We say farewell to the Camino de Santiago with this fun video we put together while walking the Camino Portuguese. We hope you enjoy it.
And we share with you some final thoughts. If our blog, our travels and our Caminos inspire you in any way, to go do things you never imagined you could do, then we are fulfilled. Because life is short, the world is amazing, and each one of us has a spark inside that, with a little bit of oxygen, is ready to flame.
Don’t wait to find what makes you happy. Go be Fabulous today.
Our journey now continues with two more weeks in Spain and then on to Florida, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and much more.
Over the past two years I’ve spent nearly three months of my days in the beautiful country of Spain. I’ve seen a lot of it’s wonders. And yet, here I am at the ‘End of the Earth’- totally surprised and in awe of this beautiful rugged coast – unlike anything else I have seen in Spain.
I’m so glad we came.
Bronze boot at the fini
Finisterre & Muxia are located on the Coste de Morte (Coast of Death), at the most western spot in Spain (and some argue in Europe). Located in the autonomous community of Galicia, both Spanish and Galician is spoken. The Coste de Morte is named thus because of the countless shipwrecks that have occurred on this rocky coast over the millennia.
For many pilgrims, this rocky coast is their final destination, after visiting the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It’s a three-day walk to Finisterre and another day on to Muxia. For those who don’t have
the time, bus tours are available so pilgrims can come and see the historic and beautiful location.
Final day walking
Horreo a Galician corn crib
It was Saint James who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. In 44 AD, he was beheaded in Jerusalem and his remains were brought back to Galicia. Following Roman persecutions of Spanish Christians, his tomb was abandoned in the 3rd century. In 814 AD, legends have the tomb rediscovered, and King Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia is responsible for ordering the construction of a chapel to house the tomb, on the site where today’s Cathedral stands. This created the gradual development of the pilgrimage to the tomb.
The beach at Finisterr
As pilgrimage to Santiago grew, pilgrims also started arriving in Finisterre to worship and see the “End of the Earth”. The first hospital (hostel) was built in 1479.
Sculpture at Muxia
For the people of ancient times, the Costa da Morte was the last redoubt of explored land, the westernmost part of continental Europe, the final stretch of an itinerary traced in the sky by the Milky Way.
Legend has this ‘End of the Earth’ also as the place where pilgrims would collect a scallop shell, to prove they had made the journey to the sea. The scallop shell has many meanings to pilgrims and the Camino de Santiago, read about that here.
Our Lady of d Barca Muxia
So visiting Finesterre and Muxia was something we wanted to do. We had the time and seeing the Atlantic Coast of Spain was high on our list. Although the weather is cool and cloudy I’m still glad we came. The stormy coast is a great place to relax and enjoy a few cozy days before we continue on our journey. The End of the Earth as we know it. And I feel fine.
Note: We continue our Spanish journey in a few days. On to Sevilla, Malaga and Cadiz. Watch for more
Many people don’t realize how far west Spain is. Finisterre is on the same latitude as Boston
Here we are. Walking our second Camino de Santiago. Why you ask? Why not? It just seemed like we should. Six months ago when we were planning our fall itinerary we were looking at being in Madagascar in October. Until we looked at the airfare. Yikes. Madagascar will need to stay on the bucket list for a while longer. So we turned our attention back to one of our favorite countries, Portugal. And well, here we are.
Having completed the 486 mile Camino Frances last September, I wasnt sure if the Camino Portuguese would be different.
It is different. While also being somewhat similar. One week into the Camino Portuguese, I don’t think I can say I prefer one over the other (yet), because each is special in its own way. But I have found myself during week one on the Portuguese Way comparing it to the Frances Way.
Here are my thoughts so far after one week of walking;
Distances are Different
Of course the biggest difference between the two walks is the distance. When setting out to walk the most popular Camino Frances many people begin in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France. This is where we began on September 1, 2017. Forty-one days and 486 miles later we arrived in Santiago, Spain.
