?   It’s a good thing they’re worth 1,000 words each.  Remarkable, incredible, awesome…that’s what I viewed all day today.  99% of my walk was on a wooden or paved boardwalk overlooking the sea.  The weather was clear, low 70’s and the sun was shining on the Atlantic and her waves that crashed against a rocky coastline.  As it was Sunday, lots of locals and tourists were out enjoying the glorious day, many sipping coffee at street side cafes or sunning on the beach.  I was amazed at how active all ages of Portuguese folks were, from elderly couples slowing strolling arm n’ arm, to families on bikes, joggers, lovers sneaking a kiss…even a couple of us peregrinos.

Today I offered up my prayers and focus on my Mom & Dad.  Mom is 90 and Dad, God willing, catches her briefly on Sept 22.  They’re struggling mightily with their health and finances.  I prayed for God to grant my Dad his wish to pass in his own home, and for my Mom to give up her aches, pains and worries to the Lord she’s so anxious to meet.  Oh merciful Lord, please bless your servants until your will takes them home.

I’m looking forward to a shower, an early dinner and a good nights sleep in preparation of tomorrow.  Until then, ate’ logo family and friends.

Chapel Capela da Boa

A rocky but powerful coastline

A lone pilgrim deep in thought while looking out over the sea

My Portuguese Coastal Way Camino officially begins…Bom Caminho!

Very cool…water boarders surfing in…2 sports in 1

Only in Europe can you get oceanfront land for a futbol stadium!

One of many monuments along the beach boardwalk

Waiting for the days catch to come in!

One of the small fishing villages I passed through

Fishing markers ready to be taken to mark spots

The water was crystal clear at beaches edge

A view along the coastline

I stopped at this church to say a prayer and light some votive candles, but it was locked.  All the bars & restaurants are open on Sunday but the church is locked.  What’s wrong with this picture…literally?

A stained glass window of the locked church.  San Pedro looking after the fishermen?

This cutaway in the rocks was extraordinarily beautiful

People out enjoying the weather and beautiful coastline

A very cool hostel along the way.  Mosaic tiles adorned much of the building.

The natural sand dunes were massive and reminded me of the Highlands region of Scotland.  Hard not to think about the Open Championship in July!


Sounds of the Atlantic on the Portuguese coast

Hey, my hotel is waaaay down there about another 10 miles!

I stopped along the tree lined Rio Onda to kick off my boots and eat some lunch

More of the beautiful dunes along the boardwalk

Ah, Spring has sprung!  Wildflowers everywhere.  God sure is a good gardener, yes?

I thought this monument was really beautiful.  A local told me it was crosses to signify all the lost souls of fishermen to the sea.

San Pedro…he has to be the Saint of the Fishermen.

A bottle brush tree in spring bloom.  Incredibly beautiful.

Dune daisies adorn the ground of many open spaces

A memorial to the fishermen’s wives…who look to be saying ‘stay safe and bring back some dinner!’…

Cafe’s and locals outside my hotel room balcony

Across the pavilion to the sea from my hotel balcony

Travel Day

As I write this from my hotel room in Porto, I’ve been up 30 consecutive hours and counting.  Zero sleep on a headwind affected 9 hour Miami – Madrid flight, then the short connection to Porto, the cab ride to the hotel…and insistence by both the cabbie and front desk clearly that I MUST try one of their famous local sandwiches…the Francesinha.  OK, I’m game at this point because I need to stay awake until dark so I can attempt to get my body on local time.  One thing’s for sure…no sleep combined with the cardiac arrest inducing Francesinha makes for one rotten feeling.  Tomorrow is a fresh day though, with 27 km of walking and a much better selection of food.  Promise.

The silver lining in yesterday/today’s duration was the couple hours I got to spend with our Matty Ryan in Miami.  He picked me up at the rental car drop and we stumbled on a cool little Spanish tapas cafe near the airport.  Calamari, rosemary potatoes and Estrella cervezas…and at a joint called Madrid Cafe’ no less…got me in a ‘Spanish mood’.

Looking forward to starting my pilgrimage walk tomorrow and getting out to the coast and countryside.