On the Camino Portuguese we started in Porto, Portugal on October 21, 2018. We plan to walk to Santiago and then beyond to Muxia on the Atlantic Ocean. This walk will take us about 15 days and will be 217 miles.
It is a significant difference in distance and days walked – making some of the comparisons here not really fair.
We are Different
We are not the same people we were a year ago. And so this is another major difference. A year ago we had never tackled anything like walking the Camino de Santiago. We were a bit frightened, naive and apprehensive. I think we over trained and over planned and over stressed. I spent too much time reading what other people thought was best. Ultimately most of that wasn’t best for me.
This time we hardly trained, barely planned and did almost zero research. In fact I stayed away from the Camino Facebook pages (which I found last year too judgmental) and just went with what felt good for us. We did use the John Brierley books again – a valuable resource for any Camino pilgrim.
We also don’t feel any pressure this time to “succeed”. We are just enjoying it. If we don’t finish – no worries. If it pours down rain and we hop on a train, so be it. If we get sick or tired and decide to sleep all day – well Buen Camino. Our Camino, our way.
Our Bags are Different
Last year I walked the first 100 miles with a 15 pound pack. But eventually it was too much for my plantar fasciitis and I began shipping my pack ahead each day. This year I decided to do it from the very start. It’s so much better. I last longer and feel better at the end of the day. My Camino, my way.
The Terrain is Different
Over these past six days we have seen quite different terrain than what we enjoyed walking across Spain. We have spent a lot of time in beautiful wooded areas of eucalyptus, cork and pine trees. We have also spent a lot of time on rocky paths climbing over mountains. In Portugal in the suburban areas, and even on country roads, we were forced to walk on difficult cobblestones – both ancient and new.
Similar to the Frances we have also spent a lot of time in bucolic farmland with cows, sheep, horses and goats (there is a distinct Camino aroma!). Most enjoyable is passing miles of vineyards, corn fields, chestnuts, vegetables of all kinds and many fruit and nut trees. Here along the Portuguese way these things are grown altogether. In Spain there were more distinctive sections of types of agriculture.
We left Portugal and entered Spain on day five. Here the path meandered through lovely creek-side shaded paths before we had a major climb with a very steep descent into Redondela. We are now in Spain’s Galicia region, one of our favorite areas last year on our walk. The mountains bring cooler weather, and marine air from the ocean just 8 miles away.
On both routes we enjoy the incredible medieval villages, most fully functional and still living, breathing towns – on the Camino Frances it felt like many of these towns were only there because of the Camino – not so much on the Portuguese. For someone from the USA where old is 200 years, seeing 900 year old villages and 2000 year old Roman bridges and roads still in use is just mind-boggling.
The Portuguese People are Different
Perhaps because the Portuguese Way is not as popular as the Frances, or perhaps because the Portuguese people are only beginning to learn how to be Camino entrepreneurs as The Way becomes more popular; for whatever reason there just are not as many businesses catering to pilgrims.
The accommodations are fewer, the food is definitely not as available and we never encountered anyone just trying to make a buck off of the pilgrims. Last year in Spain it was a normal sight for someone to be set up on the side of the road selling things to pilgrims. Restaurants, bars, cafes were abundant.
But we have found the Portuguese Camino much less developed for pilgrim services.
The Portuguese people are a bit more shy and quiet. They nod and say Bom Dia but keep more to themselves than most of the Spanish we encountered on the Frances.
We expect this to change now that we have arrived in Spain.
Vandalism is Present
The first day we entered Spain our guide-book gave us a choice on routes. We could take the shorter “industrial” route or the slightly longer “scenic” route. We chose the scenic route.
Immediately, and for the first time on either the Portuguese or the Frances, we began to see a clear effort to vandalize signage, misdirect pilgrims and disrupt progress on the “scenic” route. Beautiful granite markers splattered with paint, arrows blacked out and other arrows trying to get walkers to go another way. We stayed the course using the map on our phone.
Our assumption is there are locals not wanting pilgrims to go this way. I’m sure it’s not all locals, but it was a disappointment to us. On the Francis we always felt welcome.
The Pilgrims are Fewer
The most striking difference to us in week one is how few pilgrims there are. Last year we found ourselves on the Camino Frances during its busiest September ever. We had chosen to walk in September because we had read it was a time with fewer pilgrims than in summer but still with good weather.
Well clearly we were not the only ones who had read this recommendation. It was very crowded.
Most days it didn’t matter, but as we got closer to Santiago it was busy and not very peaceful. Rooms were hard to come by and so we started booking several days and even weeks ahead.
Late October on the Portuguese Way is very quiet. On our first day we did not see any other pilgrims. That night at dinner we met a man from Holland. We have now seen him several times. We also have often seen a young couple from Italy/Australia and few others along the way. But until day five the total number was only about a dozen.
On day five we began to encounter more Pilgrims. We learned many start walking in Valenca, the border between Portugal and Spain. We met a woman from Seattle (who had heard about us), another woman from Ottawa and another woman from Russia. We met a group from Australia, a couple from Germany and a couple from Mexico. We have also seen two young men walking with a dog, several cyclists and a handful of people walking the other direction. The Portuguese Camino also supports the route to Fatima going south. Some people walk south from Santiago to Fatima Portugal, a town between Porto and Lisbon where an apparition of the Virgin Mary was considered a miracle and brings pilgrims.
We have enjoyed week one. We feel healthy and capable. The forecast for the week ahead has much rain, and we will take it day by day to see how we proceed. Meanwhile, I am very happy to be here, experiencing once again the magic of the Camino de Santiago.
More soon, from the Way of Saint James. Buen Camino!
The Magical History Tour, what a ride it has been. I never thought of myself as having a bucket list. Mostly because I just want to see EVERYTHING and go EVERYWHERE. But I have realized over the past two months that I do have a bucket list, and I am slowly ticking things off that list, all while adding more to it. And for the past ten weeks the Magical History Tour has taken us away.
We’ve been very lucky to see incredible things in our travels. Unimagineable things. Without even really realizing it we have seen five of the present day Seven Wonders of the World, included on that list was Petra in Jordan where we visited this week.
I saw a television program about ten years ago about Jordan and they interviewed Queen Noor standing in front of the incredible Treasury building at Petra. I was smitten and knew I would visit there some day. It was easy to add Jordan to our Egypt itinerary. Now, having been in Jordan, I realize I could have added Egypt to my Jordan itinerary. Jordan is extroardinary. A cradle of ancient, biblical, Roman and natural history. We did not allow enough time to see it all.
During out time in Jordan we visited three main sites, two on my bucket list and one I wasn’t even aware of;
Jerash – I had never heard of and yet we found this amazing ancient provincial Roman city more beautiful, interesting and preserved than Rome itself. Jerash likely dates back to the time of Alexander the Great in the 4th Century BC. It is an immense archeological site with only about 15% excavated. Unfortunately it is not a UNESCO site, despite the antiquity masterpiece that it is. Apparently one of UNESCO’s stipulations was for a music festival that is held here annually to be discontinued because of the damage it causes to the site. Our guide told us that
too many pockets are lined as a result of this music festival and the powers that be are not willing to give the festival up. Very sad as this site was truly impressive and needs UNESCO’s preservation assistance.
The Dead Sea – my “no bucket list” bucket list has include floating in the Dead Sea for a long time and here in Jordan we had that opportunity. You can access the Dead Sea from Israel as well as Jordan, and in fact more of the Dead Sea is in Israel. But Jordan has a portion of it at the south end. It is truly amazing how salty it is and how buoyant you are when floating. In fact all you can do is float. You can barely walk or stand and swimming is out of the question because you just flip over and float. It tasted horrible and you certainly don’t want to get it in your eyes. But it was warm, clean, blue and a once in a lifetime event filled with lots of giggles.