The ‘widowmaker’ sandwich Francesinha, chips and local beer Super Bock

Cafe’ Santiago menu…where the Francesinha was created. You don’t want to know what’s on this thing…trust me.

Lots of Smart cars here and NO Billy Bob super duty cab pickups.

The view of Porto and Atlantic Ocean in the background from my hotel window.

The artsy elevators at the Vila Gale Porto hotel.  Very cool joint.

My main man Matty Ryan.  Love you pal.

Tapas of calamari, rosemary potatoes and Estrella cervezas.

Getting in a Spanish mood at the Madrid Cafe’ in Miami.

Preparing for The Way

My favorite Merrill boots, broken in from 500+ miles on the FRENCH WAY Camino, along with my (hopefully) lighter weight Keene sandals for the days on flat terrain.

My newest Camino gift…a bracelet to remind me why I’m walking…

Gear to be packed.  As always, I’ll wait until the last minute. Why JT…why?

I love this poem and it relates to soooo many things in life.  My Mom & Dad are 90 and their end is near.  Sore knees & back or not, time to get out of the recliner and take a long walk.

I found this in my grass today.  I picked it up thinking it was yet more litter tossed by some inconsiderate soul.  Wow.  Coincidence?  I think not.  I hear you Lord…loud & clear!

So here it is Wednesday evening and my Friday blastoff is rapidly approaching.   My anxiety reached a crescendo earlier today, and has settled into a calm resignation that what will be will be.  I’ll rally last minute and tie up loose ends, and have that long leg of my flight from Miami to Madrid to start the mental checklist of the upcoming walk.  I’ll be jet lagged when arriving Porto, Portugal mid day Saturday, but no time to feel sorry for myself as I have 18 miles scheduled out of the box Sunday.  I have a date with my pillow Saturday night, and by then expect to be exhausted enough to actually sleep and get my body clock on Portugal time.  Signing off until then.

Camino 2.0

In 2014 I walked the French Way version of the Camino de Santiago with my bride Catherine.  500 miles of agony & ecstasy; beauty & brutality; peace & unrest.  We earned every one of our blisters, calluses, prayers and experiences.  Looking back, we wouldn’t trade it for anything.  So why am I going back?

That is the question I’ve wrestled with since returning in 2014.  I had a vision of how my Camino, or pilgrimage, would go…primarily based on watching the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen.  I thought this would be a Father-Son walk, but when my son learned he would need to take 7 weeks off from work, well, that dream went pop.  Then it became a “guys trip” with other men from my church…until they fell by the wayside 1 by 1.  Then it almost got hijacked into a “couples trip” until I put the kibosh on that.

Finally, I was down to 2 options…go solo or get Catherine to join me.  Bless her heart, she reluctantly agreed.  She sensed this may not be wise; walking 500+ miles over varied terrain, carrying a backpack, staying in small Spanish inns and eating suspect food.  All of those concerns turned out to be manageable.  Walking with an impatient and sometimes brooding husband was not.  Sorry honey…we walked a long way to find out this wasn’t our best setting.  Still, we continue to draw lifelong memories from the experience.

When I told Catherine I wanted to go back, she looked at me like I was nuts.  “Never again!” she repeated every time I broached the topic.  Yet I could not get the idea out of my mind…or heart.  This time, I tell my inner self, this time things will be different.  I will think more, pray more, love more.  The daily grind will unfold at a gentler pace, taking time for more than a passing smile and glance at other pilgrims.  This time I will engage in a chat should they invite me, knowing that I will reach my daily destination later versus sooner.  At least that’s my plan.  At least that’s my prayer.

After some deliberation over which route might serve me best, I decided on the Portuguese Coastal Way.  It starts in Porto, Portugal and hugs the coast, crossing into southern Spain, and working a bit inland to Santiago and the Cathedral for the Pilgrim Mass.  From there I’ll continue to the coastal town Finisterre, once thought to be the ‘end of the world’.  It’s roughly half the distance of our French Way Camino and with much less varied terrain.  For both I am happy.  I hope to complete the walk in 3 weeks, averaging 18 miles per day.  I’m both nervous and excited, but certainly committed as I leave the Friday after Easter.  Ready or not St. James…I’m coming to see you again!