Petra – Of course here it is the main reason we came to Jordan to see Petra as part of our Magical History Tour. I can’t possibly do the vast history of Petra justice in this blog, nor were we able to see the entire site (you need two or three days), but in our five-hour visit we did and saw the most amazing highlights. Of course the Treasury (named thus because of
The Dead Sea
the Roman’s using it as such but originally it was a temple), is the most amazing of the antiquities in the site, the best preserved and most beautifully designed. There are several other amazing temples, tombs, palaces and more throughout the 60 square km site. We spent an hour and a half with a guide and then three hours wandering on our own including hiking up high above the Treasury for that iconic photo shot. We did not hike to the Monastery or the sacrificial site. We would have needed much more time than we had. I would love to come back here again some day – it is just so amazing, truly a wonder deserving its Seven Wonders status.
So Jordan was a surprise, and worth the effort to get here. We felt incredibly safe at all times. The people are friendly and helpful and speak excellent English. I am so glad we came.
And with our farewell to Jordan we say farewell to The Magical History Tour that began in August when
we left the USA. We have covered so much amazing history over the past ten and a half weeks traveling through and exploring eight countries. Highlights of the Magical History Tour have included such bucket list items as;
Romania Castles – seeing the fortress cities and castles of Romania with their ancient history and stories (Dracula) was a long bucket list destination. Read about it here.
Greece – although we had visited Greece before we had wanted to return for years. I suspect we will visit again too. The ancient Greek history in this country combined with the sheer beauty of the Mediterranean will keep it on our travel destination list for years to come. Read about it here.
Egypt – Of all the places we visited on the Magical History Tour, Egypt was the long-awaited
destination for me. And it did not disappoint. Seeing the Valley of the Kings, the Nile River, the Sphinx, the Pyramids and so much more was a bucket list triumph. I loved it all. And perhaps the friendliest people we have met. Read about Cairo here. And about the Nile Cruise here.
The Magical History Tour covered about 10,400 miles including 11 flights, 5 train rides, 12 ferry crossings, 6 airbnb’s, 11 hotels, one river cruise ship, and 72 days. It was educational, insightful, fascinating, delicious and fun. But time to move on.
Now we turn our attention to something new. We will spend the next four weeks and four days in Portugal and Spain. The first half of that time is focused on walking another Camino de Santiago. We start on Sunday to walk 250km to Muxia Spain. The Magical History Tour has kept us so occupied, we don’t really feel prepared either mentally or physically to tackle this next Camino. But nonetheless we will. I’m sure we will fall into the rhythm quickly.
We then spend another two weeks exploring Spain before flying on November 22nd to begin five and a
half months in the Americas (Florida, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Dominican Republic). I suspect there will be a great deal of magical history there as well.
As always we thank you for your continued support and interest in our travels and My Fab Fifties Life. Watch for posts from Portugal and the Camino coming soon!
And where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear? Walk On.
Taking a few liberties with David Essex lyrics “Rock On”.I remember this song from Junior High (1973) – I’d never have imagined back then how it might be the theme of my life.Walk on.
Walking in Antiparos
Walking in Santorini
I use the health tracker on my iPhone to track my miles – especially when we are in training mode like we are right now.Preparing for our second Camino de Santiago just three weeks from today. But even when we aren’t “training”, our lifestyle involves a great deal of walking.The best possible exercise there is.
Thanks to my health tracker, I know that I have walked 4600 miles in the last three years.That’s like walking from Seattle to New York and half way back.Or about a fifth of the way around the world. Not bad for an old gal.
Walking in Romania
Since beginning our world tour, we have come to realize how walking is a mode of transportation for most people around the world – but not in the USA.We much prefer not to have a car on our travels, to avoid the hassle of parking, gas and navigation.But
Walking in Australia
sometimes we need a car.Even when we do have a car, like here in Antiparos, we still walk everywhere.Yesterday we walked from our house 7.8 miles round trip to visit the caves.As we arrived at the caves most of the other tourists were arriving by car or scooter.Some by bicycle.We were the only walkers.
Walking offers so many benefits beyond the health benefit.It helps you slow down and be present.It provides you an incredible opportunity to see and hear things that are not possible from a car; plants, animals, bugs, geology.We stop often when we are walking to inspect little treasures, from a tiny solitary blossom to a giant geological feature.Walking puts you up close and personal with so many things – things people in cars never realize are even there to enjoy.
Walking is wondrous.
However, walking is also time consuming.It’s a bit like golf.Not a sport you can take up if you have a lot of time constraints.But for us, time is a precious gift we have. A luxury. And so we walk.
Walking in Berlin Germany
We could have taken the car to the caves, but instead we walked.We could have taken a bus in Berlin to visit the wall, but instead we walked.We could have hired an Uber in the big cities, but instead we walked. We could have driven to the beach, the castle, the store…but instead we walked.Because we love it.It is good for us.And we have the time.
My Fab Fifties Walking Life.For this I am grateful.
Exploring Hidden Antiparos – The Tiny Island of the Cyclades
Fishing boats in the harbor
Greece (official name Hellenic Republic) is a diverse country geographically.It consists of the mainland whichborders Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as a vast number of islands (between 1200 and 6000 depending on the definition you are using for island).Only 227 of those islands have inhabitants.Some of the inhabited islands, like Antiparos (pronounced Anti- Pear-osh) are quite small, but still have a village that thrives.Today Antiparos, like most of Greece, thrives from tourists.I wish I could have visited here two decades ago, when the village had no shops with trinkets or cafes for coffee.Just locals, fishermen and families.
The islands of Greece are categorized inregional clusters; Argo-Saronic near Athens, the Cyclades in the South Aegean, the North Aegean cluster off the coast of Turkey, the Dodecanese between Crete and Turkey, the Sporades off the coast of the large island of Euboea and the Ionian Islands west of the mainland in the Ionian Sea.Antiparos is in the Cyclades.Other prominent islands in the Cyclades include Santorini and Mykonos.
Streets of Antiparos
But, if you are looking to find a place in Greece where fewer tourists go, exploring Antiparos is a great option.It is so diametrically opposed to somewhere like Santorini, it doesn’t even seem like the same country. (Want to learn about other Greek Islands that aren’t overrun with tourists? Read this.)
Arriving in Antiparos
The ancient castle
We arrived by ferry to Paros from Santorini.At the port in Paros the rental car agency we had booked in advance met us with a car and driver.He drove us to another part of Paros where we walked on to the smaller ferry that crosses throughout the day between the larger island of Paros (196 square kilometers) and the tiny island of Antiparos (35 square kilometers).This half mile crossing takes ten minutes and costs 1.60 Euro for walk on and 6 Euro to take a car.We made the crossing and found on the other side an agent from the rental car agency waiting with our little car.
This is also where we met our wonderful Airbnb host Xanthippy.Xanthippy lives in Athens, and owns a beautiful home on Antiparos that she rents as an Airbnb.She is not always able to come from Athens and meet her guests (a four and half hour ferry ride), but she was able to on the day we arrived.Luckily for us, because we learned on arrival that there are no addresses on either Paros or Antiparos.Crazy.Apparently this is true on many of the small Greek islands.So Xanthippy led us to the grocery store for supplies, before leading us to our spacious Airbnb with a spectacular view.We found our accommodations even better than the photos. It’s a beautiful villa.
Xanthippy gave us some important instructions; don’t drink the water, don’t flush anything that doesn’t come out of your body, take the trash and recycling to the conveniently placed bins around the island, don’t use the grill if its windy.She also showed us how to use the little combination stove and oven, a style of appliance we have not encountered until arriving in Greece. And it works great.
We have now been in Antiparos for eleven days.We have enjoyed the laid back island life and being on “Antiparos time”.Although we have had sun everyday, some days quit hot, we have also experienced unusually high winds.In fact so high we had to cancel our planned boat trip to the deserted island of Despotiko (an archeology site of immense historical significance, second only to Delos in the Greek islands, just across the bay from our Airbnb) and a day on the island of Paros to visit the colorful city of Naousa.We plan to reschedule both of those when the wind dies down and continue exploring hidden Antiparos.
Agios Georgios Beach
The wind has not stopped us from visiting several of the islands local beaches (there are at least a dozen public beaches on this small island that boasts 57 km of coastline), hiking to the local stalactite cave, visiting the tiny village (also called Antiparos but usually referred to as the village; it’s the only one on the island) and the ancient Kastro (castle) from the 15th century and just walking, walking, walking as we train for the upcoming Camino de Santiago.
Sunset at Capt Pipinos
Because we are trying to stay on budget, we have only eaten dinner out one time.We ate a wonderful seafood meal at Captain Pipinos, a seaside seafood joint within walking distance of our house.It was delicious, and watching the sunset from there was really special.However, if we want to dine out anymore, we better do it soon.Many of the islands restaurants and shops close down at the end of September, what is considered the “end of the season”.
We didn’t realize when deciding to come here that Antiparos, unlike the larger more well-known islands, has a tourist season.Basically from May – September.The rest of the year there just aren’t enough visitors to make it viable for most businesses to remain open. When we picked up our rental car the agent told us when we return the car October 8th they will close down for the season. We are their final customer. Fingers crossed the grocery store will stay open.We don’t mind cooking.
In fact, since I haven’t been able to find a cooking class on this small island, I’ve been teaching myself and trying out several Greek dishes.Watch for a blog coming on this soon.
Antiparos day eleven. Heaven on earth. Fabulous. υπέροχο
We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. -Dolly Parton
I Will Go Where the Wind Blows Me. That is the motto for the day. We will go where the wind blows. But today, that means going nowhere.
High wind is common in Antiparos – but not common this time of year. Since arriving here ten days ago we have had about five windy days. And right now we are in the midst of a very unusual weather pattern (according to the locals) that has shut down the ferries off the island.
Today’s forecast is for winds of 38mph with gusts up to 60pmh.To be truthful, I don’t really want to go off the island enough to get on a boat today…yikes.Luckily, we have lots of time left and we can rearrange our schedule.I feel bad for anyone who doesn’t have that luxury.If you have a flight to catch today, well, its not going to happen.
“Unusual weather” is a topic that comes up often, in every signal country we have visited.This can no longer be attributed to coincidence.The weather of the world has left the “normal” pattern behind.No matter where you are – a tiny island in Greece or in the heartland of the USA – there is no normal weather anymore.
I am not a scientist or a meteorologist.But I am a world traveler with what I don’t think is unfair to say, a “vast” experience of encountering unusual weather around the world.Cyclone in New Zealand, heat wave in Australia, flooding in Thailand, cold in Vietnam, fires in Croatia and Portugal, early trade winds in Seychelles,chilly in India, wet in Hawaii. And extreme wind in Greece.
We go with the flow, because, well, what else can we do?But it’s interesting, and it should be of interest to you too.The world weather is in turmoil (along with a lot of other things).It’s clear to me.I don’t know if we can fix it, or even if we should.All I know is we better get used to it.I personally think the worst is yet to come.
Meanwhile, here we are.Writing this blog in text editor because the wind has taken the wifi out.Hoping I can post at some point later today.Or not?We are lucky we have the luxury of time on our side, to wait it out, and just enjoy the ride.Although a bit bumpy ride. Sails up and going with the wind.
